Complaints of stomach trouble from eating and drinking the wrong things in Ubud are becoming less frequent, as more and more eateries are learning to observe hygiene practices, and use filtered water for visitors. In order to remain healthy though, try to eat in places that are busy and use your common sense – avoid any establishment or roadside stall that looks unclean. Much of the local food is spicy. If this doesn’t agree with you, be sure to avoid the sambal, or chili paste (normally served separately).
It’s very unlikely, but in the event that you’re bitten by a dog, you’ll need to seek immediate medical treatment. If the dog has an owner, find out if it’s been vaccinated against rabies. Most domestic pets have had the vaccine. If you aren’t sure, or if you’ve been bitten by a street dog, you’ll need a series of shots from a doctor.
The nasty ones to look out for are dengue fever, typhoid and malaria. None of them are common and you’d have to be very unlucky, but they do exist on the island. HIV is also an issue in Bali, particularly amongst sex workers.
Dengue is transmitted by a mosquito that only bites during the daytime. Dengue is rare in Ubud, being more common on the coast, but it’s wise to be alert to the dangers nonetheless. It’s also known as the “bone-crushing disease”; symptoms are severe body aches, headache and fever. There is no medication for this, but guava juice helps, as does a tea made with fermented red rice.
Typhoid is a water-borne disease that is diagnosed via a blood test and treated with antibiotics.
Malaria is caused by an infected mosquito, and symptoms include headache, fever, vomiting and flu-like symptoms. Malaria is not common in Bali, and the tablets are not recommended. Symptoms take 7-14 days to develop, and a blood test will confirm infection. Hurry immediately to a medical clinic if you have the symptoms.
For protection against HIV, which is spread in Bali mostly through heterosexual sex, always use a condom.
No matter how good your state of health, don’t travel without adequate travel insurance, put in place before you embark on your journey.
Medical Clinics and Pharmacies
The Ubud Clinic is excellent, caters specifically to foreigners, can cater to most common ailments, and is open 24 hours a day. There is also a very good pharmacy attached. The Toya Clinic is also very good, and a little cheaper. Western-produced medicines are readily available in Ubud, though they aren’t as cheap as the local varieties. There’s a hospital in Denpasar. For very serious ailments, it’s recommended to go to Singapore, 2 hours away by plane. Please don’t travel without proper medical insurance.
The island is sprayed intermittently to keep mosquito populations down. Nonetheless, take precautions to avoid mosquito bites: protect yourself with insect repellent or long-sleeved clothing if you’re in a mosquito-infested area, particularly in areas with stagnant water.
Because Bali is so close to the equator, the sun can be intense especially in the middle of the day. Sunscreen is expensive here, so it’s best to bring your own. If suffering dehydration, drink the juice of a young coconut. Coconuts are readily available in the cafes in town as well as out in the rice fields, where someone will shimmy up a palm for you to fetch one for around $1. Coconut water is one of the best treatments for dehydration.
Although there are no vaccination requirements for entry into Bali, it’s sensible to have up-to-date tetanus, typhoid and Hepatitis A and B inoculation. If you’re planning to handle animals directly, a rabies vaccination is also recommended. Check with your GP for the most up-to-date vaccination requirements. It’s best to do this at least 3 weeks prior to travelling.
Although it’s cleaner than in many part of Asia, the water in Bali isn’t potable, and bottled or filtered water is a necessity. Many restaurants, hotels and guest-houses have large Aqua water-stations where you can fill a smaller bottle, and we urge you to consider this as an option rather than always buying plastic bottles and adding to the waste disposal problems on the island. Brushing your teeth with the tap water here is no problem, but we do recommend using filtered water to wash salad. Avoid ice, and fruit juices that taste as if they’ve been watered down.