Bali Belly: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bali is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful beaches, temples, and scenic landscapes. However, it is also infamous for a common travel illness known as “Bali Belly.” 

Bali Belly is a colloquial or slang term used to describe a range of gastrointestinal symptoms that travelers experience during or after their trip to Bali.

The symptoms of Bali belly can vary from person to person but typically include nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting. 

It is caused by consuming contaminated food or water, which is common in Bali due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices. 

While it is not a life-threatening illness, it can certainly put a downer on a traveler’s vacation and can take several days to recover from.

Travelers need to take precautions to avoid Bali belly, such as drinking bottled water, avoiding ice cubes in drinks, and being cautious about the food they eat. Another top tip is to make sure you pack a good first aid kit. 

Yet, despite the risk of Bali belly, the island remains a popular destination for tourists from around the world – besides the beautiful scenery, there are a load of things to do in Bali.

What Is Bali Belly?


Bali Belly is a common term used to describe a type of traveler’s diarrhea that is prevalent in Bali, Indonesia. 

The main cause of Bali Belly is eating or drinking food or water that contains parasites that interfere with our gut. The most common culprits are uncooked or undercooked food, fruits and vegetables washed with contaminated water, or ice made from contaminated water.

Ocean Contamination

If you love the waves around the island, the water quality is generally ok, but it’s also important to be aware of the risks of swallowing contaminated water in the ocean. 

Try to avoid surfing after heavy rains – especially at river mouth surf spots, where run-off from the land can be contaminated. 


Common Symptoms

The symptoms of Bali Belly can vary, but typically include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

In some cases, fever and body aches may also be present. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can last anywhere from a few days to a week.

How to Prevent Bali Belly

Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding Bali Belly. If you are exercising regularly and value your fitness, you can still get struck down with sickness. 

Travelers should be cautious of what they eat and drink, and take steps to avoid contaminated food and water. Some tips for prevention include:

  • Drinking only bottled or boiled water
  • Avoiding ice in drinks
  • Eating only cooked food that is still hot
  • Avoiding food from street vendors
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water or using hand sanitizer

By following these simple steps, travelers can greatly reduce their risk of contracting Bali Belly and enjoy their trip to Bali without any unpleasant surprises.


Treatment and Recovery

Home Remedies

For mild cases of Bali Belly, home remedies can be effective in treating the symptoms. The following remedies can be tried:

  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of fluids such as water, coconut water, and sports drinks can help replenish lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • BRAT diet: Eating bland foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast can help ease stomach discomfort.
  • Ginger: Consuming ginger in the form of tea or capsules can help reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • Probiotics: Consuming foods rich in probiotics such as yogurt or taking probiotic supplements can help restore gut bacteria.

When to see a Doctor

If home remedies do not provide relief, medical interventions may be necessary. The following interventions can be used:

  • Antibiotics: In cases where the infection is bacterial, antibiotics can help clear the infection.
  • Anti-diarrhea medication: Medications such as loperamide can help reduce diarrhea.
  • Intravenous fluids: In severe cases, intravenous fluids may be necessary to prevent dehydration.
  • Anti-nausea medication: Medications such as ondansetron can help reduce nausea and vomiting.

And it’s important to note that medical interventions should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional. 

Recovering from Bali Belly

Recovering from a case of Bali Belly requires a bit of patience, rest and relaxation (thankfully Bali is the perfect place for this). 

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids like water, diluted fruit juices, or electrolyte solutions to prevent dehydration. Get lots of rest to allow your immune system to fight off the infection. 

Slowly begin reintroducing bland foods like bananas, rice, toast, and crackers after a day or two without symptoms. 

Avoid dairy, fatty or spicy foods until your stomach feels back to normal. Taking a probiotic supplement can help restore the good bacteria in your gut. 

Once you feel better, ease back into your usual diet. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it too soon. With rest and hydration, you should recover fully within a few days.


How To Avoid Bali Belly

The key to avoiding Bali Belly again is being very careful about what you eat and drink. 

Only consume cooked foods and peel fruits yourself and try to avoid raw vegetables and undercooked meat or fish. 

Here are a few other top tips:

  • Drink only bottled water (even when brushing your teeth)
  • Take probiotic supplements to improve your digestive health
  • Wash your hands often with warm soapy water
  • Check the seal on bottled drinks
  • Eat at street vendors that incorporate a decent level of hygiene

And while it is tricky do to in reality, check out the restaurants’ basic levels of hygiene – if it’s not looking good, don’t be afraid to pass, and head somewhere else.

Stick to these precautions and you’re less likely to suffer Bali Belly again.

Final Thoughts 

While Bali is a beautiful place to spend your Winters surfing, kitesurfing and generally enjoying what it has to offer, there are sometimes risks to your health compared to that of a developed country such as Australia, the US, or other countries in Europe.  

But if you practice good hygiene, and think about the food you are eating you’ll be sure to prevent Bali Belly from occurring in the first place and have a great time visiting this magical place. 


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