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  • Writer's pictureAcacia Gabriel

If you're scared of Bali Belly, read this

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Silhouette in front of Mount Batur

When you tell people you're going to Indonesia, everyone talks about Bali belly.

Countless tik toks have gone viral of tourists laying in hospital beds with IVs strapped to their arms. They tell you not to brush your teeth with the tap water, drink anything with ice, and eat anywhere with bad Google reviews.

At the beginning of my trip, I played it safe. I avoided a lot of traditional dishes. I was hypervigilant about making sure water had been filtered. I freaked out at one point when I instinctively rinsed my mouth with water during a shower.

Everyone has their own comfort levels when it comes to navigating the risk of food poisoning Bali.

The truth is that about 50% of people traveling to Indonesia will get Bali belly. This is especially relevant if you plan on traveling the area for more than 2-3 weeks.

People get it from eating a salad that wasn't washed properly, a meal that sat out for too long, or a chicken that was slightly undercooked. To be honest, a lot of the time, we don't know what caused it. We can hypothesize and overanalyze all we want, but there isn't always a simple answer.

What I do know, is that I wouldn't trade these days of stomach pain for a trip lived in fear. If I could go back in time, I wouldn't deprive myself of all of the "risky" foods. Not the exotic fruits, the fresh fish from the market, or the homecooked meals from locals and friends.

As in most countries, food is a part of the culture. To come to Indonesia but avoid all the markets, warungs, and traditional eateries would be a damn shame.

There are avoidable risks, of course. I opted to brush my teeth with bottled water and I avoided street food as much as possible (the one time I ate it, hungry and desperate on a long taxi ride, is what eventually got me sick). But there are also risks worth taking.

True travel is meant to make you a bit uncomfortable. What would be the point of coming to Asia just to eat pizza at every meal?

Food is human. Meals bring us together and unite us. At the dinner table, we're not American or Scottish or Indonesian -- we're just hungry.

Many of the most eye-opening conversations I've had on this trip were over a meal. The strongest connections I formed started with dinner. Some of the sweetest experiences I had with local members of the community were in quiet warungs on the side of the road.

The local cuisine is something that I can't capture in a photo, pack in a suitcase, or even properly recreate. It is something that is meant to be enjoyed right here right now. A present moment exclusive.

So, if you're worried about getting Bali belly, that's honestly fair. The last two days have been pretty brutal.

However, try not to let the fear push you back into your sheltered, comfort zone. Try not to let it paralyze you or haunt your meals.

If it happens, you'll handle it. But food is meant to be enjoyed, not feared.


The girl clutching her stomach desperately waiting for the paracetamol to kick in



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