Bali is a great country for solo travellers. I have spent a total of 5 months here and really enjoyed my time, no matter if I was cruising the island solo (watch my vlog playlist here) or hung out with friends, Bali felt very much like a home. But is Bali safe for women?
Yes, Bali is safe to visit for everyone. But there’s still things you really need to know upfront to have an epic Bali holiday.
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Before you travel abroad, you’re your basic vaccines checked. Even a simple infected wound can get really bad really soon if you don’t have a tetanus shot. That’s not even location specific. Also, wounds in Bali are exposed to a lot of heat and humidity, slowing down the healing process if you don’t keep everything neatly clean.
Talk to your (travel) doctor before going on the trip to discuss what vaccines you need in Bali to freshen up or get for the first time. The situation can change and you need particular advice when you have special medical needs or are pregnant too…
As there are many stray animals about and the monkeys can also get pretty mean, having a rabies vaccine goes a long way as a preventive measure. Yeah, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get rabies shots if you do get bitten but it will not be as bad.
Sadly, there is no vaccine against Japanese enzphalities because the mosquitoes in Bali carry this disease. There are cases of dengue as well. That illness can be lethal, especially if contracted twice. So your best bet is to constantly use mosquito repellent on every exposed surface of your skin. Not kidding!
You can bring one from home, but the pink insect repellent bottles in all convenience stores and supermarkets work pretty well. Some restaurants will bring them out for patrons during dusk too. Hotels usually spray but you might still get a stray mosquito following you.
If you are staying in more traditional Balinese style villas, mosquitoes will definitely get in. There are always gaps in the ornamentally carved doors and palm leaf decked roofs. Plenty of beds will have mosquito nets. Use them.
Note that it can also happen that bats visit your villa through the gaps in the roof. They aren’t harmful and will definitely not attack you. Just the fact that they may leave you with poop on your bed is a nuisance. Look out for such experience in hotel reviews so you can avoid this if it bothers you.
It’s a sad thing, but there is an incredibly high number of stray dogs (and cats) all over Bali. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate strays from owned guard dogs. Neither are particularly loved or taken care of well. Animal love is limited.
As a result, many strays are very suspicious of men and guard dogs are trained to really war off anyone. Even if you walk by every single day and they know you. They bark ferociously. Many aren’t actually aggressive but frankly, it’s hard to tell and I wouldn’t necessarily go around hugging dogs.
(Don’t even try to feed them or hand out water. They might take that the wrong way and start chasing you. Speaking from experience.)
When you are out and about, there is no way you will not run into stray dogs, especially in not so touristy areas. Dogs are either chained to their homes or run around freely.
They also expect you to move around them when you walk or are on a scooter. Often they don’t even look and just run onto the street, which is how I ended up in an accident.
If you haven’t read my Bali disaster stories from my first and second visit, you should. A lot of things can go wrong and it’s not always in your control, no matter how much of a health and fitness guru you fancy yourself.
It could be some lose gravel, a puddle or stray dog and suddenly your scooter lands in the ditch. It could be a burglary, your bag that goes missing on the beach, … the list goes on.
Be smart, stay cautious but also just have a plan B because in travel things go wrong every now and then. It’s only a big deal if it’s suddenly super costly and maybe you don’t have insurance to cover it.
Make sure your travel insurance includes both medical and travel insurance. WorldNomads is made for long term travellers and thus includes a lot of outdoor activities, transfer, luggage, hotel rooms and more. You have to take it out before your first travel day. Get your rates calculated here.
Locals are super kind and friendly. You will always feel welcome but also remember that you are a guest in the country. Bali is a conservative and highly religious country, which means you need to be be respectful of that as well.
This includes wearing proper attire (no swimwear on the streets or inside public establishments; temple attire at temples), not littering and not trampling on offerings on the street, to name just a few things.
If you need advice or help, the Balinese will gladly assist you. Not everyone speaks good English but that doesn’t make this any less true. Here’s another example. Scooter accidents aren’t uncommon but there is always at least a few locals jumping to your aid, lifting the bike, checking on you, etc. Just know that proper first aid knowledge isn’t there. So you better read up on that before coming.
Generally, street harassment happens only occasionally. Locals aren’t known to catcall or hit on local women. You might get a “you’re beautiful” with a sly look. I sometimes got asked by both men and women about a potential husband and get some disguised judgment back.
My friend Taylor from Taylorstracks had a very disturbing bike assault happening to her in Bali while on a main road. I have also heard of occasional incident of men on scooters reaching under women’s skirts.
I recommend keeping driving and walking after dark to a minimum. That being said, I have never had problems at night but I also don’t drink, making me possibly less of a victim.
Never wear your cute little shoulder bags on a scooter. It’s not uncommon for pickpockets to yank them off of you. The results have often been very nasty accidents on top of the loss of whatever was in your purse.
Never leave your items unattended. This includes stuff on and in your scooter. Always double check compartments, even under your seat, and always lock your steering wheel. The same goes for beach visits. Don’t leave your stuff around unattended.
Indonesia isn’t a rich country. So if you rock up with lots of bling and just look expensive, don’t be surprised the street vendors will basically chase you. And pickpockets will want their share as well. A friend of mine hides her new, shiny engagement ring because she can almost feel the stares.
Let’s cut to the chase: there isn’t public transport in Bali. In the very south there is a new tourist bus route connecting the main part hotspots in Denpasar, Uluwatu and Kuta. That’s about it. The way to get around is by taxi, scooter or Go-Jek.
Once you land at the airport, the taxi drivers will descend upon you like hyenas. They all want to drive you. No Go-Jek or Grab will pick you up, so forget your apps for that. Either you agree with a taxi driver on a price or organize your ride in advance.
Your hotel can offer you a pickup service, but it is potentially more expensive. If you post in a Bali facebook group, you will have plenty of local drivers contact you with their rates. To give you an idea: A ride from the airport to Canggu/Seminyak costs 250,000 IDR. It’s 300,000 IDR to Ubud.
Go-Jek is THE app to use in Bali. Download it right now. You will use it religiously. It can be used for pickup, shopping, driving and food delivery services. For short trips, it’s really affordable. You can choose between taxis and scooter rides.
Be aware that the local driver community detests Go-Jek. Many villages have huge posters with Go-Jek, uber and grab apps struck through to make it very clear you won’t receive a pick up. (Drop offs are tolerated.) If you ignore this, there are three scenarios.
A) You have a desperate or naïve driver who will come. Get in fast or they might beat him up! B) The driver accepts but will not budge, asking you to move or trying to extort much more money out of you. If you cancel, there are small fees but you can report this behaviour too. C) Nobody will pick you up and there are no taxis nearby.
Please not that you always pay taxis and Go-Jeks in cash. Have the change ready or they might not “have” change. So far I have never had trouble with this (count it!) but some of my friends have been scammed. You should try and insist on them checking their wallet again if that happens.
For longer trips, Bluebird taxis offer better rates. Download the app as well to avoid falling for a scam car on the road. Some paint their cars blue and copy the logo but charge much more.
Local taxi drivers also offer day rates if you want to go on a tour. They offer packages but you can also pick and choose locations you want to see. It really is a good idea to ask for recommendations in facebook forums. As always, some taxi drivers are better than others. Not everyone speaks English.
If you do go on longer trips and want to travel from South to North, I advise not to go on solo scooter trips. I tried it and had an accident there too but generally most people wouldn’t actually do it if you’re not a seasoned biker.
The roads can get crazy packed, in the West big trucks will constantly overtake you or you’ll be trapped between them. In the mountains, roads can get really steep and windy and off the beaten path tracks are slippery and tricky with a city Scooby. (My West Bali NP trip was quite a disaster because of this.)
Most importantly: Be extra careful during rainy season. When it rains in Bali, it pours. You might not even see it coming, but the clouds will just empty over you, draining you to the bone. Always carry a sturdy poncho with you and avoid driving in the rain.
No matter if it’s your first time in Bali or not, road safety remains tricky. Walking is nearly impossible. You can basically only do it along main shopping streets, such as Batu Bolong in Canggu or Raya Ubud in Ubud, or on beaches.
Be especially vigilant when crossing streets and do it quick. Even if the road seems kinda clear, there might be someone speeding up out of nowhere. You can try to hold out your hand as a sign to ward off cards and bikes if you really have to cross a busy road. Be confident. Suddenly stopping and flinching is much more likely to result in an accident.
Occasionally I see joggers and bikers it looks so dangerous. You have to jog in the ditches through gravel, rubbish and potholes or on the actual road. Most scooters will just swerve around you.
However, when it gets slippery or plenty of foreigners with little scooter experience are about, it gets really risky. (Which is why it makes sense locals go jogging in Taman Festival as it’s abandoned even though there are rumours of haunting. Good jogging opportunities are THAT rare in Bali.)
No matter if you are driving yourself or in tandem (with Go-Jek or a friend), you GOTTA wear a helmet. I have had friends with broken skulls, fractured jaws and open legs from accidents. A helmet will at least reduce the risk of serious head or neck damage.
Also, it goes without saying but never drive under the influence. Unfortunately, many people still do it. So always be very aware of your surroundings and have quick reflexes.
I have gotten much better at haggling as it is a common custom in Bali but I am by far no expert. So I asked travel blogger Chantell from Travel For Your Life about her Bali travel tips. According to her, “haggling in Bali is expected and as a result if you don’t do it you will be seriously ripped off wherever you go.
“To get into it when you ask for the price of something, throw back a jokey “Woah that’s expensive” and without fail the shop owner will immediately tell you that they can lower the price. If you’re worried that might be offensive (it’s not if done with a laugh and a smile) then instead literally ask ‘Can you reduce the price at all?’ or ‘What’s your best price?’”
“Since haggling is so expected no one will be thrown off by this. The usual response will be ‘Of course’ or ‘How much would you like to pay?’ If you have to state a price, go lower than you’d like.
It’s a negotiation; you need to have somewhere to go to meet in the middle. They will give a counter price, then you counter again and so fourth.
If the price still isn’t where you want it to be, start to walk away. More often than not you will be stopped and the price dropped even further. That said, try not to be the person who spends an hour arguing over 5 cents. It’s good to keep a sense of perspective on these things.”
Make sure to always check the actual price of what you are paying, the receipt you are giving and your change. Sometimes your card will be charged more. Dispute right on the spot or you might forfeit.
The South of Bali is perfect for living it up at night. The Bali nightlife can go crazy. Especially wild is Kuta. That’s where most schoolies – fresh school graduates from Australia and newly allowed to drink in Bali – will bar hop.
Seminyak is a bit more toned down. Often party goers from Canggu will migrate over to Seminyak throughout the night. Canggu isn’t entirely tame either but you can find a lot more laid back bars and hangouts here.
The main spot in Canggu to start the night is happy hour at Old Man’s. Then people move a few houses over to the Lawn for sunset cocktails and come back later that day. Old Man’s is best on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursdays, live it up at Pretty Poison while watching skaters do cool stunts.
Skimmed credit cards are quite normal in Bali. There are certain places where money constantly disappears. Either by not coming out at all or through using your details and taking out as much as possible later.
This way I was relieved of about 1000€ and my card was blocked just before I was about to travel on. Major disaster! Filing a police report turned into an odyssee (watch my story here). So to stay safe here are some Bali ATM tips:
- Come with plenty of cash to Bali (but don’t take it all with you everywhere you go, obviously)
- Use cash as much as possible
- Only take out money from well monitored ATMs or inside banks. Hide pin with your hand.
- Enable pin with your card and disable tap pay
- Don’t leave card out of side. Since code is enabled, you need to physically type it in anyway. Walk to the payment machine with the waiter or retail assistant etc.
- Don’t forget to take your card from the ATM. It comes out last and after you tell the machine you are done.
Another thing you should be aware of is money exchanges. Most of them are local shops and you run a high risk of being scammed and paying much more. Better take out money from ATMs or change at an official bank.
Surfing in Bali is a big deal. Even in Canggu beaches are aplenty and well suited for surfing. Just make sure you check tides, look out for currents (always swim between the flags!!) and find your perfect beach.
There are lots of surf rentals who will also teach surfing. Just make sure you ask other travellers for teacher recommendations so you won’t be released into the waves too soon and get a good teacher.
There are also diving and snorkelling opportunities. Again, watching tides, weather and visiting during dry season are crucial for staying safe in Bali waters and actually seeing the most of what they have to offer.
It should go without saying but when you are around coral and reefs, never touch or step on it. Not only will you kill the fragile animals that way. You will also get some pretty nasty wounds. Corals are sharp and wounds get infected super easily. It will be painful! Go see a doctor in such a case.
Last but not least, tap water isn’t something you should drink. If you are staying in nice hotels and villas, it’s usually ok to use for brushing your teeth. Though some places will provide small water bottles for that purpose. Here are some more tips on avoiding Bali belly.
Alcohol & Drugs
Most people just drink Bintang, the local beer. (Fun fact: bintag means “star” in Balinese.) If you want to try locally fermented beer, called arak, please only do that in reputable locations.
Sadly, it is often stretched but not just with water but with Ethanol. You can get poisoned badly. On rare occasions, people have died.
Furthermore, even though Indonesia is incredibly strict drug laws, that doesn’t stop people from dealing and using them. During festival weekends you can come across lots of “zombies” who clearly are high on something. Stay away or risk a hefty fee – if you’re lucky – or jail.
Bali is prone to natural disasters. In 2017, Mount Agung erupted and left many nearby destitude and still living in shelters. Lombok has seen major destruction and deaths in autumn 2018. There are tsunami escape routes and sirens installed along the southern coasts of Bali.
Earthquakes occur regularly and are generally not too much cause for concern. It’s advisable to have an earthquake app that will monitor any tremors and notify you. If you stay longer, it might be a good idea to stay away from coastal areas as they are easily hit by a tsunami.
When you hear the warning signal, drop everything and get up into the higher central areas of Bali as fast as you can. Some people have emergency backpacks packed during high risk months. You can read up on behaviour during earthquakes (the link leads to a free PDF) and what causes an earthquake to both take away the fear/uncertainty and prepare you better. My friend Mel from A Broken Backpack experienced some really hefty earthquakes but she still recommends travelling Bali.
10 Bali Safety Tips in a Nutshell
- Install Go-Jek and Bluebird apps to avoid scams
- Don’t wear shoulder bags on scooters
- Don’t wear expensive items and accessories
- Always wear sunscreen (pick a biodegradable one to help nature)
- Always wear a helmet on scooter
- Don’t feed or touch wild animals
- Only use safe ATMs
- Be earthquake ready
- Get basic travel vaccines
- Avoid walking on roads and driving in the rain
Safety in Bali in Conclusion
Even though there are flaws with Bali travel safety, it still is a great solo traveller destination. Locals are super friendly and quick to help.
With a scooter, most of the island is accessible to you. I totally recommend (solo) travellers to check out Bali. You can easily meet new people, discover amazing hidden gems and feel like in paradise.
Is visiting Bali on your bucketlist?
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