Do You Have Bali Belly or a Parasite? (Our Awful Experience)

Bali Belly

Bali is a popular island in Indonesia that draws travelers for its beaches, hip cafes, and fun atmosphere. However, the infamous Bali Belly is something to be aware of before you arrive! We’ve unfortunately had our fair share of experiences with this nasty form of food poisoning on our visits. So what is Bali Belly and what are your treatment options? In this article, we’ll share what to look for with Bali Belly symptoms, and how to know if you have something worse like a parasite. 

What is Bali Belly?

Bali Belly is a type of traveler’s diarrhea that is contracted by thousands of people a year. It’s become a well known issue for visitors, and almost a dark inside joke to those who frequent this part of Indonesia.

Most of the time, Bali Belly comes from consuming water or food that’s contaminated with bacteria. Typically, it happens within the first week of travel as your body may not be used to the street food and various drinks you may be enjoying.

The side affects can range from stomach cramps to vomiting, and endless bathroom trips. Take it from us… It’s not something you want to have on your Bali holiday! 

As full time travelers, we’ve had everything from Delhi belly in India to Montezuma’s Revenge in Mexico. However, as you’ll see, Bali Belly turned into our worst experience ever dealing with something like this.

What is Bali Belly Help

How to Avoid Bali Belly: Drinks 

Don’t worry! The good news is there are some precautions to take and keep yourself from getting Bali Belly. The first and most important tip is to only drink bottled water. Tap water is unsafe to drink in Bali, and drinking straight from the sink is the easiest way to make yourself sick. 

While many locals may do it and are fine, their bodies have likely already adapted where yours wont be able to digest the new bacteria. Remember that this includes brushing your teeth! 

Also, be sure to ask for drinks without ice and confirm your teas, juices, and coffees are made with bottled or boiled water. As difficult as it may be to go no ice on a humid day in Bali, it’s often made with the same tap water you should avoid. 

How to Avoid Bali Belly: Food

When it comes to the food in Bali, know that some of the best places to eat are the local Warungs. These establishments serve buffet style and the food is sometimes left sitting out all day after being prepared.

We highly recommend sticking to reputable restaurants where they have a fast turnover of customers. Here’s our 17 favorite places to eat in the popular town of Uluwatu.

Another thing to be aware of is the fruit in Bali. Yes, we know one of the most amazing breakfasts include those fantastic smoothie bowls!

However, you’re much better off buying your own fruits, cleaning them, and peeling the items yourself. We’ll explain more about this when we share our story and why we were so shocked by a medical professionals explanation.

Lastly, always make sure to practice proper hygiene to avoid Bali Belly. This means washing your hands before and after every meal, especially when you’ve been handling money or riding your motorbike. 

Eating Street Food in Asia: 8 Helpful Tips to Avoid Getting Sick

How to Avoid Bali Belly

Bali Belly Symptoms

So what is Bali Belly and what are the symptoms you should be on the lookout for? For us, it has always started with an upset stomach. Once we began to feel nauseous, it was only a matter of time before we were making trips to the bathroom. 

Know that every case of Bali Belly can be different. Some may resolve on their own within 24 hours, while others may linger for up to a week.

We always advise getting Bali Belly treatment as soon as you start to notice symptoms. As we found out, if the symptoms of Bali Belly get worse it may be the sign of something much more devastating. 

Most Common Bali Belly Symptoms

  • Stomach Cramps & Bloating
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Aching Body
  • High Temperature 
  • Frequent Bathroom Trips
  • Diarrhea

Bali Belly and Parasite 

Bali Belly Treatment

After you’ve contracted the dreaded Bali Belly, there are several things you can do to treat it. The first thing you’ll want to do is stay hydrated.

Drink plenty of bottled water or buy oral rehydration drinks for the minerals you will lose after the sickness sets in. Coconut water can also be a great way to keep yourself hydrated.

​The worst thing you can do is just ignore Bali Belly and hope that it goes away on its own. After a day or two you’ll want to seek further medical treatment.

Most of the time, they will give you a general antibiotic to help kill the bacteria. However, this not always the cure all that some people think it is. 

As we’ve said, some Bali Belly symptoms may go away on their own without antibiotics or medical care. Just know that it’s not something to take lightly and more serious cases do happen.

Help! Food Poisoning Abroad Travel Guide: What are the Symptoms?

Bali Belly Treatments

​Our Experience With Bali Belly

​Since we travel in Asia so often, we thought we’d been doing everything right. Using hand sanitizer, washing our hands after every meal, and being extra careful where we were eating. Yet, somehow we still managed to pick up Bali Belly symptoms within our first week of being there!

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where got it from. It wasn’t likely from contaminated water as we were sticking to bottled. So it must have been at one of the local restaurants we had been frequenting around the Uluwatu area. 

That’s the tough thing about Bali. There are so many lively cafes and warungs to enjoy. Most travelers aren’t going to take the extra precaution of cooking for themselves when on vacation or a longer remote work stay.

While Brigitte was fine I (Jake) had a couple rough days. I was so weak and sick from the bathroom visits and extreme abdominal pain that I could barely get out of bed. With that, we went into action seeking more medical attention. 

A phone call was made to a doctor who actually able to came to our hotel in Uluwatu. This was great because there was really no way I would have been able to make the trip to the hospital.

The doctor gave me a general antibiotic which he said would cure my upset stomach. We even had him bring a liquid IV as I was having trouble getting water down. He basically told us that doing these Bali Belly treatments was his job everyday, all day. Little did we know, our Bali trip was about to get far worse. 

Bali Belly Treatment

Finding Out About the Bali Parasite 

Once I’d finished the 5 day Bali Belly treatment of antibiotics I felt much better. I was able to eat bread, rice dishes, and small amounts of cooked vegetables. At one point, I thought I felt good enough to drink an ice cold Bintang Beer! 

Yet, just a day after my Bali Belly symptoms went away, they came back with a vengeance I wasn’t prepared for. This time I had a high fever, felt nausea 24/7, and was right back in bed where I started. 

Fearing something worse, we made a trip to one of the main hospitals in Nusa Dua. It was a large and well-maintained medical complex that we felt good about as soon as we walked in. They quickly ran blood tests and took a stool sample to find out exactly what was wrong with me. 

Unfortunately, the very next day I found out that I didn’t have Bali Belly as everyone thought. Instead, I had a Bali parasite. The particular parasite I had is very common on the island, but definitely not a fun time to deal with.

It was also quite terrifying when we first found out the diagnosis. We’d had countless stomach issues along our 5+ years of full time travel, but never a medical problem this serious. 

Bali Parasite 

Bali Parasite Treatment 

If you’re reading this right now you can rest assured I made a complete recovery. So how did I overcome this nasty Bali parasite? Well, the medicine I was given was very similar to the Bali Belly treatment. Except this time, it was 14 day tiresome days of antibiotics.

Obviously, we weren’t thrilled with this new development. The doctor explained that taking too many antibiotics can have serious long term affects to your digestive system, stomach lining, and overall immune system. 

The issue was I was all out of options! Taking a longer round of antibiotics was the only way to kill some bacterial infections. So with that, we took their medical advice and started another treatment.

One thing that the doctor told us that was truly surprising was how I could’ve avoided the Bali parasite. She actually recommended eating cooked meat over vegetables and fruits. This is due to several factors including the rain, humid climate, and poor hygiene standards. So where as we were worried about raw meat and seafood, she was telling us we had it all wrong.

Over the next several weeks, I was still unable to take down normal amounts of food. I stuck to plain rice, bread, and eventually worked my way up to cooked food. At the end of it all, I had lost about 20 pounds and didn’t fully feel like myself for around 2 months. 

Bali Parasite Treatment 

Brigitte Got Bali Belly, Too??

Now, this isn’t meant to scare anyone. Just the very honest truth of what we went through. Just after I ended my additional two weeks of antibiotics Brigitte started to feel sick. If you can believe it, she had all the symptoms of Bali Belly!

After three days we decided to make the trip back to the hospital which was almost an hour away by taxi. There was a very small chance that the parasite could have transferred from me to her, so we feared the worse. We sat in the hospital room with her hooked up to an IV’s and waited for the test results.

The good news was that she didn’t have a Bali parasite. So what was wrong? In what must have been some of the worst luck in the world Brigitte got Bali Belly.

This was shocking because we were very selective about where we ate and had been overly cautious about getting sick. 

We only had a few more days before our flight out, or honestly we would have immediately left Bali. Sometimes things just don’t go your way and this trip was certainly one of those times for us. 

Bali Belly Symptoms

Bali Travel Insurance

​This is one thing we can’t stress enough! Having travel insurance is a must when planning out any vacation. While you’ll find that medical services are extremely affordable in a developing country like Indonesia, it’s not worth risk if something were to happen.

We have used Safetywing for years and we highly recommend looking into their travel insurance options. Recently, we switched companies only because we wanted a larger global health policy to fit our nomadic lifestyle. However, we were excited to find that Safetywing is also launching a global policy soon! 

How it usually works is that you pay up front and are reimbursed at a later date. Make sure to save all your receipts for medications, Bali Belly treatments, or any other paperwork you’re given to submit. 

Should You Still Visit Bali? 

Bali is a fun destination that can fit almost any travel style. We’ve had many fun trips there, and love the islands surrounding it even more. Be sure to check out the Gili Islands, Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan if you’re visiting this area of Indonesia.

Still, there are risks associated with most tropical regions in Southeast Asia where bacteria breeds easily. Know that this scary predicament can happen to anyone when traveling in a foreign country. 

We considered ourselves in good health and tried to stick to “safe options” whenever eating out. To be honest, it was slightly frustrating playing it so cautiously and still getting so sick.

We even were eating most meals together in a group, and Jake was the only one who contracted a Bali parasite. Also we have friends who lived in Bali for a year and nothing like this ever happened to them. Sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw. 

Since we’ve been traveling extensively throughout Asia we’ve unfortunately picked up stomach bugs in Vietnam, Thailand, and everywhere in between. We really don’t mean to pick on Bali specifically.

It would just be irresponsible to not share our story with you! Now at least you have some idea of what to do if Bali Belly happens to you. 

→ Is Bali Worth Visiting? Pros and Cons of Indonesia’s Famous Island

Whats Bali Belly

Have any questions on what is Bali Belly or want to share your own experience or Bali Belly treatments? Leave us a comment below. 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

 Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

Where To Stay Around Uluwatu Bali

Ultra Luxury – Alila Villas Uluwatu – If you have some money to spend and want a taste of luxury near Uluwatu Temple, this is the spot for you! Most villas include private pools and incredible views of the ocean.

Fun Vacation – Village Bali – Add a fun twist to your Bali vacation with the fun and colorful decor. This hotel is located perfectly near Padang Padang beach.

Boutique HotelHari Indah Boutique Hotel & Spa – Upscale bed and breakfast surrounded by a beautiful jungle setting. On site spa & restaurant, Bali decor, and a fun swimming pool! 

Relaxing StayDavu Sundara Villa Uluwatu – A family run guesthouse with large rooms that overlook a lush jungle swimming pool. Quiet and relaxing area just outside of the main hustle of Uluwatu. 

For more places to stay in Uluwatu Indonesia you can explore the latest prices here!

PIN FOR LATER 

Bali Belly Tips

Indonesia Travel Planning 

 Flights: We always find deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Singapore to Bali for $60 USD, and Bali to Surabaya for less than $40! 

 Accommodation: Compare competitive sites for hotels such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

Transportation: 12Go is where we look first in Asia for ferries, trains, buses, and transfers! From speed boats to the Gili Islands and bus transfers around the country. 

Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Bali. We recommend taking a sunrise Mount Batur hike with breakfast, an authentic cooking class in a local village, and the Ubud waterfall tour

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Here’s all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Indonesia Travel

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