Rushing to the bathroom with an upset stomach is the last way you want to spend your holidays. Traveller's diarrhoea can affect people travelling anywhere, but most frequently affects tourists visiting developing countries. It is a relatively common travel sickness but the symptoms aren’t pleasant. Bali Belly, Montezuma's revenge, the Rangoon runs and gastro all refer to the same thing - stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, aches, and pains.
These are the kinds of symptoms that can derail carefully planned holiday itineraries. It is nasty, painful and can leave you not wanting to venture too far from your hotel toilet. Find out what you need to know about Bali Belly below so your trip to Indonesia doesn't have you stuck on the toilet.
In 2017, Cover-More customers had 1457 reported cases of gastro, costing almost $2 million in emergency expenses. You can get traveller’s diarrhoea anywhere, including when there’s outbreaks in Australia that spread through offices and schools. It is more common for travellers to be exposed in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peru, and India. Africa is also a big culprit.
As one unlucky Cover-More customer found out, a case of gastro in the USA can leave you with bills of around $100,000. Long hospital stays, IV drips and multiple medical tests can add up. If you are prone to serious infections, suffer from IBS, or are diabetic, you may be more susceptible. Have a chat with your GP or travel doctor prior to departing on your holiday so you can prepare and hopefully reduce the risk of catching Bali Belly.
Consider protecting your trip with our Bali travel insurance.
Watch the video below as our registered nurses at Cover-More provide some of there tips for travelling in Bali.
Bali Belly or traveller’s diarrhoea can often be picked up in the first week of travel. Your body is exposed to new and unfamiliar bacteria and viruses. After contamination, it can take between two to five hours for symptoms to appear. Your first symptom might be a sudden onset of rumbling stomach, bloating or nausea. Other symptoms can include:
You can seek professional medical help if you are unwell while abroad. If you are still experiencing symptoms after a few days, consider booking an appointment to see a medical professional. Blood or mucus in the diarrhoea, a high fever, and significant abdominal pain can indicate a more serious illness. You should consult a medical professional immediately. Dehydration can be a serious consequence of traveller’s diarrhoea. If you think you are suffering from dehydration, see a doctor as soon as possible. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Traveller’s diarrhoea or Bali Belly can be caused by consuming contaminated food and water. Untreated water can carry pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or protozoans. Poor sanitation practices can also lead to these pathogens appearing in your food. The majority of cases are caused by bacteria, with E. Coli being one of the most common. Eating off a wet plate, consuming food handled by someone who hasn’t washed their hands, or drinking tap water are all scenarios that could leave you sick.
While you might think to ‘do what the locals do’, there is a good chance they have developed immunity. A glass of untreated water might have no effect on them but the same glass might leave you retching. Play it safe so you’re not stuck spending your holiday unable to leave the bathroom.
There are a number of things you can do to help avoid getting traveller’s diarrhoea.
If you are reading this section, we hope you haven't been struck down with Bali Bally! But if you have, let us suggest some ways to help get rid of this dreaded situation. Here are some general tips below:
As always, you should consult a medical professional for specific advice about how to treat your diagnosis. You can reach out to our Emergency Assistance team if you need help finding a nearby medical centre.
When travelling to developing countries, it's always a good idea to stick to drinking water from sealed water bottles. You can usually pick these up for a low cost at local convenience stores, grocery shops or even your hotel. When travelling in Bali and Indonesia, it's best to avoid drinking tap water as this can often be contaminated. To err on the side of caution, brush your teeth using bottled water as well and forgo ice cubes in your drink.
While Southeast Asia is one of the worst offenders for traveller’s diarrhoea, it also has some world-class street food. Choosing whether to eat the street food or not is a personal choice. If you’re someone who gets sick easily, it might be best to avoid it. Here are some tips for eating street food.
You should also be cautious when consuming raw foods such salads, uncooked vegetables or fruits that can't be peeled. This is because they are often washed using local water - which can become problematic for unsuspecting travellers! Raw or under-cooked meat, fish, shellfish and eggs are also foods you want to be weary of.
If you do happen to get Bali belly, it is recommended to stick to a bland diet. This can help ease the uncomfortable symptoms. Consider only eating when hungry for the first couple of days, until you start feeling back to your usual self!
Don’t let traveller’s diarrhoea or Bali Belly deter you from your travels. While it might be common, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of getting it. But if you do end up with Bali Belly and you have Cover-More travel insurance, your medical visits can be covered and you’ll be reimbursed for any pre-booked tours or activities you missed* as a result of your Bali Belly. Consider protecting your holiday to Bali with travel insurance, or any other destination you're wanting to travel to.
As we say goodbye to the schoolies, we welcome the rain!
The wet season is here and Christmas is just around the corner. The last couple of weeks have been fairly quiet: I’ve seen customers with Dengue Fever, a small bowel obstruction requiring surgery and continued cases of acute gastroenteritis.
Also known as the dreaded Bali Belly, this is a very common illness here. During the wet season, water is easily contaminated which leads to even more cases.
Not even I could escape it. But thanks to the doctor call out service, I was treated in the comfort of my hotel room and recovered quickly, just in time for the many families arriving in Bali for Christmas and New Year.
- Jody Elliott
Check out our other travel blogs about this popular destination! We can help you fill in your itinerary with what to do there or give you some travel inspiration that will have you booking the next flight over.
Consider protecting your trip with our Bali travel insurance.
*The International Premium Plan and the Inbound Plan do not automatically include cancellation cover. You can add the amount of the cancellation cover that suits you. Limits, exclusions and conditions apply. Refer to the Combined PDS/FSG for full details.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of Cover-More Insurance.
Material on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects may not apply to you as an individual, and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice. The words and other content provided on this website, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, they should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker. Nothing contained on the website is intended to establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician or health care professional, or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The views and opinions expressed on this website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other institution with which the authors are affiliated. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance Services Pty Ltd. Never disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical care because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.