10 Dangers & Things to Avoid in Bali

Alexis
Modified on December 28, 2023

Dangers in Bali are not always where you think they are. Here is a list of 10 things that are the most dangerous for foreigners in Indonesia.

Driving drunk a motorcycle: the #1 danger in Bali for foreigners and the best way to lose your life

Driving a scooter in Bali is an fun activity. But it's already dangerous enough sober. Drunk, the risks are just ridiculous.

Accidents involving drunk scooter riders are the main cause of serious accidents and deaths in Bali among foreigners.

Take a night tour in any hospital in Bali, and you'll witness the sad sight of drunk foreigners arriving at emergency services with more or less severe injuries, almost all caused by motorbike accidents.

Consuming or importing drugs to Bali: a very (very very) bad idea

drug offenders bali

Drug consumption may be decriminalised in many countries, but it's absolutely not the case in Bali and the rest of Indonesia.

There are almost no exceptions, and the penalties always involve imprisonment, even the death penalty for traffickers.

The penalties are very severe: you can easily face several years in prison for a simple joint of weed. Drug trafficking can quickly result in double-digit sentences.

Whether you're a foreigner or not won't change your punishment. You'll serve it in a local prison that would make western prisons look like vacation resorts.

As if that's not enough, many "dealers" aren't really dealers and lure naive tourists only to turn them over to the police with whom they're colluding.

I won't go so far as to encourage drug use in your home country or your holiday destination, but it's likely a much better idea anywhere else in the world, especially if you stuff to do with your life in the next 20 years. The danger of taking drugs in Bali simply isn't worth it.

Shoplifting: an effective recipe to get beaten up

shoplifting bali
An American thief who had the good idea to take refuge in a water tank when he realised the crowd was turning against him...

Bali is a very safe island, and there are far fewer thefts / pickpockets and violence in general than in many other countries. Compared to any Western European country, you could even say that Bali is as safe as it gets in this regards. If I compare the situation to France, my home country, it's simply night and day.

One reason for this safety is that everyone is vigilant and intervenes when a thief / violence is reported. "Civil intervention" is not the initiative of professionals but often of neighbours, shopkeepers, and other residents who don't appreciate having someone in their neighbourhood robbed.

It's not uncommon for the thief to be caught by an angry crowd and get seriously roughed up until the police arrive.

If you have kleptomaniac habits in your country, clearly leave them at the airport.

Without lecturing you on the consequences of theft, especially in a poor country, you do risk much more than you think.

If you get caught, it's better for your sorry ass that the police arrive quickly. It's by far the best thing that can happen to you. The danger isn't necessarily ending up in prison or being publicly humiliated (which are both very likely!).

Getting into a fight with a local: a foolish and dangerous idea

Balinese and other Indonesians living in Bali are generally very patient and accommodating with foreigners. But that doesn't mean you can push your luck.

Getting into a dispute with a local is never good anywhere in the world, but it's a very bad idea in Bali for many reasons.

Firstly, because you don't know who the person is initially. They may be much more connected than you think, have many acquaintances in the area, or be much more dangerous than you imagined.

Fights are very rare in Bali, but they do happen and don't always end well, just like anywhere else in the world. Balinese people aren't loudmouths and are the opposite of several western cultures: losing your temper or losing face is very frowned upon. They will always avoid conflict...until a point of no return where everything becomes uncertain.

If you feel the pressure rising, it's better to leave and swallow your pride than end up in the hospital, in prison, or deported.

This advice is not limited to Bali and is relatively universal, even in your country. But if you're from a western culture in a different place with different justice, values, and general consequences for these sorts of things, it's an important reminder.

Criticising local culture and Indonesia (online or offline): beware of the dangers

Never forget when you're in Bali that you're not at home. Bali and Indonesia in general is not just a space with beaches and hotels; it's also a place with strong culture(s) where many people live.

Balinese people are very proud of their culture. Indonesians in general are also very patriotic. Some of their values may be different from yours, and that's okay and probably why you travel in the first place. You don't have to let them know when you find that they lack in some departments, and you should always respect the rules they impose on their places of worship, such as temples.

Arguing over politics, traditions, or the country in Indonesia is touchy. Some simple criticism can be received rather personally, even when they are not intended to.

Religion is an even more sensitive subject. Atheism is prohibited by law, and blasphemy as well. If you're an inveterate freethinker, it's better to keep your thoughts to yourself or be 200% sure that the person in front of you shares your convictions before running your mouth on the subject.

Online criticism of religion, culture, or politics should also be avoided as it can be quite dangerous if it gets out of control. Defamation laws are serious and enforced. Foreigners going viral for the wrong reasons can quickly get deported to avoid bad publicity or social troubles.

Lacking respect for authorities or elders: a big mistake in Bali

We shouldn't even have to say it, but you never know: respect for authority is important in Bali.

Authority can take different forms. Age, as in many Asian cultures, is something to be respected. If you're young and insolent to someone older than you, you'll make a very bad impression and can naturally be treated badly in return.

But "social status" is also to be respected. It can take several forms: professional function, religious status, or simply popularity, wealth, responsibilities, etc.

Whether you're dealing with police, immigration officers, local entrepreneurs, pecalangs from your banjar, or your hotel manager, Balinese culture (and Indonesian culture) is much more traditional and hierarchical than Western culture.

Portraying local authorities as fools, disrespecting a respected person representing a community is a good recipe for becoming viral and ending up being deported.

Driving a motorcycle with your handbag in plain sight: a very bad habit

As mentioned earlier, thefts are rare in Bali. But one type of theft is particularly dangerous and requires precautions: snatch theft.

Snatch theft is, of course, very dangerous when you're a pedestrian. You can be dragged for tens of meters, often for little gain in the end.

But the danger quickly becomes deadly when you're on a scooter yourself. Having your handbag snatched at 50km/h is a guarantee of a violent fall on the asphalt...

Therefore, the handbag should be stored in the scooter's trunk as much as possible. If the trunk is full and you're two, put it between the back passenger's belly and the front passenger's back. In any case, never carry it on the side or on your back.

This advice also applies to phones, especially for rear passengers who sometimes tend to type or take videos while riding. It's better to avoid if your phone is expensive and could attract the wrong kind of attention.

Working with local businesses without the right visa and work permit: a sure way to get deported

This is a crucial point for digital nomads in Bali, but it applies to others as well. Working without the proper visa and work permit in Indonesia is a very, very bad idea that will result in your deportation if you get caught.

Immigration is quite tolerant of nomads who have only foreign clients and work from Bali without taking on-site missions or jobs. How long they will be tolerant of this is already less certain.

On the other hand, the administration will not overlook you if you work with Indonesian companies on the wrong visa while in Bali. The result almost always ends in deportation for violating the purpose of your visa. The danger is real, and the game is never worth the candle.

Read our guide on visas for Indonesia for more information.

Surfing shallow surf spots without the right skill level: a danger for everyone

surf padang padang

This point is dedicated to surfers, especially those who are not (very) experienced.

Bali's waves can be on reefs with sharp coral at shallow depths. However, the danger of some waves is multiplied by the crowd in the water and their skill level.

If you are a beginner surfer, stick to suitable spots and avoid the most dangerous shallow spots like Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Bingin, or Keramas, which could send you to the hospital much faster than you think.

The danger is not only for you but also for others surfers as well who don't need to take your board to the face or have to rescue you when you've kissed the reef or are in a precarious situation when a set comes in.

Realizing your actual skill level will not only keep you in one piece, but it will also allow you to enjoy waves at your level. And there is no shortage of that in Bali.

Going to Bali thinking that insurance is an unnecessary luxury

Many people are not aware of certain realities regarding healthcare in Bali. If you come from a country with universal healthcare for everyone, keep in mind that this is not the case here.

When you are a foreigner, no hospital in Bali owes you anything. Keep that in mind.

What does that mean in practice? It mainly means that a healthcare facility will always wait for funds before doing anything, including emergency interventions.

Healthcare is also quite expensive, especially if you are not used to paying for your health.

Health insurance when going to Bali is anything but a luxury. It might be the difference between a quick intervention that gets you out of a tough spot and death due to lack of funds to pay for the care.

Read the conditions of each contract carefully, especially if you plan to engage in risky activities that could land you in the hospital, such as riding a motorcycle.

Conclusion

Just because you're in Bali doesn't mean you can do anything. Some situations can put you in significant difficulty, and it's better to know them before making a mistake.

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