Mosquitoes in Bali: how to protect yourself?

Alexis
Modified on June 18, 2024

Mosquitoes: the animal that kills the most in the world, including in Indonesia Travellers in Indonesia often fear its most exotic dangerous animals: snakes of all kinds, monitor lizards, and other strange fish... except that what is most likely to kill you in Indonesia is, by far, the mosquito. There are many different mosquitoes in Indonesia, […]

Mosquitoes: the animal that kills the most in the world, including in Indonesia

Travellers in Indonesia often fear its most exotic dangerous animals: snakes of all kinds, monitor lizards, and other strange fish... except that what is most likely to kill you in Indonesia is, by far, the mosquito.

There are many different mosquitoes in Indonesia, and almost all of those considered harmful or dangerous to humans on a global scale can be found here:

  • The tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, and other Aedes mosquitoes, vectors of dengue and Chikungunya
  • Mosquitoes of the Culex type, vectors, among others, of Japanese encephalitis and malaria
  • Mosquitoes of the Anopheles type, which transmit malaria

The dangerous diseases transmitted by mosquitoes found in Indonesia to be aware of

moustique tigre bali

Mosquitoes obviously don't kill you on the spot. But they can transmit certain diseases that can be deadly or leave you handicapped for life. Here are the main ones to be wary of:

Malaria: a very dangerous disease transmitted by mosquitoes and present in many regions of Indonesia but not Bali

Malaria, also known as Malaria, is undoubtedly the most serious mosquito-borne disease.

The mosquito transmits parasites that invade your red blood cells, and they can be very difficult to eradicate. In some cases, death awaits, while in others, there are lifelong sequelae, sometimes more than 30 years after the infection.

Estimating malaria deaths and infections in Indonesia is very complex: the vast majority of infected people are in rural Indonesia and may not have easy access to care. 

Malaria is primarily a disease of swamps and fields transmitted via animals. In Indonesia, it is therefore found more among farmers and residents of rural Indonesia.

There are no cases of malaria in Bali, nor in most major cities in the archipelago (Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta...), and very few on the Indonesian coasts in general.

So unless you plan to stay in the middle of the Kalimantan forest, on a farm in the heart of Sumatra, or in the middle of Papua, you normally don't have much to worry about and no antimalarial treatment is necessary.

Dengue: present in Bali and throughout Indonesia

If your chances of getting malaria are zero in Bali and relatively low in the rest of Indonesia, the risk of getting dengue is however quite real!

If there is one disease you should fear when coming to Indonesia, including Bali, it's clearly this one.

Unlike malaria, dengue is everywhere in Indonesia: in coastal areas but also in big cities. 

There are not major dengue outbreaks every year in Bali, but there are cases all the time. Your chances of catching it even during a short stay are not zero... You wouldn't be the first traveller to be bedridden or hospitalised due to a mosquito bite during your vacation in Bali.

There are four types of dengue, from milder to more severe ones that make your blood platelets drop to zero and cause internal haemorrhages… Unfortunately, having a first infection of so-called "benign" dengue (it's very relative) vaccinates you for this type but exposes you much more to a severe form thanks to the wonderful effect of what experts call "antibody-dependent enhancement."

Moreover, dengue has the unpleasant tendency to kill children

Personally, I had dengue (a mild form) during a dengue epidemic in Bali, and I think I know almost no one who has lived in Indonesia for a long time and has not had dengue at least once. And I know some who ended up in the hospital under observation because their platelets were becoming extremely low... Needless to say, it's better to have good insurance if that happens to you.

larves moustiques

Japanese encephalitis: an exotic disease transmitted by a mosquito found throughout Indonesia

Japanese encephalitis is a disease found throughout Indonesia, including Bali.

It generally makes less noise than dengue, but it can do almost as much damage, if not more. While most infections go unnoticed, once in 250 cases, encephalitis develops with very severe symptoms (high fever, convulsions, coma, etc.) that leave serious mental sequelae in almost 30% of cases.

So even if the chances of it happening to you are low, Japanese encephalitis is a disease to take seriously, and another reason (if you need one) to stay away from mozzies in Indo.

However, there is some good news: there is a vaccine that protects you well for a year or two.

So you can buy a vaccine at a pharmacy in your home country and get vaccinated before going to Indonesia if you're afraid of catching it. That's at least one mosquito-borne disease that you're almost sure not to catch (for the others, it's still less certain)!

Chikungunya: present in Indonesia but currently quite rare

Chikungunya is potentially present throughout the Indonesian archipelago, but there does not seem to have been a major and widespread outbreak of the virus so far (fingers crossed).

I've heard of a few cases here and there, so it's certain that the virus is circulating, but it doesn't cause as much damage (for now) as dengue or malaria.

Hours to be on your guards: when Mosquitoes are the most active in Bali

Mosquitoes are most numerous and active when it is dark.

During the day, you don't have too much to worry about, unless you're in a poorly lit place like an indoor room or sheltered from the sun, like in a forest.

Sunset is generally a particularly dangerous period when many mosquitoes wake up.

Nighttime and early morning before sunrise are also at risk.

Which parts of the body are most often bitten by Indonesian mozzies?

Mosquitoes found in Indonesia behave a bit differently from those in Europe, at least compared to the ones I was used to.

Firstly, they are often smaller and very quiet. They are therefore more difficult to identify, but at least they don't whistle in your ear all night... Hey, you have to see the positive in every situation.

They often fly very low, much lower than mosquitoes found in Europe. They love to bite the ankles, feet, and legs first.

This doesn't mean that your arms, shoulders, and other parts of your body have no chance of getting bitten. But generally, if you start getting bites on your arms or the rest of your body, your feet and ankles are already quite battered!

I see a lot of tourists with ankles, feet, and calves that look... let's say affected, while the rest of the body looks intact. 

Places where you are most likely to get bitten by mosquitoes in Bali

Mosquitoes love dark places, but especially humid places, even very humid. They need stagnant water to survive and reproduce. Naturally, they are therefore found in large numbers in the following places.

Rice fields: naturally areas with many (many, many!) mosquitoes

Rice fields are real hotspots for mosquitoes at night. Yes, a villa or hotel with a view of the rice fields is beautiful.

But what Instagram doesn't tell you is that the beauty of the green rice during the day relies on stagnant or quasi-stagnant water, cause that's how rice fields work. If you have a nice view of the rice fields, expect a few (euphemism) mosquitoes at night.

If you ride a scooter between the rice fields at night, also remember to close your mouth, friendly advice. Afterward, it's full of protein, so they say.

Gardens (especially after rain): mosquito-rich at dusk

A garden, even without apparent water features, remains a haven for mosquitoes, especially when the sun sets.

The moisture from the plants, especially in the rainy season, is ample for many mosquito species in Bali. And if your garden is poorly ventilated or it's the rainy season, expect to make some encounters.

Personally, I have a small, poorly ventilated garden, and I can't venture into it at night without mosquito repellent, rain season or not!

Poorly lit and/or ventilated indoor spaces: good mosquito haunts

Mosquitoes can be present even during the day in the interior of houses or offices, especially if they are not air-conditioned.

They can be found in all unventilated places: under tables, near sofas, under your desk, and, of course, in bedrooms.

Indonesian-style bathrooms, those with a large basin of water (inevitably a bit stagnant) instead of a shower, are also good places to get bitten if you're not careful.

How to protect yourself from mosquitoes in Bali?

Despite the justified fear of Bali's mosquitoes and the diseases they carry, there are actually several tricks to almost always avoid getting bitten.

Use mosquito repellents with DEET on your skin (brand Soffel or Autan): by far the most practical and effective

Mosquito repellents with DEET to apply to the skin, such as Soffel or Autan, are widely available in stores across Indonesia. They are very effective against tropical mosquitoes and very affordable.

You don't really need to buy special insecticides for tropical countries in Europe or wherever you are from. They are often very expensive, they stink (yes, they do), and you'll find something equally effective and cheaper in any minimart in the Indonesian archipelago.

There are several brands of very effective mosquito repellents in Indonesia. Soffell is undoubtedly the most well-known and widespread: you'll find mosquito repellents in the form of cream or spray, depending on your preference. Another well-known brand is Autan and is also very common.

Quite frankly, just by applying Soffell or Autan to your skin before nightfall, you already reduce the risk of bites in risky places by 95%.

Wear long pants: a good solution to avoid bites on the legs

Wearing long pants can help reduce mosquito bites if you've noticed that they like your calves or ankles, as is often the case.

This is a good option if you want to avoid smearing yourself with mosquito repellent with DEET or just applying it to your feet.

Shower regularly if you sweat a lot

Sweating is one of the things that attract mosquitoes and greatly promotes bites. When you have sweat sticking to your skin in the moist heat of Indonesia, you'll quickly notice that mosquitoes have a certain tendency to feast on you more than usual.

There's no magic recipe: you need to shower. This won't solve 100% of your mosquito problems, but you can at least eliminate one of the factors that attract them in the first place. And you'll smell good. And feel fresh.

Spray, coil, or insecticide diffusers : always useful when you come across an infected room

If you stay in an area where mosquitoes are in your room, you will easily find in stores all the arsenal to get rid of them: spray insecticides, burning coils, diffusers... there is something for everyone.

Generally, they are quite effective indoors, but they won't be of much help outdoors, where it's better to use Soffell...

Air conditioning: a good option to keep Bali's mosquitoes out of your bed

Mosquitoes don't like the cool, dry air of air conditioning, nor the fan blowing on them.

A good method to keep them away is simply to turn on the air conditioning, which really limits the number of candidates for entry.

Of course, if your room is infested with mosquitoes in the first place, turning on the air conditioning won't be enough to make them leave, let alone kill them. Don't make me say what I didn't say!

Do Bali hotels treat against mosquitoes?

Many wonder if hotels and other accommodation can help prevent mosquito bites. In general, the answer is yes.

Many Bali hotels treat their gardens and other vulnerable areas against mosquitoes

Many Bali hotels remove mosquito nests in their gardens and surroundings by spraying insecticides... everywhere. This is especially the case during dengue outbreaks, but some have simply integrated mosquito control into their management and do it at regular intervals to avoid having tourists catching the most dreaded disease.

So, don't be scared if you come across some odd dudes with tools that strangely resemble machine guns and spray something stinky everywhere! For obvious reasons, if they tell you not to stay outside during the intervention, don't stay outside!

Mosquitoes in Bali and Indonesia in general are clearly the animal you should be the most scared of. Here is how to keep them at bay.

Some vulnerable hotel rooms offer beds equipped with mosquito nets

In some mountainous places, in bungalows and cabins open to the outside or simply without air conditioning, you may come across a bed with a mosquito net.

Be aware that this is far from being the norm, especially in Balinese hotels in beach resorts, which are almost never equipped with them.

Conclusion

Yes, mosquitoes in Bali, and more generally in the rest of Indonesia, remain a problem.

While Bali, Indonesian cities, and the coasts are relatively protected from malaria, dengue and Japanese encephalitis remain significant risks.

To protect yourself, nothing beats DEET insecticide applied directly to your skin. You can find them everywhere in Indonesia under the Soffell and Autan brands. They don't cost much and work very very well. If you don't want to wear insecticide on your skin, the next best thing is to cover your skin, like most indonesians do.

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