At Ku De Ta for sunset - a safe trip: Robin Bower

A safe trip? Top tips

What do you think of when I say the word ‘Bali’?

You might think cocktails, drugs, surfing, Schapelle, tropical beaches, relaxing…safe trip?

You might think, ‘I don’t want to go’ or you might think, ‘Get me there as soon as possible!’

My affair with began in 1982 when I made my first trip overseas as a young person. It was magical. I went again in 1984. After that trip, I felt ambivalent and decided that Bali wasn’t for me — I had done Bali. It wasn’t until I went to the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival in 2006 that I fell in love with Bali again. Ubud cast its magical spell on me and I wallowed in meeting writers and artists at elegant, exotic, and delicious venues throughout this charming village. I was hooked. I wanted to live there; or at least live there for a few months of the year. The next time I went, I spent two months there.

Bali is in the news again and for all the wrong reasons.

A mother and daughter died from toxic fish poisoning mixed with asthma.
There are more cases of methanol poison being found in drinks in nightclubs.
And now Schapelle has been released after serving nine years in prison; a silver lining for her.

Let’s look at both sides of Bali and see how we can avoid the risks; risks that are present in every country — even in Australia.

After many years the Department of Foreign Affairs in Australia recently downgraded its advice for Australians travelling to Bali from ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ to ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’. This is great news for Bali. But even when the Australian government warned travellers off venturing to Bali, Aussies still turned up in droves…

So why did nearly 3 million foreign tourists visit Bali in 2013, 1 million of them Australians?

Bali statistics

Here are a few interesting statistics about Bali.

  • Population: 4 million
  • It’s home to Indonesia’s Hindu minority in the midst of a majority Muslim country
  • It is 5,600 sq km in area (about the size of the US state of Delaware which has a population of 900,000)
  • Tourism is the largest single industry (30 years ago it was agriculture)

We also keep hearing about the dark underbelly of Bali. Obviously, there are exceptions but generally, as in other places in the world with an underbelly (i.e. all), if you are not involved in crime, you tend not to get bothered.

But if you follow these tips, you can avoid the pitfalls — love the place and stay safe.

Balinese dancer

Top 3 risks in Bali and how to mitigate them

Road accidents

Road accidents are the number 1 cause of death in Bali. Around 3,000 people died on the roads in 2013 compared to 20 deaths on Western Australia’s roads. This should raise a huge red flag and tell you NOT TO DRIVE A CAR OR MOTORBIKE IN BALI! Get a taxi — a very simple solution to a high-risk activity while you contribute to the economy and help employment.

Ingesting substances

Drugs are death — there’s no better way to say it. Say no in every way possible — using, dealing, buying, even thinking about drugs.
Methanol poisoning seems to still be happening in some nightclubs. Drink bottled liquids that you open yourself.
Food poisoning is an ever-present danger if you’re not careful. Keep your hands clean with antiseptic wipes — carry a medical kit, eat at recommended restaurants. Do the usual stuff when it comes to hygienic food — you know you can get food poisoning anywhere.


Touts on motorbikes selling timeshare — say no, give no details about yourself.
Offers of help with bags at airport — unless you want to pay $5 for someone to roll your rolly bag two steps for you, say no.
Money changers can scam you by counting the notes fraudulently, or they can give you old money — go to authorised money changers.
Being ripped off (legally) — be assertive and bargain fairly — don’t look interested unless you are prepared to buy the goods. Enjoy the banter and play the bargaining game. It’s fun!

Here are 4 good reasons to go to Bali

Balinese women at Ubud market

  • Culture — the Balinese people have a very strong culture. Religion plays a large part in their lives and you’ll witness lively colourful ceremonies everywhere. The artists are world class; Ubud, and the rest of Bali, is a fascinating village full of paintings, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and performing arts.
  • Food — the cuisine is top class and there are a number of michelin star restaurants.
  • People — the Balinese people are the friendliest people I’ve met in all my travels around the world.
  • Cost — it’s close to Australia (only a three-hour flight from Perth), inexpensive to get there, and is full of fabulous tropical scenery, snorkelling, beaches, mountains.

Nyepi ceremony

Remember — you can be targeted anywhere in the world for the same reasons as you can in Bali.

Stay alert; be aware of what’s going on around you and you’ll find that you will enjoy the sun, sea and solitude without experiencing these hazards.

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