Bali—the Southeast Asian yoga oasis of "Eat, Pray, Love" fame—attracts more than 6 million international visitors per year. It's a haven for young, solo travelers on gap years and life-affirming sabbaticals, which proves how generally safe the Indonesian island is. That isn't to say, however, that Bali is entirely incident-free. Like any tourist-centric destination, it's also a magnet for pickpocketing and thievery. What's more, Balinese roads are notoriously dangerous in that they're chaotic and often times not well maintained. Being located in the Ring of Fire (an earthquake-prone fault line in the basin of the Pacific Ocean), the island is especially vulnerable to tsunamis as well.
The U.S. Department of State has issued travel warnings for Indonesia due to terrorism and natural disasters. "Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting police stations, places of worship, hotels, bars, nightclubs, markets/shopping malls, and restaurants," the warning states. "Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis or volcano eruptions may result in disruptions to transportation, infrastructure, sanitation, and the availability of health services."
Is Bali Dangerous?
Although Bali is safe enough to visit for a short trip, earthquakes and tsunamis are a major concern. In 2018, Indonesia as a whole suffered from 2,000 natural disasters, claiming nearly 4,000 lives, displacing 3 million people, and leaving much of the country in a state of devastation. Because tourism accounts for more than a quarter of Bali's gross domestic product, your vacation may help boost the economy, but be aware of the risk of natural disasters and the damage they've already caused.
Additional risks to travelers include targeted crime like robberies and pickpocketing. Terrorism is a problem throughout the country, but the U.S. Department of State does not cite Bali as an epicenter of it. The roads are notably dangerous in that a quarter of Bali's reported crashes prove deadly, and to make matters worse, renting scooters has become a popular tourist activity with not much training or precaution involved. Foreigners are injured in traffic accidents in Bali (whether as pedestrians, passengers, or drivers themselves) all the time.
Is Bali Safe for Solo Travelers?
Bali is not only safe for solo travelers, it's somewhat of a mecca for lone vagabonds. With so many young backpackers holidaying on the island, there's a sort of safety in numbers. Whereas some other Southeast Asian countries—notably Thailand and Vietnam—have earned unfavorable reputations for their rambunctious backpacker party cultures, Bali (being a Hindu island) revolves less around drugs and alcohol, which helps keep the crime at bay. Remember to keep your possessions close to your person when you're out and lock up your belongings at the hotel or hostel to avoid theft, which can just as easily be perpetrated by fellow travelers.
Is Bali Safe for Female Travelers?
The "Eat, Pray, Love" narrative has boosted female travel (female solo travel, in particular) immensely, making Bali one of the top destinations for itinerant women. In general, Balinese people are perfectly friendly, hospitable, and apt to look after visitors, but sexual harassment is also prevalent. One group of men, dubbed the "Kuta cowboys" after Kuta Beach, is notorious for preying on women. They often hold tourist-facing beach jobs, but what they're actually attempting to sell is sex.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
A high-profile UK rape case involving Indonesian exchange student Reynhard Sinaga, who was convicted in 2020 of drugging and raping more than 100 men in Manchester, sparked a series of LGBTQ+ raids throughout the country. The incident provoked homophobic attacks against the LGBTQ+ community, but it was particularly centered in Sinaga's home city of Jambi. Bali remains a major destination for LGBTQ+ travelers, thanks to its love-touting Hindu heritage and its diverse demographic, both different from the rest of the country. If you're worried about your safety as a queer traveler or couple, stick to the tourist-friendly areas of Bali where it's more widely accepted. Bali's gay organization, promoting sexual health in the LGBTQ+ community, is Gaya Dewata.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
Indonesia is not immune to racism, but it's mostly directed at Papuans, who have had a tense relationship with Indonesians since the takeover of West Papua in the 1960s. Otherwise, people of color are generally safe in the country, especially in the cultural melting pot that is Bali. If you fall victim to an act of discrimination during your visit, you should report it to the tourist police, who are stationed at Jl. Kartika Plaza No.170 in Kuta.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Bali is a safe place to visit, but be sure not to abandon your common sense. Travel in groups and take the necessary precautions to avoid danger.
- Macaque monkeys are commonplace around Bali, but don't be fooled by their cute appearance as they will not scruple from stealing shiny objects and food from unsuspecting tourists. Many a tourist have lost glasses, jewelry, and other belongings to these shifty beasts. Most close encounters with macaques happen around Pura Luhur Uluwatu and the Ubud Monkey Forest in Central Bali. You would also be wise not to smile at them as they interpret bared teeth as a sign of aggression.
- The beaches on the southwest part of Bali are known to have dangerous rip tides and undertows. Dangerous beaches are marked by red flags. Do not attempt to swim at red-flagged beaches.
- Ask your hotel about tsunami evacuation procedures; otherwise, find accommodations at least 150 feet above sea level and two miles inland.
- Despite the draconian anti-drug laws, tourists often get stealthy drug offers while walking on the streets, with disguised drug dealers slyly whispering offers of cheap marijuana or mushrooms to likely-looking travelers. If this happens to you, walk away. You're likely to find yourself entrapped in a drug sting.
- Apply high-SPF sunscreen to forestall the agony of UV-burned skin; SPF (sun protection factor) of no lower than 40 ought to be adequate for a Bali vacation.
- There are no traffic rules in Bali, only suggestions. Thus, crosswalks (when you can find them) don't get much respect, nor do the pedestrians treading on them.