Bali Belly 

Bali Belly is an upset stomach and digestive discomfort that travellers often experience when they consume contaminated or pathogenic food and water, adjust to new food and water, or feel stressed about travelling.

In simpler terms, it’s a traveller’s diarrhoea

Bali Belly happens commonly to people visiting Bali. It got this name because many tourists in Bali face this issue. But it can occur anywhere in the world

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 30-70% of travellers may be affected by this illness while they travel. If you’re visiting Bali, it’s good to be prepared with practical information to handle Bali Belly effectively. 

This blog helps you understand this condition, how to prevent it, and what to do if it strikes. It will ensure you don’t get anxious and can enjoy your trip well.

What Causes Bali Belly & Traveller’s Diarrhoea?

  1. Adjusting to New Food

When you eat foods different from what you’re used to, your stomach may need time to adjust to the food.

This can happen because:

  • Spice Sensitivity: If your diet typically consists of mild foods and you suddenly eat spicy dishes, your digestive system might react negatively. Spices like chilli peppers contain capsaicin. This component can irritate the stomach lining if you’re not used to it.
  • Different Ingredients: Balinese food may use herbs, vegetables, or seafood that your body may not be familiar with. It might take time to digest these new foods.
  • Cooking Methods: How food is prepared can also affect digestion. For example, your stomach may not be used to processing fermented Balinese foods.
  1. Eating Unhygienic Food

Eating food from places that don’t follow expected hygiene practices can affect how food is prepared, stored, and handled. 

What Does This Mean? Food handlers may:

  • Wash their hands less frequently or thoroughly than expected.
  • Not clean cooking utensils, cutting boards, and surfaces regularly with an effective cleaner and disinfectant.
  • Wash cutlery, and ingredients in untreated water.
  • Leave food at room temperature for extended periods. This may cause the growth of harmful bacteria.
  • Not always seal or cover ingredients and cook food properly. This increases the risk of contamination from pests or the environment.
  1. Drinking Unclean Water

Drinking impure or infected water, including tap water, can make you ill. But there are other ways you can be exposed to unsafe water:

Using tap water for brushing your teeth can be risky. If the water isn’t treated properly, even ingesting small amounts accidentally can lead to health issues.

Some local places might not use filtered water to make ice. Ice made from tap water carries the same risks as drinking the water directly. Even if the drink itself is safe, contaminated ice can introduce pathogens
Bottled water is generally safe. However, there can be instances of tampering or improper sealing.

  1. Being Anxious or Stressful About the Trip

Travelling can be stressful. Stress from travel, excitement, or even a different sleep schedule can affect your digestive system.

Let’s break down how stress and routine changes affect your digestive system.

  • When stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can increase stomach acid production. Extra stomach acid can irritate the stomach lining. It can lead to discomfort, heartburn, or indigestion.
  • Stress can slow down or speed up your digestive process. It can lead to constipation or diarrhoea. 
  • High-stress levels can weaken your immune system. A weaker immune system means you’re more likely to get sick from bacteria or viruses you might encounter while travelling.

Travel can change your sleep schedule. Less rest or sleeping at odd hours can affect your digestive system.

How Long Does It Take for Bali Belly To Kick In?

The symptoms of Bali Belly can appear immediately, after 48 hours, or a few days later. They depend on:

  • Type of Pathogen: Bacteria cause symptoms within 6-48 hours. Viruses might take 24-48 hours. Parasites may take weeks to show symptoms.
  • Amount of Contaminant: Small quantities don’t show symptoms soon.
  • Your Immune System: A weaker immune system means sooner symptoms.

Is Bali Belly Contagious?

Bali Belly can be contagious. An infected person can spread germs by: 

  • Not washing their hands properly after using the bathroom, and touching people directly. 
  • Touching common surfaces like door handles, taps, and shared bathroom facilities.
  • By not cleaning properly shared utensils, plates, or cups.
  • Preparing or handling food without proper hygiene.

How Long Does Bali Belly Last?

A person may be sick for 1-3 days or more. The duration depends on the cause, the person’s immune system, and how it’s managed.

If it’s caused by bacteria, the person may be sick for some days. 

Individuals with a strong immune system may recover faster. Those with preexisting health conditions may experience a longer duration of symptoms.

How To Treat Bali Belly?

Diarrhoea:Frequent, loose stoolsDehydrationSymptoms worsen.Recovery gets prolonged.Drink properly sealed bottled water, oral rehydration solutions (ORS), or clear broths. 
Take small, frequent sips instead of large gulps
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, dairy, spicy, fatty, and raw foods.
Nausea/Vomiting:Feeling queasy or throwing upSip ginger tea.
Avoid solid foods. Eat bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast, as they are gentle on your stomach.
Eat bland foods like boiled potatoes, and plain pasta.
Rest in a cool, comfortable environment. Your body needs energy to fight off the infection and recover. Avoid strenuous activities and get plenty of sleep.
Stomach Cramps:Sharp or dull pain in the abdomenUse a warm compress.
Bloating:Feeling full or swollen in the abdomenEat smaller meals.
Avoid carbonated drinks.
Walk around.
Fever:Elevated body temperature, often with chillsTake over-the-counter medications. These can help alleviate symptoms and make you more comfortable.
Loss of Appetite:Not feeling hungry or interested in eatingEat light and bland foods.
Weakness:Feeling unusually tired or weakRest.
Stay hydrated.
Eat gradually.

Besides, maintain good hygiene. It prevents spreading the infection to others and reinfection. 

Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom and before eating. 

Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly, especially in shared spaces.

When To See a Doctor for Bali Belly?

Some cases of Bali Belly can be severe. Consult a doctor if:

  • Dehydration is severe. Signs include dark urine, dizziness, and dry mouth.
  • Fever is high i.e. above 102°F (39°C) or lasts for more than a couple of days.
  • Symptoms are persistent. Diarrhoea, vomiting, or stomach pain may last more than a few days.
  • The stool has blood. This indicates a more serious infection or condition.
  • The abdominal pain is intense.

If unsure about your condition, always seek advice from a doctor.

What To Eat When You Have Bali Belly?

When dealing with Bali Belly, it’s important to eat foods that are easy on the stomach and help the person recover without worsening their symptoms. This tabulation summarises the dos and don’ts of diet.

Foods To EatFoods To Avoid
Bananas:They provide potassium, which helps replace electrolytes lost through diarrhoea.
Either mash the ripe bananas or make small pieces and eat. 
Dairy Products:They can be hard to digest and may worsen symptoms.
Rice:Plain, white rice is gentle on your stomach and can help firm up stools.
Ensure rice is cooked rice with plenty of water until it’s very soft and easy to digest.
Spicy Foods:They can upset your stomach.
Applesauce:Applesauce is easy to digest and can help firm up stools.
Consume the unsweetened version.
Fatty Foods:They can be difficult to digest and may cause further stomach upset.
Toast:Plain, white toast is bland and easy to digest.
Toast bread lightly and eat it plain or with a small amount of unsalted butter.
High-Fiber Foods:They can be hard to digest and may aggravate symptoms.
Boiled Potatoes:They are rich in carbohydrates and are gentle on the stomach.
Boil potatoes without adding butter, cream, or spices.
Plain Pasta:It’s rich in carbohydrates and is easy on your stomach.
Ensure the pasta is cooked until very soft. Avoid adding rich sauces or spices.
Clear Broths:Broths are nutritious and help stay hydrated 
Drink clear chicken, beef, or vegetable broth. Avoid creamy soups.

How To Prevent Bali Belly?

You can take the following proactive steps to prevent Bali Belly.

Water and Beverage Safety:

  1. Always drink bottled water. Make sure the seal is intact before consuming.
  2. If bottled water isn’t available, boil water for at least one minute to kill any germs.
  3. Avoid drinking tap water
  4. Avoid using tap water for brushing your teeth.
  5. Ask if the ice is made from purified water before consuming drinks with ice.

Food Safety:

  1. Eat food that is thoroughly cooked and served hot.
  2. Avoid food that has been sitting out for long periods.
  3. Only eat fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself.
  4. Avoid salads and raw fruits or vegetables if you’re not sure whether they are washed in treated water.
  5. Choose vendors that prepare fresh foods.
  6. Avoid raw or undercooked meat dishes like sushi.
  7. Be careful with shellfish. They can be easily contaminated.

Personal Hygiene:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.
  2. Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitiser for times when soap and water aren’t available.
  3. Use clean utensils. Avoid sharing them with people. Preferably use disposable utensils.

Restaurant and Vendor Choices:

  1. Eat at well-known and reputable Bali restaurants and cafés. They are more likely to adhere to higher hygiene standards.
  2. Check online reviews and recommendations from other travellers to find safe places to eat.

Medication and Supplements:

  1. Pack over-the-counter medications in advance.
  2. Carry ORS packets to help prevent dehydration if you get sick.
  3. Take probiotics before and during your trip to help maintain a healthy gut flora.

General Travel Tips:

  1. Plan your trip details, like your itinerary, accommodations, and meal options. It’s good to be prepared in advance to reduce travel stress.
  2. Try to eat your meals at your regular meal times while travelling. Eat balanced meals that include familiar foods. If this isn’t possible, carry snacks like nuts or granola bars to satiate your hunger.
  3. Use stress-relief techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or light exercise to keep stress levels in check.
  4. Start with mild, familiar foods before trying new and exotic dishes. Gradually introduce yourself to new foods to give your stomach time to adjust.
  5. Try to get enough sleep and maintain a consistent sleep schedule.


  1. How can I tell if it’s Bali Belly or something else?

Symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting can indicate Bali Belly. But if symptoms are severe or don’t improve, you must consult a doctor.

  1. Can I avoid Bali Belly completely?

No, you can’t avoid the condition entirely. But you can reduce the risk by following good hygiene practices, drinking safe water, and eating at reputable places.

  1. What should I do if I’m unsure about the safety of food or water?

Buy bottled water. Check its seal and make sure it’s not tampered with. Avoid ice from the outdoors. Eat at well-reviewed restaurants.

  1. Who is usually at risk of getting a Bali Belly?

Anybody, regardless of where they are from, can get Bali Belly. However, tourists from regions with different diets and hygiene standards might be more susceptible.

  1. Can I get Bali Belly even if I come from a tropical place?

Even if you come from another tropical place with similar foods, you can still get Bali Belly. 

Tropical places have similar climates, but their foods and cooking methods differ. Additionally, local water sources and hygiene practices play a key role in causing digestive issues.

Every region has its specific bacteria and microorganisms. Your body might not be immune to the local strains found in Bali.

  1. Can I get Bali Belly if I dine in an upscale restaurant?

You can still get Bali Belly at an upscale restaurant. However, the risk is lower compared to less reputable places. Upscale restaurants often follow higher hygiene standards. 

Bali Belly can happen if:

  • Fancy restaurants handle food ineffectively.
  • The ingredients used still carry bacteria or pathogens.
  • The restaurant uses untreated water for cooking and drinking.
  1. Does Bali Belly only affect tourists?

Bali Belly is commonly associated with tourists. But it can also affect locals who may consume food or water from less hygienic sources.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. The information given is general information only and is not intended to be used as medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Always seek medical advise from a qualified doctor or health practitioner.

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