torstai 5. joulukuuta 2013

Stay Safe in Bali

I've been asked to write about possible ilnesses and accidents in Bali. Of course it is true that in Indonesia and overall in South East Asia there's many kind of ilnesses and possibility of accidents that aren't that usual e.g. in Europe. Still I want to stress that anything can happen anywhere so worrying too much about safety is the worst thing you can to do yourself.

I've been living in Bali now for over three months and nothing really bad hasn't happened  to me. I've hurt my legs for a couple of times but that could've happened in Finland also. Sure, some of our exchange students have had severe injuries or ilnesses that have made them to go a hospital but everything has been fixed. In the end Bali is pretty much safe place (compared to some other areas in South East Asia) as long as you keep your head clear. Still, there's a list of things that you should be prepared for when you come here.

Bali Belly is the first thing that should be mentioned about sicknesses in Bali although it's almost never dangerous to your health. It may take some time before your stomach can stand spicy food and in overall different kind of foods and that may cause some stomach problems. Normally they go away in a couple of days. Symptons may feel quite rough at first but normally rest is enough to make you feel better. If situation doesn't get better, you can get some medics from a pharmacy. A food poisoning is a different thing and possibility for that is of course in Bali as in any other place in the world. Normally people are first too afraid of what they're eating here. Most of the warungs (little food places) and restaurants are completely safe but of course it's good to check that everything that you're eating seems to be fine. That way you'll avoid problems pretty surely. If you get a food poisoning, you may have to go to a hospital.

Tropical diseases. It's easy to prepare for most of the tropical diseases already before coming here. You need vaccination at least for a hepatitis A (and B) but vaccinations also for typhoid and Japanese encephalitis may be a pretty good choice. There hasn't been much of malaria recently in Bali but in other parts of Indonesia it's more common. You can buy medication for malaria also from here (and you can also get vaccinations here if you want to do so). Then there's some diseases like dengue fever for which you can't prepare in any way but they're pretty rare and there's a good treatment for example for dengue.

Animals go a kind of into a same category than tropical diseases so let's discuss about them next. Mostly the animals of Bali are harmless and some of them (like geckos) are really interesting at least in my opinion :D Still it's true that there are a few critters that you may not find in your home country. There's some poisonous snakes, spiders and scorpions but they're pretty rare: I've only seen tiny spiders and a couple of dead scorpions. In the sea there may be sea urchins, jellyfish or even sharks (the last are really rare). I've encountered with some small jellyfish while surfing but luckily their stings aren't dangerous, only irritating. Bali and Indonesia in overall have tried to get rid of rabies, there's still probably some dogs, bats or even monkeys that have rabies. Stray dogs are pretty usual here but they're not dangerous even though they might seem and sound like that. As long as you're not getting really close to them, there should be no reason to be afraid. Of course if you're worried about rabies, you gan get a vaccintion for that also. In overall I wouldn't be really worried about local animals. Most of them are interesting and from those that are not, most are only irritating (like flies and ants).

Traffic accidents are probably the most usual cause for accidents among our students even though I've been saying that the Balinese traffic is easier that it may look first. Luckily most of the accidents are pretty minor and they've been cleared without going to a hospital. Unfortunately there has been also some severe accidents which have cause a little bit longer trip to a hospital but students have survived from everything here so far. The most important things are to 1) always wear a helmet, 2) drive safely and 3) never drink and drive. Taxis are here so cheap and easy to get that there should be no explanations for drunk driving.

Alcohol poisonings (or luckily in this case only one poisonin) have been in news headlines during this week. Last week there was one really unfortunate situation where an Australian girl got so sick from her drink that she had to be flewn to Darwin where she got the best treatment and is luckily okay now. The problem in Bali is that there are some bad quality versions of the local liquor Arak (those versions are made home) which may contain methanol which is extremely dangerous. A drink with methanol may kill or make you blind. I don't want to underrate the severity of previous incidents but I still want to remind that there's millions of portions of alcohol served in Bali and almost every one of them are safe. You should be safe as long as you hang out in the big bars and nightclubs which have to keep their standards really high - although anything is unfortunately possible here. I haven't had any kinds of problems but I've also been pretty sure every time about what I'm drinking and I haven't left my drinks out of my sight even for a second. Of course if you want to be 100 percently safe, drink only liquids that are served in a bottle... Or then don't drink alcohol at all :)

Drownings are one thing that many travel guides warn about when coming to Bali. It's true that waves may be here sometimes really big, upstream may become really strong and there's not many life guards at beaches. Still in my opinion it's pretty easy to avoid even the danger of drowning. Always be sure about how much you can swim and always keep the shore in your sight. Same thing applies when you're surfing. There should be no reason for swimming really far away from the shore. So, be sure you can swim back from where you are and avoid strong upstreams. It helps if you're not surfing or swimming alone.

Natural catastrophes like earthquakes and tsunamis are possible in Bali as in almost every part of South East Asia. Still, Bali is in a kind of safe zone, meaning that there hasn't been any really bad disasters for a long time. There's also two active volcanoes in Bali but the possibility of dangerous eruptions is really small. It's almost impossible to be prepared for natural catastrophes and the possibility of them is so tiny that there's no reason to worry about them. If something happens, the most important thing is to follow the governmental instructions.

I really hope that all of our students can avoid violent situations like fights in the middle of a night but yeah, they're the last thing that I also want to notify. From my own experience I can say that some of the tourists may become really aggressive when they're drunk so it's really clever to avoid the groups of drunken people who you don't know and who seem to be in an aggressive mood. I hope that it goes without saying that you shouldn't try to pick a fight with the local people. Violent robberies are really rare here, instead of that there's unfortunately really many pickpockets who are intrested in your belongings.

So yeah, even though there's many different categories, I still want to remind you that in my opinion Bali is a really safe when thinking about possibility of ilnesses or accidents. It's been even surprising for me how normal the life is here. No big problems or anything that should be really afraid of :) But yeah, it's good to know about the possibilities. I hope they stay only as possibilities also in the future.

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