The Short Answer: Absolutely Not.
There are only a few of us who slip through Bali without getting the infamous Bali Belly. Unfortunately, even those of us who have been here a long time get it on occasion. The truth is most Bali Belly cases are not due to food, it’s due to the water!
But we know what you’re thinking… “I didn’t drink the tap water.” You don’t have to. Your dishes and silverware are being washed in it, your vegetables are maybe being rinsed in it. When it comes to dishes what happens, especially at the smaller warung—foods stalls with or warung with a high turnover, your cutlery, glass, and dish are washed but not dried thoroughly. That’s all it takes, a few droplets of E. coli water on your plate!
Not Just At The Warung
And this isn't just at the warung. Let’s say you’ve rented a villa for a month, or you’re a local living here. What do you think is in YOUR tap water? Same stuff. So you see how easy it can be to contaminate ourselves. One easy thing to do is to make sure to dry your dishes and glasses properly before eating and drinking from them.
Much of Bali has piped water that runs either from a well located on or near our own property or from a central location regulated by the government—we call that PDAM water. The well water is rich in natural minerals because it comes from the earth, but it has a number of dangerous bacteria and parasites. Despite that, nearly 25 million people in Indonesia don’t use toilets. They defecate instead in fields, bushes, forests, ditches, streets, canals, or other open spaces. Open defecation is not only an affront to dignity, but it also poses huge risks to child and community health. The latest statistics from the UN state as much as 90% of septic tanks in Indonesia are non-functioning! That's why we have to be careful with well water, especially shallow wells.
PDAM (Perusahaan Daerah Air Minum) water starts as well water, but the government runs it through a series of ceramic filters! Yes ceramic, although not the same as Terra filter. Plus they add chlorine to the water which gets diluted and so it is still not safe to drink PDAM water. You will never see Indonesians drink directly from the tap. Sometimes you will see them drink directly from the Beji—a holy spring. The belief is that Beji water is pure and clean. We are not here to prove them right or wrong, but either way, our general consensus is that it is not safe to drink any water in Bali straight from the source, or from the tap.
How to Deal with Bali Belly
How to get rid of Bali Belly? Activated carbon will help with the symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and bloating. But it will not cure it. If you have severe symptoms you might have a viral infection (there is no treatment, you can only manage symptoms), or more likely a bacterial infection due to E. coli. The only treatment for bacterial infections is antibiotics. In addition to drying your dishes properly and watching where you eat, the best thing you can do is prevent it. Keep your immune system strong by eating healthy fruits and vegetables (easy in Bali), and drinking lots of SAFE water, probiotics, colloidal silver, jamu (traditional medicinal herbs drink), and other natural immune support that can help you fight infection before it even starts.
How about Gallon Water, is it Safe to Drink?
Generally, gallon water is safe to drink. In case you’re new to Bali, gallons are the 19-liter large plastic jugs most of us drink out of. There are many different brands: some are touted as mineral water, while others prefer to use words like “completely pure”, so basically no minerals, and all the healthy content is taken out. There is also a whole other class of gallon water that goes by the Indonesian name “isi ulang”, or refilled gallon water. These are independently owned reverse osmosis refill stations, usually in someone's home.
There have been a few studies on the branded gallons and the refilled ones. The consensus is that the bigger brands are generally safe from a bacteria perspective (although some of the studies still found E. coli), but the problem with these is that microplastics prevail. The plastic gallons are also refilled and used over and over again, they sit in the sun and get transported and banged around, so the microplastic levels are quite high, as much as 93%. To give a brief insight from the article, Indonesian companies were near the top of the list for microplastic content.
Refilled water gallons also have a microplastic problem. But in a study conducted in Bali, 80% of all gallons also still had E. coli. So, drying your dishes, but using gallon water to wash your veggies….. still wondering where that Bali Belly came from?