Staying Healthy in Indonesia
Familiarize yourself with the most common health risks before you pack your bags. Most travelers who follow a few basic rules — like avoiding tap water — manage to have a completely healthy vacation. Keep reading to find out what medications you should bring with you and what vaccinations you might consider.
Vaccinations and Medicine
U.S. citizens should check the CDC homepage for updates to required and recommended vaccinations. Currently, there are no required vaccinations, but the CDC does recommend vaccinations for typhoid A and hepatitis C, both diseases that you can contract from water and food. These are especially encouraged if you plan to go off the beaten path or eat adventurously. See your family doctor or visit a travel clinic before leaving your home country to receive the most up-to-date travel recommendations.
Bring all necessary medications with you from your home country, along with the prescription. These medications should also be in their original packaging. If you have medication that requires syringes, make sure you’re able to provide proof that those are necessary. It’s also a good idea to pack a first aid kit with basic supplies.
Mosquitoes carry disease in this part of Asia, including dengue fever, which can be quite serious. Unfortunately, dengue and other mosquito-borne illnesses in Indonesia (like chikungunya) don’t have vaccinations. Prevention is the best line of defense, so make sure to bring the most effective bug spray possible with you and apply it regularly, especially in the evening and near bodies of water. Covering up is another easy way to reduce the number of bights.
Food and Drink
Tap water is not safe in Indonesia. Even locals don’t drink the water here, and at the very least boil it before using. Make sure to only consume bottled water with an unbroken seal. Ice is a different story — ice sterilization is supervised by a government authority and is quite sanitary. You can order cocktails with ice in hotels and bars without worry.
Street food is not subject to any kind of public health inspection, so if you eat at these types of establishments you should consider taking anti-diarrheal medication beforehand — Travelan is one of the most popular brands in the U.S.. In fact, there is some danger of coming down with “Bali Belly” no matter where you eat, so make sure to have some Tums or similar medicine at the ready at all times.
What To Expect at Healthcare Facilities
The health system is under-funded and suffers from a glaring lack of qualified medical staff, increasing costs, and outdated hospital equipment. There are no consumer laws protecting the patient. The lowest quality healthcare is often inaccessible to people in rural areas. The degree of risk of major infectious disease is high in Indonesia.
The free medical care facilities available generally don't have sufficient equipment, drugs, or medical staff. These facilities cannot support patients for severe cases, and hospitals are too expensive for a large majority of the population. NGO’s have been trying to fill the gap, but the system needs improvement. The number of overall hospital beds is low, with a per capita at 0.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, so clearly more facilities are needed along with universal coverage.
The majority of Indonesians have no access to free medical care and 90 percent of people don’t have health insurance. The healthcare system does not provide basic care to large amounts of the Indonesian population. Considering the state of healthcare, make sure you have travel insurance and enough prescription medication to last you the entire trip.
Travel Insurance and Preparation
Because of the lack of medical care, you should opt for travel insurance. In case of a medical emergency, you may well need to have a medevac take you to a hospital in Singapore. Travel insurance can also protect you from losses like theft — something to consider if you’re planning on bringing expensive camera equipment. Emergencies also sometimes call for cash, so make sure to carry some with you.
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Pack an Ounce of Prevention
In the U.S., you can register your trip with STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). This way, the embassy can contact you and make it easier for family and friends to get in touch in case of serious emergencies. Other countries have similar programs — check with your embassy to see what programs you can enroll in before departing.
Planning ahead ensures that you won’t spend time worrying while you travel. It can be intimidating contemplating what steps to take to prepare and reduce your risk, but keep in mind that Remember, Indonesia is a popular destination that relies heavily on tourism, so it’s in their interest to keep their visitors healthy. Travelers come and go from Bali every year while remaining in tip-top health.