Bali’s beaches are famous for their surfing and their sheer beauty. Hundreds of thousands of tourists hit Bali specifically to swim, bodyboard or surf along these shores. Yet despite the huge demand for this destination, tourists still don’t enjoy 100% safety there: visitors are vulnerable to sunburn, treacherous undercurrents, and even the miniscule (but very real) risk of tsunamis.
Visitors should follow a few simple precautions to enjoy Bali’s beach scene instead of falling victim to its dark side. (For other dos and don’t’s in Bali, read our articles on Etiquette Tips in Bali, Safety Tips in Bali, and Health Tips in Bali.)
Don’t swim on beaches where red flags fly. Parts of Bali’s coastline – mostly the southwest part extending from Kuta to Canggu – have dangerous rip tides and undertows. At certain times of the day and year, red flags are erected on dangerous beaches. If you see a red flag on the beach, do not attempt to swim there – the currents can sweep you out to sea and under before anybody on shore can attempt a rescue.
Lifeguards are unfortunately quite rare in Bali. Some beaches have lifeguards and flags with yellow and red markings that indicate the presence of a lifeguard. These beaches are safe to swim in, as are beaches with no flags in sight.
Read the tsunami information in your hotel. Tsunamis are both deadly and unpredictable; these huge waves are triggered by underwater earthquakes, and can reach the shore in mere minutes, leaving no time for the authorities to sound the alarm. This is especially true of Bali, where earthquake-prone subduction zones lie very close to shore.
The main tourist areas in Bali – Jimbaran Bay, Legian, Kuta, Sanur, and Nusa Dua, among others – are placed in low-lying areas that may be easily swamped if a tsunami occurs. To minimize any disaster, a Tsunami Ready system is in effect in Bali, with a number of Tsunami Ready-compliant hotels following stringent alarm and evacuation regulations.
- Find out about TsunamiReady.com – Indonesia Hotels (offsite)
- Find out about TsunamiReady.com – Evacuation Maps and Information for Bali (offsite)
To minimize your susceptibility to a possible tsunami, look for accommodation at least 150 feet above sea level and 2 miles inland. If you feel a tsunami is imminent, move inland, or get to the top of the tallest structure you can find.
Wear plenty of sunblock. Sunburn can easily ruin your Bali vacation. The simple application of high-SPF sunscreen can forestall the agony of UV-burned skin.
Sunscreen is important, particularly for an island as close to the equator as Bali: sunlight travels through less atmosphere in tropical regions compared to temperate areas like Europe and most of the U.S., so more burning ultraviolet reaches your skin in a shorter time. There’s also less variation in UV intensity all year round, so you need to put on that sunscreen, whatever time of the year you decide to visit Bali. Get sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) of no lower than 40.
You can also wear clothing that has been specially treated to be UV-resistant. More information here: Pack UV-Resistant Clothes For Your Southeast Asia Trip.
If you want to minimize use of sunscreen, or if you ran out of the stuff, just minimize the time you spend in the sun. Seek the shade when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky between 10am and 3pm. Make sure you stay where the sun isn’t reflected up from the sand or the water – ultraviolet radiation is also reflected up from these surfaces.