Tourists warned about drink-spiking on party island

It's a firm travel favourite, but this destination has more to worry about than Bintang and nasi goreng.

Partying in Bali can have serious consequences. Photo / Getty Images
Partying in Bali can have serious consequences. Photo / Getty Images

For many Aussies, a trip to Bali is a rite of passage. Just six hours from Sydney, the call of cheap beer, massages, idyllic surf breaks and raucous partying is too much to resist.

On arrival, your only worries are how much Bintang and nasi goreng you can consume in a 24-hour period. But things can go wrong and they do.

Nowadays, Bali is to Australia what Ibiza is to the UK and Cancun is to the US. A stomping ground for Aussies on their worst behaviour, and when heavy drinking is involved, so too are the risks.

We all know there are dangers with partying in tourist-laden spots in any country and The Island Of Gods is no exception.

Those who live in Bali see it all too often. Tourists riding motorbikes without helmets, leaving drinks unattended at bars and not being aware of their surroundings.

From scooter accidents to rape, theft, kidnapping, robbery, methanol poisoning and drink-spiking incidents, it happens all too regularly.

But whether you're getting wasted in Kuta, wining and dining in Seminyak, name-dropping in Canggu, or live here permanently, everyone is vulnerable.

Recently, a spate of drink-spiking incidents in Bali is causing concern among both the tourist and expat community, with offenders targeting both men and women, and not just in notorious party spots.

"I was standing with friends at a table at a venue in Canggu after ordering a virgin mojito and turned my back away from my drink," says a 30-year-old female Australian expat who doesn't drink alcohol.

"It tasted unusual and I assumed detergent, not drugs."

Witnesses describe the victim chatting normally with friends one moment and collapsing the next.

"I lost control of my speech and within 45 minutes it was very difficult for me to move my body. My boyfriend was away overseas so my friends took me home. The girl I was talking to also sipped my drink and was vomiting and had a migraine the next day. I woke up feeling physically unwell," she says.

A 34-year-old Canadian tourist reveals suffering similar symptoms after a suspected drugging incident on Gili Trawangan island off Bali.

"My whole body felt heavy. When I got to my room, I collapsed on my bed. The worst was I didn't know what was happening, I couldn't even call reception and I didn't have any control over my body," she says.

She believes she was targeted because she was travelling alone.

"I asked for a glass of wine and the barman insisted on offering me a cocktail instead. He even asked me if I was on vacation alone and naively I said yes," she adds.

"After three sips of that cocktail I felt like I was going to fall face first off my chair. I somehow managed to throw money on the bar and dragged my feet to my hotel less than 50 metres away."

But while women might seem like easy prey, men are equally at risk.

A 46-year-old British male expat believes he was victimised because he was carrying a small backpack. He tells of drinking four small beers over a five-hour period before ordering one drink, a gin and tonic, at a different venue, also in Canggu.

"I stupidly left my drink on the side. My last memory was dancing with my friend, then waking up in the middle of the road," he says.

He was lucky to avoid serious injury and death, having crashed his motorbike into a car.

"The medics think I fell unconscious on the bike as they can't figure out why I'm not smashed into several pieces," he says.

Drink-spiking is not a problem that's unique to Bali and the same rules apply here as they do anywhere else in the world.

If you suspect you've had your drink spiked and you feel unwell, tell someone immediately. If you're a female and alone, tell the nearest group of girls.

"If you can speak, make sure you have close friends you can trust with you, not acquaintances," advises the 30-year-old Australian expat. "Be aware of your drink, if you can, hold onto it at all times."

"Go in numbers. Keep an eye on each other," says the 46-year-old British expat. "Find a friend or even a stranger you can trust. The bar staff are not always the best choice."

Likewise, being hypervigilant about what you drink, and where, can prevent you from falling victim to methanol poisoning, which in serious cases can lead to blindness or death.

Only order cocktails and mixed drinks at a reputable venue, if you're unsure, stick to Bintangs.

If you're at a venue where mixed drinks are being sold cheap, it's likely the alcohol is not legit.

Similarly, ordering a spirit with a strong, recognisable taste, such as gin or whiskey instead of vodka, will make it easier for you to tell if something is awry. Stop drinking it immediately the moment you suspect anything.

As for reporting drink-spiking incidents in Bali, the general consensus among victims is there seems to be little you can do.

While the 30-year-old Australian expat says she didn't go to police, she did inform the bar owner, adding that people need to be cautious about aggressively naming and shaming venues.

"The bar I was at looks after their customers and venue with cameras so the community placing blame on bar owners is unnecessary," she says.

There are a few golden rules to ensure your safety when partying in Bali, especially when it comes to transport, but most of it's down to common sense.

Always wear a helmet, full face if possible, and don't jump on the back of a motorbike when you know your friend or the driver has been drinking.

Take taxis or local drivers late at night instead of nondescript ojeks or local motorbike taxis. If you do take a motorbike taxi at night, use the Gojek app, which works in the same way as Uber, so that you have the driver's registered details. Take a screenshot of them on the app to be extra safe.

Mostly, remember that we shouldn't let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

- news.com.au

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