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Travelers Warned Of Methanol Poisoning In Bali And Surrounding Islands

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Travelers to Bali and the surrounding holiday islands are being warned about the dangers of methanol poisoning. Late last week, a traveler from Germany was out partying on Gili Trawangan when he became incredibly ill. Fortunately, due to the help of good samaritans and social media, the 31-year-old will make a recovery. It is yet another reminder to travelers to Bali to stay safe while drinking alcohol. 

Restaurant For Tourists On Gili T Close To Bali

The traveler, who wishes to keep his name out of the press, was saved by a seemingly counterintuitive solution to his methanol poisoning. The backpacker had been staying in Gili Trawangan and was returning to his hostel at around 3 am.

According to reporters, he ran into some locals who were also up drinking, and they offered him a shot of local arak. Arak is a rice-based spirit that is often homemade. Alcohol percentages can range from 20-50%. However, the presence of methanol has been detected in these home-brewed spirits on a number of occasions. 

Traveler Who Got Methanol Poisoning On Gili T with the woman who helped him in hospital
Credit: Just Don’t Drink Spirits In Bali Facebook

While the traveler cites the local arak as the cause of the problem, there is no way of knowing whether the methanol poisoning was caused by any other hard liquor he consumed that night. Potentially poisonous spirits are found at clubs and bars across Bali. There is no intention to cause harm, and often bartenders and landlords would have no way of knowing that seemingly legitimate liquor bottles contain methanol until it’s too late.

Speaking to YahooNews, the traveler said ‘I thought that was kind of a nice experience, drinking with the locals – their so-called arak…I woke up the next day at 12pm in my hostel, felt like s**t.’ Assuming he had a rough hangover, the traveler returned to bed, not waking until mid-afternoon. He started experiencing diarrhea, and developed tunnel vision which was the final straw.

He knew something was very wrong. In a panic, he looked for a contact number for medical assistance. On a flyer in the hostel dorm, he read ‘’Be aware what you drink, it might be poisoned’, followed by the symptoms of methanol poisoning. 

Travelers On Gili T And Island Off Bali Walk Along Beach Next To Tourist Fast Boats

While the hostel helped the traveler get medical assistance, he claimed that the medic brushed the case off as a bad hangover. Knowing intuitively that something more was going on, the German traveler tried to get hold of anyone else who may be able to help. He reached out to a friend who is a doctor but was unable to reach them. 

He told reporters, ‘I can’t remember to ever having that much fear … Like I was afraid to die’. Still panicked and needing to get himself to a bigger hospital, the traveler managed to board the fast boat back to Bali. During the crossing and despite his symptoms he came across a Facebook group called ‘Just Don’t Drink Spirits In Bali’. 

Tourists-Climb-Off-Gili-Lombok-Bali-Fast-Boat

The Facebook group has 10,000 followers and is run by passionate awareness campaigner Colin Ahearn. The traveler reached out to Ahearn, who guided him through the hospitalization process and managed to gather community support for the young man. Ahearn told reporters that although the poisoning was not as severe as it could have been, urgent action was needed. He said, ‘A lot of his symptoms weren’t severe, but he had some eye damage from the get-go’

Local-Health-Clinic-Hospital-Ward-In-Bali

Jumping online, Ahearn called out for any duty-free alcohol in the area that could be donated to the traveler to help regulate his metabolism and buy his body time to process the methanol with sugar-based ethanol.

Since the incident, Ahearn has posted an 8-minute explainer video to the Facebook group explaining how the ‘clean’ and confirmed to be legitimate duty-free alcohol can buy the body time in the event of methanol poisoning. A woman came forward and delivered a bottle of duty-free Bacardi to his bedside.

Close Up of hands of Indonesian bartender serving local Bali arak over ice

Travelers are reminded to seek medical attention immediately if they suspect they or someone they are traveling with is experiencing methanol poisoning. Methanol poisoning can occur from just one shot of tainted liquor, and precautions must always be taken when drinking alcohol in Indonesia. 

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J West

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

This is super common. Bars will switch your drinks to make extra cash. Places like Mexico are killing people, they work in an organized gang, getting you sick, attacking whole families at swim up pool bars, then charging you astronomical money to get to hospital, then demanding big cash before treating you, so watch out. It can happen anywhere. Buy your own sealed bottles at a 7-11 to avoid the scam, do not roll the dice on some crap from under the bar. The guy in this story is lucky he’s alive.

John

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

The visa in Indonesia is problem most other Asian countries are easy

Shorty

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

There's been umpteen warnings about this . You can't allow for stupidity and ignorance.

Firechef

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

Oooft...there's always something that'll get you in Bali. If not the locals trying to rip you off, it's their booze that's trying to kill you. Kind of makes you wonder why you even left home, huh? 😆. Stick to bottle beer and wine to be safe.

Buaya

Wednesday 14th of September 2022

I drank Arak once and shortly after there was a 12 hour time frame that I do not remember.