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Travel Vaccines: Learning The Hard Way (Bali Adventure)

Today something different than usual! I want to tell you a story of a cat, tourist, and A&E somewhere in Indonesia. I am writing it down almost exactly 2 years after the events but I still remember it as if it was yesterday… I hope you will enjoy the read and – as me – take some kind of lesson for the future. So buckle up and get ready for an adventure!

Bali – here we come!

A lot of things happened there. Traveling to Indonesia was always something that I wanted to do but the idea of moving my ass from a comfortable sofa and actually doing it, was so far away, that I never thought about it seriously. Then I’ve met Her and everything changed. Long story short – Europe wasn’t really enough for us. We decided to go somewhere for a bit more than city break in Schengen area. We were thinking much bigger. Something like spending-whole-year’s-worth-of-holiday bigger. And of course, we didn’t want to wait for it forever.

After checking numerous websites, we finally found them – our 18-hour flight tickets from London Gatwick to Denpasar, Indonesia. Flight date – 5th of March, which gave us 75 days to prepare. That’s the thing. I’ve checked most of the basic stuff like visas, currencies, health insurance, transportation methods and so on, but I’ve really skipped the idea of getting vaccinations as they aren’t compulsory. Nothing too serious, right? I am a responsible adult, of course, and there’s no chance that I will get close to any wild animals… Well, time will tell.

Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud

Bali – Island of Peace, Island of the Gods, Island of Love

We rented a house in quiet part of Jimbaran and over 4 weeks we tried to live like natives (um, maybe more like expats); We reduced our trips to famous touristic areas like Kuta or Ubud to the absolute minimum, ate out only at the local food joints, completely avoiding big brands and fast-foods. I must admit – we loved every minute of it: beach trips were scheduled every other day, nicely mixed with sightseeing and to be honest the time was flying. Every day we had a little break in the afternoon. After the whole day on a beach, cooling down under the avocado tree in the garden was something that we really needed.

Traveling to Bali Amazing Beach

That’s where we met her.

Our little back street was a home for few stray cats. They looked quite good and I am sure somebody fed them now and then. One of them chose us. White-grey-ginger colored cat, with some features that tell you she was (recently?) pregnant (I’m talking about cat boobs if you didn’t get it yet). So we “adopted” her. I mean we got her some dry food and fresh water, and after few days she became our alarm clock, waking us up around 8 and asking for breakfast.

She was also always up for some friendly scratching behind the ear. Until one day.

Bali – where medical insurance means nothing

The evening of 17th March. Finally back at home after the trip to Mt Batur, two exhausted humans and a cat. Of course she’s very happy to see us! We gave her some food, pet her a bit and that’s it. Well, it wasn’t enough for her… Few crazy bites and scratches left my ankle covered in blood. Usually, I would ignore that but (un)fortunately my facebook feed was full of posts about recent Bali rabies outbreak. Apparently only with stray dogs and monkeys but the risk was too high to leave it as it is. After quick research, we were sure that we will visit a hospital that night.

A quick call (20 minutes) to my insurer was enough to be sure that I can forget about fancy private clinic in Nusa Dua and I should head to the state hospital. Right, it’s almost 11 pm and we are taking ~1.5-hour uber ride to General Hospital in Denpasar.

A&E in Indonesian state hospital looks exactly as you think. Plenty of people, not many beds (or these first aid “cubicles”), few cockroaches outside and very friendly staff with surprisingly decent English. I don’t really look like native Indonesian guy, so I was some kind of a novelty for patients and staff. I’ve got diagnosed straight away: You need a post-exposure rabies shot. Immediately. The bad news is that we are out of vaccines.

Great. I will die here.

A young nurse must have noticed panic attack coming either from me or my girlfriend, so she picked up the phone and made a mysterious phone call. After a minute or two, she confirmed that another public hospital – smaller one, few blocks away – has a supply of rabies shots! We ordered a taxi and in 20 minutes we were there.

It wasn’t much different than previous one. A lot of people, just a few of staff around and again cockroaches, this time inside the building. After quick screening and few general health questions, they wrote me a prescription and sent me to hospital pharmacy to pick up the vaccine. An interesting procedure I must say. Fifteen more minutes and I was washing my ankle in a broom storage room, getting ready for a shot of vaccine in a shoulder (thankfully, painful shots in the stomach are the relic of the past). After that it’s nice and easy: sign here, sign there, in 3 days come again for another dose.

Rabies Vaccine

Oh yeah, and here’s the bill.

You have to pay on the spot and hopefully claim the treatment costs after. Good that I spoke with my insurance… In total, I had to pay 140,000IDR which was equivalent to €8.00. My 20 minutes international phone call was more expensive than whole treatment. Brilliant.

Waiting in ER


We came back home much calmer. At least we’ve done everything we could to save my life. On the way back, I’ve read an interesting fact about rabies: There is a correlation between the period of spreading the virus in saliva and time of the death of an infected animal. If, after 2 weeks of the accident, the animal is still alive – good news! – the bitten person will survive as well, as it wasn’t infected. With this knowledge, we started to monitor movements and health of our stray pregnant cat. Too bad, that after 2 days she disappeared and we never saw her again.

I hope you are still there Koshka…

Terrible Cat


PS.: If you will ever find yourself in a similar position and you’re afraid that untreatable and lethal virus just entered your bloodstream, make yourself a favor and don’t let your loved one google it. Trust me.

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