You can fly into Bali from all over the world. The three main international air gateways are Jakarta, Denpasar, and Medan. By far the largest number of flights arrive in Jakarta's international Sukarno/Hatta Airport, 20 km west of Jakarta in Cengkareng.
Unbelievably, except on expensive cruise ships, slow passenger ferries, or private yachts, it's difficult to reach the world's largest island nation by water. You'll find only two regular maritime entry points. Ferries depart Penang, Malaysia for Medan, and a daily ferry connects Singapore with Palau Batam in the Riau Archipelago; from there you can board another ferry to Pekanbaru, East Sumatra, or Jakarta.
Ocean liners and cruise ships of Holland American Lines, Spice Island Cruises, and Lindblad Travel call at remote Indonesian ports at luxury prices. These upscale tour companies offer fly/cruise arrangements whereby you're flown to Surabaya, Bali, or Medan to meet your cruise vessel. See your travel agent.
All flights to Bali arrive at Ngurah Rai Airport, which is actually referred to as "Denpasar" though it is 11 km south of Denpasar and three km south of Kuta at Tuban.
Circle-Pacific and Round-the-World Tickets
Using a combination of airlines out of the U.S.—Air New Zealand, Qantas, MAS, Singapore Airlines—travelers can spend up to a year circling the Pacific and Southeast Asia. For Qantas and Air New Zealand, you're looking at around US$2449 roundtrip, 14-day advance purchase, with four stopovers. Additional stopovers are US$75-200 extra. Most require that you use all your tickets within 12 months, some give only six months. To save money, either ask your travel agent to do business through a consolidator offering flights to Asia, or call a consolidator directly. The cheapest fares entail midweek departures.
Air Brokers International, Inc., 323 Geary St., Ste. 411, San Francisco, CA 94102, U.S.A., tel. (800) 883-3273 or (415) 397-1383, fax 397-4767, sells more round-the-world tickets than any other U.S. consolidator.
Bali is often included as a stopover on many round-the-world tickets. The variations possible in round-the-world itineraries depend on the ticketing alternative the traveler selects. The best and most expensive is the full-fare, full-service ticket. You can go where you like on almost any airline and take six months or a year doing it. The main drawback is you have to zig-zag around the world in one direction only, booking individual flights as you go without the privilege of switching carriers. Plus, all your flights may not be available when you want them. You sacrifice some flexibility but save some cash by buying a round-the-world package offered by an individual airline or specific group of airlines. It's cheaper still to string together several discount tickets, acquired in such bargain centers as London, Bangkok, or Hong Kong.
Ticket packages vary considerably in price, length of validity, and number of stopovers permitted. If your round-the-world ticket doesn't offer a stop in Bali, try to land as close as possible—Singapore or Bangkok—then hop down to the archipelago.
Singapore Airlines sells a US$2570 economy ticket with stops in at least three cities; six-month validity, 14-day advance purchase. The airline offers daily flights east from New York to Bali via European cities and Singapore; and west to Bali via Singapore. Qantas offers a US$3000 ticket on a 21-day advance purchase.
Arriving by Air
In the luggage pick-up areas in both the domestic and international terminals at Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport there are well-staffed hotel booking counters. Have the clerks (all speak English) try to arrange free transport for you to a hotel of your choice (usually only higher-priced hotels are represented here, US$50 and up). The two terminals are only about a five minute walk from each other.
In the International Terminal you have to clear customs first. Curiously, in spite of the large number of tourists visiting Bali, the customs officers are among the most officious and demanding in all of Indonesia. Get in a long line where they are under more pressure to process you faster.
After customs there are a number of quick and honest moneychangers, both inside and outside the terminal, where you might as well change money because the rates only vary a few points from what you can get anywhere else on the island. There are also tourist information booths with a fairly good amount of literature.
After changing money, look for your hotel vehicle for a free ride. If you've booked ahead the driver will usually be there to greet you, holding up a sign with your name on it. For a taxi, go up to the taxi window, buy your ticket, and then present it in the taxi line. Fixed tarifs to various parts of the island are: Kuta Rp8000-10,000 (depending upon which part), Legian (7 km) Rp11,500, Seminyak (9 km) Rp12,500, Denpasar (14 km) Rp15,000, Ubung Station (17 km) Rp16,000, Sanur (18 km) Rp17,500, Nusa Dua Rp17,500, Jimbaran (10 km) Rp11,500, Tanjung Benoa (20 km) Rp18,500, Krobokan (17 km) Rp15,000, Batubulan Station (22 km) Rp21,000.
If going to Ubud, instead of paying the exorbitant fare, just get a taxi to Batubulan (Rp21,000), then board a blue Izuzu the rest of the way to Ubud for another Rp6000. If you want a cheaper metered taxi to anywhere, you can push your cart to the end of the sidewalk only about 100 meters from the entrance of the airport. Lug your stuff past the toll booths to the first street on the left and then flag down a metered yellow taxi, an even cheaper bemo, or hitch anything (someone will stop). Yellow taxis are not allowed to pick up passengers at the airport, but they are allowed to drop passengers off.
Pelni, Indonesia's national shipping concern, operates 20 passenger/cargo ships, each of which navigates a different interisland loop every two weeks. For the latest timetables and routes—which change about every 90 days—check with one of the Pelni offices before you go. On Bali, Pelni's port is Benoa just west of Sanur. The ships offer four classes, from deck class or economy—where you sleep in a huge common room—to first class private cabins with inside bathroom, a/c, and TV.
It's important to book ahead. The main Pelni office is at Jl. Gajah Mada 14 (tel. 021-343307, fax 381-0341). Ticket offices: Jl. Angkasa 18, Jakarta (tel. 021-421-7406); Jl. Pelabuhan, Benoa Harbor, Bali (tel. 0361-228962); Jl. Industri 1, Ampenan (tel. 0364-37212, fax 31604); Jl. Kol Sugiono 5, Medan (tel. 061-518899); Jl. Pahlawan 3, Kupang, West Timor (tel. 0391-21944).
Four major domestic airlines (Garuda, Merpati, Bouraq, and Sempati) and a number of military, timber and oil, and private air-transport companies service every corner of the archipelago. Always shop around to get the best fares. Sample one-way fares to Bali: from Jakarta, Rp220,000; from Kupang, Rp192,000; from Medan, Rp400,000. Don't forget to add Rp4500-7500 per departure for domestic airport tax.
From Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia's capital is a real travel bargain center. It's now just as cheap flying to Bali from Kuala Lumpur as from Singapore. The flight to Medan with MAS or Garuda is around M$78 one-way, M$156 roundtrip. MAS now flies from Kuala Lumpur to Surabaya, from where it's a short flight or overland trip to Bali.
Student Travel Australia (STA), sixth floor, UBN Tower Letter Box 32, 10 Jalan P. Ramlee, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, sells a Kuala Lumpur-Denpasar MAS or Garuda ticket for about half the price of other agencies. On the same street as STA in Kuala Lumpur are other cheap ticketing agencies.
Cathay Pacific, Ocean Bldg., Collyer Quay, tel. 533-1333; Garuda, Gold Hill Sq., 101 Thomson Rd., 13-03, Singapore 1130, tel. 250-5666; KLM, Mandarin Hotel, 333 Orchard Rd., tel. 737-7211; MAS, Singapore Shopping Centre, 190 Clemenceau Ave., tel. 336-6777; Qantas, Mandarin Hotel, 333 Orchard Rd., tel. 737-3744; Singapore International Airlines, SIA Bldg., 77 Robinson Rd., tel. 223-8888.
Travelers can enter the Riau Archipelago, three hours south of Singapore, on their own and visa-free by taking a ferry (S$20, 40 minutes) from Singapore to Palau Batam or Palau Bintan. Launches leave every couple hours from Finger Pier, Prince Edward Rd., Singapore. A speedboat also runs directly from Singapore to Tanjung Pinang for S$45 (two and a half hours).
From Tanjung Pinang, a Pelni ship sails to Jakarta every other Sunday. The Pelni office is at 50 Telok Blangah Rd. No. 02-02, Citiport Centre, Singapore 0409, tel. 272-6811, 271-5159, or 271-8685. These ships provide the cheapest way of getting to Jakarta from Singapore (about S$35 total). However, they leave early in the morning and require at least one night in Tanjung Pinang. If you plan to arrive in Tanjung Pinang from Singapore on Saturday, you'll encounter another problem. The Pelni office—Ketapang 8, tel. 2151—closes at 1300 Saturday, and the direct ferry from Singapore to Tanjung Pinang (S$46) won't get you there in time to buy your Pelni ticket for the following day. Solution: Take the smaller, faster boat from Singapore to Palau Batam (45 minutes). Go through customs in Sekupang and catch a taxi across the islands to Kabil. From Kabil, speedboats leave constantly for Tanjung Pinang (crossing time 30 minutes); when you arrive catch a minibus (Rp200) to the Pelni office. Once in Jakarta, you can either fly or head overland to Bali.
Near the Malaysia Hotel in Bangkok are a number of travel agencies selling cheap tickets. Fares and departure dates fluctuate, and getting a straight answer to a seemingly simple question is like trying to bite the wind. Walk around and compare prices. Student and off-season discounts are available, as are package deals offering no-frills indirect flights. K Travel Service, 21/33 Soi Ngam Dupli, Bangkok 10120, tel. (2) 286-1468, has a good reputation among travelers. Several other agencies are found along Sukhumvit Road. STA in Viengtai Hotel is expensive but honest.
From Japan and Korea
Tokyo is a better place to buy air tickets than is generally realized. The city's many resident gaijin (foreigners) are required by Japanese immigration to periodically leave the country and reenter. This requirement has created a ready market for cheap excursion fares. Many discount travel agencies specializing in overseas flights advertise in English-language media like the Japan Times and Tokyo Journal. Tokyo's a big place, so it's best to phone around and compare prices.
The following agencies are worth checking: Council Travel, Sanno Grand Bldg., Room 102, 14-2 Nagata-cho, 2-chome, Chiyoda-ko, Tokyo 100, tel. (03) 3581-7581; STA, seventh floor, Nukariya Bldg., 1-16-20 Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima-Ku, tel. 5391-2889, fax 5391-2923; A.B.C. Air Bank Co., tel. 233-1177; Asahi International Travel, tel. 584-5732; E.H.L., tel. 351-2131; M.I.C., tel. 370-6577; N.L.C., tel. 988-7801. The only nonstop flight from Tokyo to Bali is offered by Garuda on DC-10 widebody jets for US$1021 one-way coach fare; US$1752 one-way first class.
Few discounters are found in Korea. The travel agent in the USO Club outside the gates of the Yongsan U.S. Army Garrison is worth a try: 104 Kalwol-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, tel. (2) 792-3063 or 792-3028. He sells mostly roundtrip tickets to Asian destinations for GIs and dependents. Also try the Korean International Student Exchange Society (KISES), YMCA Bldg., Room 505, Chongno 2-ga, Seoul. Tickets to Jakarta sometimes sell for as little as US$550.
From Hong Kong
Hong Kong is as cheap as Bangkok and Penang for air tickets in Southeast Asia, with direct flights available to Jakarta and Denpasar. Return flights are even better bargains. The discounted fare to Denpasar is around HK$3000 roundtrip (roughly US$400). Many discount travel agencies advertise in English-language morning newspapers like the Hong Kong Standard, South China Morning Post, and the monthly magazine, Business Traveler.
The following agencies are consistently good: Phoenix Travel Service at Tjim Tja Soi in Kowloon, tel. 2722-7378 (talk to Rocky); STB, 26 Des Voeux Rd., Central Bldg., 26/F, tel. 2810-7272; Time Travel, Chungking Mansions, 16th floor, A Block, tel. 2366-6222; Hong Kong Student Travel Bureau, Room 1021, 10th floor, Star House, Tsimshatsui, tel. 2730-3269. Ask agents about the Cathay Pacific roundtrip flight to Denpasar.
For discount travel agencies in Taiwan, see the notice board at the Taipei Hostel near the Lai Lai Sheraton Hotel. Travelers tend to gravitate toward Jenny Su Travel Service, 27 Chungshan N. Rd., 10th floor, section 3, Taipei, tel. (02) 595-1646.
Air New Zealand, 5 Elizabeth St. (corner of Queens and Customs Streets), Sydney, tel. 02-9223-4666; Ansett, 501 Swanston St., 16th floor, Melbourne, tel. 03-962-3333; Garuda, 175 Clarence St., Sydney, tel. 02-334-9900 (Australian-wide telephone is 008-800873); Merpati, 12 Westlane Arcade, Darwin, tel. 08-941-1030; Qantas, International Square, Jamison St., Sydney, tel. 02-957-0111 or 9236-3636 (Australia-wide telephone is 131767); Singapore Airlines, 17 Bridge St., Sydney, tel. 02-9236-0111.
Discount Ticket Agents
Anywhere Travel, 345 Anzac Parade, Kingsford, Sydney, tel. 02-663-0411; STA Travel, 732 Harris St., Ultimo, Sydney, tel. 02-9281-9866 or 9212-1255, and 256 Flinder St., Melbourne, tel. 03-9347-4711 (other offices in Cairns, Townsville, Canberra, and Adelaide); Discount Travel Specialists, Shop 53, Forest Chase, Perth, tel. 09-221-1400; Topdeck Travel, 45 Grenfell St., Adelaide, tel. 08-8410-1110.
Package Holidays and Group Tours
Numerous package tours from Sydney and Melbourne to Bali are available for around A$800. Even though you pay for places and services unseen, the prices on a twin-share all-inclusive package are unbeatable: Sydney to Bali, A$900 (peak), A$750 (low) for eight days, and from A$1150 for 15 days. This includes airfare, transfers, accommodations, continental breakfast in a three-star hotel, and a token sightseeing tour or two. Each extra night costs only A$20 per person. Children are usually charged two-thirds the adult airfare.
Certain restrictions may apply. Departure and return schedules are usually unchangeable. The tour packages issue hotel vouchers, which you exchange for accommodations in either Sanur, Kuta, Nusa Dua, or Ubud. Other packages offer accommodations in Jimbaran, Lovina, and Candidasa. Vouchers are sometimes also issued for dining or for rental of bicycles or motorcycles. The final price depends on how long you stay, the class of hotel you choose, and when you go. Low-season fares are in force from February to March and from 16 October to 30 November; shoulder season is 16-31 January, April-May, and 1 July to 15 October; high season is 1 December to 15 January.
Package tour prices can be so good that some travelers take advantage of the cheap airfares offered and ignore the vouchers. Don't sign on for too many extensions and additional sightseeing tours because these can be purchased much cheaper in Bali. Look for deals in the travel sections of Australia's big-city newspapers. Find a flexible agent who can arrange for you to use vouchers in a selection of hotels so your movement won't be too restricted.
Australia is the place to take advantage of some unique adventure and sports tours to Bali offered by specialist tour operators. Surf Travel Company, with offices at 12 Cronulla Plaza, Cronulla Beach, Sydney (tel. 02-527-4722), and at Kirra Surf Centre, corner of Gold Coast Highway and Coolangatta Road, Kirra, Queensland (tel. 075-5599-2818), sells surfing packages to Bali including accommodations, meals, and transport. Pro Dive, Royal Arcade, Shop 620, Pitt St., Sydney (tel. 02-9264-9499), specializes in dive packages to Bali including airfare, accommodations, diving equipment, and transport to dive sites.
Air New Zealand reservations in Auckland is 09-357-3000; Ansett, 50 Grafton Rd., Auckland, tel. 09-307-5378; Garuda, 120 Albert St., Auckland, tel. 09-366-1855 (reservations in Auckland 09-366-1855 or 366-1862); Qantas, Qantas House, 154 Queen St., Auckland, tel. 09-303-2506; Singapore Airlines, West Plaza Building (corner of Albert and Customs Streets), Lower Ground Floor, Auckland, tel. 09-379-3209.
Garuda offers direct flights four times a week between Los Angeles and Bali, via Hawaii (18 hours). The usual fare is US$1050 (low season), US$1225 (high season) from Los Angeles to Bali. This is the same fare as from Los Angeles to Jakarta. From New York, the ticket to Bali via Los Angeles is US$1350 (low season) and US$1575 (high season).
Garuda doesn't give discounts on tickets you buy from them. You get one "free" stopover in Bali on the flight from Los Angeles to Jakarta. Ask about Garuda's Visit Indonesia Pass, which allows you to visit three cities in Indonesia for US$300. Each additional city costs US$100, to a maximum of 10 cities. For more information, call (800) 247-8380, or fax (213) 389-1568.
North American Garuda Offices: 3457 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010, tel. (800) 342-7832 inside California or (800) 826-2829 outside California; 360 Post St., Ste. 804, San Francisco, CA 94108, tel. (415) 788-2626; 51 E. 42nd St., Ste. 616, New York, NY 10017, tel. (800) 248-2829 outside New York or (212) 370-0707 inside eastern region; 1600 Kapiolani Blvd., Ste. 632, Honolulu, HI 96814, tel. (808) 947-9500; 1040 W. Georgia St., Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6E 4H1, tel. (604) 681-3699.
Garuda Orient Holidays: Some airfare and hotel combos offered by Garuda cost little more than the airfare alone. For US$1279 in the high season, US$1099 in the low season, you can buy a roundtrip package from Los Angeles to Denpasar with five nights in Kuta, including transfers and sightseeing tours. Inquire also about their eight-day and 15-day packages that include airfare from Los Angeles, all transfers, and five nights in Ubud for only US$1500. Hard to beat. The price depends largely on the rating of the hotel you stay in. For more information call (800) 247-8380 from the U.S. and Canada.
Asia Travel Service, tel. (808) 926-0550 interisland or (800) 884-0550, sells tickets to Bali or Jakarta for US$799. Also check out Panda Travel, tel. (808) 734-1961, fax 732-4136. Emerson Travel offers a seven-day tour of Bali for US$950, including five nights in a hotel, daily breakfast, airfare, transfers, and day tours. A tour to Yogyakarta is optional. Emerson also sells tickets to Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta, Solo, and Surabaya for US$799.
Budget U.S. Ticket Agencies
Overseas Tours, 475 El Camino Real, Ste. 206, Millbrae, CA 94030, tel. (800) 323-8777 in California or (800) 227-5988 outside California, claims to match any advertised ticket price to the Orient. Overseas represents 20 scheduled airlines, 300 tours, and 500 hotels in Asia.
Travel agencies owned by Indonesians or with strong connections to Indonesia are well placed to offer bargains. Such companies include Canatours Inc., 427 Bernard St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, tel. (800) 345-2262 outside California or (213) 223-1111 in California, fax (213) 223-1048; and Royal Express Tours and Travel, 731 S. Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, CA 91754, tel. (818) 289-8520.
Also with great prices to Asia are Adventure Center, 1311 63rd St., Ste. 200, Emeryville, CA 94608, tel. (510) 654-1879; and Community Travel Service, 5299 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618, tel. (510) 653-0990, fax 653-9071. The latter sells Japan Airlines roundtrip tickets for US$952 with stops in Tokyo.
Air Courier Association, 191 University Blvd., Suite 300, Denver, CO 80206, tel. (303) 279-3600, sells deeply discounted flights to Bali, as does the Educational Travel Center, 438 N. Frances St., Madison, WI 53703, tel. (800) 747-5551.
Air Brokers International, Inc., 323 Geary St., Ste. 411, San Francisco, CA 94102, tel. (800) 883-3273 or (415) 397-1383, fax (415) 397-4767, sells a Los Angeles-Denpasar-Jakarta ticket for as low as US$875 roundtrip (low season) and US$1050 roundtrip (high season).
Council Travel Services, 2511 Channing Way, Berkeley, CA 94701, tel. (415) 848-8604, and 205 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10017, tel. (800) 743-1823, is a well-known student discounter; nonstudents may also use its services.
Pan Express Travel, 209 Post St., Ste. 921, San Francisco, CA 94108, tel. (415) 989-8282, sells a US$830 roundtrip ticket for a San Francisco-Honolulu-Denpasar-Yogyakarta-Jakarta flight.
Student Travel Network is a budget student ticket agency with offices worldwide. STA, 48 E. 11th St., New York, NY 10013, tel. (800) 777-0112, and 5900 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 2100, Los Angeles, CA 90036, tel. (213) 937-1150, sells Garuda tickets from anywhere in North America to Bali. Prices aren't the absolute cheapest but the service is dependable.
Airline Toll-Free Numbers
American Airlines, tel. (800) 433-7300; Cathay Pacific, tel. (800) 233-2742; China Airlines, tel. (800) 227-5118; Continental Airlines, tel. (800) 231-0856; Garuda Indonesia, tel. (800) 342-7832; KLM, tel. (800) 374-7747; Malaysia Airlines, tel. (800) 421-8641; Singapore Airlines, tel. (800) 742-3333; Thai International, tel. (800) 426-5204; United Airlines, tel. (800) 538-2929.
A reliable and competent travel agent for cut-rate tickets is Trailfinders, 42-50 Earls Court Rd., London, tel. 0171-938-3366; 194 Kensington High St., London W8 7RG, tel. 0171-938-3939; take the tube to High St., Kensington.
The largest budget agency for those under 26 is Student Travel Australia (STA), located at 86 Old Brompton Rd., London NW1 2SX, tel. 0171-937-9962, and 38 Store St., London WC1, tel. 0171-361-6262. Branches in Birmingham, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Coventry, Durham, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, and Nottingham.
Also worth a look are Council Travel, 28 A Poland St., London W1V 3DB, tel. 0171-437-7767; and Travel Bug, 597 Cheetham Hill Rd., Manchester M85EJ, tel. 0161-721-4000. Another specialist in low-cost flights is Campus Travel, 52 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1 OAG, tel. 0171-730-8111; branches in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Manchester, and campuses and YHA offices all over the U.K.
Aeroflot, 70 Piccadilly, London W1V 9HH, tel. 0171-355-2233; Garuda Indonesia, 35 Duke St., London W1M 5DF, tel. 0171-486-3011; Malaysia Airlines, 61 Picadilly, London W1V 9HL, tel. 0181-740-2626; Qantas, 182 The Strand, London WC2R 1ET, tel. 0345-747767; Royal Brunei Airlines, 49 Cromwell Rd., London SW7 2ED, tel. 0171-584-6660; Singapore Airlines, 143-147 Regent St., London W1R 7LB, tel. 0181-747-0007; Thai International, 41 Albemarle St., London W1X 4LE, tel. 0171-491-7953.
Long-Haul Ticket Agencies
Best discount agency for students is USIT, Aston Quay, O'Connell Bridge, Dublin 2, tel. 01-679-8833; Fountain Centre, College St., Belfast BT1 6ET, tel. 01232-324-073; 10-11 Market Parade, Patrick St., Cork, tel. 021-270-900. Also check out Apex Travel, 59 Dame St., Dublin 2, tel. 01-672-5933; Flight Finders International, 13 Baggot St., Lower, Dublin 2, tel. 01-676-8326; and Inflight Travel, 92-94 York Rd., Belfast, tel. 01232-740-187.
Aer Lingus, 41 Upper O'Connell St., Dublin 1; 42 Grafton St., Dublin 2, tel. 01-844-4777; 46 Castle St., Belfast BT1 1AB, tel. 01232-245-151; 2 Academy St., Cork, tel. 021-327-155; British Airways, Dublin reservations, tel. (800) 626747; 9 Fountain Center, College St., Belfast BT1 6ET, tel. 0345-222-111.