In Bali, the Island of the Gods sees flights with international mortals finally arriving after a two-year hiatus
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While Indonesia — including the island of Bali, one of the world’s most coveted pre-pandemic tourism destinations — officially re-opened to visitors from 19 foreign countries (including Japan, South Korea and China, but not the United States) in October 2021, the archipelago hardly boomed with international arrivals. And that was due largely to the fact that there were no arriving international flights that weren’t cargo planes.
But the announcement from Indonesian officials on Jan. 31 that Bali would be opening to all foreign visitors on Feb. 4 surely rang like a dinner bell throughout the world of budget backpackers, among other Bali-craving travelers.
It was easier to believe on Feb. 3 when Garuda Indonesia landed its first international direct flight from Tokyo on the island in two years (there were a reported six foreigners and six Indonesians aboard).
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Prior to the pandemic, the tiny Indonesian island with an outsized reputation for wallet-friendly adventuring, saw some 200 flights landing daily at the Bali airport (DPS), which handled a reported one million passengers each day in 2019.
But in 2021, with strict restrictions and the island’s airport mostly closed to international flights, there were an anemic 45 tourist arrivals, according to one CNN Travel story. And to say that Bali — known for its towering volcanoes, terraced rice paddies, clifftop temples and rich culture of dance, music and art — has suffered the collateral damage of the pandemic is perhaps the understatement of the global tourism industry.
However, things are beginning to truly look up for the Island of the Gods to soon be welcoming back many more of the mortals among us.
Singapore Airlines announced that it is resuming direct daily commercial service to the island this month, with the first flight scheduled to arrive at Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) on Feb. 16.
But entering into Bali’s storied surrounds won’t be easy as stepping off the plane and hopping a motorbike taxi to your favorite street food vendor for some nasi goreng.
All international travelers arriving in Indonesia, including Bali, must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a minimum of one vaccine dose.
The CDC currently has Indonesia listed as Level 1 for low COVID-19 risk, although it advises against non-essential travel to East Java, which is Level 3, due to a recent volcanic eruption and the risk of further activity.
But due to increasing omicron numbers in places like Jakarta and Bali, a quarantine of five days for Indonesian travelers (or seven days for arriving Indonesians with only one vaccine dose) in a hotel or liveaboard boat certified by the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy is still in place and remains mandatory for international arrivals.
Foreign travelers entering the country will need proof of two vaccine doses completed at least 14 days before arriving and then a five-day quarantine. Tourists need to show a negative PCR test upon arrival to Indonesia and will need mandatory medical insurance.
Before the pandemic, the island was a global hot spot for scuba diving fanatics and intrepid surfers, in addition to drawing international travelers in search of everything from budget beach bungalows and yoga retreats to luxury hotels and all-inclusive escapes.
Indonesia’s current quarantine requirements are stricter than neighboring countries, including the Philippines (which is reopening its borders to tourists on Feb. 10, 2022) and Thailand (both of which no longer require quarantine for vaccinated travelers). So it remains to be seen how quickly Bali and greater Indonesia’s tourism will rebound.
For anyone who loves Bali — which is to say, almost everyone who’s ever set foot on it verdant shores — this all comes as good news for the island with some of the world’s best scuba diving, beaches, surf breaks, avocado milkshakes (yes!), and, more importantly, a local economy that relied more than 50 percent on tourism before the pandemic changed everything.
Featured image by SasinT Gallery/Getty Images.
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