Is Bali really open to international and UAE travellers?

The holiday island hot spot welcomed overseas visitors from 19 countries from Thursday

Famed for its luxury beach resorts, pristine paddy fields and untamed jungles, Bali is finally welcoming international visitors again.

Or is it?

After 18 months of being closed to tourists, the ever-popular Indonesian island is among three destinations to have reopened to overseas visitors on Thursday.

Tourism officials announced this week that three islands – Bali, Batam and Bintan – would begin welcoming holidaymakers again.

On the eve of the scheduled reopening, Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia's Co-ordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, released a list of 19 countries from where travellers will be able to visit Bali.

Among the destinations are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Officials said the destinations were selected based on places that the World Health Organisation deems to be low risk and those with few positive Covid-19 cases.

Australia, where a large majority of Bali's tourists came from before the Covid-19 pandemic, is notably not on the list, but neighbouring New Zealand is.

Bali reopening to travellers from these 19 countries

Bensley Capella BALI

The countries from where travellers can visit the uber-popular holiday island from are:

· Saudi Arabia

· UAE

· New Zealand

· Kuwait

· Bahrain

· Qatar

· China

· India

· Japan

· South Korea

· Liechtenstein

· Italy

· France

· Portugal

· Spain

· Sweden

· Poland

· Hungary

· Norway

Bali's international airport is open, but with no flights

Airports in Bali and the Riau Islands, where Batam and Bintan are located, have reopened but seem to be missing one vital ingredient: international flights.

"So far there is no schedule," Taufan Yudhistira, a spokesman for the airport told Reuters.

According to the Bali Hotel and Restaurant Association, this is not wholly unexpected.

“When the announcement was made to allow international travellers to arrive in Bali from the 14th of October it was based on the fact that it was a good day on the Balinese calendar that was put forward by the officials in Bali and as long as all the requirements and readiness of the task force were in place," said the association in a statement.

“This included type of visas, quarantine, tests and airport transport. Bali was not expecting flights to land from that day,” it clarifies.

A search on Skyscanner revealed no direct flights from the UAE to Bali for all of October.

Emirates also has no flights available in October, but does have flights from Dubai to the Indonesian island for sale from November 1. However, this is not a new development and the airline had no comment to share on the situation when asked by The National.

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, continues to fly to Jakarta, but does not fly to Bali.

Officials have said only direct flights will be allowed to land at Ngurah Rai International Airport as part of the island's reopening.

Questions over Covid-19 tests, vaccines and quarantine rules

This is not the first reopening plan that Bali has had since the global pandemic. The island previously announced a series of dates for reopening, and then pushed them back. It is, however, the first time the airport has announced it's welcoming international tourists again.

But there remains a lack of clear information on what international travellers need to do if they want to take a holiday in Bali.

“We can also confirm that there are no official details as yet in regard to visas, actual flights or which hotels will be designated as quarantine hotels and the relevant booking procedure,” said the Bali hotels association.

This information was echoed by representatives from Anantara Uluwatu Bali Resort, a popular holiday resort on the south-western tip of the island's Bukit Peninsula.

“We still have no detailed news regarding the flow of the quarantine, airport pick-ups, visas and others. So far there are also no international flights," said a spokeswoman for the resort.

At a media briefing about the reopening on Monday, Indonesia's Co-ordinating Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto said that international visitors to Bali will only need to quarantine for five days on arrival. This is a reduction from the previous eight-day isolation required for international tourists flying to Indonesia.

Details on what PCR tests, vaccination proof and other procedures travellers will need to follow remain scarce.

On the website welcomebacktobali, a resource operated by the Bali Hotel Association to "provide travellers with the most recent, factual and verified information about the current situation in Bali", the most recent update has no information on travel rules for international visitors.

"Bali will open to international arrivals with quarantine from October 14 on a trial basis and will continue to be reviewed if all conditions comply ... We will be providing more details when they become available," the website states.

Why Bali's reopening doesn't mean it's time to go

For now, the information listed for international visitors relates only to those travelling to Jakarta. Holidaymakers headed to the Indonesian capital must be fully vaccinated, have a PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure and have a valid e-visa for travel.

There is also no new information on which vaccines will be accepted for travellers flying to Bali. However, Indonesia currently approves nine vaccines, including Sinopharm.

In keeping with Indonesia's current travel rules, it is expected that all foreign visitors flying to Bali, Bintang or Batam will need a confirmed quarantine hotel booking and insurance covering Covid-19 quarantine and treatment to a minimum value of $100,000. But again, none of this is confirmed.

After so many false starts, hotels and tourism businesses on the paradisiac island will be hopeful that this time things will be different.

“We are very enthusiastic for the reopening, however we still have to wait and see how things will work out," said a spokeswoman for the Anantara Uluwatu Bali Resort.

Tight immigration measures during the Covid-19 pandemic in Indonesia have devastated the holiday island, where 54 per cent of the economy relies on the tourism sector, according to the latest information from Bali Governor I Wayan Koster.

For now, while the official word is that the Indonesian Island of Gods has reopened for international tourists, it seems that actually travelling there remains off the cards, at least for the moment.

Updated: October 14th 2021, 11:26 AM