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Arriving at Bali Airport (Denpasar) after a long flight can be stressful. The last thing you need is not knowing how to navigate from the plane through arrivals hall, immigration, luggage collection and then customs. I’ve flown in and out of Bali airport more times than I could possibly count, and through hard-won experience, I can tell you there is an easy way and the hard way. Read this and get through Bali Airport faster with less stress.
1. UPDATED: Bali Airport Now Has a Duty-Free Store.
Before the recent Bali Airport renovations, there was no duty-free store before customs. There was what can only be described as a fake duty-free store after exiting customs and before the arrivals hall. It was called Dufree and because it was located outside of customs it wasn’t a duty-free at all, stocking wines and spirits at exorbitant prices.
But now there is a new duty-free store inside Bali Airport that is actually duty-free located just after the immigration queues. The prices are still steep by international standards, but much lower than you will pay elsewhere in Bali so I highly recommend you buy spirits here before you get to customs inspection.
The prices are relatively cheap. You’ll pay IDR330k for a bottle of Smirnoff vodka, around IDR750k for a bottle of Grey Goose (if they have it in stock) and around IDR550k for a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label.
I came through in the first week of November, and while premium vodka was out of stock, there was plenty of premium whisky brands. The premium rum selection is woeful. And as for wine, you are far better off bringing something from home before you get here.
Indonesia has a “sin” tax on alcohol making it one of the few things probably much more expensive than where you came from. The only real exception is Bintang, the world-famous-in-Bali beer found everywhere, which retails for around IDR20k per 375ml bottle in supermarkets.
Wines and spirits in Indonesia – and therefore Bali – are particularly expensive. Some local wine brands get around this buy importing grapes and bottling them in Indonesia. The cheapest wine brand (Discovery) will still set you back IDR159k from the supermarket. The quality isn’t great and it is locally known as paint-stripper.
Two Islands is a slightly better brand and reasonably drinkable in my experienced opinion. The company imports grapes from South Australia It comes in a number of varietals — Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon at the time of writing. The supermarket price is generally around IDR 229k.
Restaurant pricing is whatever the market will bear, usually around IDR80-120k per glass and IDR450-650k for local wines, to IDR 120-170k per glass and IDR750k upwards for relatively inexpensive imported wine.
And remember, there is only a single bottle allowance, so choose wisely. If you bring more than 1 bottle per person prepare to have it confiscated if you are selected for a search inspection at customs.
2. UPDATED: Get to the immigration queue quickly.
After landing your best strategy is to get to the immigration queue as quickly as possible. Depending on the time of day the queues can be long — very long — with waiting times that be longer than 1 hour.
Take a bathroom break on the plane before arrival, and after landing get to the immigration queues as quickly as possible. If you still need a bathroom break do so while waiting for your luggage. It’s imperative you get to the immigration queue as quickly as possible.
Just knowing about the toilets was gold. Nobody else writes about this stuff but you. Thank you!!!
There is now a separate queue on the far right-hand side of the immigration queues that cater to families with small children (under 5) and the elderly (over 60) along with diplomats, flight crew and those lucky enough to have an ABTC.
The arrivals hall is huge, so expect a long walk from your gate to the immigration queues.
If you have small children or elderly passengers in your group ask for assistance when making your booking. You will likely be assigned someone to meet you off the plane and escort you to the fast-track immigration queue. If you don’t have assistance, get moving to the immigration lines as fast as you can. Elderly and small kids to the right, everyone else into the long lines to the left.
I’m assuming you are here for a holiday for less than 30 days, in which case you will most likely qualify for an automatic 30-day tourist visa. This is non-renewable and there are heavy fines for overstaying. You can find the list of countries that can receive an automatic tourist visa on arrival here.
Make sure you have already completed your immigration arrival form on the plane. There are often no forms left in the arrivals hall (and never any pens, so make sure you have one and complete the form on the plane before arrival). You need to present it at immigration along with your passport and sometimes your boarding pass, so don’t forget to keep it with your passport and immigration form.
There have been a number of issues with immigration forms not being provided in the desks before the immigration lines. Sometimes pointing this out to the immigration officer has an effect because they already know, and they may let you through to the baggage collection.
Please be aware that before you leave baggage collection and going through the customs inspection you must have a completed immigration form. No excuses.
3. Be prepared for a long wait for your luggage.
DPS is renowned for their slow baggage handling, so the best option is to get through immigration as quickly as possible and take a bathroom break afterwards in the baggage and customs hall.
Checked luggage will come out onto the conveyors slowly. Painfully slowly, with 20 minutes considered fast and up to an hour is normal.
Before you leave baggage collection to go through customs checks you must have your immigration form, which can sometimes be in short supply. At the far end of the baggage carousels are some desks with immigration forms. Get there fast and grab an immigration form first, then go and look which carousels has you luggage being delivered.
Now you have plenty of time to fill out your form because your luggage isn’t coming out anytime soon. And rather than waiting at the customs end hoping beyond hope that your luggage is going to be delivered early (how sweet and naive you are) the entry end has the destination boards – which often changes – so hang around there until you know you have the right carousel.
Oversized luggage, like surfboards, mountain bikes or anything deemed by the local baggage handlers as “heavy” will be deposited at the entry end of the carousels. Which may change anytime.
4. Getting through customs.
Once you have collected your luggage proceed to the customs queue where you hand over your arrival form and will be directed either directed straight to the exit or towards the X-ray screening.
Here’s a tip — if you stay on the left of two queues you have a better chance of not being selected for x-ray inspection because it leads straight to the exit and depending on the flow of traffic you may be allowed straight through.
Using this technique I’ve cut my inspection rate by over 50%.
This is just a tip, not a guarantee. If you are selected for x-ray screening of your luggage you may then also be selected for a personal inspection by customs officers. Always be nice and polite, give them a smile and comply with all requests. You may be tired after a long flight, but without a doubt a bad attitude will bet met with more questions and thorough inspection of your luggage.
Customs officers will usually confiscate any alcohol over the limit — so if you bring in two bottles make one of them cheaper so it’s not such a loss — and you may have to explain any electronics or expensive-looking goods that may require an import duty to be paid.
Technically the value allowed per person for electronics and other goods is $200 but this is generally not enforced for items that are clearly of personal nature like laptops and cameras.
If you happen to be bringing something unusual and expensive — household appliances not readily available in Bali are a favourite as gifts for locals or ex-pats you may know in Bali — you may be hit up to pay customs duty.
This is a negotiation, so don’t accept the first “offer”. If you are being asked to pay duty then you will do no better than paying 10% of the value for whatever you are bringing in. If you can achieve that, then count yourself lucky and just pay it!
Customs will often “assess” the value as being much higher than what you paid, so my tip is to carry the receipt with you stored somewhere else, like in your wallet, so if push comes to shove (figuratively speaking) you can prove the value.
5. Withdraw local currency or exchange cash for rupiah.
After exiting customs one of the newest additions to Bali airport is a number of ATM’s run by major local banks. These are completely safe to use and I highly recommend that you stop and either withdraw local currency from the ATM or use the bank branches if they are open to exchange your cash for Indonesian Rupiah.
I have written extensively about safely using ATM’s in Bali and the number one tip is to get some local currency while you’re at the airport in a safe environment with no risk.
There are also a couple of reputable money changers now at the airport alongside the ATM’s. While I have written about safely changing money in Bali you can use these without any risk of being ripped off as they are completely trustworthy. Although the exchange rate is not as competitive as a money changer, they’re within 2-3 points, making the convenience and security worth it, especially for first time visitors with no local currency.
After exiting customs through the arrival gates you will be confronted with a wall of drivers holding signs behind a barrier all trying to catch your attention. There are also a number of touts inside the barrier that will start harassing you for a taxi fare. These are never a good idea to accept.
Recently there has been some improvements to the arrivals hall that include taxi and transport companies where you can book a taxi to your destination. However, it can still be hit-and-miss. At my last arrival, I tried to organise a taxi fare to my destination in Seminyak but was consistently being quoted around IDR250-300k, which is way too much for simple taxi service (and they are never taxis, they are always private drivers on contract).
Related article: Book a Private Driver for your holiday.
7. Get a local Telco SIM card for your phone.
On your way out past the row of taxi and transport drivers, there are a couple of telco kiosks selling local SIM cards. Buying a local SIM card is a great idea because they are cheap and while WiFi is almost ubiquitous in Bali at hotels, cafes and restaurants you are better of having full-time reliable internet connectivity via a local SIM card.
Telkomsel (the bright red kiosk) is what I use and find the most reliable. Mobile internet speeds in Bali are spectacularly fast and incredibly cheap. I consistently get over 20Mbps down and 10Mbps up using Telekom’s 4G network. Expect to pay around IDR120k for a 20 Gigabyte data package with a one-month expiry. The one and 7-day options are generally more expensive, so get a SIM card package good for 30 days.
Pro tip: download the Telekom app from the Google Play store or Apple iStore to manage your data usage and top it up on the go, or buy a top-up voucher at pretty much any convenience store.
8. Avoid the Porters and Taxi Touts.
There are also a large number of porters keen to take your luggage to your transfer service. They can be quite aggressive, even for seasoned travellers and will expect a tip – and most will always push you for more than you offer, so my recommendation is to simply ignore them.
They are seasoned operators who will try their best to direct you to “taxi drivers” for your transfer to your destination.
You would be far better off arranging for a private car and driver to meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel or villa for a friction-free experience.
9. Food and drinks at arrivals.
Just past the telco kiosks, there is a couple of small convenience stores where you can buy water and other snacks and refreshments (yes, they sell Bintang), the first on the right-hand side, the second on the left-hand side before the waiting throng of transport operators.
There is also a small coffee kiosk a bit further around to the right opposite the information desk (easily seen with a huge arrivals/departures board hanging above it) and directly behind the waiting wall of drivers looking back towards the sliding exit doors.
If you are feeling hangry and don’t want to wait until you get to your destination before getting something to eat, head upstairs to the departure hall where there are a number of cafes. Just outside the convenience store on the left-hand side is an elevator.
Take it to the 3rd floor for something to eat or drink, or just relax and get your bearings. It’s also the best place if you need to hang out while waiting for fellow travellers arriving after you or are meeting someone picking you up.
10. Book your transfers beforehand.
If you want to organise your own transport read my guide on getting from the airport to your destination for the best tips on each of the transport options available (plus a neat hack for solo travellers and couples that I use frequently).
The easiest and lowest friction to get from the airport is to pre-book your transfers to your destination before you arrive. That way you will avoid the hassle of trying to navigate the throng of touts, which is the last thing you need after a long flight and working your way through immigration and customs.
If you want to book a private car and driver for the day because you have an early arrival and cannot check-in until later in the day, I have an airport pick-up and day tour booking option that is perfect for helping make a great first day in Bali.
Congratulations, and Selamat Datang! Welcome to Bali!
- 7 Rules for Getting from Denpasar (Bali) Airport to Seminyak
- 12 Expert Tips for Hiring a Private Driver in Bali
- How to use ATMs safely in Bali
- Bali’s most amazing waterfalls
The perfect start to our holiday!!
We were so thankful we planned ahead and booked your driver. Immigration took ages and we were hot and sweaty and the kids were getting tired when we got through, so it was such a welcome relief that we saw Putu exactly where you instructed us to meet him. So many taxi drivers yelling for our attention!!! If we didn't have your advice arriving would have been a disaster. Thank you so much Michael. You're the best!!!