10 Expert Tips when Arriving at Bali (Denpasar) Airport Tips for immigration, customs, duty free, ATMs, changing money, food & drink and airport transfers.

In Bali Transport Guide - Taxis, Airport Transfers, Private Drivers, Renting Scooters
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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. Buy duty-free alcohol before you arrive.

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 are particularly expensive. Some local wine brands get around this buy importing grapes and bottling them in Indonesia, but the cheapest wine brand (Discovery) will still set you back IDR159k at it’s cheapest. Beware. The quality isn’t great and locally known as paint-stripper.

Two Islands is a slightly better brand, and quite 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. Supermarket price generally IDR229k.

Restaurant pricing is whatever the market will bear, usually around IDR90-110k per glass and IDR450-650k for local wines, to IDR120-170k per glass and IDR750k upwards for relatively inexpensive imported wine. 

There is a new duty-free store inside the airport but the prices are still steep. You’ll pay IDR300k for a cheap bottle of vodka and around IDR500k for a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label. The prices for alcohol in Bali are steep, so your best bet is to buy before you arrive.

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. 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!!!


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There is now a separate queue on the far right-hand side of the immigration queues that cater for families with small children and the elderly, although it is not always manned. 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.

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.

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 not unusual.

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 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 a 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 expats 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.

ATM's at Bali Airport - Bali Holiday Secrets
The new renovations at Bali airport include banks and ATM’s where you can safely change money and withdraw local currency.

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.

6. Navigate the arrivals hall.

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 a 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.

Telecom Kiosks at Bali Airport - Bali Holiday Secrets
Getting a local SIM card is a great idea to take advantage of the inexpensive and very fast 4G networks. I highly recommend Telkomsel.

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 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. Book your transfers beforehand.

The easiest and lowest friction to get from the airport is to pre-arrange 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 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).

Disclaimer: I have so many people leaving comments or asking me the best drivers to use for airport transfers that I’ve created a reservation system. Read this if you’re interested or leave a comment if there is a question you have that I haven’t answered in this post.

10. 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.

Congratulations, and Selamat Datang — welcome to Bali!

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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!!!


  1. Hi Michael,
    Can you tell me about the Concierge Services to clear immigration quickly that still seem to exist?

    • Hi Simone,
      I’m still investigating these. I’ve tried a couple of services and they are very hit and miss, so I’m not willing to recommend one until I can source a reliable service provider. There are a number of services advertising on the web which you can search for – but until I vet one thoroughly I can’t recommend any.

      Let me know how you go with your experience should you find one.

      Safe travels,

  2. We are coming to Bali next week. Shall I get info about how much golden Jewellery can I wear as I have planned to buy golden jewellery at Singapore of 50g for myself. I want to know if there any custom rules at airport of limitation of golden jewellery. my tour is at Singapore first then at Bali. So pls let me know about this.

    • Hi Ranju,
      I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the personal importation of gold into Indonesia. Your best bet is to find the relevant Indonesian government department and contact them directly.

      Safe travels,

  3. hi I’m travelling to Bali 7 March from Auckland as a solo traveller. any tips for a middle aged woman on her own

    • Hi Shiela,
      I would say tips for s solo woman traveller to Bali include:
      – Make sure you book a driver for airport transfers to your hotel to minimise the friction of landing and avoid the taxi touts, especially on your first trip.
      – Don’t wander the back streets and alleys by yourself at night.
      – Seminyak and Ubud are probably the best options as far as locations go to get grounded and make for a low-friction holiday.
      – Be careful catching taxis at night – try to only get Bluebird taxis.
      – Try to see as many attractions as possible. There’s more to Bali than just beaches and cafes (although it’s pretty excellent for those as well).

      If anyone else has some tips for solo women travellers please leave a comment in reply. Would probably make a great article.

      Safe travels,

  4. I and my wife with one more elderly couple , are coming fist time to Bali. We are booked at. Karma. Kandhara. Bali.
    How far is this from the airport?
    Do you advise for us to request the Karma resort to send pick up.?
    Other wise how much will Taxi cost approximately. ?
    Are there any provision/ convenience stores close to this karma Kandara ,since the resort is equipped with a kitchen and we elderly people may not be able to eat all meals outside and may cook small meal in our Villa. For this we may need to purchase few vegetables, etc etc.
    Bhupinder Singh Lamba

    • Hi Bhupinder,
      Thanks for leaving a comment. You can see how far it is on Google Maps.

      I don’t know if that resort will pick you up or not, but if not you can book an airport transfer here.

      As for shopping, you are better off speaking with the resort. I’m not familiar with all the shops in that area.

      Safe travels,

  5. I have a question about exit date- as our plane leaves at 12:30 am, or 00:30. Will they count the plane departure date, or can we check in early to get our stamp beforehand, so the day before will count? I was relieved to see that we could stall, as our plane gets in at 23:20, and would like to be stamped 40 minutes later to get a full day.

    Thank you for your actual information giving! All the relevant stuff!

    • Hi Charolettei,
      Thanks for getting in touch. To be perfectly honest, I’m unsure if Day One starts at the time your plane lands or the time of the immigration stamp. Same for departure. I’ve always counted my plane landing and takeoff times as being inclusive.

      I would recommend you do the same unless you can get confirmation is starts and ends on your immigration stamp. I can see the logic of your argument but have never tried pushing it that far!

      Good luck, and safe travels,

  6. Re the Immigrasi counters for elderly, disabled, parents with infants…for some unknown reason, these have been relocated to the far RIGHT as you approach the counters. I’ve lived in Bali since 2007, I’m in my late 60’s, my wife is Indonesian and is well informed, but this change appears not to have publicised at all. As far as I am aware, the change became effective in June this year…and I got caught out heading to counters on the left.

  7. Gday,

    I would be travelling to bali in june 2020 for 7 nights with my family of 4. I would prefer 2 bedroom accomodation for our stay in seminyak. Can you guide us to plan our trip?


  8. Hi! We are hoping to catch the last boat over to Nusa for our trip in a couple weeks. We land at 3 pm on a Wednesday and the last boat from Sanur is 5 pm, think we can make it?
    Ps- 2 of us traveling, no kids but one checked bag.

    • Hi Alysha,

      Doubtful. If you land at 3 pm, you will be very lucky to clear immigration and collect your luggage within an hour.

      You have two hurdles – the queue for immigration, which will completely depend on the number of flights arriving at the same time on the day you arrive – and the infamously slow baggage handlers. With checked luggage, you can get lucky and retrieve it in 20 minutes, or wait up to an hour.

      It’s 15km from Ngurah Rai Airport to Sanur. That’s 30 minutes on a good day. Maybe more than 45 minutes if traffic is heavy, which it will be at the time you are travelling.

      I give you a 20% chance of making it. Good luck, and please let me know how you went. I applaud your ambition 🙂


  9. Thanks for this site! So happy I found this! It’s been so helpful while planning our Bali trip next month!

  10. Hi! thank you so much for the useful article! Do you happen to know how they determine the day your visa starts? I will arrive on Bali at 23.40 on a Friday, so am hoping to pass through immigration very early Saturday morning. Do you think they will register me on the Friday or on the Saturday?

    • Hi Anna,
      If you land at 23:40 on 31 July and you pass through immigration at 00:01 on 1 July, then 1 July is your first day.

      You aren’t likely to make it through in 20 minutes of landing. It will only take 5 minutes to get to immigration from your gate, but the queue is notoriously long and slow at that time of night.

      Also, remember your last day is inclusive – so if you arrive on 1 August and depart on 30 August that’s 30 days. Some people don’t quite get that and start counting from the day after they arrive as “1”.

      Safe travels,

      • Thanks! That’s perfect 😀 I had heard about the first day being the one you arrive on, so thankfully I had that in the back of my mind for booking my flight out. Just wasn’t entirely sure about the first day 😉

  11. Have never been to Bali what sort of insurance do we need before we get to Bali and which is the best place to stay close to airport or close to attractions

    • Hi Sharlene,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I advise everyone who travels to obtain comprehensive travel insurance before their trip, usually obtained by the travel agency you used to book flights, or the airline or online travel aggregator if you booked the flights yourself.

      As far as options to stay – there are literally thousands of hotels and villas within an hour of Bali airport. It depends on your budget, what dates you are travelling, how many people, what standard of accommodation you are looking for, whether you prefer a hotel or villa or if you need amenities like a pool… and many other variables that only you will know.

      Having said, that, and knowing nothing else about your travel plans, Villa Koru is a luxury 3-bedroom private pool villa in Seminyak.

      Otherwise, I recommend Airbnb and Agoda to help you find what you are looking for.


  12. This was very helpful, thank you for the heads up about the 1 bottle limit and the left line!

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