Bali is experiencing a tourism boom. New hotels are opening, visitors are arriving in near-record numbers and prices are skyrocketing before the pandemic.
Take the thriving Canggu region, for example. Barely three years ago, the surrounding areas were filled with paddy fields. Today, there are high-end stores, money exchange shops, and local restaurants called Warung.
“The island is full of tourists,” says Isaac Halas, a tour operator and regular in Bali.
The types of tourists who come to Bali have also changed. Hotel owners say they are seeing fewer Chinese and more Americans and Australians. They often book their Bali holidays at the last minute, rather than planning it months in advance.
So what do you need to know to visit Bali today? What has changed since the pandemic? How do you plan a dream vacation in Bali?
First, what has changed in Bali? Bali has almost recovered from the pandemic in terms of foreign visitors. From January to April, 1.4 million foreigners visited the island, according to Statistics Bali Central. This number compares to 1.8 million visitors during the same period in 2019.
New hotels have opened, and more are planned. Among the new arrivals: AYANA Segara Bali, a luxury hotel overlooking Jimbaran Bay; Kimpton Naranta Bali to Nusa Dua; and Gdas Bali, a health and wellness resort in trendy Ubud. Some establishments, such as Soulshine Bali, have expanded by adding new rooms. And there is more on the horizon. The highly anticipated Anantara Ubud Bali is set to open in the first quarter of next year.
Bali is overwhelmed with new arrivals, some of whom have not behaved well. At the beginning of summer, a German visitor desecrated a temple by walking around without a single piece of clothing. This month, Indonesia temporarily suspended visa waivers for 159 countries due to what it called “health issues”. Rumors are also circulating that Bali may soon triple the visa and arrival fee, which is 32 euros.
Bali hotel prices are on the rise
Bali is a less interesting destination than it was before the pandemic. The island is now home to the most expensive hotel in Southeast Asia, the Bulgari Bali Resort. The hotel has doubled the price of its rooms after the pandemic – they are now offered from €1,480 per night.
There are many reports of increased hotel occupancy and prices in Bali. Speaking to the hoteliers it is clear that the days of cheap hotel rooms on the island are over and will probably never return.
“But it’s still an incredibly affordable destination compared to most other destinations in the world,” notes Andrew Williams, Bali specialist at OvationNetwork.
According to him, it is possible to find five-star accommodation for less than €150 a night. And if you’re avoiding high season (between mid-summer and the end of the year), you can usually find a special package that will save you money on lodging.
However, the general trend is that hotel rates continue to rise and will almost certainly rise for the foreseeable future, observers say.
Sometimes Bali looks like a huge construction site. The land that was still virgin a few months ago is now occupied by new villas and trendy shops selling expensive swimwear to tourists.
“Bali has developed tremendously over the past decade,” says Karim Belhadj Soulami, a remote work expert who travels frequently to Bali. “It feels like new hotels and villas appear every day. They fill up very quickly.”
The traffic is appalling. If you work near the provincial capital, Denpasar, you should get up early when traffic is still light. In the afternoon, small two-lane roads become practically impassable for cars. Scooters can only squeeze through traffic.
In some of Bali’s luxury hotels, the most coveted amenity is the helipad.
At the Viceroy Bali, one of the only hotels in Ubud where a helicopter can land, officials say the landing fee provides a “significant” source of revenue. And for good reason. After more than 20 hours on a plane, the last thing a luxury hotel guest wants is to be stuck in traffic for hours.
Balinese seem to take these issues head on. After all, tourism is a billion euro industry, and it connects almost everyone on the island. However, if you come from a western country where well-maintained roads and transportation infrastructure are taken for granted, you may experience a shock.
How to organize your next vacation in Bali?
Bali remains irresistible to Western visitors. It’s isolated (it takes about a day to get to Indonesia, and there are no direct flights from France), and its service culture is legendary. But if you are planning to go there, here are some tips to follow.
“Bali is not what most people think,” says Henley Vazquez, co-founder of travel agency Fora. “What you imagine in my mind may not be what it is,” he explains. Yes, there are picturesque rice fields. Yes, there are plenty of surfing spots. But it’s not just quiet white sandy beaches. There’s traffic, and the city can be very crowded and it feels crowded at times. It’s all a reason to choose your destination and where to stay in Bali carefully.
Do your research carefully
“Do a thorough research on the hotel you plan to stay at,” advises Tim Alexander, who runs an AI company and travels frequently to Bali. With new hotels popping up, it is essential to check an establishment’s reputation, read reviews and make sure they meet your expectations. In fact, there are many small local hotels in Bali that offer excellent value for money. Here’s an insider tip: make sure your hotel is close to Main road so you can easily get to the rest of the island.Or make sure there is a helipad.
Avoid high season
The end of the year is marked by an influx of visitors and hotels record the highest occupancy rate at the end of November and December. But there are also small waves of tourists at the beginning of summer (late June-early July). You won’t find a lot of bargains in hotels, but the worst is the crowding in the streets, restaurants, and on the beaches. This adds to the stress of the trip.
Tips for visitors to Bali
Bali can be an interesting place to visit, but it is not for everyone. It takes a day to get to Indonesia by plane, and there is a time difference of six to seven hours with France. This means that unless you stay for several weeks, you will likely spend most of your vacation recovering from the trip and coping with jet lag.
Besides, Bali is nothing like the amazing pictures you see online or in travel magazines. Yes, these places exist, but to get there you have to spend hours in traffic, avoiding swarms of bikes, and discovering a less developed part of the island. In Canggu district, people burn rubbish every day. Small fires fill the streets with thick white smoke. The tap water is not potable and the sewage system is very fragile.
However, Bali should be on your to-do list. Balinese are very spiritual and are some of the friendliest people in the world. Once past the built-up villages and waste fires, one is rewarded with stunning views of the Indian Ocean and tropical foliage in a thousand shades of green. It is something you must see at least once in your life.
Translated article from the American magazine Forbes – Author: Christopher Elliott
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