Bali is in the midst of a tourism boom. New hotels are opening their doors, visitors are arriving in near-record numbers and prices are rising at breakneck speed. before the pandemic.
Take for example the booming district of Canggu. Barely three years ago, the surroundings were lined with rice fields. Today, there are high-end boutiques, currency exchanges and local restaurants called warungs.
“The island is overrun with tourists,” says Isaac Halas, a tour operator and Bali regular.
The types of tourists who come to Bali have also changed. Hoteliers say they are seeing fewer Chinese and more Americans and Australians. They often book their vacations in Bali at the last minute, instead of planning them months in advance.
So what do you need to know to visit Bali today? What has changed since the pandemic? And how to plan a dream getaway in Bali?
First, what has changed in Bali? Bali has almost recovered from the pandemic in terms of foreign visitor arrivals. From January to April, 1.4 million foreign nationals visited the island, according to Central Bali Statistics. This figure is to be compared to 1.8 million visitors during the same period in 2019.
New hotels have opened, and more are planned. Among the newcomers: AYANA Segara Bali, a luxury hotel overlooking Jimbaran Bay; Kimpton Naranta Bali to Nusa Dua; and Gdas Bali Health And Wellness Resort in trendy Ubud. Some establishments, such as the Soulshine Bali, have expanded by adding new rooms. And more are on the horizon. The highly anticipated Anantara Ubud Bali is set to open in the first quarter of next year.
Bali is overwhelmed by the number of 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 on arrival fee, which stands at 32 euros.
Bali hotel prices are rising
Bali is a less interesting destination than before the pandemic. The island is now home to Southeast Asia’s most expensive hotel, the Bulgari Resort Bali. The hotel doubled the price of its rooms after the pandemic – they are now offered from 1,480 euros a night.
There are many reports of increasing hotel occupancy and prices in Bali. Talking to 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 euros per night. And if you avoid high season (between mid-summer and the end of the year), you can usually find a special package that will save you money on accommodation.
Nevertheless, the general trend is that hotel rates continue to rise, and it is almost certain that they will do so for the foreseeable future, observers say.
Bali is booming
Bali sometimes looks like a huge construction site. Land that was still virgin a few months ago is now occupied by brand new villas and trendy shops selling overpriced swimwear to tourists.
“Bali has evolved significantly over the past decade,” says Karim Bel Hadj Soulami, a remote work expert who travels frequently to Bali. “It feels like new hotels and new villas are springing up every day. They fill up very quickly. »
The traffic is appalling. If you work near the provincial capital of Denpasar, you should get up early when traffic is still light. In the afternoon, the small two-lane roads become practically impassable for cars. Only mopeds can squeeze through traffic.
In some luxury hotels in Bali, the most sought-after amenity is the helipad.
At Viceroy Bali, one of the only hotels in Ubud where a helicopter can land, officials say landing fees provide a “significant” source of revenue. And for good reason. After more than 20 hours on the plane, the last thing a luxury hotel guest wants is to be stuck in traffic for hours.
The Balinese seem to take these issues head-on. After all, tourism is a billion-euro industry, which connects almost everyone on the island. However, if you’re coming from a western country where well-maintained roads and a reliable transport infrastructure are taken for granted, you might be in for 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 culture of service 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 of Bali may not be what it is,” he explains. “Yes, there are picturesque rice fields. Yes, there are plenty of surf spots. But it’s not just quiet white sand beaches. There is traffic, and the city can get very busy and feel crowded at times. All the more reason to choose your destination and your accommodation in Bali carefully.
Do your research carefully
“Do thorough research on the hotel you plan to stay at,” advises Tim Alexander, who runs an artificial intelligence company and is a frequent traveler to Bali. “With the proliferation of new hotels, it is essential to check the reputation of the establishment, read the reviews and ensure that it meets your expectations. Indeed, there are many small local hotels in Bali that offer excellent value for money. And here’s an insider tip: make sure your hotel is near a main road so you can easily access the rest of the island. Or make sure it has a helipad.
Avoid high season
The end of the year is marked by an influx of visitors and hotels record their highest occupancy rate at the end of November and in December. But there are also small waves of tourists at the beginning of summer (late June and early July). You won’t find as many bargains in hotels, but the worst is probably the crowds in the streets, restaurants and on the beaches. This adds to the stress of the trip.
Advice for visitors to Bali
Bali can be a rewarding place to visit, but it’s not for everyone. It takes a day by plane to get to Indonesia, and there is between six and seven hours of time difference with France. This means that unless you stay for several weeks, you are likely to spend most of your vacation recovering from the trip and adjusting to jet lag.
Besides, Bali is nothing like the stunning images you see online or in travel magazines. Yes, these places exist, but to get there, you have to spend hours in traffic jams, avoid swarms of mopeds and discover a less developed part of the island. In the Canggu district, people burn garbage every day. Small fires fill the streets with thick white smoke. Tap water is undrinkable and the sewage system is very fragile.
Even so, Bali should be on your to-do list. The Balinese are deeply spiritual and are some of the friendliest people in the world. Once past built-up villages and trash fires, one is rewarded with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean and tropical foliage in a thousand shades of green. It’s something you have to see at least once in your life.
Article translated from Forbes US – Author: Christopher Elliott
<<< Read also: TO BE CONTINUED | Explora Project promotes responsible adventure travel >>>