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How do the Bali airport and visas work?

Arriving into the airport for Bali, named Ngurah International Airport (or Denpasar, abbreviated as DPS on flight tickets) can be a tad confusing experience. As you come into the main halls off your flight you might encounter a variety of queues seemingly with no signage about what the queue is for. The truth is the queues you see could be for a variety of stuff.

Just keep heading in the direction of customs, and asking any staff along the way and you should find the right spot.

If you are staying for 30 days or less, then you’ll likely have a 30 day visa upon entry without pre-application required. If you’re planning to stay for up to/between 30-60 days then you’re going to need to apply for a visa extension before you leave the airport.

As you follow the route to customs checks, you should likely see signs at the sides to apply and pay for your extension. It doesn’t cost much and you must have it to stay 30-60 days. Bear in mind that with this extension, you will need to visit an immigration office (or use an agent to help you) to activate your visa extension and you likely will have to pay a fee again to do so before the first 30 days is up.

The customs check opens out into a giant hall that can fit a huge amount of people but with any luck you’ll be arriving at a quieter time and able to stand in one of two queues.

What kind of visa do you have? If it’s either a visitor visa (likely the 30 days you get upon entry without any pre-applied visa), or social/tourist visa (up to 6 months and pre-applied) then make sure you know your reason for entering.

“What is your purpose of entry into Bali?” Answer: “Tourism”. Welcome to Bali!

If you’re requested to have an onward ticket

For some of us, we might not have exact plans of when we intend to leave Bali. But there can be the odd occasion whereby customs for entry into Bali will ask you A) how long you are planning to stay in Bali and B) proof of your onward ticket.

For A) you should only ever be stating how long you actually have a visa for. If you have a visa on arrival of 30 days, then you should say 30 (or less) days. For question B) there is a way around this without having to actually buy a full price ticket. It’s called a temporary onward ticket.

There are websites out there that offer genuine onward flight tickets for a really low price. You can buy these in minutes at the airport if you have to, and show evidence to get you through customs just a few minutes later. Generally they are called “onward flight tickets”. Here’s some options:

  • onwardticket.com – $12 – my favourite, you get your temporary ticket literally within minutes and with whatever destination you choose
  • bestonwardticket.com – $12 – a decent option, but takes longer to get your ticket. Only advise using this option if you’re not in a rush to prove you have an onward flight, for example.

Some of these tickets might only be valid for a certain amount of time, so keep that in mind that usually when they are issued to you they are actually valid tickets only for up to 48 hours. Once that time is over, you could struggle if they somehow check your name for a flight – although that’s pretty unlikely.

Be prepared that upon stepping outside of the airport, you will be flooded by local taxi drivers trying to get your business and charge you a premium. Getting taxi’s to or from the airport and in the local area is much higher than anywhere else in Bali in my experience.

Have a plan ahead of time. You can organise a pre-booked taxi from various websites and they’ll be there with your name on a card as you exit the airport. You can also use the taxi drivers that are outside the airport waiting for business of course, this is what I did but I utilised the power of haggling to get a reasonable price.

The trick with haggling in Bali usually goes like this:

  • They say an insane price
  • You say no way, and offer half of that.
  • They knock 25% off and say it’s the best price.
  • You say thank you but no thanks, and walk away.

They will follow you and say something like “best price?” – at this point you just need to reiterate what you said originally and don’t back down.
After a little more back and forth, you’ll get somewhere closer to the price you said originally. But you must be sure to be confident, don’t let them push you around, and keep walking away until they submit to your valuation.

I used this same pattern to get a taxi from the airport via a random driver from 400K (£23) down to 200K (£11) in the early hours of a midweek morning. I knew my hotel was not far from the airport, I chose it for that reason (it’s actually on balibuzz.net too!) so I could rest off the jet lag as quickly as possible after 16-18 hours of flying, so I didn’t want to pay over the odds for a 10 minute drive.

With taxi drivers from the airport, taxi drivers around Bali and when buying anything from market stalls etc – be confident and be bold. You’ll get the price you want eventually, if you’re able to use the walk away method over and over.

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