The Government of Bali has unexpectedly announced that the popular destination will be revoking quarantine rules and reinstating its visa on arrival program for travelers from 23 countries.
Included in this list of countries are the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia among others. This is HUGE news as Bali may again be able to rise through the ranks of popular tourist destinations around the world.
The announcement is a major surprise as we weren’t expecting any changes to be made before April. No doubt the omicron’s freefall speed decline in cases, mixed with pressure from the tourism industry and envy of the other countries that have reopened, have played a massive roll in this decision. It will be interesting to see if there is still a large interest from the travel community to visit Bali after 2 years of very strict COVID restrictions.
Bali has been essentially closed down for the past two years only allowing foreigners in on the rarest of occasions. Last month, they welcomed their first flight since the shutdown, but since the demand for trips to Bali has been slow to grow.
Until this announcement travelers needed to take a pre-departure COVID test AND quarantine upon arrival just to take ANOTHER COVID test 3 days later. On top of that the “VISA on arrival” program had not yet been reinstated, meaning that travelers needed to apply in advance to enter the country. This process is both expensive and time-consuming.
With this announcement, travelers from the United States, UK, Australia, and Canada will be issued a visa on arrival again and be able to skip the costly quarantine. The decision and repeal of restrictions is strictly for the island of Bali. The government is taking steps to ensure that travelers do not spread the virus off of the Island by requiring results of a PCR test from any foreigner trying to leave Bali.
The top officials in the country are also in favour of the campaign for removing the mandatory 3-day quarantine and the return of visa-on-arrival (VoA). As of now, a number of travellers from Europe are refraining themselves from travelling to Bali due to its extensive and costly quarantine. Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said in a press conference that the trial may be introduced before March 14 if some positive development is noticed in the coming one week.
Bali Governor I Wayan Koster confirmed that Bali would drop the quarantine policy for international travelers by March 7. “The zero quarantine policy will be implemented for travelers who plan to visit Indonesia through Bali,” Koster said on Friday. The government will also resume the visa on arrival policy by March 7 for visitors from 23 select countries. “We will resume VoA policy for visitors 23 countries: United States, Canada, Australia, England, Netherlands, Germany, Qatar, France, Japan, South Korea, Italy, New Zealand, UAE, Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, and Cambodia,” Koster added. However, requirements will be implemented to prevent Covid-19 transmission from visitors. Bali is open for Americans as long as they hold an e-visa.
When Bali opened widely to tourists in February, Singapore Airlines was the only operator offering direct flights to and from Bali. But as entry rules ease, more airlines are increasing services. Indonesian carrier Garuda has already resumed direct flights from Australia to Bali, while Australian budget airline Jetstar will resume services between Bali and seven Australian cities in April. Meanwhile, airlines such as Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Turkish Airlines are operating flights to Bali from several European and US cities with some stopovers.
Requirements to enter Bali for international tourists:
- Foreign travellers need to show their proof of hotel booking payments for at least four days.
- Travellers wishing to enter Bali must be fully vaccinated or must have received booster jabs.
- RT PCR tests will be conducted at the entry and travellers will have to wait for their negative results at the hotel.
- On the third day of their arrival, travellers will have to conduct another RT PCR test at their hotels.
- While mandatory hotel quarantine is set to be scrapped, foreign visitors are still required to show proof of a hotel booking (of their choice) with at least four nights paid for in advance. They must also test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of departure.
- Travelers must also hold proof of health insurance with a coverage value of at least US$25,000, which covers the treatment of COVID-19.
The minister further said that if the test is negative, travellers will be allowed to do other activities under health protocols. He also said that Bali was chosen for this pilot project trial because the rate of two-dose vaccination is higher here than any other provinces in Indonesia.
If the trial is successful, the Indonesian government will expand the quarantine-free travel policy across the country on or even before April 1.
Indonesia Institute President, Ross Taylor, said he expects the initial uptake of flights to be a little slow as some travellers may initially be hesitant to head overseas, but as the Australian winter sets in and Bali enters its dry season, cravings for a winter escape will be high.
Getting to Bali is a little trickier than it once was, with flag carrier Garuda Indonesia flying from Sydney to the Indonesian holiday hotspot just once each week, with a return leg via Jakarta. Qantas and Jetstar make things a bit easier, with direct flights from both Sydney and Melbourne returning from next week; Virgin Australia will follow, with flights from Sydney and Melbourne from May 2. All tourists must be fully vaccinated to enter Bali and along with the usual PCR test prior to leaving Australia, just need to do one test on arrival. If this test comes back positive, you can still enter the country but will recover at a central isolation facility. Any traveller wishing to visit another part of Indonesia can do so after taking another PCR test on day 3 of their visit and returning a negative result.
Indonesia as a whole plan’s to keep the “Zero COVID Policy” in place for the rest of the country. A policy that many countries in Asia are still clinging to. However in this point in the pandemic, it seems that the policy may be futile. Many of the strictest countries, like Australia and Austria, are beginning to open their borders…And maybe Asia will follow soon.
As of today, the country has reported 5,826,589 positive cases and 151,135 deaths. Despite being an island chain that is roughly the size of the United States, most of those people live on a handful of islands in highly urbanized areas. For many people in East Asia, face masks and social distancing are quite normal after so many contagious diseases over the past twenty years. Indonesia has not reached that point yet.
The government is trying everything necessary to maintain complete control of the pandemic without destroying much of Bali’s tourism-based economy in the balance. When visiting Bali, it’s important to note that masks are required in most public settings. Not everywhere is open and some local restrictions apply. Though in low-risk “green” areas such as Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Sanur or Ubud, most hospitality and tourist venues are operating as normal.