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Bali Reopening: The Race to Restart Tourism

After hinting that Indonesia will reopen Bali using a scheme similar to the Phuket Sandbox, a date has finally been given for the restart of tourism to the island.

According to officials, Bali Ngurah Rai Airport will reopen to international flights from selected countries on 14th October 2021.

So what does this mean for travellers? In this article, we’ll look at what we know so far about the Bali reopening as well as the travel restrictions likely to be in place when it happens.

Bali Reopening: What We Know So Far…

Who Can Currently Visit Bali?

At the moment, Indonesia is closed to foreign travellers, however, there are plans to reopen Bali on 14th October 2021. At present, the only people allowed to enter are Indonesian nationals and those who fit into one of the following scenarios.

  1. Visitors who hold an Indonesian residency permit (KITAP/KITAS)
  2. Passengers who hold a diplomatic or service visa
  3. Aircrew
  4. Those entering for humanitarian purposes on a visitor visa
  5. Passengers who have a business visa, not including the B211 visa

Visitors must also complete the eHAc registration, be able to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no earlier than 72 hours before boarding their flight to Indonesia and be fully vaccinated with an approved WHO vaccine. Indonesia is not currently allowing people who have been in India in the past 14 days to enter the country.

There is currently a mandatory quarantine period in place for those arriving from abroad. This applies to foreigners and Indonesian nationals. The quarantine period spans for 7 nights/8 days and you must check into a quarantine hotel in your arrival city. Everyone entering Indonesia is required to register with the Indonesia Health Alert Card (eHAC) app. This is a mandatory requirement that aims to keep track of potential COVID-19 cases coming into and moving around the country.

Bali Reopening: Timeline Events

October 2021

On 5th October, Bali’s reopening date was confirmed to be 14th October 2021. Only selected countries will be permitted initially, probably based on a travel corridor arrangement. Initially, it was announced by the Bali Sun that four countries would be eligible: the US, England (presumably the UK as a whole), Russia and Germany.

According to a more recent AP News article, South Korea, China, Japan, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand will also qualify for entry but this is not an exhaustive list.

The full details of Bali’s reopening are yet to be announced but we do know a little already. Senior cabinet minister Luhut Pandjaitan, has said that all visitors to Bali will be required to fulfil a mandatory quarantine in a hotel for 8 days at their own expense. We are currently awaiting the announcement of the full list of Bali quarantine hotels. It is currently unclear what to expect from the Bali reopening. The government has just extended level-three restrictions on the island for another couple of weeks. After this point, some facilities will reopen in a limited capacity.

There is also yet to be an official statement on the vaccination status of travellers who will be welcomed into Bali. However, assuming Uno intends on sticking with something similar to the Phuket Sandbox model, it is fair to assume that Bali will want to prioritise fully vaccinated travellers.

September 2021

7th of September 2021 – Sandiaga Uno announced in a written statement hinting that Indonesia will model Bali’s reopening on Thailand’s famous Phuket Sandbox scheme. Despite this announcement, Uno gave no details about how a similar scheme would be applied in Bali. To be eligible for Thailand’s Phuket Sandbox plan, you need to be fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine, however, we don’t know whether this will be a requirement of entering Bali under a similar scheme in the future. Uno also never gave a target date for Bali’s reopening however, some have theorised that it could be as early as October or November, dependent on COVID-19 infection numbers.

August 2021

At the end of August, Governor of Bali Wayan Koster announced that the Bali reopening, which was planned for September, would once again be pushed back. This is a result of rising coronavirus cases across the country. At this point, no new target date was given for the reopening but Koster said that foreign tourism will only be able to resume when the situation is conducive, both inside and outside of Indonesia.

So What is the Situation Like in Bali Now?

Due to the lack of international tourists, plus a recent lockdown in Java and Bali preventing domestic tourists from travelling to the island, the situation in Bali has been pretty dire. While some beaches and tourist attractions are beginning to reopen in Bali, a number of hospitality businesses have closed their doors forever. As tourism is the lifeblood of the island, many families have fallen into extreme poverty as a result of travel bans and lack of business. Malnutrition is becoming a common problem, with many claiming that the impact of the travel bans is even more damaging than catching COVID-19.

However, according to an October article by Reuters, COVID-19 cases are on the decline. During the peak of the second wave, there were more than 56,000 infections in mid-July 2021, whereas the number of infections on 3rd October 2021 had dropped to 1,100 a day.

When Will Bali Reopen for International Tourism? Bali has been closed to international tourists for over a year, despite numerous plans to reopen. 80% of the economy in Bali is tourism-related and many local businesses are suffering as a result of the travel bans currently in place. In an interview with news outlet Reuters in June, Uno, the Minister for Tourism and the Cultural Economy said that he wants to see the daily number of COVID infections in Bali fall to around 30 or 40 a day before the island reopens. We’re not at that point yet but it hasn’t seemed to cause any additional delays (yet). Bali’s reopening date has been announced for 14th October 2021.

Everyone entering Bali from elsewhere in Indonesia must provide a negative PCR test result and proof of vaccination status. Bali has also been prioritised in the country’s vaccination rollout plan because its economy has been the hardest hit during the pandemic. At present, foreigners on short-term visas (that includes travellers that decided to wait out the pandemic and those that entered on social and business visas, such as the B211 visa) are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia.

This decision has been taken to protect supplies but some experts have claimed it is driving the surge in cases. Currently, only those on retiree visas, work permits or representatives of foreign countries are entitled to get jabbed under the free government rollout.

There were plans for Indonesia’s economic reopening to begin gradually in September but this was once again been pushed back. Luhut Pandjaitan, a minister who helps to decide virus containment measures said that “reopening of economic activities will depend on vaccination, improved testing, tracing and treatment.”

When Bali does finally reopen on 14th October 2021, it will be a steady and controlled process. Judging by the recent statement from Uno, the plan is likely to mimic Thailand’s tourism reopening, with a scheme similar to the Phuket Sandbox, although details are yet to be announced.

Travellers and locals will be relieved to hear that Bali has finally been given a reopening date. With the reintroduction of international flights to the island, it certainly looks like it is full steam ahead in preparation for the 14th October date. However, with so many details about the reopening yet to be announced, it is hard to know what kind of Bali tourists will see when they are able to enter. We cannot wait to see you here in Bali.