Denpasar is a small, but important, airport. It is the airport for tourists to Bali, but it is also something of a transit station for people going to and from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. For both purposes, Denpasar is an aged (1960s), but friendly and engaging, facility. Its small size and the fact that it is less than 10 minutes bus or taxi ride from some of the world’s top beaches, make it a very desirable destination or overnight stop to break a journey.
Most of what follows concerns the international terminal, but after this there is a short passage about the domestic terminal.
Arriving at the small terminal, there are few issues except, perhaps, queues. In particular, many visitors choose to obtain a visa on arrival and, between queuing to obtain the visa and queuing for passport control, it make take some time. Bags arrive relatively quickly. There are currency exchange offices in the baggage area. Most people have pre-booked shuttles to the main hotels, so you may not need to change money until you arrive in town.
One of the only problems in departures is checking in after your relaxing overnight on the beach with a great sunset and good food, as the check-in area tends to become clogged with very long queues of tourists. In addition, you have to have your bags scanned at the terminal entrance before finding your check-in desk. After checking-in, it can also be a bit confusing for the first timer to locate the entrance to the departures area. When facing your check-in, the way to departures is up some stairs behind you. Remember to have money ready for the departure tax, which will be payable by you at the top of the stairs, near the passport control officer.
Most peoples’ experience of Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai Airport is based on how long they spent in queues, either arriving or departing. This is a very frustrating business, but it really depends on luck as much as anything. If you arrive at the same time as other big holiday flights, it can take a long time but, if you are there at ‘off-peak’ times, you can breeze through arriving or departing quite quickly.
An old building, Denpasar Airport, is basically a rectangular departure hall with the aircraft ‘gates’ around the outside. The central part of the square and the spaces between the doors to the gates are filled with duty free shopping. The central area of the hall, near the entrance, contains designer label outlets, but it is well worth keeping a few remaining rupiah for the local goods that are for sale, including Bali masks, local fabrics, Indonesian dresses, local books and other items.
Denpasar Airport, in common with some other older airports, has a system of waiting areas before the gates. When your flight is called, you will have your passport and ticket checked before you proceed to a holding area for 15 minutes or more. This means you don’t need to rush to your gate when boarding for your flight is called, as you will only be sitting around for longer, although don’t leave it too long. Also, complete your final shopping before you are called to the waiting area, as there are only seats there, and the only facilities are toilets.
Boards with departure times on display are somewhat limited, but there are announcements as well and the terminal is so small that it will only take a few minutes to reach the appropriate queue.
The domestic terminal is next door to the international one. A rather long check-in area has a large number of desks operated by local airlines. Interspersed between them are a range of local shops, including several with strong lines in local clothing and art souvenirs. Perhaps the main disadvantage, when you pass through security control, is that the gates and much of the waiting areas are open air, making the whole place hot and sticky—just what you don’t want before boarding a plane! You may be able to avoid this if you are lucky enough to have access to a lounge or restaurant. If you are stuck in the open area, you can still browse shops and there are some food outlets.
As anyone who has visited Bali will know, the Balinese and Indonesians are friendly peoples. Don’t forget to bargain, even in the local shops at the departure hall, but also just spend some time chatting with the shopkeepers and you’re bound to pick up some interesting snippets of information on the purpose of the mask you’re buying, or learn that Indonesians wear their most decorative, formal dress shirts to go to work on Fridays.
Dealing with officials of different kinds can be frustrating or aggravating, but they are probably as frustrated as you in dealing with foreigners in a long line of tourists, and patience is needed on both sides. This way, whether in transit or on holiday, your last moments in Denpasar will be happy ones.
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