As Indians, we’re used to confusion and crowds and all things disorganized, but when we landed in Denpasar Airport in Bali, it was a whole different ball game. If you’re visiting Bali for the first time, there are a bunch of things you need to know about the Denpasar Airport; that no one told us, and we didn’t particularly find during our research when planning.
Arrival area in Denpasar is a market.
It’s crowded, filled with people trying to hawk their services and filled with scams. Trust as little as possible. You will feel like people are hounding you, and it can get pretty suffocating, but you just have to learn to say no and walk away. The signage is fairly clear, so follow the signage to the exit.
There are several taxi options in Bali including Grab, Bluebird and Uber, but each of these have their own restrictions and problems. Read about Transport in Bali, here.
We had the finest experience in Bali with Grab. We used Bluebird a few times on the island, but they don’t come to the airport, so we were kind of forced into taking a Grab, which turned out to be an excellent experience for us making it our first choice when we needed a cab. Incidentally Grab works across most of Bali and one of the advantages of Grab is that you don’t need a mobile number to sign up; the driver communicates with you using the in-built chat app. Now, be wary because there will be a lot of drivers at the airport in Grab uniform who will pretend they’re from Grab and will try to give you a rate that is much higher than what is quoted on the app.
While there are airport taxis available at the counter they are significantly more expensive than Grab taxis. I know we’re making it sound like Grab is perfect, but it isn’t, and just as with everything else in Bali, stay a step ahead, because some Grab drivers have a tendency to scam too! So, always double-check the fare out-loud with the Taxi driver (doesn’t matter if it is Grab or any other service, and this tip is not exclusive to the airport!), before you board!
Alternatively you can request your hotel for a pick-up service from the airport, but these tend to be double the cost of taking a cab.
Once you have a cab, make sure you communicate with the driver as to where he is waiting for you. Denpasar airport has several levels of parking and even though the designated pick up point is on one level, sometimes they wait on the other levels! Once you exit the airport to the parking area, there is an elevator you can take to access all the levels of parking. Google maps works really well in Bali, but often drivers take shortcuts and inner roads, and this can be a little unnerving, but keeping a tab on the route as he drives is important. Of course, to do this you will need mobile data, and without a local SIM, roaming on your home SIM could cost you a bomb.
Getting a SIM card at the airport
Apart from hotels, taxis, souvenirs and what not being hawked at the airport as you exit into Bali, you will find several counters selling SIM cards from different network providers. If you’re willing to be patient with the airport WiFi and book your cab, you don’t need to buy your SIM card at the airport. SIM cards are available almost everywhere, and in the confusion at the airport, the deals aren’t what they seem, and cost almost twice as much as they do in the town. If you’re not paranoid and are willing to wait, hold on until you get to the town and pick up a SIM card for yourself from the market. While there are several telecom providers in Bali, the one we saw best reviews for and the most popular is Telkomsel.
They have good data plans (which is really all you need!) and excellent connectivity (we had reception on the ocean!) Have you read our guide to the Indonesian Rupiah, and how to be money efficient in Bali yet? Make sure to check it out for some great tips on bargaining and average prices in Bali!