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Not the Right Sort of Welcome to Bali

Editorial: Shenanigans at Bali's Airport Underline the Need for Serious Change to fix Negative First Impressions in Bali


(5/19/2014)

A travel expert once said that the experience of arriving at airport is a pretty accurate representation of the travel experience awaiting a visitor beyond the airport's doors.

Click Image to Enlarge


Click Image to Enlarge


If that proposition is correct, then Bali is in serious trouble.

We're sharing pictures sent by one our readers taken when he arrived one evening last week at Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport. The pictures speaks for themselves, together with reports of waiting times of as much as two-hours or more to make it through the customs and immigration process.

Making matters worse and creating an even more negative impression of ineptitude and preying corruption are reports that officials and middlemen are actively circulating and working these crowds offering "VIP express visa service" through immigration and customs for a whispered "special" fee of Rp. 750,000 - a figure roughly three time the VIP service available to by prior arrangement.

Because of these offers for "faster service for a fee" many Bali visitors have the impression that these long lines at immigration are part of a larger conspiracy, purposely designed to extrot tourists to shell out extra money in addition to their $25 visa-on-arrival fee.

If the experience at Bali's airport reflects what lies ahead on a Bali visit, then the message for visitors seems abundantly clear: it's all about victimization and how much money you're prepared to pay 

This unfortunate situation is further enforced by aggressive luggage porters who try to hold luggage trollies ransom while steadfastly refusing to accept the published porterage tariff of Rp.5,000 per bag.

Extorters love company and predators rule the roost during Bali's year-long open season on tourists.

While there is a legitimate need for "express service" through immigration for VIPs, the diabled, elderly, important business visitors, heads of conference delegations and others -  the "express service" should be done on a more professional and transparent basis at a published rate to prevent the shameful charade now taking place on a daily basis at Bali's main gateway.

One suggestion put forth is for the "express-visa-service" to be handled by a foundation. No part of any extra fees should accrue to any airport officials and the proceeds should be transparently accounted and paid to local charities. At the very least, this would remove the current sordid impression that visiting tourists are viewed as "easy marks" for unscrupulous officials in search of an extra "unofficial"  income.

In the past, the sort of ciriticism we level here today has been greeted by mean-spirited officials who respond by suspending the" VIP express visa service" and implement  a retaliatory slow down of counter service.

The lesson offered: Question the way brutes exercise their power and be prepared for petulance served up by the bucketful.

Welcome to Bali. We still believe the Island beyond the airport is worth the wait.


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