Five days in a luxury resort in Nusa Dua, Sanur, Jimbaran or Ubud shut away from the outside world might sound like the ultimate getaway for some.
It’ll be standard practice for Australians booking a trip to Bali in the coming weeks or months.
From Friday, Indonesia has opened Bali to all foreign tourists, including Australians, who have had at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Since mid-October, only tourists from a selection of countries were allowed to fly direct to Bali, but Australia was not on the list.
In reality, though, there are still no direct flights from Australia to Bali and no word on when they will be approved.
The first commercial tourist flight in almost two years landed in Bali yesterday, with eight Japanese travellers arriving on a Garuda flight from Tokyo.
Garuda is planning one flight a week from Tokyo and Singapore Airlines will begin weekly flights from Singapore on February 16.
Jetstar has tentative plans to resume flights to Bali from Sydney and Melbourne on March 1, but says the dates could be brought forward if and when Indonesia gives the green light.
Qantas is scheduled to resume flights in late March and Virgin Australia still has no firm date.
But even when Australians finally land at Ngurah Rai Airport, a holiday in Bali won’t be quite as simple or carefree as it was before.
New rules around holidaying in Bali
All foreign tourists will need a certificate proving they have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks before travelling, and a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of travel.
Fully vaccinated international passengers arriving in Bali will have to spend five days at one of five designated quarantine hotels.
All are five-star resorts or hotels in Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, Sanur or Ubud.
They have been set up as “quarantine bubbles”, where guests are not confined to their rooms but are allowed to move around freely and use facilities including swimming pools, gyms, and in-house restaurants.
Hotel employees dealing with those in quarantine will also have to stay inside the resort for the duration of the quarantine period.
Tourists will need to return a negative PCR test on their fourth day of quarantine before leaving to explore the rest of Bali.
Travellers will also need proof that they have travel insurance worth at least $US25,000 ($35,000) to cover the cost of any medical care or evacuation in the event they fall ill with COVID-19 while they’re in Bali.
Tourist visas will no longer be available on arrival — instead, travellers will need to obtain a visa before they fly.
Once on the ground in Bali, international travellers must undergo another PCR test at Ngurah Rai airport, and wait for a negative result before they are taken to their hotel.
Anyone who tests positive will be sent to an isolation centre at their own cost, or taken to hospital if they have severe symptoms, and will not be allowed to leave until they test negative.
Everyone on the holiday island must use a check-in app — PeduliLindungi — to visit local shops, hotels, restaurants and other sites.
Even Bali’s famous Kuta Beach has a QR code for visitors to check in before they can walk onto the sand.
No visitors yet, but local businesses are eager for tourists to return
Bali officially reopened its airport to foreign travellers on October 14, but until yesterday not a single commercial flight had arrived on the island from overseas, and hotels had few if any confirmed bookings from foreign tourists.
Before the pandemic, Australians made up the biggest number of international tourists in Bali, with about 1.23 million Aussies visiting the holiday island in 2019.
Chinese tourists were a close second, accounting for about 1.17 million visitors.
The loss of about 6 million foreign tourists a year has had a devastating impact on Bali’s economy.
As many as 70 per cent of the Balinese population earned a living from tourism, either directly or indirectly.
Tens of thousands have lost their jobs and income. Many have been forced to return to farming or more subsistence ways of life.
The key to reopening the island to international tourism has been Bali’s high vaccination rate.
In tourist areas including the three “green zones” of Nusa Dua, Sanur and Ubud, 100 per cent of the population has had two doses of a vaccine.
Even further north, away from these areas, the double vaccination rate is still between 72 and 90 per cent, far higher than in most other provinces of Indonesia.
Hotel owners and tourist operators are impatient to see Australian tourists return.
“Australians make up about 30 per cent of our whole market,” said Aviadi Purnomo, who owns the Tanjung Sari hotel at Sanur.
“We’re very excited. We heard from the news that … Australians [can] travel out of Australia, which is very good.”
Mr Purnomo has had numerous inquiries from Australians wanting to book hotel rooms. But any tentative bookings have so far been cancelled or postponed until Australian travellers can return.
Jetstar this week said it was waiting on further details from the Indonesian government, on specific entry and quarantine requirements, before reassessing its flight plans.
Garuda slashed its flights to Australia after the pandemic hit and the airline faces financial difficulty.
Currently, there are two flights a week from Sydney to Jakarta, but none to Bali.
Late last year, the Australian government cancelled its global “do not travel” advice, opening the door to international travel for the first time since March 2020.
The current advice for travel to Indonesia is level 2, “Exercise a high degree of caution”.
Its Smartraveller website warns Australians visiting the country to be aware of risks.
“Foreign nationals have died from COVID-19 in Indonesia, including in Bali,” it states.
“There’s limited availability of testing and infection control facilities.
“Critical care for Australians who become seriously ill, including in Bali, is significantly below the standard available in Australia. Medical evacuation may not be possible.
“The Australian government cannot guarantee your access to hospital and other health services in Indonesia.
“If you test positive for COVID-19 on arrival or on day 6 of quarantine, you will be transferred to a hospital for treatment at your own expense.”