Travelling can be rather stressful for some people, and Covid basically made it worse.
More things to prepare, and to get ready for. For our trip, we even made little Covid first-aid boxes that had stuff like test kits, mouth gargles, lozenges, panadol etc.
Double and triple checking everything before our flights. [sigh]
Thankfully, going to Bali is relatively simple nowadays – the most important thing is to get ready our vaccination certificates in order to enter Bali.
We arrived early at the airport early, as usual.
Nowadays, Changi airport actually looks a lot like the one I remember in my memory. The crowd is back, and plenty of shops are open for business.
Nevertheless, we headed straight to the SATS lounge to rest for another hour or so before it is time to enter our boarding gate.
Unfortunately, post-Covid travel is little like the zoo now. Have people forgotten how it was like to travel?
Peduli Lindungi (Care to Protect) app
During our Bintan trip, we have already uploaded our vaccination certificates to the Indonesian version of Trace Together and got them verified.
This time, when we were at Denpasar airport, there were likewise counters for Covid-related checks prior to getting our passports stamped. Yes, we double-checked the stamps too, just in case.
We went up to them and gave the staff manning the Covid counters our passports. A few seconds was all it took to clear us, which was way faster than the other counters catering to other passengers. We were like huh?
Was it our prior entries to Indonesia or the app uploads that helped? We’re not too sure but it didn’t matter.
Since there was only one flight for that hour when we landed in Bali, the passenger load isn’t heavy. As we cleared the Covid-related checks super fast, we ended at the immigration counters with hardly any queues.
Not that it mattered though.
In the end, our luggage took something like 45 minutes after we landed before they finally appeared on the belt. It was a full flight after all, and it looked like plenty of code-sharing passengers. Thankfully, we can use our phones while we waited.
Singtel $5 Data plan FTW
We chose to use Singtel ReadyRoam that costs only $5 for 1GB that’s valid for 30 days, and once used up it will auto-activate another 1GB block.
It might not necessarily be the cheapest or most value-for-money, but usage is seamless and possible even before I disembark from my flight.
Great for contacting drivers or hotels that have arranged pick-up services while waiting for our luggage to come out from the conveyor belts.
To me, paying for convenience is often worth it. This means one less thing to worry about.
I don’t use a lot of data anyway, and villas will have WIFI connection.
Food delivery (Gojek, Grab) changes the game
As repeat Bali-goers, we knew that Gojek and Grab become super apps when used in Indonesia.
Compared to three years ago, the quality of the app experience have improved by leaps and bounds. That’s what competition will do. Survivor of the fittest.
In the past, we used Gojek most of the time and once, the rider went around in circles. We had no idea what he was doing, language was a problem and he eventually arrived super late and we had plans to go out. Quite the nightmare scenario.
Now? I’m actually surprised that the experience is very similar to what we have in Singapore. Very fast and very efficient.
One convenient thing is that the existing money (denominated in SGD) in my GrabPay wallet can be used for transactions in Bali via automatic conversions from Rupiah to SGD. This means that Grab Food and Grab Car can be used in a convenient and cashless manner.
Even better, I realized that being on a subscription plan for Grab, I (seem to) have daily offers available to me which at times, gave up to 40% discount for my orders.
For Gojek, we only used it with cash payments. Using cash-on-delivery is fine, but getting plenty of small change is the more troublesome part. We try to buy random stuff from convenience stores like Alfamart and Circle K using bigger notes to get change, and I frequently tip our riders up to 10,000 rupiah. Little things to us matter a lot to them – don’t scrimp on it.
Based on experience, Gojek seems to have better coverage for food – I noticed quite a few F&B offerings e.g. Naughty Nuri’s that operates solely on Gojek.
Local offerings are generally very cheap in Bali and the availability of Grab and Gojek really made our trip a lot more fun.
My wife and I, we were in Bali to chill and relax – often in our pool villa. We didn’t really have a lot of things to accomplish each day, and enjoy doing nothing much at all. Our kind of ideal vacation.
Private hire transport = no taxi woes
We have heard stories of taxi drivers being aggressive when it comes to using Gojek or Grab, but that was pre-Covid. Not too sure how it is right now.
When I used Grab to get a car to pick us up at our private villa in Seminyak, it went without a problem – just that it was on our third try.
Location tagging is not as accurate in Bali. Also, Gojek is better and more accurate than Grab while we were there.
The issue with the small roads in Bali is that once drivers miss a turn, it would take a long while before he can circle back to your location. Often, they would give up and cancel the ride.
Also, I remember that there are different tiers of car rides available. The one we took was Gojek’s GoCar Protect+ or something like that, and the car had a portable air filter installed.
The ride was 1.7km and the eight minutes ride we took (traffic can be quite bad at the main streets and traffic junctions) cost about $2.40.
Ubud is the cultural hub
Ubud doesn’t seem to be looking too well at this time and recovery seems to be a little slow, although the more popular and famous cafes and restaurants will always be packed.
While this is our second time staying in the area, we didn’t really explore much of the place back then.
This time, we managed to take a walk around the main street.
Although a lot of the crowd has returned, much of the Covid-inflicted damage remains. Many stores remain empty, shuttered or ravaged.
The vibe still feels a little too touristy for our liking, I guess.
Nevertheless, there is an unlimited selection of amazing food at Ubud – Locavore (which we tried this time), The Sayan House and Naughty Nuri’s are my personal recommendations if you don’t know where to start.
Not too sure about the ride-hailing situation in Ubud as we took on-demand shuttle service provided by our hotel for trips to and from the Ubud main street.
Party in Seminyak
Overall, Seminyak appears to to be weathering the storm better. The area just feels more ‘alive’ to me.
This is our third time staying in Seminyak and we chose a private villa that is near to where we wanted to be – walking distance to all the good food and coffee in the area.
We had actually booked the villa back in early 2020 and paid a 30% deposit. When the global travel ban took effect, I told them that I didn’t need a refund and to issue me a credit note instead. My little way of paying it forward. If and when they re-open after the pandemic, we would happily return to Bali to stay in the villa – and we did!
It feels almost as if there is not really ‘bad’ food to be found in Bali. Or perhaps, we’re just pretty good at short-listing what we want to eat.
Not sure where to start? This is a good list to start with – again, personal recommendations.
- Sisterfields – breakfast
- Revolver Espresso – coffee
- Ultimo – Italian
- Bossman – burgers
- Monsieur Spoon – pastry (no ++ charges!)
- Motel Mexicola – Mexican
- Warung Pak Malen – babi guling
I find that (restaurant and cafe) food in Bali is generally affordable for us (comparable to Singapore prices) as long as we avoid the alcohol.
Alcohol will easily double your expenses at the very least. That’s where the money is made since an typical cocktail is gonna be around $10 to $15 each. Beer is cheaper around $5 to $10.
Casual chats reveal the painful but improving reality
The driver who picked us up from the airport lost his job with a hotel when Covid reached Bali. Now, he is happy to be working and doing what he does.
The security staff at our Ubud hotel had also lost his job and went back to work in rice fields when the inevitable happened. He shared that most people were more afraid of being jobless with no income than getting Covid. Putting food in the mouths of family? That’s what important.
The villa staff who helped us check in at Seminyak was so happy to be busy handling two simultaneous check-ins. She was just so glad to be able to be earning money right now.
Everywhere we go and everyone we spoke to, it was largely the same stories over and over again. People are just so relieved and thankful that tourism is back to Bali.
We really enjoyed the chats we had with the people we interacted with, and it paints the real picture of what is really happening on the ground. For many, it is a luxury to be more concern about getting Covid than their livelihood. Such is their reality and how much it contrasts against what we are exposed to.
It feels like it is only when we have lost something that we really begin to cherish it.
I believe the official rules state that masks must still be worn indoors and on public transport in Indonesia. However, none of the hotels or F&B outlets in Bali we’ve been to required or enforced the wearing of masks at all.
Although it seemed like we spent seven nights in Bali doing nothing much – basically food/drinks, pool, spa – time passed by in a flash because we were enjoying the present moment.
For me, I am extremely grateful for this trip. It seemed like it ticked off something inside of me that I really needed.
Three days after we landed in SG, we took ART tests just in case and we tested negative.
And to be honest, it was far from a perfect trip.
i. Ubud was cold
No one will believe me if I had said that Ubud was ridiculously cold when we were there. July is usually a dry month for Bali and we had specifically chosen to visit during this time, but it was unusually rainy prior to us arriving.
It was oddly chilly that outdoor dining felt like there was natural AC running 24/7 even when there wasn’t any rain. We had experienced the same phenomenon three years ago while dining at The Sayan House. Temperature reached the low twenties at night which was pretty amazing, although this meant that we didn’t use the pool as much as we’d like to.
On the plus side, it made for very comfortable walking while we were in Ubud with hardly a drop of sweat.
ii. Seminyak was cloudy
The weather improved after we moved to Seminyak – yes, there was some sun but mostly cloudy days. Despite the freakish weather, I’m thankful that we didn’t actually need to use the umbrella at all during our entire trip.
Lazing on the sun-lounger was nice and for the first time, we didn’t get ourselves a tan in Bali!
Likewise, getting around was rather comfy and we took the opportunity to partake in more outdoor dining which would otherwise be a 100% no-no for typical Bali hot/humid weather. Singaporeans tend to prefer the air-conditioned interiors, right?
iii. Bali belly strikes
On the last night when we were in Bali, my wife had a sudden bout of Bali Belly which wrecked havoc on our plans. It was very late at night around 3am and once again, I’m grateful for how things eventually turned out. Luckily, we had moved from a private villa to a hotel for our third accommodation, which meant we were under the care of the hotel staff.
They drove us to Siloam Hospitals Denpasar which was a short ride away, and their driver waited for us to finish consultation and get medication, before driving us back to the hotel. The short excursion to the hospital ended up taking around one hour.
The following morning, the hotel provided us with complimentary breakfast in the form of chicken porridge which wasn’t on their menu because they knew of our situation.
Yes, it can be a shitty and stressful event to encounter something like that overseas, but like I have said, I’m still grateful for the following –
- At least I wasn’t affected, and I could take good care of my wife, pack our luggages, etc.
- This happened on our last night and didn’t affect much of our plans.
- We were blessed to be staying with a really good hotel when it happened, which was well-equipped to handle any situations.
- The illness wasn’t that severe and the medications was sufficient to make the flight back to SG much more bearable.
- We had travel insurance which would cover the cost of the hospital visit – which ended up costing around S$180.
What is it they call it – a silver lining?
Travel Insurance saves the day
As of June 2022, foreign arrivals will no longer need to show COVID-19 health insurance upon entry into Indonesia.
Regardless, Covid times or not, my wife and I always buy travel insurance when travelling.
A long time ago, I dislocated my elbow when I slipped on a wet rock on a resort island, which was kinda lame – and it was my wife’s birthday. Memorable huh? Took a speedboat (imagine the bumpy ride with a dislocated elbow LOL) to a local physician who luckily managed to re-set my elbow with ease. Later on, all medical expenses when I returned to SG including GP referral, A&E for x-ray and subsequent physiotherapy was covered.
Well, I have never stopped buying travel insurance since then. I know many people who don’t ever get travel insurance, but the Covid era probably would make things a little different now.
As we sat at the departure gate and waited for our flight, we watched as the planes landed and took off right in front of us. There is so little air traffic in comparison now.
So much of what used to exist have been destroyed in the past two years, and it will probably take a lot more time to rebuild what the people of Bali have lost. But I’m confident that will happen – I can sense the hope and resilience in their voices.
As for myself, I’m just incredibly grateful and thankful that we are able to go on this trip.
Things will get better, slowly but surely.
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Hello! I’m Kevin, Turtle Investor
At the age of 30, I am the Personal Finance Blogger who laid claim to a negative net worth of minus $25,755 – and decided to turn things around.
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