“When are you leaving Bali?”, “Has the whole island been evacuated?”, or “Is it still safe to travel to Bali?” These are a few of the questions asked of me daily since the Bali volcano (Mount Agung) started erupting last week. (Well technically it’s been on red alert since I arrived in Indonesia in September!!)
While I understand people’s concern, and do realize there is small humanitarian crisis going on for those families that have been evacuated from the inclusion zone directly around the volcano (leaving their houses, animals and possession behind them), some of these questions are nothing short of ridiculous.
COVER PHOTO: Used, with permission, from Eyes Of A Nomad or Eyes_Of_A_Nomad on Instagram.
UPDATE February 13th 2018: As I have received so many messages, emails and questions asking is it safe to travel to bali in February, I thought I would quickly address them and give you an update. The volcano seems to have very much calmed down in general and the government even lowered the danger level to orange, despote some more small, minor eruptions. The ash cloud is gone and all airports have re-opened with flights operating as usual. If you have plans to travel to Bali in January or February, I recommend you stick with them and come visit this beautiful island!
REMEMBER: If you’re planning to travel in Bali , I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have decent travel insurance!! I always use World Nomads, as they’re known as the best insurer for backpackers and long term travellers.
Is everyone getting evacuated from Bali? NO.
People (thanks to bad news sources) seem to think that the entire island of Bali has been evacuated, or is in the process of being evacuated. The population of Bali is the same as the population of IRELAND! Can you imagine evacuating an entire country?!
Even if the volcano has a full scale eruption, the only people in the danger zone are those who live and work within the 10 – 12km exclusion zone. When news sources have big red headlines saying “100,000 evacuated in Bali”, they mean that they have been moved from inside the exclusion zone to camps outside this zone. This is still obviously absolutely awful for the people living in the villages near the volcano, and there are lots of relief efforts you can donate to such as this one. But, to clarify, it’s not like the entire island is being evacuated!
People on holidays in Kuta, Seminyak and Ubud are not in immediate danger. I’ve been in Bali for two months, first arriving on September 30th when the alert was raised to red, and I have yet to ever SEE the volcano!!
The reality is, if it does blow, many people in Bali will not even experience the effects. Where the ash travels and lands depends on the wind direction and strength, so it is possible that many of the tourist resorts could get covered in ash should there be a massive eruption. i don’t want to totally downplay it, but this eruption might not happen for weeks or even months. It might not happen at all. That’s how unpredictable volcanos are.
Is everyone stranded in Bali? NO.
If you REALLY want to leave Bali right now, you can. The airport did close for 2 days, and there is a massive back log of holidaymakers and backpackers waiting for the flight out of Bali.
Free shuttle to the ferry port
Two of my friends had their flights cancelled two days in a row, so they did what thousands of others have done this week and took a boat + bus transfer to the neighbouring island of Java, to Surabya Airport which has flights out of Indonesia and is helping deal with the overflow. For travellers who need to depart from the country, there are free shuttles available from Ngurah Rai International Airport to Mengwi Bus Terminal where you take the boat to Java.
Bali Airport and Lombok Airport have reopened (as of December 1st) and flights are very slowly starting to get back to normal. This is a very stressful situation for people stranded at the airport, or people with no idea when their flight will be rescheduled, but it’s not fair to say that everyone is stranded in Bali. Some of us actually want to stay!
Tourism Indonesia also announced on Instagram that all Bali hotels have been mandated by the Governor of Bali to give guests who had flights cancelled one nights free stay to help with the stressful situation. Okay it’s just one night, but it’s a start. There are also lots of posts on the Bali community Facebook groups offering free stays in guesthouses and villas for those waiting for their flight to be rescheduled.
Visa extensions for Bali
To prevent visa overstay or if you wish to exit the country using alternative airports, the Indonesian immigration service is standing by at the Airline Command Post on the 2nd Floor, International Terminal of the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar to provide assistance. If you need further information regarding your flights schedule or travel option, please call Mt Agung Command Post at Ngurah Rai International Airport: (0361) 9351011 ext:6300. For further information and updates regarding Mt. Agung, check out this site.
Am I leaving Bali? NO.
This is obviously a personal decision but I will not be leaving Bali because of the volcano, and neither will any of my friends. In fact, many of my friends are doing whatever it takes to get INTO Bali, some thinking of flying to other airports in Indonesia and taking a bus and boat combo to Bali. The only thing that might make me want to leave this beautiful island is all this crazy rain. Am I back in Ireland?!
Are tourists worried about the volcano? NO.
Anyone I know are have spoken to about the Bali volcano and its mini cold eruptions does not seem worried. Everyone is taking precautions, and I now go nowhere without my little surgical dust mark. Most people around here seem to be doing the same, with some also wearing marks or goggles to protect their eyes if they travel away from Canggu and in the direction of the volcano. Life goes on here for tourists and expats. People are eating smoothie bowls, surfing, relaxing on the beach, working in cafes and enjoying the beauty of Bali.
An update from Bali to address all your messages of concern: While things have gotten a little crazy in the last few days, with flash flooding, lava rivers and the ash cloud moving in all directions, people here in Canggu (where I live) still aren't really affected. Many people I know are trying to help the relief effort in the displacement camps, where villagers from within the evacuation zone have had to live for weeks on end. People here in Canggu are still living life as usual, mornings on the beach surfing, hanging in cafes and watching the sunset on a rare evening that it's not torrential rain. All fights have now been cancelled for 48 hours so if are planning to come to Bali this week or next week, try change your flight to Surubaya Airport and consider getting a bus/boat combo to get to Bali. I've bought a pretty sturdy mask to protect myself from the ash and dirty air and am really, really hoping things start to get better soon. Will keep you all updated!!
Has the Bali volcano erupted? NO. (Not really).
My friends, family and acquaintances all seem to think that the volcano has already erupted. It HASN’T. We’re actually all playing the waiting game, and know it could be days, weeks or months before the BIG eruption. It might not even erupt. This is actually what makes the situation worse, as evacuated families and locals are also playing the waiting game, but in makeshift camps with little facilities or comfort.
Smaller, cold eruptions.
All those spectacular photos you have seen across social media and the news are from two small, cold eruptions. There was no magma, no lava, no real volcanic eruption. There were massive ash clouds, and up to a few centimeters of ash did fall on surrounding villages and is of course very bad to breath in. The reality, however, is that these were just little coughs or splutters compared to a real volcanic eruption. If this baby erupts for real, you’ll know about it!!
Is Bali safe to travel to? YES.
Bali is still safe and it is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. The people are ALWAYS smiling and are welcoming beyond comprehension. The people of Bali rely very heavily on tourism to survive, so as you can imagine this volcano is playing havoc with their lives and their livelihoods. Of course you need to take precautions and stay away from the exclusion zone around Mount Agung. You need to wear a mask when riding you bike around the island, and you do need to keep an eye on the news for any updates.
The biggest risk, and I realise this IS a risk, that the volcano will finally erupt (I mean the BIG one, not those little ones the news outlets have sneakily made you think were big ones) while you are here and that your flight out will be cancelled. It’s a risk, but don’t put your life, or dreams or travels on hold because of it.