Bali’s Mount Agung eruption: What to do

Mount Agung Volcano Eruption

Article updated 09.25 AEST on 6 August 2018: A magnitude-7 earthquake hit the Indonesian island of Lombok on Sunday 5 August, causing numerous casualties and shaking the neighbouring island of Bali. Airports on both islands are currently operating as normal. We recommend contacting your airline for the latest flight information before heading to the airport; airline contact details can be found below and most airlines have up-to-date alerts and advice on their websites.

Quick links:
What do I do if my flight is cancelled?
How do I get home?

What about my travel insurance?
What if I’ve got an upcoming flight to Bali?
How do I get in touch with my airline?

My flight was cancelled, now what?

  • At the moment, it looks as though Bali’s airport won’t be closed for an extended period of time. If you don’t need to leave the island urgently, at the moment we recommend waiting it out.
  • Determine what if any help your airline will offer if you are stuck on Bali. Don’t expect much, they are not bound to provide lodging or meals for natural disasters. However, if you have high frequent flyer status or premium-class tickets, the airline may be more forthcoming. The authorities are also offering one free night’s accommodation in Bali to those that have had flights cancelled.
  • Find out how the airline is handling rebooking. Call centres may simply offer a standard line telling you to await the airline’s call and to not go to the airport. This may only serve to make the situation easier for the airline.
  • If your airline has a Bali sales office (some, like Thai Airways do), go there and find out how flights will be rebooked and how you can get your name on the list. If your airline has no sales office, go to the airport and see if you can find a representative.
  • If you can’t find a sales office or airport staff, keep phoning the call centre to confirm where you are on the waiting list to be flown out of Bali when flights resume.
  • If your airline gives you a firm rebooking, double-check that the flight will operate. You can use the airline website to check the flight status of their plane on its inbound flight to Bali. In 2015, some flights were turned around in the air when the ash clouds suddenly got worse or the wind shifted the dust into flight paths.
  • If Bali’s airport reopens but your airline isn’t flying, consider buying a ticket on another airline so you can leave sooner.
  • Contact your travel insurance provider to see what arrangements are possible for trip delays or refunds.
  • If you are on Bali and your visa will expire soon, contact your embassy or consulate for information on what arrangements are being made by the Indonesian government for people with expiring visas. Previously, officials said they would offer some form of visa extensions to stranded travellers.
  • Keep an eye on the Bali airport experience website to get the latest updates on real-time flight statuses.
Evacuation route from Denpasar airport in the event of an eruption
Evacuation route from Denpasar airport to Java in the event of an eruption

How can I get home?

The airport in Lombok is currently unaffected, so if you urgently need to get home it may be worth heading there. Authorities are laying on buses to take stranded passengers to Bali’s Padang Bai seaport, from where the fast boat takes about 1 hour 30 minutes to Lombok Island.

Your other option is to head west to Surabaya airport on Java – although it currently looks as though winds may be carrying the ash in that direction, so be sure to check that the airport is open before you travel. Authorities are laying on buses to Surabaya.

If you need/want to make your own way to Surabaya airport (or Jakarta), follow these instructions:

  • Getting to Java from Bali requires first traversing the main highway that links Denpasar and the rest of the island to the ferry port in Gilimanuk in west Bali. This the only crossing point from Bali to Java. The highway is clogged with traffic on a good day, so now Bali’s airport is shut be prepared for longer transit times.
  • There are lots of buses that operate this route from a variety of stops and terminals across Bali. There are no train options to the ferry port.
  • The government-run, 30-minute ferry from Gilimanuk to Ketapang on Java runs frequently. From here you can walk to Banyuwangi train station.
  • Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport in eastern Java is about 400km by car or bus from Denpasar, Bali. It has good links to major international hubs such as Jakarta and Singapore. Find a bus or bus-train here. You can probably find a car with a driver who will take four people plus luggage for US$200-300 from Bali. Start by asking at your hotel.
  • Jakarta’s Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (in Java’s west, about 1,200km from Denpasar, Bali is a motherlode of flights and is unlikely to be affected by any ash cloud from Mount Agung. Almost every airline serving Bali also serves Jakarta, so you may be able to work something out with your airline to get you ticket from Bali honoured for a new itinerary from Jakarta. There are many bus and bus-train connections that normally take about 24 hours. You might be able to negotiate for a car with a driver who can take four people for about $500 from Bali. This will take two days as you’ll need to stop for the night along the way. Ask for referrals starting with your hotel.
Travel Tip

A Bali-Jakarta or Bali-Surabaya ticket usually includes the entire journey from your starting point on Bali and the ferry ride to Java, so you don’t need to sort out each segment separately.

Where’s safe on the island?

Based on the shape of the land, experts can map where lava and debris are likely to flow. Major tourist areas such as Ubud and the entire south including Kuta, Seminyak, Sanur and Nusa Dua should be spared, along with the main city of Denpasar.

What should I be worried about?

The danger for the island and the surrounding region is the volcanic ash cloud, which can blanket a large area and endanger aircraft, as well as be dangerous to the respiratory system.

Are there any emergency phone numbers/websites I should be following?

In 2015, when two volcanic eruptions—Mount Raung in eastern Java and Mount Rinjani on neighbouring Lombok—caused the airport to close and thousands of flights to be cancelled, the one consistency to the chaotic situations was the complete lack of any reliable way to get accurate information. There’s no reason to suspect that things will be any different if the eruptions at Mount Agung get worse.

Our best advice is to follow Australian ABC news, which has good ongoing coverage.

Why is the airport closed?

Denpasar airport’s ability to service flights depends on the severity of the ash cloud situation. The opening and closing of the airport will be regularly reviewed by the authorities.

The problem for flights is the fine mineral particles in volcanic ash, which can destroy jet engines and cause planes to crash. How Bali flights are affected over the next few days and weeks will depend on the ash cloud.

In the 2015 volcanic eruptions, the ash clouds were relatively small but were still deemed an aviation hazard to flights serving Bali. Airlines all have differing standards on what level of ash constitutes a threat. Even on days when Bali’s airport remained officially open, many or all airlines cancelled flights. Australian airlines like Jetstar and Virgin were by far the most cautious and continued to cancel all flights even after well-regarded carriers like Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines had resumed full schedules.

Should I stay on the island if I’m not in immediate danger?

Activities in Bali are unaffected by the volcanic threat, although travel in the immediate Mount Agung region has been restricted.

What about my travel insurance?
  • Most travel insurance policies for Bali excluded any volcano-related incidents since Mt Agung began erupting last year as its status is considered a ‘known risk’.
  • If you already had travel insurance, confirm that it will cover a volcanic eruption. Some policies have exclusions for natural disasters buried in the fine print that negate your coverage, even if the policy was purchased before the eruption threat became a known event.
  • If your policy covers a volcanic eruption on Bali, then most likely it will cover your expenses if flights are cancelled and you are delayed leaving the island.
  • Reimbursement for trip interruption and delays always is always limited to ‘reasonable’ expenses, which means if you were staying in two-star places in Bali, don’t move to five-star hotels and expect your insurer to pick up the tab.
  • Save the receipts for every single expense while you are stranded on Bali. Insurers will demand them for reimbursement.
  • If flights remain disrupted for a long period of time, check with your insurer about policy limits.
  • If you decide you can’t wait in Bali for your airline to resume flights or you want to switch to a different airline to leave Bali sooner, you’ll have to check with your insurance company first to see if any of these expenses would be covered.
What should I do if I’ve got a trip planned to Bali in the next few weeks?

Despite the recent eruption, Bali is almost entirely open and ready for visitors, plus many locals depend on visitors for their livelihoods. Whether you go or not depends on your ability to handle risk. But if you are in Bali during an eruption, it could be very difficult to leave the island and ash fallout could be both dangerous and very inconvenient.

Note: Since any new travel insurance likely won’t cover a volcanic eruption on the island, then you’ll be completely responsible for all expenses in the case you take your trip and get stranded.

Airline contact details

Airlines decide when to cease and resume flight operations. Contact your airline directly for up-to-date information on flight schedules.

Are you in Bali right now?

Do you have any useful tips or updates to the evacuation plans? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll share it with the Rome2rio community.

This article was originally published on 16 October 2017

Main photo: Stephanie Brookes, travel writer and blogger, Indonesia

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