I used CHEAPFLIGHTS.COM to book my flight from New Zealand to Bali.
VISA ON ARRIVAL:
After baggage scanning / security you queue up for your VOA. There are several counters so the process is reasonably stress free and speedy.
The VOA voucher has US$25 printed on it. But, there is now a manual stamp on top increasing the price to US$35. It all looked very legitimate to me.
I had some US$s with me that I have had for a long time; I have always taken US$ folding cash with me on my travels for emergencies… most people in most countries will take them as payment if / when you get stuck without local currency. The fact is that over the last 35 years I have never had to use any.
Anyway, the VOA Girl would not take them because they were the old style ones and ‘too old’. Luckily I had some new style ones in my backpack and all was well.
I have a combined Visa / ATM Card. I went to the first ATM and tried to get some local cash. My card did not work… that ATM was not on the Visa network.
I found another ATM that had a Visa logo. The ATM had the option of switching to English. So far so good…
However, when I tried to take out the maximum 2 million Rupee (about NZ$200) it failed on multiple attempts. I gave in and actioned Plan B… Travellers Cheques at the Bureau De Change (BDC)…
The BDC would not take Travellers Cheques (it would seem that Travellers Cheques are more ‘old hat’ than I already thought)…. so, I actioned Plan C… Cash at the BDC…
My NZ$100 note exchanged at a rate 94% of what it should be. I should get a rate of about 9600 but the BDC only gave me 9000 – but it was all that I needed until I could get to a Bank the next day.
From hereon, let’s keep things easy and say that NZ$1 = RP10,000.
TAXI TO HOTEL:
As usual, you have to ‘run the gauntlet’ of hawkers as you exit customs. I always avoid them as they are invariably going to rip you off and overcharge.
I took the short walk to the Domestic Terminal next door. On the way Taxi Drivers were offering 100k… at the Domestic I negotiated 60k with the first driver that I talked to.
Before I went to bed on the first night, I emailed my bank and asked them to check my ATM Card. Their reply was there when I woke up in the morning… The card was OK and the ATM had made a debit but then cancelled it.
Armed with the confidence that it should work, I hit the streets. I found an ATM. It had a 2m limit. I got the max out with no problem.
Lessons Learnt: Even though the ATM listed both my NZ Current and Savings accounts, it only allowed me to take money out of my Current account. This is why I failed to get money the night before. This may have been a problem at the NZ end as my Savings account does not allow Visa Debit Card withdrawals… it is possible that across the network my ATM Card was being seen as a Visa Debit Card. Always try your Current Account first.
Anyway, suitably armed with this new (and financially dangerous) knowledge, I found another ATM. I needed more than the 2m limit… apparently, even though Gili Air has a couple of ATMs, you can’t guarantee that there will always be cash in them.
This next ATM had a limit of 3m. I tried to get all 3m. It failed. Confused, I got out my calculator… the NZ daily ATM limit of NZ$500 at a rate of 9600 = 4.8m… I tried again asking for 2.5m and it worked.
Lessons Learnt: Know your daily limit in local currency.
EFFECTIVE EXCHANGE RATE:
The two ATM transactions hit my bank account
- The first Danamon ATM 2m went through as NZ$213.63 plus an NZ$5 foreign ATM Fee; This is an effective exchange rate of 9362 or 9148 inclusive of the Fee; As my bank charges 2.5%.
- The second Commonwealth Bank ATM 2.5m went through as 2.52m (20k more than I actually withdrew) and hit my account for NZ$269.18 plus an NZ$5 foreign ATM Fee; This is an effective exchange rate of 9287 or 9118 inclusive of the 2.5% Fee
Once in Kuta, the Money Changers on the street were showing cash exchange rates of about 9200 which was pretty much the same as the effective rate that I was getting through an ATM after Fees. However, when I returned to Kuta in August 2015, I discovered that these rates were a SCAM!
Lessons Learnt: Avoid BDCs at major ports of entry (such as Airports). Avoid Street Money Changers (especially the ones offering very good rates). Foreign ATM cash limits per withdrawal may be half of what you are used to back home; this means that you will have to draw out cash more often and pay more fees. This may make a good BDC cash rate as good as a ATM / Debit Card rate.
WIFI SIM CARD:
My research indicated that the TELKOMSEL simPATI sim card was the best for Gili Air. For Kuta / Bali they recommend an XL card.
I was walking down JL LEGION and asked a friendly guy in a shop (who seemed to have no vested interest) where best to buy the sim card. As is often the way, he told me to go up a small alleyway next to Sky Garden to JL MATARAM. There I found a very nice and helpful girl running a cellphone kiosk. I was in ‘locals territory’ now and it felt like it.
For 70k (NZ$7) I got a 3.5GB card that lasts one month. According to the internet, this was a good deal. However, one bright spark reckoned that he got unlimited GBs for 1 month for 100k. There’s always one, eh.
Lesson Learnt: When I got to Gili Air, I discovered that the TelKomSel card did not get a signal in the village. The XL card gets a signal island-wide… the XL card is, in fact, the better card for Bali / Lombok.
I needed a break so I sat down in Gloria Jean’s for a coffee. 45k for a large flat white… that’s NZ prices.
BOOKING THE FAST BOAT TO GILI AIR:
I picked the first travel desk that I liked the look of. Nothing special… just a small kiosk on the side of the street (but away from the main tourist area).
- 450k: Pick up from my Kuta Hotel at 07:00, drive to Padang Bai, fast boat to Gili Air arriving about 10:30
- 650k: Ditto but pick up at 10:30 to arrive in Gili Air at about 14:00
These are meant to be Off Season prices.
I read on the internet that the normal price is 600k to 650k. There is a website dedicated to fast boats to the Gilis which also quotes prices in the 500k to 650k range.
I negotiated the 07:00 option down to 350k. I thought that I had done well given the prices on the internet.
The internet also tells you NOT to get a return ticket as the return to Kuta is a lot cheaper when purchased in the Gilis.
Later that day I met an expat who told me that I should have just gone down to the ferry port in Sanur early in the morning. There are about 8 fast boats leaving there each day and prices range from 150k to 250k depending on ‘low’ or ‘high’ season.
I needed a cold one and it was pushing 16:00… happy hour had started in most of the bars…
Two for one 120k cocktails in some but no happy hour on beer… next bar… Two for one 37k SMALL draught Bintang. Sod that… I popped down a side alley and found a nice little place that did one pint ice cold bottles of Bintang for 25k… I was in.
From Bali, I head to Gili Air, Lombok.
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