When visiting the holiday dream island Bali, Ngurah Rai is the first and final place you'll visit. And unfortunately it's not always a treat. On arrival, things will go smooth enough. Indonesian airports have the ability to unload an airplane in no time, so instead of waiting for hours until your luggage shows up at the luggage belt, you'll be most like up and running in about 15 minutes.
Ngurah Rai provides free trolleys and in the arrival hall, there are several ATMs that will assist you with the first of undoubtedly many cash flows to follow. Other then that, it's also possible to change money at the airport, albeit at not-so-attractive rates. For those who haven't booked any accommodation prior to arrival, there are some hotel booking options. These are not recommended since prices are higher and you basically have no idea what kind of room you'll end up in.
After stepping into the humid atmosphere that will be your unshakable coat for the full duration of your stay in Bali, transportation is intrusively and relentlessly offered at the exit gate. Although the screams and cheers of the self-acclaimed cab drivers can be slightly overwhelming, it's advisable not to answer to their offers. Most of them are not part of any registered reliable taxi company, but instead try to nudge tourists into their own private vehicle, in various states of dilapidation, for prices that can be tenfold of the usual fare. They will always claim in desperation that your destination is jauh (far away), and since you most likely don't know the actual distance to your destination, they will not hesitate to make you pay in gold for a five-minute cab ride. It's best to grab one of the official metered taxis such as always trustworthy Bluebird, or Bali taxi, either at the airport or outside of the entrance a 500 meter stroll away. Advantages are that the drivers actually know where they are going and the vehicles are air -conditioned and metered.
That is as far as arriving on Bali goes. On your imminent departure of pleasure island, a less pleasant stay at Ngurah Rai awaits you. When arriving by taxi a small fee of 3000 rupiah has to be paid at the entrance to enter the premises. When unloading your luggage, you might think that using one of the trolleys might be a smart idea. It would be, if they were allowed access into the airport terminal. They are not, and the officials will tell you only after they have bemusedly observed you packing all your belongings on a trolley.
After all the scanning procedures, checking in can take up to one and a half hour, since efficiency and speediness are obviously not in the job description of those working at the counter. Before you get yourself worked up ,it might be a good idea to just sit down at one of the benches and relax until the waiting line is more proportional to your taste.
After check in, make your way up to the departure hall, where once you paid the departure tax of 25.000, waiting is the main activity. Depending on the airline company you are taking, (the cheap domestic airlines having a habit of leaving late) your time here might take up to 3 hours. It's a good idea to bring reading material, water and food, so you won't have to squeeze your wallet at the overpriced boutiques and snack shops. The waiting part furthermore is enriched by a speaker that at every 5 minutes, yells travel information at a level that would make your 89-year-old grandma jump up against the ceiling and let her fake teeth dance the samba simultaneously.
Ngurah Rai is probably the worst tourist destination Bali has to offer, yet there is no way around it. So do yourself a favour . bring water, food and reading material and reminisce about the Bali days while waiting.