What to do in Bali when the Volcano Erupts

Mt Agung

Erupting volcanos are not usually a consideration when planning holidays .. make sure you have options!

Do you know what to do when a volcano erupts in Bali?  Have you ever considered your options if a natural disaster occurs whilst traveling overseas?

over 1,137 million
Australian’s visited
Bali in 2016

Bali is one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations.  Aussies fly into Bali from all major cities around Australia but for those of us who live in Darwin, we tend to holiday in Bali often.

Balinese people understand that Australian’s are one of their most valued tourism markets and appreciate the continued visits of Aussie tourists each year.

The impact of Mt Agung Volcano

Mt Agung

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It’s when natural disasters occur, that Bali is impacted the most.

Indonesia has been on and off alert since mid August 2017 when volcanic earthquakes in the East Bali region commenced.

Mt Agung began erupting while we were visiting Bali in August last year and since then, layers of fine volcanic ash have been settling on houses and fields as the volcano continues to spew thick smoke clouds over the island of Bali.

The massive plumes of ash from the Mount Agung volcano have reached estimated heights of seven miles above its rumbling crater.  High winds caused by a nearby cyclones in the Indian Ocean, have further dispersed ash from the volcano.  An eerie and abandoned appearance has been cast on nearby towns and villages.

Not all locals have left their homes.  Some have insisted on waiting until lava from the crater makes it’s way down the mountain with many continuing their day to day activities.

Sadly, many Balinese will lose everything they have, their homes, their livestock and all possessions. Many have lived through the prior eruptions of Mt Agung in 1963, where an estimated 1,600 people paid the ultimate price with their lives.

The Balinese government has prepared for this emergency well and has made significant plans to mitigate chaos and disruption.

Over 100,000 people from the Mt Agung region have been evacuated to shelters and thousands of tourists are stranded in Bali due to the closure of Denpasar airport.

The Minister for Tourism has recommended that additional accommodation costs for displaced or stranded holiday-makers in Bali were to be offered a 50% discount to help offset these unexpected expenses.

People are supporting others and there is a general ‘feeling’ of care and understanding in the air.

Australians Holidaying in Bali

Aussies on holidays

When we planned our short holiday to Bali we didn’t expect that Mt Agung would make more than a few noisy grumbles during our stay.

Darwin often experiences earth tremors originating from the southern Asia region so for us, a few earth tremors is nothing new.  It’s easy to be complacent especially when volcanos are largely unpredictable.

As one of the preferred holiday destinations for Australians, it is estimated that over 200,000 Australians are holidaying in Bali at any point in time.  This week marks the end of our school leavers final year, so many young school leavers have traveled to Bali to celebrate their final studies and are now among the 90,000+ backlog of travelers who are stranded in Bali.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled after the main airport for the island was closed on Monday amid fears the giant ash cloud from the volcano could further disrupt navigation.

Preparing an exit plan

It was only when the announcement of Denpasar Airport’s closure that we began to consider that we may need alternate exit options.

Most of us take travel insurance, as part of our expected travel costs and this erupting volcano is a perfect example of why you should never leave home without travel insurance.

Our return flights to Australia were booked, but given that all flights in and out of Bali ceased on Monday 27th November it was time to consider our options.  Confirmation of our flights home have not yet been received – we’ve been given no surety of when we’ll be flying home.

As I speak to other travelers I note that communication from the airlines (all of them) has been limited and most of us don’t stray far from the hotel to enable wifi access to emails.

We’ve liaised with friends from Darwin who are also holidaying in Bali to try to coordinate a joint exit plan so that together we have options.  Not knowing our options in a foreign country with little language, limited local knowledge and limited funds is one of the biggest fears we all face.

We felt we needed some certainty.   Our flights were originally scheduled for Thursday night so we drew a line in the sand.  If no confirmation was received from the airlines, then we’d enact Plan B and set about making our own way home.

Plan B

We booked a bus to depart Kuta on Saturday morning to take us to the city of Surabaya on Java, where the airport remains clear.  Surabaya is a 12 hour drive from Kuta in Bali.

From Surabaya we booked flights to Singapore, and further onward to return us to Darwin, Australia.  We booked fully flexible flights, just in case these plans need to be altered again.

We also booked accommodation in Surabaya and Singapore with the knowledge that we will most likely lose the costs incurred, should these bookings not go ahead.  Our thoughts were that it’s better to have somewhere to sleep … than not!

It is somewhat more comforting to know that we have alternate plans if our safety is at risk.

The Re-opening

Denpasar airport reopened late on Wednesday afternoon with advice that it may close again at any time due to the ash cloud that was likely to encroach on the fly zone.

Our original flights were scheduled for late Thursday night, so with our fingers crossed it’s possible that our flight will leave on schedule.

We have no plan to cancel our Plan B arrangements until we are back on Australian soil.

Mt Agung Bali volcano

Here are a few things to consider

Don’t panic:   Firstly, contact your airline.  This may only be possible through social media or via chat options on their website. Make sure you quote your booking number so they can review your specific booking and provide information relevant to your booking.  From here you can make informed decisions.

Are you safe:   This needs to be your first priority.  Ensure the safety of yourself and those traveling with you. Ensure you are registered on Australia’s ‘Smart Traveller‘ website in case your emergency details are needed.

What alternatives are available:  If you feel sure that your flights will be disrupted consider other options.  Review nearby city departure options, are you able to drive to the next city?  What is the likelihood that this airport will be closed as well?

Consider staying exactly where you are:  Sometimes the best solution is to do nothing and wait patiently for the urgency of the situation to clear.

With social media it’s easy to keep in touch so be sure to keep in touch with friends and family so they aren’t worrying unnecessarily .. relax and don’t stress.