Balinese Duty Free …..

 Duty Free shopping Ngurah Rai International Airport Bali has something for everyone. Water sports galore, Hindu temples, lush, mountain scenery and white, sandy beaches, luxury spa resorts and colourful outdoor markets: yes, the list of things to do for visitors to is virtually endless. Sadly, however, for most tourists arriving and departing from this Indonesian island paradise is more of a hassle than it should be.The culprit is the island’s Ngurah Rai international airport, better known as Denpasar international and the country’s third busiest airport with around 11 million passengers a year. The airport grandly bills itself as the “Gateway to an Island Paradise”, but from what we can see few people who’ve flown from the airport have anything positive to say about it.

In fact, the long litany of complaints from disgruntled travellers includes the rundown state of the airport’s two terminals, the lack of basic facilities such as toilets, long queues at peak times, corrupt security officials imposing bogus fines, pestering porters, and the double whammy of a $25 visa fee on arrival and a $16 departures tax on departure.

We could go on, but you get the picture. Change is badly needed at Denpasar and there are belated plans to make amends at least as far as the infrastructure is concerned. The idea is to turn the existing domestic terminal into a new international terminal, while the current international terminal will be expanded and converted into a new domestic terminal, doubling the airport’s total passenger capacity to 25 million.

The completion date for this project is likely to be some years away so our advice in the meantime is to arrive at the airport with plenty of time, keep your wits about you, and make sure you keep some local currency (the departure tax can only be paid in Indonesian rupiah). Happily, once past security there is a wide selection of duty-free stores and souvenir shops, but don’t expect prices to be any cheaper than in tourist towns such as Kuta, where you can bargain to get the best price.

However, if you have left it until the eleventh hour to find a gift or souvenir, there are a plethora of locally run shops in both terminals, which sell a wide range of arts and handicrafts. What should you buy? Well, popular buys include wood and stone carvings, masks, woven and dyed ‘batik’ fabrics, Balinese coffee, seashells and delicately crafted silver and gold jewellery.One of the larger gift retailers with a colourful line in batik shirts, t-shirts, as well as some beautiful fabrics and handicrafts is Batik Keris, which has outlets in both terminals. Take a look at the company’s website, http://www.batikkerisindonesia.com/Batik_Keris/Home.html, to see for yourself.

As for duty-free in the L-shaped international terminal, there are several rival retailers at Denpasar international vying for tourists’ hard-earned cash. Plaza Bali is one of the larger retailers doing business there and the company also has a large store downtown, where customers are able to buy goods and collect them later at the airport location.

At the airport Plaza Bali stocks a wide range of fragrances and cosmetics from the likes of Chanel, Estée Lauder, Christian Dior, Yves St. Laurent, Clarins, DKNY, as well as operating Hermes, Burberry and Fendi fashion boutiques. Liquor, tobacco, watches, jewellery and souvenirs complete the round up. Take a look at www.plazabali.com for more details.

Sadly, arrival duty-free shopping is not available at Denpasar. In fact, it was scrapped at all the country’s international airports back in 2009 in an effort to crack down on illegal liquor smuggling. However, if you are bringing in duty-free items from elsewhere, be aware the allowances are modest (just 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and 1-litre of alcohol).

When people reminisce about their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bali, Denpasar airport is unlikely to figure in their reveries. Hopefully, the imminent expansion and modernisation of the airport should improve things greatly.

And our arrival allowances guide