How to get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta now Mount Agung volcano has erupted is a question a lot of travellers who have been stranded on the Indonesian island have been asking. Here’s the lowdown on how you can get off the island.
Bali’s Mount Agung volcano, 70kms from tourist hotspot of Kuta, which has been sending huge plumes of volcanic ash up to 6,000 metres into the air, has well and truly erupted – despite many media reports continuing to say that an eruption is “imminent” (I suspect they’re waiting to see red hot flows of lava on the slopes), and thousands of tourists have been trying to get off the island.
The eruption was ‘imminent’ last month when Mount Agung volcano experienced an unprecedented level of seismic activity with hundreds then thousands of internal tremors recorded a day. Bali’s governor declared a state of emergency and it was reported that some 140,000 people were evacuated from the 8-10km danger zone around the Bali volcano.
This week volcanologist Dr Janine Krippner, who, while not located on Bali, calls herself a “volcanology translator” and has been one of the best sources of information on the volcanic activity on Bali, confirmed that: “This is an eruption, this is 100 per cent an eruption,” she said. “Lava is coming out of the volcano, there’s definitely enough to cause trouble. This can get much worse, you can’t outrun this.”
The biggest fear has been that there could be a repeat of Mount Agung’s 1963 eruption when some 1,700 people were thought to have died in mud and lava flows and entire villages were destroyed. Obviously science and communication have improved radically since 1963. But sadly, many evacuees returned to their homes and farms after activity seemed to stabilise.
According to a Reuters report yesterday, Bali’s disaster mitigation agency said some 43,000 people were in shelters, but anywhere between 90,000 and 100,000 were still in the exclusion zone. This report by South China Morning Post explains why, while also revealing the idiocy of tourists trying to get a closer look.
So far, there have only been ‘cold lava’ flows – called ‘lahars’, rivers of water and volcanic debris – and you might have seen some of the photos of cold lava flows in the media. However, Dr Krippner has said in interviews that lahars can still kill people, even though it’s the pyroclastic flows (the ‘hot lava’ flows most of us are familiar with) that are the ones to watch. “If those come, they can travel 10km within three minutes,” she warned in the story I linked to above.
But even the ash fall is also a serious concern, as it can cause respiratory issues, especially for people who suffer from asthma. And, as Reuters reported, ash is already coating cars, roofs and roads southeast of the volcanic crater, where locals have been wearing masks. It’s the colossal clouds of smoke and ash that led to the three-day closure of Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar and airlines cancelling flights. (Ash is very bad news for planes).
If you’re in Bali now, booked on a trip to Bali soon, or have been considering a Bali holiday, we recommend that you read that story, follow Dr Krippner’s updates on Mount Agung on Twitter, and also fascinating is her explanation of what’s going on inside the volcano in Mount Agung: Bali Volcano Eruption Photos Explained on the BBC site.
While our hearts go out to the Balinese, who could tragically lose their loved-ones, livestock and properties if they’re caught in the danger zone when Mount Agung really goes off (hopefully that doesn’t happen), the reality is that a major disaster would affect much of Bali’s population of 4.25 million people, as the island is so dependent upon tourism.
We also can’t help but feel sorry for Bali tourists whose holiday has ended who have to get home in a hurry. Although we don’t have much sympathy for the Australian ‘schoolies’ on Bali to celebrate graduation who have been whining about being “stranded” without money and “abandoned” by insurance companies. Travel insurance companies warned weeks ago that those who bought insurance after their warning and travelled to Bali knowing an eruption was imminent wouldn’t be covered.
Yesterday afternoon, Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport – which had been closed for three days, causing the cancellation of 443 flights, affecting 59,539 passengers – resumed operating after winds carrying volcanic action changed direction. Many airlines resumed flights, such as Singapore, SilkAir and Scoot, while Qantas and Jetstar were reported to be sending up to 16 (apparently empty) planes to retrieve 3,800 Australians. That’s great news for travellers, but bad news for Bali’s tourism industry.
However, if the winds change again, Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport will most certainly close again and it could happen at a moment’s notice. For instance, the airport on neighbouring Lombok remained closed at the time of posting this as the wind was carrying ash in Lombok’s direction. To keep up to date with airport openings and closures, monitor the Mount Agung Status Update page on the Tourism Indonesia website.
UPDATE 3/12: For Australian travellers, Australian airlines are continuing rescue flights to retrieve stranded travellers, but as of today, according to media reports, they have not resumed normal services. For up to the minute advice, in addition to the sources above, we suggest following @OysteinLAnderse, an Indonesian based volcano enthusiast, anthropologist and photographer on Twitter who is posting regular images on Agung volcano and seismic reports, and Bali-based travel writer Theodora who is regularly updating this blog post. The Guardian has published these illuminating images of the Agung volcano eruption and everyday life on the island, that reveal how the Balinese have been impacted.
For travellers in Bali who are eager to leave, can’t get on a flight, have more flexibility, and aren’t worried about losing their Bali ticket home (or are using an airline allowing routing changes or have an insurance company that will cover them), there are other options for getting off the island.
We recommend heading to a very special place on the neighbouring island of Java. Here’s how to get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta.
How to Get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta
We became big fans of Yogyakarta and the surrounding villages, countryside and mountains after visiting the Indonesian island of Java last year. Yogyakarta is the best base for discovering the monumental Buddhist and Hindu temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, but it’s also a really engaging city in its own right.
Yogyakarta has terrific food (including the turmeric-laden soto ayam noodle soup), fantastic shopping in the markets, as well as batik stores, fascinating sights and museums in the old city, and some of the best value accommodation in Southeast Asia, including super affordable and very atmospheric boutique hotels and luxury resorts with swimming pools. (Click through to read more about why we fell in love with Yogyakarta.)
Now, note that it’s also the rainy season on Java right now – just as it is on Bali and in the rest of southern Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Singapore – so there’s always a chance of rain in Yogyakarta. We were in Yogyakarta at the start of the monsoon season last year and it rained at least once a day but for the most part we had beautiful blue skies. This week there has also been flooding and some mudslides on some parts of the island.
Now that we’ve convinced you to go, here’s how to get from Bali to Yogyakarta…
How to Get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta by Plane
The easiest way of course is to take the short (1 hour 25 minutes) flight from Denpasar to Yogyakarta. If the airport is open, you still have some holiday time ahead of you, and you’re worried about being stuck on Bali and unable to get home to work on time if the airport closes again, take a flight. There are currently eight flights a day with Garuda, Indonesia Air Asia, Lion, and PT. Nam Air.
The other way to get from Bali to Yogyakarta is over land and sea, which makes for a memorable travel adventure, as long as you have time – and a good book or two!
How to Get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta by Private Car and Ferry
The fastest way overland (and sea) to get from Bali to Yogyakarta is to hire a driver and car to take you directly from your Bali hotel to your Yogyakarta hotel. The ferry that runs the only sea route from Bali to Java, from Gilimanuk ferry port in West Bali to Ketapang port in East Java, is a vehicle ferry. Your hotel can arrange a driver. The entire journey should take around 10-11 hours; the ferry takes 30 minutes and the drive from Ketapang to Yogyakarta is around 8 hours.
How to Get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta by Bus and Ferry
You can also take a bus from Denpasar all the way to Yogyakarta, via the Gilimanuk-Ketapang ferry and the city of Surabaya in Java. If you did it one hit it would take a whopping 20 hours, although you could break up the journey with an overnight stay in Surabaya.
How to Get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta by Bus, Ferry and Train
I don’t know how you feel about such long bus journeys but I much prefer to take the train and be able to get up periodically and walk around, which is the third option: a bus-ferry-train combo from Denpasar to Yogyakarta, via the Gilimanuk-Ketapang ferry and Banyuwangi train station, via the city of Surabaya to Yogyakarta.
Now, if the Denpasar airport closes again and Mount Agung really blows and bus/train options from Denpasar are fully booked, you could hire a driver or take a bus to Gilimanuk. Note that like travelling anywhere in Bali, where the roads are frequently congested, it could take a while. If the airport is closed, you could be in for a long drive.
Once at the Ketapang ferry terminal you can easily walk the 300 metres to Banyuwangi train station (+62 333 510396), from where you can take the train to Yogyakarta via Surabaya. Note that Blimbingsari also has a small airport called Blimbingsari (airport code; BWX) with domestic flights to Surabaya (and Jakarta) but they don’t go often.
How to Get from Bali to Java and Yogyakarta – More Information and Buying Tickets
We quite like the Rome2Rio site for getting succinct and general transport information but the problem is that the site links to the official Indonesian Railways ticket sales site, which is in Indonesian and only accepts Indonesian credit cards.
Much better is www.tiket.com which sells Indonesian train tickets online. There’s a small booking fee (around US$1) but it’s available in English, and you can pay with credit card. If you have trouble with overseas credit cards, there’s an online chat and staff are helpful. Once in Indonesia, you can also buy tickets at Indomaret shops.
The Man in Seat 61 has an abundance of information on travelling by train in Indonesia, but there’s a monumental amount of detail to trawl through. For those who like to see photos of train toilets and overhead luggage racks, and see images of every step of the journey, head directly there. While I appreciate the site and all the work that goes into maintaining it (it’s undoubtedly the best site on train travel on the web) I love the element of surprise when I travel, and would like a more succinct version without as many pictures.
And if you don’t want to finish the holiday you began on Bali over in Yogyakarta, you just want to get home as fast as possible, and Denpasar and Lombok airports are closed, then once on Java you can go directly to Surabaya where Juanda International Airport (6-7 hours by road) has flights to Jakarta, and regional hubs such as Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
Whatever you do, or have to do, try to enjoy it. Don’t forget that misadventures make for the best travel stories.
Note that the volcano above is near Yogyakarta not on Bali and it’s not erupting right now.
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