For many travelers in Southeast Asia, a Bali visa run is something of a rite of passage. Travelers in Bali get drawn into the luscious tropical jungles, entranced by the crystal-clear turquoise waters and enchanted by the traditional Balinese Hindu culture… and suddenly their thirty days of visa-free travel has come to a screeching halt.
Why do a Bali visa run?
For many travelers, myself included, a Bali visa run is the easiest, and most interesting, way to extend a trip to Bali. Instead of spending hours filling out forms and shuttling around to different immigration offices trying to extend a visa on arrival, a Bali visa run gives you the chance to spend a few days in a different country, exploring a new destination and experiencing a new culture before returning to Bali for another thirty days.
When you fly into Indonesia, travelers from most countries will have the choice between entering for thirty days without a visa for free, or purchasing a visa on arrival (VOA) for $35 USD (cash only).
Visa-free entry is obviously cheap and easy, but it absolutely cannot be extended. If you choose visa-free entrance to Indonesia, a visa run is your only way to extend your stay in the country.
If you pay $35 USD for the Indonesian visa on arrival, you will still only get an initial thirty days of travel in the country. If you want to stay longer, you will need to complete the lengthy visa extension process. Starting between fourteen and ten days before your visa will expire, you’ll need to make three separate trips to a local immigration office, complete two forms, hand over your passport, provide copies of relevant passport pages, find someone to sponsor you, provide proof of onward travel and pay at least IDR 350,000 (but likely more).
When I was in Ubud, I met a traveler who had spent an entire day at the visa office in Denpasar, only to be told, after seven hours, that their system was down for the rest of the day and she would have to return the next day. They wouldn’t even hold her spot in line!
You tell me what sounds like more fun: hopping over to another city in Southeast Asia for a long weekend and then hopping back to Bali, or dealing with all that Indonesian bureaucracy.
Personally, I chose the Bali visa run option, and I’m glad that I did. Read on to learn about three easy, quick and inexpensive Bali visa run destinations, including the one that I chose for my most recent visa run adventure.
Bali Visa Run to Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is home to the headquarters of low-cost carrier AirAsia, making it one of the cheapest places to fly to directly from Bali. Budget aside, there is a lot to love in Kuala Lumpur.
Of course, there are the famous Petronas Towers, which soar over the city center, and the Batu Caves are famous for their brightly-colored stairway, gigantic statues of Hindu gods, and emboldened monkeys. Kuala Lumpur is also great for street food and scoring amazing luxury deals at budget-friendly prices.
Although I didn’t choose Kuala Lumpur for my most recent Bali visa run, I did include it in as a destination in its own right while I was in Asia, spending five fantastic days in the Malaysian capital. I’d previously visited for a very short two days, passing through on my way to Singapore, and knew that I had to return to see everything the city had to offer.
Flights from Bali to Kuala Lumpur
Typically, there are about fifteen daily direct flights between Bali and Kuala Lumpur. The flight takes approximately three hours, and the most common airlines serving this route are Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines and Malindo Air.
Flight Cost – Bali to Kuala Lumpur
I’m writing this in mid-June. Here are what flights from Bali to Kuala Lumpur look like on some upcoming dates.
- August 1st to August 5th – $165 USD ($240 AUD) on AirAsia
- September 26th to September 30th – $120 USD ($175 AUD) on AirAsia
- October 18th to October 23rd – $110 USD ($160 AUD) on AirAsia. This was the cheapest possible return flight that I could find at any time.
All of the prices noted above are for a basic economy ticket, and do not include checked baggage or meals.
If you’re on a very tight budget, leave most of your luggage in a hotel or hostel in Bali, and just bring a daypack with the absolute essentials to Kuala Lumpur.
If you have a bit more money, you can purchase packages that include luggage and meals when you book your flight ticket (it’s much cheaper to pay when you book than upon arrival at the airport!).
Airport Transportation in Kuala Lumpur
The good news is that most flights from Bali to Kuala Lumpur land at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The KLIA Ekspres train connects the airport (including the secondary KLIA2 terminal) with the Kuala Lumpur Sentral station in the city center.
Trains run from 5:00 am to 00:55 am, and it takes approximately half an hour to make the trip. Tickets cost 55 RM one-way, or 100 RM return, and you can get a 10% discount by purchasing your ticket on the official KLIA Ekspres website in advance. It is also possible to purchase a package combining rail transportation into the city center and subsequent Grab car-sharing service to your hotel door, which is a good option if you’re traveling with a lot of luggage and you’re not comfortable navigating the Kuala Lumpur metro system.
Accommodation in Kuala Lumpur
I’ve said this time and again, but I deeply believe that Kuala Lumpur is one of the best places to splurge on a little bit of luxury accommodation. Truly, in Kuala Lumpur you can get five-star hotel service for the price of a cheap motel in most of Western Europe and North America.
I constantly tout the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur as my top pick for an epic-value hotel splurge in Kuala Lumpur (even though they have never responded to my email requests for a partnership… hint, hint DoubleTree!). They take hospitality to the next level here, and you feel like a VIP from the moment you step into their sparkling lobby, only to be offered a cool drink and a warm cookie by one of the bellboys (and, if you’re lucky, a complimentary room upgrade!).
There’s also a gorgeous rooftop pool, modern fitness center, adjacent shopping center and direct access to the LRT system, but there’s actually something I love more about the DoubleTree Kuala Lumpur: the out-of-this-world breakfast buffet. Essentially featuring four full-sized restaurants (Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western) and overflowing with more dishes than you could imagine, this was the most spectacular breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen (far outshining the offerings at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin, which cost €45!). Just go. Trust me.
If you’re on a really tight budget and can’t afford to splurge on a luxury hotel, Kuala Lumpur also has some great hostels. I haven’t stayed at any hostels in Kuala Lumpur myself, but I’ve heard awesome things about BackHome Kuala Lumpur (situated in a preserved 1880s shophouse beside an ecological preserve, with spacious common areas and lots of local savvy) and the Reggae Mansion Hostel Kuala Lumpur (a well-known party hostel near Chinatown that is best suited for social travelers).
Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur
For the most part, I was happy just wandering around Kuala Lumpur and exploring the city’s different districts (though when I return to the city later this year I plan to have a more formal itinerary where I take in more of the city’s attractions). Based on my previous wandering, I can recommend that you check out the following places when you visit Kuala Lumpur:
- Batu Caves – Definitely a highlight for me, these Hindu temples built into the caves and cliffs north of the city center have recently become “Insta-famous” thanks to their newly-painted rainbow stairways. Also, this is a top destination for monkey-spotting!
- Petronas Twin Towers – I didn’t ascend these famous towers, but I sure enjoyed viewing them from all around the city! At the base of the towers there is a pretty park and a huge shopping center (featuring stores at every price point) in the area known as KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center).
- Bukit Binting – A trendy shopping, dining and entertainment district, head to Bukit Bingtin to splurge on a wild night out (or a shopaholic adventure!).
- Jalan Alor – An entire street of street eats located on the ede of Bukit Binting, Jalan Alor really comes alive at night. Eat a big breakfast, skip lunch and then hit up this street to sample traditional Malaysian street food in a bustling atmosphere. Although most of the food features meat or seafood, there are lots of vegetarian options available (especially if you ask!).
- KL Eco Park – A nature preserve in the middle of the city, admission to this ten-hectare park is completely free. Be on the lookout for monkeys, snakes and lizards.
Bali Visa Run to Singapore
One of the quickest and easiest visa run destinations, Singapore is the ideal stop for travelers with a bit of room in their budget and an affinity for efficient, organized and attraction-dense city breaks.
Since I have already been to Singapore twice, I didn’t choose it for my most recent Bali visa run. However, I definitely considered it when I was planning my current Southeast Asia trip. I loved Singapore because it was it easy to explore the city via a clean (and air-conditioned!) public transit system that ran like clockwork, it had a surprisingly number of completely free tourist attractions and there was ample green space throughout the metropolitan region.
Since Singapore is so close to Bali, it’s one of the most popular Bali visa run destinations. Recently, customs and immigration in Singapore have caught on to the trend of travelers who do a same-day visa run, spending only a few hours in the Changi Airport, and have cracked down on the practice (apparently due to concerns about Indonesian immigration not permitting re-entry). If you do choose Singapore as your visa run destination, I recommend staying for at least two nights, and having a confirmed hotel reservation that you can show upon arrival.
Flights from Bali to Singapore
Typically, there are about eighteen daily direct flights between Bali and Singapore. The flight takes approximately two hours and forty-five minutes, and the most common airlines serving this route are Singapore Airlines (operated by Garuda Indonesia), AirAsia Indonesia, Scoot and Jetstar.
Flight Cost – Bali to Singapore
I’m writing this in mid-June. Here are what flights from Bali to Singapore look like on some upcoming dates.
- August 1st to August 5th – $162 USD ($238 AUD) on Jetstar. Jetstar is a low-cost carrier based in Australia.
- September 26th to September 30th – $112 USD ($162 AUD) on Jetstar.
- November 8th to November 12th – $106 USD ($154 AUD) on Jetstar. This was the cheapest possible return flight that I could find at any time.
As with the AirAsia flights to Kuala Lumpur, prices quoted are for basic economy fares and don’t include any luggage or meals. Jetstar has a “club” membership program where you can pay a membership fee to access cheaper flights – the prices shown above are not exclusive to club members.
Airport Transportation in Singapore
Flights from Bali to Singapore land at Changi Airport, which is famous for its indoor rainforest. The Changi Airport website has a great guide to transportation options between the airport and the city, including the MRT rail system that operates from at least 6:00 am to 11:15 pm daily. Ticket price will depend on total distance traveled, but shouldn’t exceed $3 SGD.
Accommodation in Singapore
I’m going to be honest with you. Accommodation in Singapore is expensive, and you will often find yourself paying more and getting less. Less comfort, less service, less hospitality, less amenities (that should actually be “fewer amenities”, but you see what I’m going for here…).
If you’re doing a Bali visa run to Singapore then you’re probably looking for somewhere relatively cheap to stay. I have stayed at two hostels and one hotel in Singapore, and I’m not comfortable recommending any of them to you. So, I suggest you play around with Booking’s Singapore hotel map. I’ve centered it on Clarke Quay, one of my favorite neighborhoods to stay in Singapore, but you can zoom in and then scroll a little bit north to see deals in Little India, south to see deals in Chinatown or northwest to see “deals” along the fancy Orchard Road shopping area. All of the districts I’ve noted have excellent transportation connections and lots of things to see and do.
Things to Do in Singapore
Click through to read my guide to my favorite things to do in Singapore (written with the help of a few other travel bloggers). The list is sorted into free and paid attractions, so you can choose the activities that fit your budget.
Bali Visa Run to Bangkok
And the winners is… Bangkok! This summer, I decided to take a Bali visa run to Bangkok, Thailand.
I had been to Bangkok before, but on my last visit I felt like I was only just starting to understand the city just as it was time to leave. For the past few years I’ve always had a return visit to Bangkok in the back of my mind, so this seemed like the perfect time to make it happen.
I gave myself four full days in Bangkok, excluding travel days. I knew this would be enough time to explore some of my favorite areas in the city, and also hoped it would give me enough time to join a day trip outside the city, which is something I missed on my last visit. In the end, the timing was absolutely perfect, and I’d recommend that travelers visiting from Bali budget at least three or four full days for the Thai capital.
Flights from Bali to Bangkok
Bangkok to Bali isn’t as busy a route as the two noted above. Typically, there are about five daily direct flights between Bali and Bangkok. The flight takes approximately four and a half hours, and is serviced mainly by AirAsia, with occasional fights from Thai Airways and Lion Air.
Since I will be traveling shortly after the Lion Air Flight 610 crash (which was in a Boeing 737-MAX), and due to the airline having previously been banned in the European Union, it is not currently an airline I would consider using and I will not consider it in the pricing options below (even though they were often the cheapest flight… by far…).
Flight Cost – Bali to Bangkok
I’m writing this in mid-June. Here are what flights from Bali to Bangkok look like on some upcoming dates.
- August 1st to August 5th – $209 USD ($305 AUD) on AirAsia.
- September 26th to September 30th – $143 USD ($209 AUD) on AirAsia. This was the cheapest possible return flight that I could find at any time.
As with the AirAsia flights to Kuala Lumpur and the Jetstar flight to Singapore, prices quoted are for basic economy fares and don’t include any luggage or meals.
Airport Transportation in Bangkok
AirAsia flights from Bali to Bangkok land at the Don Mueang International Airport, a little dump of an airport north of the city center. The airport dates back to 1914 and holds the distinction of being the oldest and largest low-cost carrier hub in the world.
The easiest way to get from the Don Mueang International Airport into Bangkok’s city center is to take Bus #A1 to the Mo Chit BTS station or the Chatuchak Park MRT station, and then connect to the light rail system. Buses run every thirty minutes and you can pay the 30 baht fee onboard.
Alternately, if you’re not comfortable navigating the metro system with your luggage (and/or if it’s rush hour and you don’t want to wait in the queue at the station to buy a ticket), you can hire an official airport taxi to the center for about 500 baht. The driver will use the meter, and you will be responsible for paying any tolls as well as a 50-baht service charge at the end of your ride.
Accommodation in Bangkok
If you’re doing your Bali visa run on a budget, I can highly recommend The Yard Hostel in Ari, a trendy neighborhood in north Bangkok. Built from (spacious!) shipping containers stacked around a garden courtyard, The Yard Hostel attracts a more laid-back, independent type of traveler than you’d find at the party hostels along Khao San Road. From here, it’s a five-minute walk to the nearest BTS station (Ari).
For my recent visa run to Bangkok, I chose to stay in a different part of town. I booked a private room with shared bathroom at CLOUD on Saladaeng Silom Hostel, a boutique hostel just a few blocks away from pretty Lumphini Park. CLOUD had a great location that was close to an MRT and BTS station, so I could hop all over the city easily.
Things to Do in Bangkok
- Chao Phraya River Cruise – You can choose to tour Bangkok’s river by slow (and cheap!) public ferry, or by one of the dedicated tourist boats. Hop on board the boat at the Sathorn Pier (near the Saphan Taksin BTS Station) and sail down the river at least as far as the Grand Palace.
- The Grand Palace and Wat Pho – Bangkok’s two most famous sites are almost side-by-side. The Grand Palace is the former home of the Thai royal family, and features extensive royal buildings. Nearby, Wat Pho is a temple complex that houses a forty-six meter reclining Buddha station and one of Thailand’s best Thai massage schools. Even if you don’t have time for a full-body massage, stopping by for a thirty-minute foot massage is guaranteed to put a spring in your step!
- Chinatown – I’ve never been to mainland China, but I can’t help but imagine that Bangkok’s Chinatown is very similar to the real thing. The world’s largest Chinatown is famous for its epic, after-dark street food scene, as well as its numerous panoramic bars and clubs with views over the city. Come see for yourself after sundown!
- Bangkok’s Food Courts – You don’t need to spend a fortune or eat on the street to find delicious Thai food. Bangkok’s shopping malls are world-famous for their expansive food courts, where dozens of independent food stalls serve everything from monk-approved vegan greens and rice to meat dishes that I, as a vegetarian, aspire to never be able to recognize.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market – One of the world’s biggest and busiest markets, Chatuchak Weekend Market is a must-visit if you’re in Bangkok over the weekend.
Departing from Denpasar (Bali Airport Tips)
No matter where you’re going, if you’re doing a Bali visa run by plane then you’ll probably be following in my footsteps. Bali’s international airport is the Ngurah Rai International Airport, abbreviated as DPS. Bali’s airport is located about ten miles south of Denpasar, or less than two miles south of the resorts in Kuta and twenty miles south of Ubud.
Traffic around the airport can be frustratingly slow-moving, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there. My flight departed at 11:45 am, and my driver (Yogi Bali Driver, who I used for all of my travel around Bali) recommended that he pick me up in Canggu at 7:45 am! Traffic wasn’t too bad that morning so I made it to the airport with plenty of time. This was good, as clearing customs and security was quite slow.
After clearing customs and immigration, the Bali airport has good dining options airside. I stopped for breakfast at Last Wave, which had a large menu with many meat, vegetarian and even vegan options. There are also lots of luxury boutiques and duty-free shops, and bookshops selling English books and magazines. It’s not a bad place to spend a few hours before your Bali visa run.
Returning to Bali After a Visa Run
I was a little bit nervous about returning to Bali after my visa run. I’d heard that there were some crackdowns on people doing visa runs, but I was hopeful that since it was only my second entry, and since I had an onward ticket to a destination in Europe, it wouldn’t be a problem.
I did find that immigration was a little bit more thorough in their questioning on my second admission to Indonesia, and they wanted to know the exact date that I would be leaving (though they didn’t ask to see the ticket). Again, you can increase your chances of being re-admitted by having an onward ticket and by doing a longer visa run (five nights outside of Indonesia is more convincing than eighteen hours!).
Finally, I recommend taking all of your luggage with you when you leave on your Bali visa run. If you leave most of your stuff in Bali, but are not re-admitted, you’ll waste a lot of time, energy and money organizing the delivery of your possessions in Bali to the place where you end up. Play it safe and pack it all.