Airport review: Denpasar International, Bali, Indonesia

AIRPORT

DPS

THE FLIGHT

GA 718 Denpasar to Melbourne, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

The traffic around Denpasar's airport is notorious, but we manage to evade any peak-hour dramas coming south from the Bukit peninsula, for an easy drop-off out the front of departures. There's no hanging around, vehicles are moved on pretty swiftly.

THE LOOK

Officially known as I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport, 23 million travellers passed through the door of Bali's only international airport in 2018, and the waterfront airport is reclaiming land to grow even bigger. An undulating roof hovers over tropical gardens and the ornate red Balinese gates put a local imprint on the international terminal, which opened in 2013. There are plans afoot for a new airport, predominantly for Australian low-cost carriers, in North Bali.

CHECK-IN

Everyone else must have checked in before us. The bag drop line at the desk for Indonesia's flag carrier, Garuda International, is short and sweet.

SECURITY

If you love queues, you'll love Denpasar's security system. We get the works: all shoes, belts, bags, cardigans and wraps off. The famous Balinese charm is markedly absent here.

FOOD AND DRINK

As a rule, I try to eat before I get to Denpasar airport as it's usually a melee of sunburnt people and achingly slow service. TG's Food Corner is sprawling and messy, as usual, but if you've time for a last nasi lemak, try the island's most famous traditional café, Made's Warung. Perky House of Beans' schizophrenic menu doles out freakshakes, soto ayam (chicken soup) and a decent, though pricey flat white 24/7, and its canary-yellow 'huts' are a good Instagram shot if you're killing time and need a last-minute #travelbrag.

RETAIL THERAPY

If you really need to shop for the labels available in every airport, you can find all the usual suspects, from Dior to Chanel, Hermes to Victoria's Secret and a few Asian cosmetic brands including Korean Sulwhasoo. If you actually want to bring back something Balinese, a central souvenir shop sells emergency gift packs of locally made soap, ikats (Indonesia's famous weaves) and Balinese coffee, including the infamous, though delicious, kopi luwak. When the airport expands, I hope it doesn't waste time on more global lines: a Balinese fairtrade fashion strip would be welcome.

PASSING TIME

The free Wi-Fi cracks on despite the crowds, perfect for a little WhatsApp action. Aside from the airline lounges, Denpasar has two pay-as-you-go Priority Pass lounges. Unfortunately, I don't have enough time for an express facial or last-minute pedicure at Kaya Spa, which is open until 1am.

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ONE MORE THING

Charge up all your phones and laptops that you'll need beforehand, or pack a booster. Power points are hot property here (the ones that work), and often require sitting on the sticky floor to guard them.

THE VERDICT

Denpasar airport is an unpredictable beast: either you zoom through or get wedged in the mire of endless queues – budget enough time for the latter. In all, it manages heroically given its enormous popularity.

RATING

3.5 out of 5

Belinda Jackson travelled as a guest of Tourism Indonesia.

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