Trips to the tropical island paradise of Bali are about to get a little easier for British travellers, with Garuda Indonesia preparing to launch the first non-stop flights from the UK.
The direct service will start on January 22, replacing Garuda’s existing route from Heathrow to Jakarta. Outbound flights will leave London at 955pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, touching down at Bali Denpasar at 915pm the following day.
There’s a curious catch, however. Travellers returning to the UK will not be offered a non-stop service; they will be required to fly first to Jakarta.
Garuda’s solitary UK route has had a remarkably varied history. The flag carrier relaunched its indirect service from Gatwick to Jakarta – via Amsterdam – in 2014 after a long hiatus. It switched the departure airport to Heathrow the following year, stopping in Singapore instead of the Netherlands.
In October 2017 the route became non-stop, but then in October 2018 it was scrapped entirely in what was described as a “restructure”. Just one month later it was back in the sky, however, with the latest change adding a somewhat confusing coda.
Tickets for the inaugural direct service, a lengthy flight of 15 hours and 35 minutes on board a Boeing 777, are available for £519. A return journey one week later, featuring a short hop to Jakarta on a 737 before the main haul to London, takes an extra three hours. Total cost: £933.
While the Garuda service is the quickest way for Britons to reach Bali, indirect services offer far more cost effective options. For the same dates (January 22-29) fares can be found for as little as £423 with Turkish Airlines (stopping in Istanbul).
Why visit Bali?
The island’s draws – beaches, temples, rice paddies and volcanoes – are famous. Perhaps too famous. Indonesia welcomed more than 15 million overseas tourists in 2018 – up from around 2.2m in 1990. And around 1 in 3 of those went to Bali.
The surge in visitors has caused environmental problems. Late in 2017 Bali declared a “garbage emergency” after several of the country’s most popular beaches were inundated with a rising tide of plastic waste. Workers sent in to Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak beaches, among the busiest, were carting off up to 100 tons of junk each day at the peak of the clean-up.
It isn’t only tourists to blame – fly-tipping by indifferent residents is a major factor – but they certainly aren’t helping matters.
How arrivals to Indonesia have soared
So consider somewhere else. According to a 2002 survey by the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, there are 18,306 other Indonesian islands to try. We recommend Sumba. Natalie Paris writes: “This remote outpost, an hour’s flight from Bali, is now accessible thanks to Nihi Sumba, a luxury resort that takes the best of the island’s fascinating tribal culture and accommodates guest in lodges built like Sumbanese houses, with distinctive, tall thatched roofs that poke up above the treetops like witches’ hats.”
Which other new flight routes are launching in 2019?
If Bali isn’t your bag, but you want to take advantage of a new non-stop flight, there are plenty of other options.
BA will become the only European airline with a direct service to Charleston, a fabled former colonial city and gateway to South Carolina’s beaches and unsung Congaree National Park, in April.
The Japanese city of Osaka is also being added to BA’s route map this spring (from March 31), offering travellers a chance to discover the temples and gardens of Kyoto, 15 minutes away by bullet train.
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March 31 will also see the launch of the first ever budget flight from the UK to Rio de Janeiro, courtesy of Norwegian.
See our guide for more suggestions.