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Looking for a destination where the dollar is still king and you can indulge in being spoiled rotten without a hefty hotel bill -- then look no further than Bali in Indonesia, where bargains still abound. Even someone like me on a meager travel writer's budget has stayed in a private villa with its own pool. Okay, it was my honeymoon but my point is, don't sell yourself short on experiencing Bali in total luxury -- those few extra dollars you spend will translate to a vacation you will always remember. Despite the distance from the US, airfares are relatively inexpensive and flights are accessible, generally via Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei or Hong Kong.

World Travellers' Club (tel. 800/693-0411; www.around-the-world.com) features a selection of trips to the Indonesian paradises either on its own or in combination with visits to other Asian cities. Their private "Discover Bali" tour includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco on Singapore Airlines, six-days' private tour of Bali covering Ubud, Candi Dasa and Lovina Beach including daily breakfast, entrance fees and tour guide; five nights at a resort in Bali (located at your choice of Sanur, Legian, Tuban, Nusa Dua or Kuta areas) with daily breakfast buffet plus all local taxes. Prices start at $1,259 in the Silver Category staying at your choice of Bali Rani Resort in Tuban, Seqara Village Resort in Sanur, Aston Spa and Resort in Nusa Dua, Pertiwi or Bukit Ubud, Sol Lovina or Rama Bungalows in Candi Dasa. The $1,799 starting price is in the Gold Category, staying at The Sanur Beach, The Melia Bali, Tjampuhan, Puri Bagus Lovina or Puri Bagus Candi.

These prices are valid for travel until June 5, 2006, with prices going up by up to $580 in peak season (the Christmas/New Year period). These packages depart daily.

The "Romantic Bali" package includes round-trip air from Los Angeles or San Francisco flying Singapore Airlines, round-trip airport/hotel transfers, two full-day plus one half-day sightseeing tours in Bali with a local English speaking guide, seven-nights' accommodation at the hotel of your choice, daily buffet breakfast and all applicable hotel taxes and service charges. Departures until June 5, 2006 start from $1,189 staying at the Villa Bintang, $1,249 at the Kuta Paradiso, $1,319 at the Putri Bali, $1,399 at the Hilton or $1,529 at the Intercontinental. Prices go up by up to $400 from July 7 to August 20, 2006. New York departures are available for $125 more. Airport departure taxes are additional.

The "Bali Vacation Super Saver" package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco on Singapore Airlines, round-trip airport/hotel transfers, a full-day private sightseeing tour in Bali, by a chauffeur-driven vehicle, six- days (five-nights) accommodation at some of the best hotels -- the Bali Rani Resort and Spa or the Hotel Bualu in Nusa Dua in the Silver Category or your choice between the Le Meridien Nirwana or Melia Bali in the Gold Category, daily buffet breakfast and all applicable hotel taxes and service charges

  • For departures between now and June 5, 2006, pay $859 per person in the Silver category and $1,069 in Gold.
  • From June 6 to July 7, 2006, the price goes up o $1,129 and $1,339, and again from July 8 to August 20, 2006, to $1,189 and $1,429.
  • From August 21 to December 5, 2006, the rates come down again to $969 and $1139 respectively.

Mid-December to mid-January is always peak holiday season in Bali with some of the highest prices of the year. This package departs daily from Los Angeles or San Francisco. Fly from Albany, Baltimore, Bangor, Boston, Buffalo, Hartford, Ithaca, Newark, New York Kennedy, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Providence, Rochester, Syracuse or Washington, D.C. and pay only $129 more

Asian Affair Holidays (tel. 800/742-3133; www.asianaffairholidays.com) has an "Enchanting Bali" package priced from $880 for travel until June 5, 2006. It includes round-trip airfare on Singapore Airlines from Los Angeles or San Francisco, airline fuel surcharge, five-nights' accommodations at the five-star Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa, daily breakfast, airport transfers and a full-day Barong Dance and Kintamani tour with lunch. Add $180 from New York and a Singapore stopover is also available that includes arrival and departure transfers, two-nights' accommodations at Copthorne King's Hotel and daily breakfast for $140.

Despite exceptional deals like those listed above, before you sign on the dotted line for that airfare and accommodation package (or at least type in your credit card details), do you research and look into alternate accommodations options that may make booking your airfare separately a wise decision. Bali offers so many diverse accommodation types from the lowest of low budgets (like $10 a day) to the luxury of presidential suites and villas with butlers, private chefs and masseuses.

Bali Travel Online (tel. + 62/3612-82694; www.bali-travel-online.com) features discounted land-only Bali packages, tours and accommodation specials. Some prices seem simply too incredible to be valid, but remember this is Bali, the home of the unsteady Rupiah currency, where greenbacks buy you more than you could imagine.

Their five-day/four-night "Bali Classic Package" includes round-trip airport transfers (but not your airfare to and from Bali); four-nights' accommodations; daily breakfast and lunch; a full-day excursion visiting Kintamani, the volcano, Mt. Batur, Batubulan, Celuk, Mas, Ubud, Bedulu, the Holy-spring temple at Tampak Siring and Tegalalang; a half-day excursion the temple of Pura Taman Ayun, Tanah Lot and Alas Kedaton; the monkey forest; and a day of white water rafting. Depending on your choice of hotel, the package is priced as follows (per person):

  • Bakung Beach Hotel: $122
  • Adhi Dharma Cottages: $151
  • Bali Rani Hotel or Intan Bali Village: $184
  • Inna Grand Bali Beach: $208
  • Bali Tropic Resort: $218
  • Aston Bali Resort: $222
  • Sanur Beach Hotel: $264

Extend to a six-night package from only $272.

A seven-night stay at the Bali Hai Resort including airport transfers, daily breakfast, a full-day excursion plus a half day tour is priced from $287 per person.

Bali Travel Online also features 19 hotel properties that range from $21 to $38 per room per night (NOT per person) including breakfast (I've actually stayed at a couple of properties listed and although not luxurious, they are all quite central, with great facilities, pools, walking distance to the beach etc.) Sometimes taxes are also included in these hard to believe prices. Or for a step up from your regular hotel property, consider staying in a private villa. For example the Villa Kendil in the much sought after Seminyak area. Each villa architect designed, furnished in an authentic old Balinese style and has its own garden, large bathroom, outdoor shower, and kitchen with complete facilities, and the two bedroom villas have their own plunge pool. One-bedroom villas (lotus) are priced from $70 per night and two-bedroom two storey villas (frangipani) with a private pool start from $105 per night. High season rate applies in July and August and from December 20 to January 5 -- add $12 per night in a one-bedroom and $22 for a two-bedroom. Free airport transfers, taxes and service fees plus a fruit basket, welcome drink and flowers on arrival in your room are also included in these rates if you stay a minimum of four-nights.

Getting There . . .

It may seem strange, but purchasing a Singapore Airlines package through Asian Affair Holidays may actually be cheaper than buying the airfare alone through Singapore Airlines, so you can choose to do what I have done in the past -- namely take the package, use the airfare and transfers and then either use or discard the accommodation component. Alternatively, Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) has airfares to Denpasar Bali on Eva Airways via Taipei from $770 plus taxes. This price is valid for travel from Sundays to Thursdays from September 5 to November 30, 2006; January 5 to 20, 2007; and January 28 to May 20, 2007.