Bali continues to bounce back -- indeed tourism is booming -- after the devastation of the nightclub bombings in October 2002. While the U.S. State department continues to advise against non-essential travel to Indonesia, urging travelers "to observe vigilant personal security" no one seems to pay it too much attention. Clearly, the desire to explore this island and a sense of optimism prevails: Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport is literally swollen with people -- about 150 flights carry an estimated 20,000 passengers daily. The seasonal dip in travel to Bali occurs in early fall and picks up again, as to be expected, around the holidays. Right now, specials are plentiful to this deeply spiritual island nation, beloved by visitors for its friendly people, well-preserved culture, beaches, lakes, volcanoes, rice paddies and forests.
Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; ) has two specials. "Bali Special," a seven-night, air-inclusive offer, with the best price starting as low as $929 (plus tax) for travel between September 5 and November 18. The purchase deadline is August 4, and the deal includes airport transfers, continental breakfast daily, half-day tours at Oleh and Unforgettable Sunset, and a full day tour of Northern Bali. The accommodations for this rock-bottom price is The Oasis Hotel, a tourist-class property with modern furnishings, located in the Kuta area near the beach, shopping and nightlife. As with most Go-Today offers, customization is possible -- the Westin Resort Nusa Dua is available -- but the upgrade somewhat defeats the purpose of these extremely low incentives. Rates are based from Los Angeles and San Francisco airports; the most expensive departures, such as New York, add $515. If you're interested in combining Bali with Hong Kong, Go-Today is running a "Hong Kong and Bali Special." It too includes airfare, but it's an eight-night trip priced from $1,149 for travel between August 16-31 and November 16-December 9, both with an August 4 purchase deadline. Spend five nights in Bali, three nights in Hong Kong; breakfast and some touring are included.
Escapes Unlimited (tel. 800/243-7227; www.escapesltd.com) has partnered with Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines for a seven-night "Bali Paradise Escapes," from $829 per person for a midweek departure from San Francisco of Los Angeles. The special runs from August 17 through December 8; the website says there are high season surcharges in August at the hotels, but the month is already sold out. Additionally, the site says there's a weekend surcharge, but most of the airlines have since waived it. This is a good deal, too, for anyone traveling from New York -- add on a mere $100. You get a choice of seven beach areas, including the artistic village Ubud. The price also includes transfers to and from the hotel and airport, a half-day sightseeing tour, hotel taxes and service fees; your meals, however, are not included. Extensions, upgrades (if you yearn for five-star accommodations) and add-ons are possible, including a stopover in Hong Kong for one night (from $85).
Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) is running a "7-Day Bali Special" from $889. The price is good from September 5 through November 18 for travelers paying cash. Depart the U.S. from Los Angeles on Monday night and arrive the next day for five nights at Parigata Resort and Spa -- two other resorts are available, one in Nusa Dua and another in Kuta Beach, for less than $100 more). The package excludes airport transfers, fees, taxes; it does include round-trip airfare, hotel and daily breakfast. It's a fairly flexible deal, with plenty of options to customize with half-day tours to Ubud, the Balinese arts village, a cruise around Benoa Harbor, or a jaunt to the southern peninsula's rolling hills -- Bukit and the revered Uluwatu Temple. Other cities are available but you must register with them first and go through their online booking process.
For a 15-day extravaganza through Asia, including Bali, Hong Kong and Singapore, Smartours (tel. 800/337-7773; www.smartours.net) is running a special that includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles (add $100 if you leave from New York), all intra-Orient flights, transfers, accommodations at superior and deluxe hotels, full breakfast daily, sightseeing tours and an English-speaking tour guide throughout your stay. To get the discount off their already reasonable rate -- up to $600 per couple -- you must act fast and book by July 29. For their September 19 departure, the rate is $1,699; for the October 31 and November 21 trips, it's $1,799. If you miss the deadline, you can still reserve -- the price jumps to $1,999 for all three dates. The itinerary includes Buddhist temples, botanical gardens and, once you're in Bali, a stay at the beachfront Melia Bali Resort in Nusa Dua.
If you're already in that corner of the world -- specifically Australia -- Air Paradise International (tel. 62-361-766-100; www.airparadise.com.au), a new Balinese airline with service running to the island from Australia, offers airline and other packages specials, including round-trip airfare to and from Perth from $609 (that's Australian currency). The rate is good from now until September 15, and then October 1 through December 8. Other Australian departures are available, including Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. For shorter, all-inclusive jaunts, the airline features a "Perth to Paradise" special, a three-night, air and hotel package from $469 per person. It must be booked and paid for by August 19, for travel on specific dates from now until the end of October. Other Australian cities are running specials, too -- Brisbane and Adelaide from $659 (four nights), Melbourne and Sydney from $699 (four nights) during basic season from now until December 8.
Finally, for news and links to hotels, villas, resorts, cruises, travel agents and useful local information including a thorough explanation of Balinese arts and culture, visit the site for the Bali Tourism Board (http://bali-tourism-board.com). A slightly more user-friendly site is Bali Discovery (tel. 62/361-286-283; email@example.com; www.balidiscovery.com), which we reported on earlier in the year, features photos, short descriptions of accommodations, and a search engine you can customize based upon price, location, type, or name of accommodation.
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