I have had a few people asking me whether it is safe to travel to Bali with the looming eruption of Mount Agung volcano. It is not an easy question to answer. These are just my own thoughts and everyone should ultimately rely on official sources of information from the Indonesian government, their own governments, airlines and insurance companies. I am no expert, but probably like many people I am reading and watching all the latest news available.
What to do if you are already here?
If you are already here, you should check with your insurance whether you are covered for volcanoes. Some insurance companies will provide assistance with hotels and living expenses should an eruption occur. If you are not covered by insurance and you have limited funds to cover an extended stay, you should probably consider cutting your holiday early. Contact your airline to see if they can get you home earlier. Many people got caught out when other volcanoes erupted and Bali flights were cancelled due to the ash cloud.
What about if you have a holiday booked in the next few months?
No one knows when or if Mount Agung is going to erupt. Even the experts cannot give an approximate time. There is even a chance that the volcano won’t erupt at all. First, make sure your travel insurance covers volcanoes and natural disasters. Check with them as to what support exactly they provide in the event of an eruption. Many insurance companies won’t cover volcano eruptions since the warning has already been announced, although there are still a couple companies offering coverage right up to the eruption. Check also with your airline if they an evacuation plan should an eruption occur while you are on holiday.
It goes without saying that you should avoid going into or even near the evacuation zone. If you have goods to donate, there are many drop off points in tourist areas, that you can leave goods who then organize delivery to the evacuation points. Bring masks and eye protection for yourself and family (N95 type) and some to donate.
One of the biggest expected dangers if the volcano erupts will be from the volcanic ash. Breathing in any of the ash can cause health problems. Hence the need for masks and eye protection.
I would suggest canceling the trip all together, if you are coming with young children, have mobility issues or respiratory problems. Check with your local doctor for their advice. If you have travel insurance you might be able to get a refund for your flights and accommodation.
What to do if you are planning a trip to Bali in the next months?
I would suggest looking at an alternative destination. I cannot imagine you would have an enjoyable holiday if there is an eruption. The island is likely to be covered in ash and the airport is expected to close. Even if your insurance company said they will provide coverage, it is never easy trying to deal with them and making a claim. More than likely you will need to leave from an alternative airport. It could mean a long distance bus road to an airport in Java, for example. Mount Rinjani in Lombok has also increased
Australian airlines have limited flight routes in and out of Bali, so they might not be able to offer a flight out of Bali. You may be forced to purchase another ticket leaving from another airport. I can imagine some people will want to come and show their support and bring donations, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it.
If you already living here…
For now life is going on as normal. There have already been reports of looting in the evacuation areas. I don’t know of anyone who has plans to leave Bali. Most people have businesses, jobs, kids and pets to take care of. The eruption could come at anytime, the next few months or not at all. I can only imagine how difficult it is for the people who have been evacuated. There is some good information here about preparing for volcano ash fall.