In March, myself and one of my best friends, Bronte, decided semi spontaneously that we were going to travel Bali for a month. The thought of travelling now seems like a distant memory thanks to the coronavirus pandemic hitting the world but fortunately we still managed to get out to Bali for 14 days and get home safely be it 2 weeks early!
The idea of travelling together first came about when I was talking about going to Australia in which Bronte was originally going to join but couldn’t get the time of work. When she was offered unpaid leave for the month of March in January she didn’t turn it down and as soon as it had been accepted we got booking Bali. During this time Corona was prevalent but mainly only in Asia with a few known cases in England starting to pop up the closer we got to our date to fly. At the time it actually felt safer leaving the UK because of how it was developing here. I don’t think anyone even imagined that we would be in a lockdown a few weeks later when we got that flight though! I had a few people ask how we were even allowed to go in the first place but at the time there was no travel advice and no one knew how badly affected we were going to be here. Everything was “normal” when we left.
Landing into Bali airport was where we had our first indication of how the virus was affecting the rest of the world. We had to fill in personal information and declare that we were healthy and then we were given a corona virus form to keep for the remainder of our holiday in case we were hospitalised with it. Very reassuring!
Fast forward about a week into our trip we’re living it up aware that things are going on back home but not paying too much attention at that point. I’m aware that sounds completely ignorant but at the same time no one knew the extent of the measures the government were about to make. 3 months down the line in lockdown, it’s quite remarkable looking back! However, we were still being extremely cautious throughout the whole trip washing our hands frequently and keeping an eye on the news every now and then but like any twenty something year olds we wanted to have a good time
Fortunately for us we were the last group to finish our 12 day tour without any disruption. Afterwards we had originally planned to hire a villa in Seminyak with 3 of the boys on our tour but one by one they dropped like flies as they panicked about getting home and changed their flights to go home early. Obviously this was slightly alarming and now Bronte and I were back to finding accommodation for just the 2 of us but still at this point we were happy staying put for the next few days at least.
Each day new information came out back home and when we started to get facetimes from our parents about the prospect of a possible lockdown we definitely had to let that sink in knowing it would mean abandoning the rest of our trip. Neither of our parents wanted to force us to come home and knew the decision had to be made entirely by us but with everything still up in the air at home and having evaluated the news ourselves we continued for a few days.
The day after our tour finished we were told by our lovely guide that the tour that was midway through their trip after us had been cancelled as the whole of the Gili Islands were going into lockdown. Not to mention the rest of the planned tours for the foreseeable future had all been cancelled. This was the point we knew we needed to come home. That day we were travelling from Ubud to our Airbnb in Canguu which we had for the next 3 nights. Once there we put together a plan to get home. It was all a bit complicated as Bronte is an air hostess and therefore we were using her staff travel for the flights. We lost no money moving our flights from the 30th March to the 17th, however these tickets are standby which means you do not have a guaranteed seat on the flight. Obviously the positive side of this is that they are as cheap as chips and 9 times out of 10 you don’t need to worry about making it onto the flight in normal circumstances but of course these aren’t normal times!
The next day when we left to go to the airport it was very worrying knowing that many holidaymakers would also be fleeing the island. This wasn’t great as the airport was absolutely packed as you can imagine which didn’t bode well for us. We arrived early at the chance to get on an earlier flight which immediately backfired as we were told it was full and we wouldn’t have been able to get on there anyway because we weren’t listed on the flight (if you’re staff travel you basically have to ring the airline once you’ve booked you’re ticket to get your name on the flight.) This was about 7 hours before our actual flight was due to take off at midnight so the airport became our home for that day. We were also told then that our flight was fully booked that evening so it was unlikely we’d get on and because of the staff travel we would only find out if we could board at around 11pm, an hour before it took off.
I can’t tell you how anxious we were waiting that day. We had looked into a plan B if we didn’t get onto the flight that evening which was paying a ridiculous amount of money for proper tickets which had multiple stops. If we had to do plan B we would have spent the night on the airport floor! It was quite the thought but we had to laugh about it. At 11 o clock, after 7 hours chilling in the airport we made our way to the check in desk again to see whether we would be getting onto the flight. Also side note, both times we went through to the check in gate we had our temperature checked which was very efficient considering we had no checks in London.
Arriving at the check in desk we spoke to another couple who were on standby tickets which wasn’t good news because he had priority over Bronte & I as he’d been working longer than Bronte. He also kept saying it wasn’t going to be good news which didn’t fill us with hope. After about 10 minutes waiting which felt like half an hour, out of no where the check in assistant called my name and honestly we couldn’t believe our luck. We practically ran and I think we were both shaking but we also didn’t want to react too much because we we’re so scared we’d be told otherwise at any second. We actually went through before the other couple as well which was a massive relief. I honestly thought it was going to be bad news.
We weren’t sat together for the first leg of the flight from Bali to Doha which was absolutely PACKED but that didn’t matter! We knew as soon as we reached the next leg from Doha to London the flight would be empty. After practically having the whole plane to our selves on the second flight we arrived safely to a very gloomy London Gatwick. It was such a ghost town and it was worrying to hear on the radio how much had developed in the short time we’d been gone.
Although it was a very abrupt ending, the main thing is that we got home safely and we’re so grateful we managed to do what we did do. We also only lost money on 2 nights of accommodation that cost us about £30 so we were incredibly lucky! This trip will definitely be one I never forget and I’m so thankful to everyone who helped us get home not that Bali would’ve been the worst place in the world to be in lockdown…