Finally, it’s my blog about our adventures in Bali. But before we made it to Bali, here’s what took place on our way to our first vacation in Indonesia. The adventure began months earlier when we booked our trip to Bali, and got our tickets for free.
We left Los Angeles on a Tuesday afternoon. We parked our car over at Fox Auto Park, one of my favorite long-term parking lots near Los Angeles International Airport. I still had some work to do that morning, so we were running a bit late. We had everything planned out as far as what we would need to do before our 3pm flight.
Singapore Airlines check in counter
It was our first time flying Singapore Airlines, currently ranked #2 in the world. We had no luggage to check. Yep, we always keep it light, we packed less with just a carry on luggage and a backpack for each of us.
So it was all about formalities where the gate agent checked our passports and gave us our boarding passes. Once we got through our check-in process, we made it straight to security. We have TSA Precheck so we bypassed the long lines.
Priority Pass – Point the Way Cafe
Our flight was scheduled to board at 2pm. It was almost 1pm when we made it past security. We were starved by then and decided to head to Terminal 6 to Point The Way Cafe, a restaurant that’s part of Priority Pass access.
To get to Terminal 6 from Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), we had to go up, down, and through the terminal connectors. We’ve done this many times and we’ve pretty much mastered that it would take 15-20 minutes to get from TBIT to Terminal 6.
Just like clockwork, we made it to Terminal 6 and found ourselves seated at Point the Way Cafe. Our Priority Pass benefit entitled us to get up to $28 per person (food and beverage). So between me and Nancy, that was a total of $56 (before tip). We ordered Chicken Pesto Sandwich and Salmon with Rice, plus drinks. These items came to $54 – just perfect!
Again, we had everything calculated. At 1:40pm, we began walking back to TBIT and made it there by 2pm. Whew! It was a brisk walk of roughly 15 minutes. We didn’t want to miss our boarding time.
Just as we got to the gate, Nancy met up with a few of her coworkers who were getting ready to fly to Paris. What a small world for all of them to be traveling at the very same time.
The flight with the 2nd best airline in the world
First of all, for our flight to Bali, we had to make a couple of stops. It was from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan, an 11-hour flight, and then Japan to Singapore for another 6 hours, then finally, Singapore to Denpasar, Bali for a couple of hours.
Singapore Airlines did not fail us. It was a service I’ve not had…ever. The flight attendants, there was something about them. They were cheery. They were happy to assist. They were simply efficient. At times, maybe they were too efficient. Dinner service was dinner service, but they made sure to clean or bus our dinnerware within 20 minutes. They were quick to clean things up. This gave me an opportunity to go back to sleep and rest.
For the flights to Japan and Singapore, Nancy and I sat in the coach section, a row of three seats, but there was no one in between me and her so we had the entire row to ourselves which gave us more chance to lounge and stretch for a bit.
The stopover in Japan was brief…very brief, as in one hour brief. It was enough for us to deplane, use the restroom, and come across the ANA lounge where they had Star Wars designed plane on display.
The stop in Singapore was 3-4 hours long. It gave us a chance to check out SATS Lounge and Marhaba lounge. We also changed clothes and freshened up because our next stop was Bali.
Our flight out of Singapore to Bali left before 7am. We flew Silk Air, a smaller airline, but even with the 2 hour flight to Bali, it was full service with meals included (did you hear that, US airlines?)
Welcome to Bali
Our flight arrived in Denpasar (DPS) around 9:30am. I’ve been to quite a few island destinations in the world. I had this picture in my head that DPS was a teeny weeny local airport. I was wrong. It was a pretty big airport, a nice one, too!
Arriving at the airport and all the formalities that took place was quite simple. We had no luggage to get from baggage claim so we were out of there in no time!
Get cash, use my SoFi debit card
This was my first international trip where I get to use my new SoFi Money Account debit card. I wanted to see it for myself if SoFi Money Accountwould immediately reimburse the ATM fees, and see what exchange rate I get.
I withdrew money in Bali upon arriving at the airport…the fees where reimbursed, no charges. To test, I took out 300,000 Indonesian Rupiah (roughly around $20 USD). Better currency exchange with SoFi vs using currency exchange booth – in Indonesia, most of the currency booths offered 14,000 IDR for every $1 US dollar. But SoFi currency exchange gave me a bit more (14,071 IDR = $1 USD.)
This exchange difference may not matter much to most, but when you begin taking out bigger sums of money, all of these differences do add up when you want to stretch your US dollars. So there. Use an ATM to get money when traveling to an international destination
Meet our driver and tour guide, Ketut
One of Nancy’s dear friends, Yogie, suggested Ketut, their driver during their most recent visit to Bali. We kept in touch with Ketut via WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and availed of his services for our weeklong visit. We had no real set plans so we relied on his suggestions.
Ketut saw us as we began walking out of the arrivals area. He flagged us. Whew. For me, that’s a big deal. Having your driver there at the airport waiting for your arrival is a big plus in my books. I don’t want to be waiting especially in a new country. So thank you, Ketut, for being there that early.
Get a local SIM card
Prior to our arrival in Bali, I told Ketut that our first stop from the airport is to get a local SIM card. Why? I have a whole entry that I’m preparing as to why I prefer a local SIM card vs. using Verizon’s $10 per day plan vs. Google Project Fi vs. T-Mobile.
Bottomline, it all boils down to cost. He took us to a place which was about 5 minutes away from the airport, IndooSat. We paid around $7 USD which gave us access to data and texting. I told him that was all I needed. We paid in cash, in Indonesian Rupiah. We were in and out of there within 15 minutes.
An hour drive to Canggu
After getting our SIM card, we began making our way towards Canggu (pronounced chang-goo). First impression. Lots of motorcycles. LOTS! They were the king of the road.
There was no freeway or highway per se. We went through lots of turns and curves, through many residential neighborhoods.
Hunger struck and Ketut knew exactly where to take us. We went to a local restaurant and had Babi Guling (roast pork like lechon). The meals were all ready to serve and eat. It was delicious and filling, just enough to get us through our first couple of hours in Bali.
He also drove us to a nearby fruit stand, and I had my eyes set on getting mangoes and rambutan.
By 2pm, we finally made it to our hotel, our resort, Kalapa Resort and Yoga Retreat. Honestly, this one deserved its own entry.
Meanwhile, if you’re curious how we travel for nearly free…
Which credit cards made this booking possible
If we were to pay in cash for two tickets, it would cost us $1,200. But I had enough points to make this happen and not spend an extra dime. To earn points with Chase, you would need credit cards such as Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
How can I begin earning points to travel for nearly free?
You have an option to begin flying for nearly free, but you will need miles and points. There was always one card that stood out, perfect for a lot of those who are getting into the game.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here) is a perfect starter card. With its current 60,000 bonus points, those points alone have gotten us two tickets to Hawaii, have gotten us to many countries and cities in Europe and Asia, just as an example. The sign up bonus alone can be worth as much as $1,000 or more in travel.
– 60,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus after $4,000 in spend in the first three months
– Points are transferable to:
- Hotel Partners
- Airline travel partners
- United Airlines
- British Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Flying Blue
- Virgin Atlantic
- Aer Lingus
– Points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal
– Primary rental car collision damage waiver
– Earn 2X points on all travel and dining
– $95 annual fee
If I were just starting out in earning miles and points, I suggest starting out with this card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred (click here). We have two upcoming trips in 2019 and we’re very excited.
- How my family booked 12 FREE tickets to Japan
- How we booked SIX FREE tickets to Hawaii this 4th of July
To apply for my favorite Top Travel credit cards that I use most, click here
Lastly, here Reader Success Tales that I featured on my site.
- The Yamaguchi’s European Holiday Vacation
- Stephen & Fiona’s Aspirational Trip to Japan
- $80 Trip to Costa Rica for 2 – Vanessa’s Tale
- Traveling is not just for the rich – Iza’s $11 Trip to Hawaii
- Last-minute trip to Hawaii – Bryan & Emily’s Tale
- The Smith Sisters conquer New York City – Gina’s Tale
- Seeing the world through my children’s eyes – Maricar’s tale