I am recently back from an amazing four day trip to W Retreat & Spa Bali, which was carefully planned and highly optimised. No hacks involved because it was all paid for, but it was carefully researched for maximum value for money. This review is split over three posts – getting to the hotel from Singapore, the actual resort, then the return journey. Hopefully you will find a few useful tips…
Uber from Home to SIN airport
We took an Uber paid for with SCB VI which gives 10% rebate. Cost before rebate: $18.50.
Starpoints: 13 + 26 = 39
The ride to the airport was fine. Like most UberXs in Singapore the car was smaller than a regular taxi, but it was comfortable enough for the 20 minute ride to Changi.
SIN to DPS (Denpasar Airport, Bali) – KLM835
KLM Business Class SG$566 per pax return.
It’s a little known fact that KLM operate a daily flight from Amsterdam to Bali via Singapore on a long haul 777 with a small 42 seat Business Class section. KLM sell seats for the final leg at a significant discount compared to SQ and Garuda, and for only a little more than SQ Economy. Of course budget airlines including AirAsia and Tiger ply the same route, but I thought that KLM offered good value considering it was a holiday weekend.
Ticket was bought using Citi Prestige from Expedia with Shopback 1% rebate. CitiBank offer 15x points (6miles/$ equivalent) for most air ticket bookings with Expedia which I think makes it worth the risk of booking with them rather than going direct.
Cost: $566 * 2 + $20 (booking fee) = SG$1152
Rebates & Points:
- Expedia+ = 151 points => 151 * 0.7 = $1 (Expedia+ points are worth around 0.7c so yay)
- Shopback rebate = $12 (doesn’t seem to have posted. Will follow up)
- Citibank = points equivalent to 6918 KrisFlyer miles
- Delta Skymiles = 1301 miles
KLM are part of the SkyTeam alliance which I don’t generally collect miles on. I have an old Delta account where I deposit random miles as they do not expire.
Anyway, that’s the maths out of the way. How was the flight? Fantastic!
At Changi Airport
Check in was fast and easy for Business and Economy passengers. It’s a big plane, but most passengers were in transit so very few join the flight at SIN.
KLM contract their lounge access to DNATA which opened a new lounge in November 2015 to replace the old Terminal 1 SkyView. The new lounge is a great improvement with plenty of comfortable seats and desks, each with mains and USB power, showers, and some quite reasonable food choices. I tried a few dishes, but the nasi lemak stood out as particularly good. Wine was reasonable and the standard beers were available, but the Chivas 18 display was a little unrealistic – I could only find a bottle of 12 for drinking.
I have seen reviews of the lounge that report it being very busy, which was certainly the case with the old SkyView, but for us late afternoon on a Friday it was pretty quiet.
Perhaps the best thing about the lounge is that it accepts Priority Pass so holders of many credit cards can gain access for free when travelling budget or economy.
KL835 SIN – DPS
The inbound flight was 30 minutes late, but it wasn’t marked as delayed on the board so we headed to the gate at normal time. There was a long queue for security, but KLM offers a Sky Priority lane for their frequent fliers and business travellers so we were through in just a few minutes.
KLM tape off an area at the front of the pen for Sky Priority and families, which makes for an eclectic mix, but boarding was fast and we did not have to queue on the bridge.
The legacy World Business Class cabin was in a 2-3-2 layout which was fine for a two hour hop, but not great for those on the earlier 11 hour leg and a little underwhelming compared to SQ’s 1-2-1 longhaul cabin.
The seats are comfy and plenty of leg room for a lanky 1.92m person like myself. They recline almost flat without any fuss and I was quite happy.
The seats have a good TV screen and the normal selection of international (and Dutch) movies.
I may have tried a glass of Champagne before departure. It was an inoffensive Nicolas Feuillatte, which I had never heard of before
The flight eventually left around 30 minutes late, but the entertainment system was working on the ground to keep us entertained.
For some reason we did not get amenity kits on the way out.
Meal service was a choice of chicken or beef lasagne. I had the lasagne and it was fine. Indeed anyone who likes microwaved lasagne will be very happy.
I tried a glass of Marques de Caceres Rioja with the food which went down quite delightfully – though this was probably my 5th glass of the afternoon so at this point it was all fine. Don’t judge me – I was on holiday!
After the meal service the attendants offered us one of their signature Delph houses. If you’ve not seen them before KLM have a collection of hundreds of ceramic dutch houses filled with gin which they give out on every flight. They make for cute collectibles or gifts.
Once we had landed immigration and customs at DPS was a breeze. Most regular visitors to Bali, myself included, can tell a horror story about immigration queues, but not this time. KL835 seems to arrive during a lull so, at least for those at the front of the plane, there were no lines for passport control. The withdrawal of the requirement for western visitors to buy visas on arrival last year was also a very welcome development.
Our bags arrived after about ten minutes and we were out into the scrum of taxis and pickups.
There are perhaps three common ways to reach your hotel, villa or guest house from the airport:
Tell your hotel what flight you arrive on and they will send a car to pick you up. The driver will stand at arrivals with a board to collect you and whisk you away without any hassle. The downside is this can be quite expensive – maybe double the airport taxi price.
Fixed price cartel of blue shirted drivers operating on a published price list to take you to your hotel. To Seminyak, where the W is, the official rate is Rp 300,000, but I would expect to be quoted more as the hotel is at the North end of town.
Uber or Grab
After taking the airport taxi on previous trips I decided to try Uber this time for the SCB VI 10% rebate and bonus Starpoints.
It turned out to be pretty straightforward. As you come out of arrivals put your head down and barge through the blue shirted official taxi drivers and race for the lift or escalators to go up to Departures. Once clear of the Blue Shirts use the free airport wifi to call a car using Uber or Grab and meet them at the departures drop-off point. Ignore any other unlicensed drivers hanging around trying to intercept you and look out for your car. My driver WhatsApped me to confirm he was coming and where to meet, but it wasn’t really necessary.
The journey took nearly an hour due to traffic, but the bill was only Rp 65,000; one quarter of the official rate. That’s about SG$7 for an hour long journey.
Because it was so cheap it didn’t earn many Starpoints.
Starpoints: 5 + 10 = 15
Other options, including buses and jumping into metered Bluebirds, are discussed here. While I was waiting for my Uber there were many taxis dropping off and picking up tourists, so that seems viable if Uber gets banned again.
The next post will review the W Retreat & Spa, and how it was paid for to get a great discount.