Mar 24 2011

Getting alcohol in Bali: Guest post by Anonymous Alcoholic

Published by at 8:05 pm under Bars & nightlife


“So it’s legal then?” I ask, as the grinning Indonesian fellow smiled across the table from me. He was going to injure himself if his smile stretched further.

“Oh yes, Pak!” he assured me. I glanced down at the bottles of Swedish vodka, Scottish whiskey and American bourbon in front of me. The bottles were dotted in the pretty foil hologram stickers that would keep the roving packs of customs officials from my door (I fervently hoped).

“So, no problems with the you-know-who?” I queried him.

“No, Pak!” he replied, leaning across the table and patting my hand.

“Except one thing,” he continued. Cue sinking feeling. “One sticker not matching. So customs can still confiscate”.

Alcohol, which is taxed at around 300% in Bali, is able to be obtained legally and illegally on the island. If you’re buying it for personal consumption illegally, which is usually done through a wily middleman, it’s not such a big deal. If you’re a hotel or restaurant who will buy it then sell it on to a customer, do so at your own peril.

One newly opened restaurant/club had 1,000,000,000 rupiah (US$100, 000) worth of alcohol confiscated in a sweep at 19:30 one night recently. Some joints buy illegal and legal, wait until the legal bottles are empty, and simply refill with the illegal. It’s a smart idea that, until customs officials go through every cupboard in your place of business and turn up the contraband ones waiting in the wings to refill the empties.

If you want to bring in your own while on a trip to Bali, you absolutely can do. Strictly speaking, you are allowed 1 litre of any type of alcohol. But there is a particular person at Ngurah Rai airport who will, ahem, “expedite” the 12 bottles of booze you have secured in bubble wrap inside your suitcase for the princely sum of 150,000 rupiah per bottle. I’ve done this a few times for special dinners; you do have to be specific and ask for this particular guy.

Depending on where you buy alcohol once in Bali, it can range from 275,000 to 750,000 rupiah for the same bottle of Swedish vodka. The cheapest prices are offered by a charming chap called Gede, who runs Gede Spirits. He can be reached on: 081 236 164005 / 087 8622 85090 ( gedespirit@yahoo.com ) He can be a bit hard to track down, but is worth the effort.

The basic problem going on is that the higher the tax the government imposes, the more smuggling will happen.

It’s been hinted — unconfirmed reports, you understand — that customs officials are selling the confiscated alcohol on to middlemen (like my unnamed mate above) who then sell it to restaurants/hotels/bars… What a vicious circle!

As for whether I bought the booze mentioned in my story above… Let’s just say I have been in a place that has been raided. We received a tip off that they were coming, so we shifted all our alcohol stock from our warehouse to another warehouse in two hours. It was all done on the back of a ute, with me balanced on top trying to hold the precious cargo together.

So when you gawk at the expensive cocktail and spirits menus in bars, do think about what goes into getting them onto the table!

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5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Getting alcohol in Bali: Guest post by Anonymous Alcoholic”

  1. Adam @ SitDownDiscoon 25 Mar 2011 at 8:20 am

    Top article. The whole sordid saga is enough to talk about endlessly!

  2. […] to get a drink in KL than in notoriously expensive cities like London and New York (and er, islands like Bali). Hefty government taxes are partly to blame, but many bars and restaurants contribute to the […]

  3. […] you're flying out to somewhere where the alcohol is even more hideously expensive than Singapore (cough cough Bali) make use of the Duty Free at the airport. Unlike say Thailand, where the booze is often cheaper in […]

  4. Bourbon and Wineon 17 Aug 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I’ll be traveling to Bali at the end of the month. I certainly love my booze and happen to look forward to it on my trips. I unfortunately live in Kuwait which is a dry country. I would like to bring a few bottles of wine to some friends who live there. In addition, of course I would like to bring a weeks supply for my and I as well…. We will be passing through Qatar which has a Duty free shop as well as Singapore airport and finally Bali. Any suggestions on bringing in a significant amount, perhaps 10 misc. bottles of beer, bourbon and wine without getting charged an additional tax for bringing it in? I’m a huge food and beverage guy who loves new cultures. I would also love any suggestions for off the beat and path destinations for both or anything adventurous.

    Thanks for the advice!

  5. samanthaon 17 Aug 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Hmm, officially you are only permitted the 1 litre, I am afraid. If you wish to bring in more alcohol, you really do need to be prepared to pay the ahem “tax” that the officials charge (even when arranging to meet with them in advance to discuss the “tax”). It’s strange, but this tax seems to be negotiable. Some scallywags try to get around this — we have heard reports of some people splitting bottles between bags, as ALL bags get X-rayed after you collect your bags, whether you declare items or not, but officials may lose track of what’s in what bag when it’s crowded. Just letting you know what we’ve heard. We’re not much help on that front, I’m sorry!

    However, suggestions for off the beaten path adventures — have a browse through the posts in the category “driving around Bali”, listed here:
    http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/bali/category/driving-around-bali/

    And just FYI we make a few suggestions for quiet places to stay here:
    http://www.travelfish.org/blogs/bali/2011/08/10/a-few-quiet-bali-splurges/

    But don’t forget the bulk of all our Bali info is at the main site here:
    http://www.travelfish.org/region/indonesia/bali

    Happy browsing and let us know if you have any queries!

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