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HOLIDAY SAFETY

Is it safe to travel to Indonesia’s Sulawesi and Bali and can I cancel my holiday following the tsunami and earthquake?

The Foreign Office has warned any Brits in Central Sulawesi to be aware of the continued risk of aftershocks and stay away from collapsed buildings

INDONESIA's Central Sulawesi region has been left reeling from a magnitude-7.5 earthquake and 10-foot-high tsunami that struck on of the country's poorest areas on Friday evening.

Two cities and several settlements on the northeastern coast of Sulawesi island were hit including Palu, which was battered by huge waves travelling at 500mph.

 A giant wall of water raced up a funnel-shaped bay before crashing onto the city of Palu - causing utter destruction on Friday
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A giant wall of water raced up a funnel-shaped bay before crashing onto the city of Palu - causing utter destruction on Friday

At least 1,203 people have been killed, thousands have been left homeless, and hundreds of people have been reported missing as rescuers race to find survivors despite continued tremors and aftershocks.

Debris from collapsed buildings are strewn throughout Palu, a city of more than 380,000 residents and the capital of Central Sulawesi province, as well as along the coast.

The Foreign Office has warned any Brits in Central Sulawesi to be aware of the continued risk of aftershocks, to stay away from collapsed buildings, monitor the local news and follow the advice of the local authorities.

But while the British Embassy in Jakarta is monitoring the situation closely and liaising with the Indonesian authorities to establish facts, the FCO advice has not yet changed for the area.

 The FCO advice has not yet changed for Brits travelling to the area - the only area where they advise against all but essential travel is to areas of island of Lombok
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The FCO advice has not yet changed for Brits travelling to the area - the only area where they advise against all but essential travel is to areas of island of Lombok

Currently they are only advising for Brits to see their travel advice before travelling to the area.

The only area where they advise against all but essential travel is to areas of island of Lombok north of the main east-west route from Pamenang, as well as the Gili Islands.

That advice has been in place for several weeks, following a series of five major earthquakes and a significant number of aftershocks to the north-east of the island of Lombok in late July and August 2018.

There is also FCO advice against all travel to a small area within 2.5 miles of the Mount Agung crater in east Bali and within 4.5 miles of the Mount Sinabung crater in Kalo Regency, North Sumatra due to ongoing volcanic activity.

 Palu, which was battered by huge waves travelling at 500mph
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Palu, which was battered by huge waves travelling at 500mph

Can I cancel the holiday I've booked in Bali or Central Sulawesi?

Palu’s Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport had been closed from Friday to Sunday, although part of the runway was cleared for landings and take-offs yesterday, with around half the usual flights operating today.

Other airports in Sulawesi, including Makassar and Toraja airports, are reported to be operating as usual though.

Meanwhile, several large hotels in Palu have suspended bookings for the time being.

Hotel and airline bookings further from the epicentre of the earthquake in Sulawesi and other Indonesian destinations in the region like Bali should not be affected, even though some people may now not wish to go.

In fact, some local charities are appealing for holidaymakers to bring specific items in their luggage to places like Bali that are needed in the relief effort.

While some airlines and hotels may be lenient under the circumstances, neither they or your travel insurance provider are obliged to change or cancel bookings.

The only time that hotels are required to give a refund is if the Foreign Office changes its travel advice for a region and turns it into a no-go area.

But it is worth finding out from your travel agent or accommodation provider whether your hotel is still fit for purpose.

If the hotel is part of a large chain, it could be worth asking to change your stay to another location but they are under no obligation to grant this.