Ngurah Rai International: one of the world’s ugliest airports?

Bali’s Ngurah Rai International airport has been named as one of the world’s “ugliest” airports by Travel + Leisure. It is lumped together with much better known airports like New York JFK, Paris de Gaulle, and – would you believe - London Heathrow!

Wanna know what they said about Ngurah Rai International? Well here’s the spiel:

For an airport whose motto is “Gateway to Paradise,” Ngurah Rai is confoundingly grim. Indonesia’s third-busiest airport, near Bali’s capital city, occupies a long, low building with a ceramic-tile roof. Though it doesn’t look so terrible from the outside, inside is a dingy concourse that could really be anywhere, assuming anywhere is Cleveland. “Low ceilings, very low lighting, chairs randomly here and there, and lots of gray,” recalls design writer Eva Hagberg, author of Dark Nostalgia. “All I can remember is the gray. Even the business-class lounge is gray.” And you know an airport’s got problems when its most eye-catching feature is a McDonald’s.


But is it really that bad? Well, perhaps – but only if you are the sort of person who expects airports in third world countries to be gleaming architectural masterpieces like the Changi International Airport in Singapore.

Personally, I quite like Ngurah Rai. There’s a sort of unassuming, low-key charm to the place - very much in keeping with the easy going vibe of Bali.

And after your plane lands on the runway, it’s only a short walk under the scorching tropical sun to the tiny little arrivals hall - which is probably not much bigger than your living room.

Inside there’s not much too see. No huge flatscreen TVs and no wifi. A poster warns of the death penalty for drug smugglers and there are some pretty dodgy toilets at the end of the room that you might do well to avoid. No, there aren’t many seats - but who wants to sit down anyway? So just spend some time grabbing a few maps and tourist pamphlets and by the time you can say “Schapelle Corby Kerobokan” your luggage has arrived (hopefully with nothing missing, although that is not always the “case” - sorry!).

A short walk outside and you shiver in excitement at being in Bali and the color of the airport’s fabrics is the last thing on your mind (unless you are a Travel + Leisure journalist of course).

Ngurah Rai International ugly? Well maybe. But who cares?


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