Indonesia travel guide

How to get to Indonesia

From East Timor: The main crossing is at Mota'ain between Batugade in East Timor and Atambua, West Timor.

From Malaysia: The only formal way to enter by land from Malaysia is at the Entikong-Tebedu crossing between West Kalimantan and Sarawak, Malaysia on Borneo. The crossing in on the main route between Kuching, (Sarawak) and Pontianak, the capital of (West Kalimantan). As the crossing is listed only as a visa-free entry point, nationalities who do not qualify for this will have to apply for visas beforehand.

From Papua New Guinea: The only recognized crossing into Indonesia is at Wutung, between Vanimo in Sandaun Province in Papua New Guinea, and Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian Papua.

Note: It is not guaranteed that you will be able to enter Indonesia through these crossings and non-Indonesians are required to apply for visas at the nearest Indonesian Embassy or Consulate.

Beware the departure tax

Travellers departing on international flights have to pay a Passenger Service Charge (departure tax) in Rupiah, so be sure to stash away enough to pay it. The amount varies by airport, but can be as much as Rp 150,000 in the airports in Bali (DPS) or Jakarta (CGK). Starting September 2012, the airport tax in Indonesia will to be included in ticket price for Garuda airlines flights. Other airlines may decide to follow the lead of Garuda but it should be understood this is an initiative of the individual airlines rather than a broadly mandated change of policy by either the individual airport operators or the Indonesian department of transport.

The three main international airports are Soekarno-Hatta (CGK) at Tangerang, Banten, near Jakarta, Ngurah Rai (DPS) at Denpasar, Bali and Juanda (SUB) at Surabaya, East Java. There are however many cities which have air links with Singapore and Malaysia which can be interesting and convenient entry points into Indonesia.

Garuda Indonesia (http://www.garuda-indonesia.com), the Indonesian 'flag' airline operates to Asian destinations including China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, Australian cities, Middle Eastern destinations such Saudi Arabia and Dubai in the UAE and has recommenced services to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The airline also has extensive code sharing agreements and this assists in providing quite good flight frequencies from airports in countries nearby to Indonesia. While its fleet still has some tatty aircraft is is improved greatly by a significant fleet upgrade programme utilising 55 newer Boeing 738-800NG series and 14 Airbus A330 aircraft for higher capacity routes with further of both those types on order. They also have new Boeing 777-300ER series aircraft on order. While banned from the EU for a while, the ban was lifted in 2009 and they have made direct flights to Europe via Dubai in middle east since third quarter of 2010. Garuda Indonesia has outlined various plans to commence flights to major world hubs such as London, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Moscow and Los Angeles using the new Boeing 777 in 2015. Garuda has previously operated to several of these destinations.

Travel to Indonesia from America costs around US$1,000. As travel from most of Europe or anywhere in the USA will take over 20 hr, many flights stop in Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei or Singapore before arriving in Jakarta. Sydney, though, is just 6-8 hr away.

The cost of flying to Indonesia from within the Southeast Asia and Pacific region has gone down a lot with the advent of low cost carriers or LCC. A similar and important development has been the offering of reasonably priced one-way fares departing Indonesia and the development of online booking and payment systems. The acceptance of non-Indonesian issued credit cards by the online booking systems of Garuda and Lion air only occurred as recently as the beginning of 2011. Among the LCC carriers providing services to Indonesia are AirAsia (http://www.airasia.com), which has excellent coverage of Indonesia from its hubs in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta (Indonesia Air Asia), as well as Singaporean competitors Tiger Airways/Tiger Mandala (http://www.tigerairways.com), Jetstar Asia/Valuair (http://www.jetstarasia.com) and SilkAir (http://www.silkair.com). SilkAir is actually a full-service, full-fare regional airline, but they often have very good promotions if you book in advance. Indonesian carrier LionAir (http://www.lionair.co.id) provides flights international flights between Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur-Surabaya, Penang and Medan and between Hi Chi Minh City, Singapore and Jakarta, and is often the cheapest option (cheaper than AirAsia and others). Australia and New Zealand are also serviced by LCC airlines including Jetstar (http://www.jetstar.com/id/en/index.aspx) sharing the Jetstar Asia network, Virgin Australia (http://www.virginaustralia.com/), Indonesia AIr Asia (http://www.airasia.co.id). Limited regional international services are also provided by other Indonesian LCC domestic carriers Merpati Airlines (http://www.merpati.co.id/) and Batavia airlines (http://www.batavia-air.com). Batavia is steadily growing a limited regional international route system and Merpati services routes to Kuala Lumpur and Dili in East Timor. It is worthy of note that Lion Air has engaged in a massive fleet upgrade program buying a large number of Boeing 737-900ER series and ATR72-500 series turbo props. The steady replacement of their previously rather clunky old fleet of very well used Boeing and MD aircraft is revitalising Indonesia's 2nd largest carrier. Lion air currently operate 62 new 737-900ERs with 133 more 737-900ERs, 7 of the 737-800NG series and 201 Boeing 737 MAX 9 on order. Lion Air have announced plans to position themselves as a major regional airline when sufficient aircraft are delivered.

'Immigration on board'

On some Garuda Indonesia flights, immigration entry procedures are conducted during the flight, which saves passengers from the need to queue to clear passport control upon arrival at the airport. More information is available here. 'Immigration on board' is currently available on the following Garuda Indonesia international flights:

  • Amsterdam-Dubai-Jakarta
  • Sydney-Jakarta
  • Seoul-Jakarta
  • Tokyo-Jakarta and Tokyo-Denpasar
  • Osaka-Denpasar

Dealing with Imigrasi serves as a useful introduction to the Byzantine complexity of Indonesia's bureaucracy. The long and short of it, though, is that most Western travellers can get a visa on arrival for US$25 at virtually all common points of entry (Java, Bali, etc), so read on only if you suspect that you don't fit this description.

There are three ways of entering Indonesia:

  • Visa waiver - Show your passport, get stamped, that's it. Applies only to a few select, mostly ASEAN countries.
  • Visa on arrival - Pay on arrival, get a visa in your passport, get it stamped. Most visitors fall in this category.
  • Visa in advance - Obtain a visa at an Indonesian embassy before arrival.

A minimum of 6 months validity must be available in your passport and it must contain at least one or more blank pages. This same rule applies to any visa extension that may be sought whilst in the country.

One peculiarity to note is that visa-free and visa-on-arrival visitors must enter Indonesia via specific ports of entry. Entry via other ports of entry will require a visa regardless of whether you are a visa-free or visa-on-arrival national or otherwise.

It should also be noted that the days a visa holder is within Indonesia are counted with the day of entry being day 1, not day 0. This means that by 24:00 hours (12 midnight) on the night of the day of arrival you have been in Indonesia for one day. If you enter at 23:59 (11:59 PM) then 2 minutes later you have been in Indonesia for 2 days.

Customs in Indonesia is usually quite laid-back. You're allowed to bring in one liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 gm of tobacco products, and a reasonable quantity of perfume. Amounts of money carried in excess of 100 million Rupiah, or the equivalent in other currencies, have to be declared upon arrival or departure. In addition to the obvious drugs and guns, importing pornography and fruit, plants, meat or fish is (technically) prohibited. Indonesia imposes the death penalty on those caught bringing in drugs.

Indonesia Immigration maintains its own website (http://www.imigrasi.go.id/). The Indonesian Embassy in Singapore (KBRI Singapore) (http://www.kemlu.go.id/singapore) also has some good information on Customs and Immigration requirements.

Ferries connect Indonesia with Singapore and Malaysia. Most connections are between ports in Sumatra (mostly in Riau and Riau Islands provinces) and those in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, although there is also a ferry service between Malaysia's Sabah state with East Kalimantan on Borneo. Onward boat connections to Jakarta and other Indonesian islands are available from these ports. See the pages for each city for more details.

From Singapore

  • Frequent ferries to/from the various ports of Batam (Sekupang, Batu Ampar, Nongsa, Marina Teluk Senimba and Batam Centre).
  • Frequent ferries to Tanjung Pinang and Bandar Bintan Telani Lagoi (Bintan Resorts) on Bintan.
  • Several ferries daily to/from Tanjung Balai in Karimun Island.
  • One daily ferry, increasing to two during weekends, to/from Tanjung Batu* in Kundur Island.

From Peninsular Malaysia

  • Daily ferries run from Penang to Belawan, the port for Medan, Sumatra (not operating anymore).
  • Daily ferries go from Port Klang near Kuala Lumpur to Dumai in Riau, Sumatra and Tanjung Balai Asahan in North Sumatra.
  • Daily ferries between Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan and Dumai in Riau province, Sumatra.
  • Daily ferries link Malacca with Dumai and Pekanbaru in Riau province, Sumatra.
  • Frequent ferries go from Kukup, Johor to Tanjung Balai* on Karimun Island in the Riau Islands.
  • Frequent ferries link the Johor Bahru with Batam and the capital of Riau province Tanjung Pinang at the Island Bintan in the Riau Islands.
  • Regular ferries also link Tanjung Belungkor in Johor with Batam.

From Sabah, Malaysia

Daily ferries link Tawau with Nunukan* and Tarakan*, both in East Kalimantan province on Borneo.

Visa-free/visa-on-arrival is available at all ports above except those tagged with *, which require a visa in advance, though there may be exceptions for visa-free visitors.