Travis is my first new contributor to the blog, who will be posting a couple of times per week. The idea behind adding guest contributors is to add different perspectives to the blog. Travis has a unique approach towards travel, given that he travels almost exclusively with his wife and young children, which is in stark contrast to my travels, which are usually alone.
It seems that Egypt and Indonesia are going in opposite directions on the visa issue.
As Ben recently posted, Egypt is going to stop issuing visas on arrival for individual travelers come May. On the other hand, Indonesia has announced that next month they will expand the list of countries not requiring a visa from 15 to 45 countries, including the US.
Interestingly, Ben likes going to Egypt because apparently it’s not uncommon to find round trip first class tickets to the US for $1800. Or even less. But now it seems that the cost and hassle of obtaining a visa may kill the deal.
For those of us who tend not to fly in the pointy end of the plane, Indonesia has a similar value proposition. Only in this case, it’s for those who prefer to fly to their destination, rather than from it.
You see, for over a year now the US airlines have been offering some very attractive fares to Jakarta (and sometimes Bali). I’ve seen as low as $500 round trip. These have been some of the better regularly available
mileage status runs, especially given that you could do them on a variety of airlines. My family actually used such a fare as our entry into the region for our Southeast Asian Adventure back in December.
The downside has been the $35 visa on arrival fee (up from $25 last year) plus the 150,000 IDR (~$12) departure tax. It may seem small, but when it starts to approach 10% of the cost of the ticket, you do start to notice. Then think about the cost for a family of four. Especially when you need to do it every time you transit the country. Don’t get me wrong, it was still worth it, but at about $200 a pop, it does start to add up.
Well, those fares are about to get even more attractive next month when Indonesia says it will offer visa-free transit for citizens of 30 more countries.
But it seems that it might not be quite so easy to implement after all. It turns out that Indonesia has a law that prevents them from granting visa-free status to residents of any country which doesn’t have a reciprocal policy. And of course, the US and many other countries do not. Whoops.
Fortunately, it appears that the government of Indonesia realizes the enormous challenge of asking the US for reciprocal privileges (good luck!), and is instead focused on revising the law. Of course, given the rate at which things get done in Indonesia, I wouldn’t get too excited about this just yet.
Assuming it happens, it’ll be interesting to see whether it has the intended effect of boosting tourism. In my view, Jakarta is about the 4th best gateway to southeast Asia, behind Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur, mostly because of the poor infrastructure – particularly the airport. Those countries already have visa-free entry for citizens of many countries, so this is really just closing the gap, not actually jumping ahead. Furthermore, those who love Bali — like my wife — are going to go regardless, so I’m not sure this will make a difference. But it’s definitely good news.
Will visa-free entry make you more likely to visit or transit Indonesia?