Indonesia Announces Changes To Their Visa Policy

Filed Under: Travel

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.

Jakarta Premier Lounge
Jakarta Premier Lounge

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?

  1. This would be sweet! My fiancée and I will be visiting Bali for a week on our upcoming honeymoon in May, and I’d love to use that $70 elsewhere!

    Thanks for the update, and great writing, Travis!

  2. The 30 countries would be the following?

    China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Canada, Mexico, US, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, South Africa, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE). –

    Would nice if you included the country list in the blog post Travis, Lucky has a global readership these days.

  3. Vis-a-vis Bali, it’s not the money so much as the line to get in. Would be huge to get rid of that as part of this.

  4. No Name: You’re right, I forgot the list! Thanks for providing it.

    Yahtzee: We got pretty lucky with the line in Bali, but it took us about 45 mins the first time through Jakarta. And there wasn’t even much of a line! Had to clue what took so long.

  5. Anything to speed up the line in Bali. Waiting in 2 separate lines for 3 hours total (first to pay, then immigration) is a terrible “welcome” for a vacation.

  6. For countries that have crazy lines why not just fork out some money and pay for one of those fast track services… whisk you through end of story…

  7. Having four tourist visas in my passport, this is interesting news. But could you clarify? You write:

    “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.”

    Is this for transit only? From the comments you seem to indicate the improvements are for tourist visits, not transits.


  8. My wife and I are going to Bali and Lombok in September. We’re experienced travelers, but our first time in Indonesia. Our tickets to DPS are awards, with Garuda from Seoul to Bali, and I’m looking at a flight from Bali to Lombok and staring down a 130 minute connection. If the connection is likely to work, I’d rather try that and have another half day in Lombok. What are your thoughts?

  9. Eric
    These are improvement for Visa on Arrival (up to 30 days, with possibility to extend to 60 days at an immigration office). This include all stays and transits, including for vacations and business.

    But, lets see how this plays out, cause they have already announced a delay. Like everything else in Indonesia, dont pay much attention until you see its already in place. Nothing, and I mean, NOTHING goes according to plan. Its the culture.

    Indonesia is a relaxing country. Skip Bali and rather go to Raja Ampat or Lombok or Wakatobi. You will be taken well care of.

  10. Christian

    130 mins, should work, normally. But you have to go through immigration, baggage claim, customs and check in with your bags again. It could take time.
    Id suggest be quick out of the plane, cause most of your 250 pluss pax will have to end up in the same line as you. One of you go to stand in the immigration line, while the other buy two visa on arrival (both dont need to be present there, they only need $70 for two VoA, no specific person or passport need to be present. The process with the passport etc is done at the end of the immigration line.
    Doing this give you a head start on the rest of your plane.

    But, why fly to Lombok? Its a 6 hr boat ride and you can stop at Gili islands (Trawangan for night life or Meno for relaxing) for a couple days. Highly recommended and no planning/bookings required, just relax and look at cottages to rent).
    At Lombok, try the Oberoi, they have 250sqm Villas with swimming pools and they will pick you up with a boat at Gili.

    On Bali, Ubud is awesome. Try COMO resort.

  11. o… why is it unfair? You have to pay 35 USD for an VoA (easy process, guaranteed entry and cheap).
    If an Indonesian want to enter Australia, there is no VoA, he have to apply and get approval in advance. Most Indonesians will get denied. For those that do get approved, the process takes time and is far more costly than 35 USD.
    I d think you will have a hard time convincing Indonesians that it is unfair.

    Im just looking at this with my European eyes 😉

  12. Did you really have to add the “good luck” comment re: the indonesian govermnment requesting reciprocity on the visa policy? Despite what you and many overly-patriotic idiots out there, th US is NOT the best country in the world.

  13. The reciprocity principle likely will be addressed by converting some of the VOA booths so that US visitors can be fingerprinted, photographed and interrogated while checklists can be completed that visitors are of sound mental health, carry no infectuous diseases, are no nazi war criminals and have never sought escape from prosecution. Just what any visitor to US has to go through.

  14. I can’t really feel sorry for Americans who have to wait 3 hours in line for immigration in Bali.

    Every other nationality (except those with green cards, global entry or diplomatic passports) have to stand in line for-eeeeveeeer when arriving in the US. That’s not a great welcome either, be it for business og leisure.

    My personal record is 3 hours and 5 minutes in line at O’Hare, arriving with British Airways from London.

    Runner up is 1 hour and 50 minutes, at that very same airport.

  15. Countries as Indonesia, Vietnam don’t think about expatriates. When you are living in Singapore you would like to spend the weekend to Saigon or Hanoi or Jakarta or Bali. We have a lot of LCC with a cheap price. But when you have to pay a minimum of 35 USD per person. You decide to go to more open countries like Malaysia or Thailand.

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