Hello Indonesia!

Hillary Waves Hello IndonesiaYour international flight to Indonesia has just arrived…. so what happens next?

It is a famous phrase: “First impressions last”. For the international traveller, it is also true; a postive/negative experience at the start of one’s journey can guide the opinion of their trip.

Unfortunately, Indonesia’s airports often do not give a welcoming first impression, with long queues, toilet and other facilities of variable quality, and many “instant friends” outside the terminals offering taxi rides, fake Rolex watches, etc. It also doesn’t help that Indonesia is almost the only country in the region where visitors have to pay to enter the country.

Here are some hints and tips so that your first encounter with Indonesia is less negative more positive than it otherwise might be:

Before You Arrive: When You Arrive: After You Arrive:
1. Fill In Immigration and Customs Forms 1. Buy a Visa
2. Pass Immigration
3. Collect Checked Baggage
4. Pass Customs
5. Get Some Local Money
1. Transport
2. Accommodation

You can click ahead to the section you want – Before / When / After – or just scroll down and read it all.


1. Fill In Immigration and Customs Forms

You will receive an arrival/departure card and a customs declaration when you arrive. The latest (2011) versions look like this:

Arrival and Departure Card

Click on image for full-size

Indonesian Arrival & Departure Card - Front


Indonesian Arrival & Departure Card - Back


Customs Declaration

Indonesian Customs Declaration Form - Front


Indonesian Customs Declaration Form - Back


You need to fill in one arrival/departure card per person, and one customs declaration per family. Please ensure you fill in both the arrival AND departure information; immigration officers use this to check it matches against your ticket, especially the departure side.

If you don’t know the address of your hotel, it is ok to write just the hotel name on the arrival card.


1. Buy a Visa

The details of current tourist visa regulations are already covered here. But here is the short version: unless you are flying Garuda on certain routes to Indonesia, you will need to buy a tourist visa – called “visa on arrival” – when you get off the plane.

Garuda Immigration on Board

Expedited visa arrangments on Garuda

Often, the queue is quite long. This is a consequence of two factors: airports receiving more passengers than they were designed to handle; less than the maximum number of immigration officers/counters serving passengers.

If you are flying on another airline to Indonesia and want/need to avoid an extended wait, here are some tips:

– Sit near the front of the plane. That costs extra on budget airlines (e.g. Air Asia, Jetstar), but not on other airlines.

– Prepare exact money in cash of $US25 $US35 x the number of passengers, e.g. $US100 $US140 for 4 people.

– Have your passports all open to the photo/information page and the return tickets (for leaving Indonesia) ready to be shown. It is an immigration requirement that you show your return ticket as evidence that you are leaving Indonesia within the 30-day limit.

– Send the most athletic person in the group with the passports, return tickets and cash to run ahead and take/reserve a spot in the queue. If you have Simon Pegg, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Franka Potente in your group, all the better.

Run Lola Run "The Running Man" movie poster Run Fat Boy Run Poster

2. Pass Immigration
While you are in the queue, ensure you have your passport, return ticket and arrival/departure card ready to show the immigration officer. Not only will it make life a little easier for the immigration officer, it will reduce the processing time and the wait for the other passengers. When finished, keep the departure card on the same page as where your passport was stamped; when you leave, the stamp on the departure card will be checked against the stamp on the passport.

3. Collect Checked Baggage
Often, your bags have reached the carousel before you. If the TV screen doesn’t say which carousel has your flight’s baggage, take a look around and follow the people/faces you remember from your flight.

Indonesian Airport Porter

A porter adding some colour to
Sultan Hasanuddin Airport, Makassar

There is the option of using a porter, if you need to or want to. If you decide to use one, the official porters wear a “distinctive” uniform and have an ID tag/number on either their clothes or their trolley. The going rate is around Rp5000 ($0.60) per bag. It may seem that sometimes porters seem to have monopolised all the trolleys; in this situation, you can choose to wait for more trolleys to arrive, carry/bring the luggage yourselves or use a porter.

4. Pass Customs
Unless you have something to declare, go to the green lane. Your hand luggage will be x-rayed again, possibly checking for undeclared items. Give your customs declaration to the guy while it goes through.

5. Get Some Local Money
This is covered in more detail here, but here is the short version: If you need to get some Indonesian Rupiah as soon as you arrive, the options are:
– Airport moneychanger
– ATM within or outside the secure area of the airport
– Arrange it before you arrive

Whatever you do, make sure you can tell the difference between a Rp10 000 ($1) and Rp100 000 ($10) note, which are a similar colour. Read the link above to do this.


1. Transport
If you are transiting and connecting to a domestic flight, almost all airports domestic terminals are within walking distance of the international terminal. The one major exception is Jakarta, where you need to take a free inter-terminal bus. Our guide to this is here.

The two options at most Indonesian airports are airport bus and airport taxi. Transfers by your hotel can also be arranged by request.

For airport taxis, it is a voucher system where you pre-pay a fixed price at a marked booth near the terminal exit, then give a copy of the voucher to the taxi driver.

The airport bus has a marked stop, which may not be in front of the arrivals area of the terminal. For example, in Jakarta the airport bus can only travel – like all non-airport taxis – across the main access road from the arrivals area of the international Terminal 2, and drop off passengers upstairs at international departures. Airports located close to the centre of town (e.g. Denpasar, Medan) do not offer an airport bus service.

Bluebird TaxiJakarta Airport is also the major exception to the rule about airport taxis. You can choose the brand of taxi you want, which are lined up in marked bays outside the arrivals area. Bluebird Taxis have the best reputation; they are a sky-blue colour (like many lesser imitators) but only they have “BlueBird Group” written across the top of the windscreen.

Silver Bird Taxi MercedesFor a little more space and comfort, you may wish to travel in a Silver Bird taxi, a Mercedes E-class or Alphard van. An airport surcharge and toll road fees are also paid by the passenger. Funnily enough, Silver Bird taxis are black, not silver.

2. Accommodation
It’s much easier to book this before you arrive than try to find a place after.

Bali Hotel Pool

Mau Ke Mana offers a wide range of hotels here. For our most popular destinations – Jakarta, Lombok and Bali – they are separated by area and/or star-rating.

Some international flights arrive quite late at night. Some clients have an early departure the next day. In both situations, it is worth considering staying at a hotel near the airport:

– In Bali, the areas closest to the airport are Tuban, Kuta and Jimbaran Bay.

– In Jakarta, there is now a special Airport Hotels page, with a Google Map where each hotel is flagged, plus a distance from the airport to that hotel.

If you have a question about any of the above areas, please contact us through the FAQ page.

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