So AFTER booking my ticket to Indonesia, like every irresponsible backpacker, I wondered to myself, “HMMMM.. do I need a visa?” Unlike my other trips to Indonesia which were short and sweet thanks to the *generous* 10-day vacation policy in the US, I figured I’d stay longer than 30 days, which is what is allotted on a visa free visit.
Luckily for most people, entry into Indonesia is pretty hassle free, if you’re planning to stay for less than a month. Indonesia allows nationals from over 168 countries to remain in the country Visa Free for a maximum of 30 days.
Indonesia Visa Free vs Visa on Arrival
Since I wanted a chance to explore this culturally, biologically and ethnically diverse archipelago made up of 17,000 islands and stretches 5,120 kilometers (just saying… there’s a lot to see!) AND also visit family, I was left with two options: paying for a visa on arrival (VOA) or doing a visa run because you cannot extend the length of your stay if you enter visa free. There is also the option of applying for a social/cultural visa if you’re the type of person who plans ahead (more information at the end of the article!)
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a visa run, it’s when you hop across the border to another country and then re-enter the country, which you left in order to restart the number of days you’re allowed to stay. While a visa run may tow the line of questionable practices, I hadn’t heard of people running into issues, so I figured it was a viable option. Since I’m currently ballin’ on a budget, I tallied up the cost and decided the cheaper option would be to purchase a VOA at the airport.Getting the visa on arrival seemed pretty easy; I thought all I needed was a valid passport, $35, and a smile to enter (okay, maybe not a smile, but you should do it anyway because you’re in INDONESIA!) However, I found out later that the extension process was a lot more tedious and needed to be done at least two weeks in advance.
Indonesia Visa extension
Two weeks? Why? Well, apparently, I needed to visit three times: once to complete the forms, another time to pay and take my photos and fingerprints, and finally to pick up my passport with the visa extension. On top of that, there are a limited number of offices that you can process the visa extension, including three in Bali, which are almost, always full of people.
Another option I discovered was that I could get some immigration agent to handle the visa process for about $50. I would still need to start the process about 10-15 days before the visa expired, but I could leave my passport with the agent, enjoy gallivanting and soaking up some sun rays in the other islands, and come back to the office where everything would be completed. And since time is money, it didn’t seem like such a terrible idea. I was left debating whether it would be cheaper to do a visa run OR to pay an agency, and decided to go back in time, and channel my former agency role by making an excel sheet for my budget.
The best option became pretty obvious; it was cheaper for me to fly from Lombok to KL then to Medan, in order to restart the 30 days. I was a little upset for spending the initial $35 for a VOA (that equals to 10 Bintangs!!!) but I had no one to blame but myself for only doing half the research. But hey, you win some and you lose some, and now I’m on my way to Lombok and Flores before heading to Sumatra. Can’t wait to share more stories with you!
Indonesia Long Term Stays Visa
If you are planning ahead (good for you!), below are the two types of most common visas for non-professional longer term stays. You should note that the date of arrival in Indonesia is counted as day one of the permitted stay and the date of departure is also counted as a full day even if the flight leaves just after midnight.
Visa on Arrival
As the name states, this is a visa you can purchase when you arrive in Indonesia at designated entry points by paying US$35 (as of 2016).
Single entry visa
Good for up to 30 days
Can be extended ONLY ONCE for an additional 30 days for another US$35 (as of 2016)
You can also apply for this visa at your respective country’s Indonesian embassy or consulate
Social Cultural Visit Visa
This visa requires a letter of sponsorship from an Indonesian citizen
Good for up to 60 days
Can be extended up to four more times, for a maximum of 180 days total
You must apply for this visa outside of Indonesia
Valid up to three months from date of issue
If you want to extend this visa, you must apply for the extension in the same district stated by your sponsor’s identity card
Here’s more information on Social Cultural Visit Visa
If you do happen to overstay your visa, you will be fined Rp 200,000/day for every day, then deported once you have paid the fine. The maximum fine for overstaying a visa is Rp 25 million and 5 years in jail, so just don’t do it!