We took a late morning JetStar Asia flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta (u$d 160 oneway) with a connection in Singapore which was relatively uneventful. Budget airlines are plentiful and cheap in Asia and you can usually get a good deal even at the last minute. Herself managed to squeeze all her stuff into one backpack – no small accomplishment believe me!
I’d checked the visa requirements for Indonesia online and was informed we could get a V.O.A (Visa on Arrival) for u$d25. Sure enough when we arrived there was a VOA desk so we first went to one counter and paid in cash (no problems) to immigration official #1 and then went to another counter where you presented your receipt and immigration official #2 issued a visa sticker to put in your passport.
This is where the fiasco began as immigration official #2 asked to see a return or onward flight ticket. This is a requirement in many countries but rarely enforced. After explaining we had very loose plans i.e. no set itinerary we were escorted to yet another counter of immigration official #3 who gave us a hard time but after a verbal slap on the wrist he agreed to give us the visa. PHEW! End of Fiasco…….NOT!
When we made our way to yet another, but supposedly final immigration counter where they actually stamp your passport, immigration official #4 asked “Can I see your return ticket?” This felt like a game of ‘snakes and ladders’ where you take 3 steps forward and all of a sudden you’re back to where you started.
After trying to re-explain everything two more times immigration official #4 said he had a solution. We could either buy a return ticket now on the spot or “if you help me – I’ll help you” aka he wanted a bribe to turn a blind eye. He then directed us back to a side counter where immigration official #5 acted as arbitrator for the haggle. I offered u$d 20 but he wanted u$d 50 and we eventually settled on u$d 40 which had to be placed in one of the passports and back we went to the counter for our stamps. WELCOME to Indonesia!
- There are more immigration officials than passengers in Jakarta airport (best bribed job in town)
- Sometimes being a bum with no set itinerary is a handicap (at least in Indonesia)
...To be continued...
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