Tip: Applying for an Indonesian Visa in Dili, East Timor

The procedure for getting an Indonesian visa in Dili has sped up somewhat, but is still an administrative ballache. Before I came here I was told that I could expect to wait 7-10 days unless I “knew someone” who could speed up the process. As such, I was looking at flying out directly to Bali and using the Visa on Arrival system at the airport – $25 and an hour in a bloody queue if the last trip was anything to go by. The main reason for not doing this is the standard flight price of around $240.

Getting a bus back to Kupang ($20), staying one night ($3) and flying from there ($40-$60) is much cheaper, even given the $20 additional rip-off fee for the visa.

The embassy hours for visa-related goings-on are officially 9am (but see below) till midday for handing your paperwork in, then 2pm to 4pm for retrieval of your passport.

Prior to heading to the embassy, I made sure I had everything I was told to bring:

  • $45 (and you only get the 30-day visa for that, not 60 as you used to [but see below***])
  • One passport photo with a RED background, just to be awkward. You can get these in town. Expect to pay $2 to $4 depending on what mood the store clerk is in. Theoretically it’s $4 same day and $2 next day. However I got mine on a Saturday and was told $4 same day or Monday – $2 for Tuesday
  • Printout of departing flight details from Indonesia
  • Photocopy of your passport
  • Black pen (fill the form in in any other colour and they’re throw it back at you)
  • Letter detailing why you want to go to Indonesia. Apparently ticking a box marked “Tourism” isn’t enough

Although they have a price up for transit visas ($20), it’s nigh on impossible to get one. If you want one, they say, fly into Bali from Denpasar. Basically what they’re saying is you can only get a transit visa if you fly into Indonesia. Whether one is available at other land borders or embassies, I don’t know.

Get there early. They start dealing with the applications at 8:30am (mornings only – collections in the afternoon), but the doors are open for you to put your name down on the list from very early on. Make sure your name goes into the book. We got there around 7:30 and were numbers 9 and 10 on the list. At this point they also hand you the application form though you can pick one up in advance. Note that you cannot get one form and photocopy it for your mates. Each one has a unique serial code at the top.

At 8:30 they start calling out names. A clerk checks your paperwork, staples your photo to the application form and hands you a plastic card with a number on. Despite being 9th and 10th in the book, we got numbers 2 and 3 so were seen pretty quickly.

Despite all the form-filling and the brief letter telling them my plans for the 16 days I have in Bali, and the flight confirmation of my departure I was still asked roughly what I was doing and when I expected to leave. Just be polite – as with any border guard or embassy staffer, it doesn’t pay to piss them off. Remember, they’re the ones with your travel plans in their hands.

Next step is to hand over the cash. When I handed my documents over, they pushed the dollars back at me. I assume therefore that if you fail the check at this point, at least you get to keep your $45. However, as they seemed satisfied that I wasn’t going to marry the first native I found and set up home on the island, they happily swapped my passport and money for a small sheet of paper and instructions to return on Wednesday afternoon.

On collection day,

Overall, apart from the ridiculous requirements, a pretty smooth application process.

***UPDATE: I have come across two people in the last day or so who got 60-day visas. One guy from Hungary (and two of his friends he told me about) and a German guy. Basically, be persuasive. If you can, make sure your letter (above) is typed, and includes some kind of itinerary which details roughly what your plans are that require a 60-day stay. Emphasise the inconvenience of doing a visa run and the fact you’ll be chucking a ton of money into their tourist industry. And make sure you have proof that you will be heading elsewhere withing the 60-day limit.

There is no extra charge for the 60-day visa. In fact, for $45 you should get it by default as the 30-day one has an official cost of $25.

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2 thoughts on “Tip: Applying for an Indonesian Visa in Dili, East Timor

  1. Perfect instructions! Just to note that they usually tell you to collect your visa three working days later, in my case I got my application in on Friday morning, and they told me to come back on Tuesday afternoon to collect it. I got a 60 day visa no hassle, by providing a letter asking for it, and by specifying 60 days on the form you fill in. I found the staff smiley and friendly as most Indonesians I’ve met. When going to collect your visa, go at 3pm and just hand your receipt in over the heads of any queue that exists, and they’ll call your name eventually. They often ask you to provide a copy of your bus ticket out of there, but you can say you are taking a local bus to Atambua (for which there are no tickets). Happy travels!

    • I wish I’d asked for the 60-day visa now, just because I effectively paid for it and even though I was flying out after 12 days! However, seeing as they asked for a copy of my departure flight details I couldn’t really fib about it…

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