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Our Experience on Entering Indonesia

By Val Ellis last modified Jul 22, 2011 10:34 AM

Published: 2011-07-22 10:34:25
Countries: Indonesia

There's a lot of both negative and positive information about yachts entering Indonesia and I'd like to add our experience into the debate for any sailing vessel considering the risk of sailing through Indonesia. Our experience was very positive.

We're a UK registered 50ft Ocean 50 Bavaria en route from the UK to New Zealand via the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and, prior to entering Indonesia, we spent a good while in Borneo and the Philippines before making for Darwin, Australia. We applied for the Indonesian CAIT permit via email whilst sitting on anchor in Tawau, Sabah, Borneo in October 2010 and the whole process took less than three weeks. We couldn't get visas in Tawau due the the Indonesian consulate being closed but decided to risk it anyway and apply for a visa on entry. The CAIT came through via email and we left Tawau for Bitung on the NE coast of the island of Sulawesi, a recognised port of entry.

The four day passage was good and we entered Bitung in the middle of the night. Although not an easy anchorage we eventually found good depths but experienced a long dinghy ride into the bum boat docking point outside of the main port.

Immigration was inside the port and they were extremely friendly and helpful, providing a lift by motor bike to customs, quarantine and the harbour master. The only cash backhander asked for was by the pretty young female doctor in quarantine and even then it was only a small amount, less than $10. The immigration guys couldn't do enough for us, they arranged for Visas on entry, diesel fuel at a good price, sorting transportation by water taxi and anything else we needed. My daughter and her boyfriend were arriving in Bitung by air to join us onboard and the immigration guys arranged for their collection from the airport and even sorted their missing luggage. Where else do you get that level of service for their rather small fee?

No mention at any point about Customs import duty, bonds or cash bribes. Everyone we dealt with was extremely friendly and helpful. We then left Bitung to sail south to Darwin using quiet and remote anchorages in the Islands and no Indonesian authority bothered us at all. We checked out of Indonesia four weeks later in Ambon and again there were no problems or issues. Only a dirty and difficult anchorage.

At both entry and exit the Indonesians were positive and friendly although the processing was long winded. We arrived without visas and we were granted visas on entry without undue fuss. We left Indonesia because we needed to be in Darwin before the onset of the cyclone season but would have stayed longer if time permitted. A good experience.

Dave Ungless
SV Sänna 2
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