Indonesia Officialdom: A positive experience in Ambon

Published 8 years ago, updated 4 years ago

I want to share a very positive experience with Indonesia officialdom. Sometimes we all only hear the negative, the problems – especially when it comes to SORONG immigration who I think WANTS a bad rep, but there are positives to hear about too, and you don’t always hear about them. SO here you go…starting the new year on a happy note!

We arrived in Ambon during this holiday season, needing to renew our visas again, as well as our customs paperwork. We were nervous that the holidays would forbid us getting everything done on time, and that our lack of understanding the language and the customs paperwork procedure would only further complicate it. We could not have been more mistaken!

Here is the procedure and experience for both Immigration and customs today in Ambon:


Take a Bemo to the “Terminal”. Then take Bus #12. Ask if they will bring you to ‘Imigrasi Kantor”. It will be going up a hill, behind gates on the right-hand side.

Today we went to Immigration, and it went very quickly, efficiently and professionally. They communicated the process to us, didn’t keep us waiting for hours only to tell us to come back another day, but told us right away to come back after 2 pm to get the visa. They didn’t try to overcharge us, or put us through interviews, or suggest bribes, or anything else negative. Here is the black and white copied paperwork you need in Ambon to get your extension started: (you need one copy for each person even if married). There is a copy shop nearby if forget something. They can not make copies at the office.

1. Copy of Visa and every extension stamp to date

2. Copy of current CAIT

3. Copy of Sponsor letter specific to Ambon

4. Copy of ID of Sponsor

5. Copy of Boat registration

6. Your passport

Then when they give you 2 papers, you bring them to the cashier who collects 300,000 rupiahs per passport. She makes some paperwork in about 10 minutes of waiting. You bring the stamped paperwork after you pay back to the front.

Then they tell you when you can get your passport.

You return and they give you your passport, but they do ask you to make a copy of the new stamp for them, which you can do down the road across from the hospital for less than 1000 Rp. You may think you can skip this step since you have your passport, but please don’t… let’s keep Ambon officials friendly and liking us yachties, as they seem to now.

You return to immigration and hand her the copies, and you are done.

The process was completed in less than a half day, and in perfect English, with a smile!


Take a Bemo to the 2 big mosques in the centre of the city (past ‘Terminal’). You will see PORT OF AMBON on a big arch near the water. Ask anyone to point you to ‘customs’ and everyone will point you down all the way to the left of the arch.

We went into the office wondering in our head if we weren’t supposed to have some customs paperwork. All we had was our customs clearance from Sangihe. They gave us an English interpreter who was very nice and polite, as was everyone in the office. They explained that it was difficult for them to do an extension with no paperwork, which is of course understandable! But they made lots of calls to Manado and others, and we called our agent, AJi Sudarso from Aswindo, and they all talked and got what they needed. They could have easily sent us away telling us to get the proper paperwork and come back later, but instead, they made a major effort to track down paperwork for us.

They didn’t want to keep us waiting, so they went ahead and did the inspection on our boat. I was worried they would make us move the boat 2 hours up the harbour to a terribly uncomfortable anchorage, to get close to their office, but with a smile, and in a very nice car, they drove us down to Lateri – 4 villages/a half hour away from the city where we were anchored. We took them out to the boat, and they took some pictures and asked some standard questions, and then we brought them back to the dock in our dinghy, and they drove us back to the office. No paperwork for us to fill out, just some standard questions, everyone in a very friendly manner.

They didn’t want to keep us waiting when we returned after the inspection, so they said they would email it to us when it was complete in maybe 2 days. Before we even got back to the boat, I got a text saying that the paperwork was in my email, and that as soon as Manado processed it we would get another email, but that we had fulfilled our duty and could leave whenever we wanted.  At all times the exchanges with everyone were friendly, professional, and very efficient. The interpreter, Galih, is very very helpful and will transform Indonesian formalities if they give him a chance.

The whole thing took less than 3 hours, but probably a whole lot more behind the scenes work by the men at customs to make it all happen in time! At least 2 of them worked right through lunchtime, the day before a holiday, to make it all happen! Dedication and customer service at its finest.

SO kudos to all of the officials in Ambon!!! They all deserve raises and awards! They are definitely working WITH the tourism people to promote tourism and yachts visiting, and while they take their jobs very seriously, and don’t skip steps, they worked hard to provide outstanding customer service to us. We will most definitely be sad to leave Indonesia in 6 or 8 weeks, but we will be returning as soon after that as we can!!! The effort is definitely worth it to see this beautiful and friendly nation!

On a negative note, we HAVE friends here that just checked in with social visas, and the 2-month initial period was ignored, and only 1 month was given, with 5 renewals instead of 6 – so same time period, just not a 2-month initial breather from extensions. So it’s not perfect here yet, but it seems like they are on the road to recovery with the tough paperwork. Don’t get me wrong..they follow the rules to the nth degree here…so have everything in order. But if you do…the officials here are working to make life a little easier for cruisers.

But on a positive note…the little nuances and annoyances here are what keep most cruisers from spending lots of time here…and the lack of cruisers in this area is what makes cruising Indonesia rather nice!

Rebecca Childress

SV Brick House

Currently cruising Eastern Indonesia

January 22nd 2015 – Update

We just extended our visas again in Tual in the Kei Islands. They are equally as efficient, courteous and professional as in Ambon. We went at 330pm one day ( they close at 4 pm), and they had our visas ready by 1045am the next morning for us.  The office is not very busy, but when they have a customer, they work hard to get it done quickly for you. Kudos to another Indonesian Immigration office.

Bring passports, a copy of Sponsor Letter, (They asked if we had a local sponsor, but were fine with the answer- No – our sponsor is from Jakarta), and a copy of your sponsor’s ID. That is all. Standard 300k charge per person that we have paid for all extensions except the first one, which was 355k in Sorong.

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