Having traveled so much during the Pandemic, it was time for me to go diving back in my favorite place in the world, Indonesia. Indonesia has the best scuba diving in the world and I was dying to go back there. However, the country has largely been closed off to the outside world since the beginning of the pandemic.
I’ve been monitoring the reopening news for Indonesia for quite some time and as of Oct 2021, it has official reopened to the world. However, “reopen” is a very generous word to use for the current situation in Indonesia. While the country says its open, there are huge hurdles to cross. The reopening process has more or less been a complete disaster.
This guide will discuss everything you need to know about Bali and Indonesia’s reopening, which are ever changing. I will update this guide as the news cycle updates (which it will constantly). If you are keen to visit Indonesia right now, then make sure to constantly check back on the updates!
Update March 27, 2022: Quarantine has been completely scrapped. All you must do is just show a hotel booking for 1 night and wait until your test at the airport returns negative. Therefore, it looks like Bali is completely reopened! There are now 43 countries eligible for the Visa on arrival with more countries soon to be added.
Update March 8, 2022: The Visa On Arrival is back! If you are from a list of 23 countries and flying into Bali (can’t fly into Jakarta), you can obtain a VOA for 500k IDR. Quarantine is also changed. You now need to book a CSHE hotel for 3 nights but you are free to travel around Bali after a negative PCR test result (you will take one when you land at the airport). You’ll need to take another test on Day 3 and if negative, you are totally free.
Update February 16, 2022: Quarantine reduced to 3 days. Bali has officially reopened with international flights from Singapore. You can now do your quarantine in a Bali hotel!
Update Feb 4, 2022: Quarantine will be reduced from 7 days to 5 days. No more countries on the restricted list.
Update Jan 6, 2022: Quarantine reduced from 10 days to 7 days. France added to the no travel list. Only Indonesia citizens can travel from France to Indonesia and must quarantine for 10 days. B211A business visa still required to enter the country.
Update Dec 1, 2021: Quarantine increased from 7 days to 10 days in Indonesia. UK, Denmark added to the no travel list.
Updates Nov 29, 2021: All citizens of Southern African countries are not allowed into Indonesia due to the Omicron Variant: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini, and Nigeria.
Quarantine also increased from 3 days to 7 days.
- 1 Can you visit Indonesia and Bali right now?
- 2 How about visiting Bali?
- 3 Obtaining the B211A Business/Tourist Visa
- 4 Quarantining in Jakarta
- 5 Quarantining in Bali
- 6 Quarantining in Manado
- 7 Is it worth it to visit Indonesia/Bali right now?
Can you visit Indonesia and Bali right now?
As of writing this article in Nov 2021, Yes you can visit Indonesia.
Indonesia reopened back in October 2021 allowing international tourists to visit the country with very specific rules. Currently, the main highlights of this rule are the following:
- You must apply for a visa before arrival: Prior to COVID, tourists were allowed a free 30 day visa upon arrival. Now, you must apply for a B211A visa prior to arrival. This visa is complex and you’ll need to go through a visa agent to obtain one. The cost is roughly $250-$300 and takes at least a week to obtain. More information on this later
- PCR test prior to arrival: Self Explanatory
- Quarantine in a specific hotel for 7 days (As of Nov 29, 2021): You must complete a 7 day hotel quarantine at a designated hotel in Jakarta. No getting around this and you’ll need to pay out of pocket. You’ll also need to take PCR tests before leaving quarantine. You must quarantine if you are fully vaccinnated! This quarantine length has changed constantly. It started at 14 days back in October 2021, before reducing to 7 days, to 5 days, to 3 days, and now back to 7 days. Here is the official list of quarantine hotels in Jakarta
- Anyone from any country can come to Indonesia to do the quarantine (with a visa of course)
- Once you complete the quarantine, you are free to travel around Indonesia, aka flights to Bali, flight to Lombok, flight to Labuan Bajo to visit Komodo etc.
How about visiting Bali?
As of Oct 2021, Bali reopened to the world and came out with a list of countries that could fly directly to Bali. This list of countries at the time were chosen because of their low COVID rates which I’m sure will change again.
The official website, Welcome Back to Bali, actually has good timely updates and information. The current advice from the website is the following which applies to Bali and Jakarta
What does this all mean?
If you’re from one of the countries on this list, you might be thinking, okay great I can fly into Bali which solves the problem of visiting Jakarta (because who wants to fly into Jakarta?)
This is what I thought at first. I could just fly from my home in Frankfurt, Germany to somewhere like Paris and then take a flight to Bali that way. If I have to do a quarantine, I’d much rather do it in the beauty of a Balinese villa than some concrete dungeon in Jakarta.
The problem is, there are no flights into Bali. Currently, there are no international flights into Bali. This means that the only way to get to Bali is to fly into Jakarta and take a domestic flight into Bali. However, if your first point of arrival into Indonesia is Jakarta, that is where you must do the quarantine.
Why are there no flights to Bali?
When Bali first announced its reopening in October 2021, there was excitement for the completely decimated tourism operators on the island. Airlines that had typically flown directly into Bali prior to the Pandemic like Qatar, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, KLM, Cathay, etc all had flights planned.
However, these flights never materialized because think about it. How many tourists are going to visit an island where you need to quarantine for an amount of days that always changes, apply for a visa beforehand that is complicated, and potentially have to deal with sudden lockdown measures.
Little to none.
No tourists are up for this.
Therefore, no airlines are up for this either because that is just a sure way to financial ruin. Let’s be clear, an airline’s job is to make money first and foremost.
Obtaining the B211A Business/Tourist Visa
As of now, visiting Bali means you’ll need to obtain a visa before arrival. You can’t just get any visa either. This is not like applying for an e-visa to Turkey or Azerbaijan where you just fill out a form, pay a few bucks, and you get an email later.
This B211A visa is essentially the business visa for Indonesia for people that want to actually start up a business or do some sort of commerce in the country. It is (supposed to be) a real visa for those that are not looking to just party or be recreational in the country.
However, for whatever reason, the Government has made this a requirement for all visitors to Bali and Indonesia, regardless of their duration of stay or intent of visit. This visa is much more cumbersome and requires submitting a lot of paperwork. That’s why you will need to go through a visa agent to get this visa. I will explain to you how to get this done!
Requirements for obtaining a B211A Visa
You will need the following information handy when applying for a B211A visa
- Completed Visa Application Form (download Visa Application Form). Visa Application Form can also be obtained at the Visa & Consular Section at the Embassy, Mon-Fri, 09.30 – 12.00).
- Original passport with at least 6 (six) months validity upon the intended date of arrival in Indonesia.
- Copy of valid passport.
- For non Sweden or Latvia citizens, attach a copy of valid Sweden or Latvia resident permit.
- One colored photo (Passport Size) with light background (preferably white), attached to the Visa Application Form.
- Copy of round-trip flight (two-ways flight) or travel itinerary.
- Copy of bank statement or proof of sufficient funds during the whole period of stay in Indonesia. For traveling family, only one bank statement or proof of sufficient funds per family is needed.
- For business, conference, or meeting purposes, attach the attestation or reference letter from the Sweden or Latvia based company or institution and an invitation letter from the Indonesia based partner company or institution.
- For social or family visit, attach the invitation letter from Indonesia based family or friend and copy of their national ID (KTP or Indonesian Passport)
- For internship, attach the reference letter from applicant’s education institution and an invitation or reference letter from the Indonesian based company/organization/other local partner.
- For non-profit activity (volunteering), attach the invitation or reference letter from the Indonesian based company/organization/other local partner.
- Copy of the bank payment receipt:
All this sounds like a nightmare yes? Absolutely. Like I said, you’re applying for a legit visa to do business in the country. The Government of course will turn a blind eye to this and accept that you are not doing any “business” but they still want you to obtain it.
How to get the B211A visa? Use a Visa Agent
If you don’t feel like doing all the work for getting the visa and foregoing a trip to Indonesia altogether, I don’t blame you. However, if you are still keen to get this visa, then simply find a visa agent in Indonesia to do this for you.
There are so many agencies set up for these visas and I’m sure they are having a business boom. They are probably the only people having a business boom in the tourism sector in Indonesia at the moment.
I used Bali Visas to obtain my B211A visa. They were recommended to me by others who’ve done the process and they’ve been quite professional so far. They guide you step by step with what you need to provide and it’s actually not as scary of a process as the official wording makes it out to be. Here is the application from Balivisas:
For pricing, you’ll need to pay up for this visa. I paid 3.5m IDR (About $250) to use their service. You can pay an additional 500,000 IDR for an expedited service.
After you’ve submitted the application and paid, you don’t need to do much else if you’ve submitted everything correctly.
Duration of the B211 Visa
The B211a Visa is valid for up to 180 days. This is broken down into the initial visa being valid for 60 days, and then you’ll need to extend it 4 times at an immigration office in Indonesia while you’re in the country. Each extension is valid for up to a month and you’ll need to pay (not much however).
This visa is single-entry meaning you can only enter once. If you leave the country even for a day, you’ll need to do this whole process over again, as well as paying for it again.
The Visa is good for 90 days upon receiving it which means you have 90 days to enter the country. For example, if you applied for the visa on December 1 and received it on Dec 8, this means you have until March 8 (90 days) to enter the country.
Receiving the B211A Visa
I received my B211A Visa in roughly 10 business days from application which fit firmly in their promised of under 14 business days. The visa is just a piece of paper that looks somewhat official but nothing fancy. Make sure to print it out if you can.
Quarantining in Jakarta
Quarantining in Jakarta is what most people will have to do at this moment. There are numerous hotels of all different levels that are offering quarantining packages at the moment.
Quarantine in Jakarta is very strict. You are not allowed to leave your hotel room for any reason. Three meals are delivered to your room every day and you just essentially have to chill and do nothing for the required amount of time.
There is also a website for a list of all the Jakarta quarantine hotels for you to peruse and decide where you want to quarantine.
Quarantining in Bali
As of this moment, there is no chance to quarantine in Bali because there are no international flights into Bali. Remember, you must quarantine at the first point of entry into Indonesia. If you have a flight to Bali but it has a layover in Jakarta, then guess what you will quarantine in Jakarta.
I think it has to do with some serious beef between the governor of Bali and the head of state in Jakarta. It’s been two years at this point and there are still no direct flights into Bali from even previous hotspots like Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
In fact, what is crazy is that there is an international flight into Manado where you can quarantine there!
Quarantining in Manado
As of Oct 2021, there are quarantine hotels available on Sulawesi in the town of Manado. You will need to take a flight directly into Manado and the only option available is flying Scoot airlines from Singapore to Manado.
If you are not from Singapore, you can take any flight that transits through Singapore via Singapore Airlines. Scoot is a part of Singapore Airlines so you can book this as part of one flight itinerary.
For example, you can take the flight from Los Angeles to Singapore to Manado. Or Frankfurt to Singapore to Manado. Just make sure you book this as one flight itinerary and not two separate bookings.
Arrival in Manado AIrport
Manado Airport is small and upon arrival, you don’t need to wait for hours on end for your PCR tests to be taken. My flight on Scoot airlines arrived from Bangkok to Singapore to Manado with only 20 people on board.
It was the only flight arriving to Manado at the time which meant that the entry process was very easy.
Upon arrival, I first received a PCR test (mouth and nose but not too bad). Then I went to a station to check my documents which included checking my vaccine card, PCR test (which I did in Thailand two days before), and my passport.
Afterwards, I proceeded to the immigration official which checked my B211A visa. He asked me a few questions like what I was doing in Indonesia to which I replied that I was here for “business” which of course is not true. He also asked to see a return ticket.
Customs was next which just checked my bags but didn’t open anything.
All in all, I was done with the entire entry process in 30 minutes which is crazy because I had heard horror stories of people in Jakarta waiting 6+ hours to finish everything.
Quarantine hotels in Manado
I did my quarantine in Manado on the island of Bangka. There are numerous dive resorts on Bangka that are on the beach and available for quarantine. You can use your front deck and you have picture perfect beach views to boot. This is absolutely the way to do quarantine in Indonesia because you feel like a human being. You can breathe fresh air and can hear the waves crashing into the beach every evening.
The food is also much better because it comes straight from the resort’s kitchen whereas many of the Jakarta hotels outsource their catering.
My advice is absolutely to not quarantine in Jakarta, and quarantine in Manado instead!
Is it worth it to visit Indonesia/Bali right now?
So now you’re completely familiar with the requirements and the situation for visiting Indonesia. You might be asking, is it still worth going?
Having to quarantine for so many days and applying for a visa is a real headache. Unless you are a die hard Indonesia traveler and will be spending many months there, it is simply not worth it. If you have a two week vacation, you’re pretty much dooming half of that vacation to quarantine. What’s the point in that?
My honest opinion on the Indonesian reopening
I think that the Indonesian Government really does not care about tourism at the moment. Even though it’s a significant part of the economy and an absolute crucial part of an economy like Bali, it is not the main focus right now. The Government “reopened” the country as a way to show that they are doing “something” for the tourist industry.
However, what they’ve done is essentially reopen on paper but not in practice. Sure you can “visit” Indonesia but you’ll need to pay $300 for a visa, and another $300-500 for a hotel quarantine. So you are out almost $1000 before even leaving the airport. The quarantine hotels are also engaging in some serious price gouging because you have no choice but to pay for it.
That is absolute insanity.
This just screams that the Government does not want tourists right now. If they did, they would adopt something similar to Thailand’s reopening play which has been quite successful. They are too scared about COVID’s impact on its people so they’d rather just stay closed for the time being. This is of course a valid concern and not something I will get into.
Adding these strict entry requirements essentially ensures that 99% or even 99.9% of tourists will not come to Bali.
Are there any tourists visiting Indonesia right now?
This news article from WSJ sums it up nicely,
Foreign hordes are the least of their worries now. Just 43 travelers from abroad visited during the first nine months of 2021, down from 6.3 million in all of 2019, according to Bali’s statistics office. Monkeys that once feasted off tourist offerings are raiding local restaurants.
This is of course for the first 9 months of 2021 before Bali was open to the world but I suspect the numbers for the whole year 2021 will be less than 1% of the 2019 numbers, thereby ensuring additional pain for already struggling citizens of the island.
I don’t suspect the quarantine rule to let up until sometime in Q1 or Q2 2022. Until the quarantine is relaxed, there is no way there will be tourists visiting Bali or Indonesia. In the best scenario: 3 day quarantine + B211A Visa, you’re looking at spending about $600 before you even leave the airport. With a 10 day quarantine, this means you’ve spent about $1,000 and sacrificed a chunk of your mental health before even leaving the airport.
The only foreigners visiting Indonesia at the moment are likely non-Indonesia citizens with an Indonesia background/family, long term travelers and those that have actual work/business in the country.
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