The fun of being a long term, adventure traveller brings with it the fun of dealing with embassies and consulates.
Applying for a visa to enter our next country or even renewing visas always brings a sense of trepidation. I steel myself for a recent regulation change, an overly officious power drunk customs officer or even a drunk, power drunk official.
Many of the visas take days to be processed and the consulates/embassies can be extremely difficult to locate. Google maps often thinks the consulates are in the middle of a rice paddy or over a rickety bamboo bridge in a small village. If you are needing an expeditious visa renewal, do your homework and check and double check the location and process required.
Every renewal process is different, even in the same country but in a different locale. Check out the various expat social media sites which keep abreast of the processes, which borders are open or closed and which not to even attempt. Most importantly, keep the whole week aside to focus on the task at hand and find a hotel as near as possible to the issuing office/consulate/embassie.
The application for an Indonesian visa in Dili, Timor Leste was an exercise in officialdom at its best
This is the process:
Step/Day 1 : In the front of the Indonesian Embassie, there is a lectern type shelf with a book.
Arrive at the Embassie at 8.30am to be at the front of the line to write your name and passport number in the book for an appointment time the following day. Even though you do not enter the building at this stage, you must be dressed appropriately and both men and women must heed this protocol of having your legs covered. ie long pants or sarongs.
I’m assuming this requirement is due to the fact that Indonesia is largely a Muslim country, so you might as well prepare yourself for the customary requirements now.
If you complete this step properly, you will receive two forms to fill out and return the following day.
If you do not dress appropriately you will be turned away, as was a fellow traveller whose clothes were still in Port. Disrespectful as it seems, after being denied entry, he arrived up with towels duct taped to his legs!
Remember, you can lose a day in the process if you forget this protocol! They may turn you away.
Step/Day 2: In aforementioned respectful clothes, arrive at the Embassie at 8.30 (not 9.00 as it says on the sign) to wait for your name to be called out. Just to be sure, we also wore socks under our sandals and we also wore long sleeved shirts.
Ensure you have the following with you;
a. Passport photo of yourself with a RED background (available in town)
b. A Letter of Introduction (LOI) written by yourself to The Ambassador of Indonesia on A4 paper in black pen. This outlines your intended route. If it is not on appropriate paper they will give you some to rewrite it on. (No notebook paper won’t do!)
c. The two forms must be filled out in black pen also. Yes it MUST be black. They will require addresses in Indonesia as well as current employer contact details. (Do they verify this information? I doubt it)
e.Copy of passport photo page.(if it is a visa renewal you also need a copy of your visa page)
We waited in the office directly inside the little front door, seated with other applicants around the perimeter of the room.
Your name will be called out in the order fn the list of the previous day. Be alert as you may not recognise your name the way they say it. The locals will mysteriously know it is you though and may give you a nudge!
There is a two step process to check your documents and then, if in order, you are ushered into another waiting area in front of two Lokets with a number. Loket One and Loket Two are two windows in front of which are people waiting respectfully and quietly on church like pews.
The numbers are called out in Indonesian and fortunately an English speaking nun (who told me she never crossed the roads by herself as they were too scary!) was kind enough to tell me after about the sixth call that my number ‘Six’ was being called.
I requested a multi entry visa, but the woman in Loket 1 said that I need a good reason for her to tell her boss. My reason wasn’t good enough to even make her blink, so without further question I paid my $50US, collected a receipt and left with the appropriate respectful demeanour required by such officiousness. It seems I was getting a single entry visa.
Step 3: All going well the process should take three days. (Remember,if you arrive in Bali by plane, none of this is applicable and you can arrive in shorts and thongs and pay just $30!)
Dressed in sarongs and covered footwear, we arrived on the Friday at the appointment time of 2.00pm.(You used to have to wear collared shirts!)
At precisely, 2.00pm Friday, four days after the process had begun, we were ushered into the Loket area with all the people we had seen on the Tuesday. Once again, people waited silently and respectfully on the pews. I had noticed that they all had white pieces of paper in their hands and the nun again kindly informed me that we needed our receipts. Not wanting to be turned away because of no receipts we fished around in our paperwork to locate them. So now we looked just like everyone else with white receipts in hand, long pants and covered shoes. No one spoke, all was quiet.
Once again Loket 1 woman raised her window to the quiet waiting group of respectful citizens.
To my amazement, this time the patient, quiet crowd turned into a frenzy of white receipts being shoved at the woman in Loket 1. There was a rush as they vied to be first, pushing their receipts through the window on top of the pile in the Loket woman’s hand. Realising that we had been left behind, we too pushed in to force our white receipts upon the woman, hoping they had made it into the pile.
As quickly as they had broken ranks, they all quietly returned to their pews to wait in an orderly manner again. The craziness of this outburst of pushy behaviour instantly sent me into fits of laughter which I couldn’t suppress. Once again in silent respect, they all stared at this mad woman laughing at nothing.
With that, in walked a late comer to the throng, without a receipt in hand. A fellow Australian had walked into the process without a receipt and just sat down waiting for his name to be called, unaware of what had just transpired. This again sent me into fits of laughter. I whispered to him that he needed his receipt.
After about five minutes of silent waiting and some giggling, our names were called out in some “order” and Locket 1 woman handed over our passports complete with single entry Indonesian visas. (30 day, 3 month validity)
Sigh of relief and we had survived the officiousness and posturing of the “Embassie of Indonesie”, ready to cross the border into West Timor.