Taken for a Ride

September 11, 2015

Nobody likes getting ripped off and, for whatever reason, it hurts me on a personal level. At the end of the day I feel that the money I have paid was worth the service I received, but I was seriously chaffed by the way I was treated.

When I arrived on the beach here in Kupang, I had just about no information about how to proceed through clearance. I had read the few sparse pages in our guidebook, and had one additional number to call for a local agent. I had already paid an agent for our CAIT (AU$260) and 60 day Social Visas (AU$280 for four of us). And when the local agent here approached me on the beach and asked for US$150 I said “too much.” He insisted that this was the standard rate, and no matter how much I negotiated I was in a weak bargaining position and felt forced to concede to his rate. I later found that even the US$100 I was asking for, was more than the going rate.

The following is a breakdown of the costs I paid, and what I should have paid. I hope it serves someone down the line and helps put them in a better position than I was in.

Item I paid I should have paid
Local Agent*  IDR 2,005,000 (AU $205)  IDR 1,000,000 (AU $100)
Diesel**  IDR 13,000/liter (AU$1.30/liter)  IDR 10,000 (AU $1)
Taxi  IDR 100,000/hour (AU $10)  IDR 65,000 (AU $6.50)

I found all of this out when I got a ride with a much more honest agent. He told me what he would charge (the prices listed above) and said, “even then, I am making good money.”

If you are coming through Kupang, I strongly encourage you to look up Raly (ph: 0821-4541-9838).


Get your sim card here!

If you don’t have a sim card to call him with, go into the square by the beach, on the right hand side there is a large electronics (cell phone) store. Towards the back, on the right, there is a Telkomsel booth where you can buy a sim card. The data is cheap (AU$5 for 3.5GB) and the phone minutes are about $1/100 minutes. This all expires in 45 days if you don’t top up, so keep that in mind. As a side note, make sure that your sim card is “activated” (“Aktivasi Kartu”), it costs a little more but I’m pretty sure you can’t activate your card easily by yourself.

Armed with this tool, you will be able to call Raly, and get information easily. I strongly recommend downloading the Google Translate app for your device, and then getting the Offline Indonesia language pack. I found that I could just hand the phone to whoever I was talking with and work through everything with that and a smile.

If you want to go ultra cheap and do clearance on your own, I have heard that you can hire a taxi for IDR 350,000 to take you to Immigration, Customs, Quarantine, and Harbor Master (in that order). Everything is negotiable.

If you go the independent route, keep in mind that Immigration takes siesta from roughly 12pm – 1:30pm. The quarantine officer was doing something on the beach when we arrived at 3ish, and the Harbormaster may leave around 3:30-4pm each day. Get started early in the day (8am) and leave two days to complete clearance.


On the plus side, every single department we visited was a lovely experience. I had people hiking up my sleeve at the Immigration office to have a closer look at my tattoo, at the Customs office, there was similar joviality with guys asking me where I was from and making astonished faces when I told them about our voyage so far.

The best though was the Harbormaster’s office. I brought the whole family for that one and we arrived in time to see the Friday morning exercise dancing in the parking lot. The staff got so excited when Miles and Ruby showed a little boogie woogie, that they started hooting and pointing. When the dancing was over, we were invited into an office and (it seemed) the entire staff was invited in as well. They asked a million questions (with the help of Google Translate) and one guy adopted Miles as his new little friend. Everyone wanted a picture with the kids, and there was much laughter. When we were driving away Ruby said, “I didn’t expect this to be fun but it  was so much fun!

I recommend a very relaxed attitude and a big smile for the clearance process, and hope you enjoy the process as much as we did!



* The agent’s fee should cover transportation, bribes, and any other incidentals (whatsoever) that may arise.

** Dodged a bullet on this one and managed to get out of the “deal” before anyone was committed.


  1. Comment by Elaine Cashar via Facebook

    Elaine Cashar via Facebook September 11, 2015 at 8:58 am

    Great write up. You should send this in to the SSCA

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford September 11, 2015 at 9:42 am

      Thanks Elaine, I hadn’t thought of that. What is the mechanism? Do I email it to someone? or does it go into the forum?

  2. Comment by Margaret Moon via Facebook

    Margaret Moon via Facebook September 12, 2015 at 3:19 am

    Hello Vic, Miles, Ruby and Tucker! Great to know that the adventure continues

  3. Comment by Jennifer - s/v Luna Sea

    Jennifer - s/v Luna Sea September 13, 2015 at 7:21 am

    That is really great info – thank you for sharing!

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