The Social Visa: Wondering How All These Surf Stars Are Cruising Around Indo? Here Ya Go

24 Sep 2020 6 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

Photo by justsurfing / CW Community

Photo by justsurfing / CW Community

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Remember when all this carnage started in March?

And how briefly it looked like a whole Indo surf season would be going untravelled?

Back then, we figured that surfers being who they are, if there was a way, someone was going to find it.

In this case, “it” is the Indonesian social visa. And if you’re wondering how the likes of Kelly Slater, Strider Wasilewski, and Dino and Kolohe Andino have been able to access Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Java, the Mentawais and other epic, once in a lifetime uncrowded Indo surf spots in recent weeks, wonder no more.

If you’ve been on an Indo trip, you’ll be familiar with the usual tourist entry system: visa exemption on arrival. That’s been offline for months. But another kind of visa — a longer stay entry for foreigners on business, vouched for by an Indonesian sponsor and by their own material wealth — never went offline.

The visa is a variant on the social-cultural longer stay visa familiar to many surfers and other travellers who spend their winter months holed up somewhere on the Island of the Gods.

In this case, it requires a travel reason linked to a business or project within Indo. This doesn’t include actual working, but might include surf-type research, like inspecting a surf resort with a view to investing. Professional sport is also listed as a possible reason in the Indonesian Consulate website.

A letter of support from an Indonesian business entity is required, along with proof of US$1500 in immediately available funds. Once equiped, you apply in person to the nearest consulate.

It’s a relatively simple process. Unless you’re an Australian.

From a US perspective its easy,” says Jamie Gray, owner of The Perfect Wave surf travel company.

Jamie’s US agents, along with others, are selling it to selected clients. His Indonesian agent Rudi was responsible for handling Slater’s entry under the system. (The travel plan to get him from the US to Bali, by the way, was NOT easy; Jamie describes it as “pretty brutal”.)

But US citizens aren’t subject to the Australian blanket ban on international travel, which has been more than hard core. We’ve all read the stories about people being denied family funerals. Says Jamie: “Leaving Australia has loosened up a little bit if you can prove you’re on essential business.”

But currently there’s only two flights per month — Garuda — from Australia to Jakarta, and that may be scaled back to one in the near future.

The visa is also a two month minimum stay. The official fee is just $80, but once you employ a local agent to smooth the way, the costs expand, sometimes beyond $1000.

Add the current two week quarantine requirement on return to Oz, with its $3000 price tag, and as Jamie says, “from a commercial standpoint it’s a bit much.”

Of course there’s also the risk of picking up the virus itself, in a nation of innumerable islands where testing is as minor as it gets.

But most of the current surf travel retinue — wealthy clients from the U, Europe and the Middle East — are choosing other, maybe less taxing locations: Maldives, Mexico, Central America. Places you can get to easily from the US via private plane, or from Dubai or Europe on commercial flights. “Its brilliant to experience Bali and the Mentawais as it is now, but you gotta be dedicated to do it.”

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