Finally! A Non-Torment Way to Book Indonesia Domestic Flights Online

I have gone on the record that Indonesia is my least favorite country to travel, however that my last visit was cathartic and I was feeling better. Then I started planning this next trip and it all came back. There is really no excuse for a major country with a massive tourist industry to not function on the most basic tasks of travel. Yes, those fly in, plop yourself at Bali resort, then fly out trips are great. Traveling the country is vastly different, an experience where you almost want to give in to one rickshaw/tuk tuk driver just to keep the others from hassling you as you walk down the street.

(Note: to be clear, I am speaking specifically to the travel experience from a number of trips around the country. Entirely different to consider are the people of the country, living in the country, doing business in it, etc. I certainly enjoy hanging out with Indonesian friends removed from the travel hustle. I am only saying it is my least favorite country for the travel experience.)

This trip is only to cross off my final two Indonesia stops for Travelers Century Club: Maluku and West Papua. First I battled Air France for award tickets on Garuda. That sometimes works, sometimes not. It seems Garuda’s routing rules for published fares are extremely limited. Much of what Air France sees as connecting itineraries in fact cannot be booked with Garuda itself as paid tickets.

I moved on to buying paid tickets. Credit card fraud in Indonesia must be massive. Try booking anything Indonesia online and your credit card company is sure to block. I had Citi block my cards 5 times before they allowed me to transact. Then, of course, Indonesian airlines and OTAs routinely block foreign cards and may not bother to tell you it is a hopeless effort. It is confusing because they splash MasterCard and Visa logos everywhere, but that is only relevant for local cards and perhaps those issued from some Asian countries.

Here’s a summary:

  • Garuda Indonesia website accepts foreign cards
  • Air Asia website accepts foreign cards
  • Sriwijaya will take the reservation on hold, then you need to contact their customer service to process the transaction
  • Lion Air website rejects foreign cards and tells you nothing
  • Most international OTAs do not list Indonesia flights, those that do have a huge markup
  • Tiket blocks foreign cards unless you whitelist a card by sending unsecure photos of your passport and card (you only find this out through support chat)

tiket-card-whitelist

  • traveloka blocks foreign cards and a ticket is opened that you might hear back in 24 hours

traveloka-declined

  • nusatrip accepts foreign cards without hassle – whaaaat? The prices are in line with the airlines and OTAs, too!

nusatrip-reservation-successful-1And again!

nusatrip-reservation-successful-2Hurray for nusatrip!

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  • Mel

    +1

  • brian

    I’ve had very good luck just googling a random Indonesian travel agency and having them book my LCC tickets that couldn’t be paid for online with a US credit card.

    It does take a few e-mails, but they can quickly put the flights(s) on hold and give you a day to pay via Paypal.

  • Tom

    Brings back memories of Indonesia budget travel 10 years ago. What a thrill–a tricky, patience-draining, exhausting thrill!

  • I love travelling around Indonesia but did not enjoy missing our return flights from Singapore becausecheck authorities had decided to close the airport in Bali and just not tell us. We turned up for our Lion Air flight to find the airport deserted because of a G20 summit and we had never been informed.

  • Rick b

    Congratulations, you’ve discovered the matrix lol. I’ve been doing this for several years out of necessity to get to scuba diving spots. Most dive shops will tell you about it or help with the booking.

    Sometimes nusatrip will fail to accept a card and many “direct” flights really have a stopover that’s not revealed so it takes some experience.

    Just remember a flight is always going to be delayed and gates will Likely change without any visible announcement until last minute so always be alert at the airport and keep asking the gate staff repeatedly. Lol

  • Rick b

    Btw why are you going to Maluku or West Papua? Unless you’re going diving get ready for a word of hurt getting around there on the ground. Those are the kinds of places where you better of getting on a dive cruise straight from the airport.

  • For a long time, Indonesia was the #1 country I wanted to visit in Asia, for it’s amazing and varied natural and cultural wonders. I’ve put it off, time and time again, because you and others have warned me of the hassles, annoyances, and frustrations that come with it. I keep hoping that in just one more year they’ll get their act together. At some point, I will just have to dive in!

  • @Becky, Indonesia is not as bad as it sounds.
    If you are looking for cultural wonders, Yogyakarta is my favorite city in Indonesia. Garuda and AirAsia fly there, so tickets are easy to book; plenty of good and inexpensive hotels (agoda is great for hotels in Indo); people are friendly and I had no issues with taxis or touts (rare, but true!)
    You can check out why you should visit Yogya here: http://dreamtravelonpoints.com/2016/01/explore-historic-temples-without-the-crowds-yogyakarta-indonesia/

  • @brian – that is the fallback, I get so frustrated with the extra time of dealing with agencies for something so simple (at least nearly anywhere else in the world).

  • @Rick b – indeed, I am nervous about this routing, especially Lion Air. My trip a few years ago Lion canceled my flights to Kalimantan several days before departure with no alternate and no explanation. I was originally going to limit to Maluku, then got greedy and added West Papua. Why going to them? I am not a diver, wish I was, I used to love swimming, then from college age on I got tremendous pain diving under only a few feet and have not found a doctor to sort it out. Travelers Century Club divides Indonesia into 7 territories, so I confess this trip is only to gather my final 2. Yeah, that’s week but that will finish off Asia region for me.

  • @Becky – at one point I was not going to Maluku or West Papua until Air Asia start service. They have not. There are a lot of rewards to visiting the country if you have the time, the right mood, and carefully choose your spots. I say it is my least favorite not because it is the worst by any stretch, rather that it should be so much better as a travel experience.

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  • Boris Minevich

    Stefan, where in Maluku are you going? Ambon only? Banda ( Spice) Islands are beautiful, but there was no air service there back in 2015 ( maybe still), the only way to get there was 8 hours Pelni boat ride twice/month. Ambon is as dump as any Indonesian town. And where in Raja Ampat are you going?
    I did similar trip in January of 2015 visiting Maluku ( Banda Ai) for 5 days and Raja Ampat (Kri) for 8 days.
    For some reson I had no problem at all booking Fflying Blue award ticket Bangkok-Jakarta-Makassar-Jayapura-Sorong open jaw Ambon-Jakarta-Taipei for 20,000 round trip plus taxes. I had to call Paris but it took like 10 minutes for the whole process. All the flights were on Garuda but Jakarta to Taipei was on China Air. Sorong to Ambon I think I connected with Wings Air for like $73 because Garuda does not fly that route.
    You do not have to dive at Raja or Maluku, offshore snorkeling at both is as good as it gets, you can even see reef sharks at both places. Raja had birds of paradise guided hikes of Kri.
    Let me know if I can be of any assistance.

  • @Boris Minevich – there seems to be something really strange about Indonesia domestic flights. I had no trouble booking my Sorong-Makassar-Jakarta-Singapore for 10,000, while the domestic only work with specific routings that Garuda has published revenue fares. Anyway, cash prices for altenrate flights are cheap.

    Thanks for all the tips. This is going to be short, a half-day each in Ternate and Ambon, and a half-day in Sorong. I was going to leave Sorong to a separate trip and go to Raja Ampat, now I just want to be done with Travelers Century Club for Indonesia. I will try to slip in some snorkeling at your recommendation. Ambon has a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery that I plan to visit, the inscriptions and religions represented are moving.

  • Boris Minevich

    @ Becky, do not be put off by all the negativity. My biggest warning regarding Indonesia would be long bus rides as the roads even in Bali and Java are very bad and travel is free slow. Think of it as 15-30km/hour slow on bumpy roads. If you can tolerate that or avoid the road travel entirely that country ( outside of Bali and parts of Java) can provide you with some of the most memorable travel experiences you can ever have. Sulawesi, Flores, Raja Ampat, Maluku, even parts of Sumatra all have unique natural and cultural attractions. And some of the friendliest people in the world.

  • brian

    @Stefan – One half day each in those 3 places? Does that include airport transfers?!? On purpose you panned it? Sounds more like a shitty routing than a planned trip. This approach to “seeing the world” doesn’t do it for me. But to each his own.

    FYI – Indonesian lounges suck! The one in Madado even charges for using the espresso machine!

  • @brian – I reserve this treatment for Indonesia. I was originally going to spend 1 day Ambon, 1 day Ternate, then I got greedy and decided to slip in Sorong. Years ago I took a 9-day trip around Sulawesi and Java overland. I’ve had separate, shorter trips to Bali, Kalimantan and Bali. I have had enough of the country but am addicted to the Travelers Century Club chase at this point. I am not recommending it as an approach for others to visit Indonesia. Yes, I confess, this one is purely ticking the box and am not boasting of it. It was a convenient way and cheap fare to connect engagements in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. I’ll see what I can and move on.

  • @brian – adding that Indonesia airport lounghes suck, but in-airport restaurants, airside and landside, usually good and lots of variety.

  • brian

    @Stefan – Haha, ok….that makes a little more sense. You’re going to need some luck to get through the trip without some flight delays! Enjoy!

  • @brian – my eyebrow started twitching when I clicked to book the Lion Air Ambon-Sorong flight. I have not had good luck with them and that is my tight one that will be hard to recover.

  • Doug Swalen

    I’m booked to Indo at the end of the month…headed to West Papua too. I learned from the last time that Garuda was the lowest hassle option but even they can be trouble. Last time they kept shortening the layover I had in Bali as I flew to Bali from Labuan Bajo and then out to Lombok.

    This year Garuda really messed things up. They inverted my flights from Sorong-Bali so that the flight from Sorong to Manado left AFTER the flight from Manado to Bali. That sent me into scramble mode looking for a way back. I ended up routing through Makassar but my flight went from a 5 hour trip to a 9 hour trip. Ugh.

    If it wasn’t for Raja Ampat being so damn special, I wouldn’t bother with all this hassle.

    I’ll never fly Lion Air. They’ve crashed too many planes for my taste.