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How to extend an Indonesian Visa

It is not easy to extend an Indonesian Visa. In other countries, formalities can be tough too, but at least it is possible to follow those formalities when you're still in the country. Not in Indonesia. Here, you will have to actually leave the country, in order to come back in and get a new visa. Strange, but true.

Since Indonesia is such a large country, consisting of many islands, leaving the country to extend an Indonesian visa isn't easy either. It is only possible to leave via Sumatra to Malaysia or Singapore, from West Timor to East Timor, to the Philipines from Sulawesi, or to Irian Jaya in the east. We choose a relatively new possibility: entering Malaysian Sabah from Indonesian Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. From Sulawesi we cross the Makassar Strait to Nunukan on Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. From there, we take the boat to Tawau on Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

By now, we know the trick with the Pelni boats. First we buy a Kelas Ekonomi ticket, only to exchange it later, on the boat, into a higher kelas (class). Although it is officially not allowed to mix boys and girls in a cabin, we manage to arrange one with a couple from Argentina and the Swiss girl Fabien we met earlier.

After an immaculate boat trip (we even spot a glimpse of some dolphins) we arrive at Nunukan. From here we have to arrange a ferry to Tawau. There is an enormous crowd on the quay and we have to struggle through the people to the terminal. Here we find out there is a ferry going in the afternoon, so we find a seat and try to handle the formalities. It has only been a few years that it is possible to take this route to leave the country, but customs can still refuse. When they see our papers they act as if they don't understand, and we fear we have to pay a bribe. But after some walking back and forth we are helped, and the required stamp appears in our passports

The ferry to Tawau is on time, and so we arrive in the afternoon in this little harbor town. It is a bit difficult to find a room though, hotels are either cheap and filthy, or clean and expensive. We finally decide to go for clean, and enjoy a warm shower, and watch some TV in our room.

Although Tawau is supposed to be just another harbor town, we quite like it. It has different restaurants and the streets are pleasant and clean. Yet, we will not stay long and after dinner in an Indian restaurant we say goodbye to our companions, who will return to Indonesia. We will take the bus to the jungle the next morning.



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