Expedition Leader &
Jakarta is humid, hot and stuffy. It has been raining since lunch, much like over the rest of Indonesia. I did not get out of the airport to see the city. It's an hour's drive. Plus it is a traffic jam from hell in the other half of the day. This is why I exchanged the money in the airport... But let me take you one step at a time: complete the migration cards onboard the plane (they are distributed on the Singapore-Jakarta flight). After landing, you will have a hard time finding blank forms on the terminal ahead of passport control. After debarking from the plane and before passport control, you have to get a visa stamped in your passport. You will immediately see where you can do this - look out for the line of arriving travelers. A 30-day visa costs 25 dollars, a 7-day visa - 10 dollars. We are not interested in the 7-day option. Pay at the stand and have a visa stamped in the passport.
Then you will have to wait in another monstrous line for passport control, but you may get lucky and there will be fewer people. As an optimization option, you can dispatch one of your fellow travelers to take a spot in the passport check line - you can get a visa in the passport holder's absence, as long as you have the passport. Both lines are 150 meters apart, so you will not get lost. Complete the passport check and then follow signs to collect your luggage. Then you walk out into the city. Immediately after passing customs control you will see a multitude of exchange offices. They are isolated in a separate zone where no obtrusive locals are allowed. I exchanged my money there. The exchange rate is 9,600 to 9,650 rupees to the dollar. But if you are exchanging a large amount and manage to persuade them, they will give you 9,700 rupees a dollar, just like Bob (our partner in Indonesia) said they would. The reverse exchange rate is 9,850 rupees to the dollar. The problem is that the exchange kiosk may not have enough dollars. But there are plenty of exchange offices, including those in the city. So even in the worst-case scenario you will be able to change your money back into dollars, albeit with a small loss.
Exchange offices issue receipts - make sure you get one. In the same exchange zone you can leave your bags at the left-luggage office. The service is cheap - I paid 10 dollars for two large backpacks. They accept luggage for 24 hours and are open 24/7 - keep this in mind. Here you can also order a taxi on one of the stands for the ride to the hotel.
The terminal is very long. You will be leaving from the second floor, most likely gate F4. There is a Starbucks (good to know for those who try to keep their caffeine low) on the second floor, along with an Internet cafe that charges 10 dollars an hour (you can connect your laptop). The terminal has Free Public WiFi, but I could not connect for some reason. Perhaps it was malfunctioning that day. There are restaurants, including Japanese cuisine. But since you are headed to the city, this may not interest you.
In general, I must say that it is a long flight, so it is a good thing that you will have time to rest at the hotel in Jakarta. I’d inquired about the exchange rate in the city. They say it is slightly higher than at the airport, but not by much. Incidentally, as soon as you leave this exchange zone without locals, you will immediately see much lower exchange rates outside the zone. This is all for now. I will send a text message from Biak or Nabire after meeting up with Bob.
Incidentally, when you leave Jakarta airport for Biak, be prepared to pay an export charge of 30,000 rupees at the registration stand. While wandering aimlessly through the airport, I ran into an exchange kiosk outside the exchange zone with a rate of 9,750 rupees to the dollar. Out of curiosity, I bought dollars with rupees. The exchange rate was 10,000 rupees per dollar. Nonetheless, there are no such stupid laws the kind they have in Nepal. A friend in Nepal withdrew Nepalese rupees in Nepal (their ATMs have no dollars) from his credit card - a little more than he needed to be on the safe side. Upon leaving the country he had 1,000 dollars worth of rupees left. He could not exchange the rupees back into dollars, as this is forbidden by law in Nepal. He had to give all his rupees to his guide as a tip - the man was on cloud nine.
While I was at it, I found two more WiFi networks in Jakarta airport, but both are off limits, meaning that the Internet cafe on the second floor is so far the only way to go online besides GPRS roaming. Incidentally, I checked it as well - it works with both MTS and MEGAFON.