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How To Avoid An ‘Ambush’ By Customs Officers At Jakarta Airport

Posted by on 12 February 2011

If you are traveling to the Jakarta, the last thing you want to do is to be asked by Indonesian Customs to open up your luggage and endure a 100% check of your personal stuff and unmentionables.

The Preliminaries: Just before exiting Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, everyone must fill up a Customs Declaration Form and hand it over to a waiting Customs  officer. Even if you choose to go through the Green Lane (Nothing To Declare), you will be asked to put your hand-carried items ONLY through the luggage scanner.

The Ambush: Sometimes, out of the blue (or so it seems), the Customs officer on duty suddenly picks out random checked-in luggage (at least, it LOOKS random) and asks an unsuspecting traveler to put it through the luggage scanner.

The Nightmare: The Customs officer on duty might decide to ask you to open up your bag for a 100% check. And they might just find some silly reason to make things difficult for you and not let you go unless you give them some uang kopi (literally: coffee money).  I mean, we are all bona fide travelers here, right? With nothing to hide, right? We just don’t like being hassled, right? Right??

The Trick: To avoid such a predicament, the moment you take your bag off the luggage carousel,  do a quick visual check.  Look for small chalk marks, like the ones on my battered Samsonite bag in the pic below.

marked luggage (Jakarta airport)

Did you see the small mark on the front portion?  And a smaller second mark on the side? And that, Virginia, is THE mark that screams to the Customs officer “Check me!”.

The Solution: Should you notice such marks on your luggage, just act nonchalantly and take your luggage trolley to the toilet, conveniently located very close to the luggage carousels. Take a piece of toilet tissue, wet it, and wipe off the mark from your bag. Arrange your luggage (if you have several) on the trolley in such a manner so that the wet portion of your bag is not so obvious. Then walk past the Green Lane as confidently as possible.

May your trip to Jakarta be hassle-free. Good luck!

P.S. As Filipina expat WitsAndNuts commented, carton boxes are also a surefire way of attracting the attention of Customs officers. So do your best not to use them when packing your stuff.

9 Responses to How To Avoid An ‘Ambush’ By Customs Officers At Jakarta Airport

  1. witsandnuts

    This is an informative post. Here in the UAE they are more keen on stuff which are inside the boxes.

  2. Mimi

    WitsAndNuts: You’re right! I forgot to mention that putting stuff in carton boxes also attracts the Customs officers’ attention. *editing my post* Thanks ;)

  3. Batricia

    Jahatnya!!!!

  4. ramizah

    thanks mi..this info is helpful for any potential travellers to Indonesia.. May Allah bless you!

  5. a-moms-diary

    This post sure comes in at the right time – I’m travelling to Jakarta early next month. Since you are such a frequent traveller to Jakarta, I ought to ask for your recommendations on food and places to visit, eh?

  6. Mimi

    A Mom’s Diary: You are going to Jakarta for work or leisure?

  7. Rohana

    I am going to Bandar lampung to visit my brother. I will have to take flight from spore to jakarta then from jakarta to Lampung, My issue here is, I am bringing a 29″ LCD Tv for my bro which is pack nice with the carton. weight wise no problem its the customs fee that I am worried, afterall the Tv only cost me SGD400, if they are going to ask me to pay so much for custom duty then, I rather buy there in indonesia.
    Thank you! hope you can advise my wisely

  8. Mimi

    Rohana: It’s hard to tell lah. Sometimes if you say it’s for personal use or a present, they let you through. If it’s used goods, normally they don’t even look at you. But *generally* they give Malaysians a hard time, esp if they can tell that Malaysian is not used to traveling in Indonesia…sebab diorg boleh dpt ‘uang kopi’ :(

  9. Fahmi

    hahahaha…. i’m searching for an article about indonesians customs, and i found here. I hope someday we’ll meet in jakarta international airport… heheheh…

    salam kenal…. :)

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