The joys of collecting unaccompanied baggage

June 27, 2009

A few days before I left Australia, I hauled three suitcases and two boxes off to Qantas Air Cargo. Thought it would be a fairly quick procedure. Hmmmm. Not quite.

First up, the reception counter is your standard corporate unit, quite some way from where you park your car. There are no trolleys!! OK, heave the stuff in, actually sweating in a Melbourne winter – to be told that I must have my passport. OK, I knew enough to bring a departing flight ticket, but there was nothing (that I saw) on their website that mentioned a passport … luckily, I had it in the car. I never have my passport in the car. Obviously the Bali gods were smiling on me. So the stuff gets weighed, then security scans everything, questions several items, gets me to unpack a few things … finally everything is AOK.

I arrive in Bali. Three days later, the bags arrive. So far, so good. Rented a van and went off to collect the stuff at Bali’s airport. First thing was: Sorry sir, we need to see your actual passport, not a photocopy. But guys, my passport is with Immigration – who have told me they will need 2 weeks to process my KITAS – the residency permit. Pause. OK guys, why don’t I come back with my passport in two weeks? Ahh yes, sir, but if you leave your luggage here for more than 3 days we have to charge you for storage. OK guys, I say, how much for storage?

They tell me, and when I regain consciousness, I hopefully suggest that they accept a photocopy of my passport and the arrival documentation instead. But Sir, we need to see the arrival stamp in the passport itself. But guys, here is a photocopy of my visa stamp in the passport, and see this little scribble here? It says I arrived on my scheduled flight as I was supposed to. Yes, but Sir, if we don’t sight the arrival stamp itself, how do we know that you are actually in the country? I am temporarily rendered speechless by the logical flaw in this dialogue. My voice becomes a little plaintive – ahh guys, I’m standing here in front of you, so that means I’m actually in the country, right?

There is a pause for deep reflection and thinking by officialdom. After several conversations amongst themselves, and a phone call to my agent, the problem is resolved. Hmm, yes, I suppose you are right, Sir.  All right, we will process your luggage. Sigh.

One minute later: Sir, I see from the manifest that you have a computer in your luggage. Yes I do. (I also had two more in my hand luggage, but I didn’t see fit to mention that …) Well, Sir, the duty on electronic equipment is very high. Yes guys, I know that, but that is for new computers, not secondhand … Pause while they all go off and confer, make phone calls, read procedural manuals, and finally tell me that the duty payable on my luggage is 1,000,000 Rupiah (about $125AUD). Cash only. Grrrrr.

By this stage, it’s been an hour of talk, argy-bargy and customs inspections of the goods. I caved in. I guess that’s the whole idea – keep politely blathering officialese at people until they get the screaming meemies and give up and pay. Never mind, all the stuff is back at the ranch now.

Let the unpacking commence …



  1. Hi have just read your info regarding receipt of unaccompanied baggage. We are moving to Bali later this year and unfortunately our kitas is not ready so we are unable to send our container shipment of personal effects.

    I am looking into sending some of it as unaccompanied baggage.
    We will be entering bali on a social visa only do you see any problems with us recieving the unaccompanied baggage with the social visa?


    • Firstly, double-check all current personal effects import regulations with your shipping agent. Even with a KITAS you may have problems because under new regs, an import permit is necessary for personal effects – without this, your stuff may languish in Surabaya.

      Supposedly, no duty is payable on personal effects brought in under a KITAS, but some local shipping agents may well imply that a “duty” payment needs to be made to him.

      In any event, what I say here may already be out of date. Check and double-check current rules. We got caught out badly because the rules were changed WHILE our goods were in transit, and consequently they could not be released. They were stuck in Surabaya for 9 months and ultimately had to be sent back (at our expense) to Australia.

      When I first arrived here, I sent my basic stuff via unaccompanied baggage using Qantas Freight at Melbourne Airport. On consigning the goods, you must show your passport and an air ticket or itinerary (not necessarily Qantas). The goods are inspected, weighed and you pay on consignment. They will arrive in Bali usually within 3-4 days of your flight landing. When you pick them up, you must show your passport with arrival stamp. You will pay duty on certain items such as computers and other electronic gear. Caution: you may need to leave your passport for processing with immigration within 7 days of arriving – if your baggage is delayed, you can’t pick it up without a passport. Timing is critical.

      Again, double-check that you can actually send unaccompanied baggage here without a KITAS (or a VITAS issued in Australia which will be converted to a KITAS once you get here). And double-check that there are no crazy new rules requiring you to have an import permit for unaccompanied baggage either …

      Welcome to Indonesia! I tell you, they don’t make it easy …

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