bali: arriving, and line-cutting Americans

From what I’d experienced of Changi (Singapore) airport, and from what I’d heard about Bali, I expected my arrival to be like going from the back seat of a limousine to the back of a motorbike. The Denpasar airport, however, was quiet, clean, stylish in a very Balinese way – all red brick, tile, wood, water features and statues.

For citizens of about a dozen countries – including the US – Bali has a visa on arrival policy, which means you can pay $20 US (that’s how it’s posted) for a 30-day tourist visa when you arrive at the airport. I stopped at the payment booth, and since I didn’t have any US dollars on me, I paid the fee in local currency – about 230,000 Rupiah. I was then ushered on to the far end of a long bank of immigration checkpoint windows.

I walked where I was directed, but I must have missed something, because I ended up in front of a whole group of people who had previously been behind me in the payment queue. I only realised this when I heard someone behind me grumble in an English accent about “queue-cutting Americans”. I’ve become aware that this is a somewhat common (and somewhat deserved) perception, and it’s something I don’t want to contribute to, so as soon as I realised I had made a mistake, I completely over-compensated and moved to a spot much much further back in the queue.

To make make matters more complicated, I had somehow misplaced my immigration card. I finally made it to the front of the queue and got my passport stamped, but instead of continuiing onward into Bali, I had to step out of the queue altogether, find a new immigration card and fill it out. The immigration official was thoughtful enought to tell me I could just come directly back to him when I was finished (meaning I could forego a second wait in the queue). Needless to say I was leery about that, given my initial experience.

When I saw how long the queue was, however, I pushed past my doubts and confidently strutted past everyone and waved my passport to the immigration official. He told me to go on ahead, and I heard the guy behind me (another Brit) ask the official, “what was that guy, secret service or something?”