Indonesia is a magical place, offering the traveler a fantastically diverse range of cultural experiences, unique cuisine, and amazing eco-tourism both above and below the waterline…yet…as with all travel destinations around the globe, Indonesia poses it’s own set of unique challenges. Among the most simple and frustrating challenges: booking domestic plane tickets and paying with a foreign credit or ATM card.
Part of the issue lies with foreign banks simply declining the purchase. This can usually be solved by contacting your bank and confirming that the purchase is indeed legitimate. However, this can be tricky with time changes, and the internet in some parts of Indonesia may be good enough to utilize travel websites, but not strong enough to make a Skype call the to the bank (and sometimes it can take multiple Skype calls to the bank…).
Booking domestic Indonesian flights directly with the airlines is doable …sometimes. In our experience with over 100 domestic Indonesian flights over the years, Garuda and Sriwijaya are the most likely to accept a foreign credit card without issue. Booking on Lion Air (and others) with a foreign card is nearly impossible, which can be quite limiting if you are trying to shop around for the best price.
One of the simplest options is to purchase domestic plane tickets via travel agent or airline kiosk/office. Using a travel agent typically adds on 10-15% to the total cost of your tickets and many agents in less touristy towns require you to pay in cash (IDR). In touristy places such as Bali, there are an abundance of travel agencies. In more remote locations, the best option and often only option is to simply go to the closest airport to book your onward ticket (always bring cash for these types of transactions when in the most remote destinations).
Booking online, though riddled with hassles, typically provides the best price for flights. There are three main travel booking websites serving Indonesia which will allow customers to book online: traveloka.com, ticketindonesia.info, and nusatrip.com. It is possible to book tickets with a foreign card on all three of the sites, however each comes with it’s own flavor of hassle.
Ticket (ticketindonesia.info) is a descent flight search engine for the region. Unfortunately, the site typically blocks all foreign credit cards (we have never had any luck getting cards to go though and have only ever talked to one traveler who was able to book hassle free). It is possible to get your credit card “whitelisted” (a term used by the travel sites to indicate that your card is trusted for approval), however the whitelisting process with Ticket involves sending a photo of your passport and credit card over email which many travelers are understandably not comfortable with.
Indonesia – +62 (0)878 67550 044 (XL, cellular)
Indonesia – +62 (0)821 67550 044 (Telkomsel, cellular)
Traveloka (traveloka.com) is a reliable flight search engine, and often the best for finding flights to more remote and obscure parts of the country for those with flexible time schedules via the Traveloka flight calendar feature. Foreign credit cards will typically be denied on Traveloka, however there is a way around this. Notify your bank of the purchase so that your card is not blocked on the front end, then contact Traveloka customer service and request to be “whitelisted” for purchase of your ticket. In our experience, we have found that contacting Traveloka prior to attempting to book your tickets gives the best shot of a successful booking. It can take a few attempts to book with Traveloka but the effort may be worth it depending on the fare rates.
Indonesia – +62 (0)804 1500 308 (only reachable from within Indonesia)
Thailand – +66 21185400
Malaysia – +60 1548409469
Singapore – +65 31571471
Vietnam – 1900-6978
Philippines – +63 22469057
NusaTrip (nusatrip.com) is also a reasonable flight search engine, and in our experience is quite a bit more likely to accept a foreign payment hassle free (assuming there is no card blockage directly from your bank).
Indonesia – +62 21 5060 8747
*Looking to reliably book an onward ticket with a foreign credit card? Check into Air Asia.