Visa Run: 12 hours in Singapore


  • Wake up at 1:30 AM
  • Go outside and wait for driver to arrive at 2:00 AM
  •  Arrive at Surabaya Airport at 4:00 AM
  • Get on flight to Singapore at 6:00 AM
  • Refuse non-vegetarian meal at 7:30 AM
  • Arrive in Singapore at 9:30
  • Call Visa Agent and get yelled at to hurry up
  • Get a $23 Sing  Taxi to Agent Office
  • Arrive at Visa Agent “office” (McDonalds on Orchard Street)
  • Stand in line with 15 other ex-patriot hopefuls
  • Hand over passport, $160 Sing and sign one paper
  • Wander the streets of Singapore for 6 hours
  • Pick up passport with newly acquired visa at 5:00 PM at the office (McDonalds)
  • Get taxi back to airport
  • Sight-see in the Singapore airport for 3.5 hours
  • Get on Flight at 9:00 PM
  • Refuse non-vegetarian meal at 10:00 PM
  • Arrive in Surabaya at 11:30 PM
  • Taxi to Surabaya Hotel
  • Pass out in Surabaya Hotel at 1AM
  • Wake  call up at 7 AM from my driver telling me to get ready to return to Malang

A day before my 30 day tourist visa was set to expire, I engaged in an age old expatriate ritual: the visa run. In my case it was more like a visa run-ning-on-empty; a test of zombie-like travel instinct. If I survived, I would establish myself in the wold of  coffee fueled solo travel and sketchy dealings,  as I am fairly certain that I indirectly bribed the Indonesian Consulate in Singapore for express processing. However, there is something so smooth and debonair about government bribes;  I feel more bad-ass and Bond-like just having my money being a part of one.

I realized that I had become assimilated to the sometimes peculiar ways of Indonesia when I was surprisingly unphased by reading my itinerary and instructions. The part that bothered me most was the 2 AM wake up, not handing over money and my passport to a stranger that I had to seek out through table by table inquiry at Mc Donald’s. His was the one in the shaded corner surrounded by white people and covered with carbon copies. An array of different colored passports were strewn about the table all seeking the same goal: to stay in Indonesia longer. The second thing that bothered me was the McDonald’s breakfast menu- would it kill them to make chicken nuggets and fries available at 10 AM? I can’t be the only person that prefers fried bits of mystery chicken and fried cancer-causing shoestring potatoes over rubbery pancakes and suspiciously vibrant yellow egg patties.

In the past 3 months since my first venture outside of the United States, I have been thrown in to so many unfamiliar situations that I have become used to living almost permanently outside of my comfort zone. I had never landed in a foreign country for unaccompanied exploration before, but here I was on a metropolitan island known for its vast malls and immaculate urban streets.  I lacked the substantial fortune necessary to actually shop at any of the immense, ultra- modern, ultra- luxe malls, so I spent the day window shopping and urban street sight seeing while I awaited the return of my passport at good old McDonald’s. With English speakers everywhere, Starbucks on every corner, and a full spectrum of the world’s cuisine being offered (including American food and beer) It was like being back home in Western society only 1000 times more clean and nice.


The Chinese Republic island was still decorated for Chinese New Year and fresh from the past weekend’s festivities.



The city-scape incorporated lush greenery, modern art pieces, and pristine concrete sidewalks to create an urban utopia to amuse the  highest population of millionaires in the world. One in every six households have  more than one million USD in despendible wealth which excludes property, businesses, and luxury goods. Getting a job in Singapore just made it on my list of life goals.

SAM_2479SAM_2474  SAM_2476


I quickly noticed that Singapore likes to host many of the world’s -est things: world’s largest Ferris wheel, banners for the world’s largest Oceanarium hung on every street post, and Changi airport was no exception. It was easily the largest airport by far I had ever been in and my collection of Asian airports is nicely sized after my last trip. It is rated the world’s best airport for international travel and boasts an immense variety of attractions that include; a rooftop swimming pool and jacuzzi, the world’s largest kinetic art sculpture, a butterfly sanctuary and hatchery, an aviation museum, steel tree sculptures, dozens of internet hot-spots and charging stations, hundreds of stores and restaurants, a cactus garden, water recycling outdoor sculptural installations, a 16 foot tall green wall of plants, an orchid garden,an art gallery, a movie theater, and a gaming area. It is an attraction in itself apart from the state with as more things to see and do in it than many of the world’s cities. If a zombie apocalypse ever happens I want to be locked the refugee camp of the Singapore airport for the rest of my mortal life.


Kinetic Rain Art Installation and the Butterfly Garden


Steel Tree Sculptures glowing in the night

In the same abrupt manner that the day had begun, thus it ended. My visit to Singapore became a glowing urban dream of a 12 hour western luxury indulgent adventure fueled by caffeine and lack of sleep. A newly christened ex-pat, I clutched my passport with its newly administered visa and passed through customs at the familiar Surabaya airport and made my way back to my newly official home in Indonesia.

9 thoughts on “Visa Run: 12 hours in Singapore

  1. Omg Andrea! Can I please have your exciting life? I literally LOL-ed reading your post! I miss your wit and your sass! Im Glad to hear you’re having the adventure of a lifetime and needless to say, I really want to visit Singapore now!


    • It’s beautiful, Stan. I really liked the contrast and juxtaposition of the metal with the organic ferns and plants growing on the structure. You are an amazing artist. I would love to be an artist like you!


  2. This sounds slightly dangerous but at the same time pretty exciting!
    I’m a gap year student and I’m planning to go to Bali via Singapore for 60 days and volunteer at a school… As I’ve left visas to the last minute I think I’ll be going through the same situation as you!
    I don’t know if I can trust giving my passport to a stranger though…


    • I know it is a little scary at first, I suppose that it made it easier that I was sent by my school and assured that everything would be fine. If the agent was to take off with my passport, the school I work for would have been the one responsible, not me. I think you will love your experience, and Indonesia will definitely teach you to be bold…from the simple act of crossing the street if nothing else. If you want the contact info for the agent I used, I have it and can give it to you


  3. Pingback: Ready, Set, Run! New Year’s Eve | andreainindonesia

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