Papua Travel Information - Travel Permit

Papua: Travel Permit (Surat Jalan)

 Intro   Where to get?  Applying for permit  Places off-limits Once you have the permit  Additional permits


Papua remains the last place in Indonesia where foreign tourists need a special permit to travel around. These permits are theoretically required to travel anywhere besides the Jayapura-Sentani area, Biak, and Sorong. In practice, you can also get away with not having one in areas you could visit out of these 3 cities on day-trips, and in Raja Ampat. Fortunately, getting one for most places in Papua is a mere formality!


Embassies and websites may tell you that these permits must be obtained before travelling to Papua from the authorities in Jakarta. That used to be the case many, many years ago, but fortunately times have changed. In theory, you could obtain your permit from the regional police authorities in any of the permit-free cities listed above. In practice, I have found Jayapura by far the best place to do so, as the officers there are friendly, well used to tourists, and will issue a permit to cover just about any place in Papua. In terms of usefulness, Jayapura is followed by Biak, then Sentani, and apparently now police in Sorong is also ready to issue permits for other regions of Papua. As for trying to get one in other cities, my personal experience is limited. People have reported getting into trouble when flying to Timika without one, police in Merauke told me they could not issue a permit, while the officer in Nabire said he could. Manokwari, now a provincial capital, should also be a definite possibility at least for western Papua. I definitely suggest getting your permit in Jayapura if possible, but if your first landfall in Papua is another city, you could always give it a try. Be prepared that in lesser cities and towns police may only give you a permit covering their own region, if anything. Speaking some Indonesian might also be useful or even necessary to ensure success. Wherever you are applying for it, you must go to the INTEL office at the local POLRES (regency level police station).


Bring a couple of passport photos and photocopies of your passport pages with your personal info, Indonesian visa, and entry stamp. The permit is supposed to be free of charge, though if you've been asking for a lot of places, or unusual ones typed on it, a tip would certainly be welcomed. You may need to fill in a form yourself first, listing all areas you are planning to visit. For the majority of visitors who only plan to visit the Central Highlands around Wamena, even just writing Wamena on the permit could be enough. Things are more complicated if you are planning extensive explorations around Papua. There is no space on the permit to possibly list every village you might pass through, nor is there any need to do so, fortunately. You should however try and list every regency (kabupaten) you might pass through. In case you are (like most visitors) unfamiliar with administrative divisions within Papua (and they change all the time!) you could buy a recent map of all Papua in a good bookshop in Jayapura - most locally produced ones will show you the boundaries and names of each regency. Failing that, do list major cities and towns, most of which will be the capitals of the regency around them. Once you have a permit listing the regencies (or their capitals) the local police there will be able to endorse it for smaller places (districts or villages) within their area.


Very few indeed. Places that have been considered off-limits in the past are certain areas along the PNG border, the Mamberamo basin, the Paniai Regency around Enarotali, Ilaga, Tembagapura and Puncak Jaya and Gunung Trikora. The latter two mountains require special, expensive permits to climb, only given to those on organized climbing "expeditions", Tembagapura is the company town serving the controversial Freeport copper mine which only admits those who work there or have been invited by someone working there, while the other areas have at various times seen political upheaval such as OPM guerilla activity. You may these days get a permit for the first 4-5 areas listed, but any current troubles could also make other areas off-limits. Many people seem to wonder if they could get a permit to visit Asmat and Korowai areas without a tour - well, good news: yes!


First of all, make plenty of photocopies of it, along with those important pages of your passport. Then, once you have arrived in the capital of a new regency or district, visit the local police station to report your arrival, and get it endorsed for smaller places within that area, or for your next destination. Again, this should be free, and in most places you will find the local police very friendly - away from the area around Wamena they see few foreigners, and seem to find this a welcome diversion.


The local government of Raja Ampat Regency now requires tourists to purchase an entry permit for the Raja Ampat Islands. This can be done at their tourism office in Sorong, or in the Raja Ampat capital of Waisai on Waigeo, and will cost you a somewhat steep 500.000 Rp. Permits to visit national parks should be obtained from the offices of each park, but these will only charge a small fee.