By Lisa Mapson (Semester 29/Aug 2009 & Semester 30/Feb 2010)
University of Melbourne

I write this having yesterday experienced one of my worst ‘Indonesian days’ as I saw a fellow anak ACICIS, along with whom I had just completed my Malang semester, off from Surabaya airport. She had been attempting to send her extra luggage (about 24 kgs over her 20 kg Garuda baggage allowance) home as unaccompanied baggage. After a year in Indonesia sending our accumulated clothes, books, and other goodies home has been a problem for all of us, so I thought I’d go through the various options, problems and costs that I, and others I know, have incurred trying to bring two semesters worth of stuff back home to Australia.

ACICIS informs us, quite correctly, that Garuda is often sympathetic to students studying in Indonesia and will usually allow at least a 30 kg baggage allowance. However, depending on the mood of the staff member you ask to endorse your request letter (which you can obtain from either UGM or UMM) the type of ticket you buy can be an issue. Benita, who left yesterday, tried to take this course after purchasing her ticket on Garuda’s website. However, because the ticket she bought was a promo fare and not a student ticket (which can often be more expensive) the Garuda office in Malang refused to endorse her letter. They advised her instead to send her excess baggage as unaccompanied baggage, explaining that as a student freight was very cheap and sending 30 kg of cargo would only cost $40-$50 US, whereas excess baggage checked in costs around $29 per kg. This information turned out to be false, and when we arrived at Surabaya airport at around ten yesterday morning Benita was frustrated to find that she would be charged almost $300 US to send home 24 kg. After an entire day of running around and complaining to Garuda staff, they eventually decided to endorse her student letter, but the luggage over the 30 kg allowance was still expensive to send and, we were eventually advised, would also incur an unknown amount in customs charges once it reached Australia. Eventually, with Benita dashing off at the last moment to catch her 5 pm flight, the excess baggage came back home to Malang with me while Benita contemplates what to do about it.

This is not a course of action I would advise, as it is not a lot cheaper than sending things home by airmail and there is a lot of hassle involved as the freight companies like you to be at the airport 6-8 hours before your flight. The charges from customs can also be formidable, and some students leaving last semester who thought they found excellent deals shipping things home as freight and paying per cubic metre were surprised to have to pay customs charges and import tax in order to collect their things in Australia – something that the shipping companies never warned them about.

I personally have chosen to send things home by post, mostly because I am not going directly back to Australia after leaving Indonesia and don’t want to have to lug my stuff around. Sending things by airmail is expensive (I paid Rp 1.7 million to send just under 15 kg from Malang to Melbourne) however at the time the Malang post office was refusing to send things by ship. The story that I got from the staff at the post office was that they rarely received packages for Australia, and so didn’t like to send things by sea. They would wait for 5 months for enough packages to fill a ship, I was told, after which time if the ship wasn’t full they would return the packages (but not the money) to sender. Obviously this is a problem for returning students as they are usually not still in Indonesia to deal with the returned packages 5 months down the track. Having some things of sentimental value in my boxes, I decided to suck it up and pay to make sure they made it home with 12 days (you also get a tracking number for items sent by air). Others have successfully sent things by sea (particularly from Jogja rather than Malang), which is dramatically cheaper, but you can expect packages to take 5 or 6 months to arrive if sent this way.

In general trying to pack a semester or a year of your life up and take it all back home is not easy. Perhaps the best course is to go through all of your things first and get rid of the things you don’t want or need. There will always be an Indonesian friend willing to take them off your hands. For whatever is left, try to argue your way into a greater baggage allowance first, but otherwise I recommend the post over the other options. At least you know what you’re paying up front. If you find a great deal on cargo or shipping that sounds too good to be true, even if made explicit by a staff member, it probably is, and as we discovered yesterday, even companies like Garuda are reluctant to take responsibility for misinformation.

Perhaps just think twice about overly bulky souvenirs… after all where are you ever going to find space for that birdcage?