If you are in a hurry and want to know the solution instead of reading the whole story, just scroll to the TL;DR section

Backstory

I have been running around in India in my motorcycle for a few years now. But by no means am I a regular international traveller. My first ever international trip was to Indonesia, in 2020. And with that came a lot of surprises.

I booked a flight ticket from Bangalore to Surabaya (I wanted to visit the ever so famous volcano, Mount Bromo - more on that on a future post). Considering how inexperienced I was, I didn’t think much at first. As any broke traveller would do, I booked the cheapest flight option from Bangalore to Surabaya. It costed me around 14,000 INR (195 USD) which is a fairly cheap price.

BLR - KUL (Indigo), KUL - SUB (AirAsia)

My flight is a connecting flight through Kuala Lumpur with a layover at Kuala Lumpur for 3 hours. So far so good.

Comes the day of the trip. Jan 10th, 2020. My flight is at 4am. Since this is my first ever international trip, I didn’t want to take any risk and I reached the airport around 12.30am. I had no clue what was waiting for me.

Lugging my 13kg rucksack on my back and the 7kg laptop bag on the front, like a tired husband carrying a toddler, I walked to the check-in counter, full of enthusiasm and excitement, waving my blank passport to the staff at the counter.

She asked for my visa and with a confused face, I told her that I am going to Indonesia and it’s visa-on-arrival for Indians. She gave a me a look and told me that I needed to show her my Malaysian visa.

My what? Yes, Malaysian visa

I was like

Holup

So according to Indigo, I need a transit visa or an e-Visa to take this flight because there will be a lay over at Kuala Lumpur. No one ever told me about this (not that I asked anyone ). I talked to the Indigo manager person and he said

“You need a transit visa or an e-visa because the flight is gonna be laid over at Kuala Lumpur. Or they might deport you back and the airline and you will have to pay a huge fine. Especially because your passport does not have any stamps”

I was like …. …. ….

“Especially because your passport does not have any stamps”

That hurt ☹️ I would have a stamp if you guys let me go through.. 🤷‍♂️

The Research Begins

I have almost 3 hours left until the flight takes off and I need to come up with something so that I can get on the plane. I work in IT, that means one thing. I’m excellent at googling stuff. So I did what I’m best at.

Spoiler alert: I did not get on the plane

After a lot of googling “Malaysia transit visa for Indians” and reading the Malaysian immigration website FAQs I came across this tiny excerpt

With my new found research result, I went back to the check-in counter. This time, waving the phone screen,

“Look what I found. I don’t need a transit visa if I am not leaving the airport, according to the Malaysian government website”

The guy looked at me and the phone screen alternately and told me that, for this to work I need the boarding pass for the next connecting flight

But when I told him that I already have the boarding pass for the connecting flight, he was silent for a moment and told me that they still can’t let me in.

And again, I was speechless…..

Then he told me

“If you can get AirAsia to get a confirmation that they can take care of you boarding the next flight and intimate the Malaysian immigration department, we will let you in”

Next hour I tried calling AirAsia and explaining the situation to them, only to be told that they can’t do anything about it.

I went to the check-in counter again, this time with new information. If the passenger is not exiting the airport (my connecting flight is in the same terminal), that means they don’t have to go through immigration. Thus no need of Visa.

As you would have expected, they still didn’t let me in. And gave me an ultimatum

“We can let you in on the flight only if I have a Malaysian transit/e-Visa. There is nothing else we can do. Sorry”

I was devastated. I need to get on the plane and reach Indonesia by next day or my entire plan will be ruined.

The Solution

I was left with no choice but to book another flight ticket. I went to AirAsia and explained to them the situation. Apparently, if I am booking an AirAsia flight from Bangalore to Surabaya via Kuala Lumpur, they will take care of the whole thing.

They do something called “PNR merging” which essentially means I travel with a single PNR without having to even fetch my baggage from KUL. I just have to pay a small fee of 1600 INR (22$).

So I booked the flight for the same night, which was for a much higher fare than my original flight (around 22,000INR / 307$)

And that’s how I spent ~24 hours in Bangalore airport, sleep deprived and frustrated. What a great start.

I finally got on the plane and when I reached Kuala Lumpur, I didn’t have to go through immigration, I just had to go through the transfer gate and to the gates for the next flight.

So, all in all I had a horrible experience with Indigo. They had their information wrong, there was no need for transit Visa or e-Visa.

So, learned the lesson the hard way.

TL;DR

If you are planning to travel to Indonesia from India and if you hold an Indian passport and have no Malaysian visa, just book a flight ticket with AirAsia and make sure that you get the “PNR Merging” thingy.