Sepinggan International Airport
Sepinggan International Airport in Balikpapan, East Borneo is one hell a busy airport for sure. Even though in Samarinda, the capital city of East Borneo, there is also an airport called Temindung, but it’s less busy and less important as Sepinggan International Airport. I remember when Sepinggan International Airport was neater and more comfortable than today but nevertheless I quite like the airport; sometimes flying to remote area or smaller cities in Indonesian would also mean small airport and it intimidates me too much, and since Sepinggan International Airport is fairly big, it is one of my favorite airports in Indonesia.
From Sepinggan International Airport we can fly directly to either Singapore or Malaysia while if we are traveling to other countries, from Sepinggan International Airport we could but then we have to transit somewhere (bigger cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, and or Bali) and usually have to be transferred to another air carrier for example, the Singapore Airlines will fly you from Balikpapan to Jakarta, and from Jakarta you will be transferred to Air Canada to Montreal. As the international flights are limited, the departure and arrival room are not as big as the domestic flight area obviously. Even though at the domestic flight mostly give service to major cities in Indonesia, one or two counters are open for air chartered to remote areas in East Borneo.
At the domestic flight area, you will likely see quite a few foreigners as Balikpapan is known for its American and French oil companies thus it is just natural to see them at the airport. On the other hand, the international flight area usually is full with not just foreigners but also Indonesians who fly home from overseas.
The waiting room for international flight passengers are small yet neat, clean and bright while on the contrary, the domestic flight is bigger but a little dirty and messy and definitely darker. Similar to many airports elsewhere, food and drinks and souvenirs at the airport are expensive and less attractive. Relatives or colleagues need to get a ticket to go inside the waiting room. There is a place for relatives or colleagues to see when planes landing or departing on the above floor of the airport and to be able to go there, we need to get ticket as well but pretty cheap, need not to worry; what you need to worry about if it was raining, it gets really wet up there and not too many chairs available.
What isn’t making any sense at the domestic flight is that passengers before going through the security lines, passengers need to get (or pay) for their own flight tax, it is not included with their ticket when they purchase it either through travel agent or purchased directly at the airport, so don’t forget to get a sum of cash ready. Another thing that also doesn’t make sense is that before the air flight tax counter, you will find a couple of ladies on a table located on your right side, and they will kind of forcing you to get insurance ticket and next to these ladies, another agents will again, kind of forcing you to pay for “government contribution in the name of the city, the service, etc, etc”.
Tips to remember, luggage carts sometimes are hard to find as the porters usually already take them all, again I have to say, this is a busy airport. A porter service is pretty cheap a dollar or two but we usually give more though; this is not even the official tariff; per kilo is only 20 cents, really not much, so it is always much appreciated if you give them 2 dollars at least for per bag. The airport can be too crowded with relatives, colleagues, passengers, porters, taxi drivers while waiting chairs are not that many, so prepare to stand for awhile if you are waiting for a plane to land, etc. Watch out for tricky custom personnel for international flight passengers, they can be “not-nice” and abusing powers in a way or two, we have witnessed it quite too often already and even almost be one of the victims!
NOTE: The correct spelling would be Sepinggan, not Sepinggang as what Cosmotourist listed, and Sepinggan is not a city, it is an area in the city of Balikpapan.