Dean Vlassco made the decision to fly to another country instead of paying for quarantine in Australia.(Supplied: Dean Vlassco)
Dean Vlassco was caught between a beach and a hard place.
Like many other Australians, for months he was allowed to live effectively visa-free in Bali because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that changed in July when Indonesia declared that foreigners on expired visas would have to start paying for monthly visa extensions after the middle of August.
The former Darwin resident loved living in Bali, but the possibility of being fined $94 a day for overstaying his visa forced him to make the hard decision to leave.
Facing the prospect of paying $3,000 to quarantine for 14 days if he returned to Australia, he instead chose to fly to Belarus, where he previously worked as an English teacher.
When he arrived in the eastern European country — which is currently in the grip of anti-government protests — he was allowed in without having to spend any time in quarantine.

Rules changes leave Aussies scrambling

Mr Vlassco is one of several thousand Australians and other expats who were in Bali earlier this year when Indonesia suddenly banned foreign tourism, cancelled all international flights and closed the resort island indefinitely.
Many Australians found themselves stranded when their flights were cancelled.
But in March they were given a lifeline when Indonesia agreed to grant them free emergency visas to allow them to stay in the country until the pandemic ended.
Then, in July, the Government backtracked and ruled that foreigners would be allowed to stay if they paid for monthly visa extensions.
Two women and a baby wait for a flight as they sit at a cafe at a near-empty airport in Bali.
Tourism is Bali's main source of income, but travel restrictions due to the pandemic have hammered the local economy.(AP: Firdia Lisnawati)
They were also given another option — to apply for a 'social' visa that initially allows them to stay for up to six months.
But that visa comes with a catch. Switching to a social visa requires a local sponsor and bureaucratic paperwork.
And those who don't comply — or whose visa applications are rejected — will be fined 1 million rupiah ($94) from Thursday for every day they overstay their visa.
The sudden change in rules has thrown many into a panic, and forced some of them to hire freelance immigration agents to help them navigate the system.
It was all too much for Mr Vlassco.
"There was a lot of stress, there was so much unclear information about what was happening," he said.
"We were constantly told we could stay and there'd be no change until the pandemic was over.
"Then suddenly they changed the regulations from nowhere, and we had 30 days to extend. We'd have to extend monthly."
A man with brown hair and eyes and wearing a mask sits on a plane seat next to a window.
Mr Vlassco has made the call to leave Indonesia after living there for less than a year.(Supplied: Dean Vlassco)
Mr Vlassco stopped listening to the rules changes once he knew he was leaving.
"If the regulations changed [again] at the end of the month I'd be stuck and would have to pay $100 a day for each day I overstayed," he said.
"I decided it was time to go."

Lack of flights has sent some airfares skyrocketing

But leaving Bali is no simple matter.
There are no regular international flights, with foreign tourism still suspended. It could remain that way until next year.
As a result, Mr Vlassco — and other expats — have had to travel to Jakarta and board international flights from there.
But many flights have been cancelled and those that do fly must remain at reduced capacity, making it difficult to get a seat.
"My first flight out of Indonesia, with KLM, was cancelled in July," Mr Vlassco said.
"The other problem is a lot of the world is closed, so people don't know where to go."
Of course, the lack of flights has also sent prices skyrocketing.
Social media posts show some expats in Bali have been considering flying to Turkey, or countries where flights are relatively cheap and still available, or where quarantine will not be enforced.
Passengers with their luggage walk down an aisle as people stand on either side clapping their hands.
Indonesia's resort island of Bali reopened for domestic tourists at the end of July after months of lockdown due to COVID-19.(AP: Firdia Lisnawati)
Yet, despite the complicated visa process, far more Australians are trying to stay in Bali than leave.
Among them is Leah Seymour, who travelled to Bali in the middle of last year after being made redundant in Australia.
She was already on a social visa that gave her the right to extend for up to six months, but like most expats in Bali during the pandemic, her visa has long since expired.
Ms Seymour has been on an 'emergency' visa since early this year, and has now hired an immigration agent to help her apply for the new visa.

Indonesia says it's helping foreigners

Some expats in Bali have had their visa applications rejected because of simple typos or spelling mistakes and have had to reapply to meet Thursday's deadline.
A few have also struggled to renew their passports because the Australian consulate in Bali has been operating on a skeleton staff.
Indonesia denies it has rejected any visa applications, and says it is helping foreigners so they can stay in Bali or elsewhere until after the pandemic is over.
"Indonesia is giving foreigners the chance to stay here until flights become available for them to leave," Eko Budianto, from Bali's Immigration Division, said.
"We're not forcing them to leave. We are helping foreigners so they can legally overstay in Indonesia."
Ms Seymour says the visa changes left her feeling very vulnerable about her living situation.
But now she is hopeful her new visa will be processed before the deadline.
For her, going home to Australia is not an option. She no longer has a home of her own, and baulks at the cost of quarantine.
"It's a huge factor, to be honest," she said.
"It's a huge chunk of money for two weeks that I'm not prepared to pay for.
"Plus, I've got no transport there, no home there, so it'd be like, 'Whose couch do I sleep on, which state do I go to, and which family members do I choose?'"
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