Me and my partner are planning for 6 months round Asia, with 2 months ideally in Indonesia.
Its all very estimate at the minute as we realistically cant afford it until 2014 - so if you cant help us at this stage I understand.
So far based on flight costs with the countries we want to see we'll fly in to Java from Japan and back out from Java to the Philippines.
So my questions are (and quite vague I apologise):
- How safe is Indonesia in general? Theft/violence/illness etc... We're new to travelling and still quite naive to be honest...
- Whats the accommodation like in general? (We're thinking either cheaper hotels or more expensive hostels, we'd really like private rooms for most of it)
- Does it tend to be cheap like Thailand or expensive like Japan? (Our Japan leg so far is costing a lot!)
- Where to go and where not to go (interested in culture- shrines and temples etc, nature- trekking etc, beaches, scuba diving and shopping. Not big drinkers really, going more for a different way of life than to drink and party! I'm a divemaster in the UK so really interested in what Indonesia has to offer in diving/snorkelling.
- How easy/cheap/comfortable it is to travel within Indonesia
- And how easy/expensive is it to obtain the required visas?
We'll be really out of our comfort zone as we're used to our lovely little flat, nice car, easy life - but we're bored and what adventure! Its going to be a shock....
Any advice or past itineraries/tours you've done that you think may be of interest would be great - I've planned Japan quite well, but I'm struggling with where to start with Indonesia!
Thanks a bunch!
P.S. I've kinda put together the below as a rough itinerary based on the cheapest flights. Just so if you see a ridiculous looking itinerary you can tell me :P
I know I may be going back and forth a bit but getting rough prices (based on this year however) this seems to be the cheapest. See what you think anyway
UK - JAPAN - INDONESIA - VIETNAM - PHILLIPINES - SINGAPORE - MALAYSIA -(Maybe Cambodia?)- THAILAND - UK
Wow! Your trip sounds brilliant, not ridiculous at all. I've been on two separate year-long travel extravaganzas, one in 2006-7 to SE Asia, Australia and NZ. I got back just 2 weeks ago from the other, a 15-month adventure round South America. Both have been brilliant.
I have travelled to Japan three times and to Indonesia four - Bali, Lombok, Java, Sulawesi and Maluku. I love both countries. I'm sure you will too. I'll try to answer all of your questions as best I can based on my own experiences!
-safety: this is always such a tricky question! I spent 2 months in Brazil having heard horror stories about how unsafe it is, and I didn't have even the tiniest difficulty. I felt totally safe nearly 100% of the time. I don't think Indonesia is any less safe than Thailand - just read an article today about how many visitors have been attacked or even killed on Ko Pha Ngam! I've never had any difficulty. Potential danger spots are usually related to inter-religious conflict, meaning that in the past parts of Central Sulawesi and Maluku have seen violence, but not for a while now and I don't think Westerners have ever been targeted. The Bali bombings are still on everyone's mind but New York, London and Madrid have all been the targets of deadly attacks too. As a rich (by Indonesian standards) westerner you are always at higher risk but with sensible precautions I don't see Indonesia as a black spot on SE Asia.
-health: you'll need to research if malaria prophylaxis is required. It isn't always. Food hygiene is not what it might be and getting a tummy bug is always a possibility. In two months it is quite likely you will get a bug, but they are usually mild and self-limiting after a couple of days. Consider buying a course of antibiotics on arrival just in case. The food in Indonesia is gorgeous.
-accommodation/value: as far as SE Asia goes, Indonesia remains relatively cheap. In places like Bali the sky is the limit but elsewhere you will have your own (cleanish) room and bathroom for not much money ($10-20 will get you something satisfactory, definitely). Food and beer is very affordable. Flights around the archipelago aren't that cheap, though, and you definitely need to bear in mind that Indonesian airlines are not the world's safest, judging by their recent history. Do think carefully about how you move around the country. We've flown with Garuda, Merpati and Lion Air. Serious accidents are relatively common in Indonesia. How you deal with this will depend your philosophy of life and character! Overall Indonesia is MANY times cheaper than Japan and somewhat cheaper than Thailand.
-internal travel: see above re. flights. Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands so flying and/or ferries are a must to get around! Boats on some routes are easy as pie (Bali-Java, Java-Sumatra, Bali-Lombok), cheap and frequent. Longer-distance travel can be a headache to plan. PELNI is the national ferry company with a fleet of large ocean-going vessels which run huge 2-3 week loops around the country. Timetables can be very hard to get, especially if you can't speak Bahasa Indonesia! The PELNI website now has timetable info for January 2013, but I have no idea if you can trust it. We travelled from Ambon to Banda with PELNI and it was OK. You have to deal with Indonesian "jam karet" - rubber time - which requires a lot of patience and a philosophical approach.
-visas: you don't mention your nationality! For Brits (like me) you currently get a 30-day visa for USD25 (on my first visit it was 60 days but they changed that ). Apparently this is renewable once but efficient bureaucracy isn't exactly Indonesia's strong suit. You should be able to apply for a 60-day visa at the Indonesian embassy in Tokyo?
Two months is not actually that long in such a sprawling place as Indonesia. Places I recommend are: Bali (yes, it's overdeveloped but I think it's still magical), Lombok, Java (Solo, Yogyakarta, Borobudur, Gunung Bromo etc.). These are all super easy to get to and visit. The Banda Islands (Spice Islands, home to the original nutmeg trees) are superb, absolutely superb, but very hard to reach. In two months you can definitely do it though! I have a travel blog but posting links is not allowed on this forum. Am I allowed to say "do a google search for "Look Out! Misters About!"? I also visited SE Sulawesi but that is a right headache to get to - I went on an organised ecological university expedition there.
Leaving your "flat" life behind for some excitement is a fabulous idea - just go for it. You won't look back on your life in 30 years time and wish you HADN'T seen more of the world! Good luck planning and saving and looking forward to something I can *guarantee* you'll never ever forget.
I cannot tell you how helpful that is! Yes I am British also - I've heard visas aren't too complicated so thats good
I cannot WAIT for this trip, its going to put a lot of things in perspective I think :D
I will also check out your blog - thanks for the hints :P
And the places you've recommended I have been hearing a lot about so I think thats the base of my itinerary - the Banda Islands have intrigued me, a google search I feel is in order :P
Thanks again, massively helpful!