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The reasons for Indonesia's popularity among tourists are obvious: its volcanic peaks are stunning; its beaches, ideal; its culture, proudly kept alive; and its people are devoutly religious (be they Muslim, Hindu, Buddha, or Christian). Indonesia boasts 75% of the world's hard coral, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and has even been cited as a possible location for the legendary lost civilization of Atlantis.
That said, Indonesia is also a volatile country, where violence and terrorism are realistic threats. The country is still very popular with travellers, but must be approached with care. Any preparations for a trip should include a careful observation of government warnings. Let's hope that the time is at hand when eager visitors from all over the world can once again pour into Indonesia's tropical gates to enjoy its enthralling attractions.
Fossilised remains of Homo erectus, popularly known as the "Java Man", suggest the Indonesian archipelago was inhabited two million to 500,000 years ago. Austronesian people, who form the majority of the modern population, were originally from Taiwan and arrived in Indonesia around 2,000 BC. From the seventh century AD, the powerful Srivijaya naval kingdom flourished bringing Hindu and Buddhist influences with it.
The last significant non-Muslim kingdom, the Hindu Majapahit kingdom, flourished from the late 13th century, and its influence stretched over much of Indonesia. The earliest evidence of Islamised populations in Indonesia dates to the 13th century in northern Sumatra. Other Indonesian areas gradually adopted Islam which became the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. For the most part, Islam overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences.
Europeans arrived in Indonesia from the 16th century seeking to monopolise the sources of valuable nutmeg, cloves, and cubeb pepper in Maluku. In 1602 the Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and became the dominant European power. Following bankruptcy, the VOC was formally dissolved in 1800, and the government of the Netherlands established the Dutch East Indies as a nationalised colony. By the early 20th century Dutch dominance extended to what was to become Indonesia's current boundaries. The Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation during WWII ended Dutch rule, and encouraged the previously suppressed Indonesian independence movement. Two days after the surrender of Japan in August 1945, nationalist leader, Sukarno, declared independence and was appointed president. The Netherlands tried to reestablish their rule, but a bitter armed and diplomatic struggle ended in December 1949, when in the face of international pressure, the Dutch formally recognised Indonesian independence.
An attempted coup in 1965 led to a violent army-led anti-communist purge in which over half a million people were killed. General Suharto politically out-manoeuvred President Sukarno, and was formally appointed president in March 1968. His New Order administration garnered the favour of the West whose investment in Indonesia was a major factor in the subsequent three decades of substantial economic growth. In the late 1990s, however, Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the East Asian Financial Crisis which led to popular protests and Suharto's resignation on 21 May 1998. The Reformasi era following Suharto's resignation, has led to a strengthening of democratic processes, including a regional autonomy program, the secession of East Timor, and the first direct presidential election in 2004. Political and economic instability, social unrest, corruption, natural disasters, and terrorism have slowed progress. Although relations among different religious and ethnic groups are largely harmonious, acute sectarian discontent and violence remain problems in some areas.
Indonesia lies between latitudes 11°S and 6°N, and longitudes 95°E and 141°E. It is an archipelago spanning across the equator, between two continents, Asia and Ocenia, and two oceans, the Pacific and Indian oceans. Indonesia is extending 5,120 kilometres from east to west and 1,760 kilometres from north to south, together comprising over 1.9 million square kilometres. It borders Papua New Guinea to the east, while on the island of Borneo there is a long border with Malaysia (both Sabah as well as Sarawak). It also faces Singapore and Malaysia in the west, but there is no land border there.
It has over 17,500 islands, of which about 6,000 are inhabited. The five main islands include Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan (on Borneo), Sulawesi, and West Papua, all of which have many local dialects. There are also two major archipelagos (Nusa Tenggara and the Maluku Islands) and sixty smaller archipelagoes.
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire with many volcanoes Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but it also means Indonesia is rich of natural resources. With the rich variety of plants and animals, Indonesian underwater is one of the most beautiful in the world. Mountains, rivers, tropical forests and beaches are the other natural beauty that can be found in Indonesia.
At 4,884 metres, Puncak Jaya in Papua is Indonesia's highest peak. Lake Toba (Danau Toba) on Sumatra is the largest lake, with an area of 1,145 square kilometres. The lake is a supervolcano which an eruption that occurred some 70,000 years ago caused a massive, climate-changing event in the world that time. The country's largest rivers are in Kalimantan, and include the Mahakam and Barito; such rivers are communication and transport links between the island's river settlements.
Indonesia has 33 provinces in seven main island groups, or geographical units. Five of these provinces have special status, which means they have greater legislative privileges and a higher degree of autonomy from the central government. The cities listed after the province names below are the provincial capitals.
* indicates provinces with special status and/or autonomy
Sumatra (also Sumatera) is the westernmost island of Indonesia. The provinces on this island are:
Java (Jawa) is the most densely-populated island in Indonesia and the most populated island in the world. Indonesia's capital city, Jakarta, is on this island. The provinces on this island are:
Indonesia is a huge country with thousands of islands. Although most of them are inhabited, the main islands all have their own characteristics. Due to its nature, Indonesia has good spots for hiking, trekking, mountain climbing, rafting, surfing, snorkelling, and scuba diving. On top of that there are many different cultures in different parts of Indonesia that you might want to explore. Don't miss the festivals or cultural events when you visit this country. Witnessing events such as traditional wedding or dance can be a unique experience.
Stunning beaches, amazing mountains, dance, music, pumping nightlife, fantastic culture - Bali has it all. On top of all these, there is extremely clean and clear water that are filled with coral reefs, which makes for world-class diving. For adventure seekers there are some of the best surfing in the world and excellent mountain climbing activities.
Bajawa is a town on Flores and is the capital of the Ngada Regency. It lies south of the East Nusa Tenggara province and southeast of Ruteng. Bajawa features natural hot springs which are used for bathing and volcanic scenery.The population is primary Roman Catholic.
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The Borobudur Temple Compounds are on of the highlights of the country on the island of Java. It is an ancient Buddhist stupa and temple complex and is placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Borobudur Temple Complex dates back from the 8th and 9th centuries and was built in three tiers: a pyramidal base with five concentric square terraces, the trunk of a cone with three circular platforms and, at the top, a monumental stupa. The views from the top are absolutely fantastic. The closest city is Yogyakarta, from where there are numerous ways to visit, either on your own or with a knowledgable guide which is worth the extra cost.
The Gili Islands are located just off the northwest tip of Lombok. There are three islands. First, Gili Trawangan (the largest and most visited of the three islands, also known as the party island). Second, Gili Air (the closest of the three islands to Lombok, and the one with a well developed local community). Finally Gili Meno is sandwiched between the others. Gili Meno is very laid back indeed.
Gunung Kelimutu is a volcano, close to the small town of Moni about 50 kilometres to the east of Ende on central Flores. The volcano contains three striking summit crater lakes of varying colors. Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is usually blue and is the westernmost of the three lakes. The other two lakes, Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) are separated by a shared crater wall and are typically green or red respectively. The lake colors vary on a periodic basis.
Mount Rinjani or Gunung Rinjani is an active volcano in Indonesia on the island of Lombok. It rises to 3,726 metres, making it the second highest volcano in Indonesia. On the top of the volcano is a 6 by 8.5-kilometre caldera, which is filled partially by the crater lake known as Segara Anak (Child of the Sea). This lake is approximately 2000 metres above sea level and estimated at being around 200 metres deep. You can fish in the lake. The caldera also contains hot springs. From the top of the volcano, you can see Gunung Agung, the Gili Islands, Sumbawa and the vast sea.
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Labuanbajo is a fishing village on Flores. It is the entry door of Flores and a good base to explore Komodo or Rincha. You can do pretty good snorkelling or diving in the area. The snorkeling within the park offers many opportunities to see pristine reefs with some of the greatest fish and coral diversity in the world. Nearby Seraya Island is a great opportunity to do some diving and snorkeling and every evening at Kalong Island thousands of flying fox bats put on an amazing display.
Lorentz National Park in West Papua is, with an area of 25,056 km2, the largest national park in Southeast Asia. In 1999 Lorentz was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The park is named for Hendrikus Albertus Lorentz, a Dutch explorer who passed through the area on his 1909-10 expedition.
An outstanding example of the biodiversity of New Guinea, Lorentz is one of the most ecologically diverse national parks in the world. It is the only nature reserve in the Asia-Pacific region to contain a full altitudinal array of ecosystems ranging through marine areas, mangroves, tidal and freshwater swamp forest, lowland and montane rainforest, alpine tundra, and equatorial glaciers. At 4884 metres, Puncak Jaya (formerly Carstensz Pyramid) is the tallest mountain between the Himalayas and the Andes.
Birdlife International has called Lorentz Park “probably the single most important reserve in New Guinea”. It contains five of World Wildlife Fund's "Global 200" ecoregions: Southern New Guinea Lowland Forests; New Guinea Montane Forests; New Guinea Central Range Subalpine Grasslands; New Guinea Mangroves; and New Guinea Rivers and Streams.
Lorentz Park contains many unmapped and unexplored areas, and is certain to contain many species of plants and animals as yet unknown to Western science. Local communities' ethnobotanical and ethnozoological knowledge of the Lorentz biota is also very poorly documented.
Mount Bromo is probably one of the best known mountains/volcanoes in Indonesia among travellers. It is an active volcano (latest eruption in January 2011) in the Tengger Massif in the east of the island of Java. It's not the highest mountain in the chain, but at 2,329 metres it's one of the most famous and easiest to access. It's a very popular hike and although usually without problems, it is not entirely safe. The usual way to visit Mount Bromo is from the nearby mountain village of Cemoro Lawang.
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Mount Merapi is an active stratovolcano and currently the most active one in Indonesia, erupting regularly since almost 500 years ago, most lately in 2010. It's one of the 16 potentially deadliest volcanoes in the world because of its large populations living on or near the mountain slopes. It's just 30 kilometres from the city of Yogyakarta but people are living up to 1,700 metres high on the slopes of the volcano, with the total hight just under 3,000 metres.
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Indonesia is home for huge areas of tropical pristine rainforests and although much of it has been destroyed for logging or local life, there are still more parks to be protected from these activities. The best examples are found on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo (Kalimantan is the Indonesian part) and on the island of New Guinea, of which West Papua is the Indonesian western half. These rainforest boast a very rich biodiversity with sometimes new species being discovered, both regarding flora and fauna. The most famous inhabitant of these forest probably is the Orang-utan, the only great ape to be found in Asia (the others being the Gorilla, Chimpanzee and Bonobo in Africa). A trip into the rainforest of Kalimantan is one of the most adventurous travels in Indonesia and not only includes natural sights but also a chance to meet some indigenous tribes, living here for centuries.
Raja Ampat has diverse activities to explore. From the stark wave-pounded slopes, the deep nutrient-rich bays, to the “blue water mangrove” channels are home to unique assemblages of species that, when taken together, add to produce the most impressive species lists ever compiled for a coral reef system of this size. Unlike other places in Indonesia, Raja Ampat will need extra effort to be reached. There aren't many major airplane companies go to Raja Ampat and it's quite expensive since it is in rural area. But the diving experiment will exceed every effort you can make, since the beauty of the islands and originality of the islands from modern life, will leave a special memories in your mind.
The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004. It comprises three Indonesian national parks on the island of Sumatra: Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and the Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. The site is listed because of the outstanding scenic beauty, an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes, and contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation.
Gunung Leuser National Park in the north of the island is 150 kilometres long, over 100 km wide and is mostly mountainous. 40% of the park is steep, and over 1,500 metres. 12% of the Park only, in the lower southern half, is below 600 metres but for 25 kilometres runs down the coast. Eleven peaks are over 2,700 metres and the highest point is Gunung Leuser reaching 3,466 metres. The area surrounding Gunung Leuser is known as the Leuser Ecosystem.
Kerinci Seblat National Park in the centre extends 350 kilometres down the back of the Bukit Barisan, averaging 45 kilometresm width and 2,000 metres above sea level. The northern half has a lower eastern mountain range, between 800-1500 metres. Three quarters of the park is steep. The highest point, and highest volcano in Indonesia, is the Mount Kerinci, standing at 3,805 metres.
Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park is also 350 kilometres long but only 45 kilometres wide on average. The northern two-thirds are rocky, averaging 1,500 metres with the highest point, Mount Pulung standing at 1,964 metres. The southern half is lower; 90 kilometres of it is a cape and the Park borders the sea for half its length. Many of rivers derive in the Parks and there are several lakes and hot springs.
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Ujung Kulon National Park is located at the westernmost tip of Java, within Banten province. It includes the volcanic island group of Krakatoa in Lampung province, and other islands including Panaitan, as well as smaller offshore islets such as Handeuleum and Peucang in the Sunda Strait. It is Indonesia's first proposed national park and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 for containing the largest remaining lowland rainforest in Java. After the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, many settlements in the park were wiped out and never repopulated. Ujung Kulon stands as the last known refuge for the critically endangered Javan rhinoceros after poachers killed the last remaining rhino in Cát Tiên National Park of Vietnam. The park also protects 57 rare species of plant. The 35 species of mammal include Banteng, Silvery gibbon, Javan lutung, Crab-eating macaque, Javan leopard, Java mouse-deer and Rusa deer, Smooth-coated Otter. There are also 72 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 240 species of birds.
Jember Fashion Carnaval or JFC (Indonesian Karnaval Busana Jember) is an annual carnival held in the East Java city of Jember. Officially it is written as Jember Fashion Carnaval; the word carnival here is officially spelled as carnaval, probably a confusion with Indonesian spelling karnaval, or an influence of the Dutch spelling carnaval. Jember Fashion Carnival has no relation with the Christian pre-Lenten festival, but more of a festivities in general, roughly following the Brazilian style, with procession of dancers in extravagant costumes, with emphasis on the traditional Indonesian motif. Generally, the carnival used world-themed fashion or nature-inspired theme. Preparation was held extensively months before and participants volunteered for the event.
New Year’s events in Indonesia are celebrated across the country. However, it is interesting to note than due to the incredible length of the nation, the eastern region celebrates the coming of the New Year earlier than the western side. Nevertheless, the Lombon Festival on January 1 sees local fisherman give thanks to the sea for the year’s catch. It is quite an interesting cultural experience for visitors.
The Java Jazz Festival held in Jakarta is one of the largest festivals in the country. It only began in 2005, making it one of the newest events in Indonesia, but has quickly risen in popularity. The festival lasts for three days at the beginning of March, and sees dozens of local and international artists display their talent across the capital city.
Come March, Indonesia celebrates the Kasada Festival, an event remembering the ancestors of its citizens. Most locals head to cemeteries and religious structures to pay tribute to their relatives, an act which is usually done with flowers. Feasts are also held during this event.
Manado is a popular tourist destination on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. During the month of July, the city hosts a popular event called the Manado Beach Festival, which celebrates the town’s anniversary. For one week, Manado comes alive with performances, dances, music, cultural events and sports competitions.
Tourists can explore the beauty of Papua (Irian Jaya) and its culture by visiting the Baliem Valley in August. During this month, the valley plays host to the Lembah Baliem Festival, which sees local tribes showcase their history with mock tribal wars.
During the month of September, the Bali Arts Festival takes center stage. Thousands of art enthusiasts and culture buffs travel to the island for this several day event. Dance, arts, crafts, music and food are just some of the highlights.
The Solo International Ethnic Music Festival is a large celebration that brings not only Indonesians to Solo, but also international music buffs. Held in the month of September for five days, the festival takes place at the Vastenburg Castle, which was built by the Dutch during their colonization of Indonesia.
The Krakatoa Festival is another important event held in October and lasts for about one week. It is celebrated upon several islands around the famous volcanic island of Krakatoa, which ferociously erupted in the 1920’s. Dance and musical performances are capped off by a trip to the island.
Indonesia has a tropical climate, and divided into wet and dry season. The temperature varies little throughout the year. The average temperature in Jakarta is 26 °C-30 °C with some days getting a bit warmer but temperatures rarely drop below 22 °C. There are however differences in Indonesia between islands and even parts of islands and as Indonesia is pretty mountainous, it can get much cooler once you are ascending. Generally, the western monsoon brings rains from December to March and the drier eastern monsoon brings relatively dry weather from June to September. Still, heavy rainshowers can occur on every day, but usually don't last longer than an hour in the late afternoon. Some places on Sumatra have extremly wet weather from October to December with 500 mm of rain on average during these months and become drier from January onwards. But during January it can get extremely wet on other islands more east, with Sumbawa hitting a massive 900 mm in this mont! Kalimantan has high rainfall during most months and doesn't have a drier season.
Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) near the capital Jakarta is the base of Garuda Indonesia, the national airline of Indonesia. Garuda flies to destinations in South East Asia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Australia, the Middle East and the Netherlands.
Some major airlines flying into CGK include Air India, AirAsia, Cebu Pacific Air, Japan Airlines, JetStar, KLM, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Silk Air, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways.
The airport itself is in serious need of an upgrade but given the relatively low numbers of passengers, your processing time is seldom longer than 30 minutes. It takes longer than that for your bags to get to the baggage areas anyway.
Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), also known as Bali International Airport, near Denpasar is the main airport on the island of Bali. Destinations are mostly within South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. AirAsia flies into Bali from Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
Polonia International Airport (MES) in the middle of Medan, has flights flying in from cities in neighbouring countries. Medan is serviced by Silk Air and JetStar from Singapore; Malaysian Airlines and AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur; Firefly from Penang and Kuala Lumpur. The old airport is due to be closed soon, and replaced by a brand new one located about 45 minutes drive from the city.
There is no international railway connection with neighbouring countries.
Although Indonesia mainly is a country existing of thousands of islands, there are however a few options of travelling directly to Indonesia from neighbouring countries. There are regular connections by bus between Kuching in Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo to Pontianak on Kalimantan, crossing the border at Entikong. Another crossing is between West and Timor-Leste, crossing at Motoain and finally you can cross to and from Papua New Guinea at Sentani, travelling between Jayapura (Indonesia) and Vanimo (Papua New Guinea).
There is a daily ferry operating between Penang in Malaysia to Belawan (the port of Medan) on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. From Penang, it leaves at 9:00am, arriving at 1:00pm. From Medan it leaves at 10:30am arriving in Penang at 2:30pm. Check the Langkawi Ferry website for more details about schedules and prices.
* Not a visa-free or visa-on-arrival port of entries. However, there may be exceptions for visa-free visitors.
Main domestic carriers are national carrier, Garuda, and Lion Air. Low-cost carriers operating domestic services include Indonesia Air Asia, Air Efata, Batavia Air and Mandala. Some smaller plane operators are Merpati, AirFast and Sriwijaya.
Many local airlines do not have good safety records, so it is advisable to fly with carriers like Garuda and Air Asia as they fly internationally, which requires stringent safety standards.
Note that for flights to/from Jakarta, you can also use the Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport (HLP), which still has a wide range of domestic flights.
PT Kereta Api operates train services in most of Java and parts of Sumatra. In Java, there are connections to Bandung, Semarang, Solo, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. In northern Sumatra, there are railway services around Medan while the south has networks from Lampung to Palembang.
Most roads on Bali and Java are in a good condition. On other islands, the main roads are still ok, but minor roads can be severly damaged or not tarred at all. Papua has few roads at all. Although you are able to rent a car from several international and local companies and drive yourself, hiring a car with a driver is a popular way of getting around and saves the hassle of chaotic traffic and driving skills of Indonesians. If driving yourself, you need an international driver's licence (permit) and remember to drive on the left.
Big Bird is a well established bus company in Indonesia, with frequent and relatively comfortable connections on most islands and between the major cities. Sometimes, you need to switch buses though and bus journeys can become long and exhausting. Better to break up your trip a few times.
Pelni is the state owned operator on most ferry routes between the islands. There are several dozens of routes with regular and comfortable crossings. There have been accidents in the past with a few ships though, mostly because there were more people on the boat than allowed, so if you have at all the feeling that the ship is too crowded, you might think again.
This facility is available to countries which has reciprocal agreement with Indonesia. Citizens of these countries are issued social visit passes at international airports and main sea ports. This pass allows a visitor to stay in Indonesia for not more than 30 days and it cannot be extended or converted to another type of visa.
Nationals eligible for visa-free entry are Brunei, Chile, Equador, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Visa on Arrival
Visitors entering Indonesia for Visa on Arrival (VoA) must have an onward or return ticket or the visa would not be issued. Visa on Arrival are valid for 30 days from the day of entry. It may be extended for another 30 days at any immigration office in Indonesia.
Nationals eligible for VoA are Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, USA.
Visa in Advance
All other nationals must apply for a 30-day visa at the nearest Indonesian Mission Abroad. Travellers who wish to stay longer than 30 days from the visa on arrival may apply for a 60-day visa.
See also: Money Matters
Indonesian currency is Rupiah (Rp). It comes in bills of Rp 100,000, Rp 50,000, Rp 20,000, Rp 10,000, Rp 5,000, and Rp 1,000; and coins of Rp 500, Rp 200, Rp 100, and the most seldomly found Rp 50 and Rp 25.
Credit cards are widely used, except in small or family-run hostels, restaurants, and remote areas. You may find it hard to use American Express at smaller establishments as the commissions charged are believed to be high and the staff will ask if you have Visa or Mastercard, they may even add 6% to your bill for using Amex or Diners and similar cards.
ATMs are mostly open for 24 hours and available at many places. It can sometimes be frustrating when using local ATMs as many have a Rp5 million (around US$500) limit.
Tips are often considered a supplement to a person’s salary. You should tip your hotel porter and housekeeping an amount of around Rp25,000 to Rp40,000 early in your stay. You will receive excellent service when you do this, they will remember your name and you will find many extras in your room like fresh fruit every day and complimentary soft drinks if you do. Incredible value for a couple of dollar. Taxis in Jakarta work off a meter, you should insist that the meter is on before the journey begins. As a rule the minimum fare that you pay should be Rp20,000 (US$2) so don't be too cheap and pay only the meter amount for very short journey. Beware however that Indonesia is generally called a country without change so dont expect to get change from a Rp50,000 note from your taxi driver. Always have a good supply of smaller notes so you can decide how big a tip you want to give. Most restaurants have a 10% service charge, some are now 15%, so no need to tip over the top of these unless you feel the service was exemplary, which will be rare.
Bargaining is customary for most everyday purchases in shops but also on the market. Decide what price you’re willing to pay before you enter the game of offer and counter offer. Once you agree on a price everyone’s happy. Remember though, once your price is accepted you have to buy it. Haggling is part of the purchasing process, so only do it if you ‘re really interested, and not just for the fun of it.
See also: Malay Phrasebook
Indonesia uses the Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia, which is similar to but more formal than the Malay language referred to as Bahasa Melayu) as the main language. English is widely spoken across the country although more likely by the younger generation and those with a good secondary school education. Taxi drivers will understand English even if they are shy to speak it.
There are many dialects of Indonesian, as you would expect in a country of 250 million people. Indeed in the province of Aceh they speak Acehnese which is a completely different language, although almost all Aceh people also speak Indonesian, and there is a high degree of English spoken here.
Bahasa Indonesia is a very easy language to learn and it is worth any travellers time to learn a little bit.
Indonesia is renowned for its cuisine, especially the rice table, the fried rice (nasi goring) and the satay. You’ll find lots of dishes that you may recognise from your local Chinese takeaway, but they’re usually prepared with a lot more heat than what you’re used to back home, so beware before you set your mouth on fire.
Hygiene in Indonesia is fair, which means that you can drink boiled water or bottled water (with a sealed cap), but steer clear of drinking tap water. Food should be thoroughly cooked to kill any nasty bacteria, and fresh fruit should be washed (in clean water!) before eating if you want to avoid a severe case of the runs.
Here is some of local foods that you might want to taste when you're around:
In Indonesia you really do get what you pay for. 5-star hotels are expensive by local standards but not so by Asian standards. You can expect to pay between US$180 and US$250 for a good 5-star hotel in Jakarta. 4-star hotels range from about US$95 to US$150 depending on the package. Most 4-star hotels in Jakarta are a good standard and are locally operated. They usually have excellent local food restaurants and bars with local live music and other entertainment. 3-star hotels are not recommended for the international traveller unless you are on an incredibly low budget in which case you should get out of Jakarta quick and find cheaper accommodation on the road.
All the known international brands are represented across Indonesia and 5-star hotels can be found in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Bali and Yogyakarta. Again, you get what you pay for. It's always worth checking prices on the internet and comparing what you are getting for your money such as airport pick up, complimentary breakfast, free internet and so on. These can add quickly to your stay if not included in the price, so ask first. Often you will be offered these free just for asking. Competition is tight so you need to get the best value for your money.
The locally owned and operated chains are also represented right across the country from Bali to Banda Aceh. The 4-stars are always good and solid places, staff are well trained but perhaps lack the final polish of the 5-stars. You may find that the finishing touches in places like the bathroom and toilet and the quality of the bed are the things you miss when staying in some of these 4-star places. You might find see-through towels, used soaps, stained sheets, dirty glasses and cups, air-conditioners that don't work and guests in adjoining rooms who seem to be on a perpetual honeymoon. So the theme is that you get what you pay for.
Complaining is expected in Indonesia as everyone does it all the time. If your hotel room, for which you are paying good money and quite a bit of it, is not what you want, ask for another one. And keep asking until you get it. Complaining with a smile on your face (and in low voice) could get you a long way as will US$10 to the concierge.
While Indonesia is a largely Muslim country it has a large Christian and Buddhist population. Indeed there are only 5 recognised religions in Indonesia, these being Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Zaroastoism. Christians and Buddhists are allowed to be served and consume alcohol freely, Muslims are expected not to consume alcohol although many do so moderately and see no issues with it as long as its in moderation. Bali is mostly Hindu and so alcohol is widely consumed there.
The main alcoholic drink is Bintang Beer, which is of world class and available almost everywhere. There are some regions of Indonesia that have implemented Sharia law and where the open sale and consumption of alcohol is either banned or discouraged, but even in these places Bintang and other alcohol can still be obtained provided you can prove you are not muslim. Other beers are brewed locally such as Heineken, Carlsberg and Guinness.
Wine is expensive in Indonesia, as it is in most of Southeast Asia. Many good Australian and French wines are available in restaurants, hotels and supermarkets such as Carrefour. There are some duty free stores that sell wines and spirits in Jakarta to tourists, although these are hard to find and open and close without notice.
Spirits, especially whisky, is very popular. If you know your host likes spirits a bottle of Johnny Walker Black is always very much appreciated, but if your host is muslim and you don't know them well then never give alcohol as a gift, it will be considered an awful insult. Chocolate is the gift of choice (make sure they are alcohol free). Vodka is becoming more popular these days with the emerging middle class set.
The supply of alcohol is usually restricted and bars and restaurants outside of 5-star hotels are banned from offering it during holy periods such as Ramadan. There are always debates in Indonesia about this practice with moderate muslims asking why non-muslims should be disadvantaged like this. Non-muslims, especially the expat community, take it in their stride and seem to survive without ready access to alcohol for a day or two. It does however highlight the differing views and values of the conservative and moderate muslim community in Indonesia.
For those who like water it is absolutely crucial that you only drink bottled water in a sealed container. The local water, especially in Jakarta, is unsuitable for human consumption. Even the locals have their drinking water delivered daily from a reputable water company. If its not sealed and in a bottle, don't drink it. You will get very sick.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Indonesia. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Indonesia) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It is very easy to fall sick in Indonesia, usually as a result of contaminated food or water. Always carry immodium with you and if you are still sick after 24 hours, or you feel you may die earlier, get the hotel to get a doctor to you, its not as expensive as you may think. Despite what others may tell you, there is little you can do to prepare for or prevent getting sick from innoculations before going to Indonesia. There are however some very simple rules:
If you do all of these things then you will have safe, healthy and very happy time in Indonesia.
You should always visit your local doctor or medical facility at least 6 weeks before you depart to ensure you get the most up-to-date information for your personal situation.
Indonesia's warm and humid tropical climate provides conditions that are ideal for disease-carrying organisms to thrive.
If you take prescription medicines take your prescription with you as it will assist you in getting supplies if you run out. You may need to show it to Customs on entry to show that you are carrying medicines rather than drugs. Most medicines are given by doctors as the pharmacies in Indonesia tend to carry non-prescription items or herbal cures. There are some on duty pharmacists in some places but always ask the Concierge at the hotel to recommend a doctor as there are many who are not qualified to practice but still do and are likely to give you the wrong medicine.
If you wear glasses or use contact lenses, take a copy of the optician’s written results of your last examination, extra glasses or spare lenses. Prescription diving masks are available for purchase or hire in most dive shops and diving schools.
Malaria is not a great risk in most parts of Indonesia, but in some areas like Sumatra and the Lesser Sunda Islands it is more common. Consult with your doctor before you leave to decide whether or not to take anti-malarial drugs (prophylactics).
Whether you are on anti-malarial drugs or not, you should still take preventative measures to reduce any risks. Covering your arms, legs and feet in the evening and using anti-mosquito cream (with preferably 50% DEET) on any exposed areas of skin is important. Also, ensure you are sleeping under a mosquito net. If a mosquito net isn't provided by your accommodation, you should be able to pick one up in local stores.
If, in spite of all your precautions, you find you have flu-like symptoms for more than a couple of days, visit a doctor. If you have any flu-like symptoms in the first couple of months after returning home, you should also get it checked out.
Both Dengue Fever and Japanese B Encephalitis are carried by mosquitoes, so you can take the same preventative measures as for malaria. These mosquitoes bite during the daytime though and under artificial light.
There is no vaccine against Dengue Fever, but there is for Japanese B encephalitis. It is advised if you are going to be in Asia for more than six months.
Dengue is one of the major killers in Indonesia, take it seriously. Best precaution is to be inside at sun up and sun down and to wear an insect repellent purchased locally at all other times. Be very aware if you are bitten and monitor your health. The moment you feel extremely lethargic or that being dead is a better option than how you feel, get to a hospital immediately. Dengue can be cured but you need immediate qualified treatment.
Changes in the climate, food and rhythm can upset your stomach and cause diarrhea. As long as your symptoms are limited to loose, watery stools, it is not much to worry about. Drink lots of water in small quantities and take it easy for a while. You can take Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) dissolved in water to prevent dehydration (especially important for kids and the elderly).
Drugs, like loperamide and diphenoxylate, can be taken if you have to travel when you have diarrhoea (not suitable for children under two years old). These drugs sedate the intestine, stopping stomach cramps and suppressing the feeling of diarrhoea. Only use them when you're on the move and cannot get to the toilet regularly.
If diarrhea persists for more than 48 hours and is accompanied by headaches, vomiting, or blood in the stool or you’re taking any other medication at the time, you should contact a doctor.
Diarrhea can stop quite quickly, but can leave you feeling lethargic due to the fact that your intestines need time to recover. Antibiotics are more readily available in Indonesia than in Europe, but remember that alcohol is often a bad combination with antibiotics, and that both they and diarrhoea can prevent oral contraception pills working properly.
To prevent diarrhoea, only consume drinks from properly sealed cans and bottles. Drinks made from boiled water like tea and coffee are also safe for consumption. Ice should only be trusted if it is in the form of manufactured bagged ice. Fruit juice is ok as long as no water has been added. Food, particularly fish and meat needs to be cooked properly and all the way through. Eating from street stalls is common in Indonesia, but to avoid illness, try to buy food from busy stalls. This not only means the food is probably nicer, but also means the turnover is higher, resulting in less time between food preparation and consumption. Avoiding meat at the end of the day is not a bad idea, since it may have been out all day without being refrigerated.
To avoid this tropical infection carried by tiny worms, don't swim in stagnant water.
Use sunscreen whenever you are outdoors, even during rainy season. Snorkelling in a t-shirt is a good idea as sunscreen will eventually wash off and you will avoid serious burns by the sun which is even more serious because of the reflections of the water.
Take any small cuts in the tropics seriously. Clean them with disinfectant and ensure they are covered during the day. Small cuts can turn into tropical ulcers if not looked after carefully.
Wear a hat and sunglasses to prevent sunstroke. Always keep a supply of water handy. If you start to feel light-headed or have headaches, find a spot in the shade to take it easy and drink plenty of water.
If you catch a disease, try to take it seriously and go visit a doctor or a clinic near you. If you need medications, you can visit the local pharmacy near you (it's called Apotik or Apotek in Indonesia, and it should be open 24 hours).
Keep an eye on your health for several months after returning home. If you have any flu-like symptoms or experience something unusual, contact your doctor and be sure to let them know about your recent travels. If you have had contact local people in more remote areas, consider testing for tuberculosis.
See also: Travel Safety
Although the bomb attacks on Bali earlier this century are still in many travellers' minds, the general safety situation in the country is ok and there is no need to panic. Even recent bomb attacks on luxurious hotels in Jakarta are no reason to stay away from this beautiful country.
During recent years, mainly Sumatra has been the target of quite a few natural disasters, including tsunamis and earthquakes, which have caused thousands of deaths. Although chances are not very high that travellers will get into problems, it is a fact that you can not do anything about it other than hope for the best.
Some areas, like the Maluku Islands, have been the scene of ongoing conflicts between various religions. Mostly between Islamic and Christian people. Again, probably travellers won't be affected, but as always, prevent yourself of being found in a riot and avoid demonstrations in big cities at all times.
Also be aware that some airlines that only fly on domestic routes don't always use the same safety regulations as international carriers like Garuda Indonesia do.
Internet is becoming more widely used in Indonesia, and warung Internet (warnet) - Internet cafés - are emerging everywhere. A lot of restaurants and cafés in big cities normally have wireless internet available for free. Internet connection speed in Indonesia varies between ISP and location. Prices vary considerably, and as usual you tend to get what you pay for, but you'll usually be looking at around Rp3,000 to Rp5,000 per hour with faster access than from your own mobile phone. In large cities, there are free WiFi hotspots in many shopping malls, McDonald restaurants, Starbucks cafes, 7 Eleven convenience stores, and in some restaurants and bars. Some hotels provide free hotspots in the lobby and/or in their restaurants and even in your rooms.
See also: International Telephone Calls
You can use 112 as an emergency number through mobile phones. Other numbers include 110 (police), 113 (fire) and 118 (ambulance).
The international phone code is 62.
If you have GSM cellular phone, ask your local provider about "roaming agreement/facility" with local GSM operators in Indonesia (i.e.: PT Indosat, PT Telkomsel, PT XL Axiata). The cheapest way is buying a local SIM card, which would be much cheaper to call and especially use internet compared to your own cell phone's sim card.
The Indonesian mobile phone market is heavily competitive and prices are low: you can pick up a prepaid SIM card for less than Rp 10,000 and calls may cost as little as Rp 300 a minute to some other countries using certain carriers (subject to the usual host of restrictions). SMS (text message) service is generally very cheap, with local SMS as low as Rp129-165, and international SMS for Rp400-600. Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones, and basic models start from Rp 150,000, with used ones being even cheaper.
Pos Indonesia provides the postal service in Indonesia. Pos Indonesia is government-owned and offers services ranging from sending letters and packages to money transfers (usually to remote areas which have no bank branch/ATM nearby) and selling postcards and stamps. Sending a postcards, letter or parcel is relatively expensive, but fairly reliable. It takes several days at least to send it within Indonesia, at least a week internationally. It is recommended to send letters from a Pos Indonesia branch, not by putting it inside orange mailbox (called Bis Surat) in the roadside, because some of the mailboxes are in very bad condition and aren't checked regularly by Pos Indonesia. Opening times of post offices usually tend to follow general business hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm (sometimes shorter hours on Fridays), Saturdays from 8:00am to 1:00pm, closed on Sundays. Bigger cities, tourist areas and central post offices tend to keep longer hours, into the evenings.
Private postal services based in Indonesia include CV Titipan Kilat (CV TIKI), Jalur Nugraha Ekaputra (JNE), Caraka, and RPX. There are also foreign postal services that have branches in Indonesia, including DHL, TNT, UPS, and FedEx.
as well as Hien (14%), Aegisint (11%), Peter (8%), Vinegarmy (6%), dr.pepper (4%), rotch (3%), zags (3%), piteruzz (2%), Jennifer86 (2%), fuffluff (1%), ktu_phatz (1%), boulderman (<1%), Lavafalls (<1%), Sander (<1%)
Ask anakmalam90 a question about Indonesia
i'm a travel plan and also who working at travel industry so in lombok i have a boat and diving course and lombok is the best spot for diving just ask meanythng about indonesia i'l telling you where the best spot for your traveling
Ask zags a question about Indonesia
I live in Jakarta, travel to Bandung and Bali often, have travelled to Lombok and Yogyakarta a couple of times. If you need some info about Indonesia especially those places, just ask me and I will try to help you.
Ask Mimpimanis a question about Indonesia
I can help with questions on Lombok, specifically the south of the island around Kuta, where I am based.
Ask pPamela a question about Indonesia
I have travelled to Indonesia 9 times since 1997 and spent a total of about 18 months there. Areas I know are: West Java, West Sumatra and North Sumatra. Have my own free english school in West Java where travellers can volunteer to help the students practise their English.
In 2006 I spent a wonderful 5.5 months wandering around Java, Sumatra, Aceh, few days in Bali, 5 days at Kuta south Lombok and 6 days in South Sulawesi.
In 2008 I spent one month in Java, Sumatra.
In 2009 I spent 11 days in Java and Bali.
Currently my visiting money is sent privately sponsoring an unbelievably talented young Bukit Lawang man to study a Bachelor of Fashion Design in Jakarta.
Ask javabali a question about Indonesia
I am a native from Yogyakarta and know well the area coverage Yogyakarta itself and Central Java like Borobudur etc. Happy to have an experience for another side of Javanese, spiritually. Jump out from the daily routines and get fresh with.
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