Travel Guide Asia Indonesia



cicular stack of labeled fish

cicular stack of labeled fish

© Aksol6

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.



Brief History

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 Oceania, 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:

Lesser Sunda Islands

The Lesser Sunda Islands are a group of islands in the South-East of Indonesia. World-famous Bali is one of them. They also include islands like Lombok, Komodo, Flores, Sumba, Sumbawa and Timor, the western part of which belongs to Indonesia. The other part of Timor is Timor Leste, an independent country). The islands are distributed over three provinces:


Kalimantan is the Indonesian territory on Borneo island. The region is divided into:


Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, is an island situated between Borneo and the Maluku Islands. The Indonesian provinces on Sulawesi are:

Maluku Islands

The Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas, Moluccan Islands, the Spice Islands) are an archipelago situated east of Sulawesi. The provinces in this archipelago are:

West Papua

The western half of the island of New Guinea is occupied, although controversially, by Indonesia. As a whole this area is called West Papua. The provinces here are:






Sights and Activities

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.


Borobodur' Stupas

Borobodur' Stupas

© Carolina W

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.

Gili Islands

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

Gunung Kelimutu is a volcano, close to the village of Moni about 50 kilometres to the east of Ende on central Flores. The volcano contains three striking summit crater lakes of varying colours. Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is usually dark grey 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 colours vary due to volcanic activity at their bottom.

Gunung Rinjani

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.

Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park is a World Heritage Site and the volcanic islands are world famous because of its gigantic Komodo lizards, which are an impressive sight.

Komodo Dragon - Rinca, Kmodo National Park

Komodo Dragon - Rinca, Kmodo National Park

© phileas

The animals can be extremely aggressive so be alert at all times, especially when you have small children with you. They exist nowhere else in the world and are of great interest to scientists studying the theory of evolution.

Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is a fishing village on Flores. It is the entry door of Flores and a good base to explore Komodo and/or Rinca. 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 snorkelling and every evening at Kalong Island thousands of flying fox bats put on an amazing display.

Lorentz National Park

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

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.




From there it is possible to walk to the volcano in about 45 minutes, but it is also possible to take an organized jeep tour, which includes a stop at the viewpoint on Mount Penanjakan at 2,770 metres (this mountain can be reached on foot in about 2 hours if you fancy walking). The best views from Mount Bromo to the sandy areas below and the surrounding volcanoes are at sunrise.

Mount Merapi

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.

The guardians of Merapi

The guardians of Merapi

© milihnama

Although not particularly of interest for travellers (unlike for example Mount Bromo), Mount Merapi sure makes for a great sight and wandering around the villages below the mountain is a nice way of spending an afternoon (if possible!). On top of that, in 2004 an area of 6,410 hectares around Mount Merapi was established as a national park, ironically leading to the fact that fewer people were ready to leave their homes during the 2006 eruption because they were afraid the area would be incorporated into that national park. The Merapi Museum Center in Yogyakarta is of interest, with a replica of Merapi's Post 2010 Eruption.


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 Diving Spot

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.

Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra

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 kilometres in 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.

Ujung Kulon National Park



© Javandalas

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.

Other Sights and Activities



Events and Festivals

Jember Fashion Carnival

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 Carnival; 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.

Lombon Festival

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.

Java Jazz Festival

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.

Kasada Festival

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 Beach Festival

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.

Lembah Baliem Festival

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.

Bali Arts Festival

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.

Solo International Ethnic Music Festival

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.

Krakatoa Festival

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 rain showers can occur on every day, but usually don't last longer than an hour in the late afternoon. Some places on Sumatra have extremely 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.



Getting There

By Plane

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.

Juanda International Airport (SUB), near Surabaya, is the second biggest airport in Indonesia, after Jakarta. It has connections to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Singapore, Brunei, Hong Kong and Taipei.

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.

By Train

There is no international railway connection with neighbouring countries.

By Land

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).

By Boat

From Malaysia:
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.

From Singapore:

  • Frequent ferries to Batam.
  • Frequent ferries from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal at Changi Airport to Tanjung Pinang.
  • Frequent ferries to Karimun Island in the Riau Islands.
  • Daily ferry to Tanjung Batu* in Kundur Island.

* Not a visa-free or visa-on-arrival port of entries. However, there may be exceptions for visa-free visitors.



Getting Around

By Plane

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.

By Train

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.

By Bus

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.

By Boat

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.

By Car

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 severely 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. You will not be allowed to take the car off the island where you hired it.

By Motorbike

Touring Indonesia’s islands by motorbike/scooter is popular, both among domestic tourists and foreigners. And in the main tourist destinations renting a motorbike is easy and cheap. The bikes mostly come in the range of 110 to 250 cc, with rates from IDR 50,000 to IDR 250,000 per day. As a rule one must return the bike to where one received it and one can´t take it from one island to another (but see below: Inter-island motorbike travel).

As a foreign tourist you can only ride a motorbike in Indonesia if you also do so at home; in other words, you must hold a driver’s license for a motorbike in your home country. The days that one could buy a license in Bali are long gone. And that license must be accompanied by an International Driver’s Permit (IDP), which provides a translation of your home license. In many countries an IDP can be obtained from a tourist or automobile association.

Sumbawa - Road from Baku Beach to Sape

Sumbawa - Road from Baku Beach to Sape

© theo1006

Most rented motorbikes in Indonesia come without insurance, both for when you cause or are the victim of an accident. So check whether the policy that covers you at home also does so in Indonesia. Although you may be insured, it is better to avoid areas with dense traffic, like Jakarta, Yogyakarta and the South of Bali. While you may consider yourself a good driver, most Indonesians are not. There has been some improvement in road safety during the last decennium; still in 2020 the number of traffic fatalities was about 12 per 100,000 inhabitants, four times the average rate in West-European countries. On the other hand, riding a light bike with moderate speed on less busy roads is an ideal way to explore Indonesia off-the-beaten-path.

Inter-island motorbike travel

A few rentals cater for foreigners who want to travel several islands, taking the bike by ferry from one island to another One can pick up the bike at one island and return it on another. A popular route is Bali – Lombok – Sumbawa – Flores, but it is also possible to pick up or drop off your bike in Java and Timor (even in Dili, Timor-Leste). As on the way one may well meet Indonesians who do not speak a word of English, one may also opt for a tour with a guide on an extra bike.

Of course these inter-island rentals come with a different price tag. Discuss your plan and ask a quotation from a company that you find by googling something like “one-way motorbike travel Indonesia¨. Take care that your plan fits in the time frame of your visa. Allow for ad-hoc side-trips or missed ferry crossings. The farther east the less reliable the ferry schedules are and bad weather may disrupt them; the most popular crossings are:

Ketapang on Java to Gilimanuk on Bali: 24/7 several per hour, duration 20 minutes.
Padangbai on Bali to Lembar on Lombok: hourly, duration 5 hours.
Labuan Kayangan to Pototano on Sumbawa: hourly, duration 5 hours.
Sape on Sumbawa to Labuan Bajo on Flores: once daily: duration 8 hours.
Larantuka on Flores to Kupang on Timor: 3 times a week, duration 16 hours.
Local ferries to Lembata and Alor as well as Pelni ferries to Kalimantan and Sulawesi are less predictable.



Red Tape

Visa Restrictions: Citizens of Afghanistan, Guinea, North Korea, Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria, Somalia and Israel must obtain a clearance from Indonesian authorities prior to a visa issuance. Allow up to 1-3 months for the process.

Dealing with Imigrasi serves as a useful introduction to the sheer complexity of Indonesia's bureaucracy. The long and short of it, though, is that most Western travellers can get a visa-free entry of 30 days at virtually all common points of entry (Java, Bali, etc.), so read on only if you suspect that you don't fit this description.

A minimum of 6 months' validity must be available in your passport and it must contain at least one or more blank pages. This same rule applies to any visa extension that may be sought whilst in the country.

One peculiarity to note is that visa-free and visa-on-arrival visitors must enter Indonesia via specific ports of entry. Entry via other ports of entry will require a visa regardless of whether you are a visa-free or visa-on-arrival national or otherwise.

The days a visa holder is within Indonesia are counted with the day of entry being day 1, not day 0. This means that by 24:00 (midnight) on the night of the day of arrival you have been in Indonesia for one day. If you enter at 23:59 (11:59 PM) then 2 minutes later you have been in Indonesia for 1 day and are on your second day. If you receive a visa on January 1 for 30 days, you will need to leave the country by no later than January 30. If you acquire an extension, it is valid until the last day of your original visa.

Leaving after the last day will result in a penalty of Rp300,000/day of maximum 60 days overstay being charged. Long-term more than 60 days overstays are frowned upon and could result, if caught, in being kept in detention, fined and deported. This is not something that should be entertained as providing an alternative to seeking a visa extension.

Customs in Indonesia is usually quite laid-back. You're allowed to bring in 1 litre of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 g of tobacco products, and a reasonable quantity of perfume. Amounts of money in excess of 100 million rupiahs, or the equivalent in other currencies, have to be declared upon arrival or departure. In addition to the obvious drugs and guns, importing pornography and fruit, plants, meat or fish is prohibited. Indonesia imposes the death penalty on those caught bringing in drugs. Every household must fill out a declaration form and regardless of how you fill it, all your luggage will be scanned after you claimed it so there's no getting away. If a stranger asks you to transport a luggage or stuff with you on your way, do not accept, as it most likely contains drugs.

Travellers bringing in an item or collection of the same items worth at least USD1000 are also subject to an import duty.

For further information, including a list of eligible countries and point of entries to be granted a visa-free entry, please see the Visa and Immigration Policies from the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia.

Citizens of 169 countries who are going for leisure, business, transit, or missions are allowed to stay in Indonesia for up to 30 days without a visa. This type of visa cannot be extended, transferred or converted to any other kind of visa, nor can it be used as a working permit. Those visitors eligible under the visa waiver program have a visa issued at the Indonesian border checkpoints with that issuance subject to the discretion of the visa officer. Entries for citizens of those countries are granted at most airports, seaports, and land crossings.

Visitors who chose to reside for more than 30 days may also add a visa-on-arrival for US$35 (same policy as below) and can be extended for another 30 days or apply at an Indonesian embassy before departure.


Nationals of countries not listed above are required to apply for visas through the nearest Indonesian Embassy or consulate. Single-entry visas are valid for 60 days and fairly routine if pricey at USD50–100 depending on the individual country and prevailing exchange rates. Multiple entry visas are also available but, as the issuance policy varies in different embassies and is occasionally changed, it is best to inquire at your nation's Indonesian embassy well in advance of departure. Normally, Indonesian embassies and consulates stipulate 3-4 clear working days for processing; however, it may take at least one week.

The citizens of these countries need to obtain an approval from the immigration services head office, the Direktorat Jenderal Imigrasi (engl.: Directorate General of Immigration) in Jakarta: Afghanistan, Israel, Albania, North Korea, Angola, Nigeria, Pakistan, Cameroon, Somalia, Cuba, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Tonga, Iraq. Those affected must have a sponsor in Indonesia, either personal or a company. The sponsor must go in person to the Immigration Head Office in South Jakarta (Jakarta Selatan) and must produce a photocopy of applicant's passport, a supporting letter and the applicant's photograph. When it is approved, the Immigration Head Office will send a copy of the approval letter to the applicant.

For people arriving in Indonesia, there are several types of visas of the pre-approved variety, which include business, social-cultural, student, work and tourist, for example. Of these, a business visa only allows work that doesn't receive payment (such as sales visits to customers), and the work visa is the only one that allows full employment and is for 1 or 5 years, combined with a work permit from the Ministry of Manpower. Most other types of visas do not allow any sort of work to be done, even volunteer work, although there are some exceptions, such as religious and diplomatic visas. If you are unsure, ask the local Department of Manpower and Transmigration (DisNaKerTrans), not: your employer, the agent handling your documentation, or Immigration, as many employers and agents are ignorant of the law or are willing to lie about it to get you to work, and Immigration has no authority over employment. As with most countries, students are not allowed to work.

If there is a delay in processing your paperwork (e.g.: because the company doesn't yet have a licence to operate, or hasn't yet submitted the appropriate documents and requests to the government to employ foreigners), your employer can request from the Ministry of Manpower a temporary work permit as a stopgap, this is a letter that you should also have a photocopied copy.

Thinking of overstaying?: It may seem tempting to know about the lax enforcement of laws in the country, and it could mean getting the most out of your visa-free policy by overstaying. Immigration officers across Indonesia have conducted a widespread crackdown across the country, targeting those that have overstayed or abused the visa waiver policy such as by working for somebody. All violators that are caught will undergo detention and deported.
You may also be denied entry if your purpose of visiting Indonesia is unclear or coming without an itinerary or return flight, or coming with a questionable amount of funds, even if you are eligible for a visa waiver. Travelers who beg for money or run out of it will often be handed over to the police. While Indonesians are known to be kind and helpful, such conditions are often frowned upon.




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 seldom 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. The number of banknotes a machine can issue is usually limited to 25. So if the machine issues notes of Rp 50,000 the maximum amount you can withdraw is Rp 1,250,000, and it is Rp 2,500,000 when the notes issued are Rp 100,000. Your home bank may also limit the number of withdrawals you are allowed per day. So if you need a large amount you may have to find a bank office and get money at the cashier’s. The bank that is best represented in remote areas is BRI (Bank Rakyat Indonesia), still it is wise to take sufficient cash if you go to such an area.

There is no obligation for tipping in Indonesia; indeed most Indonesians won’t tip even if they are affluent. However, keep in mind that wages are low and most people are struggling to make ends meet. So you may well make someone happy with a tip when you are satisfied with his or her service. People who work in the tourist industry in the popular areas have come to expect a tip from a westerner. The amount depends on the situation. If you can afford to stay in a luxury resort, you can also afford a generous tip for the porter and the housekeeper. But if you are a backpacker staying in a losmen, Rp 10,000 or no tip at all is ok. You better not offer a tip to someone whose regular job is not serving tourists, like a farmer who showed you the way on a hike: he may be offended. When you give a tip, do it discreetly, e.g. with a folded note in the cupped hand when shaking hands. 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.

As for taxis, when they have a meter (as in Jakarta they have), you should require that it is switched on before starting the ride. At the end of the ride you may add a tip to the fare or tell the driver to keep the change. In smaller towns the taxi fare from the airport or the railway station to your hotel is often prepaid at a booth, you receive a ticket to give to the driver who afterwards collects his money with it. When the driver helped you well with the luggage, you may give him a tip at the end of the ride.

Bargaining too depends on the situation. Supermarkets and big stores have fixed prices, employees are not allowed to give a discount. But a seller on a market or in a souvenir shop may ask double the price when he sees a foreign face. So there it is normal to bargain. But remember, once your price is accepted you have to buy. Don’t start haggling if you are not interested to buy.




By law, a foreigner can only work at a company in a particular capacity for 5 years, and they are required to train a local to replace them but, in reality, this doesn't often happen. Also, foreigners may not work in any job, including CEO, that is related to personnel and human resources. You can do business that doesn't earn you money in Indonesia on a business visa, such as a sales call to stores and clients. Clergy use a religious visa, and a diplomat can get a diplomatic visa, but most everyone else must have a work-related visa (or spousal, if you've married a local), Izin Tinggal Sementara/Tetap {ITAS/ITAP} (temporary/permanent stay permit), which last 1 and 5 years respectively, and a work permit. Working outside of work without your employer's permission, or working in a position that is different from your stated position, is considered illegal, too, and penalties can range from fines and/or imprisonment to deportation and even blacklisting is possible (but that is generally only for six months). In May 2011, a new law UU 6) was passed that made some improvements to immigration, especially for expats married to locals, as well as investors; sadly, the governmental ordinances relating to employment that were supposed to have been issued by a year later are still not resolved, however Immigration tends to treat them as being there while the Ministry of Manpower is generally uncooperative.




Foreign students from many countries study various majors in certain universities in a number of cities (mainly Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Denpasar). The cost of studying at Indonesian higher learning institutes is generally much lower than in the west, but you'll need to be fluent in Indonesian for many topics, and some topics also require knowledge of English (such as medicine and IT) or another language.

The Darmasiswa Program is a scholarship program funded by the government of Indonesia. It is open to all foreign students from countries with which Indonesia has diplomatic relations to study Indonesian languages, arts, music and crafts, and even some other subjects, including IT, science and photography. Participants can choose to study at any of the state universities and colleges participating in the program. Currently, there are over 50 participating locations.

For university education in English, one can consider studying at, among others, Swiss-German University, Universitas Pelita Harapan or President University. Some famous Indonesian institutes include University of Indonesia, Bandung Institute of Technology and Gajah Mada University.




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:

  • Masakan Padang (Padang food) - Dishes originated from Padang are famous for their hot and spicy flavour. Padang food includes Rendang (beef/chicken dishes), chicken opor and Ayam balado (chicken chilli). Not recommend for people who can't stand hot and spicy foods!
  • Satay - Grilled meat that's pierced with a stick a bamboo, and cooked with soy sauce and other spices. There is a wide variety of satay in Indonesia, from normal ones like chicken, lamb, beef, shrimp, fish, intestines, to the weird and freaky ones like bats, rats, horse, and even human fingers (available only in Dayak tribe, in Kalimantan).
  • Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice) - Normal rice, but fried with a wide variety of spices, like soy sauce, chilli, onion, garlic, coriander, hazelnut, vinegar, and salt. Each Indonesian region has its unique nasi goreng: in Padang, you'll find fried rice with Rendang spices; in Nias you'll get your fried rice with a bowl of soup.
  • Batak Food - Batak food is also famous for being hot and spicy. Batak food includes Saksang (pork dishes (sometimes contain dog meat as well) that contains blood as its ingredient), Babi Panggang Karo (Karo Grilled Pork - pork dishes, very well grilled, also got blood as the ingredients of its sauce), Naniura (goldfish dishes that cooked by soaking in vinegar, but not just any ordinary vinegar, but in vinegar that comes from fruit acids), Pinggol-pinggol (fried pig ears). Again, batak food is not recommended for people who can't stand hot and spicy food.
  • Gado-gado - This home-made dish from Central Java consists only of vegetables, made in a special sauce, which is made from brown sugar, little bit of chili, salt, water, and peanuts. Highly recommended for ones who is vegetarian or love vegetables and fresh foods.
  • Kerak telor (egg crust) - This traditional food originated in Jakarta. This food is made of egg, rice, and some spices. All of the ingredients are cooked in a very special way, that if you flip the pan, it won't fall from the frying pan.
  • Kerupuk - A snack that originated in Indonesia. Sometimes made of shrimp, cassava, fish, and even skin. Only in Indonesia.

All too often, many travellers seem to fall into a rut of eating nothing but nasi goreng (fried rice), and perhaps commonly available Javanese dishes, but there are much more interesting options lurking about if you're adventurous enough to seek them out. In West Java, Sundanese dishes composed of many fresh vegetables and herbs are commonly eaten raw. Padang is famous for the spicy and richly-seasoned Minangkabau cuisine, which shares some similarities to cooking in parts of neighbouring Malaysia, and eateries specialising in the buffet-style nasi padang are now ubiquitous across the nation. Both the Christian Batak people and the Hindu Balinese are great fans of pork, while the Minahasa of North Sulawesi are well known for eating almost everything, including dog and fruit bat, and a very liberal usage of fiery chillies even by Indonesian standards. Tamed Muslim-friendly versions of all three can be found in the malls and food courts of many Indonesian cities, but it's worth it to seek out the real thing especially if you happen to be in these regions. And by the time you get to Papua in the extreme east of the country, you're looking at a Melanesian diet of boar, taro and sago.

There are some other foods that you should be aware of for their strong flavors, such as terasi (tuh-RAH-see), which is dried shrimp paste, and has a strongly fishy taste, and pete (peh-TAY), which is a tree borne legume that has a strong flavour that lingers and affects the smell of urine, feces and flatulence. Terasi especially is a common ingredient in many types of food, including petis, chilli pepper sauce, and a number of dishes and sauces, and pete is sometimes added to chilli pepper sauce and certain dishes, although it is only seasonally available. Add to this a variety of dried, salted, fishy seafoods, including seaweed. The chilli pepper, rawit, has a very strong flavour similar to Tabasco sauce, is strongly spicy and frequently used in many dishes. A Sundanese favourite is oncom (ohn-chohm) and is composed of peanuts that have been fermented in a block until they are colourfully covered with certain types of fungus; this food doesn't just look mouldy but also tastes mouldy and is an acquired taste.

In Jakarta and Bali and also some other big cities franchise of Asia, Europe, West America and East America are common, with Kentucky Fried Chicken as the pioneer now in the lead, following by McDonald's. You can also found modest to expensive restaurants with speciality of Thailand, Korean, Middle East, Africa, Spain, Russian foods and so on.




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 Zoroastrianism. 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.

Traditional drinks

  • Wedang Serbat - made from star anise, cardamon, tamarind, ginger, and sugar. Wedang means "hot water".
  • Ronde - made from ginger, powdered glutinous rice, peanut, salt, sugar, food coloring additives.
  • Wedang Sekoteng - made from ginger, green pea, peanut, pomegranate, milk, sugar, salt and mixed with ronde (see above).
  • Bajigur - made from coffee, salt, brown sugar, coconut milk, sugar palm fruit, vanillin.
  • Bandrek - made from brown sugar, ginger, pandanus (aka screwpine) leaf, coconut meat, clove bud, salt, cinnamon, coffee.
  • Cinna-Ale - made from cinnamon, ginger, tamarind, sand ginger and 13 other spices.
  • Cendol/Dawet - made from rice flour, sago palm flour, pandanus leaf, salt, food colouring additives in a coconut milk and Javanese sugar liquid.
  • Talua Tea/Teh Telur (West Sumatra) - made from tea powder, raw egg, sugar and limau nipis.
  • Lidah Buaya Ice (West Kalimantan) - made from aloe vera, French basil, javanese black jelly, coconut milk, palm sugar, pandanus leaf, sugar.




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 imodium 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 inoculations before going to Indonesia. There are however some very simple rules:

  • Never drink water from a container that is not sealed
  • Never eat food that is not well cooked, inspect it and send it back if its not right
  • Only eat fruit that is still in its peel
  • Don't sit outside at sunup or sundown unless you want to get Dengue
  • Always use a new insect repellant if you are outside at sun up or sundown
  • Carry your own tissues at all time, toilets are paper free
  • Carry your own hand wash, alcohol based if you can and use it regularly, especially after shaking hands with people
  • Don't use your fingers to eat and don't put them in your mouth unless you have recently washed them
  • Don't touch dogs or cats, they have many diseases
  • Dont' sleep without a mosquito net if you are in a hut or something like that
  • Wear a hat in the daytime
  • Drink 2 to 3 litres of water per day as a minimum.

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.


  • DTP and Hepatitis A: Vaccinations against DTP (diphtheria, tetanus and polio; valid for about 10 years) and Hepatitis A are advised. DTP vaccinations are commonly given to children, so chances are you will have had one and will only need a booster. The standard Hepatitis A injection has a limited effective period, and is therefore good to have just before travelling. If you are staying for a long time in a country where Hepatitis A is an issue, you can get vaccinations with longer effective periods, like Havrix. Even the long term vaccinations will need a booster after 6 months though.
  • Typhoid vaccination is advised unless you are planning to be in Indonesia for less than 2 weeks.
  • Yellow fever vaccination is only advised if you have been in an infected area prior to visiting Indonesia (see above).
  • If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Prescription Medicines

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.

Dengue fever and Japanese B encephalitis

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.

Skin care

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.

Cuts and Scratches

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.

Medical Treatment and Medication

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).

Back Home

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



  1. 1 2008 estimate, Statistics Indonesia

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Indonesia Travel Helpers

  • theo1006

    I am Dutch, but I have lived 26 of my now 77 years in Indonesia. Presently with my wife I settled in Spain. In retirement we re-visited Bali (which I have known since 1969 when Bali was still untouched by mass tourism) and explored Aceh, Sumbawa, Flores, Timor (including Timor-Leste) and West-Kalimantan. Our interests are history, culture and unspoiled nature. I am open to any questions, if your travelling style is off-the-beaten path.

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  • joffre

    "Have traveled through-out Indonesia, from Pulau Weh in the west, to Banda Neira in the east, including the islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, Bali and Nusa Tenggara..."

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  • zags

    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.

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  • Nonki

    I've been a travel guide for more than 20 years for Garuda Indonesia subsidiary travel company which serves travelling business throughout Indonesia, covering especially Java and Bali.

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  • Husen18

    i can explain many things u need to know before you go to indonesia,don't be hestitate to ask question to me

    i will help you for sure

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