Geography, Climate, Dress Code,
Passport, Health Precautions, Currency and
Payments, Heading to Town, Shopping,
Internet access, Domestic
Flights, Trains, Buses, Car
and Ojek, Food, Eating
Out, Off the Beaten Track, Traveling
with Kids, Where to go & what to see, Going Home
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This is Indonesia: a tropical archipelago of more than 18,000 islands, stretching
along the Equator in Southeast Asia. Most of the islands are not inhabited. The
major islands, in terms of population are Java, Sumatra and Bali. Java alone is
home to almost 50 percent of the total population of 245 million Indonesians.
Show larger map
Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India
and the USA. It has three time zones and could easily span the Atlantic Ocean
from Nova Scotia to the coast of Portugal or from Ireland to Greece.
We have prepared a brief history of Indonesia, based
Temperatures at sea level range from 24 to 36 degrees Celsius all year
round. Humidity is high.
At higher altitudes the temperature drops accordingly.
Those who like to scale mountains (and there are quite a few mountains to scale
in Indonesia) need to bring warm clothes for the nights -and plenty of water to
drink to avoid dehydration.
Don't go hiking and climbing without a guide.
Indonesia has only two seasons: the rainy and the dry season. South from the
equator the rainy season generally lasts from November to April. North from the
Equator it is from May to October.
Indonesians dress modestly.
Although you may see some men wearing only shorts, the norm is to wear a shirt
and pants or jeans.
Women will most likely wear pants, jeans or long skirts. They almost always wear
long sleeves. Many Muslim women can be seen wearing head scarves.
When visiting villages it is best to adjust to the local dress code to
some extent. For women that implies avoiding sleeveless tops, cleavage and
shorts. For men, wear long trousers and short sleeved shirts.
Nudity on beaches is strictly forbidden.
Indonesia is a safe and attractive destination for holiday makers,
business people and expatriates.
Areas to avoid include certain locations in Papua (Irian Jaya). If
in doubt contact the foreign Ministry in your country or the nearest Indonesian
You will find that most Indonesians are very friendly and helpful. It is not
necessary to be more cautious than you would be in any other city of any other
To enter Indonesia visitors need a passport valid for at least another six
months from the day of arrival.
Nationals of several countries need to apply for a visa through the nearest Indonesian
Visa free entry is applicable to nationals of: Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Hong Kong
Macao (SAR), Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, The Philippines, and
On arrival visas are available for nationals of Algeria, Argentine, Austria, Australia,
Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithania, Luxemburg,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Qatar,
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea,
Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Tunisia, UAE, UK, and USA and Switzerland.
These visas are available only at major entry points, such as international
airports and harbors of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bali.
Full details are available at Indonesian embassies and
consulates, airlines and travel agents.
A US$ 10 seven days visa is available for entry through Batam, Bintan and
Karimun. The 30 day US$ 25 or 19 Euro visa (Euro coins are not accepted!) can be
extended for another 30 days.
There are also visas with different
periods of validity for students, businessmen and for social/cultural purposes (visa sosial budaya).
Visa fees and the duration of the application process may vary among different Indonesian
National carrier Garuda Indonesia offers 'visa onboard' service on most of its
long distance flights
Before landing you will receive a customs declaration form and an immigration card. Each passport holder needs to complete one immigration card.
It consists of two parts: the landing card and the departure card.
Immigration will retain the landing card. You need the departure card when you
leave the country. So, don't loose it! It is best to clip it inside your passport.
Indonesia has many international airports. The major gateways are Medan, Jakarta,
Surabaya, Makassar and Bali.
The immigration process usually is quick and easy.
Customs officials work quickly too. They require all carry-on baggage to be
scanned before you can take it outside the airport.
Beware: Indonesia has capital punishment for drug smuggling and possession
of drugs, even the smallest amount.
Ask your physician for advise on vaccinations and preventive treatment, such as
for typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis. If you arrive from a country where Yellow
Fever is endemic, a Yellow Fever vaccination is mandatory.
Malaria occurs in most parts of the country with the exception of West and East
Tuberculosis is general, especially in the eastern provinces (the islands east
During the rainy season (October through May) Dengue Fever occurs.
If diagnosed in its early stages, treatment is simple. Symptoms include a
general feeling of being tired, continuing fever, nausea and vomiting, no taste
for food, and small red spots that appear on the arms after three of four days.
Additional information on health risks for travelers is available for example
through the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both malaria and Dengue
Fever are transfered by mosquitoes. Use a good mosquito repellent (tropical formula). In
Indonesia you may want to buy Soffell or similar products.
Don't drink tap water anywhere. Bottled mineral water is available in all cities, towns and even in the smallest hamlets throughout the country. Drink
plenty of water during the day -dehydration occurs very quickly.
Travelers who like to get a tan need to be very careful in the tropics. Sunburn
may occur as quickly as after 15 minutes, despite protective sun blocks. Have
you wondered why Indonesians seem to avoid the sun and remain in the shade? It
is because the sun is too hot to expose yourself too.
If you are a non smoker, you need to know that Indonesians smoke all the time
and everywhere, including in public buildings and (often) in no smoking areas.
After arrival it is best to take it easy for at least the first two or three
days. Allow your body to adjust to the time difference and the climate and to
overcome the effects of jetlag.
While traveling, if you would need the services of a doctor, consider Medikaloka
in Jakarta, a clinic of international standard located at Gedung Graha Irama, Jl.
Rasuna Said, Jakarta.
Other hospitals of international standard include Brawijaya
Hospital in Jakarta, and the Mitra
Keluarga Group in Jakarta and Surabaya. In Yogyakarta there is the Happy Land
In Bali you will find SOS
Currency and Payments
Indonesia's currency is the Rupiah (Rp or IRD). The exchange rate fluctuates
around Rp 10,900 for the US$ and around Rp 14,500 for the Euro (August 2013).
Get the latest currency rates at IMQ, Bloomberg,
Yahoo or Bank
In all major cities there are ATMs. They offer the most economical exchange rates. You will find them
in shopping centers, hotels, banks, airports and along the main streets. Most ATMs accept foreign credit cards. Most ATMs provide bills in Rp 50.000
denominations, some do so in Rp 100.000.
Money changers are also widely available.
Cashing Travelers' Checks may require some time as relatively few tourists use
them these days.
If you need to change US$ cash, both banks and money changers
will refuse bank notes that are not in pristine condition. They will also refuse US$ bills printed in certain years and bills with certain
Foreign coins cannot be changed at all.
Most major credit cards, such as Visa, Master Card, Diners, American Express and
Sumitomo can be used to pay for flight tickets, hotels, tours, and also for
your groceries in supermarkets (usually a minimum Rp amount is applicable such
as Rp 50,000).
Be careful when you use your card: always keep it in sight. Unfortunately
sophisticated international credit card fraud rings also operate in Indonesia
and other Asian countries.
Heading into Town
All airports in Indonesia, including the domestic ones have taxi
services. In most airports you have the option to pre-pay a taxi from a booth.
It is available either inside the baggage claim area or in the arrival lounge.
Prices are fixed and may include a surcharge and toll fees as applicable.
The second option is to hail a taxi 'curb side' such as in Jakarta's
international airport. These taxis have meters, but especially in Jakarta you
are advised to use the first option (Blue Bird taxi
Hotels: In Indonesia you will find an overwhelming choice of
accommodations, ranging from 5 star hotels to guesthouses, comfortable or modest
home stays and hostels where you need to come with your own towels and
Go to Links for more details.
Adventurous travelers who haven't made room reservations will always find a roof
over their heads, even in the busiest season (from June to September).
Most shops are open seven days a week from 0800 or 0900 AM to 0900 PM and
they don't close for lunch.
Indonesia is a shoppers' paradise.
There are vast shopping malls in the major urban centers that can easily compete
with any shopping mall abroad.
But there are also numerous traditional markets, neighborhood shops, super
markets, boutiques, souvenir shops and 'antique' shops.
On the latter,
antik in Indonesia does not necessarily mean antique. It is more
inclined to classic. Indonesian
antik is usually only a few days or weeks old when you buy it and
you should certainly buy it when you appreciate the (classic) design, the
craftsmanship or the value for money.
Souvenirs and handicrafts are of good quality, varied and innovative. Above all,
they are cheap, unless they are high quality wood carvings (with high quality of
wood and high quality of carving).
The best place to search for good wood carvings still remains the island of
Bali. Genuine and classic batik is also worth its price.
Indonesia is well known for its 24 karat gold and silver jewelry and gem stones.
If you don't find the design you like, you may order it and it will be ready in
days rather than weeks.
There is a growing export trade in wood furniture and in several cities or towns
you can find furniture producers who will be happy to take your order and ship
it right to your doorstep.
Even in the most up-town shopping malls clothing and shoes are generally (much)
cheaper than at home.
Well-known international brands are genuine, unless they are too cheap to be so.
Go to the Links page for several (on-line) shopping
Indonesia is quickly improving online
access. Especially in the major cities it is easy to find free wireless hot
spots. All shopping malls, most coffeeshops, and airports provide the service. Download
and upload speeds may vary considerably.
providers offer USB modems, or portable wifi hotspots, both with a weekly or monthly prepaid or subscription plan. Download and
uploads speeds are generally good.
If all else fails there are still
numerous Warnet (Warung Internet or internet shops) with cheap wired and
wireless access. Many of these Warnet are of low standard and struggle on with
ageing desktop PCs.
Indonesia boasts many domestic airlines. The oldest and best known is state
owned Garuda Indonesia, which operates the youngest fleet, mostly with Boeing
B737. The second state owned airline is Merpati Nusantara which mostly serves
routes to eastern Indonesia. The others are private airlines, such as
Mandala, Lion Air, Jatayu Air, Batavia Air, Pelita Air and several others.
They operate frequent flights, especially from Jakarta to major destinations in
Indonesia such as Medan, Palembang, Bandung, Semarang, Jogjakarta, Surakarta,
Surabaya, Denpasar (capital of the island of Bali), Mataram on the island of
Lombok, Kupang, Makassar, Balikpapan, Banjarmasin, Ambon, Manado, Biak and
Between the two major cities in Indonesia, Jakarta and Surabaya there are more
than 20 return flights each day. Most domestic airlines post schedules on their websites.
On-time departures and arrivals, good customer service and efficient baggage
handling are the norm for most airlines. The only drawback of flying domestic is
that the airlines don't honor the tickets of competitors.
Reservations for most domestic flights can be made through travel agents and
airlines abroad. However it is more reliable, and a lot cheaper to do so after
you have arrived in Indonesia.
You may also book domestic tickets through Indonesia
Airport tax for domestic flights differs with the classification of the airports, but is around Rp
35,000 per passenger.
Garuda Indonesia has included airport tax in its air fares.
In all airports and railway stations there are warnings not to use calo
(middlemen) and to purchase tickets directly at the airlines' sales counters.
Indonesia's most recent ad.
In the island of Java and in parts of Sumatra traveling by train is a
good alternative to cover long distances in relative comfort and for very little
money. There are three kinds of services available: economy (ekonomi),
business (bisnis) and executive (eksekutif).
The economy service is currently being upgraded with airconditioning and
assigned seats. Business class sports better seats.
Usually there is also an onboard catering service. At most
stations vendors are blocked from entering the platforms and trains to offer
The best service is eksekutif. It has air conditioned coaches, reclining
seats and catering. The fare for a one way ticket from Jakarta to Surabaya, more
than 800 kilometers all across the island, will set you back less than US$
35 (for the most expensive night express). Reservations can be made online, at
the stations or at IndoMaret outlets.
During Indonesian Muslim holidays, such as
Idul Fitri and for Christmas it may be next to impossible to obtain train
or bus tickets at all. Prices for public transportation during major holidays
Smoking is no onger allowed at railway stations and on the trains.
In railway stations there will be warnings not to use the services of
calo (middlemen) but to buy tickets directly at the ticket sales
Go to the Transportation section on our Links
page to check train schedules and fares.
If you have time enough, an interesting way to see the sights and to experience
the sounds and smells of Indonesia is to take the bus. Buses are by far the most
popular means of transportation. If you like, you may take a bus from Medan in
North Sumatra all the way to Surakarta (Solo) in Central Java, or go island
hopping from Surabaya (East Java) to Kupang (West Timor). Bus fares are cheap
and the buses are air conditioned.
However, the seats may be too small even for not so tall westerners. In the bus terminals
and on the buses, be aware for pickpockets and people who offer unsolicited
services. Try to find a seat in the front and keep your baggage in sight.
In the last few years car rental has become more common and more
affordable. Bali without a doubt has the most car rental companies, including
Avis and Hertz.
Bring your passport and show your international driver's license and you will be
on your way quickly. Several local car rental companies send you on the road
with an almost empty fuel tank. Don't be upset, that's the norm. You're not
supposed to return the car with a full tank either.
A half day rental counts 12 hours of usage. A full day may keep you on the road
for 24 hours if you wish.
Although there are traffic rules in Indonesia most drivers seem to ignore them.
There seems to be only one rule; get there as fast as you can. Fortunately most
drivers stay on the left side of the road most of the time, but that is not an
absolute guarantee. Especially bikers, becak and cyclists are notorious
for using the wrong side of the road, especially at night.
Be aware that
becak and cyclists never have lights. That promises some adventurous
encounters! After dark villagers often use the road as a place to gather, to
relax and to lie down. The best rule for foreign drivers is to take it very easy
and to go with the flow.
An alternative to adventurous driving is to rent a car with a driver. This
facility is known as
borongan (literally: borrowing a car or minibus and its driver). You
are free to travel anywhere and for any number of days. Indonesian drivers are
used to drive for hours on end.
They may make a 1,000 kilometer trip from Surabaya to Jakarta in 12 or 15 hours,
take a few hours' rest and then drive all the way back again. However, for
reasons of safety and humanitarianism allow the driver to drive for 8 hours per
day only. The daily rates for a car and driver amount to around approximately Rp
400,000 (plus fuel).
A far cheaper way of transportation is to share the minibus with other
passengers. This form of transportation is known as 'travel'. 'Travel' has
become another form of public transportation and there are many companies with
services between major cities. A ticket for a scheduled ride from Jakarta to
Jogjakarta will come at approximately Rp 80,000 per person.
Tickets are available through hotels, travel agents and specialized agents.
Pedicabs and Ojek
Indonesia has some exotic forms of transportation, which include pedicabs (becak)
ojek. The latter are motorbike owners who operate their bikes as taxis.
You tell your destination, hop on the buddy seat and that's all there is to it.
Although the fares are cheap by any standard, haggling is highly acceptable.
The same system applies to pedicabs. Pedicab drivers paddle their becak
in the still of the night, in the heat of the day and through the heaviest of
thunderstorms. The fares are low, but they are economical only on short
If you master some Indonesian or if the
becak driver speaks some English you may be surprised about the sense
of humor of many
becak drivers, their philosophical insights or simply how
interested they are in knowing about your life and your country.
The cultural cities of Jogjakarta and Surakarta (Solo) are by far the best for a
drive in a
becak, but becak can be found in many other cities and towns
such as Medan, some parts of Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Makassar and
Becak passengers must be conscious to keep bags and cameras close to their
bodies. Robbers, operating on motor cycles are notorious for snatching valuables
and making off in an instant. Fortunately this form of street crime is still
One of the English and Dutch speaking becak drivers in Jogjakarta can be
booked through Facebook. Search for Harry van Yogya. He usually can be found
around the Prawirotaman area, popular with tourists.
Indonesian cuisine is as varied as its people, their cultures and where they
live. For most Indonesians, rice is the staple food and it is eaten for
breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the more arid eastern provinces maize and tubers, such as cassava replace
rice. Maize and tubers are slowly put into the
corner of poor-men's food.
With rice, either boiled or fried, Indonesians like
to eat one or more side dishes of vegetables, meat or fish. The variety of side
dishes is limitless and most tourists soon acquire a taste for Indonesian food
with or without one of the equally varied chili varieties.
There are local variations in tastes and smells, but in general the food is
mildly to very spicy.
A good way to get accustomed to Indonesian food is to try one of the many Padang
restaurants. Without asking anything the waiter or waitress will put an
astonishing number of dishes on the table. Don't worry; you are not expected to
eat it all. Just choose what you like. You are charged only for what you eat.
Those with a taste for burgers and pizza should not despair. Many of the
internationally known fast food chains are present in Indonesia. Also, all
hotels serve western fare.
If you are used to a breakfast of bacon and eggs, no hotel or restaurant will
have a problem with the eggs, but bacon in a Muslim country like Indonesia is
hard to come by.
Vegetarians are finding it increasingly easy to find suitable restaurants in
major cities. More and more vegetarian restaurants are estabished. In the countryside, look for any of these dishes: gado-gado,
pecel, ketroprak, karedok, siomay, tempe goreng. If you don't mind to 'fish
around the meat' ask for sayur lodeh, sayur asem.
We have a few "food links" for you right here.
A free eRecipe booklet (4 Mb) is available for download here.
It comes in a zipped file and contains the eBook and a DNL reader. Install the
reader first, then open the book.
Please feel free to share the eBook with others.
Eating out and Tipping
At times it is as if Indonesians eat and drink all day and most of the night.
Indeed the number of restaurants, roadside food stalls and food peddlers is
astonishing. Especially in urban centers it is easy to find food stalls open at
any time of the day or night.
If you invite Indonesians for dinner, you should know that many are not
accustomed to having lengthy meals with equally long conversations. One is
used to enter a restaurant, to order, to enjoy the meal quickly, to pay and to
leave. If your guests begin to show signs of restlessness, it's not because they
don't enjoy your hospitality. Instead, they feel they are overstaying your
Tipping in Indonesia is easy. Whatever you tip will be appreciated, but if you
don't it is usually not a problem either. Waiters, except those in 4 or 5 star
hotels, don't expect tips at all.
However, tourist guides must be tipped as their base salary (if they have one at
all) is not sufficient to sustain them.
Off the beaten Track
Many tourists follow the traditional route from West to East across Java to
Bali. Yet, Indonesia has an overwhelming and largely undiscovered potential to
The small islands of Nias and Sibolga in Sumatra are only one example. You will
find special golf resorts. There are exquisite opportunities for diving or
snorkeling in the remote island of Selayar in the province of South Sulawesi.
You may go hiking in the island of Flores, or in the island of Komodo, looking
for the Komodo dragons.
Even relatively nearby Madura, across Strait Madura from Surabaya holds
surprises, such as the bull races.
In the island of Lombok, the next island east from Bali you will find
Indonesia's highest volcano. Climbing it is not without risks and should never
be attempted without an experienced guide.
In Sulawesi you may board a cruise on a traditional sailing schooner known as
In the island of Kalimantan you could make a cruise along the river and visit
traditional Dayak communities.
Go to Links for more details.
Traveling with Kids
Bringing children on a long and faraway trip to Indonesia may seem daunting. Yet, with a bit of preparation children will enjoy the trip and find many
opportunities to have fun.
Kids come in age groups with babies being the youngest. On board the plane most
babies are happy passengers, sleeping for many hours, waking up only to be fed
or have their diapers changed.
On the ground they are just as happy, coping with the warm climate as if nothing
much has changed.
Should you bring a suitcase full of baby food and diapers? Probably not as your
favorite brand of diapers will be available in most supermarkets.
Baby formula and baby food in Indonesia is a little different from what you are
used to, but tasty and healthy. It usually comes in freeze-dried packs. Just add
warm water or milk and stir.
Popular brand names include Promina, Sun, SGM and others.
Still about food, older children will not be disappointed to find their favorite
burgers, pizza, fried chicken, hot apple pie, French fries and the like in
Indonesia, especially in the major cities.
Before setting out on the trip it is good to prepare them about what to expect.
Tell them about the different traditions, language, climate and how adventurous it will be to discover it all.
Indonesia offers lots of entertainment for children, such as a theme
parks in Jakarta, safari parks (outside Bogor, West Java and Tretes, East Java),
boat rides, swimming opportunities, game parlors and much more.
Nevertheless the travel pace of adults may be too demanding on children.
Adjust your travel schedule, visiting fewer places and staying in one place a
little longer than you would have done traveling without kids.
If possible, don't spend most of the day on the road traveling from one place to
Children experience the world from a different perspective, they absorb many
more impressions and need time to process it all.
Indonesians adore children and will not miss an opportunity to say 'hi' to your
kids, to touch them and to pass a sweet. Children with blond hair and blue eyes
will be especially attractive to Indonesian children, women and men alike, which
at times can become rather overwhelming for the child. Anticipating crowded
conditions, carry your small child on your back so that the touching is reduced.
When it's time to go home, hold on to enough Rupiah to pay the departure
tax (airport tax) of Rp 150,000 per passenger. It is payable during check-in.
The Immigration officials will check your passport and collect the white
departure card that you received on arrival in Indonesia.
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