Indonesia – Generala Information

The world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is composed of over 17,000 islands scattered over 5,000 miles of ocean straddling the Southeast Asian equator. Few places on earth contain such cultural diversity and geographical extremes as this vast, deeply enigmatic country. Indonesia’s catalogue of highlights is further enhanced by the year-round hot climate, and outstanding value for money.
 
At some point in your life you have to come here, and once you do it is likely you will return again and again. There is quite possibly nowhere more exhilarating on earth…
 
Geography
The fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia is a wide archipelago of more than 17,000 islands (6,000 of which are inhabited) stretching over 5,200km from east to west, and 1,700km from north to south. The islands cover almost 2 million square kilometres of land.Situated north of Australia, the archipelago forms a large arc that starts west of Malaysia and ends at the New Guinea island, and separates the Indian Ocean from the Pacific Ocean.From west to east, the main islands are Sumatra, Java (which harbours Jakarta, the capital, as well as the other biggest Indonesian cities), Borneo (only a part of it, Kalimantan, is Indonesian), Bali (the most touristic island), Sulawesi and Irian Jaya (the west half of New Guinea). Nusa Tenggara and Maluku are also part of Indonesia and themselves form smaller archipelagos. The country has more than 120 volcanoes (some still active) many lakes, and high mountains.
 
Climate
Depending on which island within the group you are located upon, the climate is both tropical and equatorial, with an average temperature between 26°C and 28°C.
 
Entry
All travelers to Indonesia must be in possession of a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of arrival, and have proof (tickets) of onward or return passage.
 
Visa-on-Arrival:
The Indonesian Government extends Visa on Arrival (VoA) to nationals of 63 countries which can be obtained at designated entry airports and sea ports. Visa-on-Arrival are valid for 30 days and are extendable with another 30 days to be applied at Immigration offices in Indonesia.
 
Transport By Train
Trains can only be found in Java and Sumatra. They are cheap, generally crowded and slow, but can provide a good inside view of these islands and a colourful highlight to your trip. In Java, the railway infrastructure connects all main cities. The biggest cities, Jakarta and Surabaya in the eastern part of Java are connected by two lines: one that goes south, passing through Yogyakarta, and the other one, shorter, via Semarang in the north. Different kinds of trains are available (the most comfortable and the only one with air-conditioning is the Executive), but there are also different classes for a train; thus prices can vary a lot – from IDR30,000 to IDR300,000 for the same trip. Beware that Indonesian railways are not noted for their safety record.
 
By Bus
All islands have a wide range of bus services, which are Indonesians’ favourite way of travelling.The cheapest buses are slow and make very frequent stops. Luxury air-conditioned buses are recommended for long trips, which can last more than 24 hours. Note that “luxury” is a somewhat loosely applied term. When planning a bus trip, don’t forget that even if the quality of the roads is improving, especially in Java and Bali, the average speed is rarely over 50km per hour. A one way trip from Bali to Central Java (Yogyakarta) costs IDR150,000 on an air-con bus; a trip from Jakarta to Yogjakarta costs about the same.Inside cities, small public buses, called bemos, are a cheap alternative to taxis.
 
By Car
It’s easy and affordable to rent a car in most tourist areas. Road conditions vary, though and, depending on where you are, cars should be reserved for short trips or small islands. Note that it’s almost impossible to rent a car in one island and go to another one with it, which renders cars of limited use for exploring the country as a whole. Points to consider: In order to drive in Indonesia, you will need an international driving licence as well as a national driving licence.Car insurance is not mandatory, but it would be extremely foolish not to be fully covered. Traffic drives on the left. The speed limit is 70km per hour (45mph). Seat belts are fitted in some, but not all vehicles and though wearing them is not mandatory, it is obviously highly recommended to wear belts where fitted for safety reasons. Road tolls are in operation on some major city roads and need to be paid for by customers using taxis.
 
By Air
As Indonesia is a large island archipelago, flying is often the easiest way of getting around if you are to get the best out of your trip and see as many places as possible. There are six airlines, connecting most islands together. The main airlines are Garuda, Merpati and Bouraq and there are frequent flights to most major destinations.
 
By Boat
Public ferries are the cheapest way to travel around Indonesia but due to the size of the archipelago, the trips are very long, and offer poor comfort. Except for budget travellers or experienced backpackers who have never suffered from seasickness, ferries are best saved for short trips from one island to its closest neighbour.
 
Destination
Flight time in hours from Jakarta
Medan (Sumatra)
2hr10min
Pekanbaru (Sumatra)
1hr35min
Banjarmasan (Kalimantan)
2hr35min (-1hr time difference)
Palembang (Sumatra)
55min
Semarang (Sumatra)
55min
Denpasar (Bali)
2hr40 (-1hr time difference)
Ujun Pandang/Makassar (Sulavesi)
3hr10min (-1hr time difference)
Pontianak (Kalimantan)
1hr20min
Biak Island (north of New Guinea)*
6hr50min (-2hr time difference)
 
Currency
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IRD). IDR1 = 100 sen
Notes: IDR50000, 20000, 10000, 5000, 1000, 500 and 100
Coins: IDR1000, 500, 100, 50 and 25
 
Credit cards
Larger establishments in Jakarta and Bali accept major credit cards. You will need cash for all transactions in most other areas of the country.
 
Exchange
Traveller’s cheques and currency are best exchanged at international banks (to be found mainly in Jakarta), as Indonesian banks tend to offer a poor rate of exchange in comparison. Cash, especially US dollars, can also be exchanged at reasonable rates at larger hotels and exchange kiosks in urban areas. Most major tourist destination areas have foreign exchange facilities, but for travel to remote areas, it is advisable to change money and traveller’s cheques in advance. Cash can be withdrawn from larger banks and ATMs in Jakarta with Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards as well as internationally syndicated debit cards. Check with your bank before leaving as to any charges that may apply should you use ATM facilities during your stay in Jakarta.
 
Banking
Normal banking hours are from 8h00 to 14h30 Mon-Fri. Some bank branches in hotels, however, keep longer hours.
 
Costs
Below are approximate costs for the following items:
  • Bottle of beer IRD 25,000
  • Bottle of wine IRD 120,000
  • Litre of petrol IRD 6,000
  • Can of Coke IRD 2,000
  • Short bus journey (Jakarta) IRD 3,000
  • Packet of cigarettes IRD 6,000
Food
Indonesian food is not generally well known to foreigners. Yet, Indonesian cuisine is very tasty and does not look like any other in the world. With a few exceptions, the food is spicy and provides original sweet and salty tastes. Every island has its own specialities, but traditional dishes can be found almost everywhere. Indonesians eat a lot of chicken, but fresh fish can be found easily. The staples of Indonesian cuisine are two soya sauces (one is salty, the other – a kind of liquid caramel – is very sweet), chilli (fresh or cooked), coconut, peanuts, onions, fish paste and other spices such as ginger. Unlike many other countries in South-East Asia, people eat with a fork and a spoon, but also, in most local restaurants, with the hand (only the right hand should be used – a Muslim tradition that is observed nationwide, including by Hindus in Bali or Christians in Central Java). All dishes are served with white rice, or with ketupat, a kind of compressed rice.
 
What to Buy
Woven (ikat) or printed (batik) fabrics can be found anywhere, but the best ones are in the small islands of Nusa Tenggara (Sumba, Lombok or Flores) or in Bali. Antique ones or those made from silk tend to be expensive (more than IDR3,000,000) but Indonesian fabrics are definitely something you should bring back home. The same can be said about woodcarving. Colourful carved masks in Bali are affordable (below IDR50,000 for a recent mask) yet original souvenirs. There is a great choice of magnificent decorated shields, panels or statues in Sulawesi or Java. It is still possible to find authentic antiques in Bali, Lombok, Sumatra or Irian Jaya, such as old knife handles with beautiful patinas or small spice boxes. Another popular souvenir in Java and Bali are decorative puppets made from wood or leather, used traditionally in shadow puppet shows. Indonesia is a great place to buy silver jewellery. One of the best places to look for silver is Yogyakarta on Java, where there are some excellent jewellery shops selling unusual designs of gold and silver earrings, bracelets and rings. Bali, too, produces some original designs of silver pieces with gold inlay. Apart from handicrafts, clothes can also be worth buying as Indonesia exports a lot of clothing, and many Western brands have factories here. Factory outlets or shops in Java or Bali offer a great variety of clothes or shoes at affordable prices (IDR30,000 for a T-shirt, for example) though styles vary – you need to look around if you’re after up-to-the-minute fashion. Except in department stores or proper shopping centres, haggling is absolutely essential to get the right price, as the price given to you is often two or three times the actual amount you should pay. Make sure that you enter into a friendly bargaining mode, though, or you’ll find that you’re quibbling over what amounts to just a few pence – not really worth it when all’s said and done. Major cities in Indonesia have shopping complexes, supermarkets and department stores where prices are fixed.
 
Opening Hours
Shops are usually open all week including Sundays. Shopping hours are usually between 09h00 and 21h00 for department stores and supermarkets in the large cities with shorter hours on Sundays. In smaller cities, shops may be closed between 13h00 and 17h00.
 
Telephone
International dialling code: 62    
Area codes:    
Jakarta: 21
Padang: 751
Denpasar: 361
Pekanbaru: 761
Banjarmasin: 511
Pontianak: 561
Jayapura: 967
Sanur: 361
Manado: 431
Surabaya: 31
Palembang: 711
Semarang: 24
Solo: 271
Yogyakarta: 274
Area codes are preceded by 0 when dialling within the country. Public pay phones are often found in hotels and post offices and generally take phone cards, which are sold in hotels and shops, though there are coin-operated phones around as well.
 
Internet
In major cities Internet access is widely available at hotels and Internet cafés. Ask at the tourist office if you are having difficulty locating access. In rural areas and certainly in the remoter islands away from tourist resorts you will have difficulty locating Internet access.
 
Media
The main English language papers are The Indonesian Observer and The Jakarta Post.
 
Personal Safety
Partly due to Indonesia’s recent economic troubles, the crime rate has increased in many areas so common sense precautions should be taken to avoid being the victim of crime whilst away. Make sure you safeguard valuables from theft, as pickpocketing is fairly common, especially in major tourist areas. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and valuables on your person and make sure that your purse or wallet is in a safe place away from prying hands. Lock any valuables that you don’t need with you in your hotel safe. One popular ruse is for thieves to puncture car tyres and then rob the driver as they are fitting a replacement. Thieves do sometimes target cars stopped at traffic lights, so it’s best to keep your car door locked and windows up if driving in the city. If taking a taxi in Jakarta, it’s safest to ask your hotel to call one for you or to recommend a reputable company, as there have been instances of illicit cabs picking up passengers in the street and then robbing them. There have also been reported occurrences of poachers and illegal loggers operating in Indonesian parks and nature preserves threatening researchers, tourists and others in order to discourage foreign presence in those areas.
 
Emergency Numbers
Police Tel: 110
Ambulance Tel: 118
Fire Tel: 113
 
Dos and Don’ts
  • Take off your shoes before entering a private house.
  • Don’t blow your nose in public, especially while eating, as it is considered very rude.
  • As the left hand is traditionally used when going to the toilet, you should give or receive things with your right hand, although most Indonesians have learned that most foreigners don’t consider their left hand as dirty.
  • Avoid putting your two hands on your hips, which is considered an aggressive position.
  • Indonesians are open and friendly – if you are too, you’ll go a long way. If in doubt, smile.
  • Apart from on the beach, walking in public places stripped to the waist or in very skimpy clothing is considered offensive (although generally tolerated for foreigners in touristy areas).
  • For religious ceremonies or when visiting temples, strict rules should be observed, such as wearing clothes that fully cover your legs, especially in Bali, and taking off your shoes in mosques.
 
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