Where is Indonesia?
The Republic of Indonesia is a large country in South East Asia with over 17,000 islands which make up the largest archipelago in the world. Straddling the equator with the Indian Ocean to the west and the Pacific to the east, the nation has physical borders with Malaysia to the north, and East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east. Neibouring countries include Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The capital city is Jakarta, located on the politically dominant island of Java. Only 6000 of the islands are populated, with the five main islands of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantian, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya being home to the majority of the population of over 230 million people.
The islands of Indonesia are blessed with a large diversity of natural resources which have, over the centuries, produced a rich trading history dominated by successive kingdoms and colonisation. 1602 saw the establishment of the Dutch East India Company giving the Netherlands access to the lucrative spice market which included nutmeg, cloves and cubeb pepper plus the seemingly endless supply of exotic timbers. After the collape of the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch government established the Dutch East Indies as a nationalised colony in 1800. The 350 year control by the Dutch eventually ended in 1949 after four years of local uprisings and moves for independence.
Today, Indonesia embraces more than 300 different cultures and ethnic groups, is the fourth most populous nation in the world, and is also home to the largest Muslim population on Earth. For many years this very diversity of cultures, art, food and customs along with the stunning natural beauty of a tropical backdrop, has made the islands of Indonesia popular tourist destinations.
The island of Bali with its beautiful landscapes, unique arts, culture and gentle people draws thousands of visitors every year, whilst Sumatra offers a less developed experience featuring wild and rugged scenery, rich cultural traditions and provides the habitat to many endangered species. To the north, the world’s third largest island Kalimantan (Borneo) is shared with Malaysia and features vast tracts of uncharted jungles and rainforests serving as one of the last refuges of the orangutan. Java is famous for its large bustling cities as well as the cultural treasures of Yogyakarta and the World Heritage listed temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. Scuba divers flock from all over the world to experience the spectacular diving found in Sulawesi and the islands of Nusa Tenggar, which is also where the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon can be found. With its warm and friendly people, dramatic scenery and rich cultural and biodiversity, Indonesia has offers something for everyone.
Indonesia Visa Requirements
Visitors from many countries are able to visit Indonesia with few or no visa requirements. Nationals from 63 countries are usually able to enter Indonesia via 37 specific points of entry and receive a “visa on arrival.” This includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, Ireland and the U.S. This type of visa costs around US$25 for a thirty day visa and is processed at the point of entry and is valid as a business or tourist visa. This type of visa cannot usually be extended and does not permit the holder to work in Indonesia. Passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry into Indonesia and proof of onward or return tickets and adequate means of support and accommodation is compulsory.
Because of reciprocal arrangements, visitors from some countries enjoy visa-free entry into Indonesia for short stays. These countries include Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Hong kong Special Administrative Region, Macau Special Administrative Region, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
People wishing to visit Indonesia who’s nationality is not included in the above categories or wish to stay for more than 30 days are required to apply for a visa before travelling to Indonesia.
Indonesia operates an airport embarkation tax for all travellers, except for children under two years old not occupying a seat. The cost of these taxes varies according to both the airport and the destination. Prices tend to be between IDR 50,000 to IDR 150,000. Additionally, there is a small tax for domestic flights with Indonesia. Again the amount of tax to be paid is dependent on the airport, but usually ranges from IDR 13,000 to IDR 30,000.
As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.
Indonesia Travel Health
Although the vast majority of people have trouble-free holidays to the main tourist destinations in Indonesia, there are a number health risks associated with travel to some areas. Although Malaria is not common in Jakarta or Indonesia, Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for extended stays in Sumatra, Borneo, Lombok and places east of there. Dengue fever can be contracted anywhere in the archipelago and diligent use of an effective insect repellent along with suitable clothing is recommended to reduce the risk of mosquito bites. Sanitary and hygiene conditions in many areas are very poor so in addition to routine background immunisations, some other recommended vaccinations include hepatitis A, Typhoid, Rabies (for Indonesia) and Japanese Encephalitis (recommended if staying for 4 weeks or more in high risk zones). The best advice is to talk to your doctor, or access an official up to date official travel health alert website.
The standard of medical care in Indonesia is not up to western standards, being adequate at best and non existent in many areas. Medical Insurance which includes emergency air evacuation is strongly recommended as anything other than a simple illness and injury will be best treated in either Singapore or Australia. Medical treatment is not free in Indonesia and proof of insurance or cash payment is usually required before treatment is given.
Indonesia is situated along what is known as the “ring of fire” and has a number of highly volcanic islands. Eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis are not uncommon. Being aware of and responding quickly to the warning signs as well as pre planning a safe exit route from where you are staying is highly recommended.
Although Indonesians are generally a friendly and gentle people, non violent crime in the form of theft and pickpocketing is on the rise, particularly on long distance public transport. It’s also wise not to accept drinks from strangers, the incidence of drink spiking is also on the rise. It is important to remember that most of the population are very poor by any standards, and displaying expensive electronic equipment or jewellery in certain places or situations can make you a tempting target. Common sense, blending in and remaining alert can be a useful way of having a trouble free visit.
Although the majority of visitors remain unaffected, certain parts of Indonesia are prone to undercurrents of internal conflict and strife between different factions and indigenous populations as well as sectarian unrest between Christian and Muslim peoples. Additionally, certain provinces such as Aceh and Papua contain separatist movements which have resorted to armed conflict.
Acts of terrorism are becoming more prevalent worldwide, and sadly both Jakarta and Indonesia have recently been the targets of terrorist bombings. Visitors are advised to avoid places which are considered to be likely targets. These include western (particularly US) interests and those places where westerners congregate which do not provide adequate security measures. In reality, the chances of being a victim of a terrorist act are still very slim, but common sense and vigilance is advised when travelling anywhere.
When travelling within Indonesia by air, visitors should be aware that not all airlines are equal. Many local airlines operate older aircraft from the 1980’s and 90’s, and in some cases safety records are poor by western standards. Before planning an inter island trip travellers may wish to pay a little extra and choose one of the major airlines which are known to operate to international standards and offer newer aircraft.
Emergency phone numbers: Police: 110, Medical assistance: 118 or 119, Fire department: 113.
What is Indonesia Local Currency?
The currency of Indonesia is the rupiah (IDR) which is often abbreviated to Rp. Banknotes come in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and and 100,000 IDR. Coins come in denominations of 25, 50, 100, 200, 500 IDR
The Indonesian rupiah has had had moderate fluctuations against the US dollar in the 2008-2009 period, with an average of 1,070.6 IDR to US$1, a high of 1,2853.5 and a low of IDT 9082.6
In addition to the local currency, both Singapore and US dollars are readily accepted in many places. Exchanging money in the major population and tourist centres on Bali, Java and Lambok is fairly easy, but can present problems elsewhere, so it’s best to ensure adequate cash before setting off to more remote locations. Money exchangers are notoriously fussy about the condition and age of banknotes they will exchange, with dirty, old, or damaged notes often being decline. ATM’s are easy to find in the major regional cities and tourism areas in Indonesia with many allowing cash withdrawals from debit cards. Although credit cards are accepted in many places, credit card fraud is a significant problem with “card cloning” on the increase.
What is Indonesia’s Weather?
Despite the vast geographical area that Indonesia occupies, its tropical climate is surprisingly uniform, although there are some variations according to region and elevation. There are just two seasons; rainy and dry. December to March is monsoon season with January and February being the wettest. The dry season generally usually lasts from June to September, and it does still rain during these months, but less so than during the wet season. Straddling the equator for nearly 4000 Km, the Indonesian archipelago enjoys nearly uniform coastal water temperatures ensuring fairly constant land temperatures all year round.Temperatures along the coastal plains tend to average around 28 Celsius,with the inland mountainous regions averaging between 23 to 26 Celsius. Relative humidity ranges between 70 – 90%. Popular times of year to visit Indonesia are from July to September, however April and May offer generally dry and still cooler conditions whilst avoiding the crowds.
Culture of Indonesia
Indonesia does not have a unified culture. Instead, the peoples that make up this eclectic nation belong to more than 300 different cultures, each adding unique traditions, customs, cuisine, art, and music to the colorful fabric of the archipelago.
What Languages Are Spoken In Indonesia?
Despite it’s diverse multicultural multilingual makeup, the only official language in Indonesia is Indonesian; a language influenced by Malay, Dutch and Javanese. Many educated Indonesians and those closely associated with tourism also speak and understand English, whilst some of the older population still remember Dutch..
The international dialling code for Indonesia is +62. To make an outgoing international call from Indonesia, use any of the following access codes: 017, 001, 007 or 008.
The local mobile phone networks are mainly GSM with roaming agreements in place for many of the major international providers. The market is very competitive, so prices are reasonable, with main operators Telkosel, Indosat,AXIS and Excelcomindo all offering prepaid SIM cards which can be purchased almost anywhere with some form of ID. The coverage is good in the main population centres, but be a little patchy to non existent in more remote areas.
Internet access is available in all of the main tourist and business areas via internet cafes, and free WiFi hotspots in some shopping malls. All of the more upscale hotels also offer room-based access, whilst some offer free WiFi access in the lobby. Many of the phone companies also offer prepaid GSM/WCDMA SIM packages for reasonably priced access from mobile phones.
The postal services in Indonesia have improved greatly in recent years although some of the smaller ones may not offer a complete service. Many people still prefer to send important packages via international courier companies which have offices throughout the country.
Indonesia Transport Options
Indonesia has two main international airports: Soekarno-Hatta near Jakarta, Java and Ngurah Rai at Denpasar, Bali. These airports service flights to and from Europe, USA, Australia and other regions.
Indonesia Travel Tips
When visiting Indonesia it is important to keep a good attitude. Keep in mind that it is a financially poor country; in many senses undeveloped and in some cases unexplored. Many services and conveniences available in western societies may either not exist or be of a lower standard than you may be used to, and the natural volcanic activity which spawned the archipelago eons ago remains a dramatic work in progress. Many of the people you see and meet will have strange and exotic customs, rituals and may not speak your language, yet all of these things and more are what makes Indonesia one of the most interesting, varied and exciting places on the planet.
Indonesia Local Food
Indonesian food is an exotic blend combining the culinary influences Chinese, Indian, Portuguese and Dutch cuisines.
Indonesia Local Timezones
Because Indonesia is a large country covering around 4000 Km of longitude, there are three Standard Time zones:
Sumatra, Java and West & Central Kalimantan are 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+7)
Bali, Nusa Tenggara, South & East Kalimantan and Sulawesi are 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+8)
Irian Jaya and Maluku are 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+9)
In Indonesia, electricity is supplied at both 230V / 50Hz and in some places 120 volts. Power outlets generally accept the two pin European “Schuko” type plug, but other types are in use also. If you plan on using your own electrical equipment in the Indonesia, be particularly careful to determine the voltage and phase delivered by the outlet before plugging in. If your electrical equipment is of a different voltage or phase, a power convertor will be required. Plug adaptors can be easily purchased at most duty free shops and some convenience stores and are sometimes available at the reception desk of hotels.
Indonesia Dutyfree Limits
The following items and amounts can be brought into Indonesia by adults without incurring duty: 50 cigars or 200 cigarettes or 100 grammes of tobacco; 1 litre of liquor; a reasonable quantity of perfume for personal use; personal goods up to a value of USD 250 per passenger or USD 1,000 per family.
Passengers not entering on a tourist visa will be required to pay duties for photo and film cameras unless the equipment has been previously registered in their passport by Indonesian Customs. Importation of electronic equipment is not permitted at all, while items including, video tapes, pre recorded optical media and computer software may be screened by a censor board.
Certain items are controlled and require a licence including Chinese medicines and printings, narcotics, firearms and ammunition, pornography, fresh fruit and cordless telephones. Prohibited items include any commercial or merchandised goods contained in baggage.