Top events in Indonesia

August
17

Known throughout the region for its many rivers, the Indonesian province of South Kalimantan each year hosts the Traditional Boat Races at the...

August
17

In this moving and solemn ceremony, a procession of devotees follows behind a horse amidst the heavy aroma of incense. Shaded by an umbrella, the...

August
17

As part of Indonesia's Independence Day celebrations, each year the Bidar Race is held on the Musi River in Palembang. Teams of approximately 40...

Rica terraces in Bali, Indonesia
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Rica terraces in Bali, Indonesia

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Indonesia Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

1,922,570 million sq km (742,308 sq miles).

Population

253.6 million (2014).

Population density

131.9 per sq km.

Capital

Jakarta.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Joko Widodo since 2014.

Head of government

President Joko Widodo since 2014.

Electricity

230 volts AC, 50Hz but 127 volts is still used in some areas. Plugs used are European-style with two circular metal pins.

Draped languidly across the equator, Indonesia is a series of emerald jewels scattered across a broad expanse of tropical sea. This is one of the world’s great adventures in waiting – hidden away in dense jungles on secret islands are tribes almost untouched by the outside world and animals hardly known to science.

The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored. The archipelago boasts more than 18,000 islands, from tiny islets not much bigger than a palm tree to the mighty expanse of Borneo, shared with the Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak and the kingdom of Brunei.

Many come specifically to discover their own island paradise, complete with white-sand beaches, swaying palms and emerald waters. Offshore are some of the world’s best dive sites, swarming with huge sunfish, giant rays, sharks, porpoises, turtles and a blindingly colourful array of tropical fish.

For others, the attraction is cultural. A fascinating range of civilisations have grown up on these tropical islands, from animist tribes in remote jungle villages to the elaborate Hindu kingdoms of Bali and Java. In Indonesia, timeless temples jostle for space with golden-domed mosques and beach resorts crowded with sun-seekers and surfers. The surf resort of Kuta has become one of the world’s favourite tropical escapes, and the beach party raves through till dawn every day of the week.

For some, Kuta is the very vision of Asia. For others, the true escapes lie elsewhere, on the volcanic islands that drift eastwards towards Australia. Here are towering volcanoes to be climbed, national parks to be explored and tropical rainforests to be trekked. You might even get lucky and meet an orang-utan on Sumatra or the world’s largest living reptile on the island of Komodo, home to the eponymous Komodo dragon.

Best of all, flights and ferries link all of the islands, so you can island-hop right across the archipelago, stopping only when you find your own perfect piece of Southeast Asia.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 01 August 2015

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Crime

Be aware of the risk of street crime and pick-pocketing, particularly in busy tourist areas in Bali, where there has been an increase in reports of bag-snatching. Take sensible measures to protect yourself and your belongings. Avoid having bags obviously on show and carry only essential items. Take particular care of your passport and bank cards and avoid travelling around alone..

Credit card fraud is common. Don’t lose sight of your card during transactions. Criminals sometimes place a fake telephone number on ATMs advising customers to report problems. Customers dialling the number are asked for their PIN and their card is then retained within the machine.

Beware of thieves on public transport. If you’re travelling by car keep doors locked at all times. Only book taxis with a reputable firm. You can ask your hotel to book one for you, or use taxis from Bluebird, Silverbird or Express groups. These are widely available at hotels and shopping malls in central Jakarta and at Sukarno-International Airport. Take care to distinguish Bluebird and Silverbird vehicles from ‘lookalike’ competitors. Don’t use unlicensed taxi drivers at the airport or anywhere else. Their vehicles are usually in poor condition, unmetered and don’t have a dashboard identity licence. They charge extortionate fares and have been known to rob passengers.

Tourists have been robbed after bringing visitors to their hotel rooms. In some cases their drinks were drugged.

Methanol poisoning

There have been a number of deaths and cases of serious illness of locals and foreigners in Indonesia caused by drinking alcoholic drinks contaminated with methanol. These cases have occurred in bars, shops and hotels in popular tourist areas like Bali, Lombok and Sumatra. Criminal gangs have been reported to manufacture counterfeit replicas of well-known brands of alcohol containing high amounts of methanol. Take extreme care when buying spirit-based drinks, as bottles may appear to be genuine when they’re not.

There have also been cases of methanol poisoning from drinking adulterated arak/arrack, a local rice or palm liquor. Make sure cocktails are prepared in your sight and don’t leave drinks unattended as there have been reports of drink-spiking (with drugs) in clubs and nightspots. If you or someone you’re travelling with show signs of methanol poisoning or drink-spiking, seek immediate medical attention.

Local travel

Make sure you have the correct permits when planning local travel within Indonesia. Use a reliable and reputable guide for any adventure trips, otherwise you may have difficulties with local authorities if you need their help. For longer journeys, notify friends of your travel plans, contact them on arrival and where possible travel in convoy. Always carry a reliable means of communication with you.

Central Sulawesi Province

The political situation in Central Sulawesi Province is unsettled. Take particular care in Palu, Poso and Tentena and be alert to the potential for politically-motivated violence.

Maluku Province

Maluku Province has experienced unrest and violence between different religious and tribal groups. Take particular care in Ambon, including Haruku Island (Pulau Haruku).

Aceh

Aceh has emerged from a long period of internal conflict. Although violence against foreigners is rare, a British national was abducted in June 2013 and there were three separate incidents in November 2009 targeting foreigners. There have been reports of Shari’a (religious) police harassing foreigners.

You may be able to get a visa for Indonesia on arrival at the airport in Banda Aceh if you have arrived on an international flight, but the rules on entry and permission to remain can change at any time. Check with the Indonesian Embassy in London before you travel.

Be alert to the risk of politically-motivated violence and take particular care in remote areas. Sharia law is in force, visitors should be particularly careful not to offend local religious sensitivities (eg not drinking alcohol, not gambling, avoid wearing tight fitting or short clothing). Keep up to date with local developments and avoid large crowds, especially political rallies.

Papua and West Papua

Political tensions in Papua have given rise to occasional violence and armed attacks between Free Papua Movement (OPM) and the Indonesian authorities, particularly in the Central Highlands area around Puncak Jaya (including Wamena), but also including in Jayapura, Abepura, and Sentani on the north coast, and Timika town on the south coast.

Clashes in late July 2014 resulted in the death of security service personnel and civilians in the Lanny Jaya regency. If you’re travelling in the region, you should exercise extreme caution. In February 2013 a number of soldiers and civilians were killed in the Puncak Jaya region. In 2012, there were fatal shootings in and around Jayapura. Papuan separatists have kidnapped foreigners in the past. There is a heavy security presence in some areas, especially along the border with Papua New Guinea. Take extra care and seek local advice on your travel plans.

You will need a permit to travel to Papua and West Papua. Entry requirements can change at any time, and the penalties for entering the region with the wrong visa can be severe. You should get the latest information from the Indonesian Embassy in London before you travel. It is recommended that you carry your passport with you at all times when travelling around Papua. Should you need medical attention, there are limited hospital facilities in Papua and the likely destination for a medical emergency is Darwin, Australia.

The situation in the province of West Papua is calmer although there remains the possibility of unrest. Monitor the situation and be alert to changing circumstances.

Road travel

You can’t drive in Indonesia using a UK driving licence. You can drive using an International Driving Permit issued in Indonesia. International Driving Permits issued in the UK may need to be endorsed by the Indonesian licensing office in Jakarta.

Traffic discipline is very poor. Foreigners involved in even minor traffic violations or accidents may be vulnerable to exploitation. Consider employing a private driver or hiring a car with a driver. Some multinational companies don’t allow their expatriate staff to drive in Indonesia. Make sure you wear a helmet if you’re riding a motorbike or moped.

If you’re involved in an accident or breakdown, make sure someone remains with your vehicle. If you have any concerns for your security, move to another location safely. You should make yourself available for questioning by the police if requested to do so.

Air travel

A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

With the exception of Garuda Indonesia, Mandala Airlines (not currently operating), Airfast Indonesia, Ekspres Transportasi Antarbenua (operating as PremiAir) and Indonesia Air Asia, all other Indonesian passenger airlines are refused permission to operate services to the EU due to safety concerns. You should avoid flying with Indonesian passenger airlines subject to the EU operating ban.

British Government employees are advised to use carriers which are not subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the EU unless this is unavoidable.

Sea travel

Inter-island travel by boat or ferry can be dangerous as storms can appear quickly, vessels can be crowded and safety standards vary between providers. In 2014, the Indonesian Search and Rescue Agency recorded 137 boat accidents (of which 16 were in Bali and Lombok), resulting in injuries and deaths. Make sure you are satisfied with safety standards before travelling, including safety equipment and life-jackets. Life-jackets suitable for children aren’t always available and you should consider bringing your own.

There have been attacks against ships in and around the waters of Indonesia. Mariners should be vigilant, reduce opportunities for theft, establish secure areas on board and report all incidents to the coastal and flag state authorities.

Political situation

The overall political situation is stable, but external as well as internal developments, including the Middle East, can trigger public protests or unrest. You should avoid all protests, demonstrations and political rallies as they could turn violent with little notice.

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