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Indonesia Travel Guide
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Indonesia Travel Guide

Indonesia Travel Guide

Located in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is the world’s largest island country with more than 13,000 islands scattering over both sides of the equator. About 6,000 of total islands are inhabited. The largest are Sumatra, Java, Borneo (shared with Malaysia and Brunei), Sulawesi, and New Guinea (shared with Papua New Guinea). Java is the world's most populous island; more than half of the country's population live in here.

The Indonesian archipelago was an important region for trade since the 7th century. Local rulers got influences from foreign cultural, religious and political models from the early centuries CE, and Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished. Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Muslim traders and Sufi scholars brought Islam, while the European brought Christianity. The country also experienced a long period of Dutch colonialism covering all of the archipelago, and at times interrupted by Portuguese, French and British rule. Indonesia gained its independence in 1949.

As diverse as Indonesia is, perhaps is the exact phrase when talking about the country with over 300 distinct native ethnic groups together with 300 spoken languages. Remote islands, exotic and diverse cultures, deserted beaches, captivating wildlife are just to name a few of infinitely varied images of Indonesia. With such unique cultures and landscapes, each island feels like its own country. Climb active volcanoes, encounter orangutans in primordial jungle, visit ancient temples, or enjoy world-class diving.

Traveling Indonesia is an adventure that never ends. You can be greeted by some of the friendliest people out there or taste delicious cuisines on the way. From the cool white sands and raucous volcanoes of Bali to the vibrant capital city of Jakarta to the untouched lands of Sumatra, you can always find something different here. Indonesia is home to a vast array of indigenous animals, including the Komodo dragon. With extremely inexpensive local food and reasonably-priced accommodation, it’s no wonder Indonesia is a popular destination among so many travelers.

Quick facts

Capital:                        Jakarta

Language:                   Indonesian (official) and over 300 regional languages

Ethnic groups:            Over 300 ethnic groups

Religion:                      Islam (80% population)

Currency:                    Rupiah (Rp)

Time Zone:                  UTC+7 to +9 (various)

Electricity:                   30V/50Hz

Calling code:               +62

Lying along the equator, Indonesia tends to have a relatively even climate year-round. Temperatures remain fairly constant with averages of 28oC. There are two seasons in Indonesia: wet and dry with no extremes of summer or winter. In most parts of the country, the dry season falls between April and October and the wet season between November and March.

In some regions, such as Kalimantan and Sumatra, there are only slight differences in rainfall and temperature between the seasons, whereas others, such as Nusa Tenggara, experience far more pronounced differences with droughts in the dry season, and floods in the wet. Rainfall is plentiful, particularly in West Sumatra, West Kalimantan, West Java, and Papua. Parts of Sulawesi and some islands closer to Australia are drier.

Typhoons and large-scale storms pose little hazard to mariners in Indonesian waters; the major danger comes from swift currents in channels, such as the Lombok and Sape straits.

Getting to Indonesia

By air

The principal gateways for entry to Indonesia are Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang (at the outskirt of Jakarta) and Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport, both airports are equipped with the latest facilities. Other airports that also serves international flights includes Juanda Airport in Surabaya, Hasanudin Airport in Makassar, Kuala Namu in Medan and West Java International Airport in Majalengka, West Java Province.

Garuda Indonesia, the flag carrier of Indonesia, serves flights to several cities in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Amsterdam and London in Europe.

Other international airlines that serves flights to and from Indonesia include: AirAsia, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Emirates, Eva Air, Firefly, Japan Airlines, KLM, Korean Air, Lion Air, Luftansha, Malaysia Airlines, and Qantas/Jetstar Airways.

By land

Indonesia share land borders with three countries: Timor Leste in Timor Island, Malaysia in Borneo, and Papua New Guinea in Papua. From Timor Leste, the border crossing to Indonesia is located at the town of Atambua with the main border post of Mota’ain. In Atambua, there are also the border posts of Matamauk and Napan.

From Malaysia, Regular buses between Kuching (Sarawak, eastern Malaysia) and Pontianak (West Kalimantan) pass through the border post at Entikong. The  Aruk Border Post in Sambas Regency, connect West Kalimantan Province in Indonesia to Sarawak, Malaysia. The Nanga Badau Sanggau Border Post also connects West Kalimantan and the State of Sarawak in Malaysia.

The only land crossing that connect the Indonesian province of Papua and Papua New Guinea is the Skouw Border Post situated at Muaratami District which is about 60Km from Jayapura, the capital city of Papua Province.

By sea

Ferries

Ferries connect Indonesia with the neighboring countries of Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Most connections are between ports in Sumatra and Riau Islands Province and those in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia.

Cruise Ships and Yachts

Cruise ships call at 5 ports: Tanjung Priok (North Jakarta), Tanjung Perak (Surabaya), Belawan (near Medan), Makassar and Tanjung Benoa (Bali). There are 24 schedule of regular cruise ships from Singapore visit Java and Bali, whereas irregular schedule cruise ships visit Bali and Nusa Tenggara.

Getting around Indonesia

By air

There are many airlines serve domestic flights across the archipelago such as AirAsia, Lion Air, Batik Air, Citilink, Dimonim Air, Garuda Indonesia. Most major Indonesian-based carriers have website listing prices, however it may be difficult to buy tickets online using international credit cards. You can refer to purchase tickets via travel agents, travel websites accept international cards and buy directly at the airport.

By boat

All the major islands are connected by regular ferries. Check with shipping companies, harbor offices, travel agents or hotels for the schedules and ticket prices. Pelni is the national shipping company serving as connector between bigger cities to remote islands with affordable prices. Routes are either on fortnightly or monthly schedule with stops for a few hours in each port.

Remember to consider safety on boat when travel between islands. Accidents do happen, so it is essential that you take responsibility for your own safety. Consider to choose large boats, check for safety equipment, avoid overcrowding, and look for exists.

By bus

Buses are main transports in Indonesia with very affordable prices. For long-distance buses, you can purchase tickets from travel agents or at the bus terminals. Hotels also can buy ticket for you and there often have buses to pick you up at hotel.

By car & motorbike

Indonesians drive on the left side of the road. In many big cities and tourist destinations such as Bali, traffic jams happen regularly.

To drive in Indonesia, you must have an international driving permit (IDP) from your local automobile association. Motorcycle license is also needed.

Motorbikes are available for rent throughout Indonesia. If you are traveling with a small group, a car will be the best choice, not only economic but allow maximum travel and freedom.

Passport

All travelers to Indonesia must have a passport with validity for at least 6 months from the date of arrival.

Visa

Indonesia offers visa exemption program for nationals from 169 countries. Check out the country list here: http://www.imigrasi.go.id/index.php/en/layanan-publik/bebas-visa. This type of visa is valid for 30 days, non-extendable and cannot be transferred into any other type of stay permit.

Visa on Arrival (VoA) to nationals of 61 countries 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. Visas cost US$35. Check out the country list here: https://www.indonesia.travel/gb/en/general-information/visa-immigration.

Visitors from other countries must apply for visa at Indonesia Embassies or Consulates in their home country. In addition, visas cannot be replaced with any other immigration letters. The visa shall then be administered by the Visa Officer in the presence of the applicant concerned.

Free entry visa is also provided to delegates registered in a conference that is officially convened. In addition, tourist visa can be obtained from every Indonesian Embassy or Consulate.

Currency & money

The official currency of Indonesia is Rupiah (Rp or IDR) which comes in both coins and notes. Coins in use are IDR1000, IDR500, IDR200, IDR100, and IDR50. Notes come in denominations of IDR1000, IDR2000, IDR5000, IDR10000, IDR20000, IDR50000, and IDR100000. Information of daily exchange rate can be found in newspapers or from the internet and online apps. You can exchange foreign currency in major cities throughout the archipelago at banks and money changers. Most tourists’ cities have money changer facilities; however, if you are travelling to remote areas, it is advisable to exchange your money beforehand.

Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, large restaurants, and big stores.

ATMs are widely available in all major cities and tourist destinations. Limitation withdrawal is depending on your respective home bank. It is also best to withdraw some money from ATM in big cities before travel to more secluded destinations.

Electricity, telephone & internet

Electricity: 30V/50Hz. Plugs have two round pins.

Telephone: cheap SIM cards are widely available at reasonable prices.

Internet access: free Wi-Fi is commonly available in most hotels, cafes, restaurants, except in remote areas.

Business hours

Banks: from 8 am to 2 pm Monday to Thursday, from 8 am to noon on Friday and Saturday.

Government offices: from 8 am to 3 pm Monday to Thursday, to noon on Friday.

Post offices: from 8 am to 2 pm Monday to Friday (in tourist centers, main post offices are often open longer).

Private business offices: from 8 am to 4 pm or 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday. Many open to noon Saturday.

Restaurants: from 8 am to 10 pm in tourist areas, 8 am to 9 pm in other places.

Shops: from 9 am to 8 pm in tourist areas, from 9 am to 5 pm in other places.

Public holidays

Tahun Baru Masehi (New Year's Day)

1 January

Tahun Baru Imlek (Chinese New Year)

Late January to early February

Wafat Yesus Kristus (Good Friday)

Late March or early April

Nyepi (Balinese New Year)

Bali closes down for one day, usually in March

Hari Buruh (Labour Day)

1 May

Hari Waisak

May

Kenaikan Yesus Kristus (Ascension of Christ)

May

Hari Proklamasi Kemerdekaan (Independence Day)

17 August

Hari Natal (Christmas Day)

25 December

Muharram Islamic New Year

Varies each year

Maulud Nabi Muhammad Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad

Varies each year

Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammad Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad

Varies each year

Idul Fitri (Lebaran)

Varies each year and lasts two days

Idul Adha Islamic feast of the sacrifice.

Varies each year


Traveling with children

In Indonesia, health standards are low compared to the developed countries, but with suitable precautions, children can travel safety.

-        Rabies is a major problem, especially in Bali. Keep your kids away from stray animals like dogs, cats or monkey.

-        Traffic and bad pavement in busy areas also are a danger to kids. Check these conditions carefully for any activity.

-        Check your kid’s health situation carefully, especially with regards to malaria and dengue fever.

Some of the best and safe places to take your children to are: Bali, Nusa Tengarra and Java. These sites have wonderful beaches, great outdoor activities with child-friendly, well-equipment hotels and resorts.

Women travelers

Women traveling alone to Indonesia may receive unwanted attention, keep in mind some following rules:

-        Dress modestly, especially in Muslim areas. In some places such as Aceh, women are required to wear head scarves and cover their arms.

-        If you are a solo female and you hire a car with driver for several days, it’s not culturally appropriate for a male Muslim driver to be travelling alone with you. A third party will come along as a chaperone.

Health and safety

In large cities and Bali, you can easily find treatments for common health problems, but in remote areas it may be difficult. Therefore, it’s important to note what precautions you should take in Indonesia.

If on Bali, your major concerns are rabies, mosquito bites and sunburn, other places in the country, there are more important considerations such as dengue fever, malaria, hepatitis A, B, Japanese B encephalitis.

If you are using any regular medication, make sure to bring double in clearly labelled containers. Also remember to get a signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications in case of need later.

Don’t travel without health insurance even if you are fit and healthy.  Accidents do happen.

The only vaccine required by international regulations is yellow fever. These following vaccines are recommended if you are travelling Southeast Asia, beyond major cities, as well as Bali and Lombok:  Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Rabies, Hepatitis B, Cholera, Japanese B Encephalitis and Meningitis.

Never drink tap water in Indonesia.

Bottle water is widely available and cheap, but check the seal is intact when buying.

Shopping

Whether you are looking for furniture, fashion, antiques, art or jewelry, Indonesia is renowned for producing exquisitely crafted goods. If you are looking for traditional and affordable shopping, go to its local markets. These places are more than just a place of selling and buying goods, but an experience you will cherish.

Bali is the best place for local arts and crafts, the island of Java is a good shopping base while bigger cities such as Jakarta and Yogyakarta have an array of mega and modern shopping malls with international brands. Shops are often open from 8 am to 8 pm, some close on Sunday. Bigger shopping centers open from 10 am to 10 pm.

Indonesian batik, with its gorgeous patterns and delicate details, is recognized the world over for its elegant beauty. Indonesian Batik made in the island of Java has a long history of acculturation, with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures, and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique, and the quality of workmanship. Many batik patterns are symbolic. There are two types of batik, batik cap (the printed batik) and batik tulis (hand-drawn batik and more expensive). You can buy traditional batik in Yogyakarta and Solo, while the town of Pekalongan is most famous for hand-drawn batik.

Indonesia is also known for its local handicrafts, from leather goods to silver to art and wood carvings. Perhaps the best places to buy these items are at local markets, and from street vendors where you can even get the very cheap prices. Good leathers crafts such as wayang kulit puppets can be found in Yogyakarta, while hand-woven cloths and traditional textiles are well-known in Lombok and Surabaya. Bali is popular for intricate wood carvings and sand sculptures.

To purchase traditional arts and crafts at much cheaper prices it is best to head out to the smaller, more remote towns in the archipelago. Markets and vendors there will only sell locally-made arts and crafts. In Bali, the availability and range of goods is excellent, however, it may not be the cheapest place to buy items. Prices are often ridiculously high and you are required to use all your bargaining skills.

Shopping tips

-        Credit cards are generally accepted but cash purchases are the norm in places that bargain and in smaller shops. Larger shops that accept credit cards will often expect you to pay a 2.5% to 3% processing charge.

-        Always check the quality of the products that you are buying. If you are not sure how to tell whether something is of good quality, ask local people or other travelers.

-        When it comes to bargaining, it’s best to be friendly. Bargain hard but don’t get angry or pushy, and don’t make insulting jokes. Keep in mind that prices in some tourist areas may be double or triple the normal rate, so start low and wait for the seller to come down to a price that you want. If that doesn’t work, leave the shop. If the seller really wants to make a deal, they might give you a final low price, and if not, there are more shops to look at.

Indonesian cuisine is one of the most vibrant and colorful in the world, full of intense flavor thanks to its diverse ethnicity and culture. Over the centuries, many different races have visited and left their stamp on the cuisine – Indian, Chinese, Arab, Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch.

With 6,000 inhabited islands, each with their own specialties, wherever you go, most meals are based on rice. Indonesian cuisine varies greatly by region and has many different influences. While Sumatran cuisine often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables such as gulai and curry, Javanese cuisine is mostly indigenous with some hint of Chinese influence. The cuisines of Eastern Indonesia are similar to Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. Elements of Chinese cuisine can be seen in Indonesian cuisine: foods such as noodles, meat balls, and spring rolls have been completely assimilated.

Many dishes that originated in Indonesia are now popular to Malaysia and Singapore. Indonesian dishes such as satay, beef rendang, and sambal are favored in two countries as well. Soy-based dishes adored by Indonesians are tempeh – fermented soybeans usually found in block form that are high in protein and fibre – and krupuk, or deep fried crackers, made from prawn, seafood or vegetables.

Popular dishes

Nasi goring

Called Indonesia's national dish, Nasi goreng (literally meaning "fried rice") is steamed rice stir-fried and spiced with sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), shallot, garlic, tamarind and chilli, and accompanied by other ingredients such as egg, chicken, shrimp or salted dried fish and assorted vegetables. Nasi Goring can be found everywhere from street hawker carts to restaurants or parties.

Gado-gado

One of Indonesia's best-known dishes, also known as lotek, gado-gado is an Indonesian salad of slightly boiled, blanched or steamed vegetables and hard-boiled eggs, boiled potato, fried tofu and tempeh, and lontong (rice wrapped in a banana leaf), served with a peanut sauce dressing. In 2018, gado-gado is promoted as one of 5 national dishes of Indonesia.

Sambal

This dish appears on every table in Indonesia. It is a sauce made from a mixture of chili peppers, fermented shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, lime juice.

Satay

Satay is considered as a national dish. You can find it in street vendors to top-quality restaurants or at a traditional celebration feast. The dish originated from Java consisting of skewers of sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef, pork, fish, other meats, or tofu cook up over a wood or charcoal fire, then served with peanut sauce.

Soto

This traditional Indonesian soup mainly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables. It is sometimes considered Indonesia's national dish as it is served across the archipelago in a wide range of variations. Soto, especially soto ayam (chicken soto), is an Indonesian equivalent of chicken soup. Because it is always served warm with a tender texture, it is considered an Indonesian comfort food.

Bakso

Along with soto, satay, and siomay, bakso is one of the most popular street foods in Indonesia. Bakso is commonly made from finely ground beef with a small quantity of tapioca flour and salt, however, the dish can also be made from other ingredients, such as chicken, pork, fish or shrimp.

Rendang

A spicy meat dish which originated from Padang, Sumatra, and is now commonly served across the country. Rendang is not an everyday food since it takes time and skill to make. Its secret is in the gravy, which wraps around the beef for hours until, ideally, it's splendidly tender. A dried version, which can be kept for months (like jerky) is reserved for honored guests and important celebrations.

Nasi uduk

Nasi uduk is rice cooked in coconut milk and includes a pinwheel of various meat and vegetable accoutrements. Other ingredients include fried chicken, boiled eggs and tempe (soybean cake) with anchovies and is topped with emping (melinjo nut crackers). It's cheap, fast and popular for lunch.

Nasi padang

Named after its birth city in Sumatra, nasi Padang is steamed rice served with various choices of pre-cooked dishes such as meats, fish, vegetables, and spicy sambals.

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