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TRAVELLING IN INDONESIA

 

Traverse the islands of Indonesia, interacting with a land rich in natural marvels and compelling beauty. Discover ancient traditions expressed through music and dance; join locals as they sing and rejoice in the splendor of life. Travel over the seas, through glistening rice paddies and along pristine beaches, touching and breathing the beauty of Indonesia.

 

With more than 17,500 islands stretching the same distance as New York to San Francisco, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago; and with a population that will soon exceed the USA, it’s also by far the largest country in Southeast Asia. Its sheer size presents a wide range of differing regions with a very diverse and unique flora and fauna – and sublime geography from the popular paradise of Bali to the spectacular floral isle of Sulawesi and rugged grandeur of Sumatra.

 

Outside the highly urbanized cities, conservation is taken seriously and many rare and endangered species find a home in these areas. Visitors to the country’s giant national parks and reserves will be enthralled by the sight of tigers, elephants, komodo dragons and countless amazing plants, all in their natural habitats.

 

Those yearning for a culinary encounter will be dazzled by the array of distinctive rice and noodle dishes, curries, soups, grills and superbly sweet fruit. Beach lovers are enamored by the almost endless choice of beaches that go far beyond just Bali, along with Indonesia’s truly magnificent world class dive sites.

 

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Airports

The main international gateways are Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport; Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport; Juanda Airport in East Java; and the new Kuala Namu International Airport in Medan, Sumatra. As the country is an archipelago spread over a vast area, air travel is the best option for visiting the main tourism destinations.

 

Arrival /Departure Information

Visitors are required to have a visa to enter Indonesia, obtained either beforehand or, in limited circumstances, on arrival. Tourist passport holders traveling for private purposes may apply for a 30-day Visa-on-Arrival at airports in Jakarta, Bali, Surabaya, Banda Aceh, Medan, Padang, Pekanbaru, Manado, Balikpapan, Pontianak, Kupang, Batam, and South Sumatra. The Visa-on-Arrival is also available at a limited number of seaports, including the Batam and Bintan ferry terminals opposite Singapore. However, they are unavailable at any land border crossings. The Visa-on-Arrival is only for private, temporary business or pleasure visits. Travel for other purposes requires the appropriate Indonesian visa before arrival. The Visa-on-Arrival is valid for 30 days and requires a fee. A Visa-on-Arrival may be extended one time only. An onward/return ticket is required to apply for a Visa-on-Arrival at ports of entry. For details on the Visa-on-Arrival and other visa information, please visit the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia’s website at: http://www.embassyofindonesia.org/

 

One peculiarity to note is that visa-free and Visa-on-Arrival visitors must enter Indonesia via specific ports of entry. Entry via certain ports of entry will require a visa regardless of whether you are visa-free or Visa-on-Arrival or otherwise. It should also be noted that the days a visa holder is within Indonesia are counted from the day of entry (this being day one, not day zero!). This means that by 24.00 hours (12 midnight) on the night of the day of arrival, a visitor will have been in Indonesia for one day. If the visitor enters at 23:59 (11:59 PM), at just two minutes after midnight, the passenger will have been in Indonesia for two days. If you are entering Indonesia through Bali, you must have two fully blank passport pages in your passport. If you are entering through other ports of entry, you must have at least one blank page. Indonesian immigration inspectors do not consider amendment pages in your passport as blank pages. All airline passengers, including children, diplomats, and officials, are subject to a departure tax which must be paid in rupiah only. The international departure tax as of March 2014 was 150,000 rupiah (in Jakarta) and this varies at other international airports. The domestic departure tax in Jakarta was 40,000 Rupiah and this also varies elsewhere.

 

Business Hours

Private offices are usually open from Monday to Friday, from 9-am until 5-pm, and often close for lunch between 12-2-pm. Shops open early and close any time between 6-pm and 9-pm. Government office hours are Monday to Friday between 8-am and 4-pm and Saturday from 8-am to noon.

 

Banks

Banks open from 8-am to 3-pm on weekdays. They are closed on Saturdays but exchange places are open longer, until the early evening. Banks in larger towns and tourist destinations have ATMs. Cash or traveler's checks can be changed in most tourist centers at a competitive rate. Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the main cities and towns and destination areas.

 

Clothing

As with other regional tropical countries, lightweight cotton clothing is the most comfortable form of clothing in Indonesia. A lightweight raincoat is a good idea in the rainy season. It is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings outside to protect against mosquito bites. An umbrella is also a good idea in both the hot and rainy seasons as it will offer protective shade from both the strong sun and the tropical downpours in the respective seasons. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts, singlets, or vest tops, or similar clothing when visiting religious sites, and shoes should always be removed before entering a religious building or a private home. With the exception of the beach, always dress modestly in a manner that is respectful to citizens of a conservative society. Topless bathing is not acceptable. "

 

Currency

The unit of currency in Indonesia is the rupiah (abbreviated to Rp). When taking US dollars in cash, make sure the bills are new and crisp as banks in Indonesia can be selective about which bills they accept. It is worth making sure that you have a stock of smaller notes and coins as it can be hard to break larger bills and get change when paying for small items, using taxis etc.

 

Custom Allowances

Indonesian customs authorities strictly regulate the import and export of items such as prescription medicines and foreign language materials or CDs. You should contact the Embassy of Indonesia in your home country for more specific information about customs requirements. The following goods may be imported into Indonesia without incurring a customs duty:

 

One liter of alcohol

200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars, or 100gm of tobacco products

A reasonable quantity of perfume.

 

Please note: Money in excess of 100 million Rupiah (or in other currencies) must be declared upon arrival or departure.

 

ETIQUETTE (DOS AND DON’TS )

 

DOS IN INDONES IA

When meeting someone – be it for the first time or just the first time that day – it is common to shake hands, but in Indonesia this is just a light touching of the palms, often followed by bringing the hand to the chest.

Meetings often start and end with everybody shaking hands. However, men should not try to shake hands with a Muslim woman unless she offers her hand first.

It is respectful to bend slightly (not a complete bow) when greeting someone older, or someone in a position of authority.

Dress conservatively. Never wear shorts, dresses or skirts, or tops with low-neck lines and bare shoulders in temples or mosques.

Avoid public displays of affection. Anything beyond holding hands may be frowned upon in a conservative society.

Polite forms of address for people you don't know are Bapak (father) for men and Ibu (mother) for women. If you know the name of the person you're talking to, you can address them respectfully as Pak followed by their name (for men) or Bu followed by their name (for women). The Javanese terms mas (older brother) and mbak (older sister) are also heard, but these are best reserved for equals and not superiors.

Take your shoes off at the entrance to an Indonesian home.

When venturing out from your hotel, make sure you take a hotel business card with you. This will make your return in a taxi much easier.

If you are invited to someone’s home, it is customary to take a gift. This is not opened until after the visitor has left.

 

DON’TS IN INDONESIA

Do not show off; keep a low profile and a cool head, remain polite. Losing your temper in Indonesia means a loss of face

Using the left hand for anything is considered very rude. This is especially true when you are shaking hands or handing something to someone.

Avoid behavior that causes embarrassment to another party.

Do not take a photo of somebody without asking for their permission. Do not take pictures of anything related to the military, which is considered a breach of national security.

Do not stand or sit with your arms crossed or on your hips. This is a sign of anger or hostility.

 

Electricity

Voltage in Indonesia is 220 volts, so a transformer will be needed to operate 100-volt appliances. Electrical appliances will require an adapter that can change the shape of the plug prongs, so be sure to bring a universal plug adaptor. Rural areas may only be serviced with 110 volts.

 

Health

Generally no vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if traveling from an area where the disease is present. However visitors should be inoculated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A and B, tetanus and polio. Malaria and Dengue Fever are present and it is advisable to take precautions especially if traveling off the established tourist trail. If you plan to take anti-malarial tablets, you usually need to start the course of tablets one week before arrival. Prior to travel we recommend seeking a qualified medical practitioner’s advice about vaccinations and up-to-date precautionary medicine. All travelers should take out comprehensive travel insurance prior to travel that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. If you require a particular medication, ensure that you take an adequate supply, as it may not be available locally. Care should be taken to only drink alcohol in reputable venues and local “home brewed” drinks such as Arak (rice wine) and Tuak (palm wine) should be avoided. Ensure drinks are prepared in your sight and do n0t leave your drink unattended. "

 

Insurance

It is advisable to take out a medical insurance policy before traveling as treatment will not be administered without proof of payment, or evidence of a comprehensive travel insurance policy. Do be careful if you hire a car or a motorbike and make sure the rental is covered by the appropriate motor insurance. Health insurance to include emergency repatriation cover is strongly advised. Adequate routine medical care is available in all major cities, but emergency services are generally inadequate outside major cities. Clinics catering specifically to foreigners can be found in most capital cities. Although medical costs are relatively cheap, drugs can be expensive.

 

Internet

Major hotels throughout the country offer both Wi-Fi access and business centres with timed computer use. Cyber cafes are also plentiful and you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to make international calls.

 

Language

The inhabitants of the Indonesian archipelago constitute a rich array of hundreds of distinct cultures, each with their own individual language or dialect. However, virtually all Indonesians are united by the common national language; Bahasa Indonesia which is written in Roman script. English is widely spoken in the major tourism destinations. There are about 583 languages and dialects spoken in the Indonesia. They normally belong to the different ethnic groups of the population. Some of the distinctly different local languages are: Acehnese, Batak, Sundanese, Javanese, Sasak, Tetum of Timor, Dayak, Minahasa, Toraja, Buginese, Halmahera, Ambonese, Ceramese, and several Irianese languages. To make the picture even more complex and colorful, these languages are also spoken in different dialects.

 

People

With a population of approximately 250 million – the fourth most populated country on earth – Indonesia also has the largest population of Muslims within its borders. Indonesians are renowned for being courteous and welcoming and foreigners are often given the benefit of the doubt when norms are transgressed. Many Indonesians may see themselves first by their ethnic and cultural group and secondly as an Indonesian. Besides the unity of the national language, Pancasila is the national philosophy which stresses the doctrine of unity and universal justice for all Indonesians. "

 

Public Holidays

Closure of tourist sites can occur at short notice on public holidays and our Destination Asia guides will give guests advice about this situation. The dates of national holidays change every year

 

Religion

More than 90 per cent of Indonesians are followers of the Islamic faith, with the others being Hindus, Christians and Buddhists. Religious freedom is one of the principal features of Indonesian society. "

 

Safety

Serious or violent crimes against foreigners in Indonesia are rare but travelers should remain vigilant for petty theft, especially in larger cities and when travelling by bus or train. As a global rule, never leave belongings unattended and always maintain a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. In some tourist sites you may encounter insistent souvenir sellers. A polite No, thank you usually will suffice. Leave your expensive valuables at home and always use hotel safety deposits boxes or in-room safes for valuables. Crime can be a problem in some major metropolitan areas in the country. If you are in Jakarta and Surabaya, hire a taxi either at a major hotel or shopping center queue, or by calling a reputable taxi company. If you are arriving at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, use only taxis at designated taxi queues or clearly marked taxi stands. Politely decline all offers of help from touts or anyone who approaches you.

 

Shopping

Indonesia offers a wealth of distinctive handicrafts and other products. Best buys include textiles such as batik, silverwork, woodcarvings, puppets, handmade kites, paintings and ceramics. Bali has the greatest choice of handicrafts. It is not necessarily the case that you will find the best buys in the area where a particular product is made; the larger cities, especially Jakarta, sell a wide range of handicrafts and antiques from across the archipelago at competitive prices. Early morning sales may well be cheaper, as traders often believe the first sale augurs well for the rest of the day. Except in the larger fixed-price stores, bargaining (with good humor) is expected; start at 60 per cent lower than the asking price and work your way up.!

 

Telephone

Most hotels have IDD phones but for a more inexpensive option head to the abundance of Internet cafes for cheaper phone rates and the sale of pre-paid international calling cards.

 

Time Zone

Indonesia is spread over three time zones: Western Indonesia Standard Time, which covers the islands of Sumatra, Java and Madura, West and Central Kalimantan is seven hours ahead of GMT; Central Indonesia Standard Time covers East and South Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali and Nusa Tenggara, and is eight hours ahead of GMT; and Eastern Indonesia Standard Time, which covers Maluku, and Irian Jaya, is nine hours ahead of GMT.

 

Tipping

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated. Tipping the guide and driver on your transfers and tours should depend on how satisfied you are with the excursion. Hotel porters should be tipped for carrying bags to the room.  In other cases, it is totally up to the individual when and how much to tip.

 

Water

It is not advisable to drink tap water but bottled mineral water is safe and available everywhere. All hotels provide a complimentary bottle of local mineral water, per person, in the room. Ice is generally okay in good standard hotels and restaurants but it is best to avoid them at street stalls or in upcountry areas. Some minor stomach problems are always possible when travelling in Indonesia so bring a supply of your usual anti-diarrhoea medicine. Bottled water should also be used for cleaning teeth and cooking. Factory bottled soft drinks, and juices and milk sold in sealed containers are safe.

 

Weather

Indonesia is a tropical country with a fairly even climate all year round and the weather pattern is divided into two distinct seasons; “wet” and “dry”. The East Monsoon – from June to September – brings generally dry weather while the West Monsoon – from December to March – brings abundant rain. The transitional period between these two seasons alternates between sunny days, with occasional thunderstorms. Even in the midst of the wet season temperatures range from 21 degrees (70°F) to 33degrees Celsius (90°F), except at higher altitudes where it can get much cooler. The heaviest rainfalls are usually recorded in December and January. Average humidity is generally between 70-90 per cent.