Indonesia is a large archipelago with several thousand islands making up this island nation. The UN has placed the official island count at 14,752. Known as the emerald of the equator due to the emerald waters surrounding it. The country made up of volcanos give rise to the unique flora and fauna found uniquely on this island not seen anywhere else in the world. From the Java mouse deer (or kancil) to the prehistoric giant Komodo lizard or the distinguishing giant Raflesia Arnoldi flower (one of the largest flowers in the world). With 44 national parks ,diverse cultural and colorful cuisine will appeal to any travelers 5 senses. Enjoy a beautiful island resort hideaway or trek through the lush jungle to find that unique experience sought after by millions of visitors each year.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Mainland Territory: 1,904,569 square kilometres(735,358 sq mi)
Population: 264 million (2017)
National Capital: Jarkata
International Calling Code: Indonesia: +62
The history of Indonesia or more precisely of the Indonesian archipelago in South East Asia with 17,508 islands goes back to Homo erectus (popularly known as the “Java Man”). … They arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE. The native Melanesian peoples went to the far eastern regions. By the 7th century CE strong religious as well as cultural influence came from India and Taiwan. Bringing Hinduism and Buddhism to the island. By the 13th century the Islamic influences flourished in the northern Sumatra as the Hindu and Buddhist religion declined. Slowly other Indonesian areas gradually adopted Islam which became the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. For the most part, Islam overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences.
By the 16th century with the discovery of spices and its high trading value made Indonesia attractive to European traders. Predominantly Portuguese and Dutch trading companies found a monopoly in sourcing valuable nutmeg, cloves, and cubeb pepper in Maluku. By the 1800 the newly established Dutch East Indies Company under government control took control of Indonesia as its colony. By the early 20th century, Dutch dominance extended to the current boundaries. After the defeat of the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in WWII (1942-45) under nationalist leader of Indonesia, Sukarno, declared independence and became president. Though the Netherlands tried and failed to regain its dominance over Indonesia by 1949 under international pressure the Netherlands conceded and formally recognized that Indonesia is an independent nation. By 1965 a violent succession arose where millions died replacing Sukarno with General Suharto as president in 1968. Indonesia enjoyed 30 years of economic growth until 1998 when the East Asian Financial Crisis brought the country to its knees as unrest and protest flared throughout the country. By May 1998 President Suharto had resigned transforming the country to a stronger democratic country. In 2004 Indonesia held its first democratically elected president. The country since still has many challenges from natural disasters, corruption and religious sectarian unrest which is slowing progress. But one thing that is undeniable the people and landscape far surpasses the challenges that Indonesia faces and still attracting an average of 5 million visitors a year to this island nation.
The Indonesian archipelago consists of three main regions. One of the regions consists of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, and the islands that lie between them, which stand on the Sunda shelf, where the ocean depths are never more than 210 m (700 ft). Another region consists of Irian Jaya and the Aru Isles, which stand on the Sahul shelf, projecting northward from the north coast of Australia at similar depths. Between these two shelves is the remaining region, consisting of the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Maluku Islands (Moluccas), and Sulawesi, which are surrounded by seas with depths that reach 4,570 m (15,000 ft). The large islands have central mountain ranges rising from more or less extensive lowlands and coastal plains. Many inactive and scores of active volcanoes dot the islands, accounting for the predominantly rich volcanic soil that is carried down by the rivers to the plains and lowlands; there are over 100 volcanoes. Peaks rise to 3,650 m (12,000 ft) in Java and Sumatra. Java, Bali, and Lombok have extensive lowland plains and gently sloping cultivable mountainsides. Extensive swamp forests and not very fertile hill country are found in Kalimantan. Sumatra’s eastern coastline is bordered by morasses, floodplains, and alluvial terraces suitable for cultivation farther inland. Mountainous areas predominate in Sulawesi.
Indonesia is divided into provinces (Indonesian: Provinsi). Provinces are made up of regencies and cities. Provinces, regencies and cities have their own local governments and parliamentary bodies.
Since the enactment of Law Number 22 Year 1999 regarding Local Government (the law was revised by Law Number 32 Year 2004), local governments now play a greater role in administering their areas. Foreign policy, defense (including armed forces and national police), system of law, and monetary policy, however, remains under the management of the national government. Since 2005, heads of local government (governors, regents and mayors) have been directly elected by popular election. In short a democratic country elected by the people for the people.
More than 700 living languages are spoken in Indonesia. A major part of them belong to the Austronesian language family, while over 270 Papuan (non-Austronesian) languages are spoken in eastern Indonesia. The official language is Indonesian (locally known as bahasa Indonesia), a standardized form of Malay,[ which serves as the language of norm of the archipelago. The vocabulary of Indonesian borrows heavily from regional languages of Indonesia, such as Javanese, Sundanese and Minangkabau, as well as from Dutch, Sanskrit and Arabic. The Indonesian language is primarily used in commerce, administration, education and the media. Most Indonesians speak other languages, such as Javanese, as their first language. Most books printed in Indonesia are written in the Indonesian language. Since Indonesia recognises only a single official language, other languages are not recognized either at the national level or the regional level, thus making Javanese the most widely spoken language without official status, with Sundanese the second in the list (excluding Chinese varieties).
There are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia including Javanese, Sundanese, and Batak. Based on ethnic group, the largest ethnic group in Indonesia is the Javanese who make up about 40% of the total population. The Javanese are concentrated on the island of Java but millions have migrated to other islands throughout the archipelago because of the transmigration program. The Sundanese, Malay, and Madurese are the next largest groups in the country. Many ethnic groups, particularly in Kalimantan and Papua, have only hundreds of members. Most of the local languages belong to Austronesian language family, although a significant number, particularly in Papua, speak Papuan languages. Chinese Indonesians population makes up a little less than 1% of the total Indonesian population according to the 2000 census. Some of these Indonesians of Chinese descent speak various Chinese dialects, most notably Hokkien and Hakka.
Tourist Visa (Single Entry) will allow you a maximum stay of 60 (sixty) days.
Once issued, a Visa must be used within 90 (ninety) days from the Date of Issuance. Single Entry Visa means that you are allowed to enter Indonesia one time before the visa expiration date. The Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia may issue a Single Entry Visa for up to a 60 days stay only. Your flight ticket should show an exit at 60 days or less.
By Presidential Decree of 21 of 2016 dated on 2 March 2016 on Visa Free, replacing Presidential Regulation Number 104/2015 on Amendments to Presidential Regulation Number 69/2015 on Visa Free, Indonesia now provides special Short Stay Visa Free facilities for tourists who are nationals of a total 169 countries who wish to travel to Indonesia.
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
All travelers to Indonesia must be in possession of a Passport that is valid for at least six (6) months from the date of arrival, and have proof (tickets) of onward or return passage.
Free Tourist Visa
Tourist Visa Free Facilities are valid for 30 days, are non-extendable and cannot be transferred into any other type of of stay permit.
The visa exemption facility can be used for tourism, family visit, social visit, art and cultural, government duty, to deliver a speech or attend a seminar, international exhibition,meetings with head office or representative office in Indonesia, or transit.
The following are the Countries granted Visa Free Facilities according to Presidential Decree No. 21 of2016:
Nationals of the 169 countries can enter and exit Indonesian Territory through 124 Immigration Checkpoints in airports, seaports and land borders as follows:
For details and enquiries please contact the Indonesian Embassy in your home country.
If the 30 days of Visit Visa Exemption facility feels insufficient, visitor still can apply for Visa on Arrival (given for 30 days and extendable for another 30 days) or Visit Visa.
The Indonesian Government extends Visa on Arrival (VoA) to nationals of 61 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. Visas cost US$35
Please note that starting 26January 2010, the 7-day Visa-on-Arrival has been discontinued.
Exception to this is the Special Economic Zone in the Riau Islands province, where the 7-day Visa on Arrival (VoA) can still be obtained at the seaports on the islands of Batam, Bintan -including Tanjung Pinang and Bandar Bentan Telani – and Karimun. The7-Day VoA Visa fee is US$ 15.
Countries extended Visa-on-Arrival facility are:
- Algeria, 2. Australia, 3.Argentina, 4.Austria, 5. Bahrain, 6. Belgium, 7. Brazil, 8. Bulgaria, 19. Canada, 10.Cyprus, 11. Denmark, 12. Egypt, 13. Estonia, 14.Fiji, 15. Finland, 16.France,17. Germany, 18.Greece 19.Hungary, 20.Iceland, 21.India, 22.Iran, 23. Ireland,24.Italy, 25. Japan, 26.Kuwait, 27. Lao PDR, 28.Latvia, 29.Libya, 30.Lithuania, 31.Liechtenstein, 32. Luxemburg, 33. Malta, 34. Maldives, 35.Monaco,36. Mexico, 37. New Zealand, 38. the Netherlands, 39. Norway, 40. Oman, 41.Panama, 42. The People’s Republic of China, 43.Poland, 44. Portugal, 45.Qatar,46.Rumania, 47.Russia, 48.South Africa, 49.South Korea, 50.Switzerland,51.Saudi Arabia, 52.Spain, 53.Suriname, 54.Sweden, 55.Slovakia, 56.Slovenia,57.Taiwan, 58. Tunisia. 59..the United Arab Emirates, 60. the United Kingdom,61. The United States of America.
More Information on immigration available at: http://www.imigrasi.go.id
You can contact your travel agent organizing your trip in Indonesia to help with the visa processing.
The main variable of Indonesia’s climate is not temperature or air pressure, but rainfall. Split by the equator, indonesia has an almost entirely tropical climate, with the coastal plains averaging 28°C, the inland and mountain areas averaging 26°C, and the higher mountain regions, 23°C. The area’s relative humidity is quite high, and ranges between 70 and 90 percent.
The extreme variations in rainfall are linked with the monsoons. Generally speaking, there is a dry season (June to September), and a rainy season (December to March). Western and northern parts of Indonesia experience the most precipitation, since the north- and westward-moving monsoon clouds are heavy with moisture by the time they reach these more distant regions. Western Sumatra, Java, Bali, the interiors of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Irian Jaya are the most predictably damp regions of Indonesia, with rainfall measuring more than 2,000 millimeters per year.
Typhoons can hit the Islands of the Indonesia between September and December, and can cause rainstorms and heavy winds. However, not every Typhoon that hits Indonesia is a strong one, and in some years only a few Typhoons occur durind the tropical storm season.
Generally speaking, the best time of year to visit Indonesia is between May and September when the days are dry and sunny. However, during wet season temperatures remain high and rainfall comes in the form of intense tropical downpours that tend to last for a couple of hours and needn’t spoil your trip.
Public Holidays in Indonesia 2019
01 January, 2019
International New Year’s Day (Tahun Baru Masehi)
05 February, 2019
Chinese New Year (Tahun Baru Imlek)
07 March, 2019
Hari Raya Nyepi (Tahun Baru Saka) Bali New Year – Balinese “Day of Silence”
30 March, 2019
Good Friday (Wafat Isa Al-Masih (Jumat Agung)
01 May, 2019
World Labour Day
19 May, 2019
Waisak Day (Buddha’s Birthday)
30 May, 2019
Kenaikan Isa Al-Masih (Ascension Day)
03 June, 2019
04 June, 2019
05 June, 2019
Hari Raya Idul Fitri (Eid al-Fitr) (End of Ramadan)
06 June, 2019
Hari Raya Puasa holiday
11 August, 2019
Hari Raya Idul Adha / Hari Raya Haji (Eid al-Adha)
17 August, 2019
Hari Proklamasi Kemerdekaan R.I. (Indonesian Independence Day)
01 September, 2019
Islamic New Year – Tahun Baru Hijriyah (Muharram)
09 November, 2019
25 December, 2019
Indonesian cuisine consists of the various regional cuisines in parts of Indonesia; there are a wide variety of recipes and cuisines in part because Indonesia is composed of approximately 6,000 populated islands of the total 17,508 in the world’s largest archipelago, with more than 300 ethnic groups calling Indonesia home. Many regional cuisines exist, often based upon indigenous culture and foreign influences. Indonesia has around 5,350 traditional recipes, with 30 of them considered the most important. Indonesia’s cuisine may include rice, noodle and soup dishes in modest local eateries to street-side snacks and top-dollar plates.
Indonesian cuisine varies greatly by region and has many different influences. Sumatran cuisine, for example, often has Middle Eastern and Indian influences, featuring curried meat and vegetables such as gulai and curry, while 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.
Throughout its history, Indonesia has been involved in trade due to its location and natural resources. Additionally, Indonesia’s indigenous techniques and ingredients were influenced by India, the Middle East, China, and finally Europe. Spanish and Portuguese traders brought New World produce even before the Dutch came to colonize most of the archipelago. The Indonesian islands The Moluccas (Maluku), which are famed as “the Spice Islands”, also contributed to the introduction of native spices, such as cloves and nutmeg, to Indonesian and global cuisine.
Here are some must try dishes if you visit Indonesia:
- Indonesian Satay
Satay is meat skewers that are cooked over coals. These juicy skewers is usually served with rice cakes (ketupat) with peanut sauce poured all over the satay. It is a national dish conceived by street vendors and has been one of most celebrated food in Indonesia. It is practically everywhere and highly addictive.
- Beef Rendang
This dish originated from Padang, Sumatra. Padang food is famous for its spicyness and richness in flavor. You definitely have to try Beef Rendang. It is somehow similar to Beef Curry but without the broth. We get to appreciate this dish because it take forever to cook to get that tenderness out of the beef. Try this Padang goodness and let the world know how tasty it is!
- Fried Rice
I think this dish doesn’t need any further introduction. Indonesian Fried Rice and its reputation has taken the world by storm. Don’t you agree? Literally everyone has tried Fried Rice at some point in their life and it is the most versatile dish out there. You can mixed it with veggies, chicken, beef, seafood, whatever it is that you can think of. What makes Indonesian Fried Rice different is the use of sweet, thick soy sauce called keycap and garnished with acar, pickled cucumber and carrots. Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice) is considered Indonesia’s national dish.
- Nasi Rawon
Nasi Rawon is a dish made of beef stew from East Java. Rawon has this nutty flavour and a deep, black color from the use of keluak nut. It is rich in flavor. This dish is best enjoyed with a bowl of rice. Yummy and hearty at the same time. Find out for yourself.
- Sop Buntut (Oxtail Soup)
The title says it all. It is a soup with Oxtail as its main hero. Although believed that oxtail soup was invented in London in the seventeenth century but this Indonesian version of oxtail soup is popular as ever. It is a healthy and hearty soup loved by many people. The oxtail is usually fried or barbecued and combined with a soup base. Very tasty and yummy.
As you may or may not already know, most of Indonesian street food has something to do with peanut sauce. This dish right here called Siomay is Indonesia’s version of dim sum. This dish contain steamed fish dumplings. The portion comes with steamed potato, cabbage, egg and served with peanut sauce. If you want to go all local, the best way to enjoy Siomay is from a bicycle vendor, who carts his large steamer at the back of his bike. Street food at its best.
This product is so sinful that we cannot help but be seduced by it. Cost merely around 25 cents a pack and you get a quick and satisfying snack. It is none other than our very own Indonesian Instant Noodles! With so many flavours to choose from, you’ll be left with more than enough choices. I can’t think of anyone who has ever tried every single flavour that are available out there. The options are endless and too many to choose from that you’d hope they would stop inventing more flavours. Give it a taste and tell us if Indonesian Indomie is better than the others
- Nasi Uduk
This aromatic dish is also one of Indonesia’s national dish. The meal revolves around rice cooked in coconut milk. It is quite similar to Nasi Lemak from our neighbouring country, Malaysia. The difference is that nasi uduk is usually served with fried chicken, tempe (soybean cake), shredded omelette, fried onion, anchovies and topped with sambal and emping (melinjo nut crackers). You definitely cannot leave out sambal for Nasi Uduk. This dish is popular among lunchtime crowds.
- Sweet Martabak
One of our favorite desserts would be Indonesian Sweet Martabak. It is an Indonesian version of a pancake. The interesting thing is, Martabak is only sold in the evenings. You can choose mix fillings from chocolate, cheese and peanuts.
Last but not least, Pempek. Pempek or empek-empek is made of fish and tapioca. It is a Palembang specialty in South Sumatra. Pempek comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most popular one is called, kapal selam (submarine), contains an egg in the middle. Pempek is sprinkled with shrimp powder and served with cuka, a dark dipping sauce made from vinegar, chill and sugar.
When you arrive
Most international airports in Indonesia offer free Wi-Fi services within the vicinity. This is convenient for doing business that must be done online. If you really want to stay connected, it is advisable to have a clear idea of what kind of Internet connection you want before stepping out of the airport.
Based on the method of connection, for travelers, connecting through Wi-Fi or using local mobile carriers are the two most efficient ways to access the Internet. Other more permanent methods only make sense if you plan to stay longer than a few months.
Finding Wi-Fi areas
If you would rather avoid the hassle of acquiring a local SIM card, connecting to the Internet through Wi-Fi during your entire stay is possible. This method is suitable if you are staying in the country only for a few days and do not need to be always online, spending most of your stay at a resort, or if you are in need of high-speed connection.
Hotels in Indonesia are rather generous with Wi-Fi as most rooms provide complimentary Internet access. In star-rated hotels, the connection is of a decent speed – fast enough compared to the local average, but maybe not so much if you are from South Korea.
When away from the comfort of your hotel’s network, Wi-Fi can be found at many modern coffee shops and restaurants. Ask about the availability of Wi-Fi if that is your purpose upon entering a place; you wouldn’t want to place an order only to find out that the Internet is “having problems” – as they often claim.
Big cities in Indonesia have hotspots provided by local telecommunication companies, but this involves quite a time-consuming registration process. It would be better to use the Internet at a franchised coffee shop in exchange for overpriced coffee.
You can find good Internet connections at co-working spaces, enough for big data transfers. Co-working spaces can be found in big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Depok, Yogyakarta and Bali.
Acquiring pre-paid SIM card
A pre-paid SIM card can be acquired at the airport, where some operators have shops. It can be slightly more expensive compared to buying one at street-side cellular shop, but the seller can help you with all the technical and starting procedures, which will give you the benefit of having your gadget connected right away.
If you find yourself looking for a pre-paid SIM card after leaving the airport, they are available at most convenience stores, where you can also top-up credit.
But cellular shops really aren’t that hard to find as they can usually be found almost every 50 meters on a street.
At these small shops, pre-paid cell phone cards are sold at a very affordable price, usually starting from Rp 10,000 (less than US$1). This price often gets you the SIM card with a phone number only – sometimes also with enough credit for a phone call of only a few minutes or to subscribe to a one-day Internet package.
Buying the more advanced starting package is recommended. It has a starting price of Rp 50,000, which includes a month’s worth of mobile data package. Alternatively, you could buy the cheap starting package and enhance it by buying credit in amounts that get you a month-long mobile data package.
Upon first use, you will be asked to register your card with an ID card number.
Which operators to use
Technically, each mobile phone operator in Indonesia has different characteristics that suit different needs. Some are better in terms of network coverage; others are more attractive in their pricing.
If you wish to explore somewhere rather distant and remote, it is best to choose the pioneer and most established cell phone operator, Telkomsel, with its pre-paid service called Simpati. This operator provides the best network coverage in the country. From our experience of traveling to Derawan Islands, East Kalimantan, other networks hardly receive any signal except for Telkomsel.
Within city limits, however, your options vary. One operator, XL, is said to be very affordable in terms of package pricing.
- Most travelers to Indonesia will need vaccinations for hepatitis Aand typhoid fever, as well as medications for travelers’ diarrhea. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended for certain areas, in conjunction with insect repellents and other measures to prevent mosquito bites. Additional immunizations may be necessary depending upon the circumstances of the trip and the medical history of the traveler, as discussed below. All travelers should visit either a travel health clinic or their personal physician 4-8 weeks before departure.
Malaria:Prophylaxis with Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone (atovaquone/proguanil), or doxycycline is recommended for rural areas in Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Nusa Tenggara Barat and for all areas in eastern Indonesia (provinces of Papua Indonesia, Irian Jaya Barat, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Maluku, and Maluku Utara). There is no risk in Jakarta, resort areas of Bali, or the island of Java, except for the Menoreh Hills in central Java.
Recommended for all travelers
For travelers who may eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels
One-time booster recommended for any adult traveler who completed the childhood series but never had polio vaccine as an adult
Required for all travelers greater than one year of age arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas. Not recommended otherwise.
For travelers who may spend a month or more in rural areas and for short-term travelers who may spend substantial time outdoors in rural areas, especially after dusk
Recommended for all travelers
For travelers spending a lot of time outdoors, or at high risk for animal bites, or involved in any activities that might bring them into direct contact with bats
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
Two doses recommended for all travelers born after 1956, if not previously given
Revaccination recommended every 10 years
ALWAYS PURCHASE EMERGENCY HEALTH AND EVACUATION INSURANCE
Currency, Banking, and Credit Cards
The rupiah (Rp) is the official currency of Indonesia. Issued and controlled by the Bank of Indonesia, the ISO 4217 currency code for the Indonesian rupiah is IDR. The name “Rupiah” is derived from the Indian word rupiya(रुपीया), ultimately from Sanskrit rupyakam (रूप्यकम्; silver). Informally, Indonesians also use the word “perak” (“silver” in Indonesian) in referring to rupiah. The rupiah is subdivided into 100 sen, although inflation has rendered all coins and banknotes denominated in sen obsolete. Whether or not other currencies can be used varies from business to business. Large hotels and tourist stores may accept other currencies such as U.S. dollars. However, expect to generally end up paying more to use your foreign currency. Additionally, in some of the more unscrupulous places, prices will be advertised in U.S. dollars and the merchant may try to charge you more if you specifically ask to pay in IDR. If this is the case, then your best bet is to go elsewhere for the goods or services you’re after.
Indonesia has a complex banking system with national and regional banks serving different populations and needs. Some banks, for example, are set up to offer Sharia-compliant banking. There are also branches and services of many foreign banks available in Indonesia due to the large expat population. See if your bank is represented in the short list below.
Most common retail banks in Indonesia
- Bank Mandiri
- Bank Rakyat Indonesia
- Bank Central Asia
- Bank Negara Indonesia
- CIMB Niaga
International banks operating in Indonesia
- HSBC Indonesia
- Citibank Indonesia
- Bangkok Bank Indonesia
- Deutsche Bank Indonesia
- JPMorgan Chase
ATMs are common in the larger cities and tourist spots. Use the ATM locators below to find a convenient ATM in your card provider’s network.
Check with your bank to see what their foreign fees are, and find out if they have any partnerships with banks in Indonesia
You’ll probably be charged a fee for foreign withdrawal by your bank or card provider. Check this before you travel as some banks offer fee-free withdrawals, especially on premium accounts.
Even if your home bank doesn’t operate in Indonesia, it’s worth asking if they have a branch there, or if they work in partnership with a local bank. If they do, you might be able to get free or reduced fee ATM withdrawals while you are there.
Always choose to be charged in the local (IDR) currency for ATM withdrawals
You may also be charged additional fees by the ATM provider. You’ll usually be asked if you want to complete the transaction in English, though, which should make it easier to understand what fees are being added.
Because the ATM will recognize your card as foreign, you’ll probably also be offered DCC (described in the previous section). This means that you’ll be asked if you want to be charged for the withdrawal in your home currency. Always select to be charged in local currency, to avoid excessive charges and poor exchange rates.
Despite the charges, ATM usage is still preferred by many travelers because- assuming you avoid DCC – you should get a fair exchange rate from your home bank, making it economical overall.
It’s always worth shopping around, but it’s likely that you’ll get a better exchange rate if you exchange your cash once you arrive in Indonesia. Depending on where you are in the world, rupiah might not be carried by your local exchange bureau, anyway. Save the hassle by buying your currency upon arrival.
Avoid exchanging your cash in the airport or hotel if you can
If you need some cash immediately, then only exchange a little at the airport. Better yet, consider using an ATM to get what you need when you land. The exchange rates offered at airports (and, for that matter, hotels), are often poor. Head into town to exchange your money where competition drives a better deal for the customer.
Beware of exchange services advertising claiming ‘No fees’ or ‘Zero Commission’
Wherever you choose to exchange your cash, you do need to scrutinise the small print. The exchange desk might claim that they offer ‘zero commission’ exchanges, for example, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t make a profit. Instead, they simply sneak in their gain through offering you a poorer exchange rate.
In Indonesia – as elsewhere in the world – there are some fairly common scams when exchanging cash. One is to simply not mention a commission charge, or to advertise an exchange rate which is only available on larger transactions. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you commit.
If you’re exchanging cash, bring clean, undamaged banknotes in larger amounts from home
If you’re carrying cash to Indonesia to exchange, then make sure that you bring clean and crisp banknotes. Generally, exchange desks prefer larger bills (with some even offering better rates for higher denominations). Any marked or ripped banknotes are likely to be refused. When they are counting out your money, ask for larger bills as these are easier to count in the course of the transaction and don’t get distracted when your money is being counted out. Make sure you don’t fall prey as a tourist.
Using traveller’s cheques in Indonesia
Traveller’s Cheques aren’t readily accepted in Indonesia. You may be able to cash and exchange them at some banks, but the rates are seldom as good as when you exchange cash. To make the exchange, you’ll also have to carry your passport which many travellers prefer to avoid. Overall, many travellers are moving away from using Traveller’s Cheques entirely in favour of a mix of cash, credit/debit card and ATM withdraws.
You will obtain the best deals on the products that are made entirely in Indonesia, using local material and labor. Ideally, you should be able to carry those things with you back home as the cost of transportation can be prohibitive (at least as much as the price of the goods you are sending). Here are some recommendations:
Small handicrafts and accessories
Indonesian artisans from all over the archipelago produce a great variety of traditional handicrafts: Hand-woven bags, kites, kitchen ware, utensils, puppet, masks, dreamcatchers, baskets, lamps, mirrors, etc.
To make sure you are buying authentic, hand-made products, avoid cheap shops in touristic areas and visit instead small boutiques and local markets. In Bali for instance, you can go to the Pasar Seni in the village of Sukawati near Ubud.
To estimate the price of a product, I generally use the following technique: First, I ask the vendor how many hours of work were necessary to create it. Then, I calculate the labor cost considering that half a day’s work is worth around IDR50,000. Finally, I add the material cost (price of the wood, fabric, etc) and a reasonable seller’s fee.
Traditionally, batik fabric was hand-dyed in a long process involving wax and pattern stamps. Nowadays, 99% of batik clothes sold in Indonesia are made with machines that can print more colorful patterns.
To buy traditional, high-end batik clothes, you can visit any of the Batik Keris stores (in every high-end mall in Jakarta or Bali). Modern batik can be found almost anywhere. You can also buy them online on Zalora or Berrybenka.
The particularity of ikat fabric is that the yarn is dyed before being woven. Though the term “ikat” is Indonesian, it is unclear where this technique originally started. The website Bobobobo has a great collection of beautiful clothes with ikat patterns from the designer Didiet Maulana. High-quality ikats are also sold in Alun Alun shop in Grand Indonesia Mall (Jakarta) and in high-end boutiques in Bali.
A sarong is a piece of cloth, sometimes made from batik, that can be wrapped around the waist and worn as a dress. It can also be used as a towel for the beach, as a tablecloth, as a light blanket, etc.
It can be very cheap, around a dollar if you buy it from the street. More expensive, sophisticated sarongs are available online on Zalora or Bobobobo.
There are plenty of beauty products that are made in Indonesia, including soap bars, shampoos, creams, lotions, body scrub, etc.
One of the most famous brands, Martha Tilaar, has plenty of shops in the country (www.marthatilaarshop.com).
Another recommended brand, based in Bali, is Sensatia.
There are hundreds of fashion designers in Bali, Indonesians or foreigners. While their products are expensive, they can be a great gift or souvenir for your girlfriend, especially considering some items may be hard to buy abroad.
In Bali, some of the famous brands are Paul Ropp, Lost In Paradise, Bamboo Blonde, By The Sea, or Mist.
Though I wrote earlier that you shouldn’t buy tropical wood furniture in Bali, an exception can be made if you need something very specific, tailor-made.
You can ask reputed companies like YMB or My Own Bali. Don’t hesitate to negotiate hard!
Indonesian food and ingredients
If you cook, you may be interested to bring back home some ingredients specific to Indonesian cuisine, such as red chili, clove, galangal, turmeric or nutmeg. In any supermarket and in most convenience stores, you can also buy sambal, kecap, coconut milk, bumbu, Rendang sauce, Gulai sauce, noodles, etc.
Indonesian crackers, called “krupuk“, can be offered as a small gift, especially to children.
One of the best souvenirs you can bring back from Indonesia are photo prints. Before heading back to France, I always print my best shots and keep them in France as a memory. The price is at least half compared to what you would pay in Europe (around 10 US cents for a photo the size of a postcard).
Most printers in Indonesia do not use official branded cartridges (they use refills made in China). This means the quality might not always be up to your standards. Try with a few prints before making a large order and don’t hesitate to shop around.
In Jakarta, you can visit the Rawa Bening market, the largest gem stones market in all Southeast Asia. If you know your stuff, there are excellent deals to be made. But buyer beware. If you are not an expert you are more likely to lose.
Jewelry (gold, silver, pearl)
Again, as long as you know enough to discern between a fake and a genuine piece, you can purchase low-priced, handmade jewelry in Indonesia.
The cheapest shops are often in city centers (for instance in Jakarta in Cikini), but you can also buy more elaborate items in designer boutiques (check UC Silver or Atlas Sea Pearls among others).
Paintings are easy to buy in tourist areas in Ubud or Kuta. Unless you visit an artist’s gallery, it is most likely that you’ll buy reproductions. Do not overpay thinking they are originals!
Cheap no-brand clothes
Middle-class department stores like Matahari or Ramayana are present in every major city in Indonesia. They sell very affordable clothes, shoes and accessories that are made in Indonesian factories.
In Indonesia the power plugs and sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
- Type C: also known as the standard “Euro” plug. This socket also works with plug Eand plug F.
Type F: also known as “Schuko”. This socket also works with plug C and plug E.
- Just smile! People from Indonesia, especially on the island of Java, appreciate the polite smile of foreign people they are introducing, and they will certainly give you a smile back. Friendliness is in their nature, so you should just be relaxed.
- When you are approaching older people, it is considered as a really polite gesture to bend down a bit. Not all of the people actually do that, but it shows your respect and older people will appreciate it, especially if they notice that you come from another country.
- When you are talking to someone, you should use following titles which will make you sound more respectful and polite:
- Bapakfor men
- Ibufor women
- Masfor boys
- Mbakfor girls
- Never start a conversation with local people with your hands placed on your hips. It is considered as an insulting act and people will think you disrespect them.
- In addition, you should never touch other people’s heads, because Indonesian people find it rude.
- Writing letters in Indonesia using the red ink is a gesture that symbolizes anger and the ending of a friendly relationship, so, if you are not angry, you should avoid the red color.
- You have to take your shoes off before entering someone’s home, as a sign of appreciation and respect.
- You should not be angry or offended if they start asking personal questions. They don’t do it to make you feel uncomfortable, but to show that they are interested in having a friendly relationship with you. You are not obligated to answer any of them.
- You should always use your right hand when eating, gifting or receiving a gift.
- You should not reject a meal or drink if it is offered to you. It is polite to accept it. In addition, have in mind that Indonesian Muslims don’t drink alcohol nor eat pork meat.
- You should not be placing your feet up on the chairs or tables.
Emergency Travel and health insurance is not included in our tour package. This is an important requirement when you travel with us for your safety and peace of mind in the unexpected event that you need urgent international standard care. You should buy travel insurance in your country as it will be more convenient for you to deal with any claims and adjustments upon your return home. AIG, Allianz, or John Hancock have good travel coverage and respond very quickly to emergencies. We do not endorse any one travel insurance company but suggest you consider www.travelguard.com, as past clients of ours have had good experiences with them in times of need. Also, check with your insurance provider to see if they cover:
1. emergency evacuation during your travels, and
2. emergency airlift to an international hospital or provide professional medical care to transport you home. The cost alone for airlifting a person home can cost up to the 100’s of thousands of USD. Travel more safely with fewer worries.
A packing list is often a forgotten part of the planning processes, but it’s one of the most important steps to ensure an enjoyable vacation. Here are some important reminders from our traveler’s experiences:
- Your passport should have at least 6-months validity from the date of departure on your trip.
- Check your visa requirement to your destination. Check the entry date on your visa and validity of the visa.
- When possible book e-tickets. If you happen to lose your ticket you can always print your ticket online.
- Always make extra copies of your passport and keep it separate from your original.
- Make a copy of your travel insurance and emergency contact information. It’s best to have those numbers to be entered in yours and your travel partner’s mobile phone. It is a must for all travelers who travel with us to have medical treatment & evacuation insurance. We’ve seen too many nightmares when people try to save a few hundred dollars on insurance and end up with hundred of thousand of dollars in medical bills.
- Call your credit card company to inform them of the dates of your trip so that your charge card won’t get blocked by your card company because of a foreign charge. This will also protect you in the event your card is stolen, and you have fraudulent charges on your account. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted as oppose to Amex.
- Make sure your tour operator knows of any allergies you may have.
Electronics or gadgets
- Adapters for your gadgets
- Make sure your electronics can take 230 volts as this is standard in most countries.
- Sometimes it’s a good investment to bring a backup mobile phone where you can use a local SIM card for calls. It’s much cheaper than using your regular mobile phone and paying for roaming calls.
- Don’t forget your charger for your electronics and check to see if they are compatible with 230 volts.
- Bring small pocket solar calculator to convert exchange rates.
Clothing & Miscellaneous
- Know where you are traveling and the weather you should expect. Traveling to a tropical area you will expect to see mosquitoes, so bring some long sleeve shirts and long pants for evenings.
- Traveling to Asia it is frowned upon to wear shorts that are 6 in. above the knee, especially when visiting temples or places of worship. Wearing a dress is fine if you plan to dress light. But again, when visiting temples please make sure dresses are no more than a few inches above the knee with a shirt or blouse covering your shoulder. Revealing shoulders are frowned upon.
- Good walking shoes and socks
- Slip-on shoes for ease of taking them on and off when visiting pagodas, houses, and other places where footwear in inappropriate.
- Rain-resistant light jacket
- Head cover to protect from hot tropical weather
- Insect repellent with DEET
- Stomach medicine
- Prescription medication
- A good book for those occasional flight delays
- See above for health related items to bring
Per couple or family travelling –
As a rough guide, around $15 per day for your guide per day would be about right for a good job, perhaps more for something special or if you are a larger group or family.
Drivers usually receive 1/2 of what the accompanying guide gets. $6-7 per day is a guideline, but do note that you don’t have to tip drivers doing pickups and drop offs at airports.
If you’re in a hotel for a few days or more, a tip of a few dollars for your chambermaid or anyone else who has been helpful will be appreciated.
Many western-style restaurants and most hotels will add a 10% service charge to the bill. It’s also customary to leave any small change (coins etc) and if a charge is not added then 10% is a good gauge. Local restaurants usually don’t expect tips although they certainly won’t reject them should you leave a few dollar notes behind.
Do not require tipping unless for exceptional service.
Taxi or cab drivers don’t expect to be tipped but it is the norm to leave any small change. So if the ride comes to HK$46.30 and you pay with an HK$50 leave the change.
Before 45 days, no charge tours.
45 to 30 days prior arrival date: 5% of the total price
29 to 15 days prior arrival date: 10% of the total price
7 days to the day of arrival: 50%
3 days to the day of arrival: 100%