|Currency||Indonesian rupiah (IDR)|
|Area||total: 1,919,440 sq km |
water: 93,000 sq km
land: 1,826,440 sq km
|Population||231,328,092 (July 2002 est.)|
|Language||Bahasa Indonesia (official, modified form of Malay), Dutch (spoken by educated old people only), English (tourist area), regional languages, the most widely spoken of which are Javanese and Sundanese|
|Religion||Muslim 88%, Protestant 5%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 2%, Buddhist 1%, other 1% (1998)|
Indonesia is a large archipelago in Southeast Asia that straddles the Equator between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. While it has land borders with Malaysia to the west as well as East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east, it also has sea borders with Australia and East Timor to the south, Palau, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and India to the north.
Indonesia is almost unimaginably vast. Provinces are usually grouped under main big islands and their surroundings, as listed below:
Sumatra — wild and rugged, the 6th largest island in the world has a great natural wealth.
- Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam
- Riau Islands — including the popular getaways of Bintan and Batam just off Singapore
- South Sumatra
- Bangka and Belitung
Borneo) — uncharted jungles, mighty rivers, home of the orangutan, a paradise for the adventurer.
- West Kalimantan
- Central Kalimantan
- East Kalimantan
- South Kalimantan
Java — the country's heartland, big cities and a lot of people packed on a not-so-big island.
- Jakarta — the congested capital
- West Java
- Central Java
- Yogyakarta — providing an access point to the mighty temples of Prambanan and Borobudur
- East Java
Sulawesi — strangely shaped, this island houses a diversity of societies and some spectacular scenery.
- North Sulawesi - stunning scenery, scuba diving, resort hotels
- Central Sulawesi
- West Sulawesi
- East Sulawesi
- South East Sulawesi
- South Sulawesi
Nusa Tenggara (Lesser Sunda Islands) — The "Southeast Islands" contain scores of ethnic groups, languages and religions.
- Bali — the tourist center of Indonesia, but still picturesquely beautiful with surfing being the number one attraction.
- West Nusa Tenggara — Lombok and Sumbawa
- East Nusa Tenggara — Sumba, Maluku (Moluccas) — the historic Spice Islands, largely unexplored and almost unknown to the outside world.
- North Maluku
- South Maluku
Irian Jaya — the western half of the island of New Guinea, with mountains, forests, swamps, an almost impenetrable wilderness in one of the remotest places on earth.
- West Irian Jaya
- Jakarta — the capital city, a sweltering, heaving mass of people packed into a vast urban sprawl
- Manado — the capital of North Sulawesi
- Borobudur - an ancient Buddhist stupa and temple complex on Java
- Prambanan - the largest Hindu temples outside India
Indonesia is the sleeping giant of Southeast Asia. With 17,000 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, it is the largest archipelago in the world. With well over 200 million people, Indonesia is by far the largest country by population in Southeast Asia. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world, though they are mostly tolerant and very open minded.
The Indonesian people, like any people, can be either friendly or rude to foreigners. 99% of the time, though, they are incredibly friendly to foreigners. They seem to go out of their way to make foreigners feel welcome.
The early history of Indonesia is the story of dozens of kingdoms and civilizations floureshing and fading in different parts of the archipelago. Some notable kingdoms include Srivijaya (7th-14th century) on Sumatra and Majapahit (1293-c.1500), based in eastern Java but the first to unite the main islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo as well as parts of the Malay Peninsula.
The first Europeans to arrive were the Portuguese, who were given the permission to erect a godown near present-day Jakarta in 1522. By the end of the century, however, the Dutch had pretty much taken over and the razing of a competing English fort in 1619 secured their hold on Java, leading to 350 years of colonialization.
Spurred on the Japanese conquest of the islands in World War II, Indonesia's founding father Sukarno declared independence from the Netherlands on 17 August 1945, although it took four years of fighting until the Dutch accepted this on December 27, 1949. Irian Jaya, which had declared independence on 1961 with Dutch support, was arm-twisted into "voluntarily" joining Indonesia in 1969 and East Timor was annexed outright in 1975.
Meanwhile, Sukarno had led the country with an authoritarian style of "Guided Democracy", founding the Non-Aligned Movement in Bandung in 1955. However, Sukarno was seen to align more and more with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) , and in a mysterious incident on September 30, 1965 six senior army generals were murdered. Major General Suharto used this as a pretext to seize power, sidelining Sukarno, proclaiming a New Order (Orde Baru) and initiating a series of bloody anti-Communist purges that led to the death of 500,000-2,000,000 people (estimates vary widely).
The next 32 years saw Indonesia enjoy stability and economic growth, but much of the wealth was concentrated in the hands of a small corrupt elite and dissent was brutally crushed. During the Asian economic crisis of 1997 the value of the Indonesian rupiah plummeted, halving the purchasing power of ordinary Indonesians, and in the ensuing violent upheaval Suharto was brought down and a more democratic regime installed.
After decades of civil war, on 30 August 1999 a provincial referendum for independence was overwhelmingly approved by the people of East Timor (Indonesian Timor Timur). Concurrence followed by Indonesia's national legislature, and the name East Timor was provisionally adopted. On 20 May 2002, East Timor was internationally recognized as an independent state.
Current issues include alleviating widespread poverty, reducing corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN), reforming the judiciary and increasing the efficiency of the bureaucracy. The Indonesian economy has been improving, encouraged by new mildly reformist president Susilo Bambang Yudoyono.
Despite 50 years of promoting Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ("Unity in Diversity") as the official state motto, the concept of an "Indonesian" remains artificial and the country's citizens divide themselves along a vast slew of ethnicities, clans, tribes and even castes. If this wasn't enough, religious differences add a volatile ingredient to the mix and the vast gaps in wealth create a class society as well. On a purely numerical scale, the largest ethnic groups are the Javanese (45%) of central and eastern Java, the Sundanese (14%) from western Java, the Madurese (7.5%) from the island of Madura, and Malays (7.5%), mostly from Sumatra. This leaves 26% for the Acehnese and Minangkabau of Sumatra, the Balinese, the Iban and Dayaks of Nusa Tenggara and Papua — the official total is no less than 3000!
One particularly notable ethnic group found throughout the country is the Indonesian Chinese, known as Tionghoa or the somewhat derogatory Cina. At an estimated 6-7 million they make up just 3% of the population but continue to wield a disproportionate influence in the economy, with one famous — if largely discredited — study of companies on the Jakarta Stock Exchange concluding that as many as 70% of its companies (and, by extension, the country) were controlled by Chinese. They have thus been subject to persecution, with all Chinese forcibly relocated into urban areas in the 1960s, forced to adopt Indonesian names and bans imposed on teaching Chinese and displaying Chinese characters. Anti-Chinese pogroms have also take place, notably in the 1965-66 anti-Communist purges after Suharto's coup and again in 1998 after his downfall, when an estimated 1,500 Chinese were killed in riots in Jakarta. However, the post-Reformasi governments have overturned most of the discriminatory legislation, and Chinese writing and Chinese festivals have made a tentative reappearance.
There is no one unified Indonesian culture as such, but the Hindu culture of the former Majapahit empire does provide a framework for the cultural traditions of the central islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. Perhaps the most distinctively "Indonesian" arts are wayang kulit shadow puppetry, where intricately detailed cutouts act out scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and its accompaniment the gamelan orchestra, whose incredibly complex metallic rhythms are the obligatory backdrop to both religious ceremonies and traditional entertainment. Some Malay influences are also common, notably batik cloth and kris daggers, and Arabic culture has also been adopted to some degree thanks to Islam.
Modern-day Indonesian popular culture is largely dominated by the largest ethnic group, the Javanese. Suharto's ban on Western imports like rock'n'roll, while long since repealed, led to the development of indigenous forms of music like dangdut, a sultry form of pop developed in the 1970s, and the televised pelvic thrusts of starlet Inul Daratista in 2003 were nearly as controversial as Elvis once was. Indonesian literature has yet to make much way on the world stage, with torch-bearer Pramoedya Ananta Toer's works long banned in his own homeland, but the post-Suharto era has seen a small boom with Ayu Utami's Saman breaking both taboos and sales records.
With 82-88% of the population depending on who you ask, Islam is by far the largest religion in Indonesia, making Indonesia the largest Muslim-majority state in the world. Indonesia's brand of Islam is generally quite tolerant and in larger cities headscarves and such visible manifestations of faith are exceptions rather than the rule, although the countryside and the devout state of Aceh can be considerably stricter.
The other state-sanctioned religions are Protestantism (5%), Roman Catholicism (3%), Hinduism (2%) and Buddhism (1%). Hindus are concentrated on Bali, while Christians are found mostly in Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara. There are also pockets of animism throughout the country, and many strict Muslims decry the casual Javanese incorporation of animistic rites into the practices of notionally Islamic believers.
Multicultural Indonesia celebrates a vast range of holidays and festivals, but many are limited to small areas (eg. the Hindu festivals of Bali).
The ones to look out for nationwide are Islamic holidays, most notably the fasting month of Ramadhan. During its 30 days, devout Muslims refrain from passing anything through their lips (food, drink, smoke) between sunrise and sunset. People get up early to stuff themselves before sunrise (suhur), go to work late if at all, and take off early to get back home in time to break fast (buka puasa) at sunset.
At the end of the month is the festival of Idul Fitri, also known as Lebaran, when pretty much the entire country takes a week or two off to head back home to visit family; this is the one time of year when Jakarta has no traffic jams, but the rest of the country does, with all forms of transport packed to the gills. All government offices (including embassies) and many businesses close for a week or even two, and traveling around Indonesia is best avoided if at all possible.
Non-Muslims, as well as Muslims travelling (musafir), are exempt from fasting but it is polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public. Many restaurants close during the day and those that stay open maintain a low profile. Bars and other entertainment places either have their opening hours cut, stop selling alcohol or even close entirely. Business travellers will notice that things move at an even more glacial pace than usual and, especially towards the end of the month, many people will take leave.
Christmas (Hari Natal) on December 25 and the Western New Year (Tahun Baru) on January 1st are also nationwide public holidays.
Upon arrival and disembarking from the plane, one immediately notices the sudden rush of warm, wet air. Indonesia is a warm place. It has no spring, summer, fall, or winter. It has two seasons: rainy and dry. Both are warm. There are exceptions. In the mountain cities such as Bogor and Bandung in Java, the temperature is cool and pleasant, and many people from outside these cities are wearing jackets.
Since the country is very large, Indonesia is divided into three time zones:
GMT +7: Western Indonesian Time (WIB, Waktu Indonesia Barat)
- Sumatra, Java, west/central Bali, south/east Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara
GMT +9: Eastern Indonesian Time (WIT, Waktu Indonesia Timur)
- Maluku, Irian Jaya
Nationals of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippine, Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR, Chile, Morocco, Peru and Vietnam can be given free visa facility for maximum of 30 days. Free visas are not extendable and can not be converted into any other type of visa.
Nationals of the United States of America, Australia, South Africa, Argentine, Brazil, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Norway, France, Poland, Switzerland, New Zealand and Taiwan can be given Visa On Arrival for maximum of 30 days. Visa On Arrival is not extendable and can not be converted into any type of visa. However, obtaining a visa from nearest Indonesian embassy or consulates before travelling is also possible and will allow you to skip some lines on entry.
As of September 2005, Visa On Arrival Fees are:
- US $10.00 for a stay up to 7 days
- US $25.00 for a stay up to 30 days
Exact change in dollars is recommended.
Nationals of other countries not listed above and visitors wishing to stay for more than 30 days are required to apply for visas through the nearest Indonesian Embassy or Consulate. Single-entry visas are valid for 60 days and fairly routine if pricy at US$60, but multiple-entry visas (quite convenient esp. for visiting East Timor) are generally difficult to obtain and very expensive at US$200.
For further information, please read Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei or Singapore before arriving in Jakarta. The main international airports are Soekarno-Hatta (CGK) at Cengkareng, Jakarta and Ngurah Rai (DPS) at Denpasar, Bali.
There are some ferry connections from neighboring countries, notably from Singapore to the Riau islands of Bintan and Batam, and from peninsular Malaysia to Sumatra, and between the Malaysian and Indonesian sides of Borneo. Here the list of main seaports as sea destinations.
- Sekupang, Batu Ampar, Nongsa, and Marina Teluk Senimba on Batam
- Bandar Bintan Telani Lagoi in Bintan Resorts and Bandar Sri Udana Lobam in Tanjung Uban on Bintan
From peninsular Malaysia
- Belawan, Medan (North Sumatra)
- Sibolga (North Sumatra)
- Yos Sudarso, Dumai (Riau)
- Teluk Bayur, Padang (West Sumatra)
- Tanjung Priok, Jakarta
- Padang Bai, Bali
The only formal way to enter by land is from Kuching (East Malaysia) to Entikong (Papua New Guinea) to Jayapura (Indonesian Papua]])
- From East Timor to Atambua (East Nusa Tenggara)
It is not guaranteed to be able to enter Indonesia through this way and any foreign nationals are required to apply for visas through the nearest Indonesian Embassy or Consulate.
Domestic airport tax
Airport tax (a.k.a service charge) is standardized nationwide at Rp 30,000 as of October 2005, paid in cash on check-in.
The only rapid means of long-distance travel within Indonesia is the plane.
The largest domestic carriers are state-owned Garuda (http://www.garuda-indonesia.com/) and private competitors Bouraq (http://www.bouraq.co.id/) and Lion Air (http://www.lionair.co.id/), but in recent years a host of low-cost competitors have sprung up, including Adam Air (http://www.adamair.co.id/), Indonesia Air Asia (http://www.airasia.com/) (formerly AWAIR), Batavia Air (http://www.batavia-air.co.id/), Mandala (http://www.mandalaair.com/) and many more. Routes for less popular destinations and routes (particularly in eastern Indonesia) are served by Garuda's little buddy Merpati (http://www.merpati.co.id/), memorably summarized as "It's Merpati and I'll fly if I want to", AirFast (http://www.airfastindonesia.com/), Sriwijaya, Jatayu and more, often flying smaller planes. If you really get off the beaten track, eg. settlements in Papua, there are no scheduled services at all and you'll need to charter a plane or hitch rides with missionaries.
Many carriers have poor on-time records and frequent cancellations, and the safety record of the smaller companies is dubious, with both Lion Air and Mandala suffering fatal crashes in recent years. Then again, compared to the carnage on Indonesia's roads, a flight even on an aging turboprop is probably far safer — and far more comfortable — than traveling the same distance by bus.
Prices are low by international standards, with more or less any domestic return flight available for under US$100 even on short notice, and fares for a fraction of that if you plan ahead. The hardest part is often finding what carriers serve what route and making a reservation, as many companies have not yet discovered the joys of the Internet, much less set up online booking engines. When traveling off the beaten track, it's imperative to reconfirm early and often, as frequencies are low and paid-up, occasionally even checked-in passengers are bumped off with depressing regularity if a VIP happens to show up.
Indonesia is all islands and consequently ferries have long been the most popular means of inter island travel. The largest company is PELNI, which visits practically every inhabited island in Indonesia. Schedules are notional and creature comforts sparse.
Java and some parts of Sumatra. The network was originally built by the Dutch and little has been done to maintain it since, with trains usually slower (but safer) than buses. Eksekutif-class trains are still a reasonably comfortable way of traveling on the classic Jakarta-Bogor-Bandung-Yogyakarta route.
The major types of buses are air-conditioned bus (AC) and non-air-conditioned bus (non-AC or "economy class"). The air-conditioned chartered buses can be rented with its drivers for a tourist group. Indonesian bus companies offer intercity and interprovince routes. The interprovince routes usually include transportation to other islands mainly between Java and Sumatra.
Indonesian driving habits are generally atrocious. Lanes are happily ignored and driving on the road shoulder is common. Please concentrate and be careful with public transportation and busses because they usually suddenly stop without notice. It is also common that pedestrians suddenly cross the road outside pedestrian crossing.
That said, renting a car in Indonesia is cheap compared to renting in other country, and despite recent fare hikes gas remains cheap (under Rp 5000 per liter). To drive a car yourself, an International Driver Permit is required, but it may be prudent to consider renting a car with driver, because the additional cost is quite low and having a traffic accident in Indonesia will spoil your trip.
In Jakarta, lots of tricycle-taxis, called bajaj (BAH-jai) are running on the streets and originally imported from India. Good communication skills is integral to prevent getting overcharged on these rides. Often, sly drivers try to get some more money out of you after you've reached your destination, so be sure that you know how much it costs beforehand.
The bajaj is exclusive to Jakarta, you won't find it in any other city. However, the Jakarta's local government currently have a plan to reduce and remove the bajaj from Indonesia.
Becak ("BEH-chak") is a tricycle (pedicab) transportation mode for short distances such as residential areas in many cities. In some area, the driver is sitting at the back of the passenger, but in some area (like Medan) the driver is sitting on the side of the passenger.
A funny fact : the becak does not exist in Jakarta ! (They were banned as a traffic hazard.)
If you're in such a hurry that you're willing to lose a limb to get there, then ojek motorcycle taxis might be the ticket for you. Ojek services consist of guys with bikes lounging around street corners, perhaps identified with a colored, numbered jacket, who usually shuttle short distances down alleys and roads but will also do longer trips for a price. Haggle furiously.
The sole official language is Indonesian, known as Bahasa Indonesia. It's based on the dialect of Malay spoken in the Riau Islands and Malay speakers will pick it up very quickly, the main differences being in loanwords — Indonesian borrowed from Dutch, while Malay's loans are mostly from English.
Written phonetically with the Latin alphabet and with a fairly logical grammar, Indonesian is generally regarded as one of the easiest languages to learn, and A.M. Almatsier's The Easy Way to Master the Indonesian Language, a 200 page small paperback, is an excellent starting point. It can be found in any Indonesian bookstore for less than 3 dollars.
Many educated Indonesians understand and are able to speak English. While Indonesian is the lingua franca throughout the archipelago, there are thousands of local languages as well, and if you really get off the beaten track you may have to learn them as well.
Indonesia's currency is the rupiah (IDR), abbreviated Rp. The rupiah's value plummeted during the 1997 economic crisis and has slowly drifted downward ever since, and as of 2005 you need almost Rp 10,000 to buy one US dollar. The trailing three zeros are often abbreviated with rb (ribu, thousand) or even dropped completely, and for more expensive items you will often even see jt (juta, million).
The largest banknote is Rp 100,000, which may only be US$10 but is still inconveniently large for most purchases. Next in the series are Rp 50,000, Rp 20,000, Rp 10,000, Rp 5,000 and finally Rp 1,000. Bill size is the easiest way to distinguish them, as the designs — all pale pastel shades of yellow, green and brown — are confusingly similar and the smaller bills in particular are often filthy and mangled. (The new 2004-2005 series of notes has, however, corrected this to some extent.) A chronic shortage of small change — it's not unusual to get a few pieces of candy back instead of coins — has been to some extent alleviated by a new flood of plasticky aluminum coins, available in denominations of Rp 500, Rp 200, Rp 100, Rp 50 and the thoroughly useless Rp 25. Older golden metallic versions are also still floating around, and you may occasionally even run into a sub-1000 banknote. Bills printed in 1992 or earlier are no longer in circulation, but can be exchanged at banks.
US dollars are the second currency of Indonesia and will be accepted by anyone in a pinch, but are typically used as an investment and for larger purchases, not buying a bowl of noodles on the street. Money exchangers are very picky around bill condition, pre-1999 bills or imperfect bills (ripped, wrinkled, stained, etc) will often be rejected. In the reverse direction, they will be happy to turn your dirty rupiah into spiffy dollars, but the spread is often considerable (10% is not unusual).
ATMs are common in the larger cities and generally reliable. Be careful when using credit cards, as cloning and fraud are a major problem in Indonesia.
Indonesia is cheap. Rp 10,000 will buy you a decent meal at many restaurants, maybe 3 miles in a taxi, 2 packs of cigarettes, 3 bottled waters, and maybe a bicycle. Just kidding. But seriously, US dollars convert quite well over there. Even if you flip burgers for a living, go to Indonesia, and you'll live like a king.
But as a tourist it's absolutely necessary to chaffer a minimum of 50%-70% off the initial price, otherwise you will spend your money quick.
Fancy restaurants, hotels and the like will often slap on a 10% service charge plus 6-11% tax. This may be denoted with "++" after the price or just written in tiny print on the bottom of the menu.
With 17,000 islands to choose from, Indonesian food is an umbrella term covering a vast variety of cuisines. Local flavors tend to be rather more simple than those in Malaysia or Thailand though, the predominant flavorings being including peanuts and chillies. The main staple is rice (nasi), served up in many forms including:
- bubur nasi, rice porridge with toppings, popular at breakfast
- lontong, rice packed tightly into bamboo containers
- nasi goreng, the ubiquitous fried rice
- nasi kuning, yellow spiced rice, originally a festive ceremonial dish
- nasi padang, white steamed rice served with numerous curries and other toppings, originally from Padang but exported throughout the country
- nasi timbel, white steamed rice wrapped in a banana leaf (looks pretty but doesn't add any flavor)
- nasi uduk, slightly sweet rice with coconut milk, popular at breakfast
Noodles (mi or mie) come in a good second in the popularity contest:
- bakmi, thin egg noodles usually served boiled with a topping of your choice
- kuetiaw, flat rice noodles most commonly fried up with soy sauce
Soups (soto) and watery curries are also common:
- bakso ("BAH-so"), meatballs and noodles in chicken broth
- sayur assam and sayur lodeh, vegetables in a soup of tamarind and fish
- soto ayam, chicken soup Indonesian style
Other favorites include gado-gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), the grilled corn of Bandung, the nasi gudeg (jackfruit curry) of Yogyakarta, the many fish dishes and chicken sate (grilled kebabs).
Chillies are made into a vast variety of sauces and dips known as sambal. The simplest and perhaps most common in sambal ulek, which is just chillies and salt with perhaps a dash of lime pounded together. There are many other kinds of sambal like sambal pecel, sambal terasi (with fish sauce), sambal tumpeng, etc. Many of these can be very spicy indeed!
Crackers known as keropok (or krupuk, it's the same word spelled differently) accompany almost every meal and are a traditional snack too. They can be made from almost any grain, fruit, vegetable or seed imaginable, including many never seen outside Indonesia, but perhaps the most common is the light pink keropok udang, made with dried shrimp.
Eating on the cheap in Indonesia is cheap indeed, and a complete streetside meal can be had for under US$1 (Rp 10,000). However, the level of hygiene may not be up to Western standards, so you may wish to steer clear for the first few days and patronize only visible popular establishments.
The fastest way to grab a bite is to visit a kaki lima, literally "five legs", named after the mobile stalls' three wheels plus the owner's two feet. These can be found by the side of the road in any Indonesian city, town or village, usually offering up simple fare like fried rice, noodles and porridge. At night a kaki lima can turn into a lesehan simply by providing some bamboo mats for customers to sit on and chat.
A step up from the kaki lima is the warung (or the old spelling waroeng), a slightly less mobile stall offering much the same food, but perhaps a few plastic stools and a tarp for shelter.
Rather more comfortable is the rumah makan or eating house, a simple restaurant more often than note specializing in a type of food or style of cuisine. Nasi Padang restaurants, offering rice and an array of curries and other toppings to go along with it, are particularly popular.
Another easy mid-range option in larger cities is to look out for food courts and Indonesian restaurants in shopping malls, which combine air-con with hygienic if rather predictable food. Major local chains include EsTeler 77 (http://www.esteler77.com/english/default.html), best known for its iced fruit desserts (es teler) but also selling baso, nasi goreng and other Indonesian staples, and Hoka Hoka Bento, for localized Japanese fare. KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and the usual suspects plus copies thereof are also abundant.
A restoran indicates more of a Western-style eating experience, with air-con, table cloths, table service and prices to match. Especially in Jakarta and Bali, it's possible to find very good restaurants offering authentic fare from around the world, but you'll be lucky to escape for under Rp 100,000 a head.
Tap water is generally not potable in Indonesia (unless boiled), but bottled water is available everywhere. Also beware of ice which may not have been prepared or transported.
Fruit juices (jus or es) are popular with Indonesians and visitors alike, although the hygiene of the water used to make them can be dubious. In addition to the usual suspects, try jus alpokat, a surprisingly tasty drink made from avocadoes — often with some chocolate syrup poured in!
Coffee and tea
Indonesians drink both coffee (kopi) and tea (teh), at least as long as they have had vast quantities of sugar added in. The Coke-like glass bottles of the Tehbotol brand of sweet bottled tea are ubiquitous. Last and least, no travel guide would be complete without mentioning the infamous kopi luwak, coffee made from beans which have been eaten, partially digested and excreted by the palm civet (luwak), but even in Indonesia this is an exotic delicacy.
Islam is the religion of the majority of Indonesians (other officially recognized religions being Hinduism, Protestantism, Catholicism and Buddhism; yes, Protestantism and Catholicism are considered separate! This is actually a relic from the Dutch colonial era), but alcohol is widely available in most areas, especially in upscale restaurants and bars. Public displays of drunkenness, however, are strongly frowned upon (and are likely to make you a victim of crime).
Indonesia's most popular tipple is Bintang beer, a standard-issue lager available more or less everywhere, although the locals like theirs lukewarm. A can costs upward of Rp 5,000 in a supermarket and as much as Rp 50,000 in a fancy bar.
Indonesians smoke like chimneys and the concept of "no smoking", much less "second-hand smoke", has yet to make much headway in the country. Normal Western-style cigarettes are known as rokok putih ("white smokes"), but the cancer stick of choice with a 92% market share is the ubiquitous kretek, a clove-laced cigarette that has become almost a national symbol, and whose scent you will likely first encounter the moment you step out of the plane into the airport. The main brands are Djarum, Gudang Garam and Sampoerna, and a pack of kretek will cost you on the order of Rp 2000, while white cigarettes are (by law!) twice as expensive.
Kretek are lower in nicotine but higher in tar than normal cigarettes. Most studies indicate that the overall health effect is roughly the same, but obviously they're not exactly good for you either and, combined with pollution, go a long way to explain why every other city resident seems to have a persistent cough.
In popular travel destinations like Bali and Jakarta accommodation options run the gamut, from cheap backpacker guesthouses to some of the most opulent five-star hotels and resorts imaginable.
In Indonesia, salaries vary from US$70/month - US$1500/month for the local people. The sales clerks that you see at luxurious shopping malls like Plaza Indonesia earns between US$60 - US$80. This is very small even for the Indonesians. Many adults above 20 stay with their parents to save money. Those who don't stay with their parents and earn less than US$200 usually have a second job.
Expats usually earn higher salaries. An English teacher could make between Rp. 7,500,000 - Rp. 8,000,000 (US$800 - US$850) and that is considered high by the local standard.
One general tip for getting by in Indonesia is that saving face is extremely important in Indonesian culture. If you should get into a dispute with a vendor, government official etc, forget trying to argue or 'win'. Better results will be gained by remaining polite and humble at all times, never raising your voice, and smiling, asking the person to help you find a solution to the problem. Rarely, if ever, is it appropriate to try to blame, or accuse.
Petty crime like pickpocketing is common in Indonesia. However, violent crime is rare. Guard your belongings carefully and consider carrying a money clip instead of a wallet.
See also the travel topic articles on pickpockets and common scams.
Indonesia is one of the world's most corrupt countries. Officials may ask for bribes, tips or "gifts" to supplement their meager salaries; pretending you do not understand may work. Generally, being polite, smiling, asking for an official receipt for any 'fees' you are asked to pay, more politeness, more smiling, will avoid any problems.
Civil strife and terrorism
Indonesia has a number of provinces where separatist movements have resorted to armed struggles, notably Aceh, Indonesian Papua and the Maluku (Molucca) islands. The Indonesian military have also been known to employ violent measures to control or disperse protesting crowds. Some terrorist bombings targeting Western interests have also taken place in Bali and Jakarta. Since the Bali bombing in 2002, the Indonesian police have accepted assistance from Australia and the American FBI in strengthening their anti-terrorism and internal security measures. However, especially after 2005 bombings, tourists should remain aware of their surroundings and unusual or unexpected situations. It is wise avoid any nightclub without strong security measures in place or where parking of cars and/or motorcycles in front of the club is permitted.
Break like the wind
Most Indonesians have not yet quite accepted the germ theory of disease: instead, any flu-like diseases are covered under the concept of masuk angin, lit. "enter wind". Preventive measures include avoiding cold drinks and making sure bus windows are tightly rolled up during a 48-hour bus ride (evidently kretek smoke does not cause masuk angin), while accepted cures include the practice of kerokan (rubbing an oiled coin over your skin) or the less socially acceptable kentut, in other words fart!
The local Indonesian health care system is not up to western standards. While a short term stay in an Indonesian hospital or medical center for simple health problems is probably no different to a western facility, serious and critical medical emergencies will stretch the system to the limit. In fact, many rich Indonesians often choose to travel to neighboring Singapore to receive more serious health care. In any case, travel health insurance that includes medical transport back to a home country is highly recommended.
In more remote regions of the country malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended. Also make sure your vaccinations are up to date, hepatitis is not uncommon and 2005 even saw a resurgence of polio in west Java.
- Usually, you should remove your shoes or sandals outside before entering a house, unless the owner explicitly allows you to keep them on. Even then, it might be more polite to remove your shoes.
- Be respectful to everyone (especially older people).
- Don't walk in front of people. Walk behind them.
- Do not put your feet up while sitting and try not to show the bottom of your feet to someone, it is considered rude.
- If a guest, it is not polite to finish any drink all the way to the bottom of the glass. This indicates that you would like more. Instead, leave about a half of an inch/2cm in the bottom of your glass and someone will most likely ask you if you would like more.
- Do not stand or sit with your arms crossed or on your hips. This is a sign of anger or hostility.
- Never use your left hand for anything! It is considered very rude. This is especially true when you are shaking hands or handing something to someone. It can be hard to get used to, especially if you are left handed. However, sometimes special greetings are given with both hands.
- It is respectful to bend slightly (not a complete bow) when greeting someone older or in a position of authority.
Keeping in touch with the outside world from Indonesia is rarely a problem, at least if you stay anywhere close to the beaten track.
As getting a fixed line remains an unaffordable luxury for many Indonesians, wartel (short for warung telekomunikasi) can be found on most every street in Indonesia.
- Making local calls
- Dial (telephone number)
- Making long distance calls
- Dial 0-(area code)-(telephone number)
- Making international calls
- Dial 017-(country code)-(area code, if any)-(telephone number)
- Making long distance collect calls
- Dial 0871-(area code)
- Connecting to the Internet
- Dial 080989999 (from your modem)
- TELKOM Calling Card access number
- Dial 168
The Indonesian mobile phone market is heavily competed and prices are low: you can pick up a prepaid SIM card for less than Rp 20,000 and calls may cost as little as Rp 1,000 a minute (subject to the usual host of restrictions). Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones and basic models start from Rp 250,000. The largest operators are Emergency numbers list at Plasa.com (http://www.plasa.com/umum/emergency.html)