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Indonesia – Travel Tips for a Hassle Free Vacation
Indonesia is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating countries in Southeast Asia. From the jungles and lakes of Sumatra, to the cultural heart of the nation, Java, on to Bali, Flores, Sulawesi, West Papua, Ambon, the Banda Islands and West Papua – every step is a discovery.
Let me give you a few tips to help you navigate this incredibly diverse country, Indonesia.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Although Islam is the state religion, there are parts of the country where other religions are predominant. North Sulawesi is 90% Christian, the Balinese are predominantly Hindu, and in the Malukus and Flores, Muslims and Christians live side by side – usually peacefully. When visiting places of worship, whether it is a mosque, temple or church, ensure that you are dressed conservatively. Remember to take off your shoes before entering a mosque or temple. Ladies should wear long-sleeved tops, skirts that go below the knee, or loose-fitting long pants. As for clothing in general, don’t take Kuta as being typical of the rest of the country. If you are going out to a restaurant (other than in Kuta) or if you are invited to visit an Indonesian home, smart – casual clothes are fine. The locals really appreciate it if you can use a few words of Bahasa Indonesia, the language that binds Indonesia and crosses geographical and cultural diversity in this huge archipelago.
the visa regulation
To enter Indonesia, your passport must be valid for at least another 6 months from your date of entry. Immigration officials are looking for passports that have less validity and are within their right to refuse you entry into Indonesia.
The 7-day visa on arrival was abolished in January 2010
30 day visa on arrival
At the time of writing, the cost of a 30-day visa on arrival in Indonesia is US$25, which you must pay in US$ cash with unmarked, clean banknotes issued after 2001. Since January 2010, this visa can be extended once for 30 days, while you are here in Indonesia. To be honest, the procedure is a hassle and if you think you might spend more than 30 days in Indonesia, get a 60 day tourist visa before entering Indonesia.
60 day tourist visa
You must obtain a 60-day tourist visa before entering Indonesia. The good news is that since January 2010 this visa can be extended in Indonesia. If you intend to travel to West Papua Province or you plan to extend your 60-day visa, please carry 4-6 additional passport photos.
For further information on visa regulations, check the website of your nearest Indonesian embassy or consulate.
The local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). It is always a good idea to have some small bills (Rp 1000, 2000, 5000) with you when shopping in local shops (toko) or planning to eat at a warung (small local restaurant or food stall). The easiest way to handle money is by using a credit or debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs, which are almost everywhere except for some really out-of-the-way places. If you intend to travel to or stay for an extended period off the beaten track, you will need to carry sufficient Indonesian cash to pay for accommodation, food and transport. Please do not rely on being able to exchange foreign currency. With the advent of ATMs, traveler’s checks have largely gone out of fashion.
By far the biggest danger to tourists’ health is dehydration and sunburn. Try to drink at least 2 liters of water a day. Coffee, tea, beer, juice and other liquids really don’t count. Indonesia is in the tropics and you are likely to spend quite a lot of time outside, so protect yourself with a good quality sunscreen and wear a hat.
In Bali there is currently a problem with rabies spread by sick dogs. If you are scratched or bitten by a dog, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Water – even local people drink bottled water! It’s cheap, so don’t take any chances.
Alcohol – there is some questionable Arak being sold in Bali and there have been several deaths this year due to it.
Sex is fun, but make sure you use condoms if you have to have a close encounter of a (very) personal kind during your stay in Indonesia. All kinds of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, are widespread, so please take precautions.
Drugs should be an absolute no-no. Don’t even think about bringing drugs into Indonesia because chances are you’ll end up in jail. Don’t be tempted to get drugs while in Indonesia. If you spend any length of time around Kuta, Legian or Seminyak, you will probably be offered something – please say no. You could easily be dealing with a police informant – which means you won’t be able to use your return ticket home!
Please don’t let sensational media reporting deter you from visiting Indonesia. For tourists, Indonesia is as safe as other countries. As things are today, any public place in the world can unfortunately be – the wrong place at the wrong time. To avoid being a victim of petty crime, just don’t display expensive consumer electronics, cameras or jewelry in public. I’ve been visiting Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia since the mid-1970s, and I’ve never had a problem with theft or bag-snapping. Yes it can happen so be aware but don’t get paranoid about it.
Don’t become a virtual traveler in your own lounge and get second-hand experiences by watching travel shows on TV – get out there and experience the magic first hand.
Get a pack of zip-lock bags at the nearest supermarket. They are essential if you like to snack and want to keep ants and cockroaches out of your room/bed/backpack. I always have plenty of them with me
Take toilet paper and soap, as these are NOT supplied in budget accommodation. Instead of carrying soap and hair shampoo, I usually use shower gel, which is also OK to wash your hair with.
With digital cameras often having very specific batteries, don’t forget the charger that came with your camera
Take a flashlight (flash light) as power outages are not unusual. Also footpaths, if they exist, are notorious for being uneven and often having huge holes in them. So if you’re walking around after dark and you don’t want to end up breaking any bones, take one with you.
Take a pair of sarongs as beds often only have a bottom layer and you may want to cover up during the night. Mosquito coils, or spray, and/or personal insect repellent is something you should definitely not forget. Remember to have bottled water in your room, you must NOT drink the tap water. I use tap water to brush my teeth, but if you have a sensitive stomach, I would suggest using bottled water for that too. Before
Hopefully the above tips will help you have fun in Indonesia. Just another thing – if at all possible bring rechargeable batteries and an appropriate charger, or a spare battery and charger for your specific camera. There is no safe way to dispose of used batteries in this country, creating environmental and health hazards.
Stop by and look around, but be warned that visiting Indonesia is a health hazard – it’s addictive!
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