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INDONESIA – GENERAL INFORMATION

                 Fig.1 – Indonesia Flag

GEOGRAPHY

Indonesia lies between the mainland of South-East Asia and Australia in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world’s largest archipelago state. Indonesia is made up of six main islands – Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Bali, Kalimantan (part of the island of Borneo) and Irian Jaya (the western half of New Guinea) – and 30 smaller archipelagos. In total, the Indonesian archipelago consists of more than 17,000 islands. 6000 of these are inhabited and stretch over 3,000 miles, most lying in a volcanic belt with more than 300 volcanoes, the great majority of which are extinct. The landscape varies from island to island, ranging from high mountains and plateaus to coastal lowlands and alluvial belts.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

The Dutch began to colonize Indonesia in the early 17th century; the islands were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. Indonesia declared its independence after Japan’s surrender, but it required four years of intermittent negotiations, recurring hostilities, and UN mediation before the Netherlands agreed to relinquish its colony. Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago state. Today, Indonesia enjoys a period of stability and relative prosperity with the country having ducked the worst of the recent global economic crisis. Independence issues in Aceh (greatly improved since the 2005 peace deal) and Papua, natural disasters, such as frequent earthquakes, and potential terrorist activity all remain challenges for the government.

THE PEOPLE

Indonesia, with over 190 million people, has the fifth largest population in the world. The country is an ethnological goldmine, with 336 ethnic groups joined together by a unifying language and through intermarriage. Indonesia can be considered a spectrum of all the Asian cultures, races and religions. Of the 190 million people in the country, 87% are Muslim. The Indonesian Constitution recognizes freedom of religion.

Indonesians in general are friendly, fun-loving people. They are artistic by nature and express themselves in canvas, wood, metals, clay and stone and in their dance and dramas.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

Social courtesies are often fairly formal. Using a few words of the local language will be appreciated. When drink or food is served, it should not be touched until the host invites the guest to do so. Never pass or accept anything with the left hand, as this is seen as unclean. Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon, and kissing in public will attract a great deal of unwanted attention.

Touching a stranger of the same sex while in conversation is very common. Smiling is a cultural tradition and Indonesians smile frequently, even in an uncomfortable or difficult situation. Visitors should avoid losing their temper as saving face is very important in Indonesian culture; tourists should avoid putting others in a situation where they may feel embarrassed or ashamed. Both men and women should take care to dress in an appropriate way for their surroundings – whilst a more casual attitude may be fine in Bali, Aceh is rather more conservative and you may be expected to cover up a little more.

LANGUAGES

Bahasa Indonesia is the official national language. Altogether, there are an estimated 583 languages and dialects spoken in the archipelago. The older generation still speaks Dutch as a second language and English is widely spoken in tourist areas.

GOVERNMENT

Republic. Gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949. Head of State and Government is the President.

TIME ZONE

Indonesia is 11 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).

ELECTRICITY

Electric supply is on a 240-volt 50-cycle system.

CLIMATE

Indonesia has a tropical climate which is highly variable from area to area. The eastern monsoon brings the driest weather (June to September), while the western monsoon brings the main rains (December to March). Rainstorms occur all year. Higher regions are cooler. Temperatures average between 23°C (73°F) and 28°C (82°F) all year, but this tends to be humid heat, with humidity varying from 70% to 90%. Peak time for tourists to travel is in June, July and August, although prices will be higher; those travelling in the shoulder seasons of May and September could get lucky with both weather and prices.

Muddy roads can be a deterrent to travel in the wet season. Keep in mind that during local holidays public transport can be clogged, accommodation hard to find in holiday areas and businesses close.

CLOTHES TO WEAR

Bring lightweight clothing with rainwear; cottons and silks will be most appropriate. Warmer clothes are needed for cool evenings and upland areas, thicker cottons and woolen garments may work best. Smart clothes such as jackets are required for formal occasions, and it is regarded inappropriate to wear brief clothes anywhere other than the beach or at sports facilities. Women should observe the dress code in Muslim areas that requires shoulders and legs to be kept covered.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

You will need a passport valid for at least six months following the date of your arrival to Indonesia. The U.S. Embassy cannot obtain entry permission for U.S. citizens with expiring passports. If you arrive and your passport has less than six month’s validity, Indonesian authorities will require you to depart Indonesia immediately to obtain a new U.S. passport elsewhere; you will not be allowed to renew your passport here and follow-up later with Indonesian authorities. Also, if your passport does not have the required six month’s validity remaining on your passport, you may be denied boarding at your point of origin or at a transit point en route. Generally, you should expect to wait two weeks for a U.S. passport to be issued outside of the United States.

You are required to have a visa to enter Indonesia, obtained either beforehand or on arrival. Tourist passport holders traveling for private purposes may apply for a 30-day visitor visa on arrival at the airports in Jakarta, Bali, Surabaya, Banda Aceh, Medan, Padang, Pekanbaru, Manado, Biak, Ambon, Balikpapan, Pontianak, Kupang, Batam, and South Sumatra. Visas-on-Arrival are also available at a limited number of seaports, including the Batam and Bintan ferry terminals opposite Singapore, but they are unavailable at any land border crossing. Visas-on-Arrival are only for private, temporary business or pleasure visits. Visas-on-Arrival are valid for 30 days and cost U.S. $25. A Visa-on-Arrival may be extended one time only. An onward/return ticket is required to apply for a Visa-on-Arrival at these ports of entry. The Indonesian Embassy website indicates that Visas-on-Arrival are unavailable to government travelers who want to enter Indonesia on a diplomatic or official passport for an official purpose or mission.

Travel for other purposes requires the appropriate Indonesian visa before arrival. For details on Visas-on-Arrival and other visa information please visit the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia website.

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. If your passport is nearly full, be sure to obtain extra blank passport pages before you travel – go to How to Add Extra Pages to Your U.S. Passport. If you don’t meet Indonesian entry criteria properly, you may be denied entry on the spot with no recourse and put on the next available flight departing Indonesia.

Please be advised that Indonesian entry and visa procedures may be inconsistently applied at different ports of entry, and when faced with making a decision, Indonesian authorities usually make the more conservative, restrictive decision. Entry requirements are subject to change at the sole discretion of the Indonesian authorities, a process over which the U.S. government has no control.

You may apply for a visa at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, D.C., or at an Indonesian consulate elsewhere in the United States. In some cases, you may also apply at Indonesian embassies and consulates in other countries. If you are traveling overseas and wish to apply for an Indonesian visa, you should inquire with the local Indonesian Embassy in the country where you are currently traveling. For up-to-date information, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia: 2020 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20036, phone: (202) 775-5200, or at Indonesian Consulates in Los Angeles (213) 383-5126; San Francisco (415) 474-9571; Chicago (312) 920-1880; New York (212) 879-0600; and Houston (713) 785-1691. Visit the Embassy of Indonesia website for the most current visa information.

Indonesia strictly enforces its immigration/visa requirements. Travelers who overstay the date stamped in their Visa-on-Arrival are subject to a fine of 200,000 Rupiah, approximately U.S. $22, per day, and other sanctions. Westerners, including U.S. citizens, have been jailed for visa violations and/or overstays. Violators may also be subject to substantial fines and/or deportation from Indonesia for immigration and visa violations. Immigration officials have also detained foreigners for conducting work, academic, or other non-tourist activities while on visitor status. Even gratis volunteer work with local or international NGOs is not permitted on visitor status. Penalties for such immigration/visa violations have included a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of Rupiah 25 million. Travelers should contact an Indonesian consular office to determine the appropriate visa category before traveling to Indonesia. Please consult the Criminal Penalties section below for further information.

All airline passengers, including children, diplomats, and officials, are subject to a departure tax, which must be paid in Rupiah, cash only. The international departure tax as of August 2012 is 150,000 Rupiah in Jakarta and varies at other international airports. The domestic departure tax in Jakarta is 40,000 Rupiah and also varies elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Indonesia. The Indonesian Government screens incoming passengers in response to reported outbreaks of pandemic illnesses.

Embassy Locations:

U.S. Embassy in Indonesia

Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan No. 3–5

Jakarta 10110, Indonesia

Telephone: +62 (21) 3435-9000

Fax: +62 (21) 386-2259

http://jakarta.usembassy.gov

Embassy of Canada in Indonesia

World Trade Centre I, 6th Floor

Jalan Jend. Sudirman Kav. 29-31

Jakarta 12920, Indonesia

Telephone: +62 (21) 2550 7800

Fax: +62 (21) 2550 7811

http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/indonesia-indonesie/index.aspx?lang=eng

HEALTH

The general level of sanitation and health care in Indonesia is far below U.S. standards. Some routine medical care is available in all major cities, although most expatriates leave the country for all but the simplest medical procedures. Psychological and psychiatric services are limited throughout Indonesia. Medical procedures requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to locations with acceptable medical care, such as Singapore, Australia, or the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment or sizable deposits before offering medical care. A non-exhaustive list of English-speaking doctors and hospitals is accessible via the U.S. Embassy Jakarta’s website. Many places in Indonesia are inaccessible to the physically handicapped. Sidewalks tend to be uneven and difficult to navigate, and many buildings do not have elevators.

Ambulance services are individually run by hospitals and clinics. Indonesian ambulance attendants lack paramedical training equivalent to U.S. standards, and there is no reliable emergency ambulance service in Indonesia. If you are staying in Indonesia for an extended period, especially if you have known health problems, you are advised to investigate private ambulance services in your area, and to provide family and close contacts with the direct telephone number(s) of the preferred service. Traffic congestion is a significant problem in urban Indonesia and roads are generally in poor condition in rural Indonesia, so ambulance transport, if it exists at all, even over short distances can take hours.

Community sanitation and public health programs are inadequate throughout Indonesia and subject to frequent breakdowns. Water and air pollution and traffic congestion have rapidly increased with the unstructured growth of major cities. Almost all maladies of the developing world are endemic to Indonesia, and immediate treatment is problematic. Residents are subject to water- and food-borne illnesses such as typhoid, hepatitis, cholera, worms, amebiasis, giardia, cyclospora, and bacterial dysentery.

Mosquito-borne dengue fever and tuberculosis exist throughout Indonesia and have been serious in Jakarta. Indonesia has the highest incidence of dengue fever in Asia, which is caused by several species of mosquitoes biting during the day. Multiple drug-resistant strains of malaria are endemic in some parts of Indonesia but not in metropolitan Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya, and Bali; even short stays can be disastrous without malaria prophylaxis. Precautions against being bitten – such as mosquito repellent, wearing long sleeves, and sleeping under a bed net are all recommended. Malaria prophylaxis is highly recommended for travel to malaria-endemic areas outside major cities. Travelers to Sulawesi should be tested for schistosomiasis.

Asthma and other respiratory difficulties are common and generally worse in Jakarta than in other areas, exacerbated by the high pollution levels. Indonesia has one of the highest prevalence of tuberculosis, which is transmitted through the air, shared smoking devices, and particularly in densely crowded areas. Precautions include wearing a face mask when in crowded areas, and having a PPD test after departure. Skin allergies are also common. Avian (H5N1), swine (H1N1) influenza, and seasonal influenza (H2N3) are endemic in Indonesia all year with peaks during the rainy season (November- April). Influenza vaccination may be helpful to reduce instances of seasonal flu (H2N3). High risk areas for highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) are live-bird markets around the greater Jakarta area. Current information about influenza in Indonesia can be found on Flu Net. Rabies is endemic in Indonesia, but extensive dog vaccination has reduced cases in Bali by almost 80% with a possibility for elimination by the end of 2012; other islands in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and Sumatra still pose risks for rabies. Rabies is a highly fatal disease and treatment availability is very limited. If bitten, immediately seek treatment at a reputable medical clinic or hospital. If you will spend time in rural areas while in Indonesia the CDC recommends rabies vaccination. Indonesia has been polio-free since 2007. Travelers are urged to consult with their personal physicians and to get updated information on prevalent diseases before traveling to Indonesia. Travelers should be current on all recommended immunizations; those planning on traveling extensively should consider the series of three pre-exposure inoculations against rabies. Local pharmacies carry a range of products of variable quality, availability, and cost. Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a significant risk and U.S. citizens should patronize only reputable pharmacies.

Tap water is not potable. In 2008, Indonesian authorities found that 100 percent of tap water samples from the Jakarta area tested positive for coliform bacteria, as well as high concentrations of toxic chemicals, including lead and mercury. Bottled water should be used for consumption, including for cooking. Factory bottled soft drinks, and juices and milk sold in sealed containers are generally safe. Take extra care preparing fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. If you cannot see refrigerators, expect that any food, especially street food, is preserved with high concentrations of formaldehyde derivatives. Consider that unprocessed or raw food may be unsafe even in higher end establishments. Washing, soaking, peeling, and/or thoroughly cooking food are mandatory procedures to minimize insecticide, bacterial, and parasitic contamination. Gastrointestinal disorders are common. A wide variety of foods are available in local markets and supermarkets, and with some care and effort, it is possible to eat a well-balanced diet.

Frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer, wearing mosquito repellent, not eating street food, and drinking only bottled beverages are some ways to stay healthy while traveling.

Car and motorcycle accidents are the primary causes of severe injury to foreigners living and traveling in Indonesia. Defensive driving and use of seatbelts are encouraged. Use of motorcycles and bicycling in traffic are both discouraged. Rh negative blood may be difficult to obtain in an area with very few Westerners. Therefore, it is important to know your blood type and recognize that scarcity may be a problem.

Updated information and links to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are posted on the U.S. Embassy Jakarta’s website.

Please note: Some medications may not be permitted in the country. Please check if the medication you are bringing is permitted in the country you are visiting.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

BANKS AND CURRENCY

The unit of currency used in Indonesia is the rupiah (rp). There are coins of 25, 50 and 100 rp. The denominations of the notes are 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 rp.

Changing money in the most developed places, concerning tourism, in Indonesia may not cause any problems. There are a lot of moneychangers in the tourist areas. You can also change your money at any bank but you will always get a better rate if you go to a moneychanger. It is no problem to exchange traveler’s cheques but again you will get a lower rate. If you are planning to go to areas which are less developed you should take precautions and change your money before leaving. There might be some moneychangers in those small villages but just in case you’d better change it before.
Although hotels always add a service charge to their bills, they expect you to give a tip. In common, tipping is not quiet customary but when going to a hotel or restaurant you should give a tip for the waiter or other persons who delivered a service for you. Taxi drivers also expect a tip when paying them.
Almost all goods in tourist areas require bargaining; especially arts, crafts and clothing. Accommodation has a fixed price but it is often negotiable.

Banking hours: Mon-Fri 9am-3pm

COMMUNICATION

The International dialing code is +62. Indonesia has a very good communication links to the world by two communication satellites, along with International Direct Dialing (IDD) and Home Country Direct (HCD) in all leading hotels. Overseas calls can easily made at any number of state run telephone offices (wartel) located at many convenient locations, including in all the major Airports.
Public telephones are located throughout the city. Although some coin telephones are still in operation, most telephones designed to accept “phone cards” which can be purchased at all hotels and numerous kiosks.

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food and Drink:

The staple diet for most Indonesians is nasi (rice), but this is swapped on some islands with other starchy foods such as corn, sago, cassava and sweet potatoes taking the place of rice. Whilst there is some similarity to other countries within the region, Indonesia’s location as a trade route means the diet has been highly influenced by other cultures like Spain, Portugal and China.

Indonesians like their food highly spiced – look out for the tiny and fiery hot red and green peppers often included in salads and vegetable dishes. Seafood is a regular feature on menus (with salt and freshwater fish, lobsters, oysters, prawns, shrimp, squid, shark and crab all available). Coconuts are often used for cooking. A feature of Jakarta is the many warungs (street stalls); each specializes in its own dish or drink.

Specialties: 

  • Rijsttafel(a Dutch-invented smorgasbord of 12 various meats, fish, vegetable and curry dishes, sometimes served by 12 ‘maidens’).
    • Nasi goring (considered the national dish, it consists of fried rice, flavored with spices and usually eaten with accompanying vegetables).
    • Ayam goring (fried chicken).
    • Soto (traditional soupy broth, which can be flavored with chicken or beef).
    • Sambal (hot chilli sauce condiment which accompanies every dish).
    • Bakso (meatballs, usually made from chicken or beef).
    • Sate (chunks of beef, fish, pork, chicken or lamb cooked on hot coals and dipped in peanut sauce).
    • Rendang (west Sumatra; buffalo coconut curry).
    • Gado-gado (Java; a salad of raw and cooked vegetables with peanut and coconut milk sauce).
    • Babi guling (Bali; roast suckling pig).

 Regional drinks

Es (ice drinks with syrups, fruits and jellies).
Brem (Bali; rice wine)
Tuak (palm-sap wine, a famously potent local brew)
Arak (rice or palm-sap wine)
Kelapa muda (young coconut juice)

 NIGHTLIFE

Jakarta has the biggest nightlife scene, with nightclubs featuring international singers and bands. There are also plenty of cinemas, and some English-language and subtitled films are shown. The beach town of Kuta on Bali is also a good spot for nightlife, albeit of the backpacker variety.

Dancing is considered an art, encouraged and practiced from very early childhood, and dances are based on ancient legends and stories from religious epics. Dances include the Legong, a slow, graceful dance of divine nymphs; the Baris, a fast moving, noisy demonstration of male, warlike behavior; and the Jauk, a riveting solo offering by a masked and richly costumed demon. Many consider the most dramatic of all to be the famous Cecak (Monkey Dance) which calls for 100 or more very agile participants. Larger hotels, particularly in Bali, put on dance shows accompanied by the uniquely Indonesian Gamelan Orchestras.

Throughout the year, many local moonlight festivals occur; tourists should check locally. Indonesian puppets are world famous and shows for visitors are staged in various locations.

SHOPPING

If you’re the type of person to always come back with a souvenir, Indonesia will be heaven. In terms of souvenirs and trinkets, the markets here can’t be beaten. Some of the best buys are batik cloth (a kind of patterned fabric), ikat fabrics (textile made using a sort of tie-dye technique), woodcarvings and sculpture, silverwork, woven baskets and hats, bamboo articles, krises (small daggers), paintings and woven cloth. If shopping at stalls and small shops within the pasar (market), bartering might be necessary, but keep it light-hearted and playful if you can.

If you prefer to your shopping within the slightly more cloistered hallways of an air-conditioned mall, the main urban centers of Jakarta are your best bet. Tourists can find an array of international brands at places like Plaza Indonesia, arts and handicrafts at stores within Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, and luxury brands are easily accessible, catering for the emergent middle-class and expatriate population. Malls are also a good place to pick up food, whether in the form of a rejuvenating meal at one of the many food carts, or smaller souvenirs to take away.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

Gratuities are not included as a part of our service. However, we would like to reiterate that tipping is NOT mandatory and is entirely at your discretion, based on your level of satisfaction for the services that you have received. Having said that, most service providers do expect gratuity. We are pleased to provide you with the suggested guideline, that you may use at your discretion.

LAUNDRY

Ask your hotel front desk if there is a laundry nearby and they will point you in the right direction. They also might have a few machines on site.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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