Despite enactment of a disability law in 2016 following the country’s ratification of the CRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) in 2011 and increasing awareness of the needs of people with disabilities, Indonesia is a difficult destination for those with access issues, such as limited mobility, vision or hearing impairment.
Very few buildings have disabled access, and even international chain hotels may not have fully accessible facilities.
Pavements are riddled with potholes, loose manholes, parked motorcycles and all sorts of street life, and are very rarely level for long until the next set of steps. Even the able bodied walk on roads rather than negotiate the hassle of the pavement (sidewalk).
Public transport is entirely inaccessible for wheelchair users. Cars with a driver can be hired readily at cheap rates, but wheelchair-accessible vehicles can only be arranged through specialist accessible tour operators. Guides are easily found in tourist areas, and though it's not usual practice, they could be hired as helpers (eg as wheelchair-pushers) if needed.
At the same time, as in many developing countries, Indonesians are extremely helpful and welcoming, so no wheelchair-using traveller will wait for long in front of a step without someone coming to help.
Bali, with its wide range of tourist services and facilities, is the favoured destination for travellers with disabilities since it’s much easier to find suitable amenities and adapted accommodation.
The owners of Accessible Indonesia (www.accessibleindonesia.org) are knowledgeable and well connected and work with local organisations for the disabled. They offer tours principally to Java, Sulawesi and Bali, as well as day cruises, diving and snorkelling expeditions and wheelchair-accessible transfers. They are well used to problem-solving to overcome infrastructural barriers. There is access information for international airports and basic access information about the destinations they serve on their website.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Many everyday purchases in Indonesia require bargaining. Accommodation has a set price, but this is usually negotiable in the low season or if you are staying at the hotel for several days. Bargaining can be an enjoyable part of shopping, so maintain your sense of humour and keep things in perspective. As a general rule (apart from tourist shops), if prices are displayed, prices are fixed; if not, bargaining may be possible.
Dangers & Annoyances
Indonesia is fairly safe compared with many places in the world. There are some hassles from the avaricious, but most visitors face many more dangers at home. Petty theft occurs, but it is not prevalent.
Outside of reputable bars and resorts, it's best to avoid buying arak, the locally produced booze made from rice or palm. It can contain poisonous methanol, which is produced during the fermentation process and is not always burned off. Deaths and injuries do happen – especially on Bali and the Gilis – when unscrupulous vendors substitute arak for other spirits like vodka, gin or whisky. If the price of drinks in a bar seems unnaturally low, pause to consider what you might be drinking.
Indonesia has a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs and there have been many high-profile arrests and convictions. The execution by firing squad in 2015 of two Australians convicted of drug offences as part of the 'Bali Nine' should serve as a stark warning.
- Random raids of nightclubs in Jakarta and Bali and mandatory urine tests for anyone found with drugs occur regularly (entrapment schemes are not unknown: that dealer may be a cop).
- Private parties on Bali have been raided, and hotel owners are required by law to report offenders.
- The law does not provide for differentiation between substance types or amounts, whether a full bag of heroin or a few specks of marijuana dust in your pocket.
- Avoid beaches in built-up areas, especially after storms flush sewage out to the surf. This is especially true of many beaches in south Bali.
- Air quality can be terrible in heavily populated areas and across Sumatra during annual land clearances for palm-oil plantations.
Security in touristed areas increased after the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings but has since been relaxed. The odds you will be caught up in such a tragedy are low. Luxury hotels that are part of international chains tend to have the best security, though they also make the most tempting targets, as shown in Jakarta in 2003 and 2009. Suicide bombers did strike a bus terminal in East Jakarta in 2017, killing three policemen, and churches in Surabaya were targeted in May 2018 in attacks that killed 28 people, but such incidents remain rare.
Security issues in Indonesia are often exaggerated by foreign media, who portray rambunctious protest rallies and minor incidents of civil unrest as nationwide pandemonium. Foreign governments add to the hype with heavy-handed, blanket travel warnings. While it's true that small sections of Indonesia experience flashes of conflict, overall the archipelago is safe.
As in many developing countries, some people are out to relieve you of your money in one way or another. It's really hard to say when an 'accepted' practice like overcharging becomes an unacceptable rip-off, but plenty of instances of practised deceit occur.
- Credit-card fraud, especially the skimming of cards at ATMs and elsewhere, is widespread in Bali and Java. It's best to use ATMs attached to banks.
- Con artists exist. Some are smooth-talking guides seeking to lead you to a shop or hotel where they receive commission.
- Bali is the home of many scams. And there are continuing reports of short-changing money changers. As always, trust your common sense.
- Beggers (including children) are usually part of organised groups. Most Indonesians suffer in silence and would never ask for money; consider giving to aid programs if you want to help.
- Touts and hawkers are common in tourist areas. Ignore them.
Violent crime is uncommon, but bag-snatching from motorbikes, pickpocketing and theft from rooms and parked cars occurs. Take the same precautions you would in any urban area. Remember that other travellers will sometimes steal things. Other commonsense tips include the following.
- Secure money before leaving an ATM (and don't forget your card!).
- Don't leave valuables on a beach while swimming.
- Use front-desk/in-room safes.
Government Travel Advice
It is always worthwhile to check with official government sources before visiting Indonesia in order to check current travel conditions and the overall safety situation. But bear in mind that government sources generally take a conservative and overcautious view. Follow reputable news sources in order to get a more realistic picture.
Government travel advisories include the following:
- Australia www.smartraveller.gov.au
- Canada www.travel.gc.ca
- New Zealand www.safetravel.govt.nz
- UK www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
- US www.travel.state.gov
Voltage is 230V/50Hz. Plugs have two round pins.
Embassies & Consulates
It's important to know what your own embassy can and can't do to help you if you get into trouble. Generally speaking, it won't be much help if whatever trouble you're in is remotely your own fault. Remember that you are bound by the laws of the country you are in. In genuine emergencies you might get some assistance, but only if other channels have been exhausted.
Foreign embassies are in Jakarta; Bali and Medan have a few consulates. There are also some in towns close to foreign borders.
Timor-Leste Consulate The visa office for Timor-Leste.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Mobile phones are everywhere in Indonesia now; numbers usually start with 08 and don't require an area code.
|Indonesia country code||62|
|International call prefix||001/017|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Indonesia by air is relatively simple and straightforward, once you navigate the complex visa options. Numerous sea ports are similarly easy; if you're arriving by land, you'll have no problems as long as you have a valid visa in advance.
Indonesia has the usual list of prohibited imports, including drugs, weapons, fresh fruit and anything remotely pornographic. Items allowed include the following:
- 200 cigarettes (or 25 cigars or 100g of tobacco)
- a ‘reasonable amount’ of perfume
- 1L of alcohol
Surfers with more than two or three boards may be charged a 'fee', and this could apply to other items if the officials suspect that you aim to sell them in Indonesia. If you have nothing to declare, customs clearance is usually quick.
Your passport must be valid for six months after your date of arrival in Indonesia. It's no longer necessary to fill out a disembarkation card on arrival.
Visas are not hard to obtain, but the most common – 30 days – is short for such a big country. Even the 60-day visa can feel restrictive.
The visa situation is constantly in flux. It is essential that you confirm current formalities before you arrive. Failure to meet all the entrance requirements can see you on the first flight out or subject to heavy fines. Overstaying your visa will result in a fine and can sometimes lead to you being detained.
No matter what type of visa you are going to use, your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival.
At the time of research, the main visa options for visitors to Indonesia are as follows.
- Visa in Advance Visitors can apply for a visa before they arrive in Indonesia. Typically this is a visitor's visa, which is usually valid for 60 days. Details vary by country; contact your nearest Indonesian embassy or consulate to determine processing fees and times. It is nearly always easiest to apply for this visa in your home country. Some Indonesian embassies are reluctant to grant these visas to non-nationals or non-residents of the country you are applying in. In Southeast Asia, Bangkok and Singapore are the most hassle-free places to apply for a 60-day visa. Note: this is the only way to obtain a 60-day visitor visa, even if you qualify for Visa on Arrival.
- Visa Free Citizens of 169 countries can receive a 30-day visa for free upon arrival. But note that this visa cannot be extended and you may be limited to which airports and ports you can use to exit the country, eg the Timor-Leste visa run may not work with this visa.
- Visa on Arrival This 30-day extendable visa is available at major airports and harbours (but not most land borders). The cost is US$35; be sure to have the exact amount in US currency. Eligible countries include Australia, Canada, much of the EU (including France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK), plus New Zealand and the USA. VOA renewals for 30 days are possible. If you don't qualify for VOA, you must get a visa in advance.
Fines for overstaying your visa expiration date are 300,000Rp per day for the first 60 days, although there are rumours that may be increased. Overstay more and you will be deported and blacklisted from entering Indonesia, but you don't have to pay a fine.
Study & Work Visas
You can arrange visas for study, short-term research, visiting family and similar purposes if you have a sponsor, such as an educational institution. These social/cultural (sosial/budaya) visas must be applied for at an Indonesian embassy or consulate overseas. Normally valid for three months on arrival, they can be extended every month after that for up to six months without leaving the country. Fees apply.
People wishing to study or work in Indonesia must apply directly to the Central Immigration Office in Jakarta for a Limited-Stay Visa (Kartu Izin Tinggal Terbatas, or Kitas). First, though, contact your nearest embassy for the most direct avenue and to find out what qualifies as 'study'. Those granted limited stay are issued a Kitas card, which is much prized among travellers.
If you're planning to work in Indonesia, your employer will need to organise your visa – it's a long and complicated process.
Special permits are still technically required for travel in parts of Papua.
Renewing Your Visa
You can renew a 30-day Visa on Arrival once (but not usually a Visa Free). The procedures are complex.
- At least seven days before your visa expires, go to an immigration office. These can usually be found in larger cities and regional capitals.
- Bring your passport, a photocopy of your passport and a copy of your ticket out of Indonesia (which should be for a date during the renewal period).
- Wear modest clothes, eg men may be required to wear long pants.
- Pay a fee of 350,000Rp.You may have to return to the office twice over a three- to five-day period.
One way to avoid the renewal hassle is to use a visa agent such as ChannelOne on Bali which, for a fee, will do the bureaucratic work for you.
Places of worship Be respectful. Remove shoes and dress modestly when visiting mosques; wear a sash and sarong at Bali temples.
Body language Use both hands when handing somebody something. Don't display affection in public or talk with your hands on your hips.
Clothing Avoid showing a lot of skin, although many local men wear shorts. Don't go topless if you're a woman (even in Bali).
Photography Before taking photos of someone, ask – or mime – for approval.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is essential. There are a wide variety of policies, most sold online; make certain your policy will cover speedy medical evacuation from anywhere in Indonesia.
Theft is a potential problem in Indonesia, so make sure that your policy covers expensive items adequately. Many policies have restrictions on laptops and expensive camera gear, and refunds are often for depreciated value, not replacement value.
If you are diving, specialist dive insurance is a wise investment.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you're already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Indonesia is increasingly wired, although connection speeds vary widely depending on where you are in the archipelago.
- Wi-fi (pronounced 'wee-fee' in Indonesia) is commonly available for free in hotels, hostels and guesthouses now, although it doesn't always work in rural areas.
- Many cafes and restaurants in tourist areas offer free wi-fi.
- Data through your smartphone is often the fastest way to connect to the internet; 4G service is spreading in Indonesia, although download speeds remain slow compared to other countries.
Drugs, gambling and pornography are illegal. Two Australians were executed for narcotics offences in 2015, and foreign nationals continue to receive death sentences for drug crimes.
- It is an offence to engage in paid work without a formal working permit.
- Visa length of stay is strictly enforced; many a careless tourist has seen the inside of an immigration detention facility or paid large fines.
- Corruption remains a fact of life. If you are pulled over for a dubious traffic infringement, be polite and respectful as the officer lectures you and then suggests an alternative to a trip to the police station and a courthouse date. Generally, 50,000Rp is plenty, but up to 500,000Rp may be demanded on Bali.
- In the case of an accident involving serious injury or death, drive straight to the nearest police station as 'mob rule' can prevail, with blame falling on the foreigner.
- If you need to report a crime, head to a police station in respectable dress with an Indonesian friend or interpreter in tow but don't expect much.
- If you find yourself in serious trouble with the law, contact your embassy or consulate immediately. They will not be able to arrange bail but will be able to provide you with an interpreter and may be able to suggest legal counsel.
LGBT+ travellers in Indonesia should follow the same precautions as straight travellers: avoid public displays of affection. This is especially important in conservative areas such as Aceh, where locals of the same sex seen hugging have been sent for 'reeducation' by religious police.
- Gay men in Indonesia are referred to as homo or gay; lesbians are lesbi.
- Indonesia's community of transvestite/transsexual waria – from the words wanita (woman) and pria (man) – has always had a very public profile; it's also known by the less polite term banci.
- Islamic groups proscribe homosexuality, but violence against LGBT+ people is rare.
- Bali is especially friendly destination for LGBT+ travellers, with a large community of expats and people from elsewhere in Indonesia.
Indonesian LGBT+ organisations include the following:
- GAYa Nusantara (www.gayanusantara.or.id) Website for the Indonesian LGBT+ community.
- Gaya Dewata (YGD; www.gayadewata.com) Bali's oldest and only community-run LGBT+ organisation.
Locally produced maps are often inaccurate. Periplus produces useful maps of most of the archipelago and the major cities, although the data for fast-changing areas such as Bali can be very out of date. Google maps has made extensive progress around the nation.
Hikers will have little chance of finding accurate maps of remote areas. It's far more useful (and wise) to employ the services of a local guide, who will be able to navigate seemingly uncharted territory.
- Newspapers English-language press includes the long-established Jakarta Post (www.thejakartapost.com) and the Jakarta Globe (https://jakartaglobe.id), as well as the Bali Times (www.thebalitimes.com).
ATMs and money changers are widespread across Indonesia's cities and tourist areas. In remote areas, ATMs don't always work and rates of exchange are often poor.
- ATMs are common across Indonesia except in very rural areas. Most now accept cards affiliated with international networks, although they will not always work. Bank BNI, with ATMs across the nation, is reliable.
- ATMs in Indonesia have a maximum limit for withdrawals; sometimes it is 2,000,000Rp, but it can be as low as 500,000Rp, which is not much in foreign-currency terms.
- Many ATMs have a sticker that specifies whether the machine dispenses 50,000Rp or 100,000Rp notes.
- Always carry a sizeable amount of rupiah when you are travelling outside cities and tourist areas as ATM networks go down and/or you can be on an island where the only ATM is broken or nonexistent.
The unit of currency used in Indonesia is the rupiah (Rp). Notes come in 2000Rp, 5000Rp, 10,000Rp, 20,000Rp, 50,000Rp and 100,000Rp denominations. Coins of 50Rp, 100Rp, 200Rp, 500Rp and 1000Rp are also in circulation. For change in amounts below 50Rp, expect to receive a few sweets.
Try to carry a fair amount of money in bills 20,000Rp and under as getting change for larger bills is often a problem. ATMs dispense 50,000Rp or 100,000Rp bills only.
By government decree, all businesses are required to price goods and services in rupiah. Many tourist outfits such as hotels and dive shops try to price in dollars or euros to avoid currency fluctuations.
- In cities and touristed areas (eg Bali), credit cards will be accepted at midrange and better hotels and resorts. More expensive shops as well as travel agents will also accept them, but often there will be a surcharge of around 3%.
- MasterCard and Visa are the most widely accepted credit cards. Cash advances are possible at many ATMs and banks.
- Before leaving home, inform your credit-card issuer that you will be travelling in Indonesia; otherwise your account may be frozen for suspected fraud the first time you try to use it.
- The skimming of credit cards at ATMs is a problem in Bali especially. It's best to use ATMs at a bank, rather than elsewhere.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- The US dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency in Indonesia. Australian, British and Japanese currencies, as well as euros, are exchangeable only in the most touristed areas of Bali and Jakarta.
- Outside cities and tourist areas, banks may only be willing to exchange crisp, new US$100 bills. In many rural areas banks won't offer any exchange, or rates will be poor.
- Money changers range from the honest to dishonest. Signs bearing phrases such as 'official' and 'licensed' are meaningless.
Follow these steps to avoid getting ripped off when exchanging money.
- Find out the going exchange rate online. Know that anyone offering a better rate will need to make a profit through other means.
- Stick to banks, exchange counters in airports or large and reputable storefront operations.
- Skip any place offering too-good exchange rates and claiming to charge no fees or commissions.
- Avoid exchange stalls down alleys or in otherwise dubious locations (that sounds obvious, but scores of tourists are taken in daily).
- Common exchange scams include rigged calculators, sleight-of-hand schemes, 'mistakes' on the posted rates and demands that you hand over your money before you have counted the money on offer.
- Use an ATM to obtain rupiah. Check with your bank about fees; if they are not outrageous, you'll avoid carrying large amounts of cash and get a decent exchange rate.
Indonesia has plans to redenominate the rupiah by removing three digits from the currency. So, for example, the 20,000Rp note would become the 20Rp note. This could happen from 2020, although the old money will remain legal tender until at least 2025. Changing the national currency is likely to be a very complex process, with many implications for travellers. These include the following:
- New notes will be introduced that are identical to the current ones, except that the final three zeros missing. Long-term plans call for all-new designs.
- The government stresses that current banknotes will retain their value (eg the 100,000Rp note will be the same as the new 100Rp note); however, how this will play out is anyone’s guess. In other nations, such as Russia, there has been widespread refusal to accept old notes, even after government guarantees of their value.
- It will likely take years for price lists and computer systems to be fully updated, so it will be up to customers to make certain that they are being charged – and paying – appropriately.
- Introduction of the new denominations is likely to occur with little notice to avoid financial upheavals.
Tipping is not generally practised across much of Indonesia, but in popular tourist destinations like Bali a small gratuity for services – 5000Rp or 10% – is now expected.
Restaurants (Bali) 10% is the standard tip now.
Hotels Most midrange and all top-end hotels and restaurants add 21% to the bill for tax and service (known as ‘plus plus’).
Taxis, Massages & Porters A tip of 5000Rp to 10,000Rp is appreciated.
The following are typical opening hours across Indonesia.
Banks 8am–3pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday
Government offices Generally 8am–4pm Monday to Thursday, to noon Friday
Post offices 8am–2pm Monday to Friday (in tourist centres, main post offices are often open longer and/or on weekends)
Private business offices 8am–4pm or 9am–5pm Monday to Friday; many open to noon Saturday
Shopping 9am or 10am–5pm; larger shops and tourist areas to 8pm; many closed Sunday
Indonesia and Indonesians can be very photogenic, but whatever you do, photograph with discretion and manners. It's always polite to ask first, and if the person says no, don't take the photo. A gesture, a smile and a nod are all that is usually necessary.
Sending postcards and normal-sized letters (ie under 20g) by airmail is cheap but not really fast. For anything over 20g, the charge is based on weight. You can send parcels up to 20kg and have them properly wrapped and sealed at any post office (www.posindonesia.co.id).
Every substantial town has a kantor pos (post office). In tourist centres, there are also postal agencies. They are often open long hours and provide postal services. Many will also wrap and pack parcels.
Following are the national public holidays in Indonesia. Unless stated, they vary from year to year. There are many regional holidays as well.
Tahun Baru Masehi (New Year's Day) 1 January
Tahun Baru Imlek (Chinese New Year) Late January to early February
Wafat Yesus Kristus (Good Friday) Late March or early April
Nyepi (Balinese New Year) Bali closes down for one day, usually in March, sometimes April
Hari Buruh (Labour Day) 1 May
Hari Waisak May
Kenaikan Yesus Kristus (Ascension of Christ) May
Hari Proklamasi Kemerdekaan (Independence Day) 17 August
Hari Natal (Christmas Day) 25 December
The following Islamic holidays have dates that change each year.
Muharram Islamic New Year: 1 September 2019, 20 August 2020, 10 August 2021
Maulud Nabi Muhammad Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad: 10 November 2019, 29 October 2020, 18 October 2021
Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammad Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad: 3 April 2019, 22 May 2020, March 11 2021
Idul Fitri Also known as Lebaran, this two-day national public holiday marks the end of Ramadan; avoid travel due to crowds: 5 June 2019, 24 May 2020, 15 May 2021
Idul Adha Islamic feast of the sacrifice: 12 August 2019, 31 July 2020, 20 July 2021
- Smoking Smoking is widespread across Indonesia. Rules prohibit smoking in many public places, but enforcement is patchy.
Taxes & Refunds
Indonesia has a 10% sales tax for certain items. The tax is usually included in the purchase price.
Cheap SIM cards and internet calling make it easy to call from Indonesia at reasonable prices.
Most hotel wi-fi will allow at least some form of internet calling such as Skype to work. Mobile carriers often have an access code so you can make international calls over the internet for about US$0.03 per minute, or use a free app such as WhatsApp.
- Since April 2018 all new SIM cards bought in Indonesia must be registered. If you buy your card from an official store of a phone provider or at the airports in Jakarta or Bali, they will do it for you automatically.
- SIM cards start at 15,000Rp. They come with cheap rates for calling other countries, from around 5000Rp per minute.
- SIM cards are widely available and easily refilled with credit.
- Most official outlets offer deals where you pay 50,000Rp and up for a SIM card and credit.
- 4G networks are spreading across the nation, but speeds are slower than in other countries.
- Data plans average about 40,000Rp for 1GB of data.
- Mobile numbers start with a four-digit prefix that begins with 08 and have a total of 10 to 12 digits.
|Indonesia country code||62|
|International call prefix||001/017|
There are three time zones in Indonesia.
- Java, Sumatra, and West and Central Kalimantan are on Western Indonesian Time (GMT/UTC plus seven hours).
- Bali, Nusa Tenggara, South and East Kalimantan, and Sulawesi are on Central Indonesian Time (GMT/UTC plus eight hours).
- Papua and Maluku are on Eastern Indonesian Time (GMT/UTC plus nine hours).
In a country straddling the equator, there is no daylight-saving time.
Allowing for variations due to summer or daylight-saving time, when it is noon in Jakarta it is 9pm the previous day in San Francisco, midnight in New York, 5am in London, 1pm in Singapore, Bali and Makassar, 2pm in Jayapura and 3pm in Melbourne and Sydney.
In much of Indonesia, the bathroom features a large water tank and a plastic scoop. Kamar mandi means bathroom and mandi means to bathe or wash.
- Don't go climbing into the water tank – it's your water supply and it's also the supply for every other guest that comes after you. Scoop water out of the tank and pour it over yourself.
- Most tourist hotels have showers now, many have hot water.
- Indonesian toilets are basically holes in the ground with footrests on either side, although Western-style toilets are common in tourist areas. To flush the toilet, reach for the plastic scoop, take water from the tank and pour. Public toilets are rare; find a cafe and smile.
- Toilet paper is seldom supplied in public places, though you can easily buy it. Many Indonesians instead use their left hand and copious quantities of water – again, keep that scoop handy. Often there is a wastebasket next to the toilet where the toilet paper should go, as opposed to the easily clogged toilet.
- Kamar kecil is Bahasa Indonesia for toilet, but people usually understand 'way-say' (WC). Wanita means women and pria means men.
Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism (www.indonesia.travel) has decent, basic information.
Most tourist offices in Indonesia offer little of value. Notable exceptions include tourist offices in Ubud, Bali; Yogyakarta, Java; and the Raja Ampat Tourism Management Office in Sorong, Papua.
Travel with Children
Want a great way to improve your Indonesia trip? Bring the kids! Parents say that they see more because children are so quickly whisked into everyday life across this child-loving archipelago. Natural barriers break right down as locals open their arms – and lives – to children.
Best Regions for Kids
The island at the heart of Indonesian tourism is ideal for kids. There are beautiful beaches, many with gentle surf, plus great spots for first-time snorkellers and surfers. Cool temples of Indiana Jones ilk dot the island, and there are dozens of child-friendly hotels and resorts.
- Nusa Tenggara
Lombok is a slightly more adventurous version of Bali but is still easy for families and has gorgeous beaches in the south. Of the Gilis (where no one ever got lost), Air combines a relaxed vibe with activities, hotels and restaurants that are great for kids. Flores offers amazing wildlife at Komodo National Park.
Batu Karas is a wonderful and safe beach. The easy hiking around Gunung Bromo is a good choice for families. More remote, the beaches and offshore islands in Karimunjawa delight families, while kids lap up the mysteries of Borobudur and Prambanan.
Indonesia for Kids
Travel outside cities requires patience, hardiness and experience – for both parents and kids. Most Indonesians adore children, especially ones touring their country; however, children may find the constant attention overwhelming. In the experience of some visitors, travelling in Indonesia is, in fact, easier with kids because locals are more helpful than they would be if you were travelling alone as an adult.
You will need to learn your child’s age and sex in Bahasa Indonesia – bulau (month), tahun (year), laki-laki (boy) and perempuan (girl). In conversations with locals, you should make polite enquiries about the other person’s children, present or absent.
- Temkessi, West Timor Children can make friends with their peers in the ancient villages of this area.
- Putussibau, Kalimantan The communal living in the longhouses of the Kapuas Hulu region helps kids quickly make friends with their Dayak counterparts.
- Yogyakarta, Java A classic destination for Indonesian school kids, and yours will enjoy its myriad cultural attractions as well.
Kid-friendly facilities are generally limited to Bali, which caters well to holidaying families. Elsewhere you will find Indonesia very hit or miss in terms of specifically catering to children, even as it warmly welcomes them.
What you bring from home and what you source in Indonesia largely depends on where you're going and what you'll need. As always, you can get most things you might need on Bali (or to a certain extent Lombok, Jakarta and Yogyakarta), but there is the trade-off of tracking down what you need and simply adding it to your luggage.
For very young children, the dilemma is to bring either a backpack carrier or a pram/stroller. If you can, bring both. Prams are tough going on uneven or nonexistent footpaths, but are worthwhile in south Bali and other developed areas.
- Children's seats for cars are rare and, where they exist, sometimes low quality.
- Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are difficult to find on Bali and nonexistent elsewhere.
- Baby wipes, disposable nappies (diapers) and baby formula are all readily available in cities and big towns but seldom elsewhere.
- Bali has a ready supply of babysitters (and lots of nightlife to divert parents). Elsewhere you will be providing the childcare.
- Nappy-changing facilities usually consist of the nearest discreet, flat surface.
- Breastfeeding in public is acceptable in areas such as Bali, Papua and Sumatra away from Aceh, but virtually unseen in Maluku, Sulawesi and Kalimantan. In parts of west Java and the conservative islands of Nusa Tenggara it's inappropriate. Take your cue from local mothers.
- Hotels and guesthouses often have triple and family rooms, plus extra beds can be supplied on demand. Baby beds and highchairs, however, are uncommon.
- Hotel staff are usually very willing to help and improvise, so always ask if you need something for your children.
- Larger resorts often have special programs and facilities for kids that include lots of activities during the day and evening.
- Bring binoculars so young explorers can zoom in on wildlife, rice terraces, temples, world-class surfers and so on.
- With widespread 4G data and wi-fi, a smartphone or tablet is handy so children can tell those at home about everything they’re missing and have an easy escape from the trip itself.
Feature: Staying Safe
The sorts of facilities, safeguards and services that Western parents regard as basic may not be present. Places with great views probably have nothing to stop your kids falling over the edge, that gorgeous beach may have perilous surf, swimming pools are never fenced etc. Health standards are low in Indonesia compared to the developed world, but with proper precautions, children can travel safely.
- A major danger to kids – and adults for that matter – is traffic, and bad pavement and footpaths in busy areas.
- Check conditions carefully for any activity. Just because that rafting company sells tickets to families doesn’t mean they accommodate the safety needs of children.
- Consider the health situation carefully, especially with regards to malaria and dengue fever.
- Rabies is a major problem, especially on Bali. Keep children away from stray animals, including cats, dogs and monkeys.
- As with adults, contaminated food and water present the most risks; children are more at risk from sunstroke and dehydration.
- Pharmaceutical supplies can usually be purchased in larger cities.
There are excellent opportunities for aspiring volunteers in Indonesia, but Lonely Planet does not endorse any organisations that we do not work with directly, so it is essential that you do your own thorough research before agreeing to volunteer with or donate to any organisation. A three-month commitment is recommended for working with children.
For many groups, fundraising and cash donations are the best way to help. Some also can use skilled volunteers to work as English teachers and provide professional services such as medical care. A few offer paid volunteering, whereby volunteers pay for room and board and perform often menial tasks.
A good resource to find NGOs and volunteer opportunities on Bali is www.balispirit.com/ngos.
Alam Sehat Lestari (www.alamsehatlestari.org) Accepts skilled medical and conservation volunteers to help protect and restore Kalimantan's rainforest.
Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (www.orangutan.or.id) Accepts volunteers for its orang-utan and sun-bear rehabilitation and reforestation programs.
East Bali Poverty Project (www.eastbalipovertyproject.org) Works to help children in the impoverished mountain villages of east Bali. Uses English teachers and has a solid child-protection policy.
Friends of the National Parks Foundation (www.fnpf.org) Has volunteer programs on Nusa Penida off Bali and Kalimantan.
IDEP (www.idepfoundation.org) The Indonesian Development of Education & Permaculture has projects across Indonesia; works on environmental projects, disaster planning and community improvement.
ProFauna (www.profauna.net) A large nonprofit animal-protection organisation operating across Indonesia; has been active in protecting sea turtles.
Sea Sanctuaries Trust (www.seasanctuaries.org) Diving-based marine conservation volunteering in Raja Ampat.
Smile Foundation of Bali (www.senyumbali.org) Organises surgery to correct facial deformities; operates the Smile Shop in Ubud to raise money.
Yayasan Rama Sesana (www.yrsbali.org) Dedicated to improving reproductive health for women across Bali.
Yayasan Bumi Sehat (www.bumisehatfoundation.org) Operates an internationally recognised clinic and gives reproductive services to disadvantaged women in Ubud; accepts donated time from medical professionals. Founder Robin Lim has had international recognition.
The following agencies may have information about long-term paid or volunteer work in Indonesia:
Australian Volunteers International (www.australianvolunteers.com) Organises all manner of programs, with many in Indonesia.
Global Volunteers (www.globalvolunteers.org) Arranges professional and paid volunteer work for US citizens.
Global Vision International (www.gviusa.com) Organises short-term volunteer opportunities; has offices in Australia, the UK and the US.
Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com) Lists mostly paid volunteer work.
Voluntary Service Overseas (www.vso.org.uk) British overseas volunteer program that accepts qualified volunteers from other countries.
Volunteer Service Abroad (www.vsa.org.nz) Organises professional contracts for New Zealanders.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Plenty of Western women travel in Indonesia either solo or in pairs, and most seem to travel through the country, especially on Bali, without major problems. However, women travelling solo or otherwise may receive unwanted attention.
- Dress modestly, especially in conservative Muslim areas. Even the tourist islands of the Gilis have signs asking women not to walk around off the beaches in bikinis. In Aceh, women are expected to wear head scarves and cover their arms, whether they are Muslim or not.
- Indonesian men are generally very courteous; however, there is a macho element that indulges in puerile behaviour – horn honking, lewd comments etc. Ignore them totally, as Indonesian women do.
- If you’re a solo female and you hire a car with a driver for several days, it’s not culturally appropriate for a male Muslim driver to be travelling alone with you. A third party will come along as a chaperone.
A work permit is required to work legally in Indonesia. These are very difficult to procure and need to be arranged by your employer. Apart from expatriates employed by foreign companies and English teachers, most foreigners working in Indonesia are involved in the export business.