Bargaining

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.

Dangers & Annoyances

It's important to note that, compared with many places in the world, Indonesia is fairly safe. There are some hassles from the avaricious, but most visitors face many more dangers at home. Petty theft occurs, but it is not prevalent.

Alcohol Poisoning

Outside of reputable bars and resorts, it's best to avoid buying arak, the locally produced fermented booze made from rice or palm. Deaths and injuries happen – especially on Bali and the Gilis – when unscrupulous vendors stretch stocks with poisonous chemicals.

Drugs

Indonesia has demonstrated its zero-tolerance policy towards drugs with a spate of 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 of substance types or amounts, whether a full bag of heroin or a few specks of marijuana dust in your pocket.

Pollution

  • 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.

Safety

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. Large 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.

Security issues in Indonesia are often exaggerated by the 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.

Scams

As in most poor countries, plenty of 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.

  • 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. Completely ignore them.

Theft

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. 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 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

Electricity

Voltage is 30V/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.

Bali

Australian Consulate Has a consular sharing agreement with Canada.

US Consulate

Jakarta

Kupang

Timor-Leste Consulate The visa office for Timor-Leste.

Medan

Emergency & Important Numbers

Mobile phones are common across Indonesia; numbers usually start with 08 and don't require an area code.

Indonesia country code62
International call prefix001/017
International operator102
Directory assistance108
Police110/112
Fire113
Ambulance118

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.

Customs Regulations

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 50 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.

Passports

Your passport must be valid for six months after your date of arrival in Indonesia. Since 2015 it's no longer necessary to fill out a disembarkation card on arrival.

Visas

Unless you're on brief holiday, visas are the biggest headache many travellers face in their Indonesian trip. They are not hard to obtain, but the most common – 30 days – is very short for such a big place. Many travellers find even the 60-day visa 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.

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. 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 some 150 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 and include additional hassles.

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.

Travel Permits

Special permits are required for travel in 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 who, for a fee, will do the bureaucratic work for you.

LGBT Travellers

Gay 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 two women hugging were sent for 'reeducation' by religious police in 2015.

  • 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; also known by the less polite term banci.
  • Islamic groups proscribe homosexuality, but queer-bashing is rare.
  • Bali is especially LGBT-friendly, with a large community of expats and people from elsewhere in Indonesia. Although even there, there was controversy when a gay wedding was held at a resort in 2015.

Indonesian LGBT organisations include the following.

  • GAYa Nusantara (www.gayanusantara.or.id) Publishes the monthly magazine GAYa Nusantara.
  • Gaya Dewata (YGD, www.gayadewata.com) Bali's oldest and only community-run LGBT organisation.

Insurance

A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is essential. There is 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.

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…

Internet Access

Indonesia is getting wired, though speed varies from fast to painfully slow.

  • Wi-fi (pronounced 'wee-fee' in Indonesia) is commonly available in hotels except in rural areas. It is often free but watch out for hotels that may charge ridiculous rates by the hour or by data use.
  • Cafes and restaurants in tourist areas often have free wi-fi.
  • Data through your smartphone is often the fastest way to connect to the internet. 3G service is widespread.

Media

  • Newspapers English-language press includes the Jakarta Post and the Jakarta Globe. Both have good websites for news.
  • DVDs Pirated DVDs are abundant and most can be played on all-region software, although you usually get what you pay for in terms of viewability. Legitimate copies are uncommon.

Maps

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 is making quick 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.

Money

ATMs and money changers are widespread across Indonesia's cities but may be hard to find once you get off the beaten track.

ATMs

  • ATMs are common across Indonesia except in rural areas; most now accept cards affiliated with international networks. 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 of 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.

Credit Cards

  • 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 or 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.

Money Changers

  • The US dollar is the most widely accepted foreign currency in Indonesia. Australian, British, euros and Japanese currencies are exchangeable only in the most touristed areas of Bali and Jakarta.
  • Outside of 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.
  • 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.

Tipping

  • Tipping a set amount is not expected but for good service leave 5000Rp or 10% or more (this is expected on Bali).
  • Most midrange and all top-end hotels and restaurants add 21% to the bill for tax and service (known as ‘plus plus’).
  • Hand cash directly to individuals if they deserve a tip.
  • Tip good taxi drivers, porters, people giving a massage or fetching a beer on the beach etc; 5000Rp to 10,000Rp is generous.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$110,575Rp
CanadaC$110,820Rp
Euro€115,800Rp
Japan¥10012,120Rp
New ZealandNZ$1951,575Rp
UKUK£117,320Rp
USUS$113,140Rp

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

Rupiah Redenomination

Indonesia has plans to redenominate the rupiah by removing three digits from the currency, although the timing of this has been debated for years and won't likely be fully implemented until 2025. For example, the 20,000Rp note would become the 20Rp note. Changing the national currency is likely to be a very complex process, with many implications for travellers. These include:

  • New notes will be introduced that are identical to the current ones, with the exception of 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.
  • Old notes will remain good for at least six years after introduction, the Bank of Indonesia said in 2014.

Cash

The unit of currency used in Indonesia is the rupiah (Rp). Coins of 50Rp, 100Rp, 200Rp, 500Rp and 1000Rp are in circulation. Notes come in 2000Rp, 5000Rp, 10,000Rp, 20,000Rp, 50,000Rp and 100,000Rp denominations. 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.

Opening Hours

The following are typical opening hours across Indonesia.

Banks 8am–2pm Monday to Thursday, to noon Friday, to 11am Saturday

Government offices Generally 8am–3pm 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

Restaurants 8am–10pm

Shopping 9am or 10am–5pm; larger shops and tourist areas to 8pm. Many closed Sunday.

Photography

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.

Post

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.

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.

Public Holidays

Following are the national public holidays in Indonesia. Unless stated, they vary from year to year. Also, there are many regional holidays.

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

Maulud Nabi Muhammad Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad

Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammad Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad

Idul Fitri Also known as Lebaran, this two-day national public holiday marks the end of Ramadan; avoid travel due to crowds.

Idul Adha Islamic feast of the sacrifice.

Smoking

  • Smoking Antismoking rules prohibit smoking in many public places but enforcement is uncommon.

Telephone

Cheap SIM cards and internet calling make it easy to call from Indonesia at reasonable prices.

Internet Calling

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.

Mobile Phones

  • SIM cards for mobile phones cost only 5000Rp. They come with cheap rates for calling other countries, starting at US$0.20 per minute.
  • SIM cards are widely available and easily refilled with credit.
  • Watch out for vendors who sell SIM cards to visitors for 50,000Rp or more. If they don't come with at least 45,000Rp in credit you are being ripped off.
  • Reasonably fast 3G data networks are found across the nation.
  • Data plans average about 200,000Rp for 5GB of data.
  • Mobile numbers start with a four-digit prefix that begins with 08 and has a total of 10 to 12 digits.

Phone Codes

Directory assistance108
Indonesia country code62
International call prefix001
International operator102

Time

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.

Toilets

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, 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.

Tourist Information

Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism (www.indonesia.travel) 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.

Travellers With Disabilities

Indonesia has very little supportive legislation or special programs for people with disabilities, and it's a difficult destination for those with limited mobility.

Very few buildings have disabled access, and even international chain hotels often don't have proper 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 difficult; cars with a driver can be hired readily at cheap rates. Guides are easily found in tourist areas and, though not usual, they could be hired as helpers if needed.

Bali, with its wide range of tourist services and facilities, is the most favourable destination for travellers with disabilities although this does not mean it is easy.

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

Bali

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 Tengarra

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.

Java

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. One ex-pat mum who has travelled with her family across Indonesia told us that it's easier with kids. 'People are more helpful than when you're alone as an adult. They want to make things easier for you.'

You will need to learn your child’s age and sex in Bahasa Indonesia – bulau (month), tahun (year), laki-laki (boy) and perempuan (girl). You should also make polite enquiries about the other person’s children, present or absent.

Children's Highlights
Outdoor Activities
  • Bali Good for surfing and snorkelling and has classes geared to kids.
  • Pulau Bunaken Offers fabulous snorkelling where you can see dolphins, flying fish and more in the wilds of Maluku.
  • Bukit Lawang River tubing and gentle jungle hikes with a good chance of spotting orang-utans.
Animal-Spotting
Cultural Exchange
  • 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.
Staying Safe

The sorts of facilities, safeguards and services that Western parents regard as basic may not be present. Places with great views likely 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.
Planning & Practicalities

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 or where they exist, may be of 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 Tengarra 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 3G 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.

Volunteering

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/volunteer) 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.

International Organisations

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.

Women Travellers

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 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.

Work

A work permit is required to work in Indonesia. These are very difficult to procure and need to be arranged by your employer. Apart from expatriates employed by foreign companies, most foreigners working in Indonesia are involved in the export business.