is a large archipelago in Southeast Asia that straddles the Equator between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. While it has land borders with Malaysia to the north as well as East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east, it also neighbors Australia to the south, and Palau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand to the north, India to the northwest.Regions
Indonesia is almost unimaginably vast. There are 18 110 islands in Indonesia and 108 000 kilometres of beaches in Indonesia. The distance between Aceh and Papua is more than 4 000 kilometres (2500 miles), comparable to the distance between New York and San Fransisco. There are more than 400 volcanoes in Indonesia. Only 130 volcanoes are considered active volcanoes. There are many undersea volcanoes in Indonesia. Papua is the second largest island in the world.
Provinces are usually grouped under main big islands and their surroundings, as listed below:Cities
Jakarta - the perennially congested capitalBandung - university town in the cooler highlands of JavaBanjarmasin - the largest town on KalimantanManado - Christian town at the northeastern tip of Sulawesi, famous for divingMedan - the main city of SumatraSurabaya - Indonesia's number two cityUjung Pandang (Makassar) - the gateway to Sulawesi Yogyakarta - Java's cultural hub and the access point to the mighty temples of Prambanan and BorobudurOther destinations
The following is a limited selection of some of Indonesia's top sights.Anyer - Beach on in Banten province, near Mt. Krakatau and Ujung Kulon National Park.Bali - A beautiful island with great culture and art.Baliem Valley - the home of the famous penis-gourded Dani warriorsBintan - Resort island just south of SingaporeBunaken - One of the best scuba diving destinations in Indonesia, if not the world.Lake Toba - Beautiful lake on North Sumatra province.Lombok - The "next Bali" that never was.Mount Bromo - Some of the scariest volcanic scenery on the planet.Tana Toraja - Highland area of South Sulawesi famed for their extraordinary funeral rites.Understand
Indonesia is the sleeping giant of Southeast Asia. With 18,110 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, it is the largest archipelago in the world. With well over 210 million people, Indonesia is is the fourth most populous country in the world — after China, India and the US — and by far the largest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world.
Indonesia markets itself as the ultimate in diversity
, and the slogan is quite true, although not necessarily always in good ways. Indonesia's tropical forests are the second-largest in the world after Brazil, and are being logged and cut down at the same alarming speed. While the rich shop and party in Jakarta and Bali, after decades of economic mismanagement, the country is the only member of OPEC that has to import oil, and 53% of the population earns less than $2/day. Infrastructure in much of the country remains rudimentary, and traveller off the beaten track (pretty much anywhere outside Bali) will need some patience and flexibility.
The Indonesian people, like any people, can be either friendly or rude to foreigners. Most of the time, though, they are incredibly friendly to foreigners, particularly Caucasians (bule
) who make it off the beaten track.History
The early history of Indonesia is the story of dozens of kingdoms and civilizations flourishing and fading in different parts of the archipelago. Some notable kingdoms include Srivijaya
(7th-14th century) on Sumatra and Majapahit
(1293-c.1500), based in eastern Java but the first to unite the main islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo (now Kalimantan) as well as parts of the Malay Peninsula.
The first Europeans to arrive (after Marco Polo who passed through in the late 1200s) were the Portuguese, who were given permission to erect a godown near present-day Jakarta in 1522. By the end of the century, however, the Dutch had pretty much taken over and the razing of a competing English fort in 1619 secured their hold on Java, leading to 350 years of colonialization.
Various nationalist groups developed in the early 20th century, and there were several disturbances, quckly put down by the Dutch. Leaders were arrested and exiled. Then during World War II, the Japanese conquered most of the islands. After the war, Indonesia's founding fathers Sukarno
) and Hatta
declared the independence of the Republic of Indonesia
. After four years of fighting, the Dutch accepted this on December 27, 1949. The 1950 constitution was an attempt to set up a liberal democracy system with 2 chambers of parliament. Indonesia held its first free election in 1955.
In 1959, Sukarno dissolved the cabinet and parliament, appointed himself PM, and created a new parliament. He called his autocratic rule "Guided Democracy". Much to the dismay of the West, Sukarno aligned himself somewhat with Moscow and had the Communist party's Dr Subandrio as Deputy PM and intelligence chief. The government had various troubles including a communist coup attempt and an anti-communist CIA-backed rebellion in West Sumatra and North Sulawesi, complete with the 7th Fleet offshore.
In 1965, things came to a head. Dr Subandrio produced a document, allegedly stolen from the British Embassy, detailing plans for a military coup. The presidential guard killed some of the officers involved, then guard colonel Untung announced that he, Subandrio and various other leftist Indonesian leaders had formed a "Revolutionary Council" to take over the power. Army units under General Suharto put down the rebellion in a single day. Suharto then seized power himself, sidelining Sukarno, proclaiming a New Order (Orde Baru
) and initiating a series of bloody anti-Communist purges that led to the death of 500,000-2,000,000 people (estimates vary widely).
Under Suharto from 1966 to 1997, Indonesia enjoyed stability and economic growth, but much of the wealth was concentrated in the hands of a small corrupt elite and dissent was brutally crushed. During the Asian economic crisis of 1997 the value of the Indonesian rupiah plummeted, halving the purchasing power of ordinary Indonesians, and in the ensuing violent upheaval, now known as Reformasi
, Suharto was brought down and a more democratic regime installed.
From their declaration of their independence Indonesia claimed West Papua as part of their nation, but the Dutch held onto it into the 1960s, and in the early sixties there was armed conflict over it. After a UN-brokered peace deal, and a referendum, West Papua became part of Indonesia and was renamed as Irian Jaya
, which apocryphically stands for Ikut
(part of) Republic of Indonesia, Anti Netherlands
The former Portuguese colony of East Timor was annexed by Indonesia in 1975, but there was armed resistance to this. After decades of civil war, on 30 August 1999, a provincial referendum for independence was overwhelmingly approved by the people of East Timor. Indonesia grundgingly but still astonishingly accepted the result, and East Timor gained its independence in 2002.People
Despite 50 years of promoting Bhinneka Tunggal Ika
("Unity in Diversity") as the official state motto, the concept of an "Indonesian" remains artificial and the country's citizens divide themselves along a vast slew of ethnicities, clans, tribes and even castes. If this wasn't enough, religious differences add a volatile ingredient to the mix and the vast gaps in wealth create a class society as well. On a purely numerical scale, the largest ethnic groups are the Javanese
(45%) of central and eastern Java, the Sundanese
(14%) from western Java, the Madurese
(7.5%) from the island of Madura, and Coastal Malays (7.5%), mostly from Sumatra. This leaves 26% for the Acehnese and Minangkabau of Sumatra, the Balinese, the Iban and Dayaks of Kalimantan, and a bewildering patchwork of groups in Nusa Tenggara and Papua — the official total is no less than 3000!
For most part, Indonesia's many peoples coexist happily, but ethnic conflicts do continue to fester in some remote areas of the country. The policy of transmigration
), initiated by the Dutch but continued by Suharto, resettled Javanese, Balinese and Madurese migrants to less crowded parts of the archipelago. The new settlers, viewed as privileged and insensitive, were often resented by the indigenous populace and, particularly on Kalimantan and Papua, led to sometimes violent conflict.
One particularly notable ethnic group found throughout the country is the Indonesian Chinese
, known as Tionghoa
or the somewhat derogatory Cina
. At an estimated 6-7 million they make up just 3% of the population but continue to wield a disproportionate influence in the economy, with one famous — if largely discredited — study of companies on the Jakarta Stock Exchange concluding that as many as 70% of its companies (and, by extension, the country) were controlled by Chinese. They have thus been subject to persecution, with all Chinese forcibly relocated into urban areas in the 1960s, forced to adopt Indonesian names and bans imposed on teaching Chinese and displaying Chinese characters. Anti-Chinese pogroms have also take place, notably in the 1965-66 anti-Communist purges after Suharto's coup and again in 1998 after his downfall, when over 1100 people were killed in riots in Jakarta and other major cities. However, the post-Reformasi
governments have overturned most of the discriminatory legislation, and Chinese writing and Chinese festivals have made a tentative reappearance.
Xiamen University in China has lots of Indonesian Chinese as foreign students, there to learn Mandarin and perhaps find their roots.Culture
There is no one unified Indonesian culture as such, but the Hindu culture of the former Majapahit empire does provide a framework for the cultural traditions of the central islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. Perhaps the most distinctively "Indonesian" arts are wayang kulit
shadow puppetry, where intricately detailed cutouts act out scenes from the Mahabharata
, and its accompaniment the gamelan
orchestra, whose incredibly complex metallic rhythms are the obligatory backdrop to both religious ceremonies and traditional entertainment. Some Malay influences are also common, notably batik
cloth and kris
daggers, and Arabic culture has also been adopted to some degree thanks to Islam.
Modern-day Indonesian popular culture is largely dominated by the largest ethnic group, the Javanese. Suharto's ban on Western imports like rock'n'roll, while long since repealed, led to the development of indigenous forms of music like dangdut
, a sultry form of pop developed in the 1970s, and the televised pelvic thrusts of starlet Inul Daratista in 2003 were nearly as controversial as Elvis once was. Anggun Cipta Sasmi
is a talented Indonesian singer who became a famous singer in France. Her single "La neige au sahara" became a top hit on the European charts in the summer of 1997.
Most Indonesian films are low budget B movies. "Daun di Atas Bantal" (1998) is an exception; it won the "best movie" award at the Asia Pacific Film Festival in Taipei, Taiwan (1998).
Indonesian literature has yet to make much headway on the world stage, with torch-bearer Pramoedya Ananta Toer
's works long banned in his own homeland, but the post-Suharto era has seen a small boom with Ayu Utami
breaking both taboos and sales records.Religion
With 82-88% of the population depending on who you ask, Islam
is by far the largest religion in Indonesia, making Indonesia the largest Muslim-majority state in the world. Indonesia's brand of Islam is generally quite tolerant and in larger cities headscarves and such visible manifestations of faith are exceptions rather than the rule, although the countryside and the devout state of Aceh can be considerably stricter.
The other state-sanctioned religions are Protestantism (5%), Roman Catholicism (3%), Hinduism (2%) and Buddhism (1%). Hindus are concentrated on Bali, while Christians are found mostly in Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara. There are also pockets of animism throughout the country, and many strict Muslims decry the casual Javanese incorporation of animistic rites into the practices of notionally Islamic believers.Holidays
Multicultural Indonesia celebrates a vast range of religious holidays and festivals, but many are limited to small areas (eg. the Hindu festivals of Bali). The following covers public holidays applied nationwide regardless of their belief.
The most significant season of the year is the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan
. During its 30 days, devout Muslims refrain from passing anything through their lips (food, drink, smoke) between sunrise and sunset. People get up early to stuff themselves before sunrise (sahur
), go to work late if at all, and take off early to get back home in time to break fast (buka puasa
) at sunset. Non-Muslims, as well as Muslims travelling (musafir
), are exempt from fasting but it is polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public. Many restaurants close during the day and those that stay open (eg. hotel restaurants) maintain a low profile, with curtains covering the windows. During Ramadhan, all forms of nightlife including bars, nightclubs, karaoke and massage parlours close by midnight, and (especially in more devout areas) quite a few opt to stay closed entirely. Business travellers will notice that things move at an even more glacial pace than usual and, especially towards the end of the month, many people will take leave.
The climax at the end of the month is the two days of Idul Fitri
(also known as Lebaran
), when pretty much the entire country takes a week or two off to head back home to visit family in a ritual is known locally as mudik
, meaning going home. This is the one time of year when Jakarta has no traffic jams, but the rest of the country does, with all forms of transport packed to the gills. All government offices (including embassies) and many businesses close for a week or even two, and traveling around Indonesia is best avoided if at all possible.
Other Muslim holidays include Idul Adha
(the sacrifice day), Isra Mi'raj Muhammad SAW
(Islamic new year) and Maulid Muhammad SAW
. Christian holidays include Christmas
, Ascension Day
, Good Friday
, while the Hindu New Year of Nyepi
(March-April) bring Bali to a standstill and Buddhists get a day off for Waisak
(Buddha's birthday), celebrated with processions around Borobudur. Non-religious holidays include New Year
(1 Jan), Imlek
(Chinese New Year) in Jan-Feb and Independence Day
The dates of many holidays are set according to various lunar calendars and the dates thus change from year to year. The Ministry of Labor may change the official date of holidays if they are close to the weekend. There is another official day off for workers, called cuti bersama
(taking days off together), which is sometime close to the Idul Fitri holidays.Climate
Upon arrival and disembarking from the plane, one immediately notices the sudden rush of warm, wet air. Indonesia is a warm place. It has no spring, summer, fall, or winter, just two seasons: rainy and dry, both of which are relative (it still rains during the dry season, it just rains less). While there is significant regional variation, in most
of the country (including Java and Bali) the dry season is April to October, while the wet season is November to March.
In highland cities/resort the temperature is somewhat cooler and many people from outside these cities are wearing jackets: Bandung, Puncak, Tangkuban Perahu, Telaga Remis (Kuningan), Buana Jaya, Megamendung (Bogor), Situ Gunung (Sukabumi), Sampireun (Garut) in West Java, Curug Gendang (Carita) in Banten, Mt. Sumbing, Baturaden, Kaliori (Banyumas), Kopeng, Dieng, Tawangmangu, Sumber Semen (Rembang), Colo, Kajar and Rahtawu (Kudus), Wadaslintang Dam (Kebumen), Sayuran (Blora), Tahura, Grojogan Sewu (Solo), Tambi Plantation (Wonosobo) in Central Java, Kaliurang in Jogyakarta, Mt. Bromo, Mt. Ijen, Mt. Kelud, Blokagung Dam (Banyuwangi), Selorejo, Malang in East Java, Bunut Bolong, Palasari Dam in Bali, Brastagi in North Sumatra, Ranau Lake in South Sumatra, Tidal Forest of Mokoh River, Pangkalan Lesung in Riau, Pagar Alam in Bengkulu, Pangkalan Buton (Ketapang) in West Kalimantan, Bukit Kasih, Tomohon in North Sulawesi, Boalemo in Gorontalo, Tana Toraja, Soppeng, Malino, Katun Valley (Palopo) in South Sulawesi, Arfak Mountains, Papua.
In Papua island, there are snow covered peaks:
Jayawijaya Mountains: Peak Trikora (Mt. Wilhelmina) - 4730 m. Sudirman Mountains: Peak Jaya (Mt. Carstensz) - 5030 m.Time
Since the country is very large, Indonesia is divided into three time zones:GMT +7
: Western Indonesian Time (WIB, Waktu Indonesia Barat
)Sumatra, Java, west/central KalimantanGMT +8
: Central Indonesian Time (WITA, Waktu Indonesia Tengah
)Bali, south/east Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa TenggaraGMT +9
: Eastern Indonesian Time (WIT, Waktu Indonesia Timur
)Maluku, Irian JayaGet in
Dealing with Imigrasi
serves as a useful introduction to the Byzantine complexity of Indonesia's bureaucracy. The long and short of it, though, is that most
Western travelers can get a visa on arrival for US$10/25 at most
common points of entry (Java, Bali, etc), so read on only if you suspect that you don't fit this description.
There are three ways of entering Indonesia:Visa-free. Show your passport, get stamped, that's it. Applies only to a few select countries, mostly in ASEAN.Visa on arrival. Pay on arrival, get a visa in your passport, get it stamped, that's it. Most visitors fall in this category.Visa in advance. You must obtain visa at an Indonesian embassy before arrival.
One peculiarity to note is that visa-free and visa-on-arrival visitors must enter Indonesia via specific ports of entry
. Entry via other ports of entry will require a visa regardless of whether you are a visa-free or visa-on-arrival national or otherwise.Customs
in Indonesia is usually quite laid-back. You're allowed to bring in one liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 gm of tobacco products, and a reasonable quantity of perfume. In addition to the obvious drugs and guns, importing pornography and fruit, plants, meat or fish is (technically) prohibited. Indonesia imposes death penalty on those caught bringing in drugs.
Indonesia Immigration maintains its own website , but the following is based on data from the Indonesian Embassy in London , which seems to be the most comprehensive. Visa-free entry
Nationals of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Philippine, Hong Kong SAR, Macao SAR, Chile, Morocco, Peru, and Vietnam are given visa-free entry facility for maximum of 30 days. They cannot entend their stay and cannot convert their visa-free status to any other visa status.
Visa-free entries are only permitted via the following ports of entry:Airports: Adi Juanda (Surabaya, East Java), Adi Sumarno (Solo, Central Java), El Tari (Kupang, West Timor), Hang Nadim (Batam, Riau Islands), Hasanuddin (Makasar, South Sulawesi), Husein Sastranegara (Bandung, West Java), Ngurah Rai (Denpasar, Bali), Polonia (Medan, North Sumatra), Sam Ratulangi (Manado, North Sulawesi), Selaparang (Mataram, Lombok), Sepinggan (Balikpapan, East Kalimantan), Soekarno Hatta (Jakarta), Sultan Syarif Kasim II or Simpang Tiga (Pekanbaru, Riau), Supadio (Pontianak, West Kalimantan) and Minangkabau International Airport (Padang, West Sumatera).Seaports: Bandar Seri Udana Lobam (Batam, Riau Islands), Belawan (Medan, North Sumatra), Bitung (Manado, North Sumatra), Lembar (Mataram, Lombok), Nongsa Terminal Bahari (Batam, Riau Islands), Sekupang (Batam, Riau Islands), Sri Bayintan (Tanjung Pinang, Bintan, Riau Islands), Tanjung Balai Karimun (Karimun, Riau Islands), Tanjung Perak (Surabaya, East Java), Tanjung Priok (Jakarta), Bandar Bintan Telani Lagoi (Bintan, Riau Islands), Batu Ampar (Batam, Riau Islands), Benoa (Bali), Dumai (Riau), Lhokseumawe (North Sumatra), Marina Teluk Senimba (Batam, Riau Islands), Padang Bai (Bali), Selat Kijang (Bintan, Riau Islands), Tanjung Mas (Semarang, Central Java), Tanjung Pinang (Bintan, Riau Islands) and Tenau (Kupang, West Timor).Land crossing: Entikong (West Kalimantan-Sarawak border).Visa on arrival
A visa-on-arrival is issued to nationals of
People's Republic of China,
Sweden (a new addition, you may have to insist),
United Arab Emirates,
United States of America,
for a maximum of 30 days. A visa-on-arrival is not extendable and cannot be converted into any other type of visa. However, obtaining a visa from nearest Indonesian embassy or consulates before travelling is also possible and will allow you to skip some lines on entry.
Visa-on-arrival are only available at the following:Airports: Juanda (Surabaya, East Java), Adisutjipto (Yogyakarta, Java), Adi Sumarmo (Solo, Central Java), El Tari (Kupang, West Timor), Halim Perdanakusuma (Jakarta), Hassanudin (Makasar, South Sulawesi), Ngurah Rai (Denpasar, Bali), Polonia (Medan, North Sumatra), Sam Ratulangi (Manado, North Sulawesi), Selaparang (Mataram, Lombok), Sepinggan (Balikpapan, East Kalimantan), Soekarno Hatta (Jakarta), Sultan Syarif Kasim II (Pekanbaru, Riau) and Minangkabau International Airport (Padang, West Sumatera).Seaports: Bandar Bentan Telani Lagoi (Bintan, Riau Islands), Bandar Seri Udana Lobam (Bintan, Riau Islands), Batu Ampar (Batam, Riau Islands), Belawan (Medan, North Sumatra), Benoa (Bali), Bitung (Manado, North Sulawesi), Jayapura (Papua), Marina Teluk Senimba (Batam, Riau Islands), Maumere (Flores, East Nusa Tenggara), Nongsa (Batam, Riau Islands), Padang Bai (Bali), Pare-Pare (South Sulawesi), Sekupang (Batam, Riau Islands), Sibolga (North Sumatra), Soekarno Hatta (Makassar, South Sulawesi), Sri Bintan Pura (Tanjung Pinang, Bintan, Riau Islands), Tanjung Balai Karimun (Karimun, Riau Islands), Tanjung Mas (Semarang, Central Java), Tanjung Priok (Jakarta), Teluk Bayur (Padang, West Sumatra), Batam Centre (Batam, Riau Islands), Tenau (Kupang, West Timor) and Yos Sudarso (Dumai, Riau).Note the slight difference between the visa-free and visa-on-arrival lists and the absence of Entikong for visa-on-arrival visitors.Visa on arrival fees:
As of September 2005, visa on arrival fees are US$10.00 for a stay up to 7 days, and US $25.00 for a stay up to 30 days. Exact change in dollars is recommended, although a selection of other major currencies (including rupiah) are accepted, and any change will be given in rupiah. Credit cards are accepted in Bali, but don't count on this elsewhere.How to get visa on arrival:
At the above airports/seaports, the following procedure should be followed to get your visa on arrival.
#Before arriving, fill in the arrival/departure card. This card will be your visa application form.
#When you arrive, go to the bank counter and pay the required amount for your visa. You will be issued a bar-coded receipt.
#Take the receipt to the Visa on Arrival counter where your arrival/departure card, passport and receipt will be recorded by the officer. A visa sticker will be issued and stuck in your passport.
#Proceed to the immigration counter for your passport to be stamped.
As always, there may be variations to this layout, especially at the smaller points of entry. Bank and visa counters may be placed together. Anyhow, your visa must be applied for before you reach the immigration counter.Visa before arrival
Nationals of countries not listed above, and visitors wishing to stay for more than 30 days
are required to apply for visas through the nearest Indonesian Embassy or consulate. Single-entry visas are valid for 60 days and fairly routine if pricy at US$50-100, but multiple-entry visas (quite convenient esp. for visiting East Timor) are generally difficult to obtain and very expensive at US$200. Visa applications will usually take at least one week to be processed.By plane
The two main international airports are Soekarno-Hatta (CGK)
at Tangerang, Banten, near Jakarta, and Ngurah Rai (DPS)
at Denpasar, Bali. There are however many cities which have air links with neighbouring countries which can be interesting and convenient entry points into Indonesia. They include: Medan
with to/flights from Penang and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Pekanbaru
in Sumatra with flights to/from Malacca, Malaysia and Singapore; Padang
in Sumatra with flights from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore; Pontianak
in West Kalimantan to/from Kuching in Sarawak, Malaysia and Singapore; Tarakan
in East Kalimantan to/from Tawau in Sabah, Malaysia; Manado
in North Sulawesi to/from Davao in the Philippines; and Kupang
in West Timor to/from Darwin in Australia, and Dili, East Timor.Garuda Indonesia Garuda
, the state airline, provides links to Asian, Australian and European destinations and while its planes are a bit tatty, they are a fairly safe and often cheap option.
Travel to Indonesia from America costs around US$1000. As travel from most of Europe or anywhere in the USA will take over 20 hours, many flights stop in Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei or Singapore before arriving in Jakarta. Sydney, though, is just 6-8 hours away.
The fares for flying within the Southeast Asia region have gone down a lot with the advent of low cost carriers. Among them are Air Asia
, Tiger Airways
and Jetair Asia/Valuair
Ferries connect Indonesia with Singapore and Malaysia. Most connections are between ports in Sumatra (mostly in Riau and Riau Islands provinces) and those in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, although there is also a ferry service between Malaysia's Sabah state with East Kalimantan on Borneo. Onward boat connections to Jakarta and other Indonesian islands are available from these ports. See the pages for each city for more details.From SingaporeFrequent ferries to/from the various ports of Batam (Sekupang, Batu Ampar, Nongsa, Marina Teluk Senimba and Batam Centre).Frequent ferries also go to/from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal at Singapore airport Changi to ports like the capital of Riau province Tanjung Pinang a visa-on-arrival port at the Island Bintan.Bandar Bintan Telani Lagoi (Bintan Resorts),Bandar Sri Udana Lobam and .Several ferries daily to/from Tanjung Balai in Karimun Island.One daily ferry, increasing to two during weekends, to/from Tanjung Batu in Kundur Island.Please note that Tanjung Batu is NOT a visa-free or visa-on-arrival port of entry. There may however be exceptions for visa-free visitors.From Peninsular MalaysiaDaily ferries run from Penang to Belawan, the port for Medan, Sumatra.Daily ferries go from Port Klang near Kuala Lumpur to Dumai in Riau, Sumatra and Tanjung Balai Asahan in North Sumatra.Daily ferries between Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan and Dumai in Riau province, Sumatra.Daily ferries link Malacca with Dumai and Pekanbaru in Riau province, Sumatra.Frequent ferries go from Kukup, Johor to Tanjung Balai on Karimun Island in the Riau Islands.Frequent ferries link the Johor Bahru with Batam and the capital of Riau province Tanjung Pinang at the Island Bintan in the Riau Islands.Regular ferries also link Tanjung Belungkor in Johor with Batam.Please note that Tanjung Balai Asahan is NOT a visa-free or visa-on-arrival port of entry. There may however be exceptions for visa-free visitors.From Sabah, MalaysiaDaily ferries link Tawau with Nunukan and Tarakan, both in East Kalimantan province on Borneo.Please note that Nunukan and Tarakan are NOT visa-free or visa-on-arrival ports of entry. Again, there may be exceptions for visa-free visitors.By land
The only formal way to enter by land is at the Entikong-Tebedu
crossing between West Kalimantan and Sarawak, Malaysia on Borneo. The crossing in on the main route between Kuching, (Sarawak) and Pontianak, the capital of (West Kalimantan). As the crossing is listed only as a visa-free entry point, nationalities who do not qualify for this will have to apply for visas beforehand.
Other recognized but informal crossings to enter by land are:From Vanimo (Papua New Guinea) to Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian Papua.Mota'ain between Batugade in East Timor and Atambua, West Timor.Note: It is not guaranteed that you will be able to enter Indonesia through these crossings and non-Indonesians are required to apply for visas at the nearest Indonesian Embassy or Consulate.Get around
The only rapid means of long-distance travel within Indonesia is the plane. The largest domestic carriers are state-owned Garuda
and private competitor Lion Air
, but in recent years a host of low-cost competitors have sprung up, including Adam Air
, Indonesia Air Asia
(formerly AWAIR), Air Efata
, Batavia Air
and many more. Routes for less popular destinations and routes (particularly in eastern Indonesia) are served by Garuda's little buddy Merpati
, memorably summarized as "It's Merpati and I'll fly if I want to", AirFast
, Sriwijaya, Jatayu and more, often flying smaller planes. If you really
get off the beaten track, eg. settlements in Papua, there are no scheduled services at all and you'll need to charter a plane or hitch rides with missionaries.
Many carriers have poor on-time records and frequent cancellations, and the safety record of the smaller companies is dubious, with Adam Air, Lion Air and Mandala suffering fatal crashes in recent years. Aircraft are often antique and may be poorly maintained. Still, compared to the carnage on Indonesia's roads, a flight even on an aging turboprop is probably far safer — and far more comfortable — than traveling the same distance by bus. Garuda and Air Asia are run to international standards and are considered the safest options.
Prices are low by international standards, with more or less any domestic return flight available for under US$100 even on short notice, and fares for a fraction of that if you plan ahead. The hardest part is often finding what carriers serve what route and making a reservation, as many companies have not yet discovered the joys of the Internet, much less set up online booking engines. When traveling off the beaten track, it's imperative to reconfirm early and often, as frequencies are low and paid-up, occasionally even checked-in passengers are bumped off with depressing regularity if a VIP happens to show up. Make sure you arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the departure time, because airline staff often sell your seat to other passengers if you are late.By boat
Indonesia is all islands and consequently ferries have long been the most popular means of inter island travel. The largest company is PELNI
, which visits practically every inhabited island in Indonesia. Schedules are notional, creature comforts sparse and safety records poor. Try to scout out what, if any, safety devices are on board and consider postponing your trip if the weather looks bad.
You may get hassled by people onboard trying to extract extra money under some dubious excuse. Feel free to ignore them, although on the upside, it may be possible to bribe your way to a better class of accommodation.By trainPT Kereta Api
runs trains across most of Java and some parts of Sumatra. The network was originally built by the Dutch, and few new lines have been built since the Independence. Double-tracking of the most congested lines have been done, though, and is still ongoing. Maintenance is spotty and derailments and crashes occur occasionally.
Java by far has the best railway network, with trains connecting the capital city of Jakarta with other main cities, i.e. Surabaya both via Semarang on the north coast and via Yogyakarta and Solo through the southern main line. Bandung is connected to Jakarta by some 30 trains per day, and is itself connected to Surabaya through Yogyakarta. Bali has no railway lines, but there are trains from Surabaya to Banyuwangi, connecting with ferries to the island.
Sumatra's networks are concentrated on the northern (around Medan) and the southern (Lampung to Palembang) parts of the island. Passenger trains on the island are much less frequent than in Java.
Type of service:
1. Air-conditioned Eksekutif
classes are also available for the more budget-conscious traveler, but comfort and safety are noticeably less (due to congestion and length of travel time).
No sleeping car service is provided in Indonesia, and the best accommodation provided is air-conditioned, adjustable reclining seats in the Argo
and other eksekutif
Ticket reservations can be made one month in advance, although generally tickets will still be available almost to the last minute. An exception is the very busy Lebaran season, in which time it is not advisable to travel due to the extremely high demand for tickets. No on-line ticket reservation is available, but availability can be gleaned on PT Kereta Api's ticketing site
Generally, trains in Java travel through scenic areas, and travelers not in a hurry should consider the length of the journey and the scenery as a bonus to his travels. However, theft is common, particularly on overnight journeys, so padlock your doors if possible.By bus
The major types of buses are air-conditioned bus (AC) and non-air-conditioned bus (non-AC or "economy class"). The air-conditioned chartered buses can be rented with its drivers for a tourist group. Indonesian bus companies offer intercity and interprovince routes. The interprovince routes usually include transportation to other islands mainly between Java and Sumatra.
Bus maintenance is poor, and drivers are often drunk, on drugs or just reckless. Long, overnight journeys are particularly dangerous. Guard your bags like a hawk. In the wilder parts of the country (notably South Sumatra), interprovince buses are occasionally ambushed by bandits.By car
Indonesian driving habits are generally atrocious
. Lanes are happily ignored, passing habits are suicidal and driving on the road shoulder is common. Buses are particularly bad, as they both speed like maniacs and stop without warning to pick up fares. Pedestrians can be found crossing the road anywhere, even across highways. Police tend to concentrate on extracting bribes, not actually doing anything about the mess.
That said, renting a car in Indonesia is cheap compared to renting in other country, and despite recent fare hikes gas remains cheap (fixed price for gasoline is Rp 4500/litre and price of diesel fuel is Rp 4300/litre). To drive a car yourself, an International Driver Permit is required, but it is strongly recommended that you consider renting a car with driver, because the additional cost is quite low and having a traffic accident in Indonesia will certainly spoil your trip.
Road condition and road maintenance in Indonesia is poor. If you go outside major cities, you should use a four-wheel drive car (Kijang jeeps are popular). During rainy season, major roads in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi are flooded for several weeks. Several important, old bridges in Sumatra had collapsed recently.
Traffic moves on the left in Indonesia.By becakBecak
("BEH-chuck") is a tricycle (pedicab) transportation mode for short distances such as residential areas in many cities. In some areas, the driver is sitting at the back of the passenger, but in some areas (like Medan) the driver is sitting on the side of the passenger. Good communication skills is integral to prevent getting overcharged on these rides. Often, sly drivers try to get some more money out of you after you've reached your destination, so be sure that you know how much it costs beforehand.
Note that there are no becak
in Jakarta. Instead, the motorized bajaj
(BAH-jai), somewhat similar to the Thai tuk-tuk, serves the same function. In some other provinces (eg. North Sumatra, Aceh) you can also find motorbikes with sidecars, known as bentor
(short for becak bermotor
If you're in such a hurry that you're willing to lose a limb to get there, then ojek
motorcycle taxis might be the ticket for you. Ojek services consist of guys with bikes lounging around street corners, perhaps identified with a colored, numbered jacket, who usually shuttle short distances down alleys and roads but will also do longer trips for a price. Haggle furiously.Talk
The sole official language is Indonesian
, known as Bahasa Indonesia
. It's based on the dialect of Malay spoken in the Riau Islands and Malay speakers will pick it up very quickly, the main differences being in loanwords — Indonesian borrowed from Arabic, Hindi, Dutch, while Malay's loans are mostly from English.
Written phonetically with the Latin alphabet and with a fairly logical grammar, Indonesian is generally regarded as one of the easiest languages to learn, and A.M. Almatsier's The Easy Way to Master the Indonesian Language
, a 200 page small paperback, is an excellent starting point. It can be found in any Indonesian bookstore for less than 3 dollars.
The language went through a series of spelling reforms in the 1950s and 60s to smoothe over differences with Malay and expunge its Dutch roots. Although the reforms are long complete, you may still see old signs with dj
, or oe
Many educated Indonesians understand and are able to speak English. While Indonesian is the lingua franca
throughout the archipelago, there are thousands of local languages as well, and if you really get off the beaten track you may have to learn them as well.
Most educated seniors (65 years/older) in Indonesia understand Dutch.
Educated Indonesians who graduated from Islamic Religious Institutes/Islamic Universities understand and are able to speak Arabic.
English language TV channels are available on most hotels. MetroTV (local TV channel) broadcasts news in Chinese from Monday to Friday at 07.00 AM. MetroTV also broacasts news in English from Monday to Friday at 07.30 AM. TVRI (state owned TV station) broadcasts news in English from Monday to Friday at 04.30 PM in the afternoon. All schedules are in Waktu Indonesia Barat (WIB).Buy
Indonesia's currency is the rupiah
), abbreviated Rp
. The rupiah's value plummeted during the 1997 economic crisis and has slowly drifted downward ever since, and as of 2006 you need more than Rp 9,000 to buy one US dollar. The trailing three zeros are often abbreviated with rb
, thousand) or even dropped completely, and for more expensive items you will often even see jt
The largest banknote is Rp 100,000, which may only be US$10 but is still inconveniently large for most purchases. Next in the series are Rp 50,000, Rp 20,000, Rp 10,000, Rp 5,000 and finally Rp 1,000. Bill size is the easiest way to distinguish them, as the designs — all pale pastel shades of yellow, green and brown — are confusingly similar and the smaller bills in particular are often filthy and mangled. (The new 2004-2005 series of notes has, however, corrected this to some extent.) A chronic shortage of small change — it's not unusual to get a few pieces of candy back instead of coins — has been to some extent alleviated by a new flood of plasticky aluminum coins, available in denominations of Rp 500, Rp 200, Rp 100, Rp 50 and the thoroughly useless Rp 25. Older golden metallic versions are also still floating around, and you may occasionally even run into a sub-1000 banknote. Bills printed in 1992 or earlier are no longer in circulation, but can be exchanged at banks.US dollars
are the second currency of Indonesia and will be accepted by anyone in a pinch, but are typically used as an investment and for larger purchases, not buying a bowl of noodles on the street. Many hotels quote rates in dollars, but all accept payment in rupiah.Changing money
Banks and money exchangers are widely available on Java, Bali and Lombok, but can be a major headache anywhere else, so load up with rupiah before heading off to any outer islands. Money exchangers are very
picky about bill condition, pre-1999 dollar bills or imperfect bills (ripped, wrinkled, stained, etc) will often be rejected. Banks frequently won't change any 1996 dollars. Counterfeit US dollars are huge problem in the country and as a result the older your dollars are, the lower the exchange rate. You will get the highest exchange rate for dollars issued in 2001 or later and the exchange rate drops for 1999 and 1996 dollars. There are even different exchange rates according to the serial number for dollars from 1996. Banks and money exchangers on outer islands are sparse and frequently offer drastically reduced exchange rates of 10-20% or more!!!
In the reverse direction, money changers will be happy to turn your dirty rupiah into spiffy dollars, but the spread is often considerable (10% is not unusual). Be very careful dealing with moneychangers, who are very adept at distracting your attention during the counting process and short-changing you as a result. As a precaution, consider bringing a friend along to watch over the transaction very carefully.ATMsATM
s are common in the larger cities on the islands of Java, Bali and Lombok and are generally reliable. They are non-existant on most other islands. Credit Cards
Be careful when using credit cards
, as cloning and fraud are a major problem in Indonesia.
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, but American Express can be problematic. At smaller operations, surcharges of 2-5% over cash are common.Costs
Living in Indonesia is cheap — as long as you're willing to live like an Indonesian. For example, Rp 10,000 (~$1) will get you a meal on the street, two packets of kretek
cigarettes, three kilometers in a taxi or three bottles of water. But as a tourist it's absolutely necessary to chaffer a minimum of 50%-70% off the initial price, otherwise you will spend your money quick.
Fancy restaurants, hotels and the like will often slap on a 10% service charge plus 6-11% tax. This may be denoted with "++" after the price or just written in tiny print on the bottom of the menu.Eat
With 17,000 islands to choose from, Indonesian food is an umbrella term covering a vast variety of cuisines, but if used without further qualifiers the term tends to mean the food originally from the central and eastern parts of the main island Java. All too many backpackers seem to fall into a rut of eating nothing but nasi goreng
(fried rice), but there are much more interesting options lurking about if you're adventurous and take the trouble to seek it out. Local flavors do tend to be rather more simple than those in Malaysia or Thailand though, the predominant flavorings being peanuts and chillies, and the Javanese like their food rather sweet.
The main staple is rice (nasi
), served up in many forms including:bubur nasi, rice porridge with toppings, popular at breakfastlontong, rice packed tightly into bamboo containersnasi goreng, the ubiquitous fried ricenasi kuning, yellow spiced rice, originally a festive ceremonial dishnasi padang, white steamed rice served with numerous curries and other toppings, originally from Padang but assimilated throughout the country with lots of variations and adjustments to tastenasi timbel, white steamed rice wrapped in a banana leaf (looks pretty but doesn't add any flavor)nasi uduk, slightly sweet rice cooked with coconut milk, eaten with omelette and fried chicken; popular at breakfast
) come in a good second in the popularity contest. Worth a special mention is Indomie
, no less than the world's largest instant noodle manufacturer. A pack at the supermarket costs under Rp 500 and some stalls will boil or fry them up for you for as little as 1000 Rp.bakmi, thin egg noodles usually served boiled with a topping of your choicekuetiaw, flat rice noodles most commonly fried up with soy sauce
) and watery curries are also common:bakso/baso ("BAH-so"), meatballs and noodles in chicken brothrawon, spicy beef soupsayur asam vegetables in a sour soup of tamarindsayur lodeh, vegetables in a soup of coconut milk and fishsoto ayam, chicken soup Indonesian style with chicken shreds, vermicelli, and chicken broth and various local ingredients
Popular main dishes include:ayam bakar, grilled chickencap cay, Chinese-style stir-fried vegetablesgado-gado, boiled vegetables with peanut saucegudeg, jackfruit curry from Yogyakarta.ikan bakar, grilled fishkaredok, similar to gado-gado, but the vegetables are finely chopped and mostly rawperkedel, deep-fried patties of potato and meat or vegetables (adopted from the Dutch frijkadel)sate (satay), grilled chicken and lamb
) are made into a vast variety of sauces and dips known as sambal
. The simplest and perhaps most common is sambal ulek
, which is just chillies and salt with perhaps a dash of lime pounded together. There are many other kinds of sambal
like sambal pecel
(with peanut), sambal terasi
(with shrimp paste), sambal tumpeng
, etc. Many of these can be very
spicy indeed, so be careful if you're asked whether you would like your dish pedas
Crackers known as keropok
, it's the same word spelled differently) accompany almost every meal and are a traditional snack too. They can be made from almost any grain, fruit, vegetable or seed imaginable, including many never seen outside Indonesia, but perhaps the most common is the light pink keropok udang
, made with dried shrimp.
If you are daring enough to try the spiciest and even outlandish local foods, look for Batak eateries (Lapo
) and Manadonese eateries. These two ethnicities have a different way of cooking than the standard Javanese and Padang style. Very hot and spicy, with unusual ingredients like wild boar, pork cooked in blood, dog and bat meat. Since they usually cook with pork fat, tamed Muslim-friendly versions are availables in malls and food courts, but it's worth it to seek out the real thing.
While Indonesians happily eat anything that walks, crawls, flies or swims, vegetarians will be happy to know that tofu (tahu
) and its chunkier, indigenous cousin tempeh
are also an essential part of the diet. Vegetarianism as such is, however, poorly understood and avoiding fish and shrimp-based condiments is a challenge.
Dessert in the Western sense is not common in Indonesia, but there are plenty of snacks to tickle your sweet tooth. Kue
covers a vast array of traditional cakes and pastries, all colorful, sweet, and usually a little bland, with coconut, rice flour and sugar being the main ingredients. Es teler
, ice mixed with fruits and topped with coconut cream or condensed milk, comes in infinite variations and is a popular choice on a hot day.
Perhaps the cheapest, tastiest and healthiest option, though, is to buy some fresh fruit
, which is available throughout the year, although individual fruits do have seasons. Popular options include mango (mangga
), papaya (papaya
), banana (pisang
), starfruit (belimbing
) and guava (jambu
), but more exotic options you're unlikely to see outside Indonesia include the scaly-skinned crisp snakefruit (salak
) and the alien-looking local passionfruit (markisa
). Durian is an exotic, light green, spiny, melon-like fruit with strong odor. Durian is prohibited in most hotels and taxis. Eating by hand
In Indonesia eating with your hand (instead of utensils like forks and spoons) is very common. The basic idea is to use four fingers to pack a little ball of rice, which can then be dipped into sauces before you pop it in your mouth by pushing it with your thumb. There's one basic rule of etiquette to observe: Use only your right hand
, as the left hand is used to clean yourself in the bathroom. Don't stick either hand into communal serving dishes: instead, use the left hand to serve yourself with utensils and then dig in. Needless to say, it's wise to wash your hands well before and after eating.
Eating by hand is frowned on in some "classier" places. If you are provided with cutlery and nobody else around you seems to be doing it, then take the hint.Budget
Eating on the cheap in Indonesia is cheap indeed, and a complete streetside meal can be had for under US$1 (Rp 10,000). However, the level of hygiene may not be up to Western standards, so you may wish to steer clear for the first few days and patronize only visibly popular establishments.
The fastest way to grab a bite is to visit a kaki lima
, literally "five feet". Depending on who you ask, they're named either after the mobile stalls' three wheels plus the owner's two feet, or the "five-foot way" sidewalks mandated during British rule. These can be found by the side of the road in any Indonesian city, town or village, usually offering up simple fare like fried rice, noodles and porridge. At night a kaki lima can turn into a lesehan
simply by providing some bamboo mats for customers to sit on and chat.
A step up from the kaki lima is the warung
(or the old spelling waroeng
), a slightly less mobile stall offering much the same food, but perhaps a few plastic stools and a tarp for shelter.Mid-range
Rather more comfortable is the rumah makan
or eating house, a simple restaurant more often than not specializing in a type of food or style of cuisine. Nasi Padang
restaurants, offering rice and an array of curries and other toppings to go along with it, are particularly popular and easily identified by their soaring Minangkabau roofs. Ordering at these is particularly easy: just sit down, and your table will promptly fill up with countless small plates of dishes. Eat what you like and pay for what you consumed.
Another easy mid-range option in larger cities is to look out for food courts and Indonesian restaurants in shopping malls, which combine air-con with hygienic if rather predictable food.
Major local chains include EsTeler 77
, best known for its iced fruit desserts (es teler
) but also selling bakso
(meatball), nasi goreng
(fried rice) and other Indonesian staples, and Hoka Hoka Bento
, for localized Japanese fare. Bakmi Gajah Mada (GM) is a famous Chinese noodle restaurant chain.
KFC, Texas Fried Chicken, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Wendy's, A&W, Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Haagen Dazs (ice cream), JolliBee hamburger (from Philippines) and the usual suspects plus copies thereof are also abundant in large cities, but peter out once you go east of Lombok.Splurge
indicates more of a Western-style eating experience, with air-con, table cloths, table service and prices to match. Especially in Jakarta and Bali, it's possible to find very good restaurants offering authentic fare from around the world, but you'll be lucky to escape for under Rp 100,000 a head.
Famous local restaurant chains are Gandy Steakhouse and Hanamasa Japanese restaurant.Drink
Tap water is generally not potable in Indonesia, but any water served to you in restaurants will be purified and/or boiled (air minum
or air putih
). Bottled water, usually known as aqua
after the best-known brand, is cheap and available everywhere, but do check that the seal is intact.
Most hotels provide free drinking water.
Do not use tap water for brushing your teeth. Also beware of dirty ice which may not have been prepared or transported in hygienic conditions.Juices
Fruit juices — jus
for plain juice or es
if served with ice — are popular with Indonesians and visitors alike, although the hygiene of the water used to make them can be dubious. In addition to the usual suspects, try jus alpokat
, a surprisingly tasty drink made from avocadoes, often with some chocolate syrup poured in!Coffee and tea
Indonesians drink both coffee (kopi
) and tea (teh
), at least as long as they have had vast quantities of sugar added in. An authentic cup of Java, known as kopi tubruk
, is strong and sweet, but let the grounds settle to the bottom of the cup before you drink it. Last and least, no travel guide would be complete without mentioning the infamous kopi luwak
, coffee made from beans which have been eaten, partially digested and excreted by the palm civet (luwak), but even in Indonesia this is an exotic delicacy costing upwards of US$300/pound.
) is also quite popular, and the Coke-like glass bottles of the Tehbotol
brand of sweet bottled tea are ubiquitous.Jamu
The label jamu
covers a vast range of local medicinal drinks for various diseases. Jamu are available in ready-to-drink form as well as in powder satchets or capsules. Most of them are bitter and drunk for the supposed effect, not the taste. Famous brands of jamu include Iboe
, Sido Muncul
, and Meneer
; avoid buying jamu from the street as the water quality is dubious. Some well-known jamu include:galian singset — weight reduction)beras kencur (from rice, sand ginger and brown sugar) — cough, fatiguetemulawak (from curcuma) — for liver disease)gula asem (from tamarind and brown sugar) — rich in vitamin Ckunyit asam (from tamarind, turmeric) — for skin care, canker soresTraditional drinksWedang Serbat - made from star anise, cardamon, tamarind, ginger, and sugar. Wedang means "hot water".Ronde - made from ginger, powdered glutinous rice, peanut, salt, sugar, food coloring additives. Wedang Sekoteng - made from ginger, green pea, peanut, pomegranate, milk, sugar, salt and mixed with ronde (see above). Bajigur - made from coffee, salt, brown sugar, cocount milk, sugar palm fruit, vanillin. Bandrek - made from brown sugar, ginger, pandanus leaf, coconut meat, clove bud, salt, cinnamon, coffee. Cinna-Ale - made from cinnamon, ginger, tamarind, sand ginger and 13 other spices.Cendol/Dawet - made from rice flour, sago palm flour, pandanus leaf, salt, food coloring additives.Talua Tea/Teh Telur (West Sumatera) - made from tea powder, raw egg, sugar and limau nipis.Lidah Buaya Ice (West Kalimantan) - made from aloe vera, french basil, javanese black jelly, coconut milk, palm sugar, pandanus leaf, sugar.Alcohol
Islam is the religion of the majority of Indonesians, but alcohol is widely available in most areas, especially in upscale restaurants and bars. Public displays of drunkenness, however, are strongly frowned upon and in the larger cities are likely to make you a victim of crime or get you arrested by police. Do not drive if you are drunk. The legal drinking age is 18.
Indonesia's most popular tipple is Bintang
), a standard-issue lager available more or less everywhere, although the locals like theirs lukewarm. Other popular beers include Bali Hai
. A can costs upward of Rp 5,000 in a supermarket and as much as Rp 50,000 in a fancy bar.
Wine is expensive and only available in expensive restaurants and bars in large hotels. Almost all of it is imported, but there are a few local vinters of varying quality on Bali.
Various traditional alcoholic drinks are also available:Tuak — sugar palm wine (15% alcohol)Arak — the distilled version of tuak, up to 40%Brem Balinese style sweet glutinous rice wine
Exercise some caution in choosing what and where to buy — homemade moonshine may contain all sorts of nasty impurities.Smoke
Indonesians smoke like chimneys and the concept of "no smoking", much less "second-hand smoke", has yet to make much headway in the country. Normal Western-style cigarettes are known as rokok putih
("white smokes"), but the smoke of choice with a 92% market share is the ubiquitous kretek
, a clove-laced cigarette that has become almost a national symbol, and whose scent you will likely first encounter the moment you step out of the plane into the airport. The main brands are Djarum
, Gudang Garam
(234), and a pack of decent kretek
will cost you on the order of Rp 6000. Note that the cheapest brands don't have filters!
Kretek are lower in nicotine but higher in tar than normal cigarettes. Most studies indicate that the overall health effect is roughly the same, but obviously they're not exactly good for you either and, combined with pollution, go a long way to explain why every other city resident seems to have a persistent cough.
There is a new rule against smoking in public places in Jakarta.
The smoker will be fined up to US$ 5000. If you want to smoke, ask other people first: "Boleh merokok?".Sleep
In popular travel destinations like Bali and Jakarta accommodation options run the gamut, from cheap backpacker guesthouses to some of the most opulent five-star hotels and resorts imaginable.Learn
The Darmasiswa Program is a scholarship program funded by the government of Indonesia and open to all foreign students from countries with which Indonesia has friendly relations to study Indonesian languages, arts, music and crafts. Participants can choose to study at any of the state universities and colleges participating in the program.
Some foreign students from Australia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Poland, and Nigeria study Indonesian Language and culture at Universitas Gajah Mada (UGM) in Jogyakarta.
You can find many schools offering curriculum in foreign languages (mostly are, of course, English), one of the most notable of which is Sekolah Pelita Harapan in Jakarta. Some foreign government sponsored schools can also be found in Jakarta, teaching either in English or in their foreign native language. For university education in English, one can consider studying at Swiss-German University , Universitas Pelita Harapan , or President University , all of which are located in Jakarta. Enquire before you enroll.Work
In Indonesia, salaries vary from US$70/month - US$1500/month for the local people. The sales clerks that you see at luxurious shopping malls like Plaza Indonesia earns between US$60 - US$80. This is very small even for the Indonesians. Many adults above 20 stay with their parents to save money. Those who don't stay with their parents and earn less than US$200 usually have a second job.
Expats usually earn higher salaries. An English teacher could make between Rp. 7,500,000 - Rp. 8,000,000 (US$800 - US$850) and that is considered high by the local standard.Stay safe
Alas, Indonesia has been and continues to be wracked by every pestilence known to man: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, terrorism, civil strife, corruption and crime make the headlines on a depressingly regular basis. However, it is important to retain a sense of proportion
and remember Indonesia's vast size
: a tsunami in Aceh will not cause the slightest ripple on the beaches of Bali, and street battles in troubled Central Sulawesi are irrelevant in the jungles of Papua.Crime
The crime rate
has increased significantly in recent years, but fortunately it remains mostly non-violent and guns are rare. Robbery, theft and pickpocketing are common in Indonesia, particularly in markets, public transport and pedestrian overpasses. Avoid flashing jewelry, gold watches, MP3 players or large cameras. Thieves have been known to snatch laptops, PDAs and cellphones from Internet hotspot areas.
Crime is rampant on local and long-distance public transport (bus, train, ships). Do not accept drinks from strangers, as they may be laced with drugs. Choose your taxis carefully in cities (hotel taxis are often best), lock doors when inside and avoid using cellular phones, MP3 players, PDAs or laptops at traffic lights or in traffic jams.
Do not place valuable items in checked baggage, as they may be stolen by baggage handlers. Do not leave valuable items in an empty hotel rooms, and use the hotel's safe deposit box instead of the in-room safe.
Do not draw large amounts of cash from banks or ATMs. Guard your belongings carefully and consider carrying a money clip instead of a wallet.Corruption
Indonesia is one of the world's most corrupt countries. Officials may ask for bribes, tips or "gifts" — the Indonesian term is uang kopi
, literally "coffee money" — to supplement their meager salaries; pretending you do not understand may work. Generally, being polite, smiling, asking for an official receipt for any 'fees' you are asked to pay, more politeness, more smiling, will avoid any problems.
The going rate for paying your way out of small offenses (not carrying your passport, losing the departure card, minor or imaginary traffic violation, etc) is Rp 50,000. It's common for police to demand silly amounts or threaten you with going to the station, but keep cool and they'll be more reasonable. Also note that if your taxi/bus/car driver is stopped, any fine or bribe is not your problem and it's best not to get involved. (If it's clear that the police were out of line, your driver certainly won't object if you compensate him afterwards though.)Civil strife and terrorism
Indonesia has a number of provinces where separatist movements have resorted to armed struggles, notably Papua. In addition, sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians, as well as between the indigenous population and transmigrants from Java/Madura, continues to occur in Maluku, central parts of Sulawesi and some areas of Kalimantan. Elections in Indonesia frequently involve rowdy demonstrations that have on occasion spiralled into violence, and the Indonesian military have also been known to employ violent measures to control or disperse protesting crowds. Travel permits (surat jalan
) are required for entering the conflict areas such as Poso, Palu, and Papua.
While the great majority of civil strife in Indonesia is a strictly local affair, terrorist bombings targeting Western interests have also taken place in Bali and Jakarta, mostly notably the 2002 bombing in Kuta that killed 202 people, including 161 tourists. To minimize your risk, avoid any tourist-oriented nightclub or restaurant without strong security measures in place or where parking of cars and/or motorcycles in front of the club is permitted.Drugs
Indonesia has extremely
harsh punishments for drug offenses — visitors are greeted with cheery "DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS" signs at airports and recent cases have seen long jail terms for simple possession — but drugs are still widely available. By far the most common is marijuana (known as gele
), which is not only sold to tourists but is used as food in some parts of the country, notably Aceh. Magic mushrooms are advertised openly in parts of Bali and Lombok, and hard drugs are common in the Jakarta nightlife scene. Still, it's highly advisable to steer well clear or, at very least, be very discreet as entrapment and drug busts are common and you really, really don't want to get involved with the Indonesian justice system; thanks to the anti-corruption drive, you cannot even count on being able to bribe your way out anymore.Natural disasters
Indonesia is a chain of highly volcanic islands sprinkled along the Ring of Fire, so earthquakes
occur constantly and tsunamis
and volcano eruptions
are all too common. Realistically, there is little you can do to avoid these risks, but familiarize yourself with the warning signs and pay special heed to fire escape routes in hotels.WildlifeCrocodiles
and poisonous snakes
are present throughout most of Indonesia, although only very common in a few areas. Komodo dragons
can be very dangerous if harassed, but are only found on Komodo and a few neighboring islands.Stay healthy
The bad news is that every disease known to man can be found somewhere in Indonesia — the good news is that you're probably not going to go there. Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary for Java or Bali, but is wise if traveling for extended periods in Sumatra, Borneo, Lombok or points east. Dengue fever can be contracted anywhere and using insect repellents (DEET) and mosquito nets is highly advisable. Hepatitis
is also common and getting vaccinated before arriving in Indonesia is wise.
The air quality in major cities, especially Jakarta and Surabaya, is poor, and the seasonal haze (June-October) from forest fires on Borneo and Sumatra can also cause respiratory problems. If you have asthma, bring your medicine and breather.
Recent years have seen outbreaks of polio and anthrax in rural parts of Java and rabies in East Nusa Tenggara. Avian influenza
(bird flu) has also made headlines, but outbreaks are sporadic and limited to people who deal with live or dead poultry in rural areas. Eating cooked chicken appears to be safe.
The local Indonesian health care system is not up to western standards
. While a short term stay in an Indonesian hospital or medical center for simple health problems is probably not markedly different to a western facility, serious and critical medical emergencies will stretch the system to the limit. In fact, many rich Indonesians often choose to travel to neighboring Singapore to receive more serious health care. SOS Indonesia
(24-hour emergency line +62-21-7506001) specializes in treating expats and has English staff on duty, but charges are correspondingly high. In any case, travel health insurance that includes medical evacuation
back to a home country is highly recommended.
If you need a specific medicine, bring the medicine in its container/bottle, if possible with the doctor's prescription. Indonesian custom inspectors may ask about the medicine. If you need additional medicine in Indonesia, bring the container to a pharmacy (apotek
) and if possible mention the active ingredients of the medicine. Drugs are usually manufactured locally under different brand names, but contain the same ingredients. Be careful about the proper dosage of the medicine.
For routine traveller complaints, one can often find medical doctors (dokter
) in towns. These small clinics are usually walk-in, although you may face a long wait. Most clinics open in the afternoon (from 4 PM). The emergency room (ER) in hospitals always open (24 hour). There are clinics (poliklinik
) in most hospitals (8 AM-4 PM). Advance payment is expected for treatment.
Be warned, though, that the doctors/nurses may not speak English well enough to make an appropriate diagnosis -- be patient and take a good phrasebook or a translator with you. Ask about the name and dosage of the prescription medicine, as doctors over oversubscribe to inflate their own cut, with antibiotics
handed out like candy.Respect
By and large (hawkers and touts don't count), Indonesians are a polite people and adopting a few local conventions will go a long way to smooth your stay.
One general tip for getting by in Indonesia is that saving face
is extremely important in Indonesian culture. If you should get into a dispute with a vendor, government official etc, forget trying to argue or 'win'. Better results will be gained by remaining polite and humble at all times, never raising your voice, and smiling, asking the person to help you find a solution to the problem. Rarely, if ever, is it appropriate to try to blame, or accuse.
When meeting someone, be it for the first time ever or just the first time that day, it is common to shake hands — but in Indonesia this is no knuckle-crusher, just a light touching of the palms
, often followed by bringing your hand to your heart. Meetings often start and end with everybody shaking hands with everybody! However, don't try to shake hands with a Muslim woman unless she offers her hand first. It is respectful to bend slightly (not a complete bow) when greeting someone older or in a position of authority.Never
use your left hand for anything! It is considered very rude. This is especially true when you are shaking hands or handing something to someone. It can be hard to get used to, especially if you are left handed. However, sometimes special greetings are given with both hands.
Polite forms of address for men are Pak
(short for bapak
, "father") and for women Bu
(short for ibu
, "mother"). The Javanese terms mas
("older brother") and mbak
("older sister") are also heard, but best reserved for equals, not superiors.
Remove your shoes or sandals outside before entering a house, unless the owner explicitly allows you to keep them on. Even then, it might be more polite to remove your shoes. Do not put your feet up while sitting and try not to show the bottom of your feet to someone, it is considered rude. Don't walk in front of people, instead walk behind them.
Do not stand or sit with your arms crossed or on your hips. This is a sign of anger or hostility. If a guest, it is not polite to finish any drink all the way to the bottom of the glass. This indicates that you would like more. Instead, leave about a half of an inch/2cm in the bottom of your glass and someone will most likely ask you if you would like more.
And if all this seems terribly complex, don't worry about it too much — Indonesians are an easygoing bunch and don't expect foreigners to know or understand intricacies of etiquette.Contact
Keeping in touch with the outside world from Indonesia is rarely a problem, at least if you stay anywhere close to the beaten track.Telephone calls
As getting a fixed line remains an unaffordable luxury for many Indonesians, wartel
(short for warung telekomunikasi
) can be found on most every street in Indonesia.
If you have Global System Mobile (GSM) cellular phone, ask your local provider about "roaming agreement/facility" with local GSM operators in Indonesia (ie: PT Indosat, PT Telkomsel, PT Excelindo etc).
; Making local calls : Dial (telephone number)
; Making long distance calls : Dial 0-(area code)
; Making international calls : Dial 017-(country code)
-(area code, if any)
; Beside "017" prefix, you can use "001", "007" or "008". For example: 001-(country code)
-(area code, if any)
; You can make International calls through operator: dial 101 or 102.
; Making long distance collect calls : Dial 0871-(area code)
; Connecting to the Internet : Dial 080989999 (from your modem), costing you Rp. 165/minute in business days and Rp. 100/minute in Saturdays and Sundays
; TELKOM Calling Card access number : Dial 168Mobile phones
The Indonesian mobile phone market is heavily competed and prices are low: you can pick up a prepaid SIM card for less than Rp 20,000 and calls may cost as little as Rp 1,000 a minute (subject to the usual host of restrictions). Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones and basic models start from Rp 250,000. The largest operators are Telkomsel
) and Excelcomindo
If you have Global System Mobile (GSM) cellular phone, ask your local GSM operator about "roaming agreement/facility" in Indonesia. Most GSM operators in Indonesia have roaming agreement with various GSM operators worldwide. Using roaming facility, you can use your own cellular phone and GSM SIM card in Indonesia.
Most Indonesian operators use GSM, but beware of the few offering CDMA phones: they are slightly cheaper, but generally not
usable outside major cities. Be sure to double-check when buying!Internet
The modern-day version of the wartel
is the warnet
, which feature Internet-connected PCs as well, and many shops now do double duty. Prices vary considerably, and as usual you tend to get what you pay for, but you'll usually be looking at around Rp 5,000 per hour. In large cities, there are free hotspot on certain shopping malls, McDonald restaurants and StarBucks cafes. Some hotels provide free hotspot on the lobby.Telephone directories and information servicesOther information services
; Current time : Dial 103
; Information about TELKOM services : Dial 162
; Phone directory: Dial 108
; Phone directory in other cities: Dial (Code Area) 108
; Hello Yellow Phone Directory: Dial (62)(21) 7917 8108
; Online Yellow Pages: Indonesian YellowPages
; Code area of cities in Indonesia:
Amlapura (0363), Ampah (0522), Amuntai (0527), Amurang (0430), Atambua (0389), Bajawa (0384), Balikpapan (0542), Banda Aceh (0651), Bandar Lampung (0721), Bandung (022), Bagan Siapi-Api (0767), Bangkinan (0762), Bangli (0366), Banjarmasin (0511), Banjarnegara (0286), Bantaeng (0413), Banyuwangi (0333), Batam (0778), Baturiti (0368), Bima (0374), Bireun (0644), Bitung (0438), Blangpidie (0659), Blitar (0342), Blora (0296), Bogor (0251), Bojonegoro (0353), Bondowoso (0332), Bontang (0548), Bumiayu (0289), Cianjur (0263), Cilacap (0282), Cirebon (0231), Deli (0261), Denpasar (0361), Dumai (0765), Ende (0381), Garut (0262), Gorontalo (0435), Indramayu (0234), Jakarta (021), Janeponto (0419), Jayapura (0967), Jember (0331), Jogyakarta (0274), Jombang (0321), Kalabahi (0386), Karawang (0267), Kasongan (0536), Kediri (0354), Kendal (0294), Kendari (0401), Ketapang (0534), Klaten (0272), Kotamubagu (0434), Kuala Kurun (0537), Kudus (0291), Kuningan (0232), Kupang (0380), Lamongan (0322), Langsa (0641), Larantuka (0383), Lhokseumawe (0645), Longnawang (0555), Lumajang (0334), Luwuk (0461), Madiun (0351), Magelang (0293), Majalengka (0233), Makale (0423), Malang (0341), Malino (0417), Manado (0431), Mataram (0370), Maumere (0382), Medan (061), Meulaboh (0655), Muntok (0716), Nangapinoh (0568), Negara (0365), Ngabang (0563), Nganjuk (0358), Nunukan (0556), Pacitan (0357), Padang (0751), Padangsidempuan (0634), Painan (0756), Palangkaraya (0536), Palembang (0711), Palu (0451), Pekanbaru (0761), Pematang Siantar (0622), Pamekasan (0324), Pandeglang (0253), Pangkalan Bun (0532), Pangkep (0410), Pasuruan (0343), Pemalang (0284), Ponorogo (0352), Pontianak (0561), Prabumulih (0713), Probolinggo (0335), Prapat (0625), Puncak (0255), Purwakarta (0264), Purwodadi (0292), Purwokerto (0281), Purworejo (0275), Putussibau (0567), Rangkasbitung (0252), Rantau Prapat (0624), Rengat (0769), Rembang (0295), Ruteng (0385), Sabang (0652), Salatiga (0298), Samarinda (0541), Sampang (0323), Sampit (0531), Sangata (0549), Sanggau (0564), Semarang (024), Serang (0254), Sibolga (0631), Singaraja (0362), Singkawang (0562), Sinjai (0482), Sintang (0565), Situbondo (0338), Sekayu (0714), Selat Panjang (0763), Selayar (0414), Soe (0388), Solo (0271), Subah (0285), Subang (0260), Sukabumi (0266), Sumedang (0261), Sumenep (0328), Surabaya (031), Tahuna (0432), Takalar (0418), Tanah Grogot (0543), Tanggul (0336), Tanjung Balai (0263), Tanjung Batu (0779), Tanjung Balai Karimun (0777), Tanjung Pinang (0771), Tanjung Redep (0554), Tanjung Selor (0552), Tapaktuan (0656), Tarakan (0551), Tasikmalaya (0265), Tebingtinggi (0621), Tegal (0283), Tembilahan (0768), Tuban (0356), Tulungagung (0355), Ujungpandang (0411), Una-Una (0408), Waingapu (0387), Watampone (0481), Wonogiri (0273)Tourism Promotion CentreMinistry of Tourism and Culture. Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat No.17, 9th floor, Jakarta 10110, Tel.: (62)(21) 383 8303. Indonesia Tourism Promotion Board (BPPI), Wisma Nugraha Santana 9th flr. Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 8, Jakarta 12930. Tel.: (62)(21) 570 4879. Fax.: (62)(21) 570 4855.Emergency
Here is a list of emergency numbers in Indonesia (please note that while these numbers are accessible for free from all non-mobile telephones, they may not be accessible from mobile phones ) : Police : 110Fire department : 113Ambulance : 118Search and rescue team: 115.Indonesian Police HQ. Jl. Trunojoyo 3, South Jakarta. Tel.: (62)(21) 7218144.National Search and Rescue agency (BASARNAS): Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur No.5, Jakarta 10110. Tel.: (62)(21) 348-32881, (62)(21) 348-32908, (62)(21) 348-32869, Fax.: (62)(21) 348-32884, (62)(21) 348-32885. Website: Basarnas.Cope
Embassies, high commissions and consulates
The Departemen Luar Negeri
(Deplu) or Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains a complete searchable database of diplomatic institutions. The embassies are located in Jakarta, except some consulates general and honorary consulates.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
, officially the Republic of Indonesia
(Republik Indonesia), is a nation in Southeast Asia. Comprising 17,500 islands, it is the world's largest archipelagic state. With a population of over 200 million, it is the world's fourth most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority nation, although officially it is not an Islamic state. Indonesia is a republic, with an elected parliament and president. The nation's capital city is Jakarta. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Malaysia. Other neighboring countries include Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, and the Indian territory of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The Indonesian archipelago has been an important trade region since at least the seventh century, when the Srivijaya Kingdom formed trade links with China. Indonesian history has been influenced by foreign powers drawn to its natural resources. Under Indian influence, Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms flourished from the early centuries CE. Muslim traders brought Islam, and European powers fought one another to monopolize trade in the Spice Islands of Maluku during the Age of Exploration. Following three and a half centuries of Dutch colonialism, Indonesia secured its independence after World War II. Indonesia's history has since been turbulent, with challenges posed by natural disasters, corruption, separatism, a democratization process, and periods of rapid economic change.
Across its many islands, Indonesia consists of distinct ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups. The Javanese are the politically dominant and largest ethnic group. As a unitary state and a nation, Indonesia has developed a shared identity defined by a national language, a majority Muslim population, and a history of colonialism and rebellion against it. Indonesia's national motto, "Bhinneka tunggal ika"
("Unity in Diversity" lit. "many, yet one"), articulates the diversity that shapes the country. However, sectarian tensions and separatism have led to violent confrontations that undermine regional stability. Despite its large population and densely populated regions, Indonesia has vast areas of wilderness that support the world's second highest level of biodiversity. The country is richly endowed with natural resources, yet poverty is a defining feature of contemporary Indonesia.Etymology
The name Indonesia
derives from the Latin Indus
, meaning "India", and the Greek nesos
, meaning "island". The name dates to the 18th century, far predating the formation of independent Indonesia. In 1850, George Earl, an England ethnologist, proposed the terms Indunesians
—and, his preference, Malayunesians
—for the inhabitants of the "Indian Archipelago or Malayan Archipelago". In the same publication, a student of Earl's, James Richardson Logan, used Indonesia
as a synonym for Indian Archipelago
. However, Dutch academics writing in East Indies publications were reluctant to use Indonesia
. Instead, they used the terms Malay Archipelago
); the Netherlands East Indies
(Nederlandsch Oost Indië
), popularly Indië
; the East
); and even Insulinde
From 1900, the name Indonesia became more common in academic circles outside the Netherlands, and Indonesian nationalist groups adopted it for political expression. Adolf Bastian, of the University of Berlin, popularized the name through his book Indonesien oder die Inseln des Malayichen Archipels, 1884–1894
. The first Indonesian scholar to use the name was Suwardi Suryaningrat (Ki Hajar Dewantara), when he established a press bureau in the Netherlands with the name Indonesisch Pers-bureau
Austronesian people, who form the majority of the modern population, migrated to South East Asia in Taiwan. They arrived in Indonesia around 2000 BCE, and confined the native Melanesian peoples to the far eastern regions as they expanded. Ideal agricultural conditions, and the mastering of wet-field rice cultivation as early as the eighth century BCE,
allowed villages, towns, and small kingdoms to flourish by the first century CE. Indonesia's strategic sea-lane position fostered inter-island and international trade. For example, trade links with both Indian kingdoms and China were established several centuries BCE. Trade has since fundamentally shaped Indonesian history.
From the seventh century CE, the powerful Srivijaya naval kingdom flourished as a result of trade and the influences of Hinduism and Buddhism that were imported with it. Between the eighth and 10th centuries CE, the agricultural Buddhist Sailendra and Hindu Mataram dynasties thrived and declined in inland Java, leaving grand religious monuments such as Sailendra's Borobudur and Mataram's Prambanan. The Hindu Majapahit kingdom was founded in eastern Java in the late 13th century, and under Gajah Mada, its influence stretched over much of Indonesia; this period is often referred to as a "Golden Age" in Indonesian history.
Although Muslim traders first traveled through South East Asia early in the Islamic era, the earliest evidence of Islamized populations in Indonesia dates to the 13th century in northern Sumatra. Other Indonesia areas gradually adopted Islam, making it the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. For the most part, Islam overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences, which shaped the predominant form of Islam in Indonesia, particularly in Java. The first Europeans arrived in Indonesia in 1512, when Portuguese traders, led by Francisco Serrão, sought to monopolize the sources of nutmeg, cloves, and cubeb pepper in Maluku. Dutch and British traders followed. In 1602 the Dutch established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and became the dominant European power. Following bankruptcy, the VOC was formally dissolved in 1800, and the government of the Netherlands established the Dutch East Indies as a nationalized colony.
For most of the colonial period, Dutch control over these territories was tenuous; only in the early 20th century did Dutch dominance extend to what was to become Indonesia's current boundaries. The Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation during WWII ended Dutch rule, and encouraged the previously suppressed Indonesian independence movement. Two days after the surrender of Japan in August 1945, Sukarno, an influential nationalist leader, declared independence and was appointed president. The Netherlands tried to reestablish their rule, and a bitter armed and diplomatic struggle ended in December 1949, when in the face of international pressure, the Dutch formally recognized Indonesian independence.
Sukarno moved from democracy towards authoritarianism, and maintained his power base by balancing the opposing forces of the military, Islam, and communism. However, rising tensions between the military and the increasingly powerful Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) culminated in an attempted coup on 30 September 1965, during which six top-ranking generals were murdered under mysterious circumstances. The army, led by Major General Suharto, countered with a violent anti-communist purge, by which the PKI was blamed for the coup and effectively destroyed. Between 500,000 and one million people were killed. Politically, Suharto capitalized on Sukarno's gravely weakened position; following a drawn-out power play with Sukarno, Suharto was formally appointed president in March 1968. Suharto's "New Order" administration encouraged foreign investment in Indonesia, which was a major factor in the subsequent three decades of substantial economic growth.
In 1997 and 1998, however, Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the East Asian Financial Crisis. This increased popular discontent with the New Order and led to popular protests. Suharto resigned on 21 May 1998. In 1999, East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia, after a twenty-five-year occupation, which was marked by international condemnation of repression and human rights abuses. The Reformasi
era following Suharto's resignation, has led to a strengthening of democratic processes, including a regional autonomy program, and the first direct presidential election in 2004. Political and economic instability, social unrest, corruption, and terrorism have slowed progress. Although relations among different religious and ethnic groups are largely harmonious, acute sectarian discontent and violence remain problems in some areas. A political settlement to an armed separatist conflict in Aceh was achieved in 2005.Government and politics
Indonesia is a republic with a presidential system. As a unitary state, power is concentrated in the national government. Following the resignation of President Suharto in 1998, Indonesian political and governmental structures have undergone major reforms. Four amendments to the 1945 Constitution of Indonesia have revamped the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. The president of Indonesia is the head of state, commander-in-chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces, and the director of domestic governance, policy-making, and foreign affairs. The president appoints a council of ministers, who are not required to be elected members of the legislature. The 2004 presidential election was the first in which the people directly elected the president and vice president. The president serves a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.
The highest representative body at national level is the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). Its main functions are supporting and amending the constitution, inaugurating the president, and formalizing broad outlines of state policy. It has the power to impeach the president. The MPR comprises two houses; the People's Representative Council (DPR), with 550 members, and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), with 168 members. The DPR passes legislation and monitors the executive branch; party-aligned members are elected for five-year terms by proportional representation. The DPD is a new chamber for matters of regional management.
Most civil disputes appear before a State Court; appeals are heard before the High Court. The Supreme Court is the country's highest court, and hears final cassation appeals and conducts case reviews. Other courts include the Commercial Court, which handles bankruptcy and insolvency; a State Administrative Court to hear administrative law cases against the government; a Constitutional Court to hear disputes concerning legality of law, general elections, dissolution of political parties, and the scope of authority of state institutions; and a Religious Court to deal with specific religious cases.Foreign relations and military
In contrast to Sukarno's antipathy to western powers and hostility to Malaysia, Indonesia's foreign relations approach since the Suharto "New Order" has been one of international cooperation and accommodation, to gain external support for Indonesia's political stability and economic development. Indonesia maintains close relationships with its neighbors in Asia, and is a founding member of ASEAN and the East Asia Summit. The nation restored relations with the People's Republic of China in 1990 following a freeze in place since anti-communist purges early in the Suharto era. and was a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). The most deadly attack killed 202 people (including 164 international tourists) in the Bali resort town of Kuta in 2002. The attacks, and subsequent travel warnings issued by other countries, have severely damaged Indonesia's tourism industry and foreign investment prospects.
Indonesia's 300,000-member armed forces (TNI) include the Army (TNI-AD), Navy (TNI-AL, which includes marines), and Air Force (TNI-AU). The army has about 233,000 active-duty personnel. Defense spending in the national budget was 4% of GDP in 2006, and is controversially supplemented by revenue from military commercial interests and foundations. In the post-Suharto period since 1998, formal TNI representation in parliament has been removed; though curtailed, its political influence remains extensive. Separatist movements in the provinces of Aceh and Papua have led to armed conflict, and subsequent allegations of human rights abuses and brutality from all sides. Following a sporadic thirty year guerrilla war between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian military, a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2005. In Papua, there has been a significant, albeit imperfect, implementation of regional autonomy laws, and a reported decline in the levels of violence and human rights abuses, since the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.Administrative divisions
Administratively, Indonesia consists of thirty-three provinces, four of which have special status. Each province has its own political legislature and governor. The provinces are subdivided into regencies (kabupaten
) and (kota
), which are further subdivided into subdistricts (kecamatan
), and again into village groupings (either desa
). Following the implementation of regional autonomy measures in 2001, the regencies and cities have become the key administrative units, responsible for providing most government services. The village administration level is the most influential on a citizen's daily life, and handles matters of a village or neighborhood through an elected lurah
or kepala desa
Aceh, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, and Papua provinces have greater legislative privileges and a higher degree of autonomy from the central government than the other provinces. The Acehnese government, for example, has the right to create an independent legal system; in 2003, it instituted a form of Sharia
(Islamic law). Yogyakarta was granted the status of Special Region in recognition of its pivotal role in supporting Indonesian Republicans during the Indonesian Revolution. Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, was granted special autonomy status in 2001. Jakarta is the country's special capital region.
;Indonesian provinces and their capitals(Indonesian name in brackets where different from English)
† indicates provinces with Special StatusSumatraAceh† (Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam) - Banda AcehNorth Sumatra (Sumatera Utara) - MedanWest Sumatra (Sumatera Barat) - PadangRiau - PekanbaruRiau Islands (Kepulauan Riau) - Tanjung PinangJambi - Jambi (city)South Sumatra (Sumatera Selatan) - PalembangBangka-Belitung (Kepulauan Bangka-Belitung) - Pangkal PinangBengkulu - Bengkulu (city)Lampung - Bandar LampungJavaJakarta† - JakartaBanten - SerangWest Java (Jawa Barat) - BandungCentral Java (Jawa Tengah) - SemarangYogyakarta Special Region† - Yogyakarta (city)East Java (Jawa Timur) - SurabayaLesser Sunda IslandsBali - DenpasarWest Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat) - MataramEast Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur) - KupangKalimantanWest Kalimantan (Kalimantan Barat) - PontianakCentral Kalimantan (Kalimantan Tengah) - PalangkarayaSouth Kalimantan (Kalimantan Selatan) - BanjarmasinEast Kalimantan (Kalimantan Timur) - SamarindaSulawesiNorth Sulawesi (Sulawesi Utara) - ManadoGorontalo - Gorontalo (city)Central Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tengah) - PaluWest Sulawesi (Sulawesi Barat) - MamujuSouth Sulawesi (Sulawesi Selatan) - MakassarSouth East Sulawesi (Sulawesi Tenggara) - KendariMaluku islandsMaluku - Ambon CityNorth Maluku (Maluku Utara) - TernatePapuaWest Papua† (Papua Barat) - ManokwariPapua† - JayapuraGeography
Indonesia consists of 17,508 islands, about 6,000 of which are inhabited. These are scattered over both sides of the equator. The five largest islands are Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), New Guinea (shared with Papua New Guinea), and Sulawesi. Indonesia shares land borders with Malaysia on the island of Borneo, Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea, and East Timor on the island of Timor. The capital, Jakarta, is on Java and is the nation's largest city, followed by Surabaya, Bandung, Medan, and Semarang.
At 1,919,440 square kilometers (741,050 mi²), Indonesia is the world's 16th-largest country in terms of land area. Its average population density is 134 people per square kilometer (347 per mi²), 79th in the world, although Java, the world's most populous island, has a population density of 940 people per square kilometer (2,435 per mi²). At 4,884 meters (16,024 ft), Puncak Jaya in Papua is Indonesia's highest peak, and Lake Toba in Sumatra its largest lake, with an area of 1,145 square kilometers (442 mi²). The country's largest rivers are in Kalimantan, and include the Mahakam and Barito; such rivers are communication and transport links between the island's river settlements.
Indonesia's location on the edges of the Pacific, Eurasian, and Australian tectonic plates, makes it the site of numerous volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. Indonesia has at least 150 active volcanoes, including Krakatoa and Tambora, both famous for their devastating eruptions in the 19th century. The eruption of the Toba supervolcano, approximately 70,000 years ago, was one of the largest eruptions ever, and a global catastrophe. Recent disasters due to seismic activity include the 2004 tsunami that killed an estimated 167,736 in northern Sumatra, and the Yogyakarta earthquake in 2006. However, volcanic ash is a major contributor to the high agricultural fertility that has historically sustained the high population densities of Java and Bali.
Lying along the equator, Indonesia has a tropical climate, with two distinct monsoonal wet and dry seasons. Average annual rainfall in the lowlands varies from 1,780–3,175 millimeters (70–125 in), and up to 6,100 millimeters (240 in) in mountainous regions. Mountainous areas—particularly in the west coast of Sumatra, West Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua—receive the highest rainfall. Humidity is generally high, averaging about 80%. Temperatures vary little throughout the year; the average daily temperature range of Jakarta is 26–30 °Celsius (79–86 °F).Ecology
Indonesia's size, tropical climate, and archipelagic geography, support the world's second highest level of biodiversity (after Brazil), and its flora and fauna is a mixture of Asian and Australasian species. Once linked to the Asian mainland, the islands of the Sunda Shelf (Sumatra, Borneo, Java, Borneo, and Bali) have a wealth of Asian fauna. Large species such as the tiger, rhinoceros, orangutan, elephant, and leopard, were once abundant as far east as Bali, but numbers and distribution have dwindled drastically.
Forests cover approximately 60% of the country. In Sumatra and Kalimantan, these are predominantly of Asian species. However, the forests of the smaller, and more densely populated Java, have largely been removed for human habitation and agriculture. Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku—having been long separated from the continental landmasses—have developed their own unique flora and fauna. The highlands of Papua were once part of the Australian landmass, and are home to fauna closely related to that of Australia, including over 600 bird species.
Indonesia's 80,000 kilometers (50,000 mi) of coastline are surrounded by tropical seas that contribute to the country's high level of biodiversity. Indonesia has a range of sea and coastal ecosystems, including beaches, sand dunes, estuaries, mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds, coastal mudflats, tidal flats, algal beds, and small island ecosystems. Known as the Wallace Line, it runs roughly north-south along the edge of the Sunda Shelf, between Kalimantan and Sulawesi, and along the deep Lombok Strait, between Lombok and Bali. West of the line the flora and fauna are more Asian; moving east from Lombok, they are increasingly Australian. In his 1869 book, The Malay Archipelago
, Wallace described numerous species unique to the surrounding area, which is now termed Wallacea. Issues include large-scale deforestation (much of it illegal) and related wildfires causing heavy smog over parts of western Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore; over-exploitation of marine resources; and environmental problems associated with rapid urbanization and economic development, including air pollution, traffic congestion, garbage management, and reliable water and waste water services.Economy
Indonesia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2006 was US$364 billion (US$960 bn PPP). The services sector is the economy's largest and accounts for 45.3% of GDP (2005). This is followed by industry (40.7%) and agriculture (14.0%). However, agriculture employs more people than other sectors, accounting for 44.3% of the 95 million-strong workforce. This is followed by the services sector (36.9%) and industry (18.8%). Major industries include petroleum and natural gas, textiles, apparel, and mining. Major agricultural products include palm oil, rice, tea, coffee, spices, and rubber.
Indonesia's main export markets are Japan (22.3% of Indonesian exports in 2005), the United States (13.9%), China (9.1%), and Singapore (8.9%). The major suppliers of imports to Indonesia are Japan (18.0%), China (16.1%), and Singapore (12.8%). In 2005, Indonesia ran a trade surplus with export revenues of US$83.64 billion and import expenditure of US$62.02 billion. The country has extensive natural resources, including crude oil, natural gas, tin, copper, and gold. Indonesia's major imports include machinery and equipment, chemicals, fuels, and foodstuffs. Following President Sukarno's downfall in the mid-1960s, the New Order administration brought a degree of discipline to economic policy that quickly brought inflation down, stabilized the currency, managed foreign debt, and attracted foreign aid and investment. Indonesia is Southeast Asia's only member of OPEC, and the 1970s oil price raises provided an export revenue windfall that contributed to sustained high economic growth rates. Following further reforms in the late 1980s, foreign investment flowed into Indonesia, particularly into the rapidly developing export-orientated manufacturing sector, and from 1989 to 1997, the Indonesian economy grew by an average of over 7%.
Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the East Asian financial crisis of 1997–98. Against the US dollar, the currency dropped from about Rp. 2,000 to Rp. 18,000, and the economy shrunk by 13.7%. The rupiah has since stabilized at around Rp. 10,000, and there has been a slow but significant economic recovery. Political instability since 1998, slow economic reform, and corruption at all levels of government and business, have contributed to the patchy nature of the recovery. (Transparency International, for example, ranked Indonesia 130th out of 163 countries in its 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index). GDP growth, however, exceeded 5% in both 2004 and 2005, and is forecasted to increase. This growth rate, however, is not enough to make a significant impact on unemployment, and stagnant wages growth, and increases in fuel and rice prices have worsened poverty levels.
As of 2006, an estimated 17.8% of the population live below the poverty line, and 49.0% of the population live on less than US$2 per day.Demographics
The national population from the 2000 national census is 206 million, and the Indonesian Central Statistics Bureau and Statistics Indonesia
estimate a population of 222 million for 2006. 130 million people live on the island of Java, the world's most populous island. Despite a considerably successful family planning program, run since the 1960s, the population is expected to grow to around 315 million in 2035, based on the current estimated annual growth rate of 1.25%.
Most Indonesians are descendant from Austronesian-speaking peoples, who originated from Taiwan. The other major grouping are Melanesians, who inhabit eastern Indonesia. There are around 300 distinct native ethnicities in Indonesia, and 742 different languages and dialects. The largest is the Javanese, who comprise 42% of the population, and are politically and culturally dominant. The Sundanese, ethnic Malays, and Madurese are the largest non-Javanese groups. A sense of Indonesian nationhood exists alongside strongly maintained regional identities. Society is largely harmonious, although social, religious and ethnic tensions have triggered horrendous violence. Chinese Indonesians are an influential ethnic minority comprising less than 2% of the population. Much of the country's privately-owned commerce and wealth is Chinese-controlled, which has contributed to considerable resentment, and even anti-Chinese violence. As many as 4 million Indonesians are of Hadrami Arab descent.
The official national language, Indonesian, is universally taught in schools, and is spoken by nearly every Indonesian. It is the language of business, politics, national media, education, and academia. It was originally a lingua franca for most of the region, including present-day Malaysia, and is thus closely related to Malay. Indonesian was first promoted by nationalists in the 1920s, and declared the official language on independence in 1945. Most Indonesians speak at least one of the several hundred local languages (bahasa daerah
), often as their first language. Of these, Javanese is the most widely-spoken, the language of the largest ethnic group. On the other hand, Papua has 500 or more indigenous Papuan and Austronesian languages, in a region of just 2.7 million people.
Although religious freedom is stipulated in the Indonesian constitution, the government officially recognizes only six religions: Islam; Protestantism; Roman Catholicism; Hinduism; Buddhism; and Confucianism. Although it is not an Islamic state, Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, with almost 86% of Indonesians declared Muslim according to the 2000 census. 11% of the population is Christian, 2% are Hindu, and 1% Buddhist. Most Indonesian Hindus are Balinese, and most Buddhists in modern-day Indonesia are ethnic Chinese. Though now minority religions, Hinduism and Buddhism remain defining influences in Indonesian culture. Islam was first adopted by Indonesians in northern Sumatra in 13th century, through the influence of traders, and became the country's dominant religion by the 16th century. Roman Catholicism was brought to Indonesia by early Portuguese colonialists and missionaries, and the Protestant denominations are largely a result of Dutch Calvinist and Lutheran missionary efforts during the country's colonial period. A large proportion of Indonesians—such as the Javanese abangan
, Balinese Hindus, and Dayak Christians—practice a less orthodox, syncretic form of their religion, which draws on local customs and beliefs.Culture
Indonesia has around 300 ethnic groups, each with cultural differences developed over centuries, and influenced by Arabic, Chinese, Malay, and European sources. Traditional Javanese and Balinese dances, for example, contain aspects of Hindu culture and mythology, as do wayang kulit
(shadow puppet) performances. Textiles such as batik, ikat and songket are created across Indonesia in styles that vary by region. The most dominant influences on Indonesian architecture have traditionally been Indian; however, Chinese, Arab, and European architectural influences have been significant. The most popular sports in Indonesia are badminton and football; Liga Indonesia is the country's premier football club league. Traditional sports include sepak takraw
, and bull racing in Madura. In areas with a history of tribal warfare, mock fighting contests are held, such as, caci
in Flores, and pasola
in Sumba. Pencak Silat
is an Indonesian martial art. Sports in Indonesia are generally male-orientated and spectator sports are often associated with illegal gambling.
Indonesian cuisine varies by region and is based on Chinese, European, Middle Eastern and Indian precedents. Rice is the main staple food and is served with side dishes of meat and vegetables. Spices (notably chili), coconut milk, fish and chicken are fundamental ingredients. Indonesian traditional music includes gamelan
is a popular contemporary genre of pop music that draws influence from Arabic, Indian, and Malay folk music. The Indonesian film industry's popularity peaked in the 1980s and dominated cinemas in Indonesia, although it declined significantly in the early 1990s. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Indonesian films released each year has steadily increased. and proletarian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia's most famous novelist. Many of Indonesia's peoples have strongly-rooted oral traditions, which help to define and preserve their cultural identities. Media freedom in Indonesia increased considerably after the end of President Suharto's rule, during which the now-defunct Ministry of Information monitored and controlled domestic media, and restricted foreign media. The TV market includes ten national commercial networks, and provincial networks that compete with public TVRI. Private radio stations carry their own news bulletins and foreign broadcasters supply programs. At a reported 18 million users in 2005, Internet usage is still limited to a minority of the population.References
GeneralFriend, T Indonesian Destinies, Harvard University Press, 2003, hardcover, 544 pages, ISBN 0-674-01137-6Schwarz, A. 1994, A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia in the 1990s, Westview Press, ISBN 1-86373-635-2NotesExternal links
; GovernmentAntara - National News AgencyBank Indonesia - Indonesian Central BankDepartment of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of IndonesiaStatistics Center