Indonesia  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.
Indonesia is almost unimaginably vast. There are 18110 Islands in Indonesia and 108000 Km of beaches in Indonesia. The distance between Aceh and Papua is more than 4000 Km (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:
Sumatra — wild and rugged, the 6th largest island in the world has a great natural wealth.
Java — the country's heartland, big cities and a lot of people packed on a not-so-big island.
Sulawesi — strangely shaped, this island houses a diversity of societies and some spectacular scenery.
Nusa Tenggara (Lesser Sunda Islands) — The "Southeast Islands" contain scores of ethnic groups, languages and religions.
Maluku (Moluccas) — the historic Spice Islands, largely unexplored and almost unknown to the outside world.
Irian Jaya — the western half of the island of New Guinea, with mountains, forests, swamps, an almost impenetrable wilderness in one of the remotest places on earth.
The following is a limited selection of some of Indonesia's top sights.
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 &mdash and by far the largest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world.
The tropical forest in Indonesia is the second largest in the world after Brazil. It has many of the same problems with over-exploitaion destroying forests. Indonesia is the world's second largest producer of both palm oil and natural rubber. It also has the largest potential for geothermal energy in the world, plus large reserve of gas and coal (5 billion tons). Indonesia exports oil and gas, and is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
According to Biro Pusat Statistik (BPS), after the 126% fuel price hike on October 1, 2005, the number of people who live below poverty line (with revenue less than US$ 19/month) had increased 3 times to 24%.
According to the World Bank (2003), 53% of Indonesian live on below US $2 a day poverty standard and 7% below US $1 a day.
The official unemployment rate (2006) is less than 11%. However more than 40 millions people are working less than 35 hours a week with minimal payment below the minimum basic salary. The current minimum basic salary for Jakarta and surrounding areas is around US $ 90 a month.
Several million Indonesian are working overseas (Middle East, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia) as maids, baby sitters, waiters, drivers, construction workers, engineers etc. At least a million illegal worker from Indonesia are in Malaysia.
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.
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 Soekarno 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 declared that RIS 1950 constitution was no longer valid and Indonesia would re-use the old 1945 Constitution which gave more power to the President. He 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.
Indonesia has a number of internal ethnic conflicts. The Javanese are the dominant group and various other groups complain and/or revolt from time to time. The Indonesian Chinese have, at some points, been heavily persecuted. There have also been conflicts with neighboring states such as Malaysia.
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 "Ikut Republic of Indonesia, Anti Netherland" (IRIAN). The official name of the new province is Irian Jaya.
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. Concurrence followed by Indonesia's national legislature, and the name East Timor was provisionally adopted.
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 (transmigrasi), 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.
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 Ramayana, 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 of Indonesian movies are low budgets, poor quality B class movies. "Daun di Atas Bantal" (1998) is one of the best Indonesian movie and won "the best movie" award during 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's Saman breaking both taboos and sales records.
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.
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 maintain a low profile. In some region (West Sumatera etc) most restaurants, food stalls, are closed during daylight, except restaurants at large hotels.
There is a rule that during the month of Ramadhan, bars, nightclubs, karaoke louges, discotheques, restaurants, cafes are closed at midnight. Massage parlour, prostitution/red light area ("lokalisasi") are closed during the month of Ramadhan.
Extreme moslem groups often ransacked and burned bars, nigtclubs, karaoke lounges, discotheques, restaurants, cafes that remain open after midnight. They insisted that all nightlife entertainment places must close its door on the first day of Ramadhan.
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, Hijra (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 (17 Aug).
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.
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 reason 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.
Since the country is very large, Indonesia is divided into three time zones:
GMT +7: Western Indonesian Time (WIB, Waktu Indonesia Barat)
GMT +8: Central Indonesian Time (WITA, Waktu Indonesia Tengah)
GMT +9: Eastern Indonesian Time (WIT, Waktu Indonesia Timur)
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:
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.
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:
Visa on arrival
A visa-on-arrival is issued to nationals of
Australia, Argentine, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, People's Republic of China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Malawi, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden (a new addition, you may have to insist), Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America,
for a maximum of 30 days. A visa-on-arrival is not extendable and can not 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:
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.
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$60, 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.
Approximate flight times: From London to Jakarta is 21 hours, From Los Angeles to Jakarta is 25 hours. From New York to Jakarta is 31 hours. From Singapore to Jakarta is one and a half hours. From Singapore to Bali is one and a half hours. From Sydney to Jakarta is 8 hours. From Sydney to Bali is 6 and a half hours. From Perth to Bali is 4 hours.
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.
Travel to Indonesia from America costs around US$1000. Many flights stop in Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei or Singapore before arriving in Jakarta. Indonesia's Garuda provides links to Asian, Australian and European destinations.
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.
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 Malaysia
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, Malaysia
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.
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:
Note: It is not guaranteed that yo 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.
Many carriers have poor on-time records and frequent cancellations, and the safety record of the smaller companies is dubious, with both 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.
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.
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.
PT 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.
Type of service: 1. Air-conditioned Eksekutif class 2. Bisnis 3. Ekonomi 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 class trains.
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.
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.
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.
Becak ("BEH-chak") 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.
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 for j, j for y, or oe for u.
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 Indonesian who had graduated from Islamic Religious Institute/Islamic Universities understand and able to speak Arabic.
English language TV channels are available on most hotels. MetroTV (local TV channel) broadcast news in Chinese from Monday to Friday at 07.00 AM. MetroTV also broacast news in English from Monday to Friday at 07.30 AM. TVRI (state owned TV station) broadcast news in English from Monday to Friday at 04.30 PM in the afternoon. All schedule are in Waktu Indonesia Barat (WIB).
Indonesia's currency is the rupiah (IDR), 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 (ribu, thousand) or even dropped completely, and for more expensive items you will often even see jt (juta, million).
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.
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.
ATMs 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.
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.
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.
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:
Noodles (mi or mie) 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.
Cup Noodle is an easy to prepare instant noodle. Just pour hot water into the styrofoam cup, close the lid, wait for 3 minutes and its' ready to eat. Brands: Indomie, Popmie, Nissin, etc.
Soups (soto) and watery curries are also common:
Popular main dishes include:
Chillies (cabe or lombok) 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 (spicy)!
Crackers known as keropok (or krupuk, 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 Menadonese 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.
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.
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, 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.
A restoran 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.
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.
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 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.
Tea (teh) is also quite popular, and the Coke-like glass bottles of the Tehbotol brand of sweet bottled tea are ubiquitous.
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, Jago, and Meneer; avoid buying jamu from the street as the water quality is dubious. Some well-known jamu include:
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  beer (bir), a standard-issue lager available more or less everywhere, although the locals like theirs lukewarm. Other popular beers include Bali Hai  and Anker. 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:
Exercise some caution in choosing what and where to buy — homemade moonshine may contain all sorts of nasty impurities.
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, Bentoel and Sampoerna (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?".
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.
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.
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 slighest ripple on the beaches of Bali, and street battles in troubled Central Sulawesi are irrelevant in the jungles of Papua.
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.
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 Indonesian Papua. In addition, secretarian strife between Muslims and Christians, as well as between the indigenous population and transmigrants from Java/Madura, continues to occur in the 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.
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 or cimeng), 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.
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.
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 (doktor) 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.
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.
Keeping in touch with the outside world from Indonesia is rarely a problem, at least if you stay anywhere close to the beaten track.
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).
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 (brand simPATI), Indosat (brands Matrix, Mentari, IM3) and Excelcomindo (brands Jempol, Bebas).
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!
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 services
Other information services
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 Centre
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 [for mobile phones, you'd better use international mobile phones emergency number, 112]) :