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Traveller looking across view of the Komodo Islands, Indonesdia

Indonesia Travel Guide

Indonesia, an archipelago of over 17,000 islands, is a traveler's paradise with its diverse landscapes, vibrant cultures, and warm hospitality. Explore the stunning beaches and turquoise waters of Bali, where you can soak up the sun, surf world-class waves, and indulge in delicious local cuisine. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Yogyakarta, home to ancient temples like Borobudur and Prambanan, marvels of architecture and spirituality. Experience the unique blend of tradition and modernity in Jakarta, the bustling capital city, with its vibrant markets, historical sites, and thriving nightlife.

Venture beyond the popular destinations and uncover the hidden treasures of Indonesia. Trek through the lush jungles of Sumatra, encountering rare wildlife like orangutans and tigers. Discover the fascinating Komodo National Park, home to the legendary Komodo dragons, the largest lizards on Earth. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Raja Ampat, a paradise for underwater enthusiasts, with its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. With its breathtaking natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and endless adventures, Indonesia promises an unforgettable travel experience that will leave you yearning for more.

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Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT+7

Money

Rupiah (IDR)

Dialing Code

+62

  • It’s a tried and tested tourist destination, so it has all the comforts a traveller could want, but it also boasts some spectacular sights off the beaten track
  • It’s cheap to travel and living costs are also low
  • It’s popular with travellers; you’ll get to meet lots of other people from the UK and elsewhere
  • You can pick and choose; there are endless possibilities for exploration if you want to island-hop, but you can have an intense exploration of one island if you focus on one location, like beautiful Bali
  • There are many incredible beaches with some of the world’s best surfing
  • It has all the cultural charisma you could want on your gap year, with temples and festivals providing full-on Indonesian flavours
  • The food is excellent, always fresh and very cheap; if you like chilli, you’ll be in foodie heaven!
  • The weather is reliably hot, and although there are rainy spells, they pass quickly
  • Indonesia is a great place to stop on a round-the-world gap year trip 

The capital city of the Indonesian islands is Jakarta, on the island of Java.  It is a bustling and modern city with a large population and is the administrative capital of the islands.  Bali is one of Indonesia's most popular island destinations and is a small island that can be easily navigated.  The main provincial city in Bali is Denpasar, which offers incredible surfing and gorgeous handicrafts galore.

  • Go off the beaten track and discover the secrets of Sumba, a small island renowned for its horses and grasslands; it’s a taste of authentic Indonesia. 
  • See sultry Sumatra and head to the volcanic lake at Toba, where you can observe the way of life of the Batak people and experience Indonesian culture up close. 
  • Jump over to Java and see the stunning site of Borobudur, an astonishing Buddhist relic. 
  • Ubud is an arty and cultural delight that charms many of Bali’s visitors into staying longer than they planned.  Home to gorgeous handicrafts, and music and dance extravaganzas, Ubud is the heart of Bali and buzzes with a multitude of sensations.
  • Have some fun in the sun at Kuta, and have a few nights to remember too.  With Kuta beach boasting some of the best waves in the world, it’s surf heaven in Bali’s banging resort.  
  • Visit the stunning Hindu-Buddhist temple of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan for the perfect photo opportunity.  The temple is perched on a lake and is a visual wonder that will take your breath away. 
  • It’s an island off an island… visit the tiny island of Nusa Lembongan and snorkel in the coral reefs or do more surfing yet in a peaceful, out-of-the-way spot. 

Rice, rice and more rice is the order of the day in Indonesia, and most dishes come served with long grain or sticky rice on the side.  Nasi Goreng is a popular dish, rice fried with onion, garlic and chilli. Meat, particularly chicken or beef is popular, and food is spicy and not dissimilar to Thai food, with common ingredients including chilli, ginger, cumin, coriander and coconut milk. Indonesia is home to the “spice islands” so in Indonesia variety really is the spice of life! Peanut paste and soy sauce are also popular accompaniments. 

Being an island nation, seafood is delicious and widely available, as is fresh fruit. Cuisine varies from region to region, with diverse Asian influences. For example, in Bali, pork is a widely-used meat, and chilli makes many appearances on the plate. The spice mix known as ‘basa gede’ is often used in Balinese dishes and makes for a mouth-watering treat.

Close to the equator, Indonesia has a steady, even climate throughout most of the year with perfect gap year getaway weather. It has two main seasons, wet and dry, with the wet season falling between October and April and the dry season between May and September. Rain, when it comes, is in tropical downpours and it can get very wet. As the Indonesian islands cover a wide area, different areas experience greater extremes between the wet and dry seasons.  

Bali is one of the best year-round destinations as the climate is quite balanced and seasonal changes are slight. It averages year-round temperatures of around 27°C in coastal areas. The wet season can bring high humidity as well as tropical outbursts. July and August are peak seasons for international visitors, and Australians often head to Indonesia at Christmas holiday time. Still, other than these times, Indonesia is not a tourist trap and is a great year-round destination.

Visa

Visas may be required in order to enter or transit through certain countries depending on your passport nationality, your reason for travel and how long you intend to stay.

Visa, passport and entry rules are subject to change and you should check the most up-to-date information from the relevant embassy or visa specialist.

To make things easier we have teamed up with The Travel Visa Company who are one of the UK’s leading travel visa specialists. You can use their website, alongside embassy websites,  to find out the specific entry requirements for the countries you intend to travel to.

For a fee, their dedicated team of experts can also apply for visas on your behalf, taking away the hassle and streamlining the process for you if you wish. For more details on the services they provide please click here – The Travel Visa Company

Passport

Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel. Most countries will also require at least 6 months of validity on your passport from the time you finish your trip. 

Further Entry Requirements

Some countries will require proof of certain vaccines, such as yellow fever or covid, in order to gain entry. Please check with the relevant embassy or a visa specialist before travelling.

Bahasa Indonesia is the correct term for the Indonesian language and is universally spoken across the Indonesian islands.  It is similar to Malay and also has influences from Chinese, Arabic, Dutch and Portuguese.  Each island has at least one unique dialect, and in all, there are over 365 languages spoken across Indonesia!  English is spoken for tourist and business purposes but off the beaten track you may find a few words of Bahasa Indonesia might come in useful.

The electric current in Indonesia is 220V and they use a two-prong European-style plug, so a universal adaptor will be required for British appliances. 

When travelling in Indonesia, you should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. Be aware of your actions and behaviour to ensure that you don’t offend, taking particular care during the holy month of Ramadan or when visiting religious areas.

Possession, trafficking or manufacture of any illegal drugs is a serious offence in Indonesia and the authorities have a zero-tolerance policy. British nationals have previously been caught and jailed for drug offences in the country. If caught, you could face a lengthy prison sentence or even the death penalty, and legal processes can be both protracted and expensive, so never get involved with illegal drugs. Criminal gangs try to coerce people into carrying drugs across borders but don’t fall victim to this persuasion as it could land you in serious trouble.

When there is a suspicion that drugs are being used, Indonesian police will raid venues (particularly in Bali) which are known to be frequented by foreigners, and you may be made to take a urine or blood test if caught during one of these raids.

Gambling is also illegal in Indonesia, and there have been some reported cases of tourists losing large amounts of money to organised gambling gangs.

During Nyepi (Balinese New Year) local custom dictates that all people in Bali should observe a day of silence by staying indoors, turning off lights, and making no noise. Ngurah Rai International Airport is closed for the entire day, but emergency services and hospitals are still allowed to operate.

We have selected what we believe to be the key points that you should be aware of when travelling in Indonesia.

Gap 360 follows advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and we recommend that you frequently check the FCDO for updated travel advice. You can find the website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/foreign-commonwealth-development-office

Political situation

In general, the political situation in Indonesia is stable, but both internal and external developments, such as the situation in the Middle East, can at times be the trigger for public protests or unrest.

Crime

There is a risk of street crime and pick-pocketing in Indonesia, and thieves are particularly active on public transport, so be aware and take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. There have been reports of tourists being robbed after bringing visitors back to their hotel rooms, with drink spiking sometimes involved.

Take special care of your passport and bank cards and try to avoid travelling alone. Always carry a photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport and a copy of your arrival card for identification purposes and make sure you keep the original documents in a safe place during your stay.

Credit card fraud is common in Indonesia, so make sure you don’t lose sight of your card during transactions. One typical scam is criminals putting a fake telephone number on ATMs, which advises customers to call and report problems, but on dialling the number customers are then asked for their PIN number and the card is retained in the ATM machine.

If you are getting around by car you should keep your doors locked at all times. If using taxis, you should only book with a reputable firm; either ask your hotel to book one for you or use reliable taxis from Bluebird, Silverbird or Express groups, which are widely available at hotels and shopping centres in central Jakarta and at Sukarno-International Airport. Make sure they are the real deal: Bluebird and Silverbird have some ‘lookalike’ competitors. Never use unlicensed taxi drivers from the airport or at any other time, as the cars are often in a poor condition, and drivers often don’t have a dashboard identity licence or a meter, which can result in extortionate fares or even passenger robbery.

There have been reports of deaths and cases of serious illness in Indonesia after tourists and locals have drunk alcoholic drinks contaminated with methanol. Cases have been reported in bars, shops and hotels, especially in popular tourist areas such as Bali, Lombok and Sumatra. Criminal gangs manufacture fake replicas of well-known brands of alcohol which can contain high amounts of methanol, so take particular care if you buy spirit-based drinks, as bottles which may appear genuine may be counterfeit.  Methanol poisoning has also been reported after drinking adulterated arak/arrack, which is a local rice or palm liquor. Always make sure that drinks/cocktails are prepared within your sight.
There have been reports of drink-spiking with drugs in some clubs and bars, so make sure you don’t leave drinks unattended. If you suspect you, or someone you’re travelling with, is showing signs of methanol poisoning or drink-spiking, you must seek immediate medical attention.

Local Travel/Transport

If you are planning to undertake local travel within Indonesia you should first ensure that you have the correct permits in place. If going on an adventure trip, always use a reliable and reputable guide. Failure to do so could land you in difficulties with local authorities if you then need their help. If you are going on a long journey you should notify friends of your travel plans and contact them on your arrival. If possible, travel in convoy. Always carry a reliable means of communication.

Road travel

Traffic conditions in Indonesia are very poor, and tourists who get involved in minor traffic violations or accidents may be vulnerable to exploitation. Consider hiring a private driver or hiring a car with a driver. Some multinational companies don’t allow ex-pat staff to drive when in Indonesia.

We do not recommend hiring motorbikes, scooters, ATV vehicles, quad bikes or other types of motorised vehicles whilst abroad. Safety and quality of vehicles vary considerably and the traffic conditions can be much more dangerous than what UK travellers are used to. Should you wish to go against this advice, you should ensure you are hiring from a reputable company and that your travel insurance covers you for such activities.

If you are involved in an accident or you break down, someone should remain with your vehicle. If you have any security concerns you should safely move yourself to another location. If the police need to question you, you should comply with their request. If you are travelling by motorbike or moped, make sure you wear a helmet at all times.

Sea travel

Travelling between Indonesian islands by small boat can be dangerous as storms can appear quickly and there is often limited safety equipment. There have been a number of reports of passenger boats sinking while travelling inter-island.

Attacks against ships in the waters around Indonesia have been reported so mariners should stay alert, protect against theft and establish secure areas on board. All incidents should be reported to the coastal and flag state authorities.

Terrorism

The threat of terrorism remains high in Indonesia, and despite the efforts of the Indonesian authorities to intervene in planned attacks, Islamic extremist groups are still active and terrorist groups continue to plan and carry out attacks. Extremists regularly target Indonesian government and law enforcement interests and Western interests can also be at risk.

Attacks can be indiscriminate and unpredictable and can occur anytime and anywhere in the country, including tourist areas. Locations such as beach resorts, bars and restaurants, hotels, markets, shopping malls, tourist attractions, places of worship, foreign embassies, ferry terminals and airports are all potential terrorist targets.

Small-scale terrorist attacks occur regularly and further attacks are likely. When travelling, remain vigilant at all times and review your security regularly. Take particular care during holiday periods such as Easter, Christmas, Nyepi (Balinese New Year) and Independence Day, during which tensions can heighten, increasing the risk of terrorist attacks.

Health

Medical care standards in Indonesia can be poor and some medical tests cannot be done reliably, while in remote areas of Indonesia, attention for serious injuries or illness will most likely be unavailable. It can be expensive to get good medical care and medical evacuation can cost up to tens of thousands of pounds. You must make sure that you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of medical treatment and repatriation.

Rabies exists in both domestic and wild animals in Indonesia, and Bali and elsewhere have a high number of street dogs. Contact with all dogs and cats (even if they are pets) as well as monkeys and any other animals should be avoided at all times, and if you are bitten or scratched you should seek immediate help.

In Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia, there is a heightened risk of dengue fever during the rainy season (usually around October to April).

Although the risk to humans from Avian Influenza is low, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms or anywhere else where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds. Always make sure that poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked through.

Natural Disasters

Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes can occur regularly along the Pacific seismic strip known as the ‘Ring of Fire’. Indonesia sits along the ‘Ring of Fire’ increasing the potential threat of eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Indonesian emergency and rescue services have a limited capacity to deal with natural disasters.

If a major earthquake or landslide occurs close to shore, you should follow local authority instructions, as a tsunami could potentially arrive within minutes. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre will issue a tsunami warning when a potential tsunami with significant impact is imminent or expected, and local warnings or advisories may also be issued.

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