Helpful tips for travellers to Indonesia

Etiquette

Indonesians do not like conflict. Friendly, outgoing and peaceful are the norms for interaction. For this reason, saving face and not being caustic are very important for travellers to remember. It is more efficient to deal with any problem with a smile and patience than by raising your voice and arguing. A handshake is usually the first introduction in a business setting and is used for both greeting and farewell. It is recommended that men be addressed as Pak (pronounced “Pa”) and women as Ibu.

Visitors are expected to show respect toward religious, cultural and local values. One may hear oneself being referred to as a bule – this is simply an Indonesian term for a white person or foreigner and should not be taken as an insult. Do not be surprised if asked for a picture in some areas of Jakarta and in less cosmopolitan areas around the archipelago.

Business Attire

The normal business attire is a suit or white shirt, tie and slacks for men, and a suit or dress for women. The traditional batik shirt is also commonly worn in the office and is now considered proper business attire, especially on Fridays, which is known as “batik day”. Business cards are common.

Currency

After reaching an exchange rate of almost $1:Rp15,000 in late 2015, the Indonesian rupiah stabilised at around $1:Rp13,000 in 2016. Exchange houses can be found in the numerous malls of Jakarta. It is recommended to change currency in these locations instead of at the airport. ATMs are widely accessible, especially in cities, and can be used to withdraw cash using internationally accepted cards. It is advisable to carry dollars as they are usually accepted by banks and money changers.

Visa

To boost its economy, starting in March 2016, Indonesia has opened visa-free travel to foreigners from an additional 79 countries; citizens from a total of 169 nations can receive a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival. For tourists that wish to stay longer, a 30-day extension can be arranged at immigration offices.

Transport

Flying is the primary and fastest means of travelling medium to long distances. The country has more than 230 airports, 20 of which are international, with a number of domestic airlines offering frequent flights at affordable prices. In Indonesia one drives on the left side of the road, and an international driving licence is required to rent or drive a car. Trains run from Jakarta to destinations such as Bogor or Yogyakarta. Traffic in large cities, especially Jakarta, can be very heavy during weekdays.

Public transportation is readily available in multiple forms, such as buses (these differ from busway and are far less comfortable), public vans (called angkutan kota, or ANGKOT), metromini and kopaja (public mini buses), bajaj (India-made bajaj vehicle) and ojek (motorcycle ride). Fares for bajaj and ojek journeys should be agreed in advance. Taxis are affordable, and it is recommended to take registered taxis with brands such as Bluebird or Express.

Food & Drink

Throughout Indonesia, nasi (rice) remains the main staple within dishes of many types.

Mi or mie (noodles) is the second-most common staple food. The spice level of dishes varies, but can often be quite hot, but using the words tidak pedas (not spicy), can solve that problem for sensitive stomachs. Although the country has the largest Muslim population in the world, alcohol is readily available, particularly in hotels, restaurants and bars. However, public displays of drunkenness are frowned upon.

Health

Stomach upsets and dehydration can affect visitors to Indonesia. It is recommended to drink only bottled or boiled water. Health insurance that includes emergency repatriation cover is strongly advised. Adequate routine medical care is available in all major cities, but emergency services are generally inadequate outside major cities and medicines can be expensive. Travellers visiting rural areas should carry plenty of repellent to protect themselves from mosquitoes, which can carry malaria and dengue virus.

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