Incredible Indonesia: What You Need To Know Before Visiting
Full of unique flora and fauna, Indonesia offers untold delights for nature lovers, from being the home of the Komodo dragon, to tree kangaroos and even pygmy elephants. From wild jungle landscapes to busy cities, white-sand beaches to volcanos, ancient temples to coral reefs, the experiences you can have here are almost limitless, and with the Indian and Pacific oceans sweeping the shoreline, some of the world’s finest scuba dving and surfing can be found in its warm, tropical waters.
Home to a hugely diverse population, there are six officially recognised religions and many complementary cultures in the mix, with around 700 languages spoken and 300 ethnic groups. Yet this beautiful destination does present its own logistical challenges to travellers.
The transport infrastructure is notoriously underdeveloped and unreliable, with flying or boat transfer offering the most dependable forms of navigation but remember to allow for plenty of extra time when travelling in country. Java has a developed rail network, but a lot of other locations rely on a patchy network of poorly-maintained buses and watercraft.
Until recently, most nationalities had to purchase an on-arrival visa to enter the country, however, that requirement was relaxed a couple of years ago, and a basic 30-day entry is available to most nationalities without a visa. The implementation of this legislation is patchy from location to location through, so if your planned point of entry is not one of the main international air terminals, you may still be required to pay. The Indonesian embassy website for your home country should provide up-to-date information.
Paying For Things
The Indonesian Rupah has a very low value compared to most Western currencies, so converting money on the fly can be difficult. It would be a good idea to download an offline currency converter to your phone for the trip. Unscrupulous merchants know that Western tourists are unused to seeing so many zeroes on the end of their drinks bill, and may take advantage of this by adding a few extra, so be sure to always double-check your bill. As you may also be trying to book internal flights as one of the most reliable ways to travel, be aware that not all airlines accept foreign credit cards online so you may be better booking over the phone or by using an online travel agency such as Expedia. With mountainous landscapes and poorly maintained roads, you will probably need to fly domestically if you are planning to see more of the country. ATMs are few and far between outside of the main tourist areas, so make sure you travel with plenty of cash
Where to Stay
If you’re planning a short stay, there is no end of accommodation, from high-end hotels to budget backpacking hostels. If you’re planning a longer stay, most apartments are leased fully-furnished. Be aware that there isn’t any regulation of rent prices, so the owner is free to charge whatever they wish. As a result, the same price will turn up a huge variation in standards. Your best bet is to begin a property search with a local online agent such as https://www.rumah.com/rumah-dijual/di-area-bogor-idjb05 or register with a property management agency if you aren’t in the country already. There are other temporary options such as home-stay, where you will live with a local family in a sort of Bed and Breakfast arrangement.
Dress Code and Behaviour
Although the country is peaceful and home to many different ethnic groups, there is a majority Muslim population and the dress code is fairly conservative, although less so in beachside resorts with many tourists. If you are planning to do a temple visit, then make sure your shoulders, stomach and legs are all covered, or you could cause offence or be denied entry. Sarongs and temple scarves are required for both men and women entering a Balinese temple. Strong opinions can also be held about public displays of affection, so try to limit physical contact in public areas – the correct form of greeting, should you be introduced to a local, is a handshake, initiated by the woman. It’s also a commonly held belief that the soul resides in the head, so avoid touching anyone on the head and be aware that a lot of the population abstain from alcohol and eating pork, while gambling is completely illegal, and carrying out activities such as eating or handshakes with the left hand is also considered extremely rude, as in a lot of Asian, North African and Middle Eastern cultures. This can be a challenge for lefties! Make sure you respect local customs and your own safety.
Must See Sights
Indonesia is such a vast country, its incredibly hard to narrow down all the diverse aspects, but there really are a few must-sees for your visit. These include Yogyakarta in central Java – an arts and cultural centre home to a riot of batik, puppet makers, street food vendors, and historical gold including the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan that host beautiful evening dance performances of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Komodo Island meanwhile, is home to the legendary dragons and their tropical forest environments. Lombok Island offers amazing surfing and pristine beaches nestled in the shade of active volcanos. Mount Bromo on Java offers steep treks and views of breath-taking beauty, while you can also visit the famous coffee and spice plantations here. Bukit Lawang on Sumatra offers a dense jungle trek while Bandung in West Java is a cool, cosmopolitan city surrounded by tea plantations, alive with bustling markets and big-name stores alike, often called ‘the Paris of Java’.
With so much diversity on offer, travelling to Indonesia is what you make it!