Essentials A-Z

1 Customs and duty free
2 Internet
3 Language
4 Media
5 Money
6 Post
7 Safety
8 Telephone
9 Tax
10 Visas and immigration

Customs and duty free

The duty-free allowance is 2 litres of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 g of tobacco, along with a reasonable amount of perfume.

Prohibited items include narcotics, arms and ammunition, TV sets, radio/ cassette recorders, pornographic objects or printed matter.


Any town of any size will have an internet café.


The national language is Bahasa Indonesia, which is written in Roman script. There are 250 regional languages and dialects, of which Sundanese (the language of West Java and Jakarta) is the most widespread. In Padang and elsewhere in West Sumatra, the population speak Minang, which is also similar to Bahasa. About 70% of the population can speak Bahasa. English is the most common foreign language, with some Dutch and Portuguese speakers.


The best English-language newspaper is the
Jakarta Post
. The
Asian Wall Street Journal
and the
International Herald Tribune
can be purchased in Jakarta and some other major cities and tourist destinations; so too can the Singapore Straits Times.

Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) broad-casts throughout the country. News and commentary in English is broadcast for about 1 hr a day. Shortwave radios will pick up Voice of America, the BBC World Service and Australian Broadcasting.

Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI) is the government-run channel. There are also private stations showing news and occasional English-language films and documentaries.


The unit of currency in Indonesia is the rupiah (Rp). When taking US$ in cash, make sure the bills are new and crisp, as banks in Indonesia can be fussy about which bills they accept (Flores and Sumatra are particularly bad). Larger denomination US$ bills also tend to command a premium exchange rate. In more out of the way places it is worth making sure that you have a stock of smaller notes and coins - it can be hard to break larger bills.

Two of the better banks are Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) and Bank Central Asia (BCA). BNI is reliable and efficient and most of their branches will change US$ TCs. Banks in larger towns and tourist centres have ATMs. Cash or traveller's cheques (TCs) can be changed in most tourist centres at a competitive rate. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Tipping is commonplace. A 10% service charge is added to bills at more expensive hotels. Porters expect to be tipped for each bag. In more expensive restaurants, where no service is charged, a tip of 5-10% may be appropriate. Taxi drivers (in larger towns) appreciate a small tip. Parkirs always expect payment for 'watching' your vehicle.

Cost of travelling

Visitors staying in 1st-class hotels and eating in hotel restaurants will probably spend upwards of US$100 a day. Tourists on a mid-range budget, staying in cheaper a/c accommodation and eating in local restaurants, will probably spend about US$30 a day. A backpacker, staying in fan-cooled guesthouses and eating cheaply, could live on US$15 a day. Because of the volatility of the domestic currency, coupled with the effects of the global credit crisis, prices have been highly unstable. Or rather they have escalated in rupiah terms. There is every chance that the prices quoted here have increased, sometimes markedly.


The postal service is relatively reliable; though important mail should be registered. Every town and tourist centre has either a
kantor pos
(post office) or postal agent, where you can buy stamps, post letters and parcels.


Despite the recent media coverage of terrorist plots and attacks, riots and other disturbances in Indonesia, it remains a safe country and violence against foreigners is rare. Petty theft is a minor problem.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; TCs can be changed in most major towns.

Beware of the confidence tricksters who are widespread in tourist areas. Sudden reports of unbeatable bargains or closing down sales are usual ploys.

Civil unrest

The following areas of Indonesia have seen disturbances in recent years and visits are not recommended: Maluku (around Ambon), Central Sulawesi (around Palu). Both these places have been victims of sectarian violence. However, these incidents have been localized and almost never affected foreign visitors. Embassies ask visitors to exercise caution when travelling in Aceh, a region recovering from a long internal conflict.


After a series of accidents the EU banned Indonesian airlines from entering its airspace over continuing concerns of poor maintenance and safety. The Indonesian government and airline companies have taken this very seriously and the last 2 years have seen brand new Boeings and Airbuses being rolled out by
Lion Air
. Many European embassies advise against domestic air travel. For the latest information, see and


Operator T101. International enquiries T102. Local enquiries T108. Long distance enquiries T106. Every town has its communication centres (
), where you can make local and international calls and faxes.

Mobile phones

Known as hand-phones in Indonesia, use has sky rocketed and costs are unbelievably low. Top-up cards are sold at various denominations. Beware of vendors in Kuta, Bali who try and sell Sim cards at highly inflated prices. Popular companies include
(the cheapest for international calls - ask
vendor about necessary prefixes) and
Pro XL


Expect to pay 11% tax in the more expensive restaurants, particularly in tourist areas of Bali and Lombok. Some cheaper restaurants serving foreigners may add 10% to the bill.

Airport tax

75,000Rp-150,000Rp on international flights (Jakarta and Denpasar are both 150,000Rp), and anywhere between 5000Rp and 30,000Rp on domestic flights, depending on the airport.

Visas and immigration

Visitors from several nations, including Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore are allowed a visa-free stay of 30 days in Indonesia. Visitors from nations including the following are able to get a non-renewable, non-extendable US$25 30-day visa on arrival (VOA): Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, United Kingdom and the USA. Check with your embassy. Pay at a booth at the port of entry. Visitors from these countries may also get a 7-day VOA for US$10. Visitors wishing to obtain a VOA must enter and leave Indonesia though certain ports of entry, including the following:

Sea ports

Batam, Tanjung Uban, Belawan (Medan), Dumai, Jayapura, Tanjung Balaikarimun, Bintang Pura (Tanjung Pinang), and Kupang.


Medan, Pekanbaru, Padang, Jakarta, Surabaya, Bali, Manado, Adisucipto in Yogyakarta, Adisumarmo in Solo, and Selaparang in Mataram, Lombok.

60-day visitor visas

(B211) are available at Indonesian embassies and consulates around the world (a ticket out of the country, 2 photos and a completed visa form is necessary). Costs vary. They can be extended giving a total stay of 6 months (must be extended at an immigration office in Indonesia each month after the initial 60-day visa has expired; take it to the office 4 days before expiry). To extend the visa in Indonesia, a fee of US$25 is levied and a sponsor letter from a local person is needed. Many hotels and travel agencies in Bali offer a visa extension service for around US$100. To obtain a 60-day visitor visa in Singapore, a 1-way ticket from Batam to Singapore is adequate: purchase from the ferry centre at Harbourfront in Singapore.

It is crucial to check this information before travelling as the visa situation in Indonesia is extremely volatile. Travellers who overstay their visa will be fined US$20 a day. Long-term overstayers can expect a fine and jail sentence. See for more information.

All visitors to Indonesia must possess passports valid for at least 6 months from their date of arrival in Indonesia, and they should have proof of onward travel. It is not uncommon for immigration officers to ask to see a ticket out of the country. (A Batam-Singapore ferry ticket or cheap Medan-Penang air ticket will suffice).

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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