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 chest. 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.
Don't point someone with your finger, if you want point someone or something it is better use your right thumb, or with a fully open hand.
Polite forms of address for people you don't know are Bapak "father" for men and Ibu "mother" for women. If you know the name of the person you're talking to, you can address them respectfully as Pak Name for men or Bu Name for women. The Javanese terms mas "older brother" and mbak "older sister" are also heard, but best reserved for equals, not superiors.
When referring to others, it is best to mention by name rather than "dia" "he/she". Using their name signifies openness so as if not to talk of them secretly and acknowledgment.
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. When others are sitting, while walking around them, it is customary to bow slightly and lower a hand to "cut" through the crowd; avoid standing upright.
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/2 cm 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. If you're wondering about a person's reaction or you see any peculiar gesture you don't understand, they will appreciate it if you ask them directly casually later, in a friendly and humble manner, rather than ignoring it. In general such a question is more than an apology; it shows trust.
Indonesia has been and continues to be wracked by every pestilence known to man: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, terrorism, civil strife, plane crashes, 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 slightest ripple on the beaches of Bali, and street battles in troubled Central Sulawesi are irrelevant in the jungles of Papua.
By and large, Indonesia is a conservative country and modest dress is advisable. On the beaches of Bali and Lombok, the locals are used to foreigners gamboling about in bikinis, but elsewhere women are advised to keep legs and necklines covered and to match the locals when bathing. Covering your hair is unnecessary, although doing so may be appreciated in Aceh. Wearing shorts or miniskirts is unlikely to cause actual offense, but clothing like this is sometimes associated with sex workers. Men, too, can gain respect by wearing collared, long-sleeve shirts and trousers if dealing with bureaucracy, a tie is not normally worn in Indonesia.
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] :
Police : â 110
Fire department : â 113
Ambulance : â 118
Search and rescue team: 115.
Indonesian Police HQ. Jl. Trunojoyo 3, South Jakarta. â +62 21 7218144.
National Search and Rescue agency BASARNAS: Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur No.5, Jakarta 10110. â +62 21 348-32881, â +62 21 348-32908, â +62 21 348-32869, Fax:+62 21 348-32884, +62 21 348-32885. Website: Basarnas (http://www.dephub.go.id/SAR/kontakkami.htm.
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 (http://www.indosat.com/, PT Telkomsel (http://www.telkomsel.com/), PT XL Axiata (http://www.xl.co.id/)).
The sole official language is Indonesian, known in that language as Bahasa Indonesia. The Indonesian language has adopted a number of loan words from Arabic, Dutch, and Sanskrit. It is similar to Malay spoken in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, and speakers of both languages can generally understand each other.
The main differences are in the loan words: Malay was more influenced by the English language, while Indonesian was more influenced by the Dutch language.
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 US$3.
Since 1992 the surf and language guidebook "Indo Surf and Lingo" has taught thousands of travelling surfers the basics of the language (http://www.indosurf.com.au).
The language went through a series of spelling reforms in the 1950s and the 1960s to reduce differences with Bahasa Malaysia and hide 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.
Unlike in neighbouring Malaysia or the Philippines, English is generally not widely spoken. That being said, hotel and airline staff generally speak an acceptable level of English, and English is widely spoken on the touristy island of Bali. In addition, most of the well-educated upper class will be reasonably competent in 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. Some ethnic Chinese communities continue to speak various Chinese dialects, most notably Hokkien in Medan and Teochew in Pontianak.
Most educated seniors 70 years/older in Indonesia understand Dutch, but realistically speaking English is far more useful these days. Though Arabic is not widely spoken, many educated Muslims, especially those who graduated from Islamic religious institutes, understand Arabic to varying degrees.
English language TV channels are available on most hotels. MetroTV local TV channel broadcasts news in Chinese from Monday to Friday at 7AM. MetroTV also broadcasts news in English from Monday to Friday at 7:30AM. TVRI state owned TV station broadcasts news in English from Monday to Friday at 4:30PM in the afternoon. All schedules are in Waktu Indonesia Barat WIB, which is 7 hr ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and includes the capital city of Jakarta.
embassies, high commissions and consulates
The Departemen Luar Negeri Deplu or Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.deplu.go.id) maintains a complete searchable database of diplomatic institutions. All embassies are located in Jakarta see that article for listings, but a few countries maintain consulates general and honorary consulates elsewhere, mostly in Surabaya, Bali and port cities eg. Malaysia in Pekanbaru, Philippines in Manado and so on.
Break like the wind
Most Indonesians have not yet quite accepted the germ theory of disease: instead, any flu-like diseases are covered under the concept of masuk angin, lit. "enter wind". Preventive measures include avoiding cold drinks and making sure bus windows are tightly rolled up during a 48-hour bus ride evidently kretek smoke does not cause masuk angin, while accepted cures include the practice of kerokan rubbing an oiled coin over your skin or the less socially acceptable kentut, in other words fart!
The bad news is that every disease known to man can be found somewhere in Indonesia — the good news is that you're probably not going to go there. Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary for Java or Bali, but is wise if travelling for extended periods in remote areas of Sumatra, Borneo, Lombok or points east. Dengue fever can be contracted anywhere and using insect repellents DEET and mosquito nets is highly advisable. Hepatitis is also common and getting vaccinated before arriving in Indonesia is wise.
Food hygiene is often questionable and getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and possibly typhoid fever is a wise precaution. See a doctor if what seems like travellers' diarrhea does not clear up within a few days.
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-AEA Indonesia (http://www.sosindonesia.com/) 24 hr emergency line â +62-21-7506001 specialises 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 dokter 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 UGD in hospitals always open 24 hr. 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 a few doctors may oversubscribe to inflate their own cut, with antibiotics handed out like candy.
Indonesia has a low HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. However, most infections are among sex workers and injecting drug users. Always protect yourself before engaging in risky activities.
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 US$ 2 and calls may cost as little as Rp 1,000 a minute subject to the usual host of restrictions. SMS service is generally very cheap, with local SMS as low as Rp.100-150, and international SMS for Rp.400-600. Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones and basic models start from Rp 200,000. The largest operators are Telkomsel (http://www.telkomsel.com/) brand Kartu HALO, simPATI, Kartu As, Indosat (http://www.indosat.co.id/) brands Matrix, Mentari, IM3, 3 (http://www.three.co.id), AXIS (http://www.axisworld.co.id), and XL Axiata (http://www.xl.co.id/). In general Telkomsel has the best coverage, especially in remote places, while the other three are slightly cheaper; on Java and Bali, any will work just fine.
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 (http://www.gsmworld.com/r...). But, of course, this means you will pay several times more than if using local SIM.
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!
Attitudes toward homosexuality vary vastly. Cosmopolitan Jakarta and Bali boast gay nightclubs and bencong transvestites and transsexuals seem to have a special place in Indonesian culture. In staunchly Islamic areas such as Aceh homosexuals can be caned. As a general rule however, gay visitors should err on the side of discretion; while violence against homosexuals is a blessed rarity, you may still be met with nasty comments and unwanted attention.
The crime rate has increased 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 room, 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 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.
Indonesia is one of the world's most corrupt countries. Officials may ask for bribes, tips or "gifts" — the Indonesian terms are uang kopi or uang rokok, literally "coffee money" and "cigarette 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 is Rp 50,000. It's common for police to initially 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.
WARNING: Indonesia treats drug offences severely. The death penalty is mandatory for those convicted of trafficking, manufacturing, importing or exporting more than 15 g of heroin, 30 g of morphine, 30 g of cocaine, 500 g of cannabis, 200 g of cannabis resin and 1.2 kg of opium, and possession of these quantities is all that is needed for you to be convicted. For unauthorised consumption of the above-mentioned drugs plus MDMA ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine, there is a maximum of 10 years' jail or very heavy fine, or both. You can be charged for unauthorised consumption as long as traces of illicit drugs are found in your system, even if you can prove that they were consumed outside the country, and you can be charged for trafficking as long as drugs are found in bags that are in your possession or in your room, even if they aren't yours and regardless of whether you're aware of them.
Visitors are greeted with cheery "DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS" signs at airports and recent cases have seen long jail terms for simple possession and nine Australian heroin traffickers known as the "Bali 9" are on death row in Bali awaiting execution. Other foreigners have already been executed for drug trafficking— but drugs are still widely available.
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.
Hard drugs are common in the nightlife scene, especially in Jakarta and Bali, but also elsewhere. Ecstasy, cocaine and crystal methamphetimine are widely available and dealt with equally harshly by the Indonesian police.
Magic mushrooms are advertised openly in parts of Bali and Lombok and although the Indonesian legal position on these is unclear, purchase and consumption is unwise.
It's highly advisable to steer well clear, 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 count on being able to bribe your way out anymore and escape a harsh or even far worse sentence.
civil strife and terrorism
Indonesia has a number of provinces where separatist movements have resorted to armed struggles, notably Aceh and Papua. In addition, sectarian strife between Muslims and Christians, as well as between the indigenous population and transmigrants from Java/Madura, continues to occur in 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 conflict areas such as much of Papua and Poso and Palu in central Sulawesi.
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, most 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.
Nevertheless, you are far more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than in some random terrorist attack in Indonesia, so while you should be prudent, there is no need to be paranoid.