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Indonesian Travel Information

Things to do on your Indonesia Diving Holiday

Looking for some information to make your dive trip to Indonesia run smoothly?

This section contains tourist information for your visit to the following locations:

• Bali
Island of Paradise ...

• Banda Islands
Add some spice to your next Indonesia dive adventure ...

• Indonesian Papua
Cannibals, birds of paradise and Raja Ampat ...

• Komodo
Of dragons and myths ...

• Sulawesi
The curiously bizarre island of Celebes ...

Picturesque mountains and rice fields scenery can be seen throughout Indonesia

With over 17,000 tropical and often deserted islands straddling the equator, and with the Indian Ocean to the east and Pacific Ocean to the west, Indonesia has the longest coastline of any country in the world and is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

This is the world's most expansive archipelago, stretching east to west almost 5,000 km from Sumatra to West Papua, and north to south almost 1,800 km from the Sabah - Kalimantan border to Roti Island off Timor.

There are officially 17,508 islands (we didn't count them) of which 6,000 are inhabited. While the total area covered by the country, including sea, would swallow Australia 2½ times over (wishful thinking!), the actual land mass is only 3 times that of Texas. Given that the country consists of such a large area of crystalline waters studded with tropical islands, it is little wonder that it is so highly thought of by experienced divers and that Indonesia's diving destinations are deemed by many to be second to none.

Most of the country's islands are mountainous, some so high as to be snow capped, with volcanoes running like a backbone through the country. It's this volcanic ash that gives the Indonesian soil its rich fertility, spawning such an amazing diversity of flora and fauna including the world's biggest flower the rafflesia and the mighty Komodo dragon.

The rest of this page contains information about Indonesia:

Tourist Security and Safety

We have to admit to having a vested interest in encouraging you to take a scuba diving vacation in Indonesia but that does not extend to recklessly advising you to go to a place of danger.

We consider it a safe place for tourists to travel. All qualified scuba divers will know from their training that the best way to deal with a potentially risky situation is (stop, breathe, think, act) to make an informed and rational evaluation before taking action. We think that once you've weighed up the risks you'll agree that the country poses no greater concerns to responsible and aware travellers than most places, and certainly no more than, say, New York, Florida, London or Spain.

Bali dancer, Indonesia

Indonesia is a massive, developing country full of contrasts and like all such places exposed to social diversity, has some huge problems. This means there are high risk areas for any tourist to visit. Aceh Province on the northern tip of Sumatra, for example, and downtown Jakarta at night, are places to keep clear of. Beyond these we feel there is little cause for excessive concern.

Indonesia does not have a track record of security concerns for tourists, though you might be mistaken for thinking otherwise given recent events. The tourist bombings in Bali and Jakarta in 2002, 2003 and 2005 made such big news partly because they were so unusual. Since these events, and given the importance of tourism to Bali, the heightened level of security present in tourist areas means that it has never been safer to travel here.

Dive The World has travelled to all the tourist areas described in this section and never experienced threats of any kind and indeed have never had any customers report safety or security concerns (so far!). The negative headlines are borne of the actions of a tiny minority. The general sense that tourists get from a vacation trip in the country is one of warmth, hospitality and cultural richness. Blindly following all warnings issued by authorities these days, we sometimes wonder how people ever leave their homes!

If you still feel uncomfortable, we can recommend that you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quote.

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How to Get There

The majority of people travelling to Indonesia arrive in Denpasar, Bali (sometimes via Jakarta) or Manado, Sulawesi. Please click on the following links for more information on How to get to Bali and How to get to Manado.

If you require Indonesian resort accommodation you can get the best value rooms with Agoda, our affiliated resort reservation specialists.

Visit Agoda.com and review details, prices and make a reservation for Indonesian and worldwide hotels (opens in a new window)

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General Information

This section contains information about:

Climate

Terraces of rice paddies are worked during wet season

Straddling the equator, Indonesia tends to have a very even climate. High rainfall and tropical heat lend a high humidity and mean that most of the country is covered in tropical rainforest - an area second largest only to Brazil. The wet season runs from October to April, with rain falling in short and sudden downpours interrupted with sunshine. The dry season is from May to September.

However, the country is spread over such a vast area that excellent diving is to be found in 1 destination or another all year round. Check our dive site descriptions for more details on seasons for a scuba diving trip to Indonesia.

History

Indonesia is a combination of 2 continents - Asia and Australasia - and fossilized remains have been found of Homo Erectus from 500,000 years ago. Sanskrit writings suggest early kingdoms from 200 BC, following which a variety of kingdoms rose and fell over the centuries, most notably the kingdom of Tarumanagara between 358 and 669 BC and the Srivijaya empire from the 7th century.

The colonial era began in the 16th century with Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British successively seeking to dominate Indonesia's lucrative spice trade. The Dutch had a particularly strong influence in the 18th and 19th centuries having established an enormously wealthy, land-based, colonial empire that exploited the tribal conflicts between local kingdoms.

Dutch rule ended with World War II when Indonesia was occupied, somewhat brutally, by Japanese forces. After the Japanese surrender Sukarno proclaimed independence on 17 August 1945 and was declared President the following day. Since then Indonesia's fragile and 'guided' democracy survived only to give way to Western-style parliamentary democracy in 1999. The republic has stayed together through use of its powerful military despite coups, corruption scandals, the annexation of West Papua and the ultimately successful armed struggle of East Timor. Recent problems for the nation have included the 2004 tsunami which devastated parts of Sumatra and another separatist movement in the province of Aceh which has been partly resolved by the granting of some autonomy measures.

The Local People

The 202 million people that live here make it the 4th most populous nation on earth, 128 million on Java alone. There are 300 ethnic groups speaking 365 languages and dialects, though most are of Malay descent and speak the national language, Bahasa Indonesian.

Islam is the predominant religion, though religious tolerance is vigorously pursued by the authorities. Christianity is strong in Sulawesi and some eastern areas such as Flores, Hinduism in Bali and Animism remains in Sumba and Papua Province.

Health

Common but avoidable health concerns while on vacation here are contaminated food, water and ice that can lead to diarrhoea, dehydration and hepatitis A or E. Make sure you drink only bottled drinking water. Fungal infections are also very common. Wear loose clothes, wash frequently, and dry yourself carefully.

This is a malarial area in general, but some areas such as Bali are mainly malaria-free. It is also worth remembering that there are not too many mosquitoes at sea so it's highly unlikely you'll catch malaria on an Indonesia liveaboard diving cruise.

Self-diagnosis and treatment of any medical problem can be risky, so you should always seek medical help.

It's recommended that you seek medical advice about immunisations at least 6 weeks before your trip.

Tourist Visas

In February 2004 changes were made to the visa regulations. We summarise them below but check your own position again prior to your trip. All visitors must have a valid passport for at least 6 months from the date of arrival.

11 countries are eligible for a 30 day stay, with a free permit issued on arrival. They are: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Chile, Morocco, Peru and Vietnam.

The following nationalities can obtain a visa (7 or 30 days) on arrival for a small fee: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russian, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and United States of America. Proof of a return ticket is required.

This visa on arrival is not extendable and not convertible into other types of visas. It is available at all international airports and major borders. If you are crossing at an unrecognised entry post you will need a visa in advance.

If you come from a country NOT listed above, or you wish to stay on vacation for more than 30 days then you must obtain your visa overseas before entering the country. For Portuguese and Israeli nationals there are other specific requirements.

Time Zones

There are 3 time zones in Indonesia - +7 hrs GMT (+12 hrs EST) for Java, Sumatra and west and central Kalimantan, +8 hrs GMT (+13 hrs EST) for Bali, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara and south and east Kalimantan, and +9 hrs GMT (+14 hrs EST) for Maluku and Indonesian Papua.

Business Hours

Banks are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs and in some places on Saturdays until around 11:00 hrs.

Electricity

Electricity is 220v / 50 Hz AC. Sockets accommodate 2 round prongs, the same as in most European countries. It's advisable to bring your own plug adaptor kit if required. Power is usually reliable but there are occasional blackouts.

Photographic Facilities

Most popular brands and types of film are widely available. If special equipment is required then bringing it with you is probably the best option as supplies are limited.

Communications

Internet cafes are popular in the main cities and tourist areas but connection speeds are slow.

Kantor Telkom, the government-run telecommunications company, has offices in many cities and towns. Most of these are open 24 hours and are the cheapest places to make international and long distance calls. For international direct dialling use 001 + country code + area code + phone number.

Post offices are open Monday to Friday from 08:00 hrs to 15:00 hrs and Saturday until around 13:00 hrs. In the larger cities main post offices are often open extended hours. Indonesian postal services are unreliable. Important items can be sent by express mail service (EMS). This is faster and safer but the cost is higher.

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Codes of Behaviour

Indonesians make allowances for western ways, especially in the main tourist vacation areas, but there are a few things to bear in mind when dealing with people.

The left hand is considered unclean as it is used to wash after visiting the toilet, so never hand over or receive things with this hand as it will be viewed as offensive. Shake hands, right handed of course, when introduced to anyone when both arriving and leaving.

A person's head is regarded as the seat of the soul and therefore sacred, so to touch somebody on their head will also cause offence.

Talking to someone with your hands on hips is considered a sign of contempt, anger or aggression. It's rude to point with your fingers so rather beckon someone with your palm down - a bit like waving your dog to heel!

When eating with Indonesians do wait until you are asked to begin by your host, and it is also considered impolite to refuse a drink.

Tipping and bargaining

Tipping is not normal practice but is expected for special service. Generally if someone goes to extra trouble for you a tip is welcome.

Bargaining is common game in Indonesia with the exception of diving (of course!), restaurant meals, transport and sometimes accommodation, where the fee is generally fixed.

When bargaining, unless you're sure about the price you want to pay, it's probably best to ask the seller their asking price. Your response could be anything from a third to 2/3s of this price. Don't show too much interest and keep it friendly. Be prepared to walk away and quite often you will be called back and offered the price you previously suggested.

Clothing

Indonesia is hot and humid so light, loose cotton clothing is most recommended. When exploring the night-life, tight dresses, shorts, and miniskirts are no problem. However, naked sunbathing or topless appearance in public places is considered offensive, especially when you are outside the main tourist areas. You must wear conservative clothing when in temples or mosques.

Criminality

The vast majority of Indonesians are honest people with a strong sense of right and wrong. Tourism however does attract pickpockets and thieves the world over so to ensure an enjoyable stay, use some common sense. Be aware and don't leave valuables unattended.

Officials

Police corruption is widespread, however the chances are you will not have any dealings with them unless you are "guilty" of a traffic offence. You have 2 options - either pay the fine that goes and stays in the policeman's back pocket, or tough it out and run the risk of a very prolonged and arduous session at the local station. Show respect for the police and don't take an aggressive approach as it will only make matters worse.

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Interested?

If you're keen to discover the rich and varied waters of Indonesia, then click below to check your options for:

Be sure to book up in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best Indonesian scuba diving vacations are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!


 
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