Indonesia Country Guide

The name Indonesia was derived from 'indos nesos', meaning islands near India. The country is in fact the largest archipelago in the world with thousands of islands, 17,508 to be precise, spread in an area between the Asian continent and Australia, and between the Pacific and the Indian oceans.

Indonesia's motto is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, which means, 'Unity in Diversity'. Come to Indonesia, see what unites vast cultures and races in this warm, hospitable country.

Our Indonesian country guide below will provide you with all you need about travelling in beautiful Indonesia. If you are more interested in local tourist highlights, a great way to see or experience them is to take a local Indonesia tour.

We recommend you read about travel in Indonesia on GoNOMAD.

Check out the latest Indonesia Travel features on YouTube.

Indonesia Country Guide

Useful information on this page includes:

Climate/Weather Top

Follow the link to our Indonesia weather page for some a six-day Jakarta weather forecast and general information regarding the Indonesian climate and the best time to visit this beautiful region.

Communication Top

The international dialling code for Indonesia is 62, followed by the area and phone number. To dial internationally from inside Indonesia dial 001, followed by the relevant country code and phone number.

Emergency numbers in Indonesia are 118 (for ambulance); 113 (for fire brigade); and 110 (for police).

All rooms in better hotels throughout Indonesia and most vacation villas in major cities have direct IDD telephone lines. Therefore, it is usually no problem to dial up your home service provider at any time.

Long distance telephone charges from Indonesia are 8,300 Rupiah per minute to North America and Australia/New Zealand, 11,280 Rupiah to Europe, and between 525 and 2,100 Rupiah (depending on the time) per minute to Jakarta, and most hotels add a surcharge of 200% or more. Local calls cost Rupiah 180 per minute (most hotels charge Rupiah 1,000 and more). Local government-run phone booths operate based on a pay as you leave and can be found all over the country.

At some villas you will enjoy free high-speed Internet access from all rooms if your laptop has an Ethernet card - but remember high-speed means in Indonesia 256k. Not much, but still better than the usual 56k which turn out to be less than 14k or so using a local dial-up connection. Internet cafes are available in all major cities and tourist destinations.

The postal system in Indonesia is quite fast when it comes to domestic mail (except to some of the more remote islands). International airmail can take anywhere from 7-14 days depending on location.

Currency/Money Top

The local currency is the Rupiah. Foreign currencies, either banknotes or travellers cheques, are easily exchanged at banks and money changers in major tourist destinations. Credit cards are accepted at most hotels and restaurants in main cities. It is advisable to carry sufficient amounts of Rupiah when travelling to smaller towns or outer provinces. To view the current Rupiah exchange rate, click on this link to - The Currency Site.

Major hotels add a 10% service charge to bills. Where it is not included a tip of between 5% to 10% of the bill would be appropriate if service is satisfactory. Airport porterage is Rp 3,000 for a small bag and Rp 10,000, if weighing more than 20 kg. Tipping taxi and hire-car drivers is not mandatory, but Rp 3,000 would be sufficient for a taxi driver yet more for a hire-car driver.

Electricity Top

The electricity in Indonesia runs off a 220-230V & 50 Hz system. In rural areas, you may find the previous system of 120V in place, or in some regions no electricity at all. It is also important to consider the electrical system can be unreliable, especially if planning to use expensive electrical items such as laptops. Converters can be purchased to protect against this.

Embassy Locations Top

To view a list of Indonesian embassies around the world, as well as foreign embassies within Indonesia, click on this link to

General Information Top

Population - 245 million people (over 65% live on the islands of Java, Madura, and Bali, which comprise only 7% of the land area)
Total Area - 1,919, 440 square kilometres
Capital - Jakarta (9 million people), which lies on the island of Java
Time Zone - UTC/GMT +7 hours

To view the current time in Jakarta, click on this link to

Language Top

The official language of Indonesia is Bahasa Indonesia. It is a standardised dialect of the Malay language, and there are many similarities between the two. Most education, media and communication is in Bahasa Indonesia.

Balinese language is another language entirely, with a completely different vocabulary and grammar and much more complex rules for its use. Balinese is greatly complicated by its caste influences. There's high Balinese, low Balinese and even middle Balinese, plus a number of variations of the three. Middle Balinese has an even more restricted vocabulary. It's mainly used when one wishes to be very polite but doesn't want to emphasize caste differences. Initially a conversation between two strangers would commence in the high language. At some point the question of caste would be asked and then the level adjusted accordingly.

Some common Bahasa Indonesian words/phrases include:

Good morning = Selamat pagi
Good day = Selamat siang
Good bye = Selamat tinggal
Good evening = Selamat malam
Good night = Selamat tidur
Welcome = Selamat datang
Good = Bagus
Thank you = Terima kasih
Please = Tolong
Sorry = Maaf
Excuse me = Permisi
How are you = Apa kabar
I'm fine = Baik
What is your name = Siapa nama anda
My name is = Nama saya adalah
Bathroom = Kamar mandi
Toilet = Kamar kecil
Soap = Sabun
Room = Kamar
Bed = Tempat tidur
Ticket = Tiket
Bus = Bis
This = Ini
That = Itu

Public Holidays Top

Follow the link to view a list of current public holidays in Indonesia.

Religion Top

Indonesia is the most populous Islamic nation in the world. Religion is an important part of Indonesia. The religious influence on political, cultural and economical life is immense and not to be taken lightly. Most of the great monotheistic world religions are present, and also a number of 'primitive' religions and beliefs among the not-so-civilised cultures in Kalimantan, Irian Jaya and so forth.

There are some specialised strains of religious beliefs among some communities in Java, Bali, Sumatra as well, but the religions presented here will focus on the more known and wide spread variants: Islam, Christianity (Catholicism, Protestantism), Hinduism and Buddhism. Islam accounts for 88% of Indonesians; followed by Protestants (5%); Roman Catholic (3%); Hindu (2%); Buddhist (1%); and other (1%).

Visas/Passports Top

Visitors must arrive in Indonesia with passports valid for at least 6 months after arrival and with onward or return tickets. Visas are not required for nationals of: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America and West Germany.

A non-extendable tourist pass for citizens of these is issued for a maximum of 60 days with entry and departure through:
Airports: Medan, Batam, Pekanbaru, Padang, Jakarta, Bali, Manado, Ambon, Biak,Ku pang, Pontianak, Balikpapan and Surabaya;
Seaports: Medan, Batam, Jakarta, Surabaya, Semarang, Riau, Bali, Manado, and Ambon.

Through other ports, a visa is required. Nationals of countries not listed above can obtain 30-day tourist visas from any Indonesian embassy or consulate abroad. Airport tax levied on passengers for international travel is Rp 17,000. For travel within Indonesia, this varies from one region to another with an average of Rp 3,500 for each departure.

Please check all Indonesia visa and passport information, as well as entry requirements, with your relevant embassy prior to travel.

US citizens who do not wish to go through the trouble of dealing with the red tape themselves can count on the professional services of Travel Visa Pro to speed things up: Apply for Indonesia Visa Online (service starts from $39). If you need to renew, add pages, change name, or just get a new US passport, you can Apply for a New US Passport here.

Geography Top

Indonesia is an archipelago in Southeast Asia consisting of 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited) and straddling the equator. The largest islands are Sumatra, Java (the most populous), Bali, Kalimantan (Indonesia's part of Borneo), Sulawesi (Celebes), the Nusa Tenggara islands, the Moluccas Islands, and Irian Jaya (also called West Papua), the western part of New Guinea. Its neighbour to the north is Malaysia and to the east is Papua New Guinea.

Indonesia, part of the 'ring of fire,' has the largest number of active volcanoes in the world. Earthquakes are frequent. Wallace's line, a zoological demarcation between Asian and Australian flora and fauna, divides Indonesia.

History Top

Ancient Indonesia saw the reign of hundreds of ancient kingdoms all over the archipelago. This gave birth to various traditional customs, arts, and culture, as well as historical sites and relics. For instance, by the Seventh Century, the powerful Buddhist Kingdom of Sriwijaya was expanding and it was during that period the spectacular Borobudur sanctuary was built in Central Java. The Thirteenth Century witnessed the rise of Hinduist Majapahit Empire in East Java, which united the whole of what is now modern day Indonesia and parts of the Malay Peninsula. The great empire fell after two centuries, leaving Indonesia back to separate, small kingdoms, which were easy prey for European invasions.

First, the Portuguese arrived in 1509, seeking for spices, and monopolized the trade route by force. Then, in the middle of 16th century, Dutch took over the occupation for about 350 years. The riches of Indonesian natural resources were brought over to Europe and traded for national funding. The Dutch East Indies, as it was known at the time, fell under British rule for the period of 1811-1816. Lastly, Japanese took over for three and a half years, until Indonesia proclaimed its independence at August 17th, 1945.

Location Top

Indonesia is an archipelago lying in South-East Asia between the Indian & Pacific Oceans. It shares borders with East Timor, Malaysia & Papua New Guinea. Indonesia consists of 17,000 islands (6,000 of which are inhabited). To view a map of the Indonesia, click on this link to

Bio-Diversity Top

Indonesia is one of the world's most extraordinary storehouses of biodiversity. Although it covers only 1.3% of Earth's land surface, it is home to about 17% of the plant and animal species of the world.

In fact, Indonesia is at the heart of the Coral Triangle, where the highest coral reef diversity exists. Located between Asia and Australia, Indonesia contains a natural convergence of remarkable flora and fauna from these two separate continents.

Health  Top

International certificates for smallpox and cholera are not required and yellow fever vaccination are necessary only for visitors coming from infected areas. Malaria is prevalent throughout Indonesia and so prevention and malaria tablets will reduce the risk of infection.

Customs/Duty  Top

Each adult is permitted to bring, on entry, a maximum of two litres of alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100 grams of tobacco and a reasonable quantity of perfume. Photographic equipment and typewriters must be declared and are admitted provided they are taken out on departure. Prohibited from entry are the following items: narcotics, arms and ammunition, TV sets, radio and radio cassette recorders, pornography, fresh fruit, printed matters in Chinese characters and Chinese medicine.

All movie films and video cassettes will have to be deposited for review by the Film Censor Board. There is no restriction on import and export of foreign currencies and travellers cheque; however, import or export Indonesia currency exceeding Rp 50,000, is prohibited.

Clothing Top

Dress is generally informal in Indonesia. Light fabrics are recommended due to the warm, humid climate. For men, a jacket and tie is considered appropriate when making officials calls or non formal occasions. Or, follow local custom by wearing a long-sleeve batik shirt.

It is recommended to bring a sweater or light jacket for travel to mountain areas. Shorts and beachwear are not considered appropriate except at sports facilities and on the beaches, and never appropriate for visits to temples, mosques and other places of worship.