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Indonesia - Travel Guide

 

Type of Indonesia Holiday

Deciding what to include on a tour of Indonesia depends of course on your interests, time and budget. We can tailor make any itinerary to suit your exact requirements.

Our tailor made Indonesia Holidays and Tours can include just flights, hotels and transfers without any excursions or your trip can be tailored to include a mix of guided excursions with time to explore independently (which we think is usually the best mix).

Typically many people combine a week long tour of Indonesia with a beach holiday in Bali or Lombok, but really the limits are set by your imagination.

Beach Holidays

Bali is Indonesia's most popular beach holiday destination, with well developed resort areas in the south of Bali and less visited areas on the east and northern with popular beaches.

Lombok also has some of the best beaches in Indonesia and some great boutique resorts. Off the beaten track Indonesian beaches include Kura Kura Resorts in Java's Karimunjawa Islands, Nihiwatu Resort on Sumba and Amanmoyo on tiny Moyo Island off Subawa.

Family Holidays to Indonesia

Indonesia does offer some fascinating options for Family Holidays, but outside of the main areas such as Bali and Lombok, Indonesia is a destination which will suit only quite adventurous or well-travelled families.

Bali is probably the best option for a Family Holiday to Indonesia, with a well set-up tourism industry, lots of hotels for families and plenty of things to interest children of all ages. Elephant riding, cycle rides through the rice paddies, snorkelling trips and beach based activities can all be included in a Bali Family Holiday.

Outside of Bali, infrastructure can be quite poor in Indonesia and the climate hot and humid. Travel in Thailand and Malaysia is on the whole a more comfortable experience for families than in Indonesia, but adventurous families may consider a tour of Java, visiting the Orang-utans in Sumatra or the Komodo dragons on Komodo Island.

Cultural Tours

Indonesia has a rich history and diverse culture. Hindu Bali is of course a huge attraction and Bali is an island to visit for the cultural attractions as much as for the beaches.

Java offers superb World Heritage sites such as Borobudur and Prambanan, whilst Sulawesi has unique cultures such as Torajaland.

East of Bali every island in Nusa Tenggara offers something unique and a journey across Eastern Indonesia will reveal the true cultural diversity of Indonesia.

For a truly exotic and adventurous destination, consider a tour of West Papua and the Baliem Valley, where the surviving Stone Age culture was only 'discovered' in the 1930's.

Dive Holidays

Indonesia is a great desitnation for Dive Holidays in Asia, with some of the worlds' very best dive spots. Highlights include the north of Sulawesi around Manado, Raja Ampat in West Papua and the north west coast of Lombok and the Gili Isles. Diving in Bali is popular with some decent wreck dives and Ocean Sunfish encounters.

Recommended dive resorts in Indonesia include Wakatobi, Misool Eco Resort and Siddharta Dive Resort & Spa on Bali. Of course an Indonesian diving holiday can easily be combined with a beach holiday in Bali or Lombok or elsewhere.

Nature & Wildlife Tours

Indonesia has a diverse and beautiful natural landscape with stunning volcanoes, steamy jungles, verdant highlands, beautiful beaches and even quite arid stretches in the eastern islands. The underwater world is amongst the most interesting in the world and of course life in the rainforest is a real highlight of a wildlife holiday in Indonesia.

Orangutans can be seen in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Komodo dragons are unique to Komodo Island and birders will find bird watching sights throughout Indonesia, the most spectacular of which are in the Baliem Valley of West Papua. Wildife Holidays to Indonesia are of course easily combined with a beach extension in Bali or Lombok.

Active Holidays

Whether it’s a 3 day trek up Lombok’s Mount Rinjani, a morning jaunt up Bali’s Mount Agung or a pony trek to the top of Mount Bromo in Java, Indonesia’s volcanic landscape offers considerable scope for activity.

The rainforests of Sumatra and West Papua offer plenty of trekking opportunities and for those heading to Bali, there are countless ways to include some activities such as cycling, trekking, horse riding or diving. For the really adventurous there are multi-day jungle treks in search of orang-utans or higher mountains to climb.

Undiscovered Indonesia

Getting off the beaten track in Indonesia is relatively easy as most areas of Indonesia are little visited. The least visited areas of Indonesia include the Molucca Islands, more commonly known as the Spice Islands.

Anyone venturing east of Bali on to Komodo, Flores and the islands of Nusa Tenggara is really already getting off the beaten track and exploring where few visitors venture.

Bali

A small Hindu outpost in the world's most populous Muslim country, Bali has a unique and alluring culture which manifests itself in colourful festivals and a prodigious artistic output.

Tourists flock to Bali for the beaches, but it's the unique Balinese culture which adds spice to a holiday to Bali and creates a sense of wonder to almost every day.

One wonders why the statues are draped in black and white chequered cloth, what the hypnotic music is, why there are little flower offerings all over the beach in the morning?

You might not find all the answers, as some mysteries Bali will keep, but it's the questions and sense of wonder which will make you want to return.

Lombok

Bali's neighbouring island is on the rise, with a brand new airport, new boutique resorts and a new confidence that this is a destination which doesn't always need to live in the shadow of its mysterious neighbour.

Lombok has beautiful beaches, stunning Mount Rinjani, it's own culture and moreover, the short hop from Bali is actually a giant leap across the Wallace Line, from the Asian ecozone into the Australian influence, where things are drier and the fauna completely different.

Many visitors combine a holiday to Lombok with a stay in Bali, but more and more people are discovering the delights of a beach holiday in Lombok.

The Gili Isles

The three main Gili Isles are tiny specks of white sandy islands just a few minutes off the North West coast of Lombok.

With no vehicles permitted, the Gili Isles are a great option for a beach holiday in Indonesia for those seeking great snorkelling, excellent diving and a chilled-out island style holiday.

Not that the Gili Isles are totally undeveloped. Gili Trawangan has seen quite a growth in boutique hotels in recent years, and backpackers have long flocked here.

However, the Gili Isles seems to hold all kinds of visitors under their spell, so go, kick off your shoes, get on your bike and lie back and watch the sunset over Bali's volcanoes

Java

The volcanic island of Java is the most populous Indonesian island and offers some fantastic sights, making it a must on any tour of Indonesia.

Highlights include majestic volcanoes such as Mount Bromo; the Dieng Plateau; the incredible temples of Borobudur and Prambanan and lively historic cities such as Yogyakarta. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia is worth a quick stop, and is a gateway to Krakatoa and the Ujung Kulon National Park.

Easily accessible from Bali and elsewhere in Asia, a tour of Java will reward those who make the effort to discover Indonesia away from Bali. There are a handful of wonderful boutique and luxury resorts in Java which we recommend on our tailor made tours of Java.

Sulawesi

To the north of Bali, lying between Kalimantan and The Maluku Islands, weirdly shaped Sulawesi is Indonesia's third largest island and offers superb diving and intriguing and diverse indiginous cultures.

Spectacular mountains, coastlines, lakes and planes make Sulawesi a geographically diverse island and one with unusual flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world.

The main sights in Sulawesi include Tana Toraja with it's uniquely shaped houses and indiginous culture and Manado on the northern tip, the centre for dive holidays to Sulawesi.

Sumatra

Wild and rugged, with volcanoes, steamy jungles and seething urban centres, Sumatra is the 6th largest island in the world and has much to entice travellers. Seeing Orang-utans in their natural habitat in the Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the main draws.

From Tangkahan, the village on the edge of the park enjoy jungle treks and experience Asian elephants at close quarters. Lake Toba is the world's largest volcanic lake and a scenic highlight of Sumatra.

Flores

Flores is a large island in Nusa Tenggara to the east of Bali and Lombok. The landscape here is quite different to that of the islands to the west of the Lombok Straits.

Highlights of a visit to Flores include the magnificent colourful Kelimutu Lakes, the ethnic villages of Bajawa and Labuan Bajo which is a jumping off point for visits to neighbouring Komodo Island.

Flores is also a good destination for active and eco-tourism and bird watching. Flores is reached by direct flight from Bali or Lombok.

Komodo Island

Home to the famous Komodo Dragons, Komodo Island is a small island off the west coast of the island of Flores, a 90 minute direct flight east of Bali and part of the Komodo National Park, which actually consists of 3 main islands – Komodo, Rinca and Padar.

It’s not only the chance to see Komodo Dragons, which draws visitors, but divers will find some of the best diving in Indonesia. Accommodation in Komodo National Park is based mostly on Rinca, although live-aboard cruises are also popular for 1 or 2 night cruises in the Komodo National Park.

Kalimantan

Kalimantan is the Indonesian half of the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. Sparsely populated, with only 12 million people over a huge area, Kalimantan is on the tourist map primarily for the chance to see Orang-utans in the Tanjung Putting National Park.

This is a great alternative (or addition) to seeing orang-utans in Malaysian Borneo. Other options for seeing orang-utans in the wild include Kutai National Park which is much less visited than the other areas to view Orang-utans.

Sumba

Sumba is quite unlike most other Indonesian Islands, even its closest neighbours. Lacking the volcanic scenery of other Indonesian islands, Sumba has rolling savannah and less dramatic rolling hills.

Maize and cassava are the main crops here, not rice. Megalithic style burials still take place on Sumba and the island is also highly rated amongst birders, with over 200 species present.

Nihiwatu is the one great place to stay in Sumba – a luxury eco-resort which attracts surfers and those looking for an off the beaten track adventure.

West Papua

Formerly known as Irian Jaya, West Papua is the Indonesian part of the island of New Guinea (the Western half is Papua New Guinea) and offers an exotic, adventurous destination worlds apart from the pool villas and spas of Bali.

Richly bio diverse and home to hundreds of different ethnic groups a visit to West Papua is an adventurers dream. The Baliem Valley with its natural beauty and culturally rich tribal people is the main attraction, although divers head to Raja Ampat for some of the best diving in the world.

Getting There

After a gap of several years, Garuda Indonesia have announced direct flights from the UK to Jakarta and then on to Bali and other destinations in Indonesia starting in 2014. Alternatively all the main Asian Airlines fly to Bali via their various gateway cities. Flying time from the UK to Jakarta is about 12 hours, or 15 hours to Bali.

Visas

Visas are required for British passport holders visiting Indonesia and are currently available on arrival at most airports at a cost of US$35 for a validity of up to 30 days.

At Jakarta International Airport you may pay in other major currencies such as Euro or Sterling or by credit card. In Bali they have started to accept Euro's and Sterling but this may change back to dolloars only at any time, so it's better to arrive with dollars if possible.

Please note that visa information is subject to change at any time, so please check you have the correct documents for travel.

Costs & Money

Costs within much of Indonesia are very low.

The Indonesian currency is the Rupiah. Almost all hotels and most restaurants and shops accept credit cards.

We recommend changing some money on arrival as Riel isn't available prior to arrival. ATM's are commonplace and most accept overseas bank cards, although your bank may put a hold on card use until they are notified that the transaction is genuine.

Health & Safety

Indonesia is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Do beware of scams and touts that remain fairly common in popular tourist destinations.

To see the latest travel advice we recommend the Foreign Office Travel Advisory website. Bear in mind that the FCO advice does tend to err on the side of caution, but nevertheless is a good guide to health and safety considerations if taken within context.

The standard of medical facilities is generally good and Java & Bali have international hospitals. Remember to wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating. It is advisable to take out a good medical insurance policy before travelling in case evacuation is needed.

Rabies outbreaks do occur from time to time. With the prevalence of monkeys in and around temples in Bali, we strongly suggest taking precautions to avoid making contact with them or teasing them.

Vaccinations

We aren't medical experts and prefer to leave medical advice to those more qualified. Some GP's will offer very good advice, but many will not be as up to date on travel health issues. The main vaccinations for travellers are usually available at GP surgeries.

We find MASTA Travel Clinic extremely good and very thorough and those looking at doing any amount of travelling in South East Asia would do very well to contact the nearest MASTA clinic.

Bear in mind that many vaccinations need to be planned well in advance of travel.

Seminyak

Seminyak is Bali’s 'trendiest' and most sophisticated area, with wild surf beaches, a great choice of pool villas and Bali’s finest bars & restaurants. Seminyak's private villa resorts and boutique hotels are popular for Bali honeymooners and we offer the best boutique and luxury resorts in Seminyak. Seminyak is ideal for a romantic Bali holiday or a luxury Bali honeymoon and Bali honeymooners tend to combine Seminyak with a short stay in Ubud. We highly recommend The Elysian, Maca Villas and The Samaya as 3 of the best pool villa resorts in Seminyak.

Jimbaran

Picturesque Jimbaran Bay is a sweeping expanse of sand fronted by a handful of luxury resorts and villas. Jimbaran is still very much a fishing village and Jimbaran Bay is famous for its seafood restaurants which are set up on the beach every night. Kayumanis, Puri Jimbaran and Jamahal are some of the best boutique resorts in Bali, great options for a romantic Bali holiday or honeymoon. Jimbaran has one of the best beaches in Bali and a calm stretch of reef protected sea. Jimbaran's boutique resorts are ideal for those looking for a laid back and luxurious Bali beach holiday.

Nusa Dua

Nusa Dua is a purpose built Balinese resort area with quiet beaches and luxurious resort hotels. Although most hotels here are larger chain resorts, there are a couple of delightful boutique luxury hotels, which we just love. Despite being a wee bit lacking in atmosphere, Nusa Dua is a great choice for those looking for a safe and peaceful Bali resort area with quiet beaches. We highly recommend the Bale and Kayumanis as two wonderful boutique hotels in Nusa Dua. A few nights in one of Nusa Dua's boutique hotels is a great way to round off a Bali holiday or honeymoon to Bali.

Sanur

Sanur is a popular beach resort area in Bali with a quieter more village-like atmosphere than Kuta and Legian. Resorts line the long stretch of Sanur beach and there is a small choice of luxury and boutique accommodation. Sanur has a good choice of restaurants and bars but not the livelier nightlife scene of Kuta or the trendier restaurants of Seminyak. Only 45 minutes from Ubud, Sanur makes a good combination with a stay in Bali's hill country. We highly recommend Bali Pavilions in Sanur as one of our favourite boutique resorts in Bali.

Ubud

Ubud, the artistic centre of Bali is a wonderful place in which to enjoy the best of Bali – the scenery, culture and the ambience of Bali's hill country. Just an hour or so by car from Bali's beach resorts, a stay in Ubud makes a great combination with a beach holiday in Bali. Ubud has some of the best boutique hotels in Bali with outstanding views over the river valleys and rice terraces. The villages surrounding Ubud offer a great chance to see Bali’s artistic heritage brought to life. We highly recommend a 3 or 4 night stay in Ubud in combination with a Bali beach resort to create an ideal Bali holiday or honeymoon.

Eastern Bali

The east of the island is a great place to stay in Bali. Things are quieter and more traditional here and there is a great chance to discover something of the real Balinese lifestyle and culture. Lines of local women carrying temple offerings on their heads are an almost daily sight in this part of Bali. Besakih Temple, majestic Mount Agung, intriguing water palaces and spectacular scenery are some of the delights of the East of Bali. Alila Manggis is one of the  best value boutique resorts in Bali, and divers will love Siddhartha Bali Dive Resort & Spa.

Northern Bali

Between 2 and 3 hours drive from the airport, the north coast of Bali offers wild, black volcanic sand beaches and a quieter side of Bali than the busier southern resort areas. Diving, snorkelling and dolphin watching are all popular pastimes in this part of Bali. A stay in the north of Bali goes well with a few nights in Ubud to make a great two-centre Bali holiday or honeymoon. There are fewer hotels in the north of Bali, but we highly recommend the lovely Spa Village Tembok and the very Balinese Matahari Beach Resort which is a charming and romantic Balinese retreat.

Western Bali

Western Bali is a little visited region of Bali characterised by rocky and black sand coastlines and traditional villages. There is relatively little tourism in this region of Bali, largely due to the relatively low quality of beaches. A visit to Western Bali is a great way to experience a side of Bali away from the crowded resort areas, to learn something of life and culture on the island and to settle down to a different pace. Puri Dajuma is a lovely family owned hotel on the West Coast which offers a great opportunity to discover this part of Bali and even participate in Balinese life and activities.

Clothing

Indonesia experiences a hot and tropical climate, so light and airy clothing such as cotton is more comfortable for traveling. The dress code is fairly casual as in most parts of the tropics but it is advisable to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects.

As Indonesia is a largely Muslim country, it is advisable to dress more conservatively, especially for women. A lightweight raincoat or umbrella is a good idea in the rainy season. During the winter months from November to February, warm clothing is needed for visiting the central and eastern parts of Bali (Kintamani, Sidemen, Bedugul).

Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious sites and temples. A Sarong & waist sashes should be worn when visiting temples (these are often provided for a small fee at the temple entrance) and shoes should be removed before entering a private house.

Shopping

Indonesia, is known as a treasure trove of interesting souvenirs and handicrafts. A fascinating array of products, from traditional antiques to the latest quality fashions to ethnic handicrafts can be found at many local markets, shopping malls and boutique shops.

At smaller shops, bargaining may be necessary but it often adds to the fun of shopping in Indonesia. Shopping hours are generally from 9am to 10pm.

Communication

Most hotels have offer international dialing and fax facilities although be warned that these services are expensive in Indonesia.

The best way to stay in touch is to buy a local SIM card at a convenience store for your mobile phone. They cost approximately Rp. 10,000 and offer international dialing rates as low as Rp. 7,000 per minute and free incoming international calls.

Internet cafes usually offer cheap web-phone call systems as well, however the quality is often poor.

Most hotels we feature have Wi-Fi, often but not always free of charge. Wi-Fi will vary in quality from hotel to hotel and from destination to destination (and throughout the day). Wi-Fi in a hotel in Seminyak, Bali will generally be good, but on the Gili Isles for instance, expectations should be low!

Internet cafes are widely available and are easily found in major towns and cities. Prices are reasonable but may vary from Rp. 6,000 - 10,000 an hour. In many internet cafes, you can buy pre-paid international phone cards to dial from a computer to a landline or mobile phone worldwide.

Most internet cafés are equipped with webcams, headsets and microphones.Wi-Fi hotspots are available at most hotels and cafes.

Insurance

We highly recommend that all travellers to Southeast Asia purchase Travel Insurance which covers medical evacuation by air.  In case of an emergency, be sure to collect all receipts and invoices, as well as a copy of the medical report, for your insurance company.

We also recommend carrying your medical insurance registration number to speed up the insurance process in case of emergency.

Cultural Considerations

Visitors to Indonesia should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious buildings and shoes should be removed before entering a private home.

What's the food like?

The staple of an Indonesian meal is rice, usually steamed or fried. The meal is complemented with main dishes of vegetables, meat, seafood, egg, fish and soup. Although Indonesians generally prefer hot, spicy food, not all dishes are so intense and the hotness can be modulated to suit most tastes.

Indonesia is also the perfect place to sample a large variety of tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple, banana, mangosteen, rambutan (hairy red skin fruit), salak (snake skin fruit), jack fruit, as well as the famous durian- dubbed 'the fruit of the gods' for its very special smell and taste. 

What are the domestic airlines like?

We recommend flying with Garuda Indonesia or Air Asia for internal flights within Indonesia wherever possible.

With the exception of these airlines, most other Indonesian Airlines are currently on the banned list from operating within EU Airspace. As such, we will require a waiver to be signed before booking domestic flights with other airlines.

More information can be found on Aviation-Safety.net.

Do I need to tip?

Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in a country where the average annual income is very low compared to Europe. It is customary to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters also expect to be tipped.

Do not let a guide talk you into tipping more than you plan to. It is totally up to you who you tip, when and how much.

Currency

The currency in Indonesia is the Rupiah.

Electricity

Indonesia switched to 220V recently so in some areas 110V is still used. Most hotels use 220 volts, 50 cycles and a round, two-pronged slim plug. Bathroom shaver plugs usually have a transformer switch. We suggest taking an international adaptor plug for your personal appliances.

Time Zone

Indonesia is 7 hours ahead of GMT on Java and Sumatra, 8 hours ahead on Bali, Lombok and Sulawesi, and 9 hours ahead on Maluku and Irian Jaya.

Capital City

Jakarta

Population

Indonesia has around 250 million people.

Language

Bahasa Indonesia is the official national language. There are dozens of regional dialects and variations in speech from island to island, but the basic words remain the same. A large majority of the population, especially the youth, speak English.

Religion

In Indonesia, the majority of the population follows Islam but most Balinese are Hindu. Religion plays a major role in everyday of people life. There are a number of different religions that are practiced in Indonesia, which exude a significant influence on the country's political, economical and cultural life.