Indonesia at a Glance
Population: 255.46 Million
Capital City: Jakarta
People: 42% Javanese, 15.41% Sundanese, 3.45% Malay, 3.37% Madurese
Language: Bahasa Indonesia
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Time Zone: Indonesia Western Time Zone (UTC+07:00), Indonesia Central Time Zone (UTC+08:00), Indonesia Eastern Time Zone (UTC+09:00)
International Dialing Code: +65
Passport and visa
Passport should be valid for six months from the date of entry into Indonesia. Citizens of Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Canada and other EU countries are required to obtain a visa for stays of up to 30 days, which can sometimes be extended for an additional 30 days. Nationals not referred to above are advised to check with their nearest embassy for more detailed visa information and associated costs.
Checking whether or not you are eligible for a Visa on Arrival or a Visa Free before departing on your journey is crucial. As of 28 May 2007, 52 countries are eligible to apply for “Visa on Arrival” and 11 countries are entitled to “Visa Free”. If you’re not eligible to receive either type of visa, you are able to apply for a tourist visa at an Indonesian embassy abroad.
Phones & Internet service
Telephone connections are widely available throughout Indonesia. The strength of signals and reception may differ in rural areas. SIM cards are also available for purchase across Indonesia. Guests who would prefer not to purchase a new SIM card are recommended to contact their local network provider to set up roaming services.
Internet / WiFi connections are available in most hotels, restaurants, cafes and villas in developed areas.
People, History & Culture
"Bhinneka tunggal ika", the national motto of Indonesia, translates as "many yet one", and is an acutely representative statement to define both the diversity and cohesive national pride of Indonesian people. With an estimated 18,000 islands stretching a stretch of tropical ocean nearly the length of Russia, an incredible 900 islands are permanently inhabited. The populations from these islands combines to make Indonesia the fourth most populous country in the world. Because of the incredible amount of diversity across Indonesia's vast archipelago, visitors to this tropical nation will discover a wealth of culture and historical heritage unlike anywhere else on earth.
Indonesia's long struggle for independence from colonialism is a significant contributing factor to the cohesive national identity of Indonesian people who, historically, have maintained entirely distinct cultures, languages and ways of life. The same nationalist movement that expunged the colonial rulers also led to the establishment of Bahasa Indonesia as the country's first national language in 1945. This shared language allowed Indonesians to identify and communicate with one another in a way that wasn't possible previously and, consequently, nurtured the national identity that Indonesians all share today. Yet still, as a testament to the bewildering diversity of cultures in Indonesia, there are still some 700 languages spoken throughout the archipelago. One of the most thrilling things about travel in Indonesia is the sometimes bewildering feeling of having gone from one country to another while hopping to various islands. As a travel destination and an experience, there's no place on earth quite like Indonesia.
As with most things in Indonesia, transportation is substantially impacted by the nation's island geography. Sea transport remains a critical mode of transportation between islands for visitors and locals alike. Large islands normally have at least one major port city, with a dizzying network of ferry routes connecting people, goods, and vehicles to smaller islands.
With over 500,000 km of roadways, most people get around by way of cars, motorbikes, and buses. There are also four unconnected networks of railways in Java and Sumatra, which help to cover vast distances that span between major destinations on these islands. Private cars and taxis are usually the most reliable and comfortable ways to get around, but journeys can also be made by train and bus.
Air transport is the fastest growing mode of transportation around Indonesia, and offers a major boost in convenience that didn't exist not long ago. Once epic journeys between various islands in the archipelago can now be traversed in a matter of hours. The country’s main point of entry is Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, on the island of Java, where you can then easily hop on a connecting flight to other islands. There are other major airports on the islands of Bali, Sumatra, and Sulawesi as well.
When to visit Indonesia
With the entirety of Indonesia being within 2 degrees of latitude from the Equator, the climate is almost entirely tropical. Contributing to the uniformity of the climate in Indonesia is the fact that some 81% of its territory consists of water, which acts as a natural buffer to prevent drastic fluctuations. Temperatures also vary little from season to season due to this latitude, with only 48 minutes difference between the longest and shortest days of the year. For those in search of respite from the tropical heat, there are areas of high elevation spread throughout the country where cooler and more refreshing climates can be found.
The most widely varying aspect of Indonesia’s climate is the amount rainfall areas receive. Rainfall in Indonesia fluctuates for three primary reasons: seasonal changes, geography and topography. Seasonal changes are the least influential. In addition to being so close to or even on the equator, Indonesia is also shielded from the effects of monsoons by continental Asia. Generally speaking, though, the months between June and October are a bit drier while the months between November and March are a bit ranier. Most consider April and May to be the perfect "in between."
The most significant factors affecting rainfall in Indonesia are geography and topography. Generally speaking, as you travel from the west to the east towards Australia, islands become increasingly parched and arid. Also, the shape of islands and the height of their mountains often play a significant role in shaping weather. Windward sides (facing the continental winds of Asia) receive more rain than leeward sides (facing away from Asia). For example, on the island of Bali, the north is spectacularly vibrant, with rich forests of tropical foliage while the south, particularly in the dry months, can often be dry and dusty.
Festivals and National Holidays
More Muslims live within the borders of Indonesia than anywhere else on earth, so many of the country's festivals and holidays reflect important dates in the Islamic calendar. However, the national holidays of Indonesia also reflect the country's diverse population. Officially, there are 14 national holidays recognised in Indonesia. During these times, schools, government offices, and many businesses shut down.
In Bali, the most significant festival is Nyepi, or Hindu New Year. Nyepi is a day of self-reflection, silence and meditation for many Balinese locals. The following day is celebrated as New Year's Day, which focuses on the Omed-omedan ritual, or "Kissing Ritual". During this day, the island's beaches, streets and even the airport remains closed for the entire day.
Other significant holidays include:
- Nyepi (Hindu New Year): March 21
- Ascension Day: May 14
- The Prophets Ascension: May 16
- Buddha Day: June 2
- Eid Al Fatr: July 17
- End of Ramadan: July 18
- Independence Day: August 17
- Eid Al-Adha: September 24
- Islamic New Year: October 14
- The Prophet’s Birthday: December 24
- Christmas Day: December 25
- New Years Eve: December 31
Top places to visit in Indonesia
Bali is a quintessential tropical paradise that rightfully tops many traveller's to-do lists. If the only draws to Bali were its picture-perfect beaches, tropical vibes and lush rainforests, there would be reason enough to warrant the island's legendary status as an island destination. What makes Bali truly special, though, is its unique cultural heritage. It's the last outpost of a Hindu culture that flourished in Southeast Asia during ancient times. These traditional Hindu beliefs saturate nearly every aspect of Balinese life, from its traditions and culture to its architecture and even fashion sensibilities. The palpable sense of mysticism and spirituality that saturates the island makes it nothing short of magical to most visitors. If snorkelling in Bali's prismatic waters, summitting its steaming volcanos or bathing in its remote waterfalls don't make you fall in love with the island, the people, their beautiful culture and fabled charm will.
Despite a list of accolades that put most holiday destinations around the world to shame, Bali's closest neighbor, Lombok, has managed to remain a fringe travel option for all but the most well-informed of travellers. Just as scenic and beautiful as its neighbor, but with distinct cultural and natural attributes of its own, Lombok is the perfect place for travellers in search of something off of the beaten track but still easily accessible. There's unexplored wilderness, pristine beaches and the second highest mountain in Indonesia, Mount Rinjani. Like Bali, Lombok also boasts a unique and charming local population. The Sasak people who abound in Lombok have inhabited the island for thousands of years. Their unique fusion of traditional animist beliefs and Islam create a wild sense of exoticism that make Lombok seeem like an entirely different world. In short, Lombok is a must-see and under-appreciated destination that travellers would do well to discover before the secret is let out: that it's totally amazing.
Java is the world’s most populous island and one of the most densely populated places on earth. It's home to over 60% of Indonesia’s population, which is the fourth largest in the world. As such, it's the undisputed center of Indonesia politically, economically and culturally, making it the perfect place to go for a feel of the "real" Indonesia. Despite its massive population, Java remains a place filled with raw natural wonder and remote other-worldly destinations. The ancient temple of Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple on earth, is among the world's most spectacular archaeological sites. The astonishing volcanic scenery of Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen make visitors feel as though they've been transported to an entirely different planet. The remote jungles of Ujung Kulon National Park are deep and dark enough to still harbour one of the rarest and most precious mammals on earth, the Javan rhinoceros and the assortment deserted tropical beaches scattered across the island are enough to make most holiday destinations around the world blush.
Accounts from the memoirs of Marco Polo’s adventure to the island of Sumatra permanently cemented its reputation as a destination so raw and untouched that it seems to exist purely within the realm of fiction. Primordial rainforests teeming with wildlife set amongst the back drop of rumbling volcanoes and long, abandoned stretches of wild palm-fringed beaches set the tone for a place that can only be described as exotic. With its unique and varied cultures, spicy food, and pristine natural scenery, Sumatra beckons adventurers and those in search of a truly unique destination.
For travellers interested in wildlife and biodiversity, Borneo is among the world's most iconic destinations. Often referred to as the "Amazon of Asia", its steaming rainforests have supported rich rainforest habitat continuously for more than 140 million years, making them some of the oldest in the world. With a wander through the shadowy forest interior of Borneo, travellers stand a chance of spotting anything from endangered Bornean orangutans and proboscis monkeys to clouded leopards and dwarf elephants. As the third largest island on earth, there is no shortage of untouched places to explore in Borneo. The island's territory is shared three different countries, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, with a bit more than half of it belonging to the latter in an area called Kalimantan. Of all the areas in Borneo, Kalimantan is the least explored and offers some of the most pristine tracts of wilderness anywhere in the world.
Fringed with pink-sand beaches and some of the clearest waters in the world, Komodo Island was once a destination so remote and so exotic that only the most pioneering of explorers could dream of going there. While still remote and exotic today, accessibility has vastly improved in recent years. Rolling sun-kissed hills tinged in bronze are home to the world’s most infamous and formidable reptile, the Komodo Dragon. Growing to over 3 meters in length, they are the largest lizards on the planet and one of the ultimate spectacles of nature for people interested in wildlife to observe. Aside from the small island of Rinca, which neighbors Komodo, these dragons live nowhere else on earth, making a visit to this remote destination one of the ultimate experiences for those in search of unique and exotic places to go.
Top things to do in Indonesia
Indonesia contains a staggering amount of wildlife and biodiversity within its collection of some 17,000 islands. From its western-most point to its eastern-most point, the island nation straddles some 5,000 kilometres of equatorial ocean. Each island along the way has a unique assemblage of species, many of which exist nowhere else on earth. As one travels from west to east, an area known as the "Wallace Line" is eventually crossed that marks the transitioning point between the Asian and Australian continents. With this transition comes a dramatic shift in the flora and fauna one encounteres. In Bali, and west of it, nature is characterised by lush tropical greenery and charming critters familiar to anyone who has visited Southeast Asia before. From Lombok eastward, the species one encounters are far more familiar to anyone who has ever travelled in Australia. This bizarre combination makes Indonesia one of the richest treasure troves of biodiversity on the planet, and a heaven for anyone interested in going wild while discovering the fruits of Mother Nature.
Take a dip
Indonesia is at the heart of the Coral Triangle, a stretch of ocean often referred to as the "Amazon of the Sea". Within Indonesia's vast stretches of crystal-clear water there are more species of marine life than anywhere else on earth. Visitors would be remiss not to, at some point in their travels in the country, explore the underwater marvels of Indonesia. Those willing to put a mask and snorkel on and take a dip can seeing anything from giant whale sharks and mysterious sunfish to sea turtles and an untold number of kaleidoscopically colored fish. The marine habitat surrounding Indonesia is, without a doubt, one of the country's biggest draws.
Relax on the beach
As an island nation comprised some 17,000 islands, it should come as no surprise that Indonesia has an unbelievable collection of beaches - black beaches, white beaches, pink beaches, and coral beaches just to name a few. With its ubiquitously clear waters, vibrant greenery, and abundant sea-life, visitors to Indonesia will be spoilt for choices whereever they go. Take a dip in the crystalline waters of Bali’s Jimbaran Beach where soaring limestone mountains loom overhead, or Komodo’s Pink Beach where ancient remnants of red coral have washed ashore to create a vibrantly pink sand.
One of Indonesia's biggest draws for tourism is the abundance of spectacular temples and cultural monuments throughout the country. With a history that's entirely unique to other countries in Southeast Asia, Indonesia offers culture vultures and history buffs an experience like no other country in the region. Mysterious and ancient monuments dot landscapes throughout the archipelago, representing three major religions whose influences span three distinct eras of the country’s history dating back more than 2,000 years. From the ancient Hindu temple of Pura Besakih in Bali to the mind-bogglingly large Borobudur Temple and the exceedingly ornate Istiqlal Mosque in Java, travelers in search of a destination with historical heritage will find no shortage of it in Indonesia. Temple hopping is the perfect way to discover this.
Those in search of culture will find Indonesia to be a veritable paradise, where ancient practices and beliefs blend seamlessly into local life and everyday experiences throughout the country. In Bali, a rich cultural heritage of Southeast Asia’s last remaining outpost of ancient Hindu tradition promises long processions of traditionally dressed locals balancing impossibly tall baskets of fruit offerings on their heads. In the steaming rainforests of Kalimantan, you can meet face-to-face with the once-feared Dayak Head-Hunters, whose little-diminished synergy with nature puts you in touch with a long-gone era of human history elsewhere in the world. Nearly every one of Indonesia’s 900 inhabited islands exhibits unique cultural practices that are nothing short of astounding to most visitors, making island hopping a cultural experience in a league of its own.