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Cultural Considerations

Indonesia is the largest Moslem country in the world. Although Islam is the state religion, there are parts of the country where other religions are prevalent. Northern Sulawesi is 90% Christian, the Balinese are predominantly Hindu, and in the Malukus and Flores Moslems and Christians live side by side – usually peacefully.

When visiting places of worship, whether it’s a mosque, a temple or a church, please ensure that you are conservatively dressed. Remember to take of your shoes before entering a mosque or a temple. Ladies should wear tops with longish sleeves, skirts which go below the knee, or loose fitting, long pants.

As far as clothing in general is concerned, please don’t take Kuta as being typical for the rest of the country. If you go out to a restaurant (other than in Kuta) or if you are invited to visit an Indonesian home, smart – casual clothing is fine.

Visa Regulations

To enter Indonesia your passport needs to be valid for at least another 6 months from your date of entry. Immigration officials are on the look out for passports which have less validity and are within their rights to deny you entry into Indonesia.  In January 2010 the 7 day Visa on Arrival was abolished, so now there is:

A 30 day Visa on Arrival. At the moment the cost is US$25, and you should pay in US$ cash, with unmarked, clean bank notes which were issued after 2001. Since January 2010 this visa can be extended once, by one month, whilst here in Indonesia. But it’s a hassle, and if you think you might be staying longer than 30 days, get a 60 day Tourist visa before entering Indonesia.

A 60 day Tourist Visa which you need to obtain before entering Indonesia. The good news is that since January 2010 this visa can be extended in Indonesia. If you intend to travel to West Papua Province, or you are planning on extending your 60 day visa, please have 4-6 spare passport photos with you.

For further information about visa regulations check out the website, or contact your nearest Indonesian Embassy or Consulate.

Money Matters

The local currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). It’s always a good idea to carry some small banknotes (Rp 1000, 2000, 5000, 10.000, 20.000) with you when shopping in local shops (toko) or planning to eat at a warung (small local restaurant or food stall).

The easiest way of handling money is by using a credit or debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs, which are just about every where, other than in some really out of the way places. If you intend to travel to, or stay for any length of time off the beaten track, you are going to need to carry sufficient Indonesian cash with you to pay for accommodation, food and transport. Please don’t rely on being able to exchange foreign currency. With the advent of ATMs, Travelers cheques have pretty much gone out of fashion.

Health

In Bali there is still the occasional problem with rabies, spread by sick dogs. If you are scratched or bitten by a dog, you need to get medical care as quickly as possible.

By far the biggest danger to tourist’s health are dehydration and sunburn. Please try to drink at least 2 litres of water per day. Coffee, tea, beer, juice and other fluids really don’t count. Indonesia is in the  tropics, and you’ll probably be spending quite a lot of time out of doors, so protect yourself and use a good quality sun block, as well as  wearing a hat.

Water – even local people drink bottled water! It’s cheap, so don’t take any risks.

Alcohol – try not to drink alcohol during the day. Because of the tropical climate, you’ll probably get a buzz a lot more quickly.

Sex is fun, but please make sure that condoms are used should you have a close encounter of a (very) personal kind during your stay in Indonesia. All kinds of STDs, including HIV/AIDS are widespread, so please take precautions.

Drugs should be an absolute no-no. Don’t try to bring any drugs into Indonesia, because chances are that you’ll end up in jail. Don’t be tempted to get any drugs whilst you are in Indonesia. If you spend any length of time around Kuta, Legian, or Seminyak, you will probably be offered some – please say no. You could very well be dealing with a police informant – which means that you wont be using your return ticket home!

Safety

Please don’t let sensationalist media reporting put you of from visiting Indonesia. For tourists Indonesia is as safe as other countries. As things are today, unfortunately, any public place in the world could be “the wrong place at the wrong time”. But  don’t let that fact turn you into a virtual traveler in your own lounge room, just getting second hand experiences by watching travel shows on television.

To avoid being the victim of petty crime, don’t show off expensive consumer electronics, cameras or jewelry in public. I have been visiting Indonesia, and other parts of South East Asia since the mid 1970s, and I have never had a problem with theft or bag snatching. Yes it can happen, so be aware, but don’t get paranoid about it.

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