General information about Indonesia

The Indonesians call their country »Tanah Air – Waterland«. More than 17,000 islands and islets sprinkled over the Pacific Ocean stretch in a 5,000 km arc on both sides of the equator from the Malaysian peninsula to New Guinea. This corresponds to the distance between Europe and America. The wide spectrum of landscapes in Indonesia ranges from tropical rain forest with lush vegetation, to smoking volcanic cones with bizarre lava fields, to craggy coastal cliffs and sandy beaches bordered with palm trees.

An abundance of fascinating but contradictory and confusing impressions await the visitor: modern bank buildings and old temples, western style television and traditional shadow theatre. A never-ending traffic chaos and idyllic rural areas in Jakarta, noisy discotheques and peaceful mosques, authoritarian government and a deep-rooted striving for peace and harmony. Here, where all the religions of the world have taken hold, the visitor permanently crosses the boundaries between the different cultures. Within a very short space of time you will be confronted with many very different spiritual, artistic and religious traditions. Indonesia is one of the most beautiful and mysterious regions of the world. If you are interested in cultural history, the country has impressive buildings from the Hindu-Javan epoch to offer, such as the temple complexes of Borobudur and Prambanan. If you are looking for relaxation, there are long sandy beaches and a wide range of opportunities for adventure holidays, hiking, mountaineering or scuba diving.

The time difference to Germany is plus 6 hours in the western zone (Sumatra and Java), and in summer plus 5 hours.


Indonesia comprises the six main islands Sumatra, Sula, Sulavesi, Java, Bali, Kalimantan (part of Borneo), West Papua (Irian Jaya, the western half of New guinea) and 30 smaller archipelagos. In total, Indonesia consists of over 17,000 islands, of which 6,000 are uninhabited. The landscapes of the various islands are very different. Some have mountains or plateaux; others consist of flat coastal plains and alluvial land.

The natural borders of Indonesia are with Singapore, Palau and Malaysia and the Philippines to the north, with Papua-New Guinea in the east and to the south with Australia and the Indian Ocean. In the Indonesian islands there are many straits, bays and intracontinental seas. The east-west extent, both north and south of the equator is about 5,100 km. From north to south is about 1,900 km.


The Indonesian climate is tropical and characterised by the monsoon. The average temperature over the year is 27°C, with a humidity of about 80%. However, the climate can be divided into three regions, the coastal area with temperatures from 24 – 35°C, the interior with 20 – 30°C, and the mountain regions with 16 – 26°C.


Indonesia is very conservative, and this should be respected with unobtrusive clothing. Basically it is advisable to take breathable summer clothing due to the high humidity. Rainwear is also advisable.

In the evenings it can get quite cool in the mountains, so lightweight woollens or fleeces should be taken. It is important to pack a sun hat, suncream and a good pair of sunglasses with UV protection for hot sunny days.


Typical Indonesian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. The basis is usually rice. Because of the size of the country, there is a wide variety of regional dishes. In the insular region of Indonesia, fish and seafood play an important role. In the largest Moslem country in the world, pork is rarely eaten – mainly in Hindu Bali and by the (relatively large) Chinese minority and the Christian minorities who live in all parts of the country, especially in the east and in Northern Sumatra.

The most commonly eaten meat is chicken. Hens are kept literally everywhere in towns and in the country, and Ayam Goreng (fried chicken) can be considered to be the national dish. Saté is also very popular. These are meat skewers with chilli or peanut sauces. Indonesian cooking is seasoned with Trassi, which is made from fermented prawns, or with one of the many – often very hot – Sambals, which are served as a seasoning with many dishes. Almost all areas and towns have their own specialities, which are known throughout the country, and all Indonesians can tell you where to get e.g. the best mangos or the best tofu.


Normally the top category hotels have air-conditioned rooms, which are of Western standard with regard to furnishing. Often even simpler hotels and guest houses are of an acceptable standard. Some small hotels are hardly any different in quality to the star-category hotels. Usually they have a pleasant atmosphere, which is lacking in the large tourist hotels.


The Indonesian currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (Rp). 1 Rupiah = 100 Sen. You should take care to always have small denomination notes in your wallet if possible, as even change for a 1,000 Rp note can often only be given with difficulty. Most restaurants, shops and hotels on Java accept credit cards. Not all banks cash travellers' cheques, a more unfavourable exchange rate is to be expected. The rate of exchange of the Indonesian Rupiah is subject to large fluctuations. You should note that on entering and leaving the country you may not take more than 50.000 Rupiah with you.


Even in smaller towns there are telephone offices from where you can telephone abroad without problems. Many hotels have public telephones, which accept telephone cards or credit cards. Throughout the country there are telecommunication centres, warung telekomunikasi (WARTEL), at which international phone calls can be made. Mobile telephone reception is widespread on Java. In Sumatra, reception is only possible in larger towns. Emergency telephone numbers are: 110 (Police), 118 (Ambulance for road acidents), 119 (Emergency doctor)

Medical treatment

Medical treatment on Java is only adequate. In the other provincial cities treatment is not comparable with European standards. In case of emergency, the tour guide has a comprehensive first-aid kit. If you need any daily medication, please ensure that you have an adequate supply with you.

Hygienic conditions in Indonesia do not correspond to European standards. Therefore, several precautions should be taken: wash your hands often, and do not drink tap water or water which has not been boiled. Wash fruit well before eating, or better still, peel it.

It is also advisable to check your general vaccination status – diphtheria, tetanus and polio. We also recommend vaccination against hepatitis A and B, typhoid, Japanese encephalitis, and possibly rabies. The risk of malaria is high throughout the year over the whole country. Travellers should obtain information about infection and vaccination protection in good time and seek medical advice. Please refer to to the general information available from health authorities, doctors experienced in travel medicine, specialists in tropical medicine, travel medicine information services or the Federal Centre for Health Education [Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung].


In many houses, as well as in older hotels, the mains sockets are somewhat old-fashioned. Users who bring electrical appliances with them should ensure that they have flat plugs, or bring an adapter with them.

The mains voltage is normally 220 Volt, frequency 50 Hz. In rural areas this can also be 110 V, 50 Hz


The following items can be imported into Indonesia duty free by persons over 18 years old:
200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100g of tobacco; 1 litre of alcoholic beverages, perfume for personal use, gifts up to a value of US$250 per passenger, or US$1,000 per family.

The import of cordless phones and other items of trade, fresh fruit, weapons, ammunition, pornographic products, narcotics, prescription medicines, Chinese publications and medicines is prohibited. It should be noted that video cameras, radios, binoculars and sports equipment must be declared on entering the country and must be exported when leaving. Films, audio and video cassettes, CDs and computer software must be presented to the censorship authorities for examination. The possession of even the smallest quantity of drugs is penalised with long jail sentences, and the death penalty is imposed for drug dealing.


No-one in Indonesia expects tourist to observe all the rules and taboos. Infringements against holy laws, even by foreigners, often cause offence, even if this is concealed behind a friendly smile.

However, if you respect the most important principles and adhere to a few tourist virtues, which are highly esteemed in Indonesia (politeness, modesty, tolerance and patience), even the most severe cultural pitfalls can be avoided. The most important principle is to avoid conflict and strive for harmony.

Types of behaviour which are considered to be normal and socially acceptable in Europe may cause offence and even anger in Indonesia. Here it is usual to touch people whom we like. For an Indonesian, being touched by a stranger is a sign of disrespect. Above all in Java and Bali, the head is considered to be the seat of the soul, and may not be touched by a stranger. You should also not stroke the heads of small children.


Since the terrorist attacks in Bali in 2002, investigations into the masterminds of the attacks have met with considerable success. However, there is still a danger   of terrorist attacks. The security situation in the province of Aceh in the north of Sumatra (the region in which the village Suak Nie is located) has improved since the signing of a peace treaty in December 2006. However, special residence regulations still apply, and the German Foreign Office advises tourists not to visit Aceh.

This information has been compiled to the best of our knowledge, however this may be subject to change. We are not liable for the accuracy of the stated information.