Using ATMs in Indonesia
ATMs are common in all major Indonesian cities and tourist destinations but they can be somewhat harder to find in remote areas. Beware of withdrawal limits as low as IDR 500,000 (USD 37) per day in some machines! As a rule of thumb, machines loaded with IDR 50,000 denomination notes (there's usually a sticker on the ATM) will not dispense more than IDR 1,500,000 (30 notes) per transaction - even in Jakarta. Those with IDR 100,000 notes can give more, up to IDR 3,000,000 (mostly CIMB, PermataBank, HSBC, BII, some BRI machines and also Commonwealth bank on Bali) at once. Note, however, that these larger notes can be harder to use due to the lack of smaller denominations for change, particularly in rural non-tourist areas. Banks are generally happy to accept large notes taken from their ATMs and break them up into smaller ones at no charge. For most ATMs, you can make repeated withdrawals up to the equivalent amount by your home country's bank. Just keep in mind of the foreign transaction fees, if applicable, and the daily withdrawal limits allowed by your bank. For some more tips on Cash Withdrawals see our blog post here.
Using CREDIT CARDS in Indonesia
You should take care when using a credit card, as cloning and fraud have been found as a major problem in Indonesia. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, but American Express can be problematic in places. At smaller establishments, surcharges of 2-5% on card transactions are common. A good rule of thumb to minimise fraud is to use your credit card for larger purchases such as hotels and rather use cash everywhere else.
Have a look at some of our posts under Travel Tips / Finances for more general info regarding money while travelling. The TransferWise Borderless Account is a great option to spend multiple currencies and even draw cash at a low cost. We also use our N26 account when travelling which offers great benefits such as free ATM withdrawals in the EU, zero-fee swiping worldwide and TransferWise integration, the paid plan offers free worldwide ATM withdrawal as well as travel insurance.
RAMADAN & IDUL FITRI in Indonesia
The most significant season of the year is the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. For 30 days, devout Muslims refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. People get up early to stuff themselves before sunrise (sahur), go to work late, and take off early to get back home in time to breakfast (buka puasa) at sunset. During this time it is polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public. Many restaurants close during the day. During Ramadan, all forms of nightlife close by midnight or stay closed entirely.
The month of Ramadan ends with the two days of Idul Fitri (also known as Lebaran). Almost the entire country takes a week or two off to head back home to visit family in a ritual known locally as mudik, meaning going home. This is the one time of the year when Jakarta has no traffic jams, but the rest of the country does, with all forms of transport packed to the brim. All government offices, including embassies, and many businesses close for a week or two, and travelling around Indonesia is best avoided during this time.
DRESS MODESTLY while in Indonesia
Indonesia is a relatively conservative country and modest dress is advisable. On the beaches of Bali, Gili Islands and parts of Lombok, the locals are used to foreigners walking about in bikinis but elsewhere across Indonesia, women are advised to keep legs and necklines covered and to match the locals when bathing. Take a look around you and try to fit in with the locals and respect their way of life. Wearing a mini skirt and exposing your belly would be considered inappropriate in most of Indonesia and you might get a few disapproving looks. Covering your hair is unnecessary, although it may be required at some temples and doing so may be appreciated when the province of Aceh.
LEARN A FEW INDONESIAN PHRASES
The Indonesians are very friendly and welcoming people. Being able to say a few words in their language can open the door to local interaction and much more personal travel experience.
A good base includes:
Hello (General greeting) - Hi / Apa kabar?
How are you? - Apa kabar? (What news?)
Reply to 'How are you?' - Baik (Fine) / Baik baik saja (All fine) / Sehat (Healthy)
How about you? (informal) - Bagaimana denganmu?
What's your name? - Siapa nama anda?
My name is ... - Nama saya ...
Pleased to meet you - Senang bertemu dengan Anda
Good morning - Selamat pagi (early morning)
Good afternoon - Selamat siang (late morning) / Selamat sore (late afternoon/evening)
Good evening - Selamat malam (late evening/night)
Good night - Selamat tidur (said before sleep)
Goodbye (Parting phrases) - Selamat tinggal (when leaving) / Selamat jalan (when staying)
Excuse me - Maaf / Permisi (to get past)
How much is this? - Berapa harganya?
Sorry - Maafkan saya / Maaf
Please - Tolong / Mohon
Thank you - Terima kasih / Terima kasih banyak / Makasih (informal)
Reply to thank you - Terima kasih kembali / Sama-sama
Indonesia has been, and continues to be, hit by every pestilence known to man: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, terrorism, civil strife, plane crashes, corruption and crime make the headlines on a depressingly regular basis. However, it is important to remember Indonesia's vast size: a tsunami in Aceh will not cause the slightest ripple on the beaches of Bali, and street battles in troubled Central Sulawesi will be completely irrelevant in the jungles of Papua. Indonesia is a chain of highly volcanic islands sprinkled along the Ring of Fire, so earthquakes occur constantly and tsunamis and volcano eruptions are all too common. Realistically, there is little you can do to avoid these risks, but always familiarise yourself with the warning signs and pay special heed to fire escape routes in hotels.
Indonesia is a very laid back and relaxed country and this means that transportation is not as on time and reliable as you may like! Remember to build in time for delays and a lot of waiting around, be it for boat or road transport. Whatever you do, don’t cut your time too fine for reaching the airport or you may well end up missing your flight!
CRIME in Indonesia
Although the crime rate has increased in recent years, fortunately, it remains mostly non-violent. Robbery, theft and pick-pocketing are the most common crimes in Indonesia and you should be particularly careful in markets, public transport and pedestrian overpasses. Best is to avoid flashing expensive jewellery, gold watches, MP3 players or large cameras around. Crime is also rampant on local and long-distance public transport (bus, train, ships). Always make use of official taxi services such as Blue Bird rather than hailing a taxi from the street as there are many tax-related scams, where taxi drivers drive off before you get a chance to take your luggage.
Political events such as elections are often times of violent and messy demonstrations that you should avoid. Whatever you do, don’t travel without travel insurance! We would suggest checking out World Nomads or SafetyWing, for travel insurance as they have the best coverage for active travellers.
Be aware and do not accept drinks from strangers, as they may be laced with drugs. In areas where the party scene is big, drink spiking is a common problem. As in all countries, do not draw large amounts of cash from banks or ATMs, guard your belongings carefully and consider carrying a money clip instead of a wallet.
CORRUPTION in Indonesia
Officials may ask for bribes, tips or "gifts" (the Indonesian terms are uang kopi or uang rokok, literally "coffee money" and "cigarette money") to supplement their somewhat meagre salaries. Pretending you do not understand might work, however generally being polite, smiling, asking for an official receipt for any 'fees' you are asked to pay, more politeness, more smiling, will avoid any problems.
The going rate for paying your way out of small offences (not carrying your passport, losing the departure card, minor or imaginary traffic violation) is IDR 50,000. It's common for police to initially demand silly amounts or threaten you with going to the station or talk of court dates, but keep cool and they'll be more reasonable. Also note that if your taxi/bus/car driver is stopped, any fine or bribe is not your problem and it's best not to get involved.
The only incident we've had thus fr was on Bali when we encountered a roadblock - you can read about it here.
Indonesia treats drug offences extremely severely. The death penalty is mandatory if you are convicted of trafficking, manufacturing, importing or exporting even small quantities of banned substances such as heroin, morphine, cocaine, cannabis, cannabis resin and opium. If you are found consuming these drugs (plus others like MDMA and crystal methamphetamine), you might face a 10-year jail sentence, or a very heavy fine, or both. You can even be charged for unauthorised consumption as long as any traces of illicit drugs are found in your system, even if you can prove that the drugs were consumed outside the country before arrival. You can be charged for trafficking if drugs are found in bags that are in your possession or in your room, even if the bags are not yours and regardless of whether you're aware of the content or not. It's crucial to never carry anyone else's bags for them - or even to hold them for a brief period in your possession.
STAY HEALTHY in Indonesia
Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary for Java or Bali, but is wise if travelling for extended periods in remote areas of Sumatra, Borneo, Lombok or further east. Be sure to check the latest Malaria map to see if you need prophylaxis or not. Dengue fever can be contracted anywhere and using insect repellents (DEET) and mosquito nets is highly advisable.
Food hygiene is often questionable and getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and possibly typhoid fever is a wise precaution. See a doctor if what seems like travellers' diarrhoea does not clear up within a few days. That being said, we have travelled to Indonesia for months and eaten mostly street food and have only had a single incidence of not feeling well in all that time.
The air quality in major cities, especially Jakarta and Surabaya, is poor, and the seasonal haze (June-October) from forest fires on Borneo and Sumatra can also cause respiratory problems. If you have asthma, bring your medicine and a breather.
In addition, cigarette smoking is virtually everywhere, and it can be impossible to escape the constant cloud of smoke in restaurants, shopping malls, and beside swimming pools.
Indonesia has a low HIV/AIDS prevalence rate. However, most infections are among sex workers and injecting drug users. Always protect yourself before engaging in risky activities.
We do not make any recommendations for you, each and every person’s situation is different and needs to be evaluated as such. This is merely a discussion about certain aspects to take into consideration in order for you to arrive at the best solution for yourself. We are not paid to endorse any insurance over another and do not represent World Nomads or SafetyWing. However, we are an affiliate partner for both World Nomads and SafetyWing and we might receive a small fee when you get a quote or sign up for one of their products. This article is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance and we are in no way partial to your choice. You should always consider your individual needs and risk profile - what will work for you may not work for everyone and we do not endorse or recommend any specific provider or product over any other.