Hi there - please read the comments from other travellers and add to this vast collection of knowledge!  If you want to e-mail me directly, I'd love to hear from you - I'll even answer any questions or queries you may have.  Cheers.    Nick



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Tips from fellow travellers (advice, travel, scams, dangers, highlights)

Getting in and out

Departure tax from Denpasar is 50,000rp.

Useful tips

You can save a lot of money by planning ahead as the exchange rate varies wildly. If they want to charge commission then go somewhere else. Best rates by far are in Bali, then Jakarta followed by Medan & Manado.

Sulawesi Travel Info: Please note that due to the troubles in Poso, it is no longer possible to change money there. Therefore it is essential to change money before heading to the Togeans. This is possible in Palu (inc ATM), Rantepao (poor rates of exchange but there is one ATM but it did not work at time of visit), Pare Pare (Inc ATM) or UP.

If you intend to travel Sumatra, do yourself a favour and try and learn some Indonesian. I'm travelling around Sumatra now and it's very difficult to get around and organise things as I have an Indonesian vocabulary of about 30 words. In the 25 days I've been here, I've only found one person who could speak broken English.

Lombok/Bangsal - at the place where the boats to the Gili Islands leave from: people try to sell things by telling everyone that everything is very expensive on the islands. This is really a tourist trap as they sell cigarettes, mosquito spray, etc. for normal prices on the Gili islands.

Great fun in Bali indeed. One word about travelling there, especially for those who are thinking about driving themselves. I had casual talk with local people there. They explain to me why Balinese drive crazy, and never follow traffic rules. Their religion has been teaching them whereabouts of soul after death, and that is the reason they are never afraid of traffic accident. If you don't believe in re-birth, think twice before you contemplate driving in Bali. Lots of wisdom, isn't it?

If you're coming from Australia into Indonesia and plan on using travellers' cheques, get them in either US dollars or Pounds Sterling.

On Lembongan, one thing you must do, it is an absolute must, is get up early (between 5.30 am and 6.30 am) and watch the locals collect seaweed from the beach. The tide is so far out in the morning, that you can see the whole shipwreck and the locals walk out that far. It is an amazing sight and worth the effort, you really see what the island is all about. You realise why everything on the island closes at about 10 pm. They all get up so early.

Getting around

I have found that travelling around on public transport in Sumatra is quite a bit more expensive than the usual tourists islands of Java, Bali and Nusa Tengarra, I would say about 35-40% more expensive. This is mainly due (so I'm led to believe) to the limited amount of roads.

There is currently a fast boat running which links Surabaya (Java), Benoa (Bali), Bima (Sumbawa), Maumere (Flores) and Kupang (West Timor). It is relatively expensive but is very fast. It takes 34 hours from Surabaya to Kupang stoping at all the other ports along the way. It runs once a week leaving Surabaya towards Kupang on Saturday at 11:00 arriving Kupang 21:00 Sunday. It leaves Kupang at 08:00 on Monday and arriving at Surabaya on Tuesday at 14:00. Rumour has it that the ferry is on a trail period to see if it is successful so I would not rely on it without checking at the harbour first.

Going to Java is easy on the Bali side (public bus, ojek, ferry etc are all good) but watch out on the Java side! Get a becak to the 'terminal bus' and find your bus and get on. Pay on the bus! You might want to make this clearer in the book. If there's room, there's no need to book a ticket or get it via an agent. We were ripped off by the conductor who guided us to a 'ticket office' with someone who then sold us tickets at 35000rp to Probolinggo. We paid, and he gave half the profit to the conductor, who simply showed us back to the bus we had passed outside. If we had simply got on, we would have paid 15,000rp each.

Three months ago an express ferry started between Flores and Bali. It leaves Maumere (Flores) every Monday at 15.00 and takes 12 hours. It's a really good alternative to an airplane. It is also cheap from 190,000Rp business to 253,000Rp executive. The ferry has made it much easier and more comfortable to travel to Flores.

Danger danger

Kuta: All the terrible stories about the moneychangers in Kuta are true, it's practically impossible to find an honest place where you get what is written on the board outside. If you still insist on changing your money there, there are a few things to bear in mind:
- first of all, make sure there's no commission
- then ask if they have enough rupees to change your money
- never change more than US$100 at the same time
- put your money (say dollars) on the counter and don't let them take it away or put it anywhere
- count ALL the money you get and make sure they do not touch it afterwards
- leave immediately if you can't keep these rules

I'd like to leave a message about the Gili Islands next to Lombok, Indonesia. There are three of them, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Terawangan, which they call the Party Island. It's true, it IS a party island - but also an island where robberies and rapes are happening! In April this year I spent two nights on Gili Terawangan and there was a Beach party, it was nice sitting in the sand with a cold Bintang beer. I had to go to the toilet which was placed at the very back behind the warungs next to the promenade. As I came out of the toilet, a local guy grabbed me from behind and put a knife to my throat. He pulled me behind the house, then lead me through a path in a field of high growing grass. This guy wanted to rape me! Luckily I speak Bahasa so I whispered to him, I was very polite and made myself small. I offered him all my money, jewelery, whatever. He was not interested. After a while I realized that there's nobody who would help me, that I had to help I did. I waited for the right moment and squeezed his balls as hard as I could. He wanted to attack me with his knife so I grabbed the hand which held the knife, he pulled it out and cut my hand. I started to scream and he run away.
I took the very first boat back to Bangsal/Lombok, wanting to go directly to the police, but the police office was closed! So I reported the incident to the police head office in Mataram. They told me, that they know of 18 rapes in the last 1 1/2 years just in Gili Terawanan! So, obviously, it happens a lot!
I don't want to stop people going to the Gilis, it's a very nice place where you can have lots of fun. I just want to make sure, that everybody is aware of these "happenings" there and that NOBODY walks around the island alone!

Climbing Gunung Agung from Pura Besakih involves climbing hand over hand using only tree roots and rock ledges for support. There is no equipment and the general opinion among the guides is that it is a fairly foolish thing to do. (We got 4 hours into the climb but had to turn back as the mountain began smoking and the guide said that it was "forbidden" to carry on.) It is dangerous, and to be honest we could easily have broken a limb or two each. There is very little scope for rescue as you are on the side where the lava flows, covered from above by dense foliage.

Mount Merapi, Yogyakarta, Java: A Dutch man was killed recently climbing this active volcano, and his brother injured. Just a warning to anyone thinking about climbing Merapi.
True, these two people did go above the 'safety zone', but too many people arrive in Yogya (often people just off the plane from Bali), see the trip to Merapi advertised and just go for it - not even realising how dangerous it is. Please be careful if you feel you must visit this volcano.

A note of warning to intending travellers to Indonesia...I recently met the victim of yet another Indonesian scam. A young male European traveller witnessed the snatching of a young Indonesian woman's bag. He chased the snatcher up a lorong (lane), where the snatcher's (and the victim's, as it turned out) friends were waiting. He was badly beaten and lost his day pack and all he was carrying in it, plus the contents of his pockets, a camera and a watch. The day pack was last seen being carried away at high speed by the "victim" whose property he'd been trying to save.

Care must be taken when walking in the Pasar Baru area during the day, as many tourists have been robbed recently, and an attempt was recently made to rob me. The scenario is always the same; 4 or 5 young guys, 2 or 3 of them point at your feet and then restrain them while the other 2 go for your pockets. Better to leave valuables in your room.

In Medan, a lot of people will warn you to be careful, hide valuables, watch your stuff, not walk outside after 7pm.... These warnings can be more frightening than the actual situation but surely they don't come without a reason. Be particularly careful when you have to stop at red traffic lights.

The only time I was scammed (so far) was in Sibolga, Indonesia - waiting for the ferry to Nias. A guy told me that there was malaria on the island and that an Australian tourist had to be airlifted to hospital the previous week. LP mentions mentions that malaria has been reported on Nias, so I believed him. We went to a pharmacy, where I bought eight tablets, (two for each day of my proposed trip) for $1 each. (That's $8 for generic tablets that probably cost about 10 cents.) There is no malaria on Nias, though malaria exists on some of the smaller neighbouring islands. Afterwards, I met two travellers who paid $40 each for tablets to the same guy.


Bandung is the most peaceful city in Java, there is never any mayhem, any crazy incidents or any dangerous demonstrations. Bandung is now known as a new shopping paradise for its low prices, and Paris Van Java for the cute and amazing suits, like those in Paris. New spectacular cafes are everywhere, with beautiful views of this cityscape. On Sunday and holidays,Gazebo Plain and Pubclut Summit are popular for their food tents and street attractions.

If you stay at Danau Toba on Sumatra, a good thing to do is to rent a motorbike. This is probably the safest place in the world to drive a 125cc motorbike. There's no traffic on the island. In one day you can see a lot of interesting things. If possible, you should hire a guide.