s-e asia


























































Getting there

Flying to Indonesia and you're likely to go to Jakarta or Bali (Denpasar).  Jakarta is serviced by more airlines but, thanks to its huge tourist trade, Bali gets almost as much traffic.  

Garuda and Lufthansa are always worth checking out for cheap flights.  You could even be imaginative and fly to Singapore and get the ferry to Sumatra or go to Kuala Lumpur and get a ferry from Malacca or Penang, again to Sumatra.  There are also flights from Darwin.

Departure tax from Jakarta and Denpasar is around US$6 and from other airports about US$3.

The only open land crossing is at Entikong, between Kalimantan and Sarawak.  Visas are not required and a 60-day visa pass is issued on the spot.  

Most sea connections are on comfortable high-speed ferries running between Malaysia, Singapore and Sumatra (to Pekanbaru, Medan and Dumai) and there is also a service between Manado in northern Sulawesi and Davao in the Philippines.

Citizens of Britain, Ireland, most of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA do not need a visa to enter Indonesia if intending to stay for less than sixty days, and if entering and exiting via a designated gateway. There are currently around forty of these air and sea gateways into Indonesia, at which you can get a free, non-extendable sixty-day visa on arrival; "sixty days" includes the date of entry. You'll be fined US$20 for every day you overstay your visa, up to a maximum of fourteen days. After that you'll get blacklisted from Indonesia for two years.  The best way to get yourself a new sixty-day visa is to leave the country for a few hours and then come straight back in through a designated port of entry (Singapore is the most popular for this).

If you want to stay more than two months, or are entering via a non-designated gateway, then you must get a visa from an Indonesian consulate before travelling.  Tourist visas are initially valid for four weeks, and cost US$25. They can be extended for up to six months at immigration offices (kantor immigrasi) in Indonesia, but this is never easy.

Check out the British government Foreign and Commonwealth Office website - FCO.


Need a kit list?

When to Go

Travel in the dry season can be a nightmare so you may want to avoid the wet season.  In general, the best time to visit is in the dry season between May and October.

The Christmas holiday period brings loads of Australians and there's an even bigger tourist wave during the European summer holidays. The main Indonesian holiday period is the end of Ramadan, when some resorts are packed to overflowing and prices skyrocket.


Getting around

Air travel is still relatively cheap compared to the rest of the world but much more expensive than in the past.  It is essential to reconfirm on domestic flights in Indonesia, otherwise you may be bumped from the list.  You may also have problems getting a seat due to not being a local - be warned.  Departure tax on domestic flights fluctuates between US$1-3.

Sea transport can be good, variable and terrifying.  High-speed ferries are usually just that.  The ferries connecting major islands such as Bali and Lombok are also pretty good and reliable; however, there were dozens of deaths on one which sank between Java and Bali so hopefully you can swim.  Boats offering tourist trips are normally pretty good.

Rail travel is restricted solely to Java and Sumatra.  Indonesia's trains are pretty much a mixed bag: slow, miserable and cheap or comfortable and expensive.  It's advisable to buy train tickets a day in advance to assure a seat.  The train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta is very good value - travel business class whenever possible.

Cars, motorbikes and bicycles can be rented in the main cities and tourist centres.  You are supposed to have an international driver's licence.

Indonesia's main roads have reasonable surfaces in part but areas of Sumatra, Flores and other islands are appalling and terrifying.  Distance transportation is on ekonomi buses.  The fare you are offered will often be more than the locals, a better strategy is to know in advance how much it should be and give the correct money.  You will be crammed on, you will worry about your bags and it will be a stressful experience - but also highly entertaining.

There are also express buses and air-con buses.  What you pay for and what you get may differ, however, an air-con bus is usually the best bet for the money.

Local transport includes the ubiquitous bemo (pick-up trucks with rows of seats along each side), opelets (minibuses), bajaj (auto rickshaws), becaks (bicycle rickshaws) and dokars (horse-drawn carts); most are ridiculously cheap but you may well pay twice the rate of the locals.  Many towns have taxis, but agree on a fare in advance.