Southeast Asia Natural Adventures

nature travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Thailand, Indonesia and Southeast Asia

Indonesia & Bali travel information


A passport, current for six months beyond your return date, is required for travel to Indonesia. The immigration authorities are very particular, and may turn you away if your passport is even one day short of the six-month minimum. It is recommended that all travelers have their own passport. If you are traveling with a minor, you will need written authorization from both parents for him/her to leave the country. You should also take several photocopies of the first page of your passport, which may be required for entry into some National Parks, including Komodo, and occasionally required by the local police when visiting remote areas. There is a 150,000 rupiah international departure tax (about $US16-17), and departure taxes of about 10,000-20,000 rupiah at domestic airports, to be paid in cash at the counter.

US and citizens of the following countries can obtain a Visa On Arrival at the desks at major airports (Medan, Pekanbaru, Padang, Soekarno-Hatta (Jakarta International CGK), Halim Perdana Kusuma (Jakarta), Surabaya, Bali, Manado, Yogyakarta, Solo, Mataram, Balikpapan, Makassar, Kupang) for tourist visits of thirty days or less. The cost is $US25. This is a video of the arrival procedure in Bali; other airports are similar.

United States, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, Finland, Hungary, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Norway, France, Poland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Taiwan.
Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa for tourist stays of 30 days or less: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Philippines, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Chile, Morocco, Peru and Vietnam.

Travelers of other nationalities resident in the US should contact the Indonesia Consulate at:

Consular Office of the Republic of Indonesia
2020 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Phone : 202-775-5200 Fax. : 202-775-5365

or a Visa Service for entry requirements.

Visitors to Indonesia are permitted to bring in typical amounts of duty-free cigarettes, alcohol, electronics etc. Do not bring in anything that could be considered lewd or pornographic.


First and foremost – pack light! Most people take far more than they need. If you’re an experienced traveler, you’ve probably met someone whose luggage went missing, so they had to buy things for their trip at their destination. Invariably they buy very little, but have as great a vacation as everyone else. There’s a lesson there! One suggestion is to take fewer, older clothes, then along the way buy souvenir t-shirts etc to wear. You can give the older clothes away to the country’s equivalent of Goodwill, which gives you three benefits – less packing going, less packing coming home, and a nice gesture as well. Most everywhere you stay has laundry facilities, usually send-out. Just using this once on the trip can saves a week’s worth of clothes. The key to light packing is layering and multi-use. Two normal shirts = one thicker shirt; the outer one will be available for later use without washing. This idea is especially useful as you are likely combining cooler elevated areas with tropical, such as Bogor. If you expect to be on the water, remember wet cotton will make you colder, not warmer – so have a synthetic material top for warmth. Contrary to popular thought, long sleeves and pants legs can be cooler than short ones, as the hot sun is prevented from reaching your skin. If you are walking in National Parks, or along undeveloped paths, many of the tracks will be partly overgrown, and the often sharp-edged grasses and brush can scratch bare legs. Long pants and sleeves can also protect against insect bites, necessary at night and recommended during the day. For the same reasons, somewhat longer but wicking lightweight socks are better than short ones, which may expose shins to bites or scratches. It’s likely that you will be walking more during your trip than usual, and on less even paths and sidewalks, so the more absorbent and padding your socks the better. For women for town wear it’s hard to go past the coolness and comfort of a lightweight travel dress. Just make sure that it covers shoulders and is below the knee length, or you team it with a shoulder-covering blouse. Such a dress can easily be accessorized for a fancy restaurant or hotel visit. For women, and men, tank tops and sleeveless t-shirts are not appropriate anywhere except at the beach or on the water in tourist areas (this is true even though you may see women washing themselves topless in a small waterway, in full public view, or either sex sitting on a 90% exposed toilet!). In the most visited areas of Bali such dress is not uncommon among western tourists. However, this reflects the Balinese sense of forgiveness rather than acceptance of the behavior, and we feel it is always preferable when visiting a country to be accepted rather than forgiven. Take a small ziplock bag of detergent with you – this can also be used for your smalls in the hotel room. Please ensure that valuables, medicines, etc are in your carry-on, not your checked luggage. We suggest packing about a week before you leave, and a few days later carry your bags around the house, upstairs and down. Then look at what you can remove, do so, and re-pack - the maxim to follow is “when in doubt, leave it out.” If it’s heavy to handle at home, it will be even more so while traveling, especially with the addition of souvenirs. In some remote areas or smaller accommodations luggage service may not be available, so you may be toting your bags yourself to your room. You will also need to be handling them yourselves at airports, so please be sure that you have packed appropriately. It’s often said to bring a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your luggage is lost. While this can be useful, you can also save the space and just buy a few cheap things on arrival if necessary – a sarong and two t-shirts can be bought in Bali for $10 or less. Unless you are meeting dignitaries or conducting business, there is no need for formal clothes such as jackets or ties, or the equivalent for women. A few 5-star hotels do not allow non-guests to enter in hiking type shoes or sandals.

Depending on your itinerary you may need a towel for the beach. As these are bulky, buy one there – either to bring home as a souvenir, or a cheapie to leave there. A good alternative is to use a sarong instead– it will dry quickly, and so will you. Sarongs, worn by both men and women, should be one of your first purchases; their uses are endless.

Bottled water is cheap and available throughout Indonesia, and you should drink frequently. We recommend buying a water bottle carrier that fits on a belt, and you can then decide whether to take the bottle itself with you, or simply use the plastic water bottles you buy there instead, in the carrier. This latter method saves some packing space going and coming. Water is available in half and one liter bottles. If you are considering buying a small daypack for the trip, look for one with water bottle pouches on the side, but check that they are not so shallow that the bottle falls out when the pack is not vertical.

On flights to Indonesia from the US each person (including children) is allowed 2 checked pieces, not to exceed 70lb each; the maximum size per piece is 62” (length+height+width), with a total of 102” for both. Flights from other countries may have different restrictions. We can think of no reason why you would need anything approaching this limit, and you will not be able to carry this much on flights within the country, nor nowadays on most US internal flights without paying extra. For carry-on luggage the allowance is one piece of maximum dimension 45”, plus a personal item such as a purse, camera bag etc. This limit of one main carry-on includes Business and First Class due to US security concerns. However, regardless of size, weight limit for carry-ons is 15lb per piece; airlines are strict in enforcing all limits. Please be aware that on some smaller aircraft space may be limited, and larger carry-ons may need to be checked; there may not be room at all for a maximum size bag on a full flight. It is suggested that you try to restrict your bags to Indonesian domestic sizes, a maximum of 44lbs. This limit will apply if your itinerary utilizes internal flights; weight is the issue in Southeast Asia, not number of bags, and your bags will be weighed at smaller airports. If the plane is too heavy, some luggage will be left behind for the next flight – which means your bag may not arrive until you have moved on, or even left the country. Larger bags tend to be selected to be left before smaller ones, and often locals’ bags selected before tourists’ bags.

Don’t put your home address or phone number on your outside luggage tags; use a work one if you can. You don’t want to alert anyone that your house will be empty for some time. Put your work phone number and address inside each of your bags, as well. If they are lost, and the outside tag is missing, the airlines can still track you.


Many airlines have frequent flyer partnerships with other airlines, and your ticket may allow you to gain miles. Please check with your ff program to determine coverage, as alliances change. If we are ticketing your travel we will include your ff number in your air record if requested; but please retain all boarding pass stubs in case mileage is not credited – we or our partners are not responsible for accreditation. If you lose your boarding pass stubs and need ticket copies to establish mileage there will be a fee charged. Seat requests will be made by us for you, but cannot be guaranteed as it is under the control of the airlines and may be changed without notice.


Watch a video about arrival at Denpasar (Bali) airport here


Indonesia operates on 220VAC 50Hz; away from major cities electricity supply can be a moving feast, as may be the voltage, especially if you are towards the end of the power supply line. Unfortunately different plugs may be used in different parts of the country, and so the best option is the multi-shape variable plug available from many travel outlets. Many small appliances, such as chargers, can operate at 220/240V or 120V – check for a switch on the unit, move it to 220/240 and tape it in place before you leave. It won’t hurt if you forget to switch it back when you return, but you will smoke it if you do so on arrival, when you’ll be tired. If there’s no switch, read the instructions to see if it auto-senses voltage. If it has neither, then you’ll need an inverter as well as the correct adaptor. Many complete kits come with this. For many travelers the only appliance they wish to take is a hair dryer, but remember that a small hair dryer can be purchased in Indonesia quite cheaply, often cheaper than an adaptor kit here, and many hotels have them in the room, or one can be borrowed from reception.


Indonesia straddles the Equator, and so is generally warm, muggy and tropical. Prepare for warm, sometimes torrential rain, although this is less frequent but still common in most areas from May to November, the most popular time to travel. Don’t expect much humidity below 80% most of the year, and above that in the wet season. In the islands east of Bali the rainfall drops significantly, and a dry and often stark landscape is common. Komodo sees virtually no rain from April to December, for example. At this time the shading effect of clouds is lost, and the full force of the tropical sun means days in the high nineties, and a heat index even higher. Heat stroke can be a real danger under these circumstances.


Indonesia has a simple monetary system, with the Rupiah (Rp, internationally IDR) as the main unit. There are coins, in denominations of 25, 50, 100, 500 & 1,000 Rp, but it is unlikely you will ever see them; occasionally you receive them as change if you use one of the public phone booths, or you are buying very small items in traditional, local use markets or stores. Notes are issued in 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000 & 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 Rp denominations, are differently sized and colored, and have English (Arabic) numerals, so are easy to use. Indonesian banknotes are often horribly dirty, crumpled and nearly illegible pieces of paper , which is strangely in contrast with the need for foreign banknotes to be in pristine condition to be accepted. As the exchange rate fluctuates between about 8500 & 10000 IDR to the US dollar, it’s easy to become an instant millionaire in Indonesia. Worth considering is that the 25Rp coin is used by locals in the same town where 5-star hotel rooms may cost 5 million Rp for one night; this is also a consideration when bargaining for goods.

Exchange rates vary depending where you exchange your money – hotels, banks, money exchangers etc. The simplest system in cities and tourist areas is to exchange some US dollars at the airport – the rate is close to most anywhere, if you use a money changer and not an international outlet - then use ATMs to withdraw money, in Rupiah, as required along the way, or money-exchangers on islands such as Bali. Rates at banks are usually nearly as good, or in some cases as good, as street money exchangers, but the process can take a lot longer to go through. When exchanging money in both airports and on the street check the rate on the board, preferably without commission. Ask the person how much you will get for a certain amount of your money – not the rate, but the final total in your hand. They should show you that on their calculator. Once you’ve agreed, count your Rupiah before handing over your cash. The count it again, as some exchangers are particularly talented at sleight of hand, and will shortchange you. When you check and find it low, they will ask to count it, slipping the missing not back in, of course, then slipping it out as they hand it back. If it’s not right, or if you can’t reach agreement, feel free to move on to another changer. Generally most money changers are honest; there are a few scoundrels. The positions at the airport are especially lucrative and sought after, so they are unwilling to risk losing their position by cheating. If you don’t feel comfortable or confident about using the street exchangers, use a bank which will always be correct. Travelers’ checks generally don’t attract quite as good a rate as currency, and those denominated in lesser currencies may be difficult to cash. Not all changers, or stores, will take travelers checks. Notes must be in excellent, fresh condition, with no writing, stains, tears or significant creases. If there has been a change in notes, such as the changes in US 20-dollar bills, older bills may not be taken; this even applies to the series numbers on the notes. Currently (2008) both the older and newer $US20 bills are accepted; only take bills dated after the year 2000. There are ATMs in major cities and the popular tourist areas, and the rate is good, even with the fee. Make sure you use the debit aspect of your card –it must be Cirrus or Plus certified (these logos will be on the back of the card), and not all banks will accept both. Most credit card companies now add an extra 2 or 3% to the exchange rate; it is still usually a better and more convenient deal than exchanging notes or travelers’ checks. However, you may wish to check and use a fee-free card, such as Capitol One, especially if you intend to make expensive purchases. American Express charges a total of 2%, which makes it the lowest of the fee-charging cards.

Although credit card acceptance is available in the large towns and cities, at hotels, major restaurants and better shops, many places will not accept them for small amounts, and small shops, hawkers and cafes do not accept them at all. They are pretty much just literally plastic in small towns and villages. In addition, there will be a fee applied to credit card purchases, and you run the risk of fraud. Do not allow the card to be taken out of your view – no “machine in back office” ploys where the card may be run several times, to great profit for the merchant. It may very well be there; in this case accompany the clerk to see the transaction being processed. If there’s a mistake, make sure you get any paperwork with the card imprint. It is not unusual for several shops to be associated, and one credit card facility for them all, which may be off-premises. Again, accompany the clerk to where the facility is. Overall, though, Indonesians are honest, and problems are not as common as in some other countries. You will always have more negotiating power when using cash; if you intend to use a credit card this should mentioned prior to final price agreement. You should also advise your credit card company(s) that you are traveling abroad, otherwise the sudden change in spending patterns could trigger a card alert and charge denial. Accepted credit cards are Visa, and Mastercard, many take American Express and some Diners, but none take Discover.

Please be aware that exchange rates fluctuate continuously. You should also be aware that the exchange rate posted in the papers and on the web is the bulk bank rate, and not a retail conversion rate. You can expect to pay up to about five cents more per dollar for cash exchanges, plus conversion fees. Our experience has been that it is cheaper to exchange in the destination country rather than here at home.

Haggling in shops (not restaurants) is standard in Indonesia, and you can often reduce costs by up to 60%; 35% is more common. Start off at half the offered price, occasionally lower. You can often get a better price by buying two or more, or adding something else into the purchase. Once you’ve agreed on the price, you must buy it. If you don’t really want it, the time to break off is earlier on. The shopkeeper won’t sell for less than they want, so feel OK about the bargaining. It’s not unusual when agreement hasn’t been reached for you to hear “OK Mister” as you walk out the door; this means your price is agreed to. Don’t show too much interest in the object of your desire, exclaiming about how it’s so perfect to your wife, husband or friend. This guarantees a high price. You may enter into a discussion about one object, reject the price along the way, and casually pick up your real intent, and ask about it. Your reluctance to buy the first can influence the price of the second. Remember, this is not a life and death struggle, and the amount under question is usually small, so be pleasant. If you don’t have the cash with you for a purchase, say you’ll go and get it and be back (but make sure you do so). We’ve never had an experience where the agreed-upon price has not been remembered correctly, even hours later. Some shops are fixed price, this means what it says. If you do not plan to make any serious purchases while in Indonesia, just normal souvenirs, and many of your meals are included, then $400-$700 will be plenty to take, or to allow for.


Indonesia is a metric country. To convert, use the following approximations:

to multiply by
centimeters inches: 2.5
meters yards 0.9
kilometers miles 1.6
liters gallons 3.8
grams ounces 28.4
kilograms pounds 0.45
hectares acres 0.4

kph          mph
10             6
20            12
60            38
100           63
120           75



Add 2 to the US size, so an 8 in the US is a 10 in Indonesia.


Jackets                    shirt collars
Metric    US           Metric     US
84         34               37       14
87         35               38       15
90         36               39       15.5
93         37               40       16
96         38               41       16.5
99         39               42       17
102        40               43       17.5
105        41               44       18


Try ‘em on

Bali has many good and very cheap tailors, so getting clothing adjusted is simple, quick and cheap, even complicated jobs such as trouser waists and jackets – we’ve even brought clothes from home for this purpose.


Jakarta is12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (GMT+7), and 15 hours ahead of PST. Bali is 13 hours ahead (GMT+8). There is no day light saving time.


Visitors to Indonesia will find the people warm and accepting, if a trifle reserved and formal at times, especially on Bali. On the other hand, most Indonesians enjoy a good laugh, and tend to enjoy life. As in other parts of Southeast Asia, grace, lack of emotion other than polite friendliness, and agreement are very important when dealing with others. Anger, sarcasm, loudness and impatience are always counter-productive, even if it doesn’t appear so at the time. Even crossed or waving arms are considered rude. If you watch how others treat equals, and follow suit, you will enjoy your time in this friendly country. Things tend to be a bit more direct in tourist areas, especially with shop assistants and hawkers at Kuta Beach on Bali. In a few areas, such as at Tanah Lot, pushy child hawkers can be a problem, but this is generally not the case. Once away from the main tourist areas tourists are generally treated in shops and markets just like anyone else.

In common with other regional countries, a laugh or humor is often a cover for nervousness or to overcome a bad situation. Often this seems inappropriate to Westerners, but rest assured you are not being mocked or your concern denigrated; this is just a way of covering an awkward situation. Indonesians do not like to say no, no answer at all is preferred. If someone seems unwilling to directly answer your question, and go out the back to check, don’t be surprised if after a long wait, inquiry as to their whereabouts reveals that they “had to go to Jakarta to see their parents” or similar tale. Accept that this means a “no” answer!

Indonesians dress modestly, and neatly, and you should too. The exception is male field workers, who may just be wearing a sarong. Anything provocative or skin-baring, especially low-cut tops on women and exposed shoulders, should be avoided. Shorts, especially short shorts on men or any on women, are not appropriate for wear away from the beach, pool or distinctly international tourist areas, although it is common to see western tourists doing so. Your Indonesian hosts will not be offended (unless it is done in an important area such as a temple or shrine,) so much as associate shorts with poor and low-class people. However, Indonesians recognize us for what we are – travelers from another country with different ways. If you are visiting a shrine or temple, then you must abide by the local dress code to both avoid giving offence, and possibly being refused entry. A sarong is a great coverall, and at temples you will need to wear a temple sash. These can be rented, or bought if you intend to visit several. The best garb for both men and women is pants, or long skirts for women, and shirts with long sleeves. Footwear should be sandals at a minimum, and as you will be continually removing and replacing your shoes, such sandals or slip-ons make sense. Flip-flops are commonly worn. And speaking of footwear, you should remove your shoes whenever entering a temple, house or residence; locals usually do so at good restaurants and even some shops. Again, look around and follow the locals’ lead.

Personal space is also important to Indonesians (again, as with others in the region). Do not touch anyone on the head, even children; not touching at all, including “friendly” gestures such as an arm around the shoulders or the common western habit of a greeting hug is best. Once again, this seems in contrast to some local customs, where you may even see men walking holding hands or with an arm on a shoulder. However, they know the precise rules that govern this behavior. Don’t crowd, and especially don’t lean over someone; this denotes your superior standing and is therefore insulting. The opposite of the head are the feet, which are considered lowly and dirty. Do not throw them around, place them on furniture or clothing, or loll about with them stuck out forcing others to look at them or avoid them. Don’t point them at people. Don’t point generally; you can indicate something with your thumb. The left hand rule here is the same as in other Muslim countries; it is dirty and should never be used to touch other people, eat with or receive things from other people. You can use your left hand to manipulate utensils, just don’t lift it to your mouth, or use it to take food from a common bowl. Despite all these warnings, you can still relax in Indonesia. Just use common sense, be polite – never ever show anger, which regardless of its deservedness, will always be counter-productive – and avoid touching people, and things will go well. Indonesians understand we are different, and will be quite forgiving of unintentional errors – you won’t even know they occurred.

Like the rest of Asia children are universally loved, so you can’t go wrong admiring them, or allowing others to admire yours. Photos of your own children, or grandchildren, will be looked out with admiration and will help establish a bond.


Indonesian cuisine is one of the gastronomic world’s unsung wonders, and superb food can be found in fine restaurants, ordinary cafes and from street hawkers. Food is generally safe to eat in most restaurants and cafes in tourist areas, although the usual precautions against lettuce and similar raw foods should be followed. Regardless of the care you take, most people get ‘Delhi belly’ from the change of diet if nothing else; take some Imodium and drink lots of water for a day or two and you should be fine. If it persists longer than that you may want to check with a doctor. So, let your tastes lead you where they may. Most restaurants are similar to here, but one style a little different is the Padang restaurant (Rumah Makan Padang), named after its town of origin on Sumatra. This is Indonesia’s fast food. Pre-cooked items are loaded on your table, and you select individual portions from the bowls, rather than taking the whole bowl. At the end of the meal the server counts up what’s left, subtracts that from what was brought out, and gives you a bill, which you pay at the cash register. So a bowl may be presented with 11 pieces of chicken; you take two and your friend one; you are charged just for those three. This is an interesting way to dine, primarily because there is usually no menu (there may be one in the window with prices), so first-timers don’t know what they are trying. Just go with the flow! It’s only in some specific areas, such as northern Sulawesi and parts of Sumatra, that specialty items such as dog, cat and rat (rat is more widespread) are served. If in doubt, the words to know are kuching /cat, anjing/dog and tikus hutan – forest rat. Padang style food tends to be hot; the word to watch for is pedas – hot. Panas is hot in regard to water. Not all sambals – sauces – are hot, but the red ones will be. As a sign of respect to the importance of rice, you should always eat a spoonful before anything else; if you are dining with others from a common plate take just a couple of spoonsful each time, don’t load up your plate. If you have a host, allow him to serve himself first; he may offer to you to take the first serving. Indonesian eat with a spoon in their right hand, and fill it with a fork with their left, or just with their right hand in the Muslim areas. As with other most other Asian cuisines, food is already in bite-sized pieces, so a knife is unnecessary, but you will often need to rip apart whole fish and parts of chicken. When you are finished, lay your utensils facedown together on the plate which indicates you are finished; just placing them randomly will invite the waiter or indicate to the host to bring more food if it’s that sort of restaurant. Spicy, although meaning well-spiced as opposed to bland, can now also mean hot in the hot chili sense, in deference to common US use of the term. While we tend to think of rice as a filler, Asians are very proud of their rice, and their cooking of it, so eating a lot of rice, especially with compliments, will not be seen as rude and avoiding the other dishes.

Water is not safe in Indonesia, not even to brush your teeth. Used bottled water, cheap and plentiful, at all times. In better hotels water will be at your bathroom sink; this is included in the room cost. Other water in the room is charged for. Make sure that you specify no ice if a drink is likely to come with it. Once some has melted into your drink, the damage may be done.

If you are eating away from major hotel or other quality restaurant, we do not recommend taking a look into the kitchen. Just eat and enjoy in ignorance.


You may experience a range of toilet types during your travels, ranging from a normal western style pedestal to the far side of a tree. The three most common are flushing western style, non-flushing western style, and Asian squat style. With the non-flushing pedestal style you’ll see a normal pedestal, but no tank. There will be a large bucket or concrete cistern with a scoop. After you have finished, scoop water into the bowl until it’s clear. Never allow the scoop to touch anything but the clean water of the bucket, and don’t place anything but fresh clean water (there’s often a faucet) in the bucket. There’ll also be another bucket, often covered, for toilet paper. And speaking of toilet paper, there often isn’t any, so have a small supply of your own when traveling. The squat toilet operates on the same principle as the on-flushing pedestal, but there isn’t any pedestal, just a hole in the floor, usually with two foot marks. I’m sure you get the picture. There may be a sink to wash your hands, but often the water will come from the water bucket. Again, under no circumstances put your hands into the bucket, use the scoop to pour water over your hands to wash them. If you at a smaller hotel, your bath/shower may be simply a room with a drain, a large cistern of water and a scoop. Again, just scoop water over yourself, lather, then rinse.


Traffic drives on the left! Well, at least theoretically. This is important not only if you are driving (in a word – don’t), but when you walk across roads. You must look to the RIGHT first – not the left. Never just step off a curb – think first. While there are traffic rules, such as limits of 40 or 60pkh in the city (in a driver’s dreams!) and 80kph in the country, more usually the universal rules of Asia apply – bigger and older and braver (read more stupid) has right of way of smaller, newer and more timid. Everything, from painted lanes to the roadways themselves, are merely suggestions. The most important piece of knowledge is the width of your vehicle, to the millimeter, its stopping length, the same for the other vehicles on the road, and a near-telepathic sense of the intentions of other drivers. Use of the horn is also an essential art. Demure, high-heeled office girls are just as capable of cutting into your immediate future as a tough-looking man in work clothes, so beware of one and all. Indonesian drivers, in fact all Asian and especially the motor scooter drivers in cities, seem more related to birds in a flock or schooling fish for their ability to know what all other members are doing, and flow appropriately with them. Our advice: if you absolutely must drive, which can be a good way to see the more rural areas, hire your car or scooter outside the main cities, especially Jakarta. Under no circumstances arrange to pick up a car at the airport upon your arrival, especially after an international flight. However, the negotiated price of a car and driver is often not much more than the cost to hire a car, and by doing this you can relax and enjoy the scenery. Motor scooters, popular for getting around on Bali, can legitimately be viewed as tempting death. Be very afraid and be even more careful. The word to watch for: Hati Hati! This on a sign means beware or danger. It could be applied in general to driving in Indonesia, though. If you are traveling by local bus, try to sit towards the rear, never right up front next to the driver. This is not just to avoid most damage in the case of an accident, but to save several years of your lifespan by not allowing you to observe what is actually happening on the road immediately ahead of the bus.


Indonesia has crime, naturally, but mostly it is robbery and fraud, rather than crimes of violence, and it’s not common. However, in recent years occasional terrorist activity has become a fact of life in parts of Indonesia, and ethnic violence has been significant in parts of Ambon and nearby islands and around Poso on Sulawesi. The Banda Aceh region is off-limits to westerners due to an independence movement. Other than the terrorist events, westerners have not been targeted or even caught up in the ethnic violence, but it could happen by accident. Over the last few years there has been a rise in Islamic militantism, some of which is directed against westerners, but in a country of 220 million such sentiments are rare. Generally tourists are welcomed everywhere, and are quite safe. As always, wealth flaunting and inappropriate behavior can lead to trouble, so don’t wear unnecessary jewelry, gold watches etc, and don’t leave valuables lying about. Carefully lock your valuables away in your room or hotel safe, with a checked and signed list of the contents. Watch out for pickpockets in crowds. All these problems are easily overcome with a little forethought, so prepare in advance and have a pleasant and relaxing time.


Indonesia has a multi-layered phone system. The easiest way to call home is to purchase an international phone card before leaving, available through the web – we personally use the Enjoyprepaid brand, and use a public or hotel phone. Check that the hotel doesn’t impose a surcharge, or at least an outlandish surcharge, on such calls. There are also public international phone centers in most cities, towns and even villages, and these are both cheap and easy to use. Tell the clerk you want to make an international call – “Internationasi.” You’ll be directed to a booth, where there will most likely be a small running number LED screen. You simply direct dial, and the running total appears on the screen. Once finished, go back to the clerk, and pay. Sometimes there’s a machine instead of a simple screen which prints out a receipt for you to show the clerk. Sometimes there’s just a phone, and the clerk will tell you the price. We’ve not been taken for a ride, or had any difficulty, using this system over many years. It’s also cheap.

Unless you have a special model, and an appropriate international plan, your US cell phone won’t work overseas; even with such a plan the calls will be far more expensive, and incoming calls will cost considerably more for the caller than their normal international rate. Most European and US GSM & 3G phones (typically ATT & T-Mobile supplied phones) will work, as long as they are unlocked (check the web to find out how); you then buy a new SIM card once in country (you can do this in other countries visited as well). If you want to have a cell phone but don’t have a GSM model you can rent one there (or even buy one second-hand), and buy minutes as required. Internet cafes are becoming more widespread, especially in the main tourist areas, and you can log on to check and send emails for little cost. Most ISP providers have a webmail site to access and send your messages. Setting up a Yahoo account will give you more facilities, such as message storage. But remember, being on vacation means just that – you’ll enjoy your stay more by saying to your friends and family “talk to you when we return.”


Nature Travel Specialists LLC/Southeast Asian Natural Adventures is not a medical authority and cannot make recommendations on medical issues; you should seek qualified and knowledgeable assistance on these matters. We strongly recommend that you visit a travel clinic and speak to your personal physician a couple of months prior to travel regarding up to date information about medical matters relevant to your travel.

No immunizations are required for Indonesia, unless you have been to a Yellow Fever country – parts of South America or Africa – in the previous six days, when a Yellow Fever Certificate is required. We highly recommend that your tetanus shot is up to date – though no more prevalent down there than here, tetanus can stop a vacation in its tracks. The Centers for Disease Control,, has recommendations for Southeast Asia. However, they lump all of the region into one, which does not reflect the reality on the ground; eg they advocate malaria protection, which is not really necessary on Bali, or in fact much of the developed part of the country. Along with the State Department people who write the Travel Warnings, CDC is a close relative of your mother and your always-worried doting aunt; therefore read what they say appropriately. (Generally, they feel it’s best for you to stay at home in bed with some warm milk.)

As a general rule all travelers should be covered for Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B can be useful if you may be in contact with blood (eg as a volunteer worker; but don’t forget that a traffic accident could also cause this) or have other fluids exposure. Rabies is present, but no more likely than in the US. Typhoid vaccination is often recommended as outbreaks can be sudden, though unlikely, and there are drug-resistant strains. However, efficacy of the vaccine varies between 50 & 80%, and can give a false sense of security, and other than in cases of an overwhelming outbreak, which is highly unlikely in tourist-traveled areas, attention to hygiene of food and water should be effective prevention. Polio is present, and although most adults have been vaccinated as a child, a single adult booster shot is also required for permanent protection. Malaria is generally not a problem except in more remote areas and there have been reports from Komodo (although a one-day dry season visit, with suitable insect protection, should not present any danger); if you include such areas in your travel plans, short-term protection such as MalaroneTM is most suitable (see your doctor regarding individual suitability).

As there are numerous insect-borne diseases, including a fatal form of Dengue Fever, the best protection is preventative. Don’t get bitten. Wear long sleeves and pants, especially at dawn and dusk, apply insect repellent to exposed areas, and remember that nocturnal mosquitoes may be encountered during the day in dark places such as toilets.

Indonesia does not have extensive high-quality medical facilities, and other than pharmaceutical needs and first response to minor concerns, such as cuts, breaks and diarrhea, any major medical needs are best met elsewhere, such as Singapore. Many US insurance plans do not cover or restrict services overseas – please check with yours. We highly recommend travel insurance; transport costs, especially from remote areas can be high, and aren’t usually covered by your own insurance. Southeast Asian Natural Adventures can assist you in obtaining travel insurance from a reputable third-party insurer. US prescriptions cannot be filled in Indonesia, but arrangements can be made by a pharmacy to get a prescription. If you wish to replenish your supply while overseas you will need to visit an in-country doctor for a local prescription. Such visits are inexpensive. We recommend taking a copy of your current prescription(s) with you to ensure an exact replacement. Please note that some specialized drugs may not be available overseas, but others only available here through prescription by be available over the counter.

The greatest medical risks in Indonesia are diarrhea and sunburn; even in cloudy weather burning is possible; for fair-skinned people skin damage can occur in as little as 20 minutes in summer. Cover up with a hat and sunscreen. Diarrhea is often a function of change as much as infection per se – our bodies are just not used to the different organisms and foods. Take some Imodium or Pepto-Bismol at the first signs, and drink plenty of clean water to avoid dehydration, the most dangerous effect. Take a small medical kit with you for the normal bumps and scrapes.


To help recover lost cameras or memory cards photograph your name address and leave the image on each card. Taking a photo of your hotel name when you arrive may also help quickly return a lost camera, or just photograph your hotel list. Although large capacity memory cards can hold all your photos, they do get corrupted, and we recommend using several smaller cards rather than one large one. Downloading photos via the internet from time to time can also prevent loss of those precious memories. Don’t wait until you arrive to learn about your new camera – saving $50 at the duty-free store or on a last-minute web bargain isn’t a deal if you lose the memories of a $5000 once-in-a-lifetime trip.

As you enter each town or area take a photo of the town’s name, as the first shot and when you depart. Six months later you’ll be able to tell where you took the shot and work out general scenery in between. This also works for hotels, attractions, etc.

Ziplock bags are the duct tape of travel; always carry a few of various sizes. In flight they can be used to enclose tubes that might leak due to pressure changes, including ballpoint pens. Large sizes can hold wet swimsuits, useful if you want to be in the water on the day of your return. They’re also good for smelly or just dirty socks. Also take a few plastic grocery bags for larger dirty items, such as shoes. A little laundry detergent in a ziplock will also be useful along the way. On the beach or in a boat a ziplock is useful for carrying your camera to avoid sand and salt spray; securely fastened it will keep water out for long enough if your camera (or phone) is briefly dropped in water.

While a poncho or other wet gear should be part of your luggage, a decent travel umbrella is very useful in the tropics especially, as the rain is often of short duration and comes straight down. Umbrellas roll back up into their sheath, and can be placed in a grocery bag when wet, whereas bulkier wet weather gear is harder to keep separate from dry clothes, and is often makes you pretty steamy while wearing it.

If you plan to buy clothing locally, save space on your return by taking old clothes that you no longer wear, wear them until you replace them during your stay with local goods, then leave them in Belize, preferably with locals who will use and appreciate them. This way your bag will be no fuller on the return then when you departed the US.

Save space by putting non-prescription pills in one container, but don’t forget to include a guide – colors, eg – as to what each one is. Prescription pills are best left in their own container, or if you buy them in bulk transfer to a small one but make sure you take your prescription with you to avoid problems at borders.

If you a birder, and taking a guide, here’s a suggestion to make IDs easier. Go through the book, and work out which birds occur in the area you’ll be visiting, and maybe the altitudes. Use colored dots from the office supply store to mark the plates of the possibilities. We use codes such as blue for lowland only, green for above 1000m only, etc; dots can be overlapped for wider ranges. An “R” for “very rare” can be written on the dot to further refine things. When you have to quickly look at a page of unfamiliar and confusingly similar birds, the possibilities will stand out from the rest. It’s quicker, and more concise than making written notes.



Never try to bribe an official, especially in front of others. Having said that, sometimes problems can be overcome with a little diplomatic fine-paying. If it seems that there’s a problem – say your passport is a few days short, or your driver is speeding – admit that this has caused a great problem for the good official, and you are very sorry. Never argue. A phrase along the lines of “at home in the US/UK/Australia we have a system of on-the-spot fines. Do you have such a system here?” may open the way to a solution. This is preferably done in the privacy of the official’s office.



The US Dept of State has various useful items for travel abroad, including travel alerts and warnings, and country specific information. While these are usually a bit more frantic than is truly necessary, they will alert you to potential problems. The section on traveling abroad also has some good information.


The following is a general list – your own itinerary may require changes, depending on your season of travel. We’ve left off the more obvious things, such as underwear and toiletries.

Things to leave at home
1. most jewelry
2. suits, jackets, ties and other formalwear
3. high heels
4. fussiness, exactitude, meticulousness and need for precision

Things to pack
1. *easy-going attitude (keep on your person at all times)
2. 4 or 5 light weight cotton or modern synthetic mix shirts – not plain synthetic which can be hot
3. 1 or 2 pairs of shorts if you have boat or beach time, not really necessary otherwise
4. 2 - 3 pants – zip-offs legs are great and save on the second pair of shorts
5. light/medium sweater &/or vest or light jacket depending on season & itinerary
6. light to medium rain-proof/resistant jacket
7. swimwear
8. a couple of t-shirts – or buy them there
9. good medium weight walking shoes/sneakers – slip-ons make for easy removal
10. sports sandals if you have beach or boat time
11. 5 or 6 pairs moisture absorbent easily washed socks
12. hat – not just a cap, but one with a sun brim that gives protection to the ears
13. light-weight pocket hooded poncho – one that covers all of you, including your head and camera in case of unexpected rain
14. waist pack/small day pack & money belt

15. *camera and film – print film is easily bought in Indonesia; slide film can be a little more difficult, and some speeds and types may be hard to find
16. travel umbrella
17. *binoculars – 8x32 0r 8x40 are ideal
18. small flashlight or headlamp
19. a few ziplock bags of various sizes – very useful for wet swimwear, dirty socks etc
20. small travel alarm clock
21. small ziplock bag of laundry detergent
22. electrical adaptor/inverter kit if taking any appliances or chargers
23. water bottle/carrier
24. a few band-aids, antiseptic cream, anti-itch cream and similar items; tampons

25. *medicines – if you don’t bring the original containers, have a copy of the prescription with you. Medicines should be in your carry-on, not checked luggage
26. extra pair of eyeglasses/lenses and repair kit
27. sunglasses – polarizing are useful for the water
28. sunscreen & insect repellant (not aerosol)
29. *ear plugs & eye shades – make for a much more restful flight and in some hotel rooms when you are still out of synch. Neck rest if you like them.
30. facecloth – hotels often don’t have these; personal wipes are also very useful

31. *passport, tickets, travel insurance certificate, credit cards, cash, itinerary, receipts for new purchases such as cameras
32. copies of travel and personal documents
33. *dive certificate and logbook if you intend to dive

*on person or in carry-on