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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Indonesia Travel Tips I

Indonesia is the biggest archipelago in the world. It has 5 big islands, (Sumatera, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua); and many other thousands small islands. Yes ... it is a huge country. It is not only Bali or Jakarta :). I have some friends from overseas and most of them are only familiar with Bali or Jakarta. It has about 300 ethnic groups and each group has its own culture, tradition, and language. So you can imagine how rich Indonesia is in terms of its multi-ethnic cultures, traditions and languages ...

Travelling to Indonesia can be an adventurous unique experience for you, apart from travelling to Bali of course. I think Bali is the most traveller-friendly place in Indonesia.
Well, may be some general traveling tips from me can help you to prepare before your visit to Indonesia.
Here you go:

1. Basically, there are only two seasons here: drought season (June to October) and rainy season (November to March). We have sunshine the all year. The best time to visit is during drought season as you do not have to worry about the rain and floods. The general temperature is 21°C (41°F) - 33°C (62°F). Humidity is high at all times, on average of 70%. So sunblock lotion is a must to avoid sunburning.

2. There are three different time zones here, namely West Indonesia Time (WIB: Waktu Indonesia Barat), Central Indonesia Time (WITA: Waktu Indonesia Tengah), and East Indonesia Time (WIT :Waktu Indonesia Timur).
West Indonesia Time/ WIB is UTC/GMT + 7 hours includes Sumatera, Java (including Jakarta) and Western and Central Kalimantan.
Central Indonesia Time/ WITA is UTC/GMT + 8 hours includes Eastern and Southern Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali and Nusa Tenggara.
East Indonesia Time/ WIT is UTC/GMT + 9hours includes Maluku and Papua.
So, always check the local time if you travel across the different time zone cities.

3. For electricity, we use 220 Volts and a two-pronged plug.

4. To make calls or send emails to your hometown/ home country is quite easy. The long distance calls within Indonesia, international calls, facsimile and internet services are available in most of big cities and hotels If you have a limited budget to make a call, you can go to the telecommunication offices, known as WARTEL (Warung Telekomunikasi). It is cheaper than making a call from the hotel. There are also public internet services (WARNET) available in big cities.
You also can accept international calls from your home country. Indonesia country code is +62. Check with the hotel for the local area code, eg. Surabaya area code is 031.

5. Do not expect a good and cheap public transport services here :(. The cheap public transports, like ‘bemos’, ‘bajajs’, and busses, are crowded, not reliable and not safe. If you still want to try the public transports, just be aware to pick-pockets or robbery. Be careful with your belongings. There is a new public transport in Jakarta, Trans Jakarta Busway. I have not tried this bus, so I do not how good it is.
Alternatively, you can take metered-cabs (available in some big cities in Indonesia, like Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Solo, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Bali and Lampung) or rent a car (for the rest of other cities). Yup, it is a bit more expensive …
If you want to take a cab, hire a good one. Check with the hotel where you stay. Just be aware, there are some bad and unsafe taxis especially in Jakarta … the driver purposely takes you in the middle of traffic jam or does not take you through direct route to your destination … as a result, you have to pay extra.

If you want to rent a car, it is better to rent it with the driver. First, because we drive on the right hand side of the road here. So it would be a problem for you who are from the left-hand side driving country. Second, most of the road sign boards here are in Indonesian ... could be a problem if you do not familiar with Indonesian. Third, even you are the best driver in your home country, the traffic here is just crazy ... you will not only have to share your way with other lots of cars on the street, but also busses, bemos, motorcycles, bicycles, becaks (in some cities), people crossing the street etc, so you have to know artistically how to drive safely here. If you rent a car, then, it is important to know all the renting terms and conditions and the fare including fuel or driver meal.
In some big cities, you will find people sell food, snacks, drinks etc or singing beggar or beggar asking for money at the traffic light. Just wave your hand to them and do not open your window for safety reason ... just to avoid robbery.

More tips on the next post ...

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