INDONESIA consist of two root Greek Words: "Indos" meaning Indian and "Nesos" meaning island. This is an excellent description of the archipelago, as there are an estimated 17,508 islands, some nothing more than tiny outcropping of barren rock, others as California or Spain and covered in dense tropical jungle. Approximately 6,000 of these islands are inhabited, with five main islands and 30 smaller archipelagoes serving as home to the majority of the population. The main islands are Sumatra (473,606 sq.km), Kalimantan (539,460 sq.km), Sulawesi (189,216 sq.km), Irian Jaya (421,981 sq.km), and Java (132,187 sq.km).
The islands and people of Indonesia constitute the fourth most populated nation in the world, with about 200 million people.
The majority is of Malay descen. The population is predominantly Moslem. Nevertheless, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and other religions are freely practiced.
Indonesia offers supperb luxury hotels and resorts along the beach on secluded mountains or in city centres across the country. Medium sized, three stars hotels can be found in many cities as well as in holiday resorts. For those who travelling on shoestring budgets, clean and friendly homestays or losmen are available.
In Jakarta, the small losmens at Jalan Jaksa, near the Gambir train station is a favourite with students and backpackers. While businessmen will go for the deluxe hotels. Medium sized three and four star hotels are spread out in this vast city. Near the Soekarno Hatta Airport there are two airport hotels available; one located outside the airport and another inside the airport terminal.
In Bali, there are hotels along the beaches, and in the hills overlooking lush valleys. From three storied buildings to Balinese styled villages, all offer comfort and luxury service. There are of course smaller hotels with cheaper rates. All are available, but during peak season in July, August, September or around Christmas and New Year, make sure to book early.
In Yogyakarta, comfortable and clean homestays as well as medium and luxurious hotels welcome visitors to this cradle of Javanese culture
Indonesia has several international airports. Besides the Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta which serves both as gateway to the country and hub to all of Indonesia's provinces, international flights also arrive at and leave direct from Bali and Surabaya. There are direct regional flights from Singapore and Malaysia to several destinations including Medan, Padang, Pekanbaru, Solo, Lombok, Makassar (Ujung Pandang), Manado, and from Australia to Kupang and Bali.
Roads on Java, Bali, Lombok, parts of Sumatera, Kalimantan and Sulawesi are good for inter-province travel by car or coach. Rail travel is available all across Java, short distances in North and South Sumatera. Metered taxis or cars can be hired in all large cities. For a leisurely and quaint sight-seeing drive, try the andong or becak in Yogya or other types of horse-drawn carts.
Pelni shipping lines operate large inter-island ferries which offer deck-class to first class fares. For short hops there are local prahus with or without outboard motor.
In most bigger cities and some towns as well, taxis are available, though only in Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, and Bali metered taxis are commonplace. In other cities and tourist areas one can hire cars, usually chauffeur-driven and paid by the hour or for each one-way trip. Taxi reservation stand is available inside the International arrival hall. An airport surcharge, plus toll road fees will be added to the metered fare.
Situated completely in the tropics, Indonesia is known as the "belt" of emeralds across the equator. It has warm tropical weather with mostly sunshine and intermittent rain. The dry season lasts from June to September, and the rainy season from December to March. The transitional period between these two seasons alternates between gorgeous sun-filled days and occasional thunderstorms. Even in the midst of the wet season temperatures range from 21 degrees (70°F) to 33 degrees Celsius (90°F), except at higher altitudes which can be much cooler. The heaviest rainfalls are usually recorded in December and January. Average humidity is generally between 70% and 100 %.
All visitors to Indonesia must be in possesion of passport valid for at least six months with proof of onward passage, either return or through tickets.
Visas are waived for nationals of 11 countries for visits of no more than one month (non-extendable). The countries are: Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Phillipine, Hongkong Special Administration Region, Macau Special Administration Region, Chili, Marroco, Turkey, and Peru. For those who are not nationals of the above-stated countries and not entitled for free visa facility, the tourist visa can be obtained on the day of arrival according to the valid procedures and rules. Please note that a small fee will be charged. Please consult with Indonesian embassy or consulate for further information on visa.
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The local currency is the Rupiah. Major world currencies, either banknotes or travellers cheques, are easily exchanged at banks and moneychangers in major tourist destinations. It is advisable to carry sufficient amounts of Rupiah when travelling to smaller towns or outer provinces. Banknotes are available in denominations of 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000, 100000, while coins come in denominations of 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. (You'll need to show your passport to exchange money, and make sure you count what you're given). Major credit cards are accepted at most hotels and restaurants in main cities.
Most hotels use 220 volts 50 cycles and two-pronged plugs. However it is not uncommon to find some hotels using 110 volts, particularly in the provinces. Check before using an appliance. Some hotels supply adaptors on request.
International certificates of valid small-pox, cholera and yellow vaccinations are required only from travellers coming from infected areas.
Indonesia streches across three time zones: Western part of Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, West and Central Kalimantan) + 7 GMT, Central part of Indonesia (Bali, South and East Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Nusa Tenggara) + 8 GMT, Eastern part of Indonesia (Maluku and Irian Jaya) +9 GMT.
Bahasa Indonesia is the official language. There are many dialects. English is the most widely understood foreign language.
OFFICE HOURS AND BUSINESS HOURS
Government offices open from 08.00 AM - 15.00 PM, Monday to Thursday, 08.00 AM - 11.30 AM on Friday. Business office hours vary. Some from 08.00 AM to 16.00 PM, others : 09.00 AM to 17.00. Most office closed on Saturdays. Bank hours are 08.00 AM or 08.30 to 16.00 hours - mostly Monday to Friday.
Many of Indonesia's main cities have department stores, supermarkets and large shopping complexes. Retail hours vary considerably, though most shops open from 09.00 AM to 21.00 PM, seven days a week. All department stores and many shops have fixed price policy, however, bargaining is expected in traditional markets and smaller shops.
If you like to bargain, then you'll have lots of fun in the markets and souvenir shops of Jakarta. But don't get carried away. The idea of bargaining is to arrive at a mutually acceptable price, not to squeeze the shopkeeper into bankruptcy. Negotiate for what you're worth, but don't be abusive or patronizing, and don't walk away from a purchase for the sake of Rp 1000! Bargaining is not universal, however, and more and more outlets are fixing the price of their merchandise.
The main staple food of the majority of the population is rice. Coconut milk and hot chili peppers are popular cooking ingredients nationwide. Tastes range from very spicy dishes of meat; fish and vegetables to those that are quite sweet. The most popular dishes are "nasi goreng" (fried rice) which is often served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, "satay" barbequed meat or chicken on skewers and "gado-gado", a vegetable salad with a peanut sauce. All are most compatible with international tastes. In the main tourist centers and cities, restaurants catering to international visitors are many, from fine continental grill rooms to Japanese specialty restaurants. Chinese restaurants are found in all towns throughout Indonesia. Tropical and subtropical fruits are available year round. Bottled drinking water can be purchased everywhere.
Major hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to bills. Where it is not included a tip of between 5% to 10% of the bill would be appropriate if service is satisfactory.
Dress is generally informal in Indonesia. Light fabrics are recommended due to the warm, humid climate. For men, a jacket and tie is considered appropriate when making officials calls or non formal occasions. Or, follow local custom by wearing a long-sleeve batik shirt. It is recommended to bring a sweater or light jacket for travel to mountain areas. Shorts and beachwear are not considered appropriate except at sports facilities and on the beaches, and never appropriate for visits to temples, mosques and other places of worship.
Long distance calls within Indonesia are by direct dial. International Direct Dial (IDD) is available from major cities and hotels. Public phones counters are available in coins, cards, chips and (in some tourist areas) credit card. There are also some “WARTEL” or Telecommunication Kiosk where you can do IDD, long distance call, sending fax, etc. In big cities, you can also find some internet kiosk.