Sumatra Travel Information
Indonesia spans three time zones. GMT +7 (West, including Java and Sumatra), GMT +8 (Central, including Bali, Sulawesi and Lombok), GMT +9 (East, including Irian Jaya).
Electrical current is 220/380 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European two-pin and UK-style three-pin.
Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, but many dialects are spoken. English is widely understood in Jakarta and tourist resorts.
There are a number of health risks associated with travel to Indonesia and medical advice should be taken at least three weeks before departing. Yellow fever vaccinations are required for those coming from yellow fever areas. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B are recommended, and a typhoid vaccination may be recommended fot those spending time in rural areas. Malaria is a year-round risk in much of Indonesia, but not in Jakarta or the tourist resorts of Java and Bali. The dengue fever mosquito is found throughout Indonesia and visitors should be aware of a significant increase in reported cases of dengue fever throughout the country during the rainy season. Outbreaks of chikungunya fever, also from mosquitoes, have occurred regularly in Indonesia in recent years.
Travellers' diarrhoea is a major risk; visitors should only drink sealed bottled water and avoid dairy products, uncooked meat, salads and unpeeled fruit. Poor sanitation and eating contaminated food can increase the risk of cholera, typhoid and other diseases. The standard of local medical care is poor and very expensive. It is essential to take out comprehensive medical and travel insurance.
Major hotels add a 10 percent service charge to bills in Indonesia and, where it is not included, a tip of between five to 10 percent of the bill is appreciated. Airport porters usually receive around Rp 2,000 per small bag. Tipping taxi and rental car drivers is not mandatory but if you do choose to tip Rp 1,000 is sufficient for taxi drivers and a little more for rental car drivers.
Following the infamous bombings in Bali back in October 2005, there remains a risk of terrorism directed against foreigners throughout the country. It is recommended that visitors contact their foreign office for the latest travel advice before travelling to Indonesia. The security situation remains unsettled in central Sulawesi and foreigners are advised to avoid parts of Maluku, particularly Ambon. Visitors are also advised to be cautious if travelling to Aceh. Religious violence and unstable politics are an ongoing problem in Indonesia and travellers should keep an eye on current affairs.
Indonesia has a high crime rate and theft and petty crime is common in tourist areas and on public transport. Credit card fraud is on the increase. Flooding and landslides occur frequently during the rainy season between December and March. Not all Indonesian airlines are considered safe and travellers should do some research into reputable airlines before booking.
Indonesian people are generally friendly and polite and while they understand that Western culture is different to their own, it will be appreciated if their customs are respected. Religious customs should also be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. Visitors should always be polite and avoid public displays of affection. It is considered impolite to use the left hand for passing or accepting things. Appropriate dress is important in places of worship and women should dress conservatively, covering the shoulders and legs. The concept of 'saving face' is very important and public displays of anger, ridicule and blame are considered extremely vulgar and bad mannered. In Jakarta a law bans people from giving money to beggars, buskers and unofficial traffic guides in an attempt to 'bring order' to the city. Offenders could face imprisonment and fines. Gambling is illegal.
Due to the hot and tropical climate, formal business attire in a light, cool material is the best option. Indonesia is largely Muslim so dress should be conservative, especially for women. Business cards are often exchanged and it is customary to shake hands with a slight bow when greeting and departing. Some Indonesian names can be long and hard to pronounce and making an effort to get it right when greeting someone will be appreciated. It is best to use formal titles such as Doctor, or 'Bapak' for Mr and 'Ibu' for Madam. Business hours vary; government offices are usually open from 7am to 3pm and small businesses from 8am or 9am to 4pm or 5pm.
The international access code for Indonesia is +62. The local mobile phone operators use GSM networks and have roaming agreements with most international operators. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Travellers to Indonesia over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 50 cigars or 200 cigarettes or 100g tobacco; alcohol up to 1 litre; perfume for personal use; and personal goods to the value of US$250 per passenger or US$1,000 per family. Travellers not entering on a tourist visa will have to pay duties for photo and film cameras unless these have been registered in their passport by Indonesian Customs. Electronic equipment may not be imported to the country. Prohibited items include Chinese medicines and prints, narcotics, firearms and ammunition, pornography, cordless telephones, fresh fruit or goods to be used for commercial gain.
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