Across Indonesia’s 17,000 plus islands, there is something for everyone – even the pickiest of travellers. As the country opens up further to foreign tourists, visitors are finding that the beautiful destinations span far beyond Bali and Papua.
Many locations which showcase the country’s most exquisite sceneries are not located on the beaten paths of Ubud or Bromo Mountain. Nagari Pariangan in West Sumatra, for example, has been named one of the best villages in the world by Budget Travel. Bali’s Munduk village or Baduy villlage in Banten also offer unique experiences for any adventurer.
There are seemingly endless hidden gems just waiting to be discovered across the archipelago. But travelling to them may not be an easy task, especially for foreigners with limited knowledge.
Here are some tips to help you get the best out of your travels.
- Have reliable local contacts
Travelling to Jakarta or any other major city in Indonesia may not require the help of a local as many citizens speak English. However, access to education is still limited in most remote areas, so foreigners will likely experience difficulties in communicating.
Travelling in a tour group with guides, tourists may not face many troubles with a language barrier, but for independent travellers it is a different story. In remote areas, local expertise is often needed not only for communicating, but also to help with local authorities, transport services and price bargaining.
Foreign tourists should keep in mind that while prices are lower, particularly at street stalls, most vendors will push for higher prices from foreigners. Bargaining skills are essential and it may be better to ask a local friend to get you the best deal.
- Always be prepared
Although communities in remote areas are moving quickly to keep up with technology, many villages are still without access to internet or even electricity.
To survive days without WiFi access, visitors may want to buy a local SIM card for emergency use. Local telco providers usually charge around Rp.70,000 (US$5.27) for 5 GB of data.
ATMs are also harder to find and transactions are more likely to be done in cash. Foreigners and local tourists are advised to bring cash for all transactions.
Most roads in remote areas are not well maintained. However, there are still plenty of options to get around. Renting motorbikes can be an option on better roads. Prices for motorbike rentals throughout the country range from Rp.66,000 (US$5) per day or between Rp.265,000 and Rp.330,000 (US$20 to US$25) per week.
Another safer alternative is to hire motorbike drivers but be sure to haggle for a reasonable price.
- Be smart, savvy and safe
Levels of crime in the archipelago as a whole are relatively moderate with pickpocketing and theft being the most reported crimes.
That said, the type of crime differs in each area of Indonesia. In Papua and West Papua provinces, frequent violent clashes occur between anti-government groups and authorities amid political tensions. Permits from the National Police Headquarters in Jakarta are often required for foreigners to travel to the area.
Maluku, Aceh and Central Sulawesi are also provinces which require visitors to be on high alert.
- Stay fit and healthy during your travels
Unlike major cities like Jakarta, Surabaya or in Bali, remote areas come with very limited healthcare options. Rural areas of Indonesia are prone to malaria, dengue fever, cholera and typhoid.
Malaria and dengue fever are carried by mosquitoes, especially in Papua and West Papua, North Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara, North Sumatra and Kalimantan.
Additionally, rural areas often have limited access to sterile water and clean food which may lead to a cholera infection or typhoid.
Generally, prevention is better than treatment and so travellers are advised to obtain travel insurance and get their vaccinations prior to the trip. For diseases like malaria, tourists should bring mosquito nets and long-sleeved clothing to prevent mosquito bites.
- Get to know Indonesia’s geography
Over the past 15 years, Indonesia has made plenty of headlines for its natural disasters which have claimed thousands of lives.
Located along the notorious Ring of Fire, the archipelago is prone to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Mountainous regions are also prone to landslides and flooding.
Indonesia boasts the world’s most active volcanoes numbering 129, and which, while part of the country’s unique sights for travellers, can be dangerous with research showing at least one significant eruption each year. Evacuations of communities within a 6-kilometre radius are standard during eruptions. Readers are advised to check local news reports before planning travel.
- Study up on social and religious traditions
Indonesia is one of the world’s most diverse countries with over 1,340 different cultures and religions, all with their own traditions. When travelling the country, one must relish not just the natural beauties of the landscape but also the generous hospitality of local residents.
To get the most out of the experience, it is important to study the basics of traditions and language of the destination. Tourists are advised to wear appropriate clothing and avoid behaviours which may be prohibited by host communities.