Indonesia is a captivating country that offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant cities. From stunning beaches and ancient temples to lush rainforests and active volcanoes, there is something for everyone to enjoy. However, like any travel destination, it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks and take necessary precautions. In this travel guide, we’ll provide you with valuable insights and tips to ensure a safe and memorable journey through Indonesia.
Terrorism: Staying Vigilant
As a responsible traveler, it’s crucial to stay informed about the global threat of terrorism. Indonesia, like many other countries, is susceptible to acts of terrorism. Terrorist groups and individuals may view the UK and British nationals as targets. Therefore, it’s important to remain vigilant at all times. To reduce your risk, be mindful of your surroundings and follow the advice of local authorities. You can find valuable safety information on UK Counter Terrorism Policing’s website.
Terrorism in Indonesia: A Persistent Threat
Indonesia has faced a persistent threat from Islamist extremism. Although the Indonesian authorities have successfully disrupted several attack plans and made arrests, the risk remains high. Extremists often target government and law enforcement interests, places of worship, and Western interests. Small-scale attacks occur regularly, and potential targets include beach resorts, bars and restaurants, hotels, markets, shopping malls, tourist attractions, and foreign embassies, among others.
To ensure your safety, it’s crucial to follow the advice of local authorities and maintain a high level of security awareness, especially in crowded places and during large gatherings. Additionally, exercise caution during holiday periods such as Christmas, New Year, Easter, Chinese New Year, Nyepi (Balinese New Year), Islamic celebrations, local elections, presidential inaugurations, and Independence Day.
Recent attacks in Indonesia serve as a reminder of the ongoing threat. For example, in 2022, a suicide bomber attacked a Police post in Bandung, resulting in casualties. Similar attacks occurred in previous years, targeting places like churches and police stations. Stay informed about the current situation and take necessary precautions during your visit.
Political Situation: Stability and Protests
Indonesia’s political situation is generally stable. However, internal and external developments, such as elections and events in the Middle East, can trigger protests or unrest. Nationwide student protests took place in 2019 and 2020, and although they have subsided, there is a possibility of their recurrence at any time.
To ensure your safety, it’s advisable to avoid all protests, demonstrations, and political rallies. These events can quickly turn violent without notice. Stay updated with the latest news and follow the guidance of local authorities.
Crime: Taking Precautions
Every traveler should be mindful of potential crime risks when visiting any destination. Indonesia is no exception, and it’s important to exercise caution and take necessary precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
Sexual Assault: Taking Extra Care
Reported cases of rape and sexual assault are relatively high in Bali and Lombok. To minimize the risk, exercise the same caution you would in the UK when traveling at night and avoid poorly lit areas. If you need to take a taxi, use only registered companies and ensure that the driver’s identity matches the information provided. Be cautious of drivers claiming to be registered with ride-hailing apps and avoid accepting drinks from strangers at clubs and parties.
Protecting Your Belongings: Be Alert
Street crime and pickpocketing are common in busy tourist areas, especially in Bali. To protect your belongings, conceal your bags as much as possible and carry only essential items. Keep a close eye on your passport and bank cards. When using public transport or driving, ensure that doors are locked at all times.
Scams: Stay Cautious
Credit card fraud is prevalent in Indonesia. To avoid falling victim to scams, never lose sight of your card during transactions. Be cautious if you come across ATMs with fake telephone numbers advising customers to report problems. Use only licensed currency exchangers, identified by the presence of an “Authorized Money Changer” sign, official logos, and certificates issued by the Bank of Indonesia. Always exercise caution and double-check the integrity of bottle seals when purchasing alcoholic beverages.
Drink and Food Safety: Taking Precautions
Reports of sexual assaults, drink spiking, and drink poisoning have been documented in Bali, Lombok, and the Gili Islands. To protect yourself, ensure that your drinks are prepared in front of you and never accept drinks from strangers. Be cautious of visitors who may attempt to rob you after taking them to your hotel room. Exercise moderation when consuming alcohol, as drinks served in bars may be stronger than those in the UK. Be aware of your alcohol limits and avoid consuming counterfeit or adulterated alcoholic beverages.
Laws and Cultural Differences: Understanding the Basics
Respecting local laws and cultural differences is essential while traveling in Indonesia. Familiarize yourself with the following aspects to ensure a respectful and hassle-free experience.
Religious Holidays: Observing Traditions
During religious holidays like Ramadan, it’s important to be mindful of local customs and traditions. Refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum in public during daytime hours. Keep the volume of music low and avoid swearing in public. Check the opening hours of shops and restaurants, as they may vary during this period. Respect local dress codes, especially during Ramadan, as clothing that does not meet the requirements may cause offense. Exercise caution during driving, as traffic may become erratic near dusk.
Balinese New Year: A Day of Silence
Nyepi, Balinese New Year, is a unique celebration in Bali. On this day, all people are required to observe a day of silence by staying indoors, turning off lights, and refraining from making noise. Ngurah Rai International Airport remains closed for the entire day. Emergency services and hospitals, however, continue their operations.
Personal Identification: Document Verification
In accordance with Indonesian immigration regulations, you must carry a valid travel document, such as a passport, or a stay permit (KITAS or KITAP) at all times. Be prepared to present these documents upon request by an immigration officer.
Alcohol Laws and Illicit Drugs
In the province of Aceh, consumption, production, and distribution of alcohol are illegal due to Sharia law. Punishment for violating this law includes public caning. Engaging in illegal drug-related activities is strictly prohibited in Indonesia. Possession, trafficking, and manufacturing of illegal drugs are serious offenses carrying lengthy prison sentences or even the death penalty. Stay away from drugs and be cautious of criminal organizations attempting to involve you in drug trafficking.
LGBT+ Travelers: Laws and Restrictions
Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that enforces Sharia law. Homosexual activity is illegal under this law, applying to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Punishments for violating this law include public caning, prison sentences, or fines. LGBT+ travelers should exercise caution and be aware of local laws and customs.
Wildlife, Animal Products, and Souvenirs: Protecting the Environment
Buying, selling, capturing, or killing protected wild animals or trading their parts without a license is illegal in Indonesia. The country is a signatory to international agreements banning trade in ivory and tiger parts. Trafficking in illegal goods can result in prosecution, imprisonment, and significant fines.
Gambling and Extra-Marital Sex: Regional Laws
Gambling is illegal under Sharia law in Aceh, carrying punishments such as public caning, imprisonment, or fines. Extra-marital sex is also illegal in Aceh and can lead to public caning following a Sharia court process.
Transport Risks: Ensuring Safe Journeys
Understanding the potential risks associated with transportation is crucial for a safe trip in Indonesia. Whether you’re traveling by road, sea, or air, taking precautions is essential.
Road Travel: Licenses and Precautions
It’s important to note that UK driving licenses are not valid for driving in Indonesia. However, you can drive using an International Driving Permit issued in Indonesia. Before driving or hiring any type of vehicle, ensure that you possess the appropriate license and check your travel insurance coverage. Remember that traffic discipline is often poor, particularly concerning mopeds and motorbikes. Always wear a helmet when riding these vehicles. Employing a private driver or hiring a car with a driver is a viable option, especially as some multinational companies prohibit their expatriate staff from driving in Indonesia.
Sea Travel: Safety Measures
Travelling by boat or ferry can be risky due to rapidly changing sea conditions, overcrowding, poor maintenance, and varying safety standards. Prioritize safety when choosing your mode of sea transport. Ensure that safety equipment, such as life jackets, is readily available. If you’re traveling after dark, confirm that the vessel is adequately equipped. Bear in mind that attacks against ships have occurred in Indonesian waters. Take precautions to minimize theft risks, establish secure areas on board, and report any incidents to the relevant authorities.
Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters: Staying Informed
Indonesia is prone to extreme weather and natural disasters. Familiarize yourself with the risks associated with volcanic eruptions, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, and forest fires.
Volcanic Eruptions: Assessing Risks
Indonesia has numerous active volcanoes that can erupt without warning. Stay informed about the volcanic activity and exercise caution while in proximity to volcanoes. Monitor local media, follow the advice of local authorities, and comply with any evacuation orders. Ash clouds resulting from volcanic eruptions can affect flight schedules, air quality, and health. Wearing a fitted face mask can offer some protection. If you have respiratory conditions, ensure that you have enough medication to manage potential triggers. During major eruptions, it’s advisable to remain indoors, close all doors and windows, and minimize exposure to volcanic ash.
Mount Agung, Bali
Mount Agung in Bali erupted in 2018, causing the closure of Bali’s airport for a period of time. Climbers are advised to limit their activities around the crater, and the alert level remains subject to change. Stay updated with the latest information to avoid potential disruptions during your visit.
Mount Semeru, East Java
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all travel within proximity to the crater of Mount Semeru in Lumajang Regency, East Java. This exclusion zone was put into place due to volcanic activity. Mount Semeru erupted in 2022, and the local authorities have warned of potential pyroclastic and lava flows in surrounding areas.
Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra
The FCDO advises against all travel within 5km of the crater of Mount Sinabung in Karo Regency, North Sumatra. This exclusion zone is based on local authorities’ recommendations. Mount Sinabung experienced eruptions in 2021, resulting in the emission of smoke and ash.
Flooding: Rainy Season Precautions
Indonesia’s rainy season occurs from September to January, potentially extending into February. Monitor local and international weather reports if you’re traveling during this period. Flash floods and widespread flooding can occur in various parts of the country, leading to severe traffic congestion, power outages, and disruptions to daily life. Take care when driving or walking, stay hydrated, and keep your phone charged.
Earthquakes and Tsunamis: Preparedness is Key
Earthquakes are common in Indonesia, and tsunamis can occur following major earthquakes. Familiarize yourself with safety protocols and follow the guidance of local authorities. Keep in mind that tsunamis can arrive within minutes of an earthquake. The Indonesia Tsunami Early Warning Centre provides alerts and guidance in the event of a potential tsunami.
Forest Fires: Haze and Air Quality
Forest fires are a recurrent issue in Indonesia, particularly in Sumatra and Borneo. The resulting haze can impact air quality. Be aware of the potential health risks associated with ash and particulate matter. Face masks may offer some protection, but it’s essential to maintain indoor environments and minimize exposure to pollutants.
Indonesia offers a vast array of experiences and landscapes for travelers to explore. By being aware of potential risks, respecting local laws and customs, and exercising caution, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Remember to stay updated with the latest travel advice from trusted sources. For more information about traveling to Indonesia, visit Ekilove.