Indonesia Country Information

Indonesia, the largest archipelago and the fifth most populous nation in the world, has a total of 17,508 islands, of which about 6,000 are inhabited. Indonesia extends 3,198 miles (5,150km) between the Australian and Asian continental mainland and divides the Pacific and Indian Oceans at the Equator.


Indonesia, the largest archipelago and the fifth most populous nation in the world, has a total of 17,508 islands, of which about 6,000 are inhabited. Indonesia extends 3,198 miles (5,150km) between the Australian and Asian continental mainland and divides the Pacific and Indian Oceans at the Equator. With a total land area of 767,777 square miles (1,919,443 sq. km), its 190 million inhabitants are made up of 300 ethnic groups who speak an estimated 583 different languages and dialects. There are five main islands in Indonesia. These are: Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Irian Jaya.

Sumatra is one of Indonesia’s most important islands in just about every way: economically, politically and strategically. Sumatra accounts for a full 25% of the country’s total land area. Bukit Barisan, an unbroken mountain wall varying in height, extends down the entire western side of the island. The range includes 93 volcano peaks, 15 of them still active. With 176 different species of mammals, 194 reptiles, 62 amphibians and 150 birds, the island is famous for its varied animal life. It has a greater variety of wildlife than any other island in the country.

The island of Kalimantan is shared with Malaysia. Many areas of the island are almost untouched by the Western world. For the more rough and ready traveler, this is the place to go, although tourist facilities are relatively undeveloped and visitors are few.

Irian Jaya occupies the western half of the island of New Guinea. The island has been a part of Indonesia politically since 1969 . Although it makes up 22% of Indonesia’s total land area, only 1% of the country’s people live there. Irian Jaya is also the least visited and most remote Indonesian province.

Java, the island where Indonesia’s capital city lies, is one of the country’s richest, lushest and most populated islands. It was on this island in the early 1800’s that the Dutch East India Company established themselves in Indonesia. By the early 20th century, the Dutch had control over the entire country. Although Indonesia is no longer controlled by the Dutch, a great Dutch influence remains. Dutch food, architecture, and all around culture is evident throughout Indonesia.

In two decades, Indonesia has turned itself from rice importer to rice exporter and established itself as the fifth largest OPEC producer. Petrochemicals and oil production account for 70% of the country’s foreign revenues, and Indonesia is now the world’s leading exporter of liquid natural gas.



Stretching over 3,100 miles (5,000km) from east to west and almost 1,242 miles (2,000km) from north to south, Indonesia straddles the Equator and has a typical equatorial climate. The east monsoon from June to September brings dry weather, while the west monsoon from December to March brings rain. Occasional rain showers occur in between these two seasons as a transitional period.

Mean temperatures at sea level are uniform, varying by only a few degrees throughout the region, and throughout the year 78- 82F (25- 28C). Coastal areas are often pleasantly cool; however, it can get extremely cold in the mountains with temperature decreasing 2F (1C) for every 656 feet (200m) of altitude, which provides a cool pleasant climate in upland communities.



Indonesia, with over 190 million people, has the fifth largest population in the world. The country is an ethnological goldmine, with 336 ethnic groups joined together by a unifying language and through intermarriage. Indonesia can be considered a spectrum of all the Asian cultures, races and religions. Of the 190 million people in the country, 87% are Moslem. The Indonesian Constitution recognizes freedom of religion.

Many parts of Indonesia have remained isolated because of the archipelago’s size, jungles, highlands and complex customs. A journey through the country is a journey through time. You will find ways of life that are 5,000 years removed from the world we know. While some Indonesians wear rings and rats’ ribs in their noses, yet others read “The Asian Wall Street Journal”. If mingling among Indonesia’s diverse populations has occurred at all, it has taken place near the sea.

Among Indonesia’s diverse peoples, the Balinese are extraordinarily creative with a highly theatrical culture. They are lavish in their colors and decorations and less restrained in their music and dance. The Balinese believe that all natural phenomena have souls. Spirits dominate everything they do, and their lives revolve around offering fruits and flowers to appease the angry gods. Dayak is the collective name for the more than 200 different tribes that comprise Kalimantan’s native people. The Javanese (the largest group) originally belonged to the Mongoloid race.

Indonesians in general are friendly, fun-loving people. They are artistic by nature and express themselves in canvas, wood, metals, clay and stone and in their dance and dramas.

Ethnic Groups: The majority is of Malay descent; 45% Javanese, 14% Sudanese, 7.5% Madurese, coastal Malays and other 26%.

Languages: Bahasa Indonesia is the official language. There are many dialects. English is the most widely understood foreign language.

Religion: 87% Muslim, 6% Protestant, 3% Roman Catholic, 2% Hindu , 1% Buddhist and 1% other.


Indonesians are trained to cope with stressful, interpersonal situations differently than Westerners. They tend to be nonassertive and continue to smile and maintain a calm appearance as they withdraw from a quarrel. When they avoid your gaze, it doesn’t mean that they are afraid of you. Under most circumstances, eye contact is avoided, particularly if its prolonged.

Aggressive gestures and postures such as crossing your arms over your chest or standing with your hands on your hips while talking, particularly with older people, are regarded as insulting.

Scarves should be worn around the waist when entering Balinese temples. Never touch anyone’s head. Indonesians regard the head as the seat of the soul, and it therefore is sacred.

When invited to eat or drink, watch your Indonesian host. A guest may not start if not invited to do so by the host. The left hand is considered unclean, so never use it to eat. Do not ask for salt, pepper or soy sauce; this request would be considered an insult to the cook. Many traditional Indonesian families do not talk during meals, conversation starts only after the meal. Cover your mouth when using a toothpick.

Unannounced visits early in the evening are an Indonesian tradition. It is considered a compliment if you are kept waiting by the host. He is usually changing his clothes before receiving you.

Never stand taller than a Buddha, and definitely never climb on a Buddha.

Never show the bottom of your feet or point your foot when it is off the ground in the direction of another person.

It is polite to introduce yourself when meeting strangers without waiting for someone else to do the introductions. Shake hands when greeting people;both men and women will extend their hands. Bowing from the waist is a sign of respect.

Business cards are exchanged immediately after introductions. At the end of the meeting, saying thank you in Indonesian will help build a warm relationship.

The left hand is considered unclean, so never use it to give or receive things. Pointing a finger is considered rude.

Usually, a shirt and tie are sufficient for most business meetings. Because of the heat, jackets are unnecessary. Safari-style leisure suits are comfortable and acceptable.

Because of Muslim tradition, Indonesian women tend to dress conservatively, and slacks are generally reserved for casual wear. Makeup and perfume are acceptable, if used moderately.



The Indonesian currency unit is called the Rupiah. Notes are issued in the values of Rp500, Rp5,000 and Rp10,000. Coins of Rp5, Rp10, Rp25, Rp50 and Rp100.

When changing large amounts, banks usually give Rp10,000 notes, but changing these in the provinces may prove troublesome. If you are heading for the Outer Islands, take Rp1,000 and Rp5,000 notes instead. Always keep your exchange receipts so that you can exchange your rupiah for foreign currencies upon leaving the country. The U.S. dollar is the most readily accepted currency.



Indonesia has an area of 767,777 square miles (1,919,443 sq. km) scattered over about 13,700 islands. The country also claims sovereignty over 1,308,864 square miles (3,272,160 sq. km) of sea stretching from Asia to Australia. An active volcanic arc runs through Sumatra, Java and the islands of Nusa Tenggara, and then north through Maluku to Sulawesi. It marks the place where tectonic plates plunge one beneath the other. This is an area of intense volcanic activity called the “ring of fire.” Off the coast of these islands is a deep sea trench in places more than 22,960 feet (7,000m) deep. Within the arc is the more stable Sunda Shelf with shallow seas and less dramatic landscape. Some parts of the country remain vast, barely explored regions of dense jungle, and many islands have extinct, active or dormant volcanoes.

Population: 190,000,000

Capital: Jakarta

Flag: Two equal horizontal bands of red (top) and white.

Shop Hours: Most shops are open from 8am to 9pm, daily. Sunday is a public holiday, but some shops are open at least part of the day.

Bank Hours: The majority of the banks in Indonesia are open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 12 noon.

Some of these holidays are based on the lunar calendar and change yearly.


  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • February – Chinese New Year (lunar calendar; mid-January to mid-February)
  • March – Nyepi (day of silence in Bali and a Hindu holiday celebrated nationwide)
  • March or April – Good Friday
  • March – Hari Raya Puasa
  • Waicack – May 23 (anniversary of the birth and death of Buddha)
  • March 25-26 – Idul Fitri/Lebaran
  • April – Mi’raj Nabi Muhammad (ascension of the prophet Muhammad)
  • April 21 – Kartini Day (ceremony held by women to mark the birthday of Radeng Ajeng Kartini, proclaimed as a pioneer of women’s emancipation).
  • May – Hari Raya Haji
  • August 17 – Independence Day
  • September – Gareg Maulad (birthday of Prophet Mohammad)
  • October 5 – Armed Forces Day
  • December 25 – Christmas Day (celebrated by Christians)

There are three time zones in Indonesia. Sumatra, Java and west and central Kalimantan are in West Indonesian Time, which is seven hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Meant Time). Bali, Nusa Tenggara, south and east Kalimantan and Silawesi are on Central Indonesian Time, which is eight hours ahead of GMT. Irian Jaya and Maluku are on the East Indonesian Time, which is nine hours ahead of GMT.

Restaurants: Some restaurants may automatically add a 10% service charge to your bill, but an additional tip is always appreciated.

Porters: Rp500-1,000 is generally the average tip expected for airport porters and bellhops in Jakarta, while Rp2,000 is expected in Denpasar or Ujung airport.

Taxis: Taxi drivers are never tipped, although in Jakarta they may expect a tip. A few coins will make them happy.



All visitors are required to have a passport valid for at least six months after arrival. Visas have been waived for nationals of some Western countries for a stay of up to two months and for registered delegates attending a conference that has received official approval.

Each visitor is required to pay an airport tax of Rp11,000 for international departures and between Rp 800 and Rp 3,000 for domestic flights, depending on the airport of departure.

Yellow fever vaccination is required if you arrive within six days of leaving or passing through an infected area.



Duty-Free Items: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars and 2 pounds of tobacco, cameras and a reasonable amount of film, 2 liters of alcohol and a reasonable amount of perfume for personal use.



Soekarno-Hatta International Airport
Cengkareng, Jakarta
Tel (021) 550-1764

Air Canada: Tel (021) 371479 or (021) 376237
Air India: Tel (021) 325470 or (021) 325534
British Airways: Tel (021) 578-2460
British Caledonian: Tel (021) 322849 or (021) 333423
Canadian Airlines: Tel (021) 336521 or (021) 336573
China Airlines: Tel (021) 570-6088
Cathay Pacific: Tel (021) 380-6664
Delta Airlines: Tel (021) 322008
Garuda Indonesia: Tel (021) 588707 or (021) 588708 or (021) 588797
Japan Airlines: Tel (021) 582758
Philippine Airlines: Tel (021) 370108
Qantas: (021)327707 or (021) 326707
Singapore Airlines: Tel (021) 584011
Swissair: Tel (021) 373608
Trans World Airlines: Tel (021) 337874
United Airlines: Tel (021) 361707



The only airline operating jet aircraft on domestic routes is Garuda. It has several flights daily from Jakarta to such destinations as Bali, Medan, Ujung Pandang, Manado and Yogyakarta. There are also shuttle flights to Surabaya and Semarang daily.

A becak (pronounced baychahk) is a tricycle pedaled by a man who normally sits behind the passenger. Becaks seat between one and two people and are found in the cities and towns in Java. Becaks have been used for over 40 years but are slowly disappearing as motor transport takes over. Be sure to bargain with the driver before beginning your journey.

Cars and Motorcycles:
There are a number of car rental agencies in Jakarta. Driving is on the left side of the road. Chauffeur-driven cars are also available, with different rates for in-town and out-of-town use. Motorcycles are also available for rent. An ojek is a motorbike hired with a driver. Ojeks can be hired by the hour or day or for individual trips.

Buses:: There is an extensive bus network in Java. Buses are very useful where there is no rail service. The roads are being improved, and more modern buses are being introduced.

Ships and shipping are very important in Indonesia since the country is an island nation. Water travel is the best way to explore the islands of Indonesia. The state-owned PELNI is the biggest shipline, with services almost everywhere. There are regular schedules; the main base is at Jakarta.

PELNI Ticket Sales (Head Office)
Jalan Gajah Madah 14
Jakarta 10130
Tel (021) 343307 or (021) 361635 or (021) 344342
Fax: (021)3810341 or (021) 345605

Train services are only available throughout Java and part of Sumatra around Padang, West Sumatra, Medan in North Sumatra, South Sumatra and Lampung. The most comfortable trains are the air-conditioned “Bima” (sleeper) and “Mutiara” trains. Both these trains travel at night.



For additional information
Kramat Raya 81
P.O. Box 409
Tel (021) 310-3117
Fax: (021) 310 1146
or the nearest regional/provincial tourist office.

Way Kambas Elephant Training Center
The center is an international project partially funded by the World Wildlife Fund. The aim of the center is to train elephants to be useful to mankind. Visitors may ride the elephants. Way Kambas is near Bandar Lampung.

Fantasy Land
In Fantasy Land, you are taken on a journey of Old Jakarta, Africa, America, Indonesia, Europe, Asia and the Palace of the Dolls. Located inside Ancol Dreamland (Taman Impian Jaya Ancol).
Jalan Lodan Timur
Ancol, Jakarta
Tel (021) 681512

Indonesia in Miniature Park
This 400 acre (160 hectare) cultural park has pavilions in the shape of traditional houses from each of the 27 provinces. Every Sunday there is a regional dance performance in one of the pavilions. Also within the park is an aviary, Museum Indonesia and the Keong Emas theater.
Jalan Raya Rd.
Gede Kramat Jati
Tel (021) 840-0022

Jaya Ancol Dreamland
(Taman Impian Jaya Ancol)
This dreamland occupies 343 acres (137 hectares) of former marshland, right by the sea. It has a resort hotel, art market and gallery, restaurant, hawker stalls, nightclubs and various other entertainment facilities.
Ancol, Jakarta

Keong Emas Imax Theater
Located within Indonesia in Miniature Park, this theater is in the shape of a snail. The theater features a film on Indonesia.
Jalan Raya Rd.
Gede Kramat Jati

The village of Kuta is a thriving tourist resort. If you are looking for some action, this is where you will find it – discos, hotels, restaurants and shops abound. It is also the best place to see traditional Balinese music and dance performed.

Lake Toba
This lake was formed by a massive prehistoric volcanic explosion. The lake is the largest inland body of water in Southeast Asia. Lake Toba is 50 miles (80km) long and 16 miles (26km) wide, and it has a depth of 1,400 feet (420m). The town of Parapat lies on its shores and is an ideal place to relax and escape the heat, as the climate here is cool and dry. Parapat offers hotels, villas and recreational facilities. Samosir Island is in the middle of Lake Toba.
Parapat, North Sumatra

National Monument
The monument is a 449 feet-high (137m) stylization of the ancient Hindu Linnga/Yoni, symbolizing fertility. You can take an elevator to the top where, from the viewing platform, you will see a spectacular view of Jakarta. Located in Mederka Square.
Tel (021) 681512

Medan Crocodile Farm
This is the largest crocodile farm in Indonesia. There are over 2,000 crocodiles of different varieties. Here you can see how crocodile eggs are hatched.
Asam Kumbang
North Sumatra

Tugu Khatulistiwa
(Equator Monument)
Standing exactly 109, 20 minutes east of Greenwich. During the March and September equinoxes, the column’s shadow disappears, which is an excuse for a party in Pontianak (a large river city in Kalimantan).
Jl. Khatulistiwa
West Kalimantan

The cultural center of Java. It is an excellent destination for those interested in the traditional arts. Here you may experience performances of wayang puppets (famous shadow puppet plays depicting Javanese history and folklore) and classical and contemporary Javanese dance and theater. We recommend that you visit the palace in the center of the city. It is located at the foot of the active Merapi volcano.

Bogor Botanical Gardens
These famous gardens border the Presidential Palace built for the Dutch Governor General in 1745. The gardens cover 218 acres (87 hectares) with thousands of different species from all over the world. If you intend on visiting the Palace, a permit must be obtained.
Located 31 miles (50km) from Jakarta

Orchard Garden
A landscaped garden with thousands of orchard species and varieties native to Indonesia. Inside a mini-laboratory you will be taught how to grow orchards and cross seeds.
Slipi, Jakarta

Panorama Park
The park overlooks the Ngarai Canyon.
Jalan Panorama
South Sumatra

Taman Bundokandung
Kind-Hearted Mother Park
Jalan Kanduamoto
South Sumatra

Ujung Kulon National Park
Located on the southwestern tip of West Java, this park is a wilderness preserve of 127500 acres (51,000 hectares). Included are the islands of Panaitan and Peucang and the Ujung Kulon Peninsula. This is the home of the 50 or so last surviving one-horned rhinoceros.



As in the rest of Asia, Indonesian food is heavily based on rice, supplemented by vegetables, a little bit of fish and once in a while, meat and eggs. Indonesian cuisine is known for its combination of contrasting flavors and textures, its influences having originated in all corners of the world. Each culinary art of foreign origin can be distinguished in Indonesian cooking, yet each is blended creatively with the islands’ own cooking secrets. Each province or area has its own cuisine, which varies in the method of cooking and the ingredients used.

The Javanese cuisine is probably the most palatable to the general taste and usually consists of vegetables, soybeans, beef and chicken. The Sumatrans generally eat more beef compared to other regions. West Sumatra is known for its Pandang specialty restaurants found nationwide. Aside from their hot and spicy food, these restaurants are known for their unique style of service. Further to the east, seafood is featured in the daily diet, either grilled or made into curries. In Bali, Irian Jaya and the highlands of North Sumatra and North Sulawesi, pork dishes are specialties. As the population of Indonesia is predominantly Moslem, pork is usually not served except in Chinese restaurants, non-Moslem regions and places serving international cuisine.

The most popular dishes in Indonesia are: gado-gado, salad with peanut sauce; nasi goreng, fried rice; bakmigoreng, fried noodles; and sate, skewered grilled meat.

There is a wide variety of tropical and subtropical vegetables all year round. Some fruits such as mangoes and watermelons are seasonal, but most of the other fruits are available throughout the year.

Although Indonesia is a Moslem country, alcoholic beverages are widely available. The two most popular beers, both light lagers, are the locally brewed Anker and Bintang brands. Imported liquors, like whisky and gin, are usually sold only in the more expensive restaurants and hotels. Brem, or rice wine, Arak, rice whisky, and Tuak, palm wine are locally produced and readily available.

Drinking unboiled water in Indonesia is considered unsafe because of poor sewage disposal and improperly treated water supplies. Contaminated water is known for transmitting diseases such as cholera and typhoid fever. Avoid ice cubes unless they have been made from boiled water. The freezing of water does not kill the organisms, nor does the alcohol in a drink. Western bottled and canned drinks are widely available and comparatively cheap in Indonesia.




Cultural shows, discotheques, cinemas, comedy and puppet shows keep the Indonesians entertained every day of every year.

Movie theaters are found throughout Indonesia, and grade B and C Italian and American films are generally in English with Indonesian subtitles. Check the paper for listings. Ticket prices are comparable to those in the West, about $5 per head for an air-conditioned theater.

Western style discos abound, and wealthy youth in designer clothes pack the fashionable clubs every weekend. The disco craze hit the country a decade ago, and it appears to have taken root. A couple of hotel establishments have ruled the scene for some time now. The cover charge and drinks are expensive, and dress code is in effect.

Shadow puppet shows are very popular. Performances are staged when a transitional event occurs in the life of a family such as a birthday, wedding or as ritual entertainment during family feasts. These shows dramatize life with its contradictions and anomalies and teach the meaning and purpose of life. A single performance can last up to nine hours.



Police: 110
Fire: 113
Ambulance: 118
International Access Code: 01

Country Code: 62

City Codes:
Banda Aceh: 0651
Bandar Lampung: 0721
Denpasar: 0361
Jakarta: 021
Kendari: 0401
Kupang: 0391
Medan: 061
Padang: 0751
Prapat: 0625
Semarang: 024
Surabaya: 031
Ujung Pandang: 0411
Yogyakarta: 0274

When calling a number from within the same city, omit the city code. When calling to another city within Indonesia, use the entire city code. When calling from outside Indonesia, omit the first digit (0) from the city code.



Directorate General of Tourism (DGT)
Jalan Kramat Raya 81
P. O. Box 409
Tel (021) 310-3117
Fax: (021)3101146

The DGT is under the direction of the Department of Tourism – Post and Telecommunications, which has offices in all major tourist destinations. These offices are known as Kanwil Depparpostel or Regional Offices of Tourism.

Each of the 27 provinces of Indonesia has its own tourist office, which is known as Diparda (provincial tourist service). Each of these offices can offer information and assistance for their area.

Diparda Tk. I Lampung
Jalan W.R. Supratman No. 39
Gunung Mas
Bandar Lampung 35111
Tel (0721) 42565 or (0721) 61720

Diparda DKI Jakarta
Jalan Abdurrohim 2
Kuningan Barat
Jakarta 12710
Tel (021) 510738 or (021) 511073 or (021) 511369

Diparda Tk. I Jawa Barat
Jalan Cipaganti 151-153
Bandung 40161
West Java
Tel (022) 81490
Fax: (022) 87976

Diparda Tk. I Kalimantan Barat
Jalan Achmad Sood No. 25
Pontianak 78121
West Kalimantan
Tel (0561) 36712

Diparda Tk. I Sumatera Utara
Jalan Jend. A. Yani No. 107
Medan 20151
North Sumatra
Tel (061) 511101

Diparda Tk. I Sumatra Selatan
Jalan Bay Salim No. 200
Palembang 30126
South Sumatra
Tel (0711) 24981 or (0711) 28305

Diparda D.I. Yogyakarta
Jalan Malioboro 14
Yogyakarta 55213
Tel (0274) 62811 Ext. 218, 224

Indonesian Tourist Promotion Office (ITPO)
Public Relations Agency
Garuda Indonesia Office
4 Bligh Street
P. O. Box 3836
Sydney 2000
NSW, Australia
Tel (02) 2326044

Wiessenthutten Strasse 17
Frankfurt am Maim 1
Tel (069) 233677
Fax (069) 230840

2nd Floor, Sankaido Building
1-9-13 Akasaka, Minatoku
Tokyo 107
Tel (03) 3585-3588 or (03) 3586-9736
Fax: (03)35821397

10, Collyer Quay 15-07
Ocean Building
Singapore 0104
Tel 534-2837 or 534-1795
Fax: 5334287

ITPO 3457 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Tel 213-387-2078
Fax: 213-380-4876



Good Morning – Selamat pagi
Good day – Selamat siang
Good evening – Selamat sore
Good night – Selamat malam
Goodbye – Selamat tinggal (said by those leaving to people staying)
Goodbye – Selamat jelan (said by those staying to people leaving)
Thank you – Terima kasih
How are you? – Apa kabar?
I’m fine – Kabar baik
How much? – Berapa
I don’t understand – Saya tidak mengerti
What is this? – Apa ini?
I’m sorry – Maafkan saya
Excuse me – Permisi, Ma’af