This summer I had the opportunity to travel through Indonesia for 6 weeks and this is what I learned in regards to the preparation needed and safety precautions I took while abroad! I will be making a second post in regards to budgeting a trip to Indonesia with a college student’s budget so keep an eye out for that one next! But for now, here is EVERYTHING I learned and wish I knew before traveling to Indonesia.
As a US Citizen, we are allowed to stay in Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. I was in Indonesia for an international internship program which lasted 6 weeks, so I obtained a socio-cultural visa through the program.
There are many different visas you can obtain to go to Indonesia as a US citizen, I recommend contacting your local Indonesian Embassy to see what you would need to obtain a visa if you were to need one.
Here is the link to policies for travel to Indonesia outlined by the U.S. Department of State: US Department of State Travel Advisory
Here is the link to the Indonesian Embassy I processed my paperwork through: SF Indonesian Embassy
I took no vaccinations prior to traveling to Indonesia. Although I turned out fine, I do not recommend you to do this. Please view your individual country vaccination requirements and check with your local doctors.
US Center of Disease Control & Prevention Health Information for US Travelers
REGARDLESS OF VACCINATIONS, BUY MOSQUITO REPELLENT. This mosquito repellent called Soffel was a lifesaver in repelling mosquitos off of me. You can find it in any local Indonesian supermarket.
3. Transportation in Indonesia
There are three main modes of transportation in Indonesia:
Private drivers can be arranged with your accommodation offering it as an additional service, approaching a travel booth, or through recommendations from other people.
The benefits of private drivers is that they usually speak Indonesian along with English and can help you navigate where you want to go.
For the most safe arrangement, I booked our private driver with my hotel.
Gojek is a transportation, massage booking, and food delivery service all in one app! Gojek allows you to pick whether you would like to be transported via motorcycle or by a car. In my experience, within minutes of calling a Gojek you are able to book a service.
Pros: Fast Service, Lots of Options
Cons: Safety is Not Guaranteed
Bluebird is the #1 largest taxi app in Indonesia. Bluebird very much works like a taxi; you are charged by the meter. The benefits of Bluebird are that every single Bluebird driver has their identification posted inside their car, so your safety is a priority. The con that I noticed with Bluebird is that there is an extremely long wait time to call a car (we waited up to 45 minutes once).
Pros: Slow Service, Safety is almost Guaranteed
Cons: Long Wait Time, Only One Option
Both applications accept card or cash.
Keep in mind that because of the push in Indonesia to support local drivers, taxi applications are banned in specific areas of Indonesia. What that means is that sometimes when calling a car via Gojek or Bluebird, you have to walk outside of the banned zone in order to get picked up.
Although it is required to have a license to drive a motorcycle in Indonesia, this is not enforced unless a police officer stops you. You are able to rent a motorcycle as long as you have a passport and money.
4. Currency Conversion & ATMs
I watched so many people get scammed by currency conversion stores or have their card skimmed at ATMs in Indonesia. ONLY CONVERT YOUR CURRENCY AT A REGISTERED BANK IN INDONESIA. ONLY USE ATMs INSIDE OF BANKS. Even if a bank location was extremely far away from our current location, we would go through the effort to travel to that bank. Paying a little for transportation to a bank beats getting ripped off and your card information stolen!
I personally used Mandiri Bank since they accepted VISA and had no issues through out my entire trip.
Pulling out USD to convert in Indonesia will give you the highest rate of return. Converting USD to rupiahs in the US will hit you with bank charges while in Indonesia there is no additional charges.
Another option is to convert your currency at the airport, but many people have said that airports do not give you as good of a rate.
5. Sim Cards
You can purchase sim cards anywhere from storefronts to in the airport. Again, airports will charge you a higher rate for sim cards so I recommend purchasing it outside at a storefront.
The carrier with the BEST signal is Telkomsel.
6. Food Poisoning & Safety Precautions
These are the warnings I received from my program prior to arrival alongside with my doctors.
DO NOT DRINK THE LOCAL TAP WATER. Be sure to ask all the restaurants you plan to eat at whether they used filtered bottled water. Also wash your teeth with bottled filtered water only.
Avoid eating raw fish and fresh uncooked vegetables (like lettuce).
Safety precautions that you can take is to bring food poisoning medicine from home or purchase charcoal pills to ingest. The food poisoning medicine I brought from home was Loperamide and I did have to use it a couple of times.
And that’s a wrap. I hope this article helped you plan your future trip to Indonesia, or if you are already at Indonesia I hope it can help you with the rest of your trip!