June 18, 2006 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Indonesia: Should I go? How long for and where? What about a visa? 18,000 islands await me...

Following up on these past two askmefi questions, I have decided to fly to Bali come August.

The visa situation sounds quite complicated. Can I really only get a 30 day pass without leaving and re-entering the country?

If I arrive and find some likely travel companions I hope to go East through the more remote islands. If I arrive and find myself travelling alone I will likely go West and up towards Malaysia.

All advice gladly accepted. Anyone wanna join me :) ?
posted by 0bvious to Travel & Transportation around Indonesia (12 answers total)
Best answer: firstly, I don't know where you're from, but it'll be hot there. hot, humid, sticky, sweaty weather. so pack light.

limit your time in bali. it sounds like you want to get off the beaten track, and the track in bali is certainly not it.

if you're going west, i'd say avoid yogyakarta. it was wonderful when i was there, but unless you're a member of an aid organisation, i think you'd just be some curious westerner in the way (there was an earthquake there a month or so ago).

i'm not sure about the visa, i was there five years ago (from australia) and it wasn't a problem.

and learn some basic indonesian. the locals love it if you take the slightest effort to be interested in their language and culture.

selamat pagi/siang/malam: good morning/evening/night

apa kabar?: how are you?

kabar baik, dan kamu?: i'm fine, and you?

etc. have fun!
posted by twirlypen at 6:29 PM on June 18, 2006

This is the lonely planet 'thorn tree', a message board for people travelling. You can post similar questions there for better answers, and there's also a travel buddy board to seek friends on if you want.
posted by twirlypen at 6:34 PM on June 18, 2006

My 2c: personally, I found Indonesian towns & cities to be stupendously boring (talking Java, Bali & Lombok here; the Riau Archipelago was passable). Your mileage may vary, depending on whether or not you have been to any SE Asian countries before, but overall I would suggest that you expect nothing whatsoever from the towns. Just use them as unavoidable bases & concentrate instead on nature as much as possible: hiking up volcanoes, hanging around on beaches, clambering around terraced rice paddies, snorkelling or diving, and so on.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:06 PM on June 18, 2006

Something to consider; Bali is the place where not one but two terrorist attacks killed over 200 tourists. The first attack seriously maimed over 200 more people.

Also, Schapelle Corby was sentenced to 20 years jail in Bali for a crime many people feel she didn't actually commit. Many people feel she didn't get a fair trial, either. So if you take illicit substances, make sure you don't do so there. Infact, regardless of whether you take drugs or don't, don't repeat Schappele's mistake and make sure you keep an eye on your luggage at all times, especially at the airport.

Despite this, you should go if you really feel so inclined. Terrorism can happen anywhere at any time and while obviously it's a risk, I would argue it's a minimal one (although with JI leader and mastermind behind the Bali Bombings Abu Bakar Bashir free once again, who knows?). And as long as you're vigilant with your luggage, the chances of you saying hi to Schapelle in jail are minimal also.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:58 PM on June 18, 2006

If you do end up heading east, make sure to get as far as Flores. It has Kelimutu volcano with its three coloured lakes, Komodo dragons and very friendly people (maybe even some hobbits). Visa if issued on arrival is for thirty days but if you apply ahead you can get one for up to sixty days.
posted by tellurian at 9:06 PM on June 18, 2006

Response by poster: I came across this Hands On Disaster Relief group who are working in the Earthquake affected regions around Yogyakarta, so it looks like some foreign help is welcome.

I have already posted for travel companions on Thorn Tree. Fingers crossed...

Any more input greatly appreciated.
posted by 0bvious at 9:07 PM on June 18, 2006

Response by poster: P.S. I know about Bali's terrorist problems, but consider that avoiding travel because of the activites of extremists is exactly the kind of terror they are hoping to instill.

I will avoid the drugs :)
posted by 0bvious at 9:23 PM on June 18, 2006

On Bali: the place has such a notorious reputation as a destination for uncouth Aussie holidayers (a bit like Ibiza for the Brits, perhaps) that I hoped to avoid it altogether. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there was no ferry around the island so I had to pass through it. It was actually pretty cool - you just need to avoid the Denpasar / Kuta area if you can. I stayed awhile in a town surrounded by terraced rice paddies & it was stunning. Avoiding the bar & nightclub area also gives you an infinitesimal chance of being bombed.

Some Indonesians might be a little anti-Aussie at the moment (due to East Timor & West Papuan refugees) so if you are a Brit you might want to consider sewing a flag onto your backpack, as the Canadians invariably do.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:34 PM on June 18, 2006

On the one hand, I enjoyed immensely my two months travelling from West Timor to Flores, overland to the west side of Flores, then taking the fishing-boat-repurposed-as-backpacker-water-bus for a few days at sea to Rinca and Komodo to see the dragons then all the way to Lombok, followed by another boat and some time in Bali. A highly recommended journey that you can do comfortably in a couple of months starting in Australia, hop out from Denpasar to Singapore and back in with a new visa, and then carry on, if you wish.

The country was magnificent, and the people (I don't know if it's as off-the-beaten-track now as it was 12 years ago), both locals and travellers, were very fine.

On the other hand, my best friend was one of the people who was killed in the Sari bombing in 2002.

Ditto about what was said about non-Kuta Bali. There are some beautiful places on that island (as there are everywhere), less-touristed than Surf City, and the non-Muslim culture does have a different feel than many other parts of the country. Ironic that that was where so many were killed.

I have mixed feelings about Indonesia. I'm not sure I'll ever go back.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:35 AM on June 19, 2006

Best answer: With visas, take care that your passport has at least six months to run after you plan to leave the country (otherwise they'll send you back - in theory). There is, or was, a particular problem with the Netherlands (not sure of the details, if you have a Dutch passport, check first).

I fell foul of the six-month rule in Denpasar airport but in Indonesia there's no problem that a little cash can't solve, the first time I've ever been grateful for corruption. Be flexible at the airport in case of difficulty, insisting on your rights will probably have you on the next plane to Singapore.

It's a fascinating place, a population almost the size of the USA, an impoverished oil power where extraordinary sophistication mixes with third-world chaos. There's a lot to like about the country and a lot to see.

One other tip - get and take an international driving licence. This will allow you to rent motorcycles without having to pay bribes all the time - it will help enormously with getting around. Please don't ignore Bali, the area round Kuta is pretty horrid but the rest of the island is magnificent, a very special place. Have fun.
posted by grahamwell at 2:43 AM on June 19, 2006

Best answer: I live in Indonesia.

Bali, for all intents and purposes, is, from everyone I've talked to, about as safe as anywhere else these days. The southern end of the island is the center of mass tourism, so if it's too much, head up to some more remote corner of the island (not too difficult - it's the most developed and tourist-friendly part of the country). It's definitely a good place to start - Indonesia-light, perhaps.

I agree with the statement above about avoiding cities at times - there are places like Yogyakarta which (would) warrant a whole week (sans quake), but others (*points finger at Bandung*) are, perhaps, good for just a day's rest or recuperation.

The Lonely Planet Indonesia was published quite a while ago (pre-2004 tsunami!), so if you can find more updated guides, especially for the areas of Sumatra affected by the disaster should you be headed that way.

My goals for my vacation time this year (4 weeks total, not all together):

- snorkelling somewhere in Nusa Tenggara Timur (generally Lombok to Timor)
- sunrise atop a volcano (heading to Gunung Bromo in August!)
- Borobudur, Prambanan, Solo, and Yogyakarta (they need your money - check out this thread on the Thorntree for an account from June 5, about a week after the quake)

On the visa thing, transit in Singapore on a budget airline like Valuair or something - you can fly from, say, Jakarta to Singapore, enter Singapore for twelve minutes or whatever to check in for your next flight, then take Tiger Airways to Padang on Sumatra and get a new visa on arrival. It's not that complicated - you take your passport to a little counter in the airport when you land, hand over your money, and then they stick a full-page sticker in the passport, which you then walk over to the immigration you-are-now-entering-Indonesia counter.

Happy to direct any other questions to my office full of Indonesians and other expat English teachers like me!

BTW, I'm vacationing in August as well, almost certainly by myself, and have made no plans at all. E-mail's in the profile, though my Indonesian skillz are by no means useful/passable.
posted by mdonley at 5:48 AM on June 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Gili Islands.

posted by gergtreble at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2006

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