Travel Consideration: Indonesia

Contributed By RealAdventures

Indonesia is an independent republic consisting of more than 13,500 islands spread over 3,000 miles. Indonesia’s economy is developing, and tourist services are plentiful in the major tourist areas. East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in an August 30, 1999 referendum and is currently under the authority of the United Nations’ Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). UNTAET was established by a unanimous vote of the UN Security Council on October 25, 1999, for the purpose of rebuilding East Timor and helping to establish a new government. Its initial mandate expires on January 31, 2001.

A passport valid for six months beyond the intended date of departure from Indonesia/East Timor is required. A visa is not required for tourist stays up to two months in Indonesia. Entry into East Timor is currently controlled by UNTAET, which can be difficult to reach due to limited communications infrastructure. American citizens wishing to enter East Timor can contact the U.S. embassy in Jakarta for current guidance. For additional information about entry requirements for Indonesia, travelers may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036, telephone (202) 775-5200, Internet address

After over 30 years in office, the government of President Suharto came to an end in May 1998 amid widespread demonstrations, rioting and looting throughout the country. Peaceful parliamentary elections were held in most parts of the country on June 7, 1999 and were followed by the election of President Abdurrahman Wahid on October 20, 1999. These steps revitalized Indonesia’s political institutions and restored a measure of stability and security in most of the major cities, some of which experienced violent demonstrations under the interim government in 1998-99. Nevertheless, the political situation remains fluid as the new government faces continued civil strife in some important outlying areas, most notably Aceh, Papua (the province formerly known as Irian Jaya), and Maluku. Violence in these areas, that continued throughout 1998 and 1999, has occasionallly targeted American citizens. Travel to these areas can be dangerous and in some cases is to be avoided.

Over the past year, there has been widespread violence in the Molucca Islands and Aceh. Past violence in Aceh has sometimes targeted American companies. Travelers should consult the most recent Public Announcement on Indonesia for updated information on travel to these areas.

Violence erupted throughout East Timor after the August 30, 1999, United Nations-sponsored ballot in that province. Although stability returned to the area with the arrival of international forces, American citizens are strongly encouraged to exercise caution in East Timor.

Travelers may need permits to visit certain regions in the province of Papua. In 1996, a group of foreigners was taken hostage for several months in Papua (then known as Irian Jaya) by the Free Papua Movement (OPM). U.S. citizens should exercise caution when traveling in the province.

Demonstrations in Bali have been infrequent and have not been directed at American citizens. Violent demonstrations of short-lived duration occurred in October 1999, but did not target foreigners or the major tourist areas. In January 2000, however, serious rioting directed against Chinese and Christians broke out in the nearby resort island of Lombok, forcing the evacuation of virtually all foreigners from Lombok, including the resort areas. American citizens should consult the most recent Public Announcement on Indonesia for updated information on travel to Lombok.

For more specific and up-to-date information on the safety of travel to these and other areas of Indonesia and East Timor, please consult the most recent Public Announcement on Indonesia, which can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ home page at Americans can also contact the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta or the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya for updated information. American citizens in all parts of Indonesia should exercise prudence and common sense, and avoid demonstrations and other situations that could turn violent.

Travelers and residents should always ensure that passports and important personal papers are in order in the event that it becomes necessary to leave the country quickly for any reason. Americans traveling in Indonesia should remember that much of the country, including many tourist destinations, is isolated and difficult to reach by available transportation or communication links.

The crime rate in Jakarta is moderate, but rising. Minor crimes, such as pickpocketing and thefts, occur in popular tourist sites throughout the country. Incidents of robbery have been reported.

One common technique involves puncturing automobile tires so that the occupants of the car can be robbed while changing the tire. The number of beggars and vagrants at intersections has increased, and thefts and robberies from cars stopped at traffic lights have been reported. American citizens are advised to keep car doors locked and windows rolled up.

Americans in Jakarta who require taxis are advised to engage a taxi either from a major hotel queue or by calling a taxi company, rather than hailing one on the street. Sporadic roadblocks and robberies have been reported on the toll roads leading to the International Airport in Jakarta.

Maritime piracy is a persistent problem in some Indonesian waters, targeting both pleasure and commercial vessels. Pleasure yachters are advised to review the current security situation with their local agent when planning itineraries and to exercise particular care when sailing in the Straits of Malacca between Riau Province and Singapore and in the waters north of Sulawesi and Kalimantan.

Poaching and illegal logging are serious problems in Indonesian parks and nature preserves. Those involved in these activities have sometimes threatened tourists and others in order to discourage travel to these areas.

In the aftermath of the August 1999 vote for independence, East Timor was swept by violence that included widespread looting and burning and, in some cases, murder. One foreign journalist was shot to death and several others were beaten. Although UN peacekeeping forces have restored a measure of stability to the region, violent incidents remain possible in border areas. Elsewhere in the territory, theft is a potential problem.

Lost or stolen passports should be reported to the local police and the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. consulate. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad, which is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, or via the Internet at

The general level of sanitation and health care in Indonesia is below U.S. standards. Some level of routine medical care is available in all major cities, although most expatriates choose to leave the country for serious medical procedures. Medical care in East Timor is extremely limited. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Indonesia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Variable
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Limited

All traffic operates on the left side of the road, and most vehicles use right-hand drive. Roads in major cities and toll roads are good. Roads are narrower and may be more poorly maintained in rural areas and remote regions. Driving at night outside major cities can be hazardous. Taxis are an affordable means of transportation, but should be called directly or hired from the taxi queue at a reputable hotel. Make sure the taxi driver agrees to take you to your destination. Never get into a taxi already occupied by another passenger, and always insist on using the taxi meter.

For specific information concerning the operation and rental of motor vehicles in Indonesia, please contact the Indonesian Directorate General of Tourism via the Internet at

U.S. citizens involved in commercial or property matters should be aware that the business environment is complex. In many cases, trade complaints are difficult to resolve.

CONSULAR ACCESS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship are readily available. When U.S. citizens are arrested or detained, formal notification of the arrest is normally provided to the Embassy in Jakarta in writing, a process that can take several days or weeks. If detained, U.S. citizens are encouraged to attempt to telephone the nearest U.S. consular office.

Americans living in or visiting Indonesia and East Timor are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they may obtain updated information on travel and security within the country.

The U.S. Embassy is located in Jakarta at Medan Merdeka Selatan 5; telephone (62)(21) 344-2211; fax (62)(21) 386-2259. The Embassy’s web site is located at The Consular Section can be reached by e-mail at

The U.S. Consulate General is in Surabaya at Jalan Raya Dr. Sutomo 33; telephone: (62)(31)567-2287/8; fax (62)(31)567-4492; e-mail

There is a Consular Agency in Bali at Jalan Hayam Wuruk 188, Denpasar, Bali; telephone: (62)(361)233-605; fax (62)(31) 222-426; e-mail

The U.S. Consulate in Medan closed in May 1996. Negotiations are currently underway to reopen this office. There are also plans to open a U.S. liaison office in East Timor. Until there is an official U.S. presence in East Timor, Americans requiring assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta or the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Indonesia’s civil aviation authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Indonesia’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA’s Internet web site at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

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