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Indonesia

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Draped languidly across the equator, Indonesia is a series of emerald jewels scattered across a broad expanse of tropical sea. This is one of the world’s great adventures in waiting – hidden away in dense jungles on secret islands are tribes almost untouched by the outside world and animals hardly known to science.

The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored. The archipelago boasts more than 18,000 islands, from tiny islets not much bigger than a palm tree to the mighty expanse of Borneo, shared with the Malaysian provinces of Sabah and Sarawak and the kingdom of Brunei.

Many come specifically to discover their own island paradise, complete with white-sand beaches, swaying palms and emerald waters. Offshore are some of the world’s best dive sites, swarming with huge sunfish, giant rays, sharks, porpoises, turtles and a blindingly colourful array of tropical fish.

For others, the attraction is cultural. A fascinating range of civilisations have grown up on these tropical islands, from animist tribes in remote jungle villages to the elaborate Hindu kingdoms of Bali and Java. In Indonesia, timeless temples jostle for space with golden-domed mosques and beach resorts crowded with sun-seekers and surfers. The surf resort of Kuta has become one of the world’s favourite tropical escapes, and the beach party raves through till dawn every day of the week.

For some, Kuta is the very vision of Asia. For others, the true escapes lie elsewhere, on the volcanic islands that drift eastwards towards Australia. Here are towering volcanoes to be climbed, national parks to be explored and tropical rainforests to be trekked. You might even get lucky and meet an orang-utan on Sumatra or the world’s largest living reptile on the island of Komodo, home to the eponymous Komodo dragon.

Best of all, flights and ferries link all of the islands, so you can island-hop right across the archipelago, stopping only when you find your own perfect piece of Southeast Asia.

  • Capital:

    Jakarta.

    Geography:

    Indonesia lies between the mainland of South East Asia and Australia in the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest archipelago state. Indonesia is made up of five main islands - Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Kalimantan (part of the island of Borneo) and Irian Jaya (the western half of New Guinea) - and 30 smaller archipelagos.

    In total, the Indonesian archipelago consists of about 17,508 islands; 6,000 of these are inhabited and stretch over 4,828km (3,000 miles), most lying in a volcanic belt with more than 300 volcanoes, the great majority of which are extinct. The landscape varies from island to island, ranging from high mountains and plateaux to coastal lowlands and alluvial belts.

    The high incidence of volcanoes in Indonesia is due to its location along a stretch of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The collision of various tectonic plates mean that around 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur within this area, with Indonesia suffering from frequent earthquakes and volcano eruptions.

    Government:

    Republic. Declared independence from The Netherlands in 1945.

    Head Of State:

    President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono since 2004.

    Head Of Government:

    President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono since 2004.

    Electricity:

    220/250 volts AC, 50Hz but 127 volts is still used in some areas. Plugs used are European-style with two circular metal pins.

    Timezone:
  • Currency Information:

    Rupiah (IDR; symbol Rp). Notes are in denominations of Rp100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of Rp1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50.

    Credit Cards:

    American Express, MasterCard, Visa, Diners Club and Eurocard are widely accepted in Jakarta and the main tourist areas. In more remote areas, it is best to carry cash in small denominations. ATMs are available in towns and at airports.

    ATMs:

    ATMs are available in cities and larger towns but be aware that many have a maximum withdrawal limit which can be as high as Rp3,000,000 or as low as Rp400,000. This can be overcome by putting your card again but be careful as you may be hit with a bank fee each time.

    Travellers Cheques:

    There is limited merchant acceptance but they can be exchanged at banks and larger hotels, although they are becoming less common and more difficult to exchange. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars. American Express is the most widely accepted.

    Banking Hours:

    Mon-Thurs 0800-1400; Fri 0800-1200; Sat 0800-1100 (some branches).

    Currency Restrictions:

    The import and export of local currency is limited to Rp5,000,000, amounts more than that must be declared. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited. However, amounts exceeding the equivalent of Rp100,000,000 must be declared.

    Currency Exchange:

    Although there should be no difficulty exchanging major currencies in the main tourist centres, problems may occur elsewhere. Watch out for on the street money changers who may try to trick visitors out of their cash. The easiest currency to exchange is the US Dollar. Do not accept notes with a lot of visible wear and tear as these may not be accepted by merchants.

    Currencies: Exchange Rates:

    • 1 AUD = 7.00 IDR
    • 1 EUR = 14092.00 IDR
    • 1 GBP = 19413.26 IDR
    • 1 USD = 13080.00 IDR

  • Best Time To Visit:

    Indonesia has a tropical climate which is highly variable from area to area. The eastern monsoon brings the driest weather (June to September), while the western monsoon brings the main rains (December to March). Rainstorms occur all year. Higher regions are cooler. Temperatures average between 23°C (73°F) and 28°C (82°F) all year, but this tends to be humid heat, with humidity varying from 70% to 90%. Peak time for tourists to travel is in June, July and August, although prices will be higher; those travelling in the shoulder seasons of May and September could get lucky with both weather and prices.

    Muddy roads can be a deterrent to travel in the wet season. Keep in mind that during local holidays public transport can be clogged, accommodation hard to find in holiday areas and businesses close.

    Required Clothing:

    Bring lightweight clothing with rainwear; cottons and silks will be most appropriate. Warmer clothes are needed for cool evenings and upland areas, thicker cottons and woollen garments may work best. Smart clothes such as jackets are required for formal occasions, and it is regarded inappropriate to wear brief clothes anywhere other than the beach or at sports facilities. Women should observe the dress code in Muslim areas that requires shoulders and legs to be kept covered.