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Indonesia

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Draped languidly across the equator, the charismatic archipelago of Indonesia is a smattering of diverse island jewels bobbing around in tropical seas. A visit is a great adventure in waiting – it’s truly one of the last intrepid destinations left on the planet. The third most populous nation on earth has an incredible legacy of peoples, cultures and geography just waiting to be explored.

Visitors will soon be tripping over pristine, white-sand beaches fringed by dramatic volcanic ranges towering over verdant green terraced hillsides and lush rainforest. A kaleidoscope of sealife including huge sunfish, manta rays, porpoises, turtles and blindingly colourful beds of coral await beneath the waves.

The island of Bali is the picture-postcard paradise: stunning scenery, gentle sarong-clad people and sunsets of legendary glory. No wonder it’s the most popular spot in the archipelago. Set inland, the hilly town of Ubud is where visitors can get a sense of Bali’s traditional culture, through the art galleries, temples and museums which dot the area. For the opposite experience, head to Kuta one of the most popular tourist resort areas. Brash and busy and overrun with backpackers as it may be, if you’re looking for a party, this is most likely where you’ll find it. The same goes for surfing as the area has a long history of attracting surfers to its great breaks. Still, there’s a lot more to Indonesia than Bali – there are over 13,000 islands just waiting to be explored.

Hop on a flight to neighbouring Lombok, and here’s where the pace of life settles down to languorous rhythm. Glorious beaches play host to surfers who have moved on from Kuta’s charms, whilst the towering volcano of Gunung Rinjani on North Lombok is the perfect place for trekkers to push themselves to the limit.

Squeeze in a trip to catch a sight of Komodo dragons (also known as ‘living dinosaurs’) feeding on Komodo Island. It will astound as will Borobudur's architectural treasures, which include 5km (3 miles) of Buddhist relief carvings. Adventure-seekers head for Kalimantan's remote jungle interior or explore Sumatra, with its teeming wildlife and wealth of tribal groups.

  • 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 = 15401.00 IDR
    • 1 GBP = 19784.81 IDR
    • 1 USD = 12192.00 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.