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One of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago, made up of over 18,000 islands that are filled with cultural and natural wealth, endangered species, picturesque beaches and magnificent religious sites. It is a popular tourist destination, with something new to see at every turn. By car it is possible to go on a cultural exploration of Central Java, to discover breathtaking scenery in Sumatra and to visit the sandy beaches of Bali.
The toll roads found in Java are well maintained, allowing drivers to reach most parts of the island. The condition of Indonesia’s other roads varies, but outside of major cities it is generally poor.
Driving licences: UK drivers need an International Driving Permit along with a UK driving licence to drive here.
Which side does Indonesia drive on: the left.
Motorways: 62mph (100kph)
Rural areas: 37-50mph (60-80kph)
Built-up areas: 25mph (40kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.01 per cent, which is much lower than the UK’s limit of 0.08 per cent; drivers caught with levels above this limit should expect severe penalties.
Driving age: 17 years.
Seatbelts: mandatory in the front seats only. There are no laws regarding child seats, but it is highly recommended to use a suitable child seat for young children.
Mobile phones and GPS: there is currently no law against using a mobile phone while driving but due to the dangers involved, it is not recommended. GPS is allowed and is useful in the large cities.
Cost of fuel in Indonesia: petrol is half the price here of what it costs in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: most petrol stations do not accept credit cards, but cards are useful for car hire. Be sure to inform your UK card supplier that the card will be used overseas.
Insurance: third-party insurance is integrated with most car hire rates but it is also recommended to get excess insurance.
Traffic and parking: driving in Jakarta can be tricky, although paid parking is easy to find outside of the residential areas. Other large cities are also prone to traffic, but parking is reasonably easy to find.
There are no international trains into Indonesia. There are trains that run throughout the islands of Java and Sumatra, which make for a fast and comfortable way to get around. In Java, trains connect most cities to Jakarta. Eksekutif air-conditioned trains are faster, more comfortable and more expensive than the slower ekonomi trains. The journey from Jakarta to Surabaya costs around £18, while the three-hour journey to Bandung is around £4. Reservations can be made up to one month in advance through PT Kereta Api. Jakarta also runs numerous commuter trains to regions surrounding the city. The express trains cost anywhere between £0.40 and £0.80, while the slower economy train (Economi-AC) is cheap, costing just £0.50 per trip.
Taxis are affordable and widely available in all major cities throughout the country. Taxis charge by the meter, starting at a fixed rate of £0.40 and then around £0.20 for each kilometre (0.6 mile), starting after the first two kilometres have been driven. Most taxi drivers charge a fixed rate rather than use the meter, but fares are never more than around £1.30. Other great ways to zip around include the baja, which is a three-wheeled motor vehicle, and the ojek, which is a motorcycle taxi. A short trip on either of these forms of transport should cost around £0.45.
Long-distance buses travel into Indonesia from Kuching (Malaysia) to Pontianak on the island of Kalimantan. The eight-hour journey costs around £10 by economy class bus and around £20 in a more comfortable executive class bus. Inter-city bus travel is also available on most islands, as well as between Java and Bali and Java and Sumatra. Most cities have inner-city buses, although they are not the most reliable way to get around. The only exception is the busway in Jakarta. For information and a route map, visit Transjakarta Busway.
Regular ferries arrive at the Riau Islands, Sumatra and Kalimantan from Malaysia and Singapore. Boats are the most popular way to get from one Indonesian island to the next, with all being linked by regular ferry service. The fare varies according to the distance, and ferries serve both passengers and vehicles. For reservations and route maps, visit Pelni or asdp.
Three international airports serve Indonesia, with Jakarta’s Soekarno–Hatta International Airport being the busiest, followed by Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport and Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. There are no direct flights to Indonesia from the UK, but it is possible to arrive via Amsterdam, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Other alternatives include Makassar’s Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport and Medan’s Polonia International Airport via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). UK nationals can get a 30-day visa on arrival at any airport, seaport or land crossing for £16, which can be extended for an additional 30 days in-country at any immigration office for an additional £16.
Bali, the ‘Island of the Gods’, is Indonesia’s most popular island thanks to its stunning beaches, fantastic surfing, incredible landscapes and magnificent temples. It is here where visitors will find the art centre of Ubud, the upscale resort area of Seminyak and the nine directional temples that include Uluwatu Temple and the mother temple of Besakih.
Central Java is home to some of Indonesia’s most cultural and religious sites, including the 9th century Buddhist temple complex of Borobudur, the Hindu temple complex of Prambanan and the ancient city of Yogyakarta.
West Java is home to the chaotic capital city of Jakarta, Java’s most popular beaches, the port city of Pelabuhan Ratu and the incredible endangered Java one-horned rhinoceros, which can be found living in Ujung Kulon National Park.
To the south is the massive island of Sumatra, which is home to a wealth of natural sites. Here, visitors will find archaeological sites at Muaro Jambi, Gunung Leuser National Park, the surfers’ paradise of the Mentawai Islands and the country’s highest peak, Mount Kerinci.
Kalimantan is the Indonesian side of Borneo and one of the world’s most bio-diverse areas. Its rainforest is around 130 million years old and home to 15,000 plant and flower species, 221 mammal species and 420 bird species, as well as the Bornean orangutan, Asian elephants, the Bornean clouded leopard and the Sumatran rhinoceros.
There are two seasons in Indonesia: wet and dry, although it generally rains all year round. Java and Bali see the smallest amount of rain from June to October, with an average temperature of 28°C. Sumatra’s driest months are from January to April and temperatures are higher here, at an average of 31°C. On Kalimantan, it is hot and wet all year, while Sulawesi is the driest part of the country.