City Guide


Chicago, ORD, All Carriers

Multiple Hotels adjacent to the airport

Subway to City Center 75 Mins $3 or Taxi 40 Mins $60

Destinations: Miracle Mile. Aquarium. Museums. Hancock Tower top floor bar/rest.

New York, JFK, All Carriers except United; Newark, EWR, United. (120 mins between JFK-EWR. 30 mins between domestic LaGuardia (LGA) Airport and JFK.

Multiple Hotels adjacent to the airport

Subway to City Center (combines rail and subway service with changes).

90 mins $10.

Taxi 45 mins $60.

Destinations in Manhattan: Broadway. Midtown. Ferry Tour around Manhattan. Museums. All Professional Sports.

Tokyo, NRT, Terminal 1: American Air, Japan Air, Delta. Terminal 2: United, All Nippon Air (ANA). Terminal 3 contains deep discount carriers. Tokyo is also served by Haneda (HND) airport. 90 mins between airports.

Multiple Hotels adjacent to the Airport.

Train to City Center: 75 mins $30 roundtrip. Connect to subway. Or Bus to downtown. Note, last train from airport 19:00. Last train from City Center 20:00.

Taxi $200 one way.

Destinations: Tuna Market, Bars and Restaurants, Karaoke, Temples

Hong Kong (HKG). All US Carriers. Cathay Pacific.

Hotels adjacent to the airport.

90 mins by train to city center. $7 Taxi 60 mins $50

Use for hotels, but note neighbourhood locations.

Destinations: Harbor Ferry, Dim Sum including 3star Michelin Dim Sum at the Four Seasons Hotel, Tai-O Fishing Village, Kowloon Shopping, Disney World Hong Kong,

Doha, Qatar (DOH). American, Qatar.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AUH). Etihad.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (DXB). Emirates.

For all 3, sleeping pods airside. At airport hotels are limited and usually in town. No train service. Taxis 30 mins $30 to town.

Destinations: Shopping, markets, gold shopping, desert excursions.

Singapore, SIN. Singapore Air, Delta.

In Airport Hotels. If you are transiting SIN overnight you do not need to clear customs to stay in a hotel. There are bunk beds, and standard hotel rooms on the air side. Google Singapore In Airport Hotels to learn more. Crowne Plaza Hotel also operates in T3 on the landside after clearing customs.

60 mins by train to city center $5. Taxi 45 mins. $50.

Destinations: Boat tour, Chicken Rice, Marina Casino, Museums, Lions Head fountain. Western Shopping. Traditional markets. Singapore Sling at Raffles.

Regarded as the finest transit airport in the world, you can skip the city and enjoy a 24 hour food court, gym, movie theatre, and butterfly garden. There are 3 terminals with airside trains connecting the terminals, but the terminals are big, really really big, so allow lots of time to get to the gate. Between terminal trains do not operate overnight.

Kuala Lumpur, KUL. T1 Malaysian Air. T2. Air Asia.

Hotels adjacent to airport. There is also a hotel in T2, airside.

Train to City Center $20. 45 mins.

Destinations: Excellent discount deals for Asian travel on Air Asia. Petronas Towers. Hawker food. Traders Hotel Sky Bar at sunset. Hookahs at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel after sunset. In July, see the Saudi tourists!


Island of Java

Jakarta, West Java. Timezone WIB. Population, Local Language and Culture: 10 Million. Now a melting pot. Originally the Betawi people.

Jakarta Airport (CGK) International and Domestic. See more detailed transit notes above in Planning Travel for Detailed Transit Details.

Buses & Taxis Available. Taxis Non-Peak, 30 mins, $15 Bluebird, $25 Silverbird. Peak, 90 mins. Add $10 to taxi fare. To town peak hours 06:00-09:30+15:30-22:00. From Town peak hours 15:30-20:00.

In Airport Hotels. T1 Landside. T2, Landside. Also, 5 mins from airport.

Jakarta Halim (HLP) Airport. Limited domestic routes. No Airport Hotels.

Taxis Non-Peak, 15 mins, $10 Bluebird, $15 Silverbird. Peak, 60 mins. Add $10 to taxi fare. To town peak hours 06:00-09:00+17:00-19:00. From Town peak hours 16:00-20:00.

City Center Hotels

Many options to google. Ritz Carlton (there are 2), $300+, Mandarin Oriental $150+, Borobodur Hotel $80, Holiday Inn Express multiple locations $60 especially Wahid Hasyim; and the best bet in 3 star hotels is the Aston Kuningan Suites for its space and price.

Destinations: The big mosque and small church located next to the big mosque. MONAS. National Museum. Malls: Grand Indonesia adjacent to Plaza Indonesia, Pacific Place, Casablanca. Bars: Shangri-La Hotel Bats. Murphy’s Bar. Loewe’s (pronounced Louies), Skybar & Resturants, 50th Floor BCA Bank Building (reservations for dining a must). The sleepy Jimbaran Outdoor Bar Waterfall Bar at Ayana Hotel. MCI Culinary School to learn to cook. Multiple dance clubs that change – try Alexis for loud music and young people.

Traditional crafts: $5-$200 crafts from all over Indonesia at Passaraya Blok M, Jalan Iskandarsyah II Blok 2, Blok M, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. $100 – $1,000 crafts at Alun Alun Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, Grand Indonesia Mall.


Transiting Jakarta and have 12 hours? Here are 5 things you can do:

Hours 1 and 2 – arrive – re-check for your connecting flight and leave your luggage. Alternatively take with you. Either take the Airport Train or take bluebird to city center (130,000 – 30 mins between 21:00 and 06:00; 1 hour between 10:00 and 2:00; 2 hours between 06:00 – 10:00 and 14:00 – 21:00. Saturday and Sunday is faster except for severe traffic delays in City Center Friday and Saturday evenings 17:00 – 22:00. Or take Silverbird with driver who speaks conversational English at 250,000. Waiting time is aprox 60.000/hour in Bluebird and 90.000/hour in Silverbird. Take a picture of the license plate, taxi driver license and get the cell number of your driver. Call the driver to make sure phone rings.

Hour 3 + 4- visit MONAS – a 40 story monument and display. Best to arrive 9:00 – 11:00.

Hour 5 – visit the Big Mosque to beat the drum and rest in the little church adjacent.

Hour 6 – enjoy one of the 4 restaurants at Hotel Borobodur, near the mosque.

Hour 7 -9 – go to the National Museum – 20 cents admission

Hour 10 – see and be seen at Skybar out door patio bar or indoor dining, floor 57, BCA Bank Tower – great sunset views

Hour 11 – return to airport

Hour 12 – having completed checkin already proceed directly to Immigration (less than 20 mins waiting) and to your gate (boarding starts 45 mins before departure and ends 25 mins before departure)

Estimated taxi costs:

Bluebird 130,000 + 600.000 waiting + 130.000

Alternatively – take the taxi to Borobodur Hotel direct from the airport and store bags here pretending you will check in later and get business card of hotel to show taxi driver – proceed on foot to most sites. National Museum is a very short taxi or trike ride. Backtrack to Borobodur to claim bags. Then take another taxi to BCA sky bar Building where u will require a taxi from Borobodur Hotel and have them wait at Skybar. Skip Skybar Friday and Saturday 16:00 – 21:00 as this bar is located in the entertainment hub and traffic stands still. Confirm all destinations, hours of opening, costs, addresses and telephone numbers using the Lonely Planet Indonesia Guide or the www. Write down all addreses to give to the driver and use your cell to call the destination if the driver is lost. NEVER leave money, passports, plane tickets or cell tel in a waiting taxi.

Bogor. Population, Local Language and Culture: 1Million, Sunda and some Java people.

90mins south of Jakarta by train or road. Collaborator: Bogor Agricultural Institute. Note heavy traffic on weekends as Jakartans sample the restaurants of Bogor.

Bandung, West Java. Timezone WIB. Population, Local Language and Culture: 2 Million, Sunda people.

Airport: BDO. Domestic Service (Jakarta service is HLP-BDO) and KUL+SIN.

Taxi to Bandung City Center 20 mins, $5.

Service to Jakarta by travel car $8, private driver $70, Silver Bird $100. 2.5 hours-4 hours. Note, there is no peak time. Even 03:00 am can be a peak time.

Service to Jakarta by train. 3 hours. Take the Express Executive Class. $10.

Hotels: Padma or Intercontinental. Stunning views. Or Crowne Plaza, City Center.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: UPI

Destinations: Restaurants. Parks. At altitude. Evening temperatures below 20C/70F. BEWARE: Severe local traffic Friday 12:00 – Sunday 18:00 due to Jakarta tourists.

Semarang, Central Java. Timezone WIB. Local Language and Culture: 2 Million, Javan

Airport: Domestic Service and KUL+SIN.

Time, Cost to City Center: 20 mins $5

Rail: Jakarta/Surabaya overnight. Take express executive class.

By road to Yogya=3 hours. Bus $8. Private driver $70. Insist on Jalan Tol from Salatiga to Semarang Jl Tol exit.

Hotels: 3 star – Holiday Inn Express Simpang Lima, Louis Kienne Simpang Lima (Check out the roof top pool and cafe with the best views of Semarang), Hotel Santika Premiere. 4 star – Po Hotel. UNNES Guest House. Mall: Paragon. Food: Lumpia Semarang on Gang Lombok, No.11 – this shack only serves Spring Rolls and locals love it. For Western Food try Bowery or Eastman, across from Holiday Inn.”

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: UNNES

Destinations: Simpang Lima, downtown market, Chinatown. Wayang kulit shadow puppet show long form version in Javanese (22:00 – 04:00). S3 restaurant complex across from Hotel Grand Candi. OnOn Pub. Sakapatat Bar. Nearby Candi Gedong Songo.

Yogyakarta, Special District of Yogyakarta located in Central Java. Timezone WIB. Local Language and Culture: 3 Million, Java People

Airport: JOG.

Time, Cost to City Center: Airport is located adjacent to city center and is scheduled to move to a more distant location around 2019. 5mins-15mins $5 depending on destination.

By Road to Semarang – see Semarang City Guide.

Train: Jakarta/Solo/Surabaya. Executive Express.

Hotels: Tentrem (best). Ambarukmo (adjacent to mall). Phoenix Hotel (Historic). Sheraton (dated, but near airport), Platinum Adsicupto Hotel (adjacent to airport entrance), Melia near Malioboro Street.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: UNY, USD.

Destinations: Malioboro Street Shopping including Batik + Java style on-the-ground eating. Prawirotaman restaurants. Bars: Sakapatat, Agenda, Oxen Free. Restaurants: Gajah Wong, Parsley. Borobudur (Buddhist Temple), one of seven wonders of the world, and Prambanan (Hindu Temple of the same time period). Palace. Waterworks. Tourist version 1 hour of Wayang Kulit shadow puppets.

Surabaya, East Java. Timezone WIB. Local Language and Culture: 7 Million, Javanese.

SUB has 2 terminals on separate sides of the airport, so you need a taxi to get between them, or you can take the irregularly scheduled shuttle. All international arrivals and all Garuda flights are at the new terminal 2. All domestic flights except Garuda are at Terminal 1. Tell your taxi driver the airline and if it is international or domestic.

Time, Cost to City Center: 30 mins. $15. Say ‘Jalan Tol’ which means take the Toll Route. In the old T1 go to the taxi stands outside bag claim. Probably a blue bird there. In new T2 go to the machines that let you select your destination and bring the ticket outside to the taxi starter.

Hotels: Adjacent to Airport. Alana Hotel is next to UNESA. There is also a Marriott farther away from UNESA and the historic Majahapit.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: UNESA

Destinations: Malls – Ciputra World, Pakuwon, Tunjungan Plaza 1-5, Grand City.

Historic monuments, including Tugu Pahlawan. Museums: Transportation, History. Local tour bus with guide. Holycow steak house. Citilies, 21st floor, Java Paragon Hotel. Mazeltov Beer House.

Malang, East Java. Timezone WIB. Local Language and Culture: 2 Million, Java People

Airport: MLG (NO service to Surabaya).

By road to Surabaya: 2 – 3 hours. Travel car: $8. Private Car $50.

Train: Local service to Surabaya. 3 hours. $8.

Time, Cost to City Center: 30 mins $10.

Hotels: Ibis adjacent to the Mall and U Negeri Malang. Hotel Tugu has a ghost and small museum + pool and a great restaurant. Go to Hok Lay for the best Lumpia

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: U Negeri Malang

Destinations: Mt. Bromo (active volcano).  Leave the hotel at midnight or shortly after and return the next morning so you can see the boiling lava in the cauldron at night and watch the sunrise.  Shop in the small shops on the city square. Toko Oeno restaurant.


Medan, North Sumatra. Timezone WIB. Local Language and Culture: 2 Million, Batak, Medanese,

Airport: MES. International service to SIN, KUL.

Time, Cost to City Center: 45 mins. $15.

Hotels: Marriot.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: UniMed.

Destinations: Lake Tobo

Padang, Central Sumatra. Timezone WIB. Local Language and Culture: 1 Million, Minangkabau. A matrilineal society, the ‘people of the bull’ commemorate their culture by designing buildings in the shape of bull horns.

Airport: PDG

Time and Cost to City Center: 45 mins. $10.

Hotels: Hotel Mercure. Pangeran Beach Hotel.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: U Negeri Padang

Destinations: Padang food served in small bowls dim sum style. Hands instead of cutlery. Off shore islands. Surfing. Burial rituals of the aboriginal people. Nearby: Bukitingi canyon and traditional market. Conservative area. Women should cover areas from their neck to their knees, including when swimming. In the surfing area off shore western swim wear is acceptable.

Pekanbaru, Central Sumatra. Timezone WIB. Local Language and Culture: 1 Million

Airport: PKU. International Service to SIN, KUL.

Time, Cost to City Center: 15 mins. $10.

Hotels: Aryaduta

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: IAIN Pekanbaru

Destinations: Traditional market


Timezone WIT. Local Language and Culture: 1Million Denpasar City, 4 Million Bali Island. Balinese Hindu.

Airport: DPS

Time, Cost to City Center: See DPS transit information in the Travel Section above.

Hotels: There are over 500 hotels on Bali. The most elite is Bulgari down to the cheapest kost. See for all 500.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: Ganesha University, Singarajah and Bali Boarding School, grades 10-12.


Bali is the shape of a large diamond. At the bottom point is the airport. Imagine a much smaller diamond turned upside down and the point would also touch at the airport. Neighbourhoods from the airport going to the northwest: Kuta (a beach popular with Java people and Beachwalk Mall. Try Sheraton Hotel $350 or Harrison Hotel $80), Legian (dance clubs and bars, try SkyGarden Bar near the Bali Bombing Memorial), Seminyak (high end hotels, try the W Hotel). Neighborhoods from the airport going due North: Denpasar City. Three hours beyond this is Singarajah (Try Lovina Hotel and Spa $100). Neighborhoods from the airport going Northeast: Sanur (Mercure Hotel, muddy lagoon like beach). To the far Northeast is Ubud (in the forest). To the southwest of airport is Jimbaran (try Intercontinental Hotel for beach and sunsets). To the southeast of the airport is Nusa Dua (Western resort style beach hotels and morning sun, try Regis ($300), Mulia ($200) or Indonesian owned Ayodya Resort for comparable amenities at a lower price ($120).

In Balinese, there is no word for ‘art’. It is just something you do to live. Each community has its own art. For example, one community may be filled with painters and another sculptors and so on. Talk to a driver and tell them what you want to see. We can recommend a driver. Seeing originally created jewelry being made by the artist is possible. Silver is most common (mined in Indonesia) and there is also some gold.

Lombok, the island east of Bali is a 40 minute flight and less touristy than Bali (try Sheraton Hotel).

There are also 3 very small islands (Gili Air, Gili Meno) off the west coast of Bali accessed by small boats from west Lombok. One of the 3 islands (Gili Trawangan) can be accessed by high speed boat from Bali. GT is the most touristy.

Tanah Lot, a temple on the west coast of Bali is the most popular and very touristy but there are thousands of temples to visit. Visitors will be provided with a sari to cover from the waist down.


Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Timezone WIT. Local Language and Culture: less than 1M. Melting pot including Bugis and Dayak.

Airport: Samarinda-SRI. Balikpapan Airport – BPN

Samarinda Airport is located in the middle of the city and can accommodate only small planes, mostly from Balikpapan. Renovation is planned.

Time, Cost to City Center: 5 mins, $3. From Balikpapan, 15 mins $5 to BPN city center. 3 hours, $20 to Samarinda.

Hotels: Swiss-Bel or Mesra

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: Mulawarman U

Destinations: Explore nature.

Makassar, South Sulawesi. Timezone WIT. Local Language and Culture: 2 Million. Makarese, Bugis, Dayak and more. Makassar is also named Ujung Pandang, the name used at airports.

Airport: UPG

Time, Cost to City Center: 30 mins, $20.

Hotels: Aryaduta

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: U Negeri Makassar

Destinations: market, Fort Rotterdam

Gorontalo, Gorontalo Province in north/central Sulawesi. Timezone WIT. Local Language and Culture: Less than 1M. Gorontalese

Airport: GTO

Time, Cost to City Center: 50 mins. Usually by driver. Taxis available.

Hotels: Maqna

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: U Negeri Gorontalo

Destinations: Nature encounters. Enjoy a sleepy small Indonesian town where chickens roam the streets.

Manado, North Sulawesi. Timezone WIT. Local Language and Culture: Less than 1M. Manadonese Christians.

Airport: MDC

Time, Cost to City Center: 25 mins $10. By driver to the main campus, 2 hours.

Hotels: Novotel at the Airport if you’re going to main campus. If you’re spending time in town, Aryaduta Hotel.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: U Negeri Manado. Note the Graduate School is located in the city, but the main campus is located 2 hours up the mountain next to a lake.

Destinations: Underwater marine park with world class diving, easily accessible by ferry from downtown Manado.


Jayapura, Papua. Timezone WETA. Local Language and Culture: 250,000 people. Papuan Christians but many people in the city are Javanese.

Airport:  DJJ

Time, Cost to City Center: 45 mins. By driver. Taxis available.

Hotels: Aston.

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: No partner, but Cendawarsih U is the big institution in town.

Destinations: This is where Indonesians go when they want to get away. The mountains that jut out of the ocean have an ethereal quality. A jumping off point to Papua New Guinea or central Papua Indonesia, travellers should exercise caution because of a sometimes-violent separatist movement in rural areas.

Raja Ampat Marine Underwater diving area can be accessed by air from here although Manado Marine Park in Sulawesi is more accessible.

Merauke, Papua. Timezone WETA. Local Language and Culture: 200,000 people. Papuan Christians and immigrants from Java working for government.

Airport: MKQ

Time, Cost to City Center: 5 mins. $3.

Hotels: SwissBel

Partner/Collaborating Institutions: No partner, but Musamus U is the big institution in town.

Destinations: Nature interactions. Beach. Papua New Guinea is 30 miles/50kms. Merauke is a sleepy town located on a river delta with broad flat beaches. All flights arrive and leave within 1 hour of each other, leaving the other 23 hours of the day quite isolated. Here, and the town of Ambon in the spice islands are about the 2 places you can fly into on commercial aircraft and still have a very very quiet existence. The great American novel can be written here.

First Impressions


Individual travelers can expect to be greeted by your hosts and to have transportation to your accommodations. It can also be helpful to make a quick trip to the grocery and to learn when your hosts will pick you up again – gather cell tel and what’s app contact info for at least 2 people. Your hosts are HAPPY to see you, so ask for anything you need.

You’re likely to experience culture shock on arrival, and if you remain 3 weeks or more may experience reverse culture shock on your return. It’s a very real thing. Being sure to talk to other foreigners and locals and other socializing will be a good support to help you fight feelings of loneliness or anger. In talking to others AVOID saying ‘In America we…’ or ‘In Indonesia you…”. Both are large countries, and it’s likely an indigenous person in Alaska has more in common with someone in rural Papua than a New Yorker. Likewise, a New Yorker may have more in common with someone from Jakarta. Your frame of reference does not speak for the entire American Experience. Instead try, ‘I never tasted something like that before…’ or ‘How do you make it’ or ‘A surprise to me was…’ Non-judgmental ways of engaging others as you try to make sense of new experiences is something we all understand.

Jet lag solutions.

  • Try arriving in the evening. Wear an eye mask and ear plugs.
  • If that doesn’t work, try a dramamine (original drowsy formula) or an alcoholic drink. That will work to get you to sleep and using the mask and plugs should keep you asleep.
  • If you are exhausted mid-day and must sleep, set an alarm for 75 minutes maximum. When the alarm sounds take 5 mins to get up but do force yourself to get up.
  • Mild exercise like walking mid-day will also help.


  • Expect a mix of ‘Asian’ squat or ‘Western’ sit style toilets (some flush, some don’t)
  • Expect a tank with water and scooper; fill the scooper & throw in the toilet to flush
  • There may also be a bucket or hose with turn-off valve instead of a tank/scoop
  • Expect wet floors and toilet seats and if it’s open air, mosquitoes.
  • Do not expect toilet paper; carry tissues with you to wipe off the seat and yourself
  • Expect the sink, soap, and towel (if there are any) to be outside the toilet area
  • Carry hand sanitizer wipes
  • Hotel and mall toilets will be sit style with soap and toilet paper


  • Go where your hosts want to take you
  • Don’t hesitate to ask them to take you to particular places
  • Keep ‘small money’ in one pocket to give to workers providing helpful tasks. Eg: If it rains children will appear with umbrellas and assist you. You will also see a lot of begging, including women with small children who they sometimes rent from neighborhood families. In Java, some locals feel giving money to beggars encourages them in begging. Others feel it is important to be charitable to give money to beggars. In Bali, many Balinese are very against begging, say that it is against Balinese culture, and say that if you need a job you should go to see the King and he will give you a job (there are multiple Kings in Bali, and yes, they will give you a job). In the unlikely account you encounter an aggressive beggar, turn your empty pocket inside out and shrug.


At meetings:

  • Do NOT use your left hand to shakes hands. DO present business cards and gather their cards for future contacts.
  • Expect tea to be served. The meeting cannot end until you take 2 – 3 sips. When conversation seems finished thank your hosts so that they know to conclude the meeting. Don’t hug and kiss goodbye. The handshake is generally loose, unless you meet someone who has spent time overseas.
  • Conservative Muslim women will not touch a person of the opposite sex
  • Not everyone is Muslim
  • Allow time for prayer
  • On the way too or from meetings always CARRY CASH
  • On the way to or from meetings, no matter how irritated you get, such as at the airport, NEVER raise your voice. Yelling either elicits silence and inaction, or a very angry response.
  • If there is ‘naked disagreement’ where you feel you have been wronged, such as at the airport, state in a conversational tone all that you have done and your expectation, without blaming directly the person in front of you (such as an airline employee). Try smiling and asking for help. Saving face is important in Indonesia. A traveler recently paid $20 to change to an earlier flight and the agent chased the traveler hoping for an additional $100 payment, say something like ‘I paid the price you said, I have my boarding pass, I am not paying more, and I am going on this flight. It’s good to see you again. (smiling) Goodbye’

At Classrooms:

  • Expect an empty classroom with desks, a blackboard or whiteboard, and a marker or chalk. Hopefully the AC works. Everything else you either need to bring, buy, or request. Most classrooms will now have a projector.
  • Expect to have a shared office to use while on campus
  • Expect to be able to use computers/printers/email
  • Request the copying and equipment that you need
  • Expect your hosts to provide you with whatever you need; just ask and they will make it happen


Indonesian term                   US Term

34 Provinces                               50 States

Regency                                       County

TK                                                 PreK-K

SD                                                 Grades 1 – 6

SMP                                             Grades 7-9

SMA/SMK                                  Grades 10-12 Academic/Grades 10-12 Technology

D1, D2, D3                                  Community College Diploma, years 1 – 3

S1, S2, S3                                    Bachelors, Masters, PhD

Carrefour                                    Meijer

Guardian / Century                  CVS/Walgreens

Dunkin Donuts                         Dunkin Donuts

Pertamina                                  BP Gas

Indomart/Alphmart                7-11/UDF

A Bit of Advice

  • Settle into the time clock of the people and the culture; go to bed early, rise early
  • Take in the enormous diversity and beauty of the landscape, the people, their languages and ethnicities
  • Relish the warm hospitality and graciousness of the people
  • Smile at strangers and watch a smile break across their faces
  • Engage in small talk with all who want to practice their English
  • Say “America” when people ask you where you are from so they will understand
  • Laugh at yourself and joke with your colleagues; enjoy the Indonesians wonderful sense of humor
  • When you don’t know, ask, and don’t be afraid to ask why; why questions are the foundation upon which cross-cultural understanding rests


  • Do not drink the tap water
  • Do not eat food from “kaki limas” (5-legged street carts, 2 legs belong to the vendor)
  • Lock car doors while in transit
  • Watch your purse and wallet as you would in any major city
  • Lock cash/valuables you don’t want to carry in the hotel or room safe
  • Stay out of bird markets
  • Be careful if visiting monkey forests; Some monkeys in some forests take things like glasses. Good luck getting them back.
  • Resist the temptation to pet dogs and cats to avoid animal and insect bites unless you know their owners
  • Use mosquito repellent day and night; carry some form of repellent with you at all times when you are away from the hotel
  • Expect to see cockroaches, mice, and rats


Good morning = selamat pagi

Good day = selamat siang

Good afternoon = selamat sore

Good evening = selamat malam

Good bye = bye bye

See you later = sampai jumpa lagi

Have a good trip = selamat jalan

How are you = apa kabar?

Fine = baik, baik

Common Expressions

Thank you = terimakasih

No thank you = tidak mau

You’re welcome = sama-sama

I’m sorry = maaf

I’m late = saya terlambat

No = tidak

Yes = ya

Right = kanan

Turn right = belok kanan

Left = kiri

Straight ahead = lurus or terus

Good, very good = bagus, bagus sekali

It’s very delicious = enak sekali

It’s bad = jelek

It’s beautiful = cantik (used to describe something close)

The view is beautiful = panorama indah (used to describe a work of art or something far    away)

I am or me = saya

You or yours = kamu

I am very happy = saya senang sekali

I like it = saya suka

I want to go to the university = saya mau pergi ke universitas

Where is the toilet/bathroom/restroom? = dimana toilet?

My name is Tin Man.  I’m from the University of Os =  Nama saya Tin Man. Dari Universitas Os

Common Foods

Water = air, but a popular water is labeled ‘Aqua’ so you could use that word

Fried rice = nasi goreng

White rice = nasi putih

Fried noodles = mie goreng

Chicken soup = soto ayam

Chicken rice porridge = bubur ayam (great with coke if you’re sick, skip the egg)

Fried fish = ikan goreng

Fried shrimp = udang goreng

I want a cold Beer Bintang = Saya mau Beer Bintang dingin

One more coke, no ice = satu lagi coca-cola, tidak pakai es

Tea = teh

Coffee = kopi

Just coffee = hanya kopi/kopi saja/kopi tawar

No sugar = tidak pakai gula/tawar

No milk = tidak pakai susu

No meat: tanpa daging

Common Fruits

Orange = jeruk

Banana = pisang

Papaya = papaya

Mango = mangga

Jackfruit = nangka

Guava = jambu

Young coconut = kelapa muda

Pineapple = nanas

Lime = lemon

Salak = the skin is like a brown snake

Rambutan = the skin is reddish-yellow and has soft quills

Manggis = the skin is beige and smooth

Durian = the fruit is huge, the skin is yellow-green with sharp points (and sharp smells)


One = satu

Two = dua

Three = tiga

Four = empat

Five = lima

Six = enam

Seven = tujuh

Eight = delapan

Nine = sembilan

Ten = sepuluh

Eleven = sebelas

Twelve = duabelas

Thirteen = tigabelas

Fourteen = empatbelas

Fifteen = limabelas

Sixteen = enambelas

Seventeen = tujuhbelas

Eighteen = delapanbelas

Nineteen = sembilanbelas

Twenty = duapuluh

Twenty one = duapuluh satu

Fifty = limapuluh

One hundred = seratus

Five hundred = lima ratus

One thousand = seribu

Five thousand = lima ribu

Ten thousand = sepuluh ribu

Twenty thousand = duapuluh ribu

Fifty thousand = limapuluh ribu

One hundred thousand = seratus ribu

One million = satu juta

Tipping in Indonesia

  • Sample Salaries: School teacher 3.5M IDR= $300/month; Junior faculty member 4.5M = $400 USD. College Dean 10M = $900 month. Shop worker = 1.5M = $100/month working 13 days/ 8 hours over 2 weeks. Hotel Bar Worker = 5M = $450/5 days/wk.
  • For easy conversions, 10,000 Rupiah = approximately $1 USD. Many places you will pay a million for a hotel room for one night. Think of it as $100 (actually about $77).
  • To keep things in perspective, 49 % of Indonesia’s population lives on less than $2 USD per day. Tips are really appreciated.
  • Hotel include a service charge; even if they do, it is nice to leave a tip for the waiter/waitress
  • 20,000 Rp is OK to leave on your hotel pillow every morning or give to someone who delivers food, laundry, or other things you requested to your room
  • 20,000 Rp is OK for someone who handles your baggage
  • A few extra Rp on top of the fare is OK for taxi drivers
  • Give your driver 10,000 – 20,000 Rp for lunch if you stop for lunch while he is driving you – ordinarily he will not eat with you – you can ask him, but expect him to decline
  • Reward the university driver with a tip when you are close to departure from a city. Judge the amount to give by how much the driver has been involved.  Think in terms of multiples of 10,000 Rp and 50,000 Rp.  If his work has been extensive, required several days, long distances, many trips, many stops, early mornings, late nights, think in multiples of 50,000 Rp.

Beverages and Use of Water

  • Load up on water to keep your system well-hydrated and toxins flushed out. Indonesia is on the equator.  Even if you don’t typically drink a lot of water, you need to do so here.
  • In better restaurants table water will be bottled. In street-side warung-style restaurants, buy a bottle of water. Even in the finest hotel, ice is from the tap. EITHER do not take ice OR do take an antibiotic.
  • Order Aqua and skip the ice whenever you are unsure; buy Aqua at a grocery store or warung (small shop or kiosk) to supplement the complimentary bottles (usually 2) provided by your hotel; leave 20,000 Rp on your pillow and tell the person making up your bed how many bottles you need
  • Coffee and tea offered by your hosts are OK to drink (don’t worry that the tea is tepid; the water has been boiled and allowed to cool)
  • Soft drinks, tea, coffee, juices (fresh and bottled or boxed) are all safe to drink
  • You can order beer, wine, or drinks in most hotels and beer in many restaurants. Beer Bintang, made locally, is good and less expensive than imports. Wine and spirits are imported, unless you are in Bali where rice wine is made.
  • Enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetable drinks that are widely available
  • Brush and rinse your teeth with Aqua; rinse your toothbrush in the tap water to rid it of toothpaste; then pour Aqua over your brush and let it air dry; alternate between two toothbrushes so they dry out thoroughly between brushings

Vegetarians will love Indonesia. Do not use the word ‘tidak’ (no) to say no meat. Instead say ‘Saya vegetarian’ or ‘Saya tidak makan daging’.

Spice- Most Indonesians love spice. Some eat habanero peppers like popcorn as a snack. Chilis and chili seasoning will be in a lot of things. If that’s not for you, get a local to help you find something less spicy.  There are a range of cuisines across the archipelago that you can explore.

Street Food- kaki limas (2wheeled, 1 legged carts with one worker) are everywhere.  Do not eat from them, but do feel free to order from them so you can participate in the show and then donate your purchase to someone in the neighbourhood.

Warungs, tent-like street-side restaurants vary in quality and specialty. Ask a local for a good recommendation.

Pork is not generally available outside Bali.

Silver ware – a spoon and fork. No knives. No chopsticks.

Meeting people

Dating and weddings are great ways to meet locals. Google ‘Dating in Asia’ or ‘Indonesian dating’ and you will find the usual kinds of www sites, some of which are free. Meeting in bars and night clubs is also an option. Weddings are often grand affairs taking 3 days in some places. Most are 1 day. Sometimes there are 2, one in the home town of the bride and one for the groom unless the couple are from the same town. Traditional weddings will close the entire neighbourhood as tent cities are constructed. A typical wedding could have 500 guests. Marriage equity has not reached Indonesia. Gay people report that sometimes it’s easier to bring a same sex partner back to their room than a different sex partner because of the hetero-normative assumption.

You may notice pilgrims at the airports, particularly around Haj. They will be in groups and dressed alike in traditional holy clothes.

If you’re a solo male traveler, expect less support from hosts. Expect people, primarily women, to want to have their picture taken with you. Foreign males are called ‘bule’, something like ‘gringo’ but not intended with any negative connotation. In bars and on streets in some areas you may attract attention from prostitutes – see below.

If you’re a solo female traveler, expect more support from hosts. Expect people to want to have their picture taken with you. Expect a lot of invitations for lunch and dinner.

If you’re an opposite sex unmarried couple, some travelers have reported difficulty in staying in the same room in rural area hotels. However the consensus is you have to be in a very rural area for that to occur.

If you’re a same sex couple, expect no problems because of the hetero-normative assumption. It will be assumed you are friends sharing expenses.

If you’re a family, expect to be loved a lot. Indonesians love families and will happily make arrangements for child care and arranging family fun activities.


Snacks, candy, soda – widely available

Liquor – Beer Bintang widely available at less than the US price. Liquor and wine only in better restaurants/hotels at the US price. In medium sized cities a hotel will sometimes have a very small boutique style liquor store. Expect to pay 4 – 5 x more for wine/liquor bottles than you would in the US.

Smoking. Widely available. In larger cities expect 2 – 3 smoking floors in the hotel. In smaller cities expect only 1 -2 non smoking floors and expect that the non-smoking policy may not be observed.

Narcotics – Absolutely not. Sniffer dogs used. Possession of the smallest quantities are severely prosecuted. Larger quantities are eligible for the death penalty. Authorities prosecute foreigners more severely than Indonesians. In short, if you can’t go for a month without a joint, then you should not be going to Indonesia. Also note, historically the one exception to this policy was a couple of ‘magic mushroom’ soup boutiques in Bali. These were closed a few years ago. If someone says ‘wants some magic mushrooms, it’s legal in Bali’ say no it’s not any more and run away. It’s probably a cop.

Porn. Absolutely illegal, including that naked selfie on your phone. WWW sites are blocked by a crude government run filter which makes doing legitimate research on breast cancer or bikini fashions difficult. Download 1 – 2 VPNs (virtual private networks) from the app store and turn them on to get around government censorship.

Guns, mace – absolutely prohibited.

Prostitution / sex workers. In that this topic is of interest to educators working to support female empowerment and childhood safety, here are some helpful facts. You will also see news stories on TV related to these issues. Additionally male solo travelers can expect to be approached in some street areas and bars. On some Bali streets, workers can be aggressive and may grab you by the arm. Keep it light, smile and laugh, make a ‘windmill’ motion with your arm swinging it up and around and the worker will not be able to maintain her grasp on you.

Prostitution is illegal but widely practiced and comes in many forms. Gay prostitutes are mainly online but may also be in Jakarta and Bali gay bars. Male prostitutes for female customers are common in Bali in beach areas. You may also see them at clubs in other cities. Look for 1 – 2 younger guys with a somewhat older woman, usually Indonesian.

Female sex workers work online, in Jakarta brothels, in bars, and in local areas known as ‘lokalisasi’ where law enforcement is intentionally relaxed. Even the smallest town will have a lokalisasi area although the national government has a plan to close all of them by 2019.

It’s estimated 20% of workers are trafficked. In Bali, the WHO reports 50% of workers are HIV+. On the other hand, families especially from rural low income and at-risk communities see their daughters working in the sex industry as a viable alternative to crushing poverty and use income to educate their children and build more permanent structures to replace housing that may be structurally unsafe. The lokalisasi policy is contested in that critics say the policy is not concurrent with a Muslim country, while proponents say anti-trafficking initiatives, NGOs and health educators can more easily be successful operating within a lokalisasi. Google ‘International Labor Organization Prostitution Semarang Yogyakarta’ and ‘Prostitution Indramayu’ to learn more.


International Travel

You will most likely enter Indonesia through the Jakarta (CGK) or Denpasar/Bali (DPS) airports. Sometimes open jaw tickets (eg flying in to CGK and out of DPS) is the same price as flying in and out of Jakarta and sometimes not so price shop. There are other international points of entry in smaller cities with service usually from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. The CGK and DPS airports are described here. Remaining airports are described in the City Guide at the end.

Other ways to arrive in Indonesia are by ferry (especially Singapore-Batam) or land crossing (Near the border with Papua New Guinea or in Borneo). NOTE that Visa on Arrival service may not be available at some of the land/ferry crossings. Also, it may be difficult to leave Indonesia for a day visit to the adjacent country and return.

Denpasar, Bali Airport (DPS)

Newly built terminal. Interestingly the domestic terminal is much smaller than the international side so specify is you are ‘Internasional’ or ‘Domestik’. It used to be you had to negotiate a taxi rate to your hotel and there’s still negotiating tactics used by Bali taxi drivers so often a driver is arranged before arrival unless you are with a local. Ask usintec for help. Note that traffic in some tourist areas can be one way and extremely slow moving, so be sure to budget more time than you think for returning to the airport. Tourist information for Bali can be found below in the City Guide.

Travel time to hotels: Kuta/Legian/ Jimbaran 30mins, Seminyak/Denpasar City/Sanur/ Nusa Dua 45 mins, Ubud 90 mins, Singarajah 210 mins.

Jakarta (CGK) Airport
Note that 5% of domestic flights to Jakarta are served by Halim Airport (HLP) – a great alternative to CGK if you’re flying domestic because of its proximity to City Center. See a description of this airport in the City Guide below.

Most visitors to Indonesia arrive through Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK), Jakarta which has 3 terminals and a fourth proposed one. The airport is named after the first President and Vice-President of Indonesia and is located in the village of Cengkerang from which the airport code is derived. The village is now gone having been paved over by the airport.

Most international flights arrive at T3, although some regional international flights arrive at T2.

A shuttle train on the land side runs at 20 minute intervals connecting the 3 terminals and an airport train station. The airport train runs every 20 – 30 minutes from the Airport Train Station to a city center train station 1 km south of the HI roundabout on Jl. Sudirman. The Airport train runs from early morning to late night (05:30 – 23:30) but doesn’t serve early departures or late arrivals. Taxis are always an option between terminals or between the airport and the city.

– Passengers arriving Terminal 2 or 3 will exit the plane, and as soon as they see the first signage will note the sign that reads ‘VOA’ (Visa On Arrival) in 1 foot high letters. If you are arriving as a tourist or are on a Study Abroad trip you do not need a visa so skip the VOA line and proceed directly to Immigration. If you are attending meetings you need a visa. At the first kiosk (it looks like one of those Bureau de Change money booths with the exchange rates listed) you will pay $35 USD for your Visa so bring US Cash.

– At the second kiosk located 2 meters away, is Indonesian Immigration. Here you present the boarding form given to you on the plane, and if you bought a visa you will present it. They will return to you your receipt. They rarely ask questions but may ask your length of stay and your purpose of visit. If you do not have a visa say ‘tourist’. If you have a visa, say you are attending meetings. Do not say anything to suggest you are employed or that ‘you are teaching’. You are not employed, will not be set up on salary, and do not have a government ID number all of which is required for employment. So, your status is that of tourist, friend, helper or meeting attendee.


Tourists cannot extend their stay beyond 30 days. If you have a VOA it is good for 30 days. If you arrive at 23:55 and leave 10 minutes later at 00:05 that counts as 2 days. There is the possibility that some people will have a stay exceeding 30 days which is not allowed under Indonesian immigration law. Therefore, on your entry form I recommend you enter under ‘Duration of Stay’ the number ’30’ or less. VOA holders can extend their stay one time for 30 days at the Immigration office prior to expiry of the first VOA. Some people have been known to fly to Singapore for the weekend and return rather than wait at the immigration office.


After completing immigration gather your bags from the belt – it’s up to you if you want a porter – it’s usually $1 – $2 a bag. Also, opposite the baggage belt you will find ATMs = here you can get some cash. All ATMs have an English option. The withdrawal limit is never more than 3.000.000 Indonesian Rupiah, usually less. Think of the red 100,000 notes as $10 (It’s actually worth more like $8). ATMs dispense 100,000 notes or 50,000 notes so look on the front of the machine and it will say what the atm dispenses – most people prefer a machine that dispenses 100,000 IDR notes.

When you left the USA you likely had a 50 lb (22.5 kgs) bag limit but when you r e-check on a domestic carrier the limit will be lower, usually 20 kgs or on Lion 15 kgs. Therefore, it is helpful to pack a bag that does not weigh more than 20 kgs to avoid excess baggage charges.


Exit the baggage hall through customs and turn in your customs form. Nothing to worry about here.


For travellers going to the city of Jakarta, stop at a resto and ‘break’ your 100,000 IDR note by buying some Aqua or water. Taxi drivers NEVER carry change. Indonesians call smaller bills ‘small money’.

Then continue past the friendly but persistent people offering you a ride (tidak, pronounced Tee-DOK, means ‘no’) and take only one of two taxi services: the economical Blue Bird or the upscale Silver Bird. Ask for those taxis by name, settle for nothing less, and look for the clearly marked cars about 100 meters to the left of international arrivals. After entering, its helpful to have your destination written down, and to have the telephone number so the driver can call if he is not certain. Taxi meters are a function of distance and time, so when traffic is stopped the meter is running. Fastest and cheapest ride to city center (30 minutes) in Blue Bird is about 130,000. Most expensive ride in heavy traffic (90 minutes) in Silver Bird is about 320,000. Worst ride in Silver Bird, at 6PM during Ramadan in the rain during wet season (think flooding – 3 hours) and 500.000. If there is a long line for Blue Bird consider taking the more expensive Silver Bird which will likely have a shorter line. Departing the airport on just arriving in Indonesia is the time you are most vulnerable. Your phone is probably not working, you’re exhausted, and everything is new. Do these 2 things:

  1. Have the destination written, including the telephone number and maybe a small sketch type map (not every taxi driver can read). Also have the number of a local contact. Have the dispatcher tell the driver where to go. Have small money to cover the taxi bill. BE CERTAIN the driver turns on the meter. If he does not, point to the meter and say ‘meter’. Do not travel more than 50 feet without the meter being turned on. If it is not say stop, or open the door.
  2. If the driver seems lost look for a large hotel – something that will be open 24 hours. Then point to it and say the name of the hotel. Pay the driver and get your bags. Once you go to a hotel, even the wrong one, you can find a hotel clerk who can get a new driver for you and give the right directions.

Generally, taxis in Indonesia are cheap cheap = a 20 minute ride may be only $3 – $4.

In terminal 2 near Departures Door D is the newly renovated Jakarta Airport Hotel  and on the Airport grounds but requiring a taxi are the Ibis, SwissBell and Orchardz Hotel and the Sheraton Bandara (bandara = airport) hotel. is a helpful hotel booking site.

1 week before departure

Call your bank and place a travel advisory on any card to be used overseas. Take 2 credit cards in case 1 does not work. Place the cards in different bags.

Obtain full contact information for those meeting you. Consider avoiding an airport pickup and meeting at the hotel – this will give you better flexibility.

Packing clothes

  • Expect hot and humid 24 hours a day except at higher elevations
  • Breathable fabrics work best (cotton, silk); avoid nylon unless you want to feel like you have wrapped a plastic bag around your body
  • Do not expect much rain (except in rainy season, November – March)
  • Don’t take a raincoat – it is too hot
  • For males, you won’t need more than one suit coat or jacket; you can buy and wear a long-sleeve batik shirt (formal wear in Indonesia) to events or meetings with important persons
  • For females, you can wear pants, skirts, dresses, long sleeves, short sleeves, or sleeveless as long as what you wear is modest. Carry a light sweater or jacket to cover your arms in situations where you feel it appropriate or where you encounter mosquitoes.
  • It is acceptable to wear shorts if you are exercising, engaged in sports, or in a tourist area; otherwise leave them in your room
  • Hotel wear is flexible – you will see everything

2 weeks before departure

Make sure your luggage is up to the task. A medium sized ‘four wheel spinner’ for checked bags and a smaller than average four wheel spinner carry on is recommended. Marshalls and AAA have good deals. Look for double zips, medium quality or better zips, 2 zipper pulls (one on each end) and a large outer pocket on the rollie. NEVER buy black. 95% of all bags are black and yours will be hard to find.

It’s also helpful to buy 4 word locks. A word lock is the same as the 3number luggage lock except is has 4 letters and therefore is 10 times harder to break. Make sure they are TSA compliant (can be opened by TSA) and order 4 locks from Amazon. Locks are useless against hardened thieves who will just cut the bag open, but they do deter workers who in 5 seconds open your bag and pilfer a couple of high value items inside. A word lock will deter them enough to skip your bag and move on to the next one.

Your carry-on bag should have two parts. The larger rollie that you may need to check at some points like a hotel valet, and a smaller knapsack no larger than a purse that can be used for day excursions.

Buy small gifts and bring many many business cards.

  • Expect to receive gifts when you are leaving
  • Be prepared to give small gifts to your hosts and others who have helped you in unexpected ways
  • Expect the people to whom you give gifts not to open them in your presence unless you request they do so

4 weeks before departure

Check your Health Insurance coverage

Maintenance or Daily Medications

If you take daily pharmaceuticals that you get from a US Pharmacy each month, you may experience some challenges if you travel to Indonesia for more than 2 – 3 weeks.   Call your pharmacy in advance to be sure you can get the drugs you need for your entire stay. It is EXTREMELY HARD to have your drugs follow you by being mailed/shipped from the USA – the shipments will come under a lot of scrutiny and may be delayed. Try to take the drugs you need with you. If you can’t, get the script from your USA doctor  and bring it to the pharmacy in Indonesia since many drugs are ‘over the counter’ in Indonesia. You may need to see an Indonesian physician to receive a prescription, the name brands used in Indonesia may be different than in the USA, and understand that like the USA opioids are carefully controlled in Indonesia. Googling ‘Australia – Indonesia Pharmacy Concordance’ will help you find either the same drug using a different name, or a similar drug, in Indonesia. Understand that the drugs purchased in Indonesia may not be eligible for reimbursement by USA health insurance because the insurer may not recognize the name of the drug or it may not be on their approved schedule. You can appeal that decision and see what happens.

Activating your cell phone

Here are 2 stories that occurred representing the range of issues with US cell phones in Indonesia.

One traveler checked with T Mobile and determined there was free data and texting in Indonesia included in his US plan. He traveled around the country 2 weeks texting and search www sites, returned to the US, and incurred no extra charges.

A second traveler checked with Verizon and determined there were roaming charges. He decide to turn his phone off on arrival in Indonesia. He plugged in his phone to charge overnight which had the effect of turning the phone on. Since apps were running in the background, before he woke up in the morning he inadvertently accrued $50 in roaming charges.

Therefore, check diligently with your US provider to determine what is included. Make a decision as to whether you will use only your US phone with roaming, or if you will obtain an Indonesian telephone sim card and number on arrival. Generally, if you are in Indonesia for less than a week with only a small number of tasks, you can get away with data and text only. If you are there for 3 weeks you will likely want to get Indonesian 4G service on arrival with voice, data, and text. Regardless of what you decide, have your US provider electronically ‘unlock’ your phone so a new sim card can be placed in it on arrival in Indonesia. Historically US providers worked hard to talk customers out of this option, since they cannot charge the exhorbitant roaming fees, but more recently they are willing to unlock your cell. If you get any resistance then ask to speak to a supervisor. The sim card is a small electronic card inside the phone to which the phone number is attached. A ‘locked phone’ is synced only to the US sim card. An ‘unlocked’ phone allows users to insert other sim cards. When overseas you can buy a new sim card for small money so that your ‘US Phone’ will become an ‘Indonesian phone’ with an Indonesian number. On return to the US you swap the sim cards back. Note that a small number of US phones, mostly Motorolas, do not have a sim card, which means if you want to have an Indonesian number you have to buy a cheapie Indonesian phone since there is no sim card to swap out in your US phone.

In Indonesia, cell phones are called Handphones, abbreviated HP (pronounced hah-pay).

On arrival in Indonesia, bring your passport and HP to a cell phone store and bring a local with you. Locals will have different preferences and different companies have better coverage in some cities than others, but generally if you’re in Java choose Telkomsel. If you’re traveling across Indonesia choose Indosat. Indosat works marginally less well than Telkomsel, but it works in even the most rural areas.

At the store you will buy a sim card ($5) and a data/voice/text plan. Texts are called sms. You will also need to pre-pay for minutes (called pulsa) and data. Decide on how much you want, but usually $10 for limited use and $30 for moderate use is about right. Have the store clerk show you how to check your balance and if there is any special access/discount code to call the USA. Check the data, voice, and text features before you leave the store. If you run out of pulsa you can go to most shops, provide your number and how much pulsa you want to buy, and be recharged in 5 mins. Most people buy additional minutes in 100,000 IDR blocks. It will cost about 105,000 IDR, because it’s 100,000 for the pulsa and 5,000 for a service charge.

8 weeks before departure

Airline Ticket Purchase – Special requests such as meals, seats, frequent flyer numbers, and passport information should be provided directly by you to the carrier. Carriers can lose this information and long delays can happen (recently, 14 hours on the tarmac in a dust storm at Abu Dhabi) so pack foods and buy liquids at the gate (liquids will be taken at security screening).

– Keep the baggage stub you receive when you check your bag – you will likely need to show it in Indonesia when exiting the baggage area.

Clean out your bookshelf to donate books to our BOOKS DONATION PROGRAM.

– Buy a ‘universal power adapter’ with usb outlet. About $15 on Amazon. Buy 5-10 cheap flash drives with small memory ($25-$50 on Amazon). DO NOT place your usb drive into other people’s  computer and then back into your own, especially a private computer. A lot of software in Asia is pirated, has viruses, and can crash your system. Save the work, give it to your Indonesian colleague, and have them keep the usb.
– Leave hair dryers and curling irons at home and buy one at destination.
– Your laptop will be smart enough to know what voltage it is plugged into.
– If you want to use your cell phone in Indonesia, well before you go, check the rate for Indonesia with your carrier.  The rate may be as high as $5.00 per minute for calls and for voice messages and $1.00 per minute for text messages. Instead, call your provider and tell them you want your phone unlocked. Then buy a sim card on arrival. Some US Carriers (T Mobile) has good international data coverage. Check with your provider.

  • The least expensive way to maintain contact with family and colleagues is email and Skype
  • Wifi and internet connection generally works in hotels.
  • International Direct Dial calls from hotels are exorbitant. Don’t use it.

12 weeks before departure (EX; ES)


  • Passport valid for 6 months beyond return date. Two blank pages.
  • Visa types:

1. Tourist. Citizens of about 150 countries can enter without a visa for stays of less than 30 days. US Citizens are eligible. If you are not a US Citizen check your eligibility. No visa required.
2. Visa on Arrival – Citizens of 80 countries are eligible. Good for 30 days and renewable for another 30. If you arrive at 23:55 and depart 10 minutes later at 00:05 that’s a 2 day stay so count carefully. Pay $35 USD Cash at the VOA booth before the first immigration counter. Do not overstay your visa. This category is used for faculty and volunteers visiting educational organizations. DO NOT SAY you are ‘working in Indonesia.’ Say that you are visiting colleagues in Indonesia for meetings. Pick this up on arrival.
3. Educational and Social Cultural visa. Requires application at the Embassy 3-6 months prior to departure. Used for faculty conducting research or those who need an extended stay.

Consider if you want to volunteer to be a speaker at a partner institution in a transit city. Join the USINTEC Facebook and let people know your expertise.

Decide if you need inoculations. See Medical Advice on the previous part.

The book ‘Indonesia’, published by Lonely Planet, and available at Barnes and Noble stores or Amazon is an indispensable guide


University Guest House. Many universities have guest houses on or near campus for long terms stays (1 week – 1 year). Expect AC, satellite TV and a housekeeper who may prepare meals.

Hotels. Can range in quality and come in all shapes, sizes and star levels. is an excellent resource and allows you to book and pay in advance in USD. But don’t feel the need to have to book everything a month in advance unless it’s holiday time.

Guest House – Indonesians use the term ‘Guest House’ as the name for the kind of accommodation we might call ‘Inn’ or ‘Bed and Breakfast.’

College Dorms. Often bunkbeds in a large room, sometimes separated by partitions without Air Conditioning. Generally not used by US travellers.

Kost – an apartment sized building with 2 – 50 rooms. Sometimes the room is only large enough to hold a matt on the floor. Others are more like a 1 bedroom apartment. Price will dictate if there is AC, TV, wifi, bathroom in the room, and cooking facilities. Rented by the week or month to Indonesian students and sometimes  faculty.

  • Travel light to avoid excess baggage costs; laundry service is good but expensive in major Jakarta hotels; expect anything you wash by hand to take 2 days to dry. If you can find a local laundry in the neighborhood expect incredibly cheap prices and amazingly cleaned and pressed clothes.


During your planning, determine who will pay what costs. OSU faculty should read the OSU Travel Policy. If a traveller is funded by US federal funds, such as Fulbright or a grant, the ticket must be ‘Fly America’ compliant. If it’s funded by any Indonesian funds, travelers must keep their ORIGINAL boarding passes for ALL flights. If the pass is lost, try using the bag tag as a substitute.  After the ticket is purchased, enroll in the relevant frequent flyer program. A roundtrip ticket to Indonesia will earn about 24,000 miles – almost enough for a free roundtrip ticket in the USA.

Airlines. Here are tips for international ticket purchases.
– Google Expedia or other search engines for flights. Some travelers want the shortest trip and connections (25 hours) while others want longer itineraries (48 hours) with long stops in transit cities that can be explored.

– If you have time and flexibility, be creative in exploring options. Funders are willing to buy elaborate itineraries as long as the total price is less than the cheapest most direct route. Examples include: 1. Columbus-Chicago-Tokyo-Jakarta-Beijing-Wuhan-Jakarta-Tokyo-Chicago-Columbus cheaper than a roundtrip ticket to China. 2. Columbus-Dallas-Tokyo-Jakarta-Guangzhou-Auckland-Sydney-Dallas-Columbus cheaper than Columbus – Jakarta.

– Know approximate costs before calling the travel agent. Generally between Labor Day and Memorial Day (except at Christmas) roundtrip fares should be $800-$1,000. Memorial Day – Labor Day fares can be $1100 – $2200. Cheap fares can be obtained as little as 2 – 3 days before travel, but choices become more limited and less likely.

– There is no non-stop flight from the US to Indonesia. Typical carriers are American or JAL (Chicago/Dallas via Tokyo), United or ANA (Chicago/Newark via Tokyo), Delta or Asiana (JFK/Atlanta via Seoul or Tokyo), American or Qatar (DC/JFK via Doha), Cathay (Chicago/JFK via Hong Kong), Singapore (Houston/Moscow/Singapore) or Emirates and Etihad (DC/Dallas via UAE). Note middle east carriers weigh carryon luggage leaving the USA and insist on less than 9 pounds (that’s not much). Also, returning to the USA laptops in carry-ons are prohibited. Best service? Singapore. Good service? Cathay, ANA or JAL. Acceptable service? American, Delta and the Middle East Carriers. Worst? United.

– After you have the itinerary and price call the travel agent. If the agent provides a crazy air fare, persist and find out why. It’s not uncommon to get an initial estimate from an agent with a crazy price but when you demonstrate your homework the agent will persist and find the fare you identified on the www.

– In preparation for your trip, consider: 1. Packing personal clothes near the end of their life which will soon be given away and wear them in Indonesia. Then leave the clothes behind and bring home mementos in your bags. 2. Participating in the book donation program. Academic and children’s books can be shipped in your luggage and donated to partners in Indonesia. Ask for details. 3. Bring materials in one bag, leave the materials, and use the bag for taking home treasures. 4. Make sure you have 6 months left on your passport after the return date. Research which visa you will need (see below).

Domestic Air – EX

Use to identify domestic Indonesian carriers or regional international flights to adjacent countries. Some western agencies and online sites do not have ticketing agreements with these carriers. Arrange with your Indonesian host to buy the domestic ticket for you and reimburse them on arrival.

Garuda – a legacy carrier with meals and tv.

Lion – a discount carrier similar to Southwest.

Wings – regional prop planes operating on flights less than one hour owned by Lion

Citilink – Garuda-owned discount carrier.

Batik – Lion-owned full service carrier intended to compete with Garuda.

Air Asia/AirIndonesia – Air Asia is the Malaysian based discount carrier providing regional international flights which also owns Air Indonesia providing domestic flights.

Sriwijaya – old planes on less traveled routes.

Nam – a new start up owned by Sriwijaya.

Expressjet- a new startup for less travelled secondary cities.

Kalstar – load your own luggage and sit next to the pilot on these small planes for isolated areas.

  • Expect to be charged excess baggage by domestic airlines
  • Expect your luggage to show up on the next flight if it doesn’t make the trip with you; report it missing in the baggage claim area, give your hotel information; get an airport number to call to check to see if it has arrived; expect it to be delivered within a few hours.
  • You may think the kind people of Indonesia are pushy and mean when flights are called or in boarding planes. Not so! They have a different sense of personal space. The aisle in the plane is considered a 2-way space. Someone in the widow seat may try to crawl over you. The moment the flight is called expect 100 people to charge the gate at once. But don’t interpret that as being pushy – just as being efficient. Enjoy this time to meet your neighbors, smile and enjoy it, and if you need space ask for it. Just hold up your hand and say ‘Wait’ or motion you will get up from your seat so your new friend can get to the window seat.


Rail. Except for  an air train service in Medan, an inner city service between Jambi and Palembang, and a proposed train in Kalimantan, all rail services are located on the island of Java. Two lines run east – west between Jakarta and Surabaya with one line on the north shore and the other on the south shore. One line then connects Surabaya with the eastern terminus connecting to Bali ferry service. The quality of the trains is comparable to commuter train services in the Northeast USA. The Air Conditioning is good and the cars are well-lit, even over night. There are 3 classes of service: Executive (Airplane style seating), Business (Bench seats for 2) and Economy (Bench seats with 2 facing 2). The bench seats can be turned to face the window or for groups, can be turned to face your fellow travelers. The rail service has its own www site but also is helpful.

Some cities may have one station but multiple stations are listed far from the city center. In other cases, like Semarang, 2 stations may be within one mile of each other. In Jakarta, two stations serve the city, with one providing national service and the other regional service, so make sure you have the right one. Executive and Business class tickets sometimes avoid frequent stops. Traveling by car may be quicker according to google maps, but if there’s traffic cars are stopped while the train moves on. Generally, rail trips less than 5 hours are faster by train and those more than 6 hours are faster by air.

Tips: Trains can book early. On board, go to the Dining Car and try the “Train Chicken”

Ferry. It’s an island nation so there are hundreds but the most heavily traveled ones connect Java with Sumatra and Java with Bali. It’s an adventure but it will take 1 – 2 days.

Taxi. Some cities are served by bluebird (blue Toyotas) or silverbird (black Mercedes with drivers who speak some English). If your city is, ONLY USE that company. They’re the best and safest. They also have an app you can download.

RideShare. Uber or Grab. Grab is more popular. Download the app. 60% of the cost of taxi.

Ojek. A guy on a bike who you walk up to on the street and you ride on the back. Most trips $1 – 2. Gojek – A guy on a bike in a green jacket marked Gojek. You can order one with their app.

Angkot. Minivans that run on routes. You can discern the route by number, color, sign, or a combination. Less than $1 per ride. Ask locals for routes and fares.

Trikes. In some cities, like a gojek with 3 wheels.

Bus. A range of busses of different qualities departing from one station if it’s intercity or multiple stations in the city. Transjakarta is the Jakarta one that runs on special lanes. If it’s painted pink, it’s for women and small children only.

Travel Car. It could be a minivan. Or it could be a car parked at a known pickup location. When the car fills up with people who want to go to the same place the driver leaves. About $5 for a 3 hour trip.

Walking. Streets may not be lit and there may be deep unexpected holes in the sidewalk. Don’t break a leg.

Self-Drive Car/Motorbike. DO NOT self drive. You’ll be lost and frustrated. To rent a car with a driver is the same as to rent without, so trust your local driver. Indonesia requires insurance but not many have it so if there is a collision expect a lot of loud angry arguing from the other driver, all his friends, and whoever he can recruit to yell the loudest. As a foreigner, you will lose.

Here is a story recently shared by an Indonesian colleague:
“Well I drank too much and I hit another car – it was a small dent. The other driver yelled at me and found a police officer so we went to the Station. In Indonesia the Army is stronger than the police so I called my friend from High School who is now in the Army. He brought his friend. When they arrived at the Station the police left and my Army friend threatened to hit the other driver. That’s when the friend of my friend who is also in the army said – hey – that other driver is drunk too! That’s when the police came back and said everyone should go home since both people were drunk and the court would not be able to find anyone guilty. I drove home but my Army friend told me I had to be careful because he was going away to fight terrorists and if I hit someone else he would not be around to help me.’

  • Expect to be driven around by your hosts or their drivers
  • Expect to spend an hour trying to get anywhere by car in a major city
  • Macet – the Indonesian word for traffic.
  • Jakarta has THE WORST traffic in all southeast Asia.
  • Look out the windows while in transit to take in Indonesian life, work, and people; you will miss them if you talk or work all the time
  • Sit in the front seat with the driver if you want to wear a seatbelt
  • Trust your Indonesian colleagues, your driver, and a higher spiritual power; sit back and relax; you are NOT in control
  • Expect taxi and university drivers to take short-cuts through neighborhoods and shopping areas or to go one direction to a round-about and then turn and go back the other way. Indonesian drivers try their best to avoid traffic jams and must abide by city rules (e.g., 3-in-1, must have three persons in the car to use main streets at certain hours)
  • Watch the synchrony of vehicles as they dance with each other through traffic
  • Learn why government employees sometimes carry 2 different license plates not necessarily corresponding to the vehicle registered to that plate.