South African quick guide to Indonesia (Photo: iStock)
While Indonesia's Palu on Sulawesi was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on 28 September, resulting in a death toll of over 900, travel to other islands like Bali remain unaffected. Besides Palu, other regencies affected are Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong. The Palu airport resumed operations for commercial flights on 1 October, but expect delays during this time.
Coastal towns in this Sulawesi area were cut off due to damaged roads and downed communication lines, and could take a while to get up and running again. The Roa-Roa Hotel in Palu was reduced to rubble, and the beaches in Donggala, closest to the epicentre of the disaster, have been swept out to sea, but most of the damage is restricted to the waterfront. For more read here.
Read more here on insurance for travelling and what to do in case of a disaster.
Quick to Indonesia if you are planning on going:
Indonesia is home to one of the most popular beach destinations in the world - the glorious waves of Bali.
Besides the party hot spots on the Gili Islands, other parts of the country have massive temples built in the 8th century inspired by its Buddhist and Hindu origins.
Predominantly Muslim, you can also track orangutans in national parks on Sumatra, or check out a real life dragon on Komodo Island, the only place where you can see these massive creatures in the world.
Whether it's nature, culture or just a good time in the sun, Indonesia has it all!
ALSO SEE: Visa-Free holidays: 5 stay ideas to help you plan an exciting, south-east Asia escape
Here we take a look at one of the top Asian destinations for South Africans and what you need to know should you want to visit:
Visa requirements: No visa required for South Africans with a valid passport for stays of up to 30 days at select ports of entry. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months and have at least 2 blank pages.
Continent: South-east Asia
Medical requirement: Malaria preventative measures in the area joined with Papua New Guinea
Currency / Exchange Rate: Indonesian Rupiah (Weaker than the rand)
National Carriers: Garuda Indonesia
Main airports: Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (Jakarta), Ngurah Rai International Airport (Bali), Juanda International Airport (Surabaya), Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport (Makassar), Kuala Namu International Airport (Sumatra)
Time Zone: Jakarta - 5 hours ahead of SA; Bali - 6 hours ahead of SA; Jayapura: 7 hours ahead of SA
Plugs: European style two-round pins
Public transport: Between islands there are ferries available to travel between islands, and there are trains available on Java and parts of Sumatra. You can also hop on busses between main cities and within cities you can take a bicycle taxi that's normally quite cheap.
Best time to visit: May to September, but September is in-between busy seasons and makes for smaller crowds and cheaper deals.
Climate: Tropical with extreme humidity with no real change of seasons - only varies between rainy and dry seasons.
Food specialties: One of the best dishes in Indonesia is gado gado, a peanut satay in stir fry. The most common dish is nasi goreng, fried rice with seasoning and vegetables, sometimes including an egg. For vegetarians, tempeh is their version of tofu, which is fermented soy beans fried with spices and onions. Noodles is also quite common and satay grilled chicken or lamb. Be wary of durian - it's a foul-smelling fruit banned in most public spaces.
Language: Indonesian (Official), Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese
SEE: Indonesian #FoodPorn: The culinary debauchery of sweet Martabak
Useful app to download - Duolingo makes learning a new language easy and fun.
Hello - Halo
Goodbye - Selamat tinggal
My name is …. Nama saya …
Thank you - Terima Kasih.
Yes - Iya nih
No - Tidak
Do you speak English? - Apakah Anda berbicara bahasa Inggris?
Water - Air
Where is [hotel/toilet/beach etc.]? - Dimana... ?
SEE: Java 4x4: A rough guide to the legislation of fun
- If you’re travelling by water to any islands, check for a fast boat option – it may cost more but it cuts a 6-hour ferry trip down to 2 hours. However, take motion-sickness tablets even if you don’t get motion-sickness, the rough ride will cut down even the hardiest sailors.
- Indonesia is really cheap even for the South African rands, so you don’t have to opt for the cheapest options just to save cash – splash out for a bit of luxury that will make your travel experience so much better.
- If you want to grab some curio, head to the markets first thing in the morning as many believe their first sale of the day brings good luck and you could come away with some really good deals.
- Be wary of animal-orientated excursions – guides like to encourage interaction with even wild animals and it can be distressing to see lots of tourists imposing themselves on an animal’s space. Unless in a national park, elephants in captivity are also an extremely sad experience and best to avoid anything to do with these big creatures. Rather look out for non-profit wildlife organisations offering tourism experiences that are certified by a credible international organisation.
- Go off the beaten track – certain places like in Bali have been heavily saturated with overtourism and although you should check out the big sites, don’t be scared to go off on your own adventure through a city, town or even the farmlands, as you will find some great hidden jewels that will make your holiday extra special. A great way to do this is try out Airbnb where you can stay with a local who can also show where to find these places.
SEE: Island-hopping in Indonesia: Visiting a few from thousands
Top attractions in Indonesia
This massive Buddhist temple was built in the 9th century and is an architectural marvel. It is decorated with 504 Buddha statues, some of which have been removed over the years by locals and colonials, and some of the statues are encased in bell-like structures made from stone. If you can wake up early, the sunrise walk is a popular postcard moment for your Insta.
SEE: Indonesian escapes to suit your budget
Mount Bromo is an active volcano on the eastern parts of Java island (not the one that's been giving the locals a hard time) and part of the Tengger massif. Hiking tours up to its famous peaks start very early from the closest city of Surabaya and takes the whole day, but if you stay over in the nearby village Cemoro Lawang, you can explore the volcano in a much shorter time.
There are three Gili Islands that's a boat ride away from Bali or Lombok - Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Trawangan is the largest one, and most popular for its parties and youth backpacker culture. Meno and Air is much quieter and perfect for honeymooners and those who want to stay away from the crowds. Snorkelling with turtles is a popular activity, and you can organise rides to Komodo National Park from Trawangan.
SEE: 8 Things to do in Bali (again and again)
Known as 'living dragons', the Komodo is the biggest lizard in the world, but extremely endangered with only 350 breeding pairs left in Indonesia. The best place to see them is the Lesser Sunda Islands, where they are protected within a UNESCO park. Diving is also popular in the park as the marine area is also protected.
- Orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park
The Borneo orangutan can be found in Indonesia and Malaysia, and is also very endangered like the Komodo. Tanjun Puting National Park is one of the best places to see them and feel like Mowgli in a wild jungle. The best way to see the park is on a boat chugging along the Sekonyer River.
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