(This content was a guest contribution by Phil Baddock, Webmaster of AIAV and Director at Bali Beginning Drug Rehab Centre)
Through the association, we often get inquiries about travelling to Indonesia, so this page has been set up to offer some tips and travel advice for those travelling to Indonesia. Note: we cannot guarantee the currency and accuracy of this information, so it’s always a good idea to contact the Indonesian embassy for the most accurate and latest information prior to travelling to Indonesia, but some basic information is provided here.
Australians visiting Indonesia must have a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity before expiry, but for purposes of tourism, you typically don’t need to arrange a visa prior to departing Australia for short trips to Indonesia. Upon entry to Indonesia, as of March 2016, Australian citizens visiting Indonesia no longer need to pay for a Visa On Arrival, and instead a 30 day Tourist Visa On Arrival will be granted for free (for people using a different type of Visa for example Social / Cultural or Work Visa, these are unaffected by the March changes).
For those who decide to extend their stay beyond 30 days, the tourist Visa On Arrival can be extended after you arrive in Indonesia for an additional 30 days (with not inconsiderable paperwork, inconvenience and multiple immigration visits while in-country in Indonesia, and incurring a fee). Those wanting to stay for a period longer than 30 days, to avoid such inconvenience should contact the Indonesian Embassy and arrange a 60 day tourist visa or consider a social / cultural visa depending on the nature of your travel. For longer periods, speak to Embassy staff regarding the process and requirements.
Some details on what’s required for a tourist visa may be found here: http://www.kbri-canberra.org.au/visa/proapp.htm
Contact information for the embassy may be found here: http://www.kbri-canberra.org.au/visas.htm
A copy of a Tourist Visa application form may be downloaded here.
When applying for visa’s at the Indonesian consulate, Visa applications are usually only accepted in the morning 9am – 12pm only (afternoons are only for pickup of completed visa’s between 1 – 4pm) and bring a copy of your travel itinerary, your passport with at least 6 months validity, a separate passport photo, a completed visa application form or you can fill that out when you are there.
Many tourists may be required to bring a copy of your bank account showing a reasonable amount of funds ($50 for each day of travel is usually sufficient) as the consultate may require it. The visa application fee is around $65 AUD. Visa processing typically take 5 working days. To confirm the most accurate and up to date procedure and requirements, we recommend a phone call to the consulate before applying.
Note: the consulate in Melbourne are understandably strict about the paperwork and details required to apply for a visa, and typically no amount of pleading based on the distance you've travelled to the embassy will result in a relaxation of these requirements, so make sure you prepare the right documentation, or check with them by phone (if you're not sure) before you head down there.
While Bali is often cited as not being a high risk Malaria area, some more remote parts of Indonesia are, and it is always recommended to consult your doctor, and obtain the appropriate immunisations prior to travelling. Travel insurance can typically be obtained for around $100 – $150 per traveller, and is very highly recommended to ensure you have appropriate medical coverage while overseas. While many things are inexpensive in Indonesia, medical procedures or transport back to Australia in the case of medical emergency can certainly be very expensive, so make sure you have the right insurance cover!
There are a number of different taxi companies operating in Indonesia, but for travellers to Bali, the “Bluebird” company (light blue colour, with the Blue bird pictured on the light above the car) are reputable, and will almost always use the meter rather than any privately negotiated fares.
One of the most common complaints of inexperienced travellers is being asked for a high fee by a Taxi driver where the meter wasn’t used, so when you get into a cab, make sure the meter is running, and if not – discuss the fare with the driver before leaving! Taxis for anything up to a 15 to 20 minute trip are generally very cheap (usually less than AUD$5), and taxis are ubiquitous, so taxi is a great way to get around.
In Bali, there are numerous retail outlets where baby supplies such as formula, baby food, nappies (and more) may be purchased including Carrefour supermarkets, and the Clandy’s chain of baby suppliers. Websites such as Little Bali Love have a directory of resources for travelling parents. Websites such as Bali Bubs offer baby equipment for hire.
Consider: This is for the brave of heart only, and should be done with extreme care – be aware you are taking a significant risk. Typically most travel insurance companies will not cover you for accident’s where you are riding a motorbike, and even the few that do cover you will often require you to be licensed in Indonesia. It’s certainly not something to be done lightly or only a few hours after arriving for the first time in Indonesia (take some time to observe the traffic conditions and understand the rules, it may appear to be chaos, but there are rules that riders are expected to conform to).
Typically you are able to rent a scooter for AUD$5 to $7 per day and often (in tourist locations) without a motorcycle license or international license (just your Australian car license is often enough at many rental places). Scooters may be booked online through companies like Bali Bike Rental. Many hire operators will ask for a copy of your passport – be sure to offer a photocopy (bring one with you if you plan to hire), do not give your passport to a 3rd party to hold.
Be aware however that driving without a valid International license contravene’s Indonesian law and you may be stopped by police, and asked to pay an on the spot fine. Helmets are also compulsory, and riding without a helmet is unsafe and on the spot fines can be issued.
It’s very, very easy to get lost in Indonesia as many streets are not well sign posted, and if you end up off the beaten track, then language may become a barrier…..so ride with a local if taking long trips, or stick close to the places you know. If you have a local phone sim card in your smartphone with 3G enabled, in most urban locations you can access Google Maps for navigation.
If renting a car, you may have difficulty as not all car rental places will rent to foreigners, and driving in Indonesia can be even more hair raising than riding a scooter, so consider carefully if you would be better to use other forms of transport. Renting a car & driver (tour guide) can be as cheap as $50 – $60 for the whole day, so this is likely to be a good option to tour around Bali.
International Car Licenses may be obtained in Victoria by visiting your local RACV office with your current Australian license, and paying a small fee. Contact RACV or VicRoads (if not in Vic, try your state transport authority) for more information. This is recommended if planning to drive or ride a scooter in Indonesia.
If you are hiring a vehicle while in Indonesia, have your license organised, and take care when starting out, moped’s can be a great way to zip around the tourist areas of Bali, and certainly gives a freedom not enjoyed through other forms of transport.
As Australians are used to ATMs requiring you to remove your card before you take your cash (i.e. taking the cash in Australia is the last thing you usually do before leaving the ATM) there’s a chance that force of habit may cause you to take your cash and walk away from the ATM with your card still in the machine – because ATM’s in Indonesia often give you the cash first, before your card! Don’t forget to wait for your card!
Note: Commonwealth Bank and ANZ Bank are opening an increasing number of branches in Indonesia at present, so many ATMs and branches are available in various cities in case you need to go into a bank while in Indonesia.
Most ATMs give Indonesian Rupiah only, and many with Rp.50,000 notes as the largest denomination. If you need to carry a lot of cash (not generally advisable, AUD$100 is a lot of money in Indonesia) then you may want to think about where you’ll store it (ie money belt etc).
If using money changers in Indonesia, it’s best to use larger more reputable places to do this. If travelling to Bali, the money changer immediately adjacent to McDonalds in Kuta Square is a reputable place to change money, as are the Kuta Central Money Exchange outlets – their logo looks like this.
Some of the less reputable places can’t always be trusted, so one tip to ensure you don’t get stung, is to ask the exchanger if he/she is finished the exchange, and when they confirm this, then count your money carefully before leaving. If the balance isnt right, dont permit a recount by the exchanger, but instead simply cancel the transaction, and leave with your original currency. Generally you are probably best to take your Visa or Mastercard and use the ATMs in Indonesia. The exchange rates offered are reasonable, and it allows you to avoid carrying a large amount of cash.
Mobile phones are cheap in Indonesia with basic models available for purchase for around Rp.300,000 (around $36 or so) and fine for use while there. Other models can be purchased for around 10 – 20% less than Australian prices (except for Apple product, which cost marginally more in Indonesia) so if you’re after a new phone, Indonesia is a good place to get one. After you arrive in Indonesia you can purchase an Indonesian SIM/Phone Card from many local telephony shops. After that you can top up your credit (called ‘Pulsa’ in Indonesian) in the local telephony shop too.
Most Australian mobile phones work just fine in Indonesia, but before travelling – make sure your phone is “network unlocked” so that you can swap in an Indonesian SIM card after you arrive. To test that, just borrow a friends SIM card in Australia (from a different phone company/network) and try it in your phone to ensure you can call out and receive calls before travelling.
Be careful to check the call rates, and tarrifs if using “Global Roaming”through Australian carriers such as Telstra/Optus/Vodafone etc, as some travellers can receive a nasty suprise at the cost of international calls when arriving home.
If you have purchased an Indonesian phone, or are using an Indonesian SIM card in your phone, a simple, cheap way to reduce the cost of calling Australia is to insert ‘01017’ before the country code, and phone number – so for example, to call (03) 9888 1234 from Indonesia, you would dial 01017 61 3 9888 1234 from your mobile in Indonesia, and you’d be connected.
This calling code makes use of Índosat’s satellite service and reduces your international calling costs considerably. Calling Australia using this method is around 10 – 15c per minute from Bali, or Jogya or similar with most Indonesian carriers. Indosat sometimes has call quality issues (delay, drop out) but its fairly usable, and its very cheap.
“Global Roaming” from Telstra or Optus (where you keep your Australian SIM card in the phone while overseas) is considerably more expensive. Rates were around $4/minute upon last checking (2016).
The best and simplest method I’ve found (far better than phone cards) is to use a “Skype Online Number” which is a service offered by Skype. Once you setup this service, Skype’s Online number gives you a local Melbourne phone number that your friends or family can dial which connects to your Skype account. You can login to skype.com and setup call forwarding to call forward your Skype account to an Indonesian land line or mobile number.
What you end up with is a Melbourne number that can be called by friends or family for cost of a local call which connects directly to a landline or mobile in Indoneisa. The skype account is charged around 10c/minute for calls to an Indonesian landline, or 18c/minute if you are forwarding to an Indonesian mobile.
Once its setup, you don’t need any computers or headphones, it all works by just dialling the melbourne number and your are connected – no computers involved – more info here: https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA331/what-is-a-skype-number