Indonesia: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Indonesia, officially known as the Republic of Indonesia, is a large country in Southeast Asia sharing land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and Malaysia. Singapore, Philippines, Australia, and Palau are the nearby countries on which Indonesia is located. With over 13 thousand islands, it is the largest island country between Indian and Pacific Ocean. It has a population of 258 million people making it one of the most populous countries in the world. Almost half of the country's population is located in the island of Java, the home of the country's capital, Jakarta. Indonesia has 34 provinces and 5 of these provinces have Special Administrative Status. The country's economy is the 16th world's largest economy by nominal GDP and the 8th by GDP at PPP. Tourism also plays a significant role in boosting the country's economy. Nature and culture are both the components of Indonesia's tourism. The natural beauty of the country blends well with the rich cultural heritage that reflects its history and ethnic diversity.
Regions of Indonesia
Indonesia has 5 main islands: Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Western New Guinea; and two major archipelagos: Bali and Nusa Tenggara and Maluku Islands. The islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi are known as the Greater Sunda Islands that lie on the Sunda Shelf or the extension of the Malay Peninsula and the Southeast Asian mainland, except for Sulawesi. On the other hand, Bali and Nusa Tenggara were classified as the Lesser Sunda Islands. In addition, two of the islands are shared with other nations. Kalimantan is shared with Malaysia and Brunei, while West New Guinea shares Papua with Papua New Guinea. These islands consist of 34 provinces in which 5 are under special status including Aceh, Yogyakarta, Papua, West Papua, and Jakarta, the capital city.
Known to be a land of breathtaking beauty, Sumatra (Sumatera in Indonesian term) is the largest island that is entirely in Indonesia and also the 6th largest island in the world. It comprises the provinces of Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau, Riau Islands, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, Jambi, Bangka Belitung Islands, Lampung, and Bengkulu.
Aceh, also known as Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, is one of the five provinces under a special status wherein the province has its own Sharia Law, flag and provincial anthem, and the decisions made by the central government must be referred to the local government or legislative body. The capital city, Banda Aceh, is a land with a spiritual culture. It is the tourist, education, commerce, and governmental hub of the province. As a tourism gateway, it is home to several architectures reflecting the golden era of the province. Part of the province are the Weh Island, a sea passage that is a jewel to cruise ships, and the Takengon, the capital of Central Aceh with rare attractions and mouthwatering cuisine.
The North Sumatra is the 4th most populous province in the country. Its main gateway is Medan, the capital city of the province. As the largest city of the region, it is the economic center and a bustling metropolis. In a short distance from the city, travelers head directly to Lake Toba, the largest lake in Southeast Asia covering an area of 1,145 square kilometers. With a depth of 450 meters, it is one of the deepest lakes in the world. Set at about 900 meters above sea level, it is a place where travelers relax and enjoy nature in a cooler climate.
Riau's capital city is Pekanbaru. It is also the 3rd largest city in the Island of Sumatra. It is a land of natural beauty that is filled with adventures including surfing. At the river of Kampar Kanan, Steve King set a new World Record for the Longest, Continuous Bore Ride by surfing it in 1 hour and 4 minutes covering 20.65 kilometers. By the river is the 9th century Muara Takus Buddhist temple complex that tracks the cultural and historical heritage of the province. Riau is also the home of Pelalawan, home to dense forests, expansive plantations, peat bog plains, and alluvial rivers that attracts tourists.
The Riau Islands is a different province that was split off from the province of Riau. It is the home of Bintan Island, a home to exotic natural beauty. It is the largest island in the Riau Islands that is immediately across Singapore and Johor Baru, Malaysia. Bintan has interesting historic remains in Tanjung Pinang and Penyengat and offers activities like surfing and diving in the Anambas Archipelago. Riau Islands is also housing Batam, the third busiest port of Indonesia.
The West Sumatra's capital city is Padang. It is the main gateway to the Minang Highlands. Padang is also known to be a merchant town that attracts ships to trade in goods. Other cities and tourist drags in the province are Payakumbuh that is set against Mount Singgalang and Mount Malintang, and Bukittinggi, also known as the High Hill, that is the region's cultural center.
South Sumatera is the home of Palembang, the Venice of the East. The Musi River is the main attraction of the town and the tributaries and streams that cut through Palembang with the modern icon that connects both sides of the city, the Ampera Bridge. Aside from the floating market by the bridge, another attraction in the city is the Mesjid Agung or Royal Mosque. The province of South Sumatera is also housing the Sembilang National Park, a home to several forest ecosystems, mangrove forests, and mud flats.
Jambi is the home of Mount Kerinci, the highest mountain on the Island of Sumatra that is popular to mountain climbers and backpackers. The capital city goes with the same name as the province. It is a busy city along the coastline of Sumatra. Some of the attractions in the city are the archaeological remains at the vast Muaro Jambi site.
The Bangka Belitung Province is a home to a unique landscape with pearly white sand beaches and magnificent granite stone formations on its shores. The province's capital, Pangkalpinang, is the center of the tin mining industry.
Bandar Lampung is the capital city of Lampung Province. It is a tourist destination that features natural and cultural attractions including sandy beaches and the Bumi Kedaton National Park. For exploring the history of Lampung, the Museum Sang Bumi Ruwa Jurai and the provincial Museum of Lampung are the places to visit. The Lampung Province is also the home of Way Kambas National Park, one of the oldest reserves in Indonesia that is a sanctuary of elephants.
Bengkulu City is the capital city of the province by its name. It is a place to see remains of the early British settlement and its influence. The most fascinating charms are the exotic Rafflesia Arnoldii. Other destinations in the province are the Town of Curup and the Rat Island.
Java is the heart of Indonesia housing the capital city, Jakarta. It is the world's most populous island that has more than half of the Indonesian population. Several provinces on the vicinity of Java are the Special Capital Region of Jakarta, the Yogyakarta Special Region, Central Java, West Java, East Java, and Banten.
The Jakarta City lies in the Special Capital Region of Jakarta or also known as Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta. Jakarta is a city that never sleeps. A bustling metropolis home to 9 million people. It is the seat of the national government and the provincial government, the political center, and the hub of Indonesia’s national finance and trade. Homing several skyscrapers and mix of old and new architectures, Jakarta also has a lot to offer in terms of tourism. On its outskirts is the Seribu Archipelago; a place for diving and snorkeling activities, fishing opportunities, and relaxation.
Another province under a special status in Java is the Yogyakarta Special Region, also known as Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta in Indonesian term. Its administrative capital is Yogyakarta, the cradle of civilization on Java. With its abundance of temples including the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, Yogyakarta is known as the Neverending Asia for its endless attractions and appeal. It is Indonesia's one of the foremost cultural centers that offer many attractions.
Central Java is also a known tourist magnet. Its capital city, Semarang, is an old harbor city with multicultural history. It is a melting pot of Chinese, Indian Arab, and European cultures that gave birth to its cultural attractions. The most known landmarks are the Koepelkerk or locally known as the Gereja Blenduk, which is a copper domed Dutch church, and the Gedung Batu, which homes the old Chinese temple and the statue of Admiral Cheng Ho. The culture of Central Java can also be traced in Solo Surakarta, an old city that was once the center of power in Central Java.
West Java's capital city, Bandung, is one of the most prestigious university towns and the center of Indonesia's learning and creativity. It is also known to be the Paris Van Java of the country offering trendy fashion wear at reasonable prices at its myriad factory outlets. The town also offers many attractions well worth a visit. Another town worthy to spend a short holiday is Bogor. It has a cool climate home to several natural attractions. In its vicinity are the Indonesia’s Agricultural University and the Zoological Museum.
East Java is where the second largest city of Indonesia is located, Surabaya, which is also the province's capital. It is considered to be the melting pot of the old and modern Java. Several tourist attractions are zoological gardens and the immaculately presented Sampoerna Museum. East Java is a home to several natural attractions including the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park that houses Mount Bromo and the Ijen Crater that has a beautiful turquoise lake at 2148 meters above sea level. Other cities worth a visit are the Banyuwangi, the east-most city on Java that is home to beautiful beaches and mountains; and Malang, a laid back city in a cool climate offering attractions from natural beauty to cultural architectures.
Banten's capital city, Serang, is the gateway to the Ujung Kulon National Park, the Tanjung Lesung Resort, Sawarna Beach, and a whole lot more. Aside from being the center of the provincial government and business activities, it is a home to several unique natural beauty.
Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of Borneo. It is the 73% of the island's area and the rest belongs to Brunei and East Malaysia. The provinces of North, East, Central, West, and South Kalimantan are what the island consists.
North Kalimantan's administrative capital is Tanjung Selor. However, Tarakan is mostly visited by tourists. It is a city situated across the border from Sabah, Malaysia. It was once a major oil producing site during the Dutch colonial period. The city had a great importance during the World War II and some of the fragments can be seen throughout the city. These are the Peningki Lama Site at East Tarakan, the Museum Roemah Boendar the Roundhouse Museum, the Pillbox/Stelling Post, The Australian Monument at the Kodim (Military Command Center) on Pulau Kalimantan Street, and The Japanese Ash Monument. There are also other places to visit in the city including The Tarakan Orchid Garden, Amal Beach, Juwata Crocodile Breeding Center, and The Mangrove and Proboscis Monkeys Conservation Area.
East Kalimantan is the home of the Oil City of Indonesia, Balikpapan, located on its eastern coast. Another pride of the region is the Derawan Archipelago. It is one of the world's richest biodiversity areas and the third best diving destination in the world.
In Central Kalimantan lies the World's Lungs Forest. It is located in the capital city, Palangkaraya or the Sacred Great Place. Another place to visit in the province is the Pangkalan Bun, a town on the Arut River and the gateway to the Tanjung Puting National Park.
West Kalimantan's capital city, Pontianak, is busy trading port facing the South China Sea. It is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse races and ethnic groups that live peacefully. The province's 2nd largest city, Singkawang, is a home to hundreds of Chinese temples that are found almost at its every street providing an oriental atmosphere.
The South Kalimantan is the home of the city of thousand rivers, the Banjarmasin, its capital city. Other cities that are worth visiting are the Martapura, a sparkling little city filled with diamonds, and Kuala Kapuas, a town well-known as the City of Water.
Sulawesi, formerly known as Celebes, is the world's 11th largest island that is situated between Borneo and Maluku Islands. It is divided into the provinces of Gorontalo, and the North, Central, West, South, Southeast Sulawesi
North Sulawesi's capital city, Manado, is the island's second largest city. It is a city with stunning underwater landscape and great mountain panorama, unique authentic culture, and mouthwatering cuisines. The city extended its tourism industry as it hosted the World Ocean Conference in 2008. The event confirmed that Manado is not just a world class diving destination but also a center for marine science research and marks Manado as one of Indonesia’s MICE destinations.
Gorontalo's capital goes by the same name. It is known as the Culture City that boasts its traditional dances, music, and legends.
Central Sulawesi is a home to several beaches and natural attractions. The capital city, Palu, is a diving destination and a gateway to Lore Lindu National Park and Bada Valley with megalithic statues that resembles the Easter Island. The province is also housing the Lake Poso, the third largest lake in Indonesia after lake Lake Toba and Lake Singkarak in Sumatra.
The province of West Sulawesi along with its capital city, Mamuju, offers a serene and relaxing ambiance with beautiful sceneries.
South Sulawesi has the largest city in the island, the Makassar. It is formerly called Ujung Pandang and it is now a capital city with a busy air hub. Places in this province that are recommended to visit are the Tana Toraja, the central highlands that is home to the Toraja people in valleys with green rice terraces and fertile coffee plantations; and Selayar, a southern place with rainforests and pristine white beaches.
The Southeast Sulawesi with its capital city, Kendari, is the home of the 7-tiered Moramo Waterfalls, the Giant Clam Marine Park, and the famous Wakatobi National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Park.
Lesser Sunda Islands
The Lesser Sunda Islands are the group of islands in Southeast Asia located north of Australia. It comprises Bali and Nusa Tenggara, which divided into two provinces: the East and the West. Komodo National Park is also a part of the Lesser Sunda Islands.
Bali is an island and an Indonesian province on itself. Similar with Java, Bali offers many delicate culture and arts to travelers including dance, painting and a very unique musical style, among other forms. In addition to man-made tourist attractions, Bali is a tropical delight with pure white sands on the south and pitch black sands on the north, a vast turquoise sea and a breathtaking volcano. The island has beautiful beaches, steep hills on the northern side of the volcano and a gentle downslope that extends into floodplains and shallow rivers on the south. Bali is surrounded by coral reefs, replete with marine life and it is an excellent location for scuba diving and underwater sightseeing. Denpasar is the capital city of the Island-Province. It is home to a host of businesses, temples, palaces and museums. A tad off the normal and beaten tourist track, true travel aficionados will find a range of activities, local delicacies, and a melting pot of cultures from all over Indonesia. Other Places in Bali are Sanur, Kuta, and Ubud.
The East Nusa Tenggara is housing one of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia; Flores. It is a unique tourist destination that is definitely the most fascinating island in the province offering pristine lakes and waterfalls, dive sites, and activities like kayaking and exploring the caves. On the western tip of Flores lies the town of Labuan Bajo, a peaceful small village with comprehensive tourist facilities.
West Nusa Tenggara capital city is Mataram, but the major tourist destinations are Lombok and Sumbawa. Lombok is the home of Mount Rinjani and majestic beaches. On the east of Lombok is the Sumbawa, a home to some of the known surfing sites.
Maluku Islands is also known as the Moluccas Archipelago situated east of Sulawesi, west of New Guinea, and north of East Timor. It is known to be the Spice Island due to the nutmeg, mace, and cloves that were originally found only in the island. The archipelago is divided into two provinces; Moluccas Province and North Moluccas.
Moluccas Province comprises the central and southern regions of the Maluku Islands. Its capital city is Ambon, an island offering pristine beaches and adventurous trails for backpackers from the city center to the mountains through the tropical vegetation. The province is also housing Banda Neira; one of the ten volcanic islands in the archipelago boasting its corals and abundant ocean life.
North Maluku is the home of the Ternate and Tidore. These are volcanic landscapes that had given the island its fertile soil and beaches with black glittering sands. The province also boasts its Halmahera Island. It is a remote island with white sandy beaches and untouched forests. Within its vicinity is the Mount Mamuya.
Western New Guinea
Papua is the largest and easternmost province of Indonesia. Its capital city, Jayapura, is the starting point and the main gateway for the travelers wanting to explore the interior of Papua including Merauke and Baliem Valley. Merauke is known as the staging point of the hikers before climbing the trail to the Wasur National Park. Another pride of the province is the Baliem Valley located high up on the mountain at 1,600 meters above sea level and hemmed in by the steep mountain walls.
West Papua's largest city is Sorong, however, the province's capital is Manokwari, a town set among the low hills dominated by the Arfak Mountains. The province is also the home of Raja Ampat or the Four Kings wherein divers can explore vertical underwater walls.
First, there are three ways on entering Indonesia: by Visa Waiver, which is not extendable and foreign visitors just need to show their passports and get stamped; by Visa on Arrival, which is extendable and payment are upon arrival amounting to 35 USD; and by Visa in advance, which are obtainable at an Indonesian Embassy before arrival.
The three main international airports are Soekarno-Hatta (CGK) at Tangerang, Banten, which is near Jakarta, Ngurah Rai (DPS) at Denpasar, Bali and Juanda (SUB) at Surabaya, East Java. There are also ferries that connects Indonesia to Malaysia and Singapore. Most of the connections are between the ports of Sumatra and the Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.
For getting around Indonesia, there are domestic flights serviced by state-owned Garuda and several private sectors including Lion Air, Sriwijaya Air, and Indonesia AirAsia. There are airports in most of the provinces. Another way to get around the country is by boat, since it is an archipelago. Ferries have long been the most popular means of inter-island travel. The largest company for this kind of transportation is PELNI.
There are also railways including PT Kereta Api that runs trains across most of Java and some parts of Sumatra. Buses are also an option and it is an economical way of transportation. The major types of buses are air-conditioned bus (AC) which divides to Executive or not and non-air-conditioned bus. The AC bus can be rented with its driver for a tourist group. Indonesian bus companies offer intercity and inter provincial routes. The inter provincial routes usually include transportation to other islands mainly between Java and Sumatra.