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From Halal Food & Travel

Indonesia is a huge archipelago of diverse islands scattered over both sides of the Equator between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. While it has land borders with Malaysia to the north and East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the east, its exclusive economic zone also abuts Australia to the south; Palau, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand to the north; and India to the northwest. With an extensive, but quickly carved out amount of green forests on all of its islands and half way between the poles, Indonesia is nicknamed The Emerald of the Equator.

An Introduction to the regions of Indonesia

The nation of Indonesia is almost unimaginably vast: More than 18,000 islands providing 108,000 km of beaches. The distance between Aceh in the west and Papua in the east is 4,702 km (2,500 mi), comparable to the distance between New York City and San Francisco. Lying on the western rim of the Ring of Fire, Indonesia has more than 400 volcanoes, of which 129 are considered active, as well as many undersea volcanoes. The island of New Guinea (on which the Indonesian province of Papua is located) is the second-largest island in the world, Borneo (about 2/3 Indonesian, with the rest belonging to Malaysia and Brunei) is the third-largest, and Sumatra is the sixth-largest.

Travellers to Indonesia tend to have Bali at the top of their mind as their reason to visit, which is a shame as there are even more breathtaking natural beauty and cultural experience elsewhere that are waiting to be explored. The vastness of the estate and the variety of islands offer significant cultural differences that are worth sensing.

Provinces, of which there are 34, are usually composed of a group of smaller islands (East & West Nusa Tenggara, Maluku), or divide up a larger island and its outlying islands into pieces (Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java, Sulawesi, Papua). The listing below follows a simpler practice of putting together several provinces in one region, except with Bali, which is treated as a separate region in Wikivoyage.

{{Regionlist | regionmap=Indonesia regions map.png | regionmaptext=Regions of Indonesia | regionmapsize=476px

| region1name=Sumatra | region1color=#e25c5c | region1items=incl. the Riau Islands and Bangka-Belitung | region1description=Wild and rugged, the sixth-largest island in the world has a great natural and cultural wealth with more than 40 million inhabitants and is the habitat for many endangered species. This is where you can find Aceh, Palembang, Padang, Lampung and Medan, as well as the multi-colored Lake Toba in the land of the outspoken Toba Batak and Indonesia's gateway island, Batam.

| region2name=Kalimantan | region2color=#5c7a7a | region2items=Borneo | region2description=The vast majority of Borneo, the world's third-largest island, forms Kalimantan (with the remainder belonging to Malaysia and Brunei). An explorer's paradise for the uncharted (but quickly disappearing) forest, mighty rivers, the indigenous Dayak tribe, and home to most of the orangutans. The cities of Pontianak, Banjarmasin, and Balikpapan are some of the fastest growing in the nation.

| region3name=Java | region3color=#8a84a3 | region3items= incl. Karimunjawa, the Thousand Islands, and Madura | region3description=The country's heartland, big cities including the capital Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and a lot of people (with almost 50% of the population) packed on a not-so-big island.Also features the cultural treasures of Yogyakarta, Solo, Borobudur and Prambanan.

| region4name=Bali | region4color=#061FFF | region4items= | region4description=By far the most popular tourist destination and has the most complete facilities for all kinds of tourists in Indonesia. Bali's blend of unique Hindu culture, legendary beaches, numerous religious and historical sites, spectacular highland regions and unique underwater life make it a perennial favourite amongst global travellers.

| region5name=Sulawesi | region5color=#e9bda2 | region5items= Celebes | region5description=Strangely shaped, this island houses a diversity of societies and some spectacular scenery. This includes the Toraja culture, megalithic civilization in Lore Lindu National Park, rich flora and fauna, and world-class diving sites like Bunaken and Bitung.

| region6name=Nusa Tenggara (NT) | region6color=#ffd577 | region6items= | region6description=Also known as the Lesser Sunda Islands — literally the "Southeast Islands" — they are divided into East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara and contain scores of ethnic groups, languages and religions, as well as Komodo lizards and more spectacular diving. West NT contains Lombok and Sumbawa and many small islands. Lombok is the less-visited but equally interesting sister of Bali and offers several diving sites as well as historical and religious locations. East NT contains Flores, Sumba and West Timor as well as several other islands, including Komodo Island, home of the Komodo dragon, and offers the unique attraction of containing tiny kingdoms on Sumba. Traditional art in East NT, especially woven cloth, is interesting and reasonably priced, and you can find beaches that are literally covered with sand of unique colours, coral, and shells.

| region7name=Maluku | region7color=#3b9c80 | region7items=Moluccas | region7description=The historic Spice Islands, formerly much fought over by colonial powers, are now seldom visited, but Ambon, the Banda Islands and the Kei Islands are promising destinations for marine tourism.

| region8name=Papua | region8color=#b6bc4d | region8items=Irian Jaya | region8description=The western half of the island of New Guinea, with mountains, forests, swamps and an almost impenetrable wilderness in one of the remotest places on earth.Aside from the gold and copper mining in the area of Freeport, this is probably one of the most pristine parts of the country, and scientists have discovered previously unknown species here.

Other Muslim friendly Cities in Indonesia

  • Jakarta GPS -6.187,106.822 — the perennially congested capital which is also the largest city in the country
  • Bandung GPS -6.931,107.600 — university town in the cooler highlands of Java
  • Banjarmasin GPS -3.322,114.594 — the largest city on Kalimantan
  • Jayapura GPS -2.541,140.706 — the capital of Papua and a gateway to the highlands
  • Kuta GPS -8.7156,115.1682 — with its great beaches and exciting Haram nightlife, Kuta is yet another reason for visiting Bali
  • Makassar GPS -5.134,119.412(Ujung Pandang) — the gateway to Sulawesi and home of the regionally famous Bugis seafarers
  • Medan GPS 3.589,98.680 — the diverse main city of Sumatra and gateway to Lake Toba and the rest of the Batak land
  • Surabaya GPS -7.248,112.736 — a very active port that is the capital of East Java and the second-largest city in the country
  • Yogyakarta GPS -7.806,110.371 — central Java's cultural hub and the access point to the mighty temples of Prambanan and Borobudur

Other Muslim Friendly Destinations in Indonesia

...there be dragons

The following is a limited selection of some of Indonesia's top sights.

  • Baliem Valley GPS -4.0218,138.8960 — superb trekking into the lands of the Lani, Dani and Yali tribes in remote Papua
  • Borobudur GPS -7.608056,110.203889 — one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world located in Central Java province; often combined with a visit to the equally impressive Hindu ruins at nearby Prambanan
  • Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park GPS -8.0167,112.9167 — some of the scariest volcanic scenery on the planet and one of the best locations in the world to see the sunrise
  • Bunaken GPS 1.6167,124.7500 — one of the best scuba diving destinations in Indonesia, if not the world
  • Kerinci Seblat National Park GPS -2.4167,101.4833 — tigers, elephants, and monstrous rafflesia flowers in this huge expanse of forest in Sumatra
  • Komodo National Park GPS -8.54,119.48 — home of the Komodo dragon and a hugely important marine ecosystem
  • Lake Toba GPS 2.6845,98.8756 — the largest volcanic lake in the world
  • Lombok GPS -8.565,116.351 — popular island to east of Bali with the tiny laid-back Gili Islands and mighty Mount Rinjani
  • Tana Toraja GPS -2.9686,119.8991 — highland area of Southern Sulawesi famed for extraordinary funeral rites

Indonesia Halal Explorer

With 18,330 islands, 6,000 of them inhabited, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. To imagine how vast Indonesia is, Indonesia stretches from west to east as wide as the USA or Western and Eastern Europe combined, yet more than two thirds of the area is sea water.

With more than 260 million people, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world — after China, India and the USA — and by far the largest in Southeast Asia. The population is not spread equally among the five biggest islands, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan and Papua; Java has half of the population. More than 50% of foreign tourists enter Indonesia through the airport of Bali, and most of the rest come in through Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for business or as a hub to other Indonesia tourist destinations or through Batam mostly by ferry from Singapore. These three arrival sites account for about 90% of foreign arrivals.

Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population in the world, mostly Sunni. Indonesia is a member of the G-20 and although it has potential to become a world leader, it is still hampered by corruption and shortcomings in education as well as an infrastructure hampered by difficult terrain and water.

Indonesia's tropical forests are the second-largest in the world after Brazil, and are being logged and cut down to grow oil palm plantations at the same alarming speed. While the rich shop and party in the cities and resorts, the poor work hard and struggle to survive. After decades of economic mismanagement 50.6% of the population still earns less than USD8 per day according to figures compiled by the World Bank in 2012. In 2015, the poverty rate was 5.5% and declining, due to Indonesia's stable growth at 4-6% annually since 2014 — the best growth rate among ASEAN countries. However, the births rate is still high, at almost 2% a year, after the previous government stopped the birth control program, and this has slowed the decline in poverty. However the total fertility rate ("numbers of children per woman") has fallen dramatically and sits now just above replacement at 2.1 - roughly the same as the US and barely above most of Europe.

Infrastructure in much of the country, though extensively rebuilt, remains rudimentary, and travelers off the beaten track will need some patience and flexibility. Although progress has been made in expanding the network of toll highways, most inter-city roads are still two lane affairs of variable quality, most often packed with large buses and trucks hauling goods and materials, all eagerly jockeying with each other and everything else on the road to achieve pole position where there is no race. Perhaps reflecting the bad road conditions, low cost carrier airlines developed well with growth up to 15 percent a year, so if someone flops from one site to others sites, it can be done easily mainly for big cities such as from Bali, to Malang to see Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park to Jakarta with many attractions for tourists to Medan to see Lake Toba and go back to your home country. Even if you're in a city, don't expect the roads to be good or the layout to be easy to navigate. Many roads in older cities are left-overs from the Dutch era and, thus, are small, winding and in poor shape. Add to that the fact that street names change every few kilometres, requiring that you know which area to go to if you want to even find that length of street - it's quite frustrating. Street signs, if there are any at all, are placed perpendicular to the street they represent. If you leave Java and Bali, the roads are even worse. Severe traffic jams are a common feature, with Greater Jakarta and Surabaya being particularly regarded as extremely bad. Fortunately, the whole TransJava Toll Road has been functionally opened in December 2018, with a length of more than km 900 from Merak to Surabaya. Several segments of the Trans Sumatra Toll Road have also been functionally opened.

Flexibility should be a prerequisite anywhere in the country as things can change very suddenly and promptness is not often a high priority despite being appreciated. If you are the kind of person who expects everything to be written in stone, then you should probably only consider tours with large, reputable travel agents; otherwise, you're bound to experience some "upsets". Tolerance, patience and acceptance of surprises (not always the good kind) are good traits for anyone planning to visit.

That said, if you have the courage to find the good among the bad, you will find that Indonesia is one of the most exotic countries you have ever visited. Indonesia markets itself as Wonderful Indonesia, and the slogan is often quite true. It has a diversity of culture with more than 900 tribes and languages and food, while its enchanting nature, mostly outside of Java, and the friendliness of the people in most areas will entice you to stay as long as you want. Today, some senior citizens from Europe stay for months in Indonesia to avoid the winter.


Time in Indonesia. WIB=yellow, WITA=light green, WIT=turquoise Indonesia stretches a long way from west to east and is thus divided into three time zones. Due to the country's equatorial location, sunlight duration is pretty consistent throughout the year, so there is no daylight saving time.

Study as a Muslim in Indonesia

Foreign students from many countries study various majors in certain universities in a number of cities (mainly Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Denpasar). The cost of studying at Indonesian higher learning institutes is generally much lower than in the west, but you'll need to be fluent in Indonesian for many topics, and some topics also require knowledge of English (such as medicine and IT) or another language.

The Darmasiswa Program is a scholarship program funded by the government of Indonesia. It is open to all foreign students from countries with which Indonesia has diplomatic relations to study Indonesian languages, arts, music and crafts, and even some other subjects, including IT, science and photography. Participants can choose to study at any of the state universities and colleges participating in the program. There are over 50 participating locations.

For university education in English, one can consider studying at, among others, Swiss-German University, Universitas Pelita Harapan or President University. Some famous Indonesian institutes include University of Indonesia, Bandung Institute of Technology and Gajah Mada University.

How to work legally in Indonesia

In Indonesia, salaries for locals vary from US$150 and more than US$25,000/month, with the national average being around a paltry US$175. There is very wide disparity in earnings. The sales clerks that you see at luxurious shopping malls like Plaza Indonesia are likely earning between US$175–200 per month. Some adults above 20, especially those who are still single, stay with their parents to save money; nevertheless, the main reason they stay with parents is because it is the cultural norm, although some consider it impolite to leave parents on their own. In some cultures, the eldest is expected to help the parents, and you'll often find married couples living with parents and even in multi-generational homes as extended families are still the norm.

As many Indonesians live on a very meagre income, accordingly many endure their circumstances with some considerable hardship, especially in places with a high cost of living like Jakarta. In the poorer provinces, they may only have very limited agrarian related prospects with essentially only subsistence levels of activity available to them. Many in that situation choose to leave their homes and families and seek work as migrant workers and servants, either in Indonesia's sprawling urban areas, or overseas. Most often the greater part of the money they earn is sent home. Skyscrapers in Jakarta Expats often earn higher salaries than their local equivalent performing in a similar capacity. An English teacher could make between Rp7,000,000-25,000,000, which is fairly high to wealthy by local standards.

By law, a foreigner can only work at a company in a particular capacity for 5 years, and they are required to train a local to replace them but, in reality, this doesn't often happen. Also, foreigners may not work in any job, including CEO, that is related to personnel and human resources. You can do business that doesn't earn you money in Indonesia on a business visa, such as a sales call to stores and clients. Clergy use a religious visa, and a diplomat can get a diplomatic visa, but most everyone else must have a work-related visa (or spousal, if you've married a local), Kartu Izin Tinggal Sementara/Tetap {KITAS/KITAP} (temporary/permanent stay permit card), which last 1 and 5 years respectively, and a work permit. Working outside of work without your employer's permission, or working in a position that is different from your stated position, is considered illegal, too, and penalties can range from fines and/or imprisonment to deportation and even blacklisting is possible (but that is generally only for six months). In March 2022, a new law UU 6) was passed that made some improvements to immigration, especially for visitors married to locals, as well as investors; sadly, the governmental ordinances relating to employment that were supposed to have been issued by a year later are still not resolved, however Immigration tends to treat them as being there while the Ministry of Manpower is generally uncooperative.

You really should investigate employment laws in Indonesia to ensure you get your rights fulfilled. Aside from UU6/2011 about immigration, you should look at UU13/2003 about labour [1] and, if you want to teach, PerMen (Ministerial Decree) 66/2009. Some laws are available in English, but you must search.

Starting on January 1, 2015 Indonesia is a member of Masyarakat Ekonomi Asean (MEA) or Asean Economy Community (AEC) as early European Union with some limitations, but tends to be free released or will release some rules concerning AEC. To realize that goods and services will be 'free' across borders, government will implement Test of Indonesians as Foreign Language (TOIFL) as TOEFL for all foreign employees (not only for ASEAN workers) in February 2015, but several months after it, the TOIFL is not necessary anymore for foreign workers. Due to rapid changing of the rule, learn Bahasa Indonesia in advance maybe a better way, at least the basic, because Bahasa Indonesia is relatively easy. The other rules that have been implemented are at least have Bachelor Degree and Competitiveness Test for the positions. In 2014 there are about 65,000 legal foreign workers (exclude English teachers which might be illegal, etc) in Indonesia.

Local Customs in Indonesia

{{infobox|Names and addressing names|Indonesians follow the western naming convention, however, some people do not denote their surnames. Chinese names typically follow Eastern naming conventions. Indonesian ID cards do not differentiate first names from surnames, thus name addressing can be a confusion!

Polite forms of address for people you don't know are Bapak ("l father") for men and Ibu ("l mother") for women. If you know the name of the person you're talking to, you can address them respectfully as (Ba)pak or (i)bu followed by their name (typically their first name), for men and women respectively. The Javanese terms mas ("older brother") and mbak ("older sister") are also common but is best reserved for equals, not superiors or those who are obviously more senior. You may be called Tuan (Mr), Nona (Ms) or Nyonya (Mrs), as these are usually used in Western terms.

Calling by someone's first name is enough only if you already know the person personally. When referring to other people, it is best to mention them by name (or as many Indonesians do, use "si+the name". Example: "Si mas John" or "Si mbak Mary") rather than "dia" ("he/she"), as it signifies openness (so as not to talk of them secretly) and acknowledgement.

By and large, except for hawkers and touts, Indonesians are polite people (although not exactly in the way you are used to) and adopting a few local conventions will go a long way toward smoothing your stay.

  • One general tip for getting by in Indonesia is that saving face is extremely important in Indonesian culture. If you should get into a dispute with anybody, forget trying to 'win' or arguing & accusing the person at fault. Better results will be gained by remaining polite and humble at all times, never raising your voice, and smiling, asking the person to seek a solution to the problem. Rarely, if ever, is it appropriate to try to blame, or accuse. However, if someone is clearly corrupt or obstructive, a letter or call to, or a meeting with, a higher up may remedy the problem. How high up you may have to go is variable.
  • It is best to speak diplomatically. Do not criticise the 6 state-approved religions or make statements that could be construed as trying to influence politics. Similarly, defamatory statements (even if they are true) about businesses here should be avoided. It is a well-known fact that going to court has nothing to do with the letter of the law and everything to do with who bribes the judges the most. In other words, you should not behave in a confrontational manner with locals - they will only consider you rude and you will not be respected or paid attention to.
  • Do smile and nod your head or greet people as you walk around - failing to do so will cast you in a doubtful light and you will be considered rude or snobbish. However take some factors into consideration as smiles are also often used to cover up embarrassment, sadness, anger, confusion and other emotions under normal circumstances.
  • When meeting someone, be it for the first time ever or just the first time that day, it is common to shake hands — but in Indonesia this is no knuckle-crusher, just a light touching of the palms, often followed by bringing your hand to your chest. Meetings often start and end with everybody shaking hands with everybody. However, don't try to shake hands with a Muslim woman unless she offers her hand first. It is respectful to bend slightly (not a complete bow) when greeting someone older or in a position of authority.
  • Never use your left hand for anything! It is considered very rude as Muslims use their left hands to wash their privates after using the toilet. This is especially true when you are shaking hands or handing something to someone. It can be hard to get used to, especially if you are left-handed. However, sometimes special greetings are given with both hands. If you are forced to hand someone something with your left hand, you should apologise: "Maaf, tangan kiri," (Sorry for using my left hand).
  • Avoid touching the top of anyone's head as some cultures here consider it as a holy part of their body. Do not point at someone with your finger; instead with your right thumb, or a fully opened hand. Do not stand or sit with your arms crossed or on your hips as this a sign of anger or hostility.
  • Remove your footwear outside before entering a house, unless the owner explicitly allows you to keep them on. Even then, it might be more polite to remove them. Do not put your feet up while sitting and try not to show the bottom of your feet to someone - it is considered rude. Don't walk in front of people, instead walk behind them. When others are sitting, while walking around them, it is customary to bow slightly and lower a hand to "cut" through the crowd; avoid standing upright.
  • And if all this seems terribly complex, don't worry about it too much — Indonesians are an easygoing bunch and don't expect foreigners to know or understand the intricacies of local etiquette. If you're wondering about a person's reaction or you see any peculiar gesture you don't understand, they will appreciate it if you ask them directly (casually later, in a friendly and humble manner), rather than ignoring it. In general, such a question is more than an apology; it shows trust.
  • Do not assume that everyone will have the same opinion as you regarding the Soeharto regime. While a lot of people criticize this era for corruption, dictatorship, and racism, especially towards Chinese Indonesians, many still praise this era for economic growth, stability, and affordable prices of produce. It is better to assess the speaker's opinion before approaching the topic.
  • Do not be surprised if a few locals interact with foreigners, especially those of European descent, in a way that may be taken as "rude and overreacting". They may refer to you as a '"bule'" (literally, albino) and do things such as constant staring, taking pictures with you, greeting you with laughter, and then asking questions to some extent. You might also see some form of astonishment or amusement for doing what they do that they assume you don't. This is not meant to be an insult, but a form of curiosity.
  • A few Buddhist & Hindu temples & homes may have a Swastika placed somewhere. They are religious symbols, not a form of anti-Semitism or support of Nazism.


By and large, Indonesia is a conservative country and modest dress is advisable. At most of the beaches on Bali and Lombok the locals are used to Foreign Muslims prancing around in bikinis (never topless or nude), but elsewhere women are advised to keep legs and necklines covered and to match the locals when bathing. Covering your hair is unnecessary, although doing so may be appreciated in Aceh. Wearing shorts or miniskirts is unlikely to cause actual offence, but clothing like this is sometimes associated with sex workers. Men, too, can gain respect by wearing collared, long-sleeve shirts and trousers if dealing with bureaucracy; a tie is not normally worn in Indonesia.