Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up during our time traveling through Indonesia:
Tourist Visa: When you arrive at the airport, you will most likely need to get a Visa On Arrival. A few countries are able to get visas before they arrive, but generally that’s what people get. First thing off the plane, you get put into a line to purchase your visa. They only take cash, USD or Rupiah, and it’s $35.00 per person. The signage isn’t very informative, so a lot of people wait in the line, only to get up there and find out that you can only pay in cash, and only USD or Rupiah, so they end up having to run back to the ATM and lose their spot in line. Once you get through the VOA line, you still have to go through customs, which can take another hour, so be prepared to wait in line for awhile once you get off the plane.
Domestic Airport Tax: If you are going to be flying to other parts of Indonesia, you will have to pay a Domestic Airport Tax at every airport you fly out of. It’s not that expensive, if I remember right it is around $5 USD per person, but we didn’t know about it at the time, and had spent the last of our cash so we had to find an ATM in the airport so we could pay the tax before we were able to fly out.
International License: You can rent motorcycles or scooters all over Bali, and it’s a cheap way to get around, at about $4.00 USD/day. There are some things to be aware of though. If you don’t have an international license, and you get in an accident you are completely liable for any accidents or injuries you cause. Even if you do get an international license, if you are in an accident you will likely have to pay anyway, since the general attitude seems to be that since you are visiting, if you weren’t here then the accident wouldn’t have happened, so you are at fault by default. I’ve been told by a few people that if you get pulled over by the police without an international license, you will likely have to pay a fine, and will be allowed to go on your way, but an international license is pretty inexpensive and easy to get, so if you plan on driving here, it’s probably worth it. Also, take into account your level of experience with motorcycles or scooters before you decide to rent one. Drivers in Indonesia can be kind of crazy, there is lots of passing and zooming around each other, and if you aren’t used to driving under those conditions, it might be better just to use a taxi. More expensive for sure, but better to be safe than sorry. More information about International Licenses in Indonesia can be found here.
Flights Between Islands: I found it kind of difficult to find information about the best way to travel between smaller islands in Indonesia when we were coming here the first time, but there are plenty of smaller, budget airlines that fly around Indonesia, including TransNusa, and Garuda. You can check out their websites for general flight information, but we just ended up going to the airport on the day we wanted to leave and buying tickets on the next available flight. We checked out several different airlines, and their prices were generally the same.
Restaurant Tax: This is a small thing, but good to be aware of. Restaurant prices here generally don’t include the tax, which is normal, and most of the time you’ll have to pay a 10% government tax on your bill. Just keep an eye out at the bottom of the menu, because while 10% is standard, I’ve seen lots of places that are 15%, and sat down at a restaurant last night only to discover that they were charging 21% tax on all menu items.
Methanol: This is something to be aware of in many different places, not just Indonesia, but it does happen here so I wanted to mention it. In some countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, because liquor is expensive, some bars will add methanol to their liquor to make it go farther. If you drink methanol, you can become very sick, and even die, so definitely be cautious about ordering liquor, depending on where you are. This isn’t something I heard a lot about before we left, but we were told about it by fellow travelers along the way in Thailand, Cambodia, and Singapore, and it was a prominent discussion in Australia because so many Aussies vacation in Bali, and there have been cases of methanol poisoning there. You can read more about it here.