Indonesian Briefs

Written for AngloInfo, expat website By John Michael Gorrindo  2010


Table of Contents

PAGES               TITLE

1-9              Death in Indonesia


10-19         Driving in Indonesia


21-29       Getting a Driver’s License in Indonesia


30-38          Getting Married in Indonesia


39- 47         Traveling with Pets in and out of Indonesia


48- 60          Residency in Indonesia


61-69           Obtaining a Work Permit as a Foreigner in Indonesia

70-76          General Taxes in Indonesia


77-88         Getting Around and Transportation in Indonesia


89- 102       Having a Baby in Indonesia


103-115      Indonesia: Health, Doctors, Hospitals and the Medical System


116- 123    Living with Teenagers in Indonesia


124- 132 Renting a House of Apartment in Indonesia




Death Abroad in Indonesia


Some Background on Civil Registration & Vital Statistics in Indonesia

Government collection and archiving of Vital Statistics are administered at the regency, or kabupaten level in Indonesia.  The office responsible is the Kependudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil (Populations and Civil Registration Administration).  It is also called for short: Administrasi Kependudukan (Population Administration).  This office is usually located within the greater Kantor Bupati, or government complex as found in the capital of the regency.

In general, this office offers the kabupaten’s Indonesian residents the following services, all of which are supported by legal documentation:

This office files and legally acknowledges certifications and registrations for securing legal standing.  It also issues cards, certificates and other legal documents.  Issuances certify, replace, and/or update the following:

Foreign nationals residing in the kabupaten must register and report any change of status as regards to the entire list of vital statistics above.

The death of a foreign national who died while visiting or traveling in any given kabupaten must be reported to the Kependudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil.


Reporting a Death in Indonesia

Who makes the initial report and to whom?

Contacting Local Authorities

Whoever does the initial reporting, the proper authority to contact is the local police.A doctor can be contacted for some primary medical aid, but the police best be alerted immediately after if not at the same.

Reporting the death can be made by any number of persons, depending on the circumstance.  Let’s make note from the outset, though: Reporting the death is not the same as registering the death. Registration is discussed in next section.  

If, for instance, the deceased foreigner was a tourist traveling alone, then the responsibility for reporting the death might fall with the proprietor of the hotel where the foreigner is staying.  This is in keeping with the hotel’s legal obligation to report any foreign guest to the local police within 24 hours of check-in.  If the foreign tourist dies outside the hotel those who find the body or witness the death should call the police immediately.  The deceased will hopefully be carrying a passport, and by means of this identification the police can check for the hotel.  Entering the hotel, police will secure belongings and legal papers from the hotel room.  If the deceased is not carrying identification and no one knows his or her hotel, the police will be forced to investigate.  This is one reason why foreigners are expected to carry their passports.  Everyone is Indonesia is expected to carry identification.  Indonesians, for example, are supposed to carry their National ID cards wherever they go.

If the foreigner dies while at a restaurant, diving, or trekking with a guide, the individual or businesses which have contracted and provided services would be expected to report the incident.

If the foreigner is a temporary or permanent resident, their sponsor, employer, roommate, landlord, or neighbor will most likely make the report.  If the deceased is married and accompanied by their spouse, the spouse would most likely be expected to take the responsibility.  If the deceased’s spouse is Indonesian, that spouse or a member of the spouse’s family would most likely report the death.

Common sense applies.  All that the authorities really care about is that the death is reported in a timely fashion. (See more below on time limits)

Contacting the Appropriate Foreign Embassy or Consulate

Just as important is contacting the foreign national’s Foreign Embassy or Consulate.  By law the Indonesian authorities contacted are required to contact the deceased’s foreign embassy.  If you are a foreign national both accompanying and related to the deceased at the time of death, it is best to contact the embassy personally.  You might be able to better communicate the situation. The embassy will give you vital help in how best to proceed given your relationship to the deceased.

Ultimately, the Foreign Embassy’s consular service has the greater legal responsibility to deal with the death of one of their nationals on foreign soil.  Under some circumstances a consular officer or a bona fide agent might be personally dispatched from either the Indonesian-based embassy or consulate in order to pick up the body for disposition.  That might include arranging for the human remains to be shipped back to the country of origin.

NOTE:  Consular Services have very little power to investigate suspected foul play or mysterious deaths.  Indonesian authorities are not bound by law to cooperate with investigations led by foreign officials.   

On the other end, the foreigner’s embassy is required to contact next-of-kin in the home country.  Such services are handled by each country differently, and the quality of service can vary significantly.  For example, American law requires the U.S. Embassy’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to find next of kin.  The Bureau of Consular Affairs has the following responsibilities:

A U.S. consular officer overseas has statutory responsibility for the personal estate of an American who dies abroad if the deceased has no legal representative in the country where the death occurred. The consular officer takes possession of personal effects, such as:

The officer prepares an inventory and then carries out instructions from members of the deceased’s family concerning the effects. In Washington, the Bureau of Consular Affairs gives next-of-kin guidance on procedures to follow in preparing Letters Testamentary, Letters of Administration, and Affidavits of Next-of-Kin as acceptable evidence of legal claim of an estate.”

Family members with a relative traveling or living in Indonesia should familiarize themselves with their foreign embassy’s legal responsibilities when a national suffers injury or death abroad.  The same goes for the traveler, too. Consular services are listed and published on embassy websites. (See below for more details)

Time Limits for Reporting the Death of a Foreigner

Within populated, accessible areas, Indonesian law imposes a three day limit for reporting a foreigner’s death to the police.  If the foreigner is a temporary or permanent residence this also applies to contacting the neighborhood administration (Catatan Sipil) where the foreigner has registered as living.  The Catatan Sipil will most likely be notified by the police in turn, but this cannot be assumed.

If the death happens in a very remote area, a week or ten days might be considered acceptable.  Applications of law vary by region and according to circumstance.


Registering a Foreigner’s Death

First Step: Post-Mortem by a Doctor

The police will make arrangements to have the body transported to a hospital morgue.  I           n a metropolitan area, the hospital chosen will most likely be a general public medical center equipped with a public morgue. The attendant doctor at the morgue will perform a post-mortem examination.  If the body is located in a remote area, the examination may have to take place in a local clinic or doctor’s office if a hospital is not available.

After making the examination, the doctor will fill out a Surat Keterangan Pemeriksaan Mayat, or Post-Mortem Examination Report.  If foul play or other special extenuating circumstances surround the death, an autopsy might be demanded by the police for purposes of their own investigation.  Normally autopsies are not performed.

Under normal circumstances, post-mortem examinations are conducted very quickly in Indonesia.  As nearly 90% of the population is Muslim, this is a necessity.  Muslim law calls for the deceased to be buried by sunset of the day of death if possible. Almost all burials are performed within a 24 hour period.  (See more in the funeral section)

After post-mortem the doctor completes a formal Surat Kematian, or Doctor’s Death Certificate.  A copy of this will later have to be filed as part of the complete registration of death with the Kependudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil (Populations and Civil Registration Administration) at the

regency level.


The body will remain in cold storage at the hospital morgue until registration has been completed and next of kin have made arrangements to make disposition of the remains.


Who is the deceased?  Foreign Traveler versus Resident

If the deceased is a traveler passing through, then the police will determine just how to report to the civil authorities.  This becomes a non-issue for the embassy or next of kin.

If you are related to and accompany the deceased, you should establish the nature of your relationship with the police and let them know you want to stay apprised of developments.  Depending on how you are related you may be asked to provide some information and possibly appear in person to register the death with local administrators.  As soon as the deceased’s passport and other personal identification are available to the police, they will advise and direct the procedure. You should follow their advice and direction.

Contacting the Kepala Catatan Sipil

If the deceased was an Indonesian resident, the local Catatan Sipil, or Office of the Head of Village/Neighborhood should be contacted at the same time the body has been moved to the hospital morgue.  The office will be located in the neighborhood where their residence had been previously registered.  This administrative office will have records of the deceased’s address and other vital statistics.  

Whoever is reporting must fill out a form, and most likely it is only available in Bahasa Indonesian. Based on the information on the form, the Kepala will draft a Surat Laporan Kematian, of Letter of Notification of Death as addressed to the Kependukukan dan Pencatatan Sipil. 

A copy of this letter will be given the person who reported, and it must be eventually be passed on the the Kependudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil at the regency level.  

Providing Proper Identification to the Kepala

The foreigner will be registered as living in the Kepala’s neighborhood, and they may want to see the deceased’s passport, visa, and police report to verify the death.  Be aware that their request may be according to local custom.

Before drafting the letter, it is possible the Kepala will also request seeing one or more of the following documents to help identify the deceased’s true identification.  The reason for this is that the deceased would have previously reported and requested these documents from the Catatan Sipil as is required of all temporary or permanent residents:


Remember that bureaucratic practices vary across Indonesia.  If you are involved in reporting and have problems getting a the Letter of Notification from the Catatan Sipil, report this to the local police.


A fee may or may not be requested for the Kepala’s time and issuance of the letter.   If a fee is required, it will be nominal, especially given a death is involved.


Contact and Registration with the Kependudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil

For proper registration with the Kependudukan dan Pencatatan Sipil (Populations and Civil Registration Administration) at the regency level, the following documents must be filed:

NOTE: The SKPPT and SKPPS are issued by the Catatan Sipil.  A foreign resident will only be issued one or the other based on their residency status.

An Akta Kematian, or Registration of Deathwill be issued and contains little more than the following information:

If a relative or spouse of the deceased; or consular representative is present for the registration, one or more copies of the registration certificate will be issued.   

NOTE:  The AKTA Kematian will be written in Bahasa Indonesia only.

Of what use is the AKTA Kematian?

The AKTA Kematian is known outside of Indonesia as a “Foreign Death Certificate”.  It primarily serves Indonesia’s registration of vital statistics purposes.  It is of limited use outside the country, and often makes notification official that the death abroad took place in Indonesia.  Usually it is not accepted for insurance and estate purposes.


There will be fees associated with this entire procedure.  Some offices may not charge anything.  Exact cost will vary according to region.  Hospital costs will make up the significant portion.  Post-mortem examinations and cold storage of the remains will make up the bulk of what is charged overall.

Next of kin will be responsible for payment, and often the Foreign Embassy involved will compile and deliver the bills.  Each embassy handles this differently.  The embassy has the responsibility to explain all related details to the next of kin.  If the foreign national is married to an Indonesian, either the spouse of the next of kin in the country of origin will be expected to pay what is owed.



If a deceased foreigner has no family ties inside of Indonesia, the appropriate Foreign Embassy will notify next of kin in the native country.  Most often the next of kin will decide and instruct the embassy as to what to do with the remains of their loved one as well as any personal effects. 

Consular services vary a lot from country-to-country.  You will have to check with your own Foreign Embassy in Indonesia for specifics.  Some countries will make all arrangements for next of kin making a family trip to Indonesia unnecessary.  Other countries will expect a family member to arrive and take care of most everything with a little added help.

 The U.S. Foreign Embassy’s Bureau of Consular Affairs offers an impressive list of services.  For comparative purposes, it is equivalent to the gold standard.  The Bureau:


The U.S. also produces a Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad, and sends the next of kin ten copies at no fee. This report is:


In effect, next of kin can arrange to have remains flown back to America all by phone. Note that these services will come at a premium cost.  If the costs can’t be borne by the next of kin, other arrangements will have to be made.

Ideally all embassies would provide such services but that isn’t the reality. 


If a next of kin is required or chooses to personally pick up remains and fly back home, their embassy/consulate office in Jakarta or Bali will provide some form of help.  Embassies normally help with processing the documents needed to release remains and have them prepared for air transport.

Details also depend on just who the deceased is and what they were doing in Indonesia. An embassy employee will be treated differently than a vacationer. This is a complex, variable procedure that involves multiple Indonesian offices, (including Indonesian immigration), possibly the deceased’s employer, the morgue, and the particular airline involved.  Every circumstance is different. 

Not all foreign embassies function according to the same working procedures either.  It is best to contact your embassy for specific information.  


If lack of money is an overriding issue, the next of kin can choose to have their loved one buried or cremated in Indonesia. Both are legal options.

In most cases, Indonesia buries or cremates their dead quickly.  Authorities most likely won’t impose a strict time limit on next of kin who are required to travel to Indonesia in order to pick up remains.  You must check with your embassy on this important detail and urge them to give all the help they can.

If an Indonesian burial or cremation is the choice, many people will opt to hire a funeral service.  Considering that a spouse or next of kin is in the midst of grieving, this sample procedural list for an Indonesian cremation in Bali gives a good example as to why an agency might be considered:

Estate Planning for Foreign Residents Married to an Indonesian

If a foreign resident has relocated to Indonesia and in the process marries an Indonesian, it is best the foreigner make estate arrangements that minimize possible conflicts between next of kin in their native country and their new family in Indonesia.  This also applies to funeral arrangements.

Let us assume the foreign resident is married, has written a last will and testament, and stipulates the desire to be buried in Indonesia.  In the case of death, the funeral will be administered by his or her Indonesian spouse.  Being married, the foreigner will customarily share the same religion as the spouse. That religion will determine the exact nature of the funeral, and whether the body is to be cremated or buried.  


Euthanasia and Assisted Legal Suicide

Neither euthanasia nor assisted legal suicide is legal in Indonesia.





General Considerations

First things first: motorists move along with traffic as flows in the left lane.  Passing is supposed to take place in the right lane.

Road conditions vary considerably across the archipelago, but some generalizations can be made.  Most well-traveled highways are paved, narrow, and two lane.  On a country road, don’t expect any shoulder space.

Road Signs

For more developed countries, a section on road signs would require pages of detail.  But not in Indonesia!  Road signs are only to be found in larger cities, and lighting of roads at night is almost non-existent outside of downtown urban areas.  Even considerably large cities of half a million population may have within the city limits only half a dozen stop and go lights. Stop signs are almost non-existent in Indonesia as well.

When driving in Indonesia, you’re very much on your own!

Road Maintenance

The roads themselves are in good enough condition in urban areas, but once out in the countryside, it is unpredictable.  Indonesia is afflicted by a long list of natural disasters, and torrential rains often result in floods and landslides.  One day a country highway cutting through a jungle landscape can be free and clear; the next covered in mud and debris.  Tropical weather creates quick wear –and –tear of the highways, and roads require constant repair. Sink holes appear out of nowhere it seems; often after a heavy rain.

Quality of road maintenance varies according to region.  Highways in richer, more developed areas such as Bali and West Java are generally kept up better than one would find in a remote area of Kalimantan or Papua. 


Driving Behavior

Driving behaviors vary as well, but again, some generalizations- and warnings – are appropriate.

Particularly on the densely populated island of Java, drivers show little concern for safety.  For example, professional bus and truck drivers drive at high speeds and behave aggressively.  The expectation is that all smaller vehicles should yield to those larger.  Many motor bike riders, for example, are forced to the shoulder as buses come up from behind at full speed.  No one expects them to slow down- and they won’t. When they honk- you have to move.  As for driving on such rapid expressways: When road shoulders do exist they should always be considered a lane to themselves, as they are routinely used for quick escape as well as passing.

Many roads in Indonesia are windy, and when traffic emerges from a more remote windy section of highway onto a straight stretch, many vehicles will suddenly accelerate.  They will proceed at high speeds even into crowded towns.  Small towns which are bisected by a straight stretch of trans-island highway bearing a heavy stream of through traffic can be incredibly dangerous.

Motor Bikes

Motorbikes practice their own rules of the road, on the other hand.  As in most of Asia, they heavily outnumber all other vehicles on the road and swarm in packs in densely populated areas.

They also share an unwritten, cultural code that exists outside the law.  This has foreigners scratching their head at first blush. Any given lane can become two or three and motorcyclists split them at will. Motor cyclists will freely pass to the left or right.  In both towns and inner cities they commonly mount and drive on sidewalks when traffic backs up and can often be seen driving along the side of the road going the wrong way on a one way street.  Indonesians don’t bat an eye at this- it is simply part of the motorcyclist’s code of behavior.  Motorcycles are often the primary transportation for a family, and it’s not uncommon to see four people riding together on one bike.  The smallest of children are likely not to have their own helmet in such a situation, often because the parents can’t afford it.


Few cross walks exist in Indonesia, and most drivers don’t acknowledge them whatsoever. Pedestrians on the other hand cross wherever they want to, expecting passing traffic to accommodate them.  Their walk amounts to a slow amble.  In fact, this is the safest way to cross any road in Indonesia.  Running across a set of lanes is considered dangerous.  Drivers respond to slow moving pedestrians as that is the custom. While crossing, a pedestrian might need to extend their hand out as would a policeman and gesture for oncoming traffic to slow down.   For the most part, drivers in Indonesia do respond positively to such a gesture.

For pedestrians there is safety in numbers.  It is always safer to tag along side a few other people when crossing the road.   



Using the horn to signal close proximity or demand another driver move over to allow the faster vehicle to pass is universal behavior in Indonesia.  It can be taken to be aggressive, but often it has more to do with safety. In such places as the United States, honking a horn can catalyze a fit of road rage, and foreigners from such countries have to quickly accustom themselves to the signaling use of horns in Indonesia.

Broken-down Vehicles

Vehicles in disrepair are common sights.  At night, vehicles can be seen driven without functioning headlamps or turn signals.  People routinely park in the road itself, and local transportation makes frequent stops in the road to pick up or drop off passengers, or even to stop for a snooze. 

Communal use of Roads for Festivities

Road surfaces are also used for community parties and gatherings of all sorts- including weddings and funerals.  As Indonesia social interaction revolves around such gatherings, expect to see a least one every time you go out on the road.  This is especially dangerous as approaching a small town along a through highway.

Vehicular Accidents& Emergency Services

Minor injuries suffered as a result of a traffic accident can become much more serious as traffic police and ambulances are scarce in out-of-the-way places.  Accident victims are often transported to hospitals by others involved in the accident who escaped uninjured or by a driver flagged down as passing by.

Java vs. Bali

As opposed to Java, Bali is a much safer and saner place for driving.  The growing problem of traffic congestion is a problem common to both islands, though.  In Java, it is predicted Jakarta will experience total traffic gridlock by 2012.  Jakarta traffic makes progress at an average rate of about five kilometers per hour. Congestion in Jakarta is so bad that even the government has plans for moving the capital outside the area.

A trip between downtown Denpasar and Kuta Beach in Bali took as little as thirty minutes five years ago.  As of 2010, the trip often takes one hour, and two or more is not out of the question.

To drive, or not to drive?  That is the question

Transportation advisories as provided by embassies or state departments from foreign countries seem to be in universal agreement: it is better not to drive in Indonesia.  They advise hiring a driver. But this doesn’t mean that foreign residents shouldn’t and don’t drive their own vehicles.  Many foreign residents routinely own and operate motorbikes especially, as they are cheap and convenient.  They are the favored mode of transport for most Indonesians and many foreign residents.

Foreigners who own a four-wheeled vehicle in Indonesia will have to choose as to whether they will drive themselves or hire a driver.  If money is no object, then hiring a driver is again often recommended.  Foreigners who can afford it consider a private driver to be a necessary part of a domestic help package. For all the chaos one sees on the roadways in Indonesia, the Indonesians themselves don’t necessarily perceive it the same.  There seems to be a sixth sense about their inter-communications on the roadway.  They seem to be able to judge each others likely driving reactions.

Then again, many foreigners do own and drive motor bikes and find the experience manageable.  Motor bikes dominate the roadways in Indonesia anyway, and due to their small size are able to negotiate where cars and trucks have a much more difficult time. 




Outside of urban areas or suburban corridors, most roads are simple two lane highways.  Most have no central striping, shoulder markings, road lamps, or guard rails.  Almost 100% of these roads are public and non-toll.  Everyone is free to use them anytime of day or night. There are some rest areas as marked, but they are undeveloped.  Don’t expect toilets or water fountains.  Sometimes rest areas are in reality an inducement to stop and patronize a small concession on the side of the road that happens to have plenty of parking space.


Toll roads are extremely rare in Indonesia, and only found in the largest urban areas. Within the city of Jakarta, one will find expressway links that are toll roads.  For example, the trip from a downtown hotel to the airport can either be taken along toll or non-toll roads.  The toll expressways are of course less crowded and there are three tolls stops along the way. 


Expressways and other freeway links in urban areas are signed.  But apart from these types of multi-lane highways, road signs of any type are very rare.


Country roads in remote farming or wilderness areas may be paved or not, depending.  In any case there will rarely if ever be any kind of road sign that will alert you to the nature or condition of the road up ahead.


Private roads are very rare in such areas, and almost all roadways are free to public travel.  If not, there is usually some security gate which will block passage.




Speed limits are provided for by law, but are rarely posted. Speed limits as noted below are lower in wet weather:


                                                        60-80 (lorries, autos + trailer)


Speed limits are flagrantly broken in many places. On highways such as the infamous stretch between Yogyakarta and Solo in Central Java, nearly everyone speeds and the police don’t enforce the limits as provided by law. 


Driving Rules and Regulations

Mandatory Equipment for a Four-Wheeled Vehicle (cars and some trucks)

As of January 2010, a new revision of Indonesia’s driving laws came into effect.  It stipulates the following:


RECOMMENDED:   Set of spare light bulbs; tow rope


General Laws all Drivers must abide by


Again, according to the new traffic statutes of 2010:




Accidents between a car and a motorcycle are invariably considered as the fault of the driver of the car.  This is the cultural custom as has evolved and applies if both drivers are Indonesian.


For foreigners the rules are a little different.  If foreign drivers are involved in a road accident they will likely be judged at fault, no matter the case.  In fact, payment will be often be demanded on the spot.  If minor personal injuries are involved, the price demanded will be higher to cover medical treatment.  Many people who have experienced such a predicament report that the prices are negotiable and best paid immediately before a crowd gathers.  If a crowd gathers before a payment is agreed upon, then usually the presence of onlookers helps to drive the price higher.


If serious injuries or death is involved, then the police must necessarily be contacted. Otherwise, the authorities won’t be called in as they tend to complicate matters.  Under such circumstances, it may still be possible to pay one’s way out of the situation, but a legal entanglement could remain once a police report is filed.


Note that even though insurance is mandatory, it is useless under the circumstances described above.  Direct cash payment is not only preferred, but demanded.  If the driver owns collision insurance, repair of a damaged car might be paid for by a reputable insurance company, but filing for liability as per damages to another vehicle is often non-applicable.  Cultural customs work against such a claim filing system.


As noted, third-party vehicle insurance is a mandatory requirement in Indonesia.  Known as SAMSAT, it is included as part of the vehicle registration fee and only covers bodily injury.  One can see that payment for damage to the vehicle is most often left to the customary roadside haggling.




There exist no major towing companies in Indonesia, but smaller companies do exist in most urban areas.  The following cities are listed as having towing services:


Denpasar, Bali

Bandung, West Java

Jakarta, West Java

Tangerang, West Java

Surabaya, East Java

Pekalongan, Java



THE IDP (International Driver’s Permit)


The easiest and quickest way to become a valid driver in Indonesia is to make sure you acquire an IDP in your native country before coming to visit or live in Indonesia.  Proof of having a pre-existing driver’s license is all that is needed. 


In the United States, the U.S. Department of State has authorized the two following automobile associations to issues IDP’s:

Aside from a reasonable fee, the requirements are:


Renting a Car or Motor Bike

In Bali specifically, it is very easy to rent a car at one of many rental businesses.  They won’t ask for proof of insurance or a valid IDP as they are not legally bound.  The fee payed is simply for the rental of the vehicle. Signing the rental papers makes the renter liable for the vehicle itself and all potential liabilities connected to driving it. 

Renting a motor bike can be similar, but often it is much less formal.  Often a rental company is not involved and the rental is made by an individual.  The individual may simply rent you their motor bike for the day without asking for a signed contract.  If an accident happens, negotiations between the parties involved take place similar to those outlined in the section on road accidents above.




In terms of general parking laws in a municipal area, one would never know they exist in any formal sense. Police rarely ticket unattended cars for being illegally parked, and rarely do they tow cars away.  One never sees a ticket slipped in between a wiper blade and the windshield! If a driver is present and parked on an elevated sidewalk for instance, they could be approached by a traffic policeman and issued a warning and possibly a ticket.  Often the driver will pay the policeman to prevent from being ticketed. 


Parking accounts for a significant portion of the underground economy in Indonesia.  In the case of malls and larger private department stores, there will be ample parking provided on site, whether ground level or underground.  As a store patron, you won’t be charged for parking by the store’s owner.  But often there will be in attendance a parking tout who will call your attention and “help” you back out of your parking space.  Payment for such a service is usually a mere 1,000 rupiah (equivalent to about a U.S. dime) but it is a stretch to say payment is legally mandatory.  Often such services are forced upon the stores by local gangs and this is especially true in Jakarta where the “parking mafias” control a wide spread turf of commercial real estate. 


The parking tout is a seemingly permanent feature of Indonesian life, and found all over the archipelago.  Their activities cover most parking lots as provided by commercial storefronts, and even side-shoulder parking in front of commercial establishments.


Otherwise, in downtown, commercial areas, parking lots are few, and one call only judge whether parking is allowed by simply noticing if people are using the shoulder to park on.  In practice, most people park in lots as provided by commercial establishments or on the side of the road where a shoulder exists.  There is no such thing as metered parking in Indonesia.


Parallel parking is used very little in Indonesia.  In fact, drivers are rarely skilled at it.  Driving in reverse in general is a weakness of most Indonesian drivers, and that gives the parking mafia one valid reason for being!




“Drink driving” (or drunk driving as referred to in the U.S.) is not singled out for special legal consideration in Indonesia’s new driving statutes.  It is only listed amongst several other likely causes of “compromising a driver’s attention.”  There is no law per se against drunk driving, yet the law does state that there is zero tolerance for driving after having consumed alcohol.  Any amount is considered too much.  As with many Indonesian laws, this one is unclear and confusing.  Inevitably, it leaves it open to interpretation by the courts- and the police.


In practice, this means that a police officer can cite a driver for compromised attention, but the charge might not be cited as “driving while drunk or drinking.”  Policemen do not carry breathalizers.  But if one is driving drunk and causes a serious accident, the court might well take into account “cited inebriation” as the cause and it could lead to imprisonment.  In summary, drunk driving charges vary with the nature of the circumstance.  If loss of property or personal injury is involved, it could be very serious.  Otherwise, paying the officer a simple bribe is a distinct option.


There is strict control of the sale of imported alcohol in most, but not all of Indonesia.  Though overwhelmingly a Muslim nation, many people do drink, as traditionally produced spirits as sold by individual brewers are found almost everywhere.  But drunk driving is not commonly considered a significant cause of vehicular accidents. 




The following is well known and documented repeatedly.  It is in no way an endorsement of Indonesian police practices or those who pay them:


Though significant steps have been taken to fight it, the culture of corruption in Indonesia continues to be widespread.  It affects the day-to-day life of anyone who drives a car or motor bike.  Commonly seen in places such as South Sulawesi are traffic check-points which are set-up by police with the sole purpose of extorting small amounts of money from hundreds of drivers.  A driver might be cited for a faulty turn signal, but a small payment will defer a policeman from a making a formal write-up.


A foreign national could find themselves in such a situation, or pulled over for a justifiable traffic infraction just as well.  Customary practice dictates that paying-off a policeman will almost always “make the problem go away.”  If one chooses not to pay, then a formal ticket will be issued and a date for court appearance will be made. 


Appearing before court for a minor traffic offense is considered a much worse option than paying off the policeman involved. It is almost unheard of an Indonesian appearing in traffic court for a menial violation.  Avoiding court is something to be avoided at all costs as pay-offs inside the justice department will most likely ensue.  Better pay the policeman than the judge!






Getting an Indonesian Driving License


Conditions for being issued an Indonesian drivers license


Two types of driving licenses are allowed foreign nationals:  The SIM A (for cars and vans), and the SIM C (for motor bikes).  SIM stands for Surat Izin Mengemudi and simply translates as “driving license.”


According to Indonesian law: UU 22 tahun 2009 pasal 81 dan pasal 83:

The holder of a driving license (SIM) is required to fulfill the following requirements:



ISSUANCE & EXTENTION of a Driving License (PP No. 44/1993 pasal 223 & 224)







Which foreign nationals are eligible for a driving license in Indonesia?




VISA Sosial Budaya or a VISA of Visitation - entitled to a three month driving license (SIM)

NOTE: some foreigners holding this VISA have reported being refused a SIM.  Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

VISA KITAS – one year for either SIM A or SIM C

VISA KITAP – valid for five years for either SIM A or SIM C

KTP Asing (Kartu Tanda Penduduk Asing- Foreigner’s National ID Card) – valid for five years for either SIM A or  SIM C.  NOTE:  The KTP Asing is a special ID for foreigners and can only be obtained if already holding a KITAP, which is a Permanent Residency VISA.  The KTP Asing is not a VISA, per se. It is a foreigner’s equivalent to the KTP, or National ID Card which is issued all Indonesian citizens 17 years and older.






Sosial Budaya VISA holder- three months

KITAS holder- one year

KITAP holder- five years

KTP Asing- five years


For Embassy or Consulate staff and their families, the license is good for five years.



Special One-Day License  

This is a current offering as applies only to Denpasar, Bali.  Fee is around Rp. 100,000.  Your photo is taken and the license is usually issued the following day.




An International Driving Permit (IDP) can be used to drive in Indonesia if it is accompanied by a valid country license.  There are reports that Indonesian police sometimes don’t accept the IDP as valid, but these instances are very rare.  As a signatory to the international IDP conventions, Indonesia is mandated to accept the IDP.


The IDP is valid for twelve months from date of issuance.  It can be used to rent a motorbike or car in Indonesia.  Remember that the IDP serves to back-up the pre-existing national license on which it is based.  If the national license is valid for a motor bike, then the IDP only applies for driving motor bikes.  The same goes for cars.


International convention states that the bearer of an IDP need register the permit with the police before using it in any foreign country.  From all reports, that rule is ignored in Indonesia.


Due to its one year expiration date, the IDP is not really designed for foreigners who are temporary or permanent residents of Indonesia.  The common practice for long term foreign residents is to get a SIM.  The SIM is the popular choice for foreign residents partly because it is so easy to obtain.


The IDP should be obtained in a traveler’s home country before traveling.  It is generally easier, cheaper, and more convenient to do it at home than abroad. An IDP can  be purchased in Indonesia.  See below for details on how to do this. 


The caveat with this last point is the following:  and IDP as issued in Indonesia will validate driving in Indonesia, but outside of the country one may find it invalid.  Due to Indonesia’s poor driving record and road conditions as compared to international standards, some countries don’t accept an IDP issued in Indonesia.












When the foreign holder of a SIM returns to their native country, they must report to the same SATPAS (Department of Motor Vehicles) where they obtained their license and return it.  If you don’t return the license, this will not hinder you upon departure from the country, but if you ever return and reapply for a new license, the non-return information might be held in computer records and negatively affect your eligibility. 



Where do you go to apply?


The Indonesian Department of Motor Vehicles is an office administered by and located in the greater local police bureau, or POLDA (Polisi Daerah, or Local Police).  The official office is Satuan Pernibitan Administrasi SIM, or known more commonly as SATPAS.


Whether you are an Indonesian resident or staying temporarily, you must report to only the SATPAS in the POLDA office that serves your area of residence.  People you know in the neighborhood will be able to direct you.




The fee structure for foreigners is current as of June 2010:



For a first-time driving license, a fee of Rp. 50,000 can be charged if a driving simulator is used for the driving test.

If a doctor’s certificate is processed on site, this will charged as an extra fee.  Expect to pay Rp. 10,000 to Rp. 25,000.


NOTE:  If the fees requested vary considerably from what is stated here, expect something is amiss.  You should inquire and let the authorities know that you are aware of the fees involved.  As always, remain polite, but be firm about it. 


PROCEDURE :  First Time Application for a Driver’s License (SIM)


General Considerations


SATPAS offices are often only open until noon, so it is best to report early.  8:00 AM is recommended.  The whole process shouldn’t take more than two or three hours.


As compared to most common legal processes a foreigner is likely to experience in Indonesia, obtaining a SIM is one of the simplest and clear cut. 


Always check first with you local SATPAS before applying and confirm that the information presented here pertains to their local procedures and requirements. The following outline is given as step-by-step for ease of understanding, but it is general and may not be specific to the local SATPAS you find yourself dealing with.


For example:  Some SATPAS require that the license fee be paid in a bank before reporting to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  This is reported as true in regards to at least one SATPAS as found in Jakarta.  You might be required to purchase before hand what is in effect a money order or Tanda Pembayaran Permohonan Penbuatan Surat Ikin Mengemudi (Payment Alert for Making a Driving License) from Indonesia’s national bank, Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), or from Bank International Indonesia (BII).


Otherwise, the following procedure can be expected.  Note that you will be directed as to each step by one or more police officers.  Many times this entails reporting to a specific window, or Loket as known in Indonesia. Usually Lokets are numbered, and you may be told to “go to Loket No. 2”, for instance.  Just go with the flow as directed by police personnel.  


NOTE:  The procedure that follows applies both to the SIM A and SIM C.   If applying for a motor bike license (SIM C), or car (SIM A), you will most likely be provided one or the other vehicles by SATPAS in order to take the driving test.  Prior to application, do check on this detail with your local SATPAS, though, as there might be a possibility that you must bring along your own motor bike or car as driven by another licensed driver.  Local practices always apply!




As with any legal process as takes places in a bureaucratic setting in Indonesia, you may be asked for a “tip, donation, or extra fee.”  If asked to make a free donation as deposited in a box, you might consider doing so, especially if you have been treated respectfully.  Donations are part and parcel to customary exchanges given Indonesian cultural practices.


But if an individual police officer makes a private request for cash to be given him or her directly, this should be considered corruption money or a bribe.  Simply remain polite and refuse.  Explain that by law you are only obliged to pay the nominal fees as stated in the fee section above.  Usually this will quiet the officer.  If not, you can demand to see a higher official or state that you will write an official letter of complaint.  Official written complaints carry clout and are something most officers will try to avoid having filed against them!


You can always choose to pay the bribe, but given the licensing process requires you deal with several personnel, they may be encouraged to ask for money as well.  You can loss your standing and respect by paying any bribes at all.  In short- one bribe leads to another!




According to Indonesian law:


When applying, a foreign applicant must submit the following documents:






NOTE: part of this procedure requires a written driving test!  As no handbooks are available, there really is no good way to prepare for it, but it is short and designed more to test reading skills than anything else.  It is available in Indonesian and English, but not in other languages. Just apply common sense as knowledge of specific laws is not really required. By all accounts it is extraordinarily rare anyone ever fails this test.





This is an extremely easy process:

Procedure for Getting an International Driving License


If you already have an Indonesian SIM and wish to obtain an International Driving License, check-out the following as detailed by the Australian Embassy web page:


In Jakarta, an International Driving license can be obtained at IKATAN:

IKATAN MOTOR INDONESIA (IMI, or Indonesian Motor Club)

Stadion Tenis Senayan, Jakarta Selatan

T: +62 21 573 1102.


General requirements to apply for an International License at IMI are:




An International Driving License can be obtained at:

Pelayanan Samsat (Vehicle Tax Service) Building

BPKB section

Jl. Cok. Agung Tresna no.14

Renon, Denpasar


Report to Loket: Service Window for Foreigners

Opened: Monday through Thursday and Saturday, 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM

                Friday, 8:30 AM to 1:00 PM

Closed: Sunday and public holidays.

T: Foreign License Service 







As is common to any Indonesian legal process that involves foreigners, an agent can be hired to help expedite getting a driving license.  In fact, if you are employed as a foreigner worker, your employer made provide you with such an agent.  Most likely this would be helpful, especially if the employer does this routinely and pays for the service fee! 

Private services known as Biro Jasa (Service Bureau) are a common source for such agents.  If you do decide to personally hire an agent, you will only need to give them the required documents and appear at the Department of Motor Vehicles only to provide a signature, have a photo taken as well as fingerprints.  Though the law requires a driving and written test, it is reported by some that sometimes the use of an agent bypasses these steps.  Never assume that this will be the case, though!  But if it is the case, assume your fee will be exorbitant as part of it is undoubtedly going into the hands of the police who in return will “overlook” the testing part of the requirements.

Expect to pay at least double what you would otherwise pay if applying by yourself, and possibly more.  Many foreigners don’t bother considering the use of a hired agent as obtaining a driving license is relatively quick and simple.



As mentioned, the most trusted information is available at your local regional police office.  These offices are numerous and very easily found.  Make sure, though, that you ask for those police offices that issue a SIM, as there are many levels of national police!  It is the POLISI DAERAH (or POLDA) or local police that you want to contact. In Bali they use the term POLTABES.  It is confusing, but the locals will help you most immediately if you simply ask, “Where do I apply for a SIM?”

Some Department of Motor Vehicles Offices:



Jl. Gunung Sanghyang 110

Denpasar, Bali

Cell phone:  +6281337617172


NOTE: Calling is really not very helpful unless you speak the language very well over the phone.  It might be difficult to believe, but is not uncommon for phone calls to go unanswered by the police! Whether requesting information or applying for a license, it is best to show up in person during business hours. And the earlier the better!


International Driving Permit


As mentioned above, you can apply at the following for an International Driving Permit:


IKATAN MOTOR INDONESIA (IMI, or Indonesian Motor Club)

Stadion Tenis Senayan, Jakarta Selatan

T:  021-573-1102.


Pelayanan Samsat (Vehicle Tax Service) Building

BPKB section

Jl. Cok. Agung Tresna no.14

Renon, Denpasar

T: Foreign License Service 



There is an online application for an IDP for those seeking to get a SIM while in Indonesia.  It is in Bahasa Indonesia, and you might need to use an internet utility for translation.




Getting Married in Indonesia




The article of law covering marriage is Indonesia’s 1974 Marriage Law: Undang-undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 1 Tahun 1974 Tentang Perkawinan


“Mixed marriage” is the term used in this brief to describe the marital union between an Indonesian citizen and foreign national.  The legalities surrounding mixed marriages are complex and applied unevenly across Indonesia.  There are also different legal procedures for different religions.


As a foreigner, who is eligible for marriage in Indonesia?


Not every foreigner can be married in Indonesia.  They must hold a valid VISA first of all, and all the rules pertaining to obtaining a VISA will apply.  They cannot be married to anyone else either inside or outside the country. They have to be of a certain age, too.


Given the complexities and variations of legal practices in Indonesia, it is interesting to note that some sources claim that an Indonesian Police Certificate vetting a foreigner as never having committed a crime is also a marriage requirement.  But the Indonesian Embassy and the 1974 Marriage Law does not stipulate that such a crime-check is mandatory.


One must always keep in mind that in Indonesia local legal practices and requirements will vary region-to-region. Checking with local marriage authorities on any set of procedures and list of requirements is always a necessity.


In all practicality, though, when testing the eligibility of a foreigner for marriage, religion is the first of all primary considerations:




According to the marriage law, a man and wife must share the same religion in order to be married.  For marriage purposes, there are only five religions legally recognized in Indonesia- Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, and Buddhist.  Even before proposing marriage to any Indonesian, the foreign national must be willing to attest to the practice one of these faiths, or a legal marriage cannot take place.  For any Indonesian, religious affiliation is basic to social and legal identity and every Indonesian citizen must claim one of these six persuasions.  By the age of 17, each Indonesian citizen must have their religious faith confirmed as indicated on their National Identification Card (KTP or Kartu Tanda Penduduk).


No Indonesian can profess being agnostic or atheistic, so neither can a foreigner interested in marrying an Indonesian.  If a foreigner and their Indonesian spouse do not share the same religion, the only practical alternative is for one of the two to convert to the other’s faith. If conversion is necessary, chances are the foreigner will be obliged as it is rare that the family of a prospective Indonesian spouse would support religious conversion of a family member.  This is especially true if the couple remains in Indonesia after marriage.  There are exceptions, of course, but statistically this is the case.


Details on religious conversion in the marital context are found below.


What this also means is that there is no such thing as a cut and dry state marriage in Indonesia.  Though all marriages should be reported and registered with the state, a marriage is first and foremost a religious act and ritual, and must be performed within the context of a legitimate religious ceremony.  Each individual religion dictates this according to its own internal laws.  This point is clearly stated in the 1974 Marriage Law.






A Surat Pernyataan Harta, or pre-nuptial agreement, is another important preliminary consideration.


The issue of property ownership is of central concern here. Without the pre-nuptial, Indonesian law assumes joint ownership of property, and any property acquired after the marriage will be held jointly. There is an anomaly here, though, as foreigners cannot own property in Indonesia, but their name can still be listed on a land title in conjunction with their Indonesian spouse.  If the Indonesian spouse were to die first, this could result in the foreigner’s name remaining alone on the title, and this is illegal.  Selling the property under these conditions would also be illegal. In such a case, the Indonesian government would be within their rights to take legal ownership of the previously jointly held property if the surviving foreign spouse is not able to sell the property within a year’s grace period.


In effect, many foreigners would rather forfeit joint ownership of private property in Indonesia, while protecting their right to sole ownership of property located outside the country. Without a pre-nuptial agreement, this can’t be legally arranged. 



Pasal 29 (article 29) of the 1974 Marriage Law stipulates simply that a pre-nuptial agreement must be made prior to marriage.  A pre-nuptial cannot be made retroactively. The agreement is made legal at the same time the marriage is registered with the local Civil Registration Office (Kantor Catatan Sipil- which is like the mayor’s office) and the Office of Religious Affairs (KUA, or Kantor Urusan Agama).


When marrying in Indonesia, the assets of both husband and wife are co-mingled, and jointly owned. Each partner is entitled to 50% of the estate.  If the foreigner wishes to set aside and protect part of his or her own assets that predate the marriage, a pre-nuptial will be required.


Otherwise, a pre-nuptial might be appropriate for the foreign national who falls into one or more of the following categories:


If the marriage is to take place in Indonesia, it will be necessary to draw up pre-nuptial papers in the local area where the married couple is married and resides.  Most likely the services of an Indonesian lawyer will be required.  National laws directly apply, but local custom (adat) and religious codes will weigh in as factors.  Provisions for drawing up a pre-nuptial agreement are abstract and not pre-formulated.   There is plenty of flexibility in this regard.  As per guidelines, an agreement must basically follow religious and moral ethics as locally practiced.  


Two witnesses over the age of 18 must appear during the registration of the pre-nuptial agreement.  Photo copies of their KTP or foreign passport must be filed. Civil Registry employees who work at the Kantor Catatan Sipil may act as witnesses.




Basic Procedure for Getting Married in Indonesia


Note that requirements and procedures can change, so always consult your local Indonesian Embassy or Consulate General before proceeding.  As local administration is also important, contact and consult the marriage authorities local to where the marriage will take place.  It is more efficient and less problematic to get married in the same area as listed as residence on the Indonesian spouse’s KTP.


Legal Requirements


In accordance with the 1974 Indonesian Marriage Law, article 2 states that a marriage is legitimate if performed according to the laws of the religious beliefs of the husband and wife.  Because of the deference made to religious law, the act of marriage varies accordingly.


According to the law, the foreign national and Indonesian spouse must meet the following requirements and have the following documentation in their possession:

*see below:  Letter of No Impediment to Marriage

NOTE: The marriage ceremony is usually performed first in a church or temple ceremony.  After the ceremony every non-Islamic marriage must be recorded with the Kantor Catatan Sipil.  Without the registration by the Civil Registry these marriages are not lega .  The registration can be arranged to be performed at the religious ceremony itself.

For Muslims: Kantor Urusan Agama, or a local Mosque

For Christians: Kantor Catatan Sipil and a chosen Christian church



*Letter of No Impediment to Marriage:  Indonesian authorities are strict as concerns proof of a foreigner’s true marital status.  Marriage authorities demand an official letter as issued by the foreigner’s own embassy or consulate which states that the foreigner has either never been married, is divorced, or is a widow or widower. The foreigner’s consular representative will in turn demand the proper presentation of a final divorce decree or death certificate of the former spouse in order to verify. 


Pursuant to this, it must be noted that proving that one has never been married can be particularly difficult, depending on the foreigner’s country of origin.  For U.S. citizens, this applies as marriages are certified on the county level, and there is no centralized data base for all 3,000 U.S. county courthouses that can be searched to verify whether a current, valid marriage certificate exists or not for the foreigner in question.  Ironically, it is just as problematic for a U.S. consular representative to know in all certainty that a U.S. citizen once divorced was never remarried! 


**Notice of Intention to Marry:  When presenting a letter of Notice of Intention to Marry to the Kantor Catatan Sipil, both partners must present the following original documents and file photocopies:


It is important to reiterate: local administration of complex legal procedures will differ region-to-region.  In cosmopolitan areas such as Bali and Jakarta where many marriages involving foreigners take place, local officials follow more-or-less consistent applications of the marriage law.  There are few surprises, and reliable information can easily be had. In areas where fewer such unions take place, though, there is the distinct possibility that a variation on the  procedure outlined will occur.


Because of this, research into the specific local legal practices as pertains to marriage involving foreigners should be considered.




The Marriage Ceremony for Family and Community



An Indonesian wedding ceremony as festive celebration often entails a separate ritual, and may occur days or even weeks after the initial legal and religious ceremonies that may have take place in a civil office, church, Mosque, or temple.  Each region and ethnic group practice their own marriage customs. Sometimes the choice is a family choice as how to celebrate, but usually community traditions prevail. 


Think of an Indonesian marriage as having three components: one civil, one religious, and one according to the regional adat (collective local customs and traditions).


Indonesian weddings more often than not fully embrace regional and ethnic adat.   Festivities are all at once colorful, joyous, and solemn.  The married couple and “supporting cast” of children and what might be considered bride’s maids and groomsmen are often dressed in traditional costume as native to the regional ethnic group.  Local dignitaries speak; religious authorities extol the virtues of commitment and love to spouse, family, and god.  Food is in great abundance, as is music and sometimes dancing.  Usually guests approach the married couple at the end of the ceremony, and in congratulations deposit some money as discretely sealed in an envelope through a slot into a wooden box.  This is a show of respect, and helps defray the cost of the wedding.


If a religious ceremony has yet to be administered it may be combined with a festive wedding party.  Other times, the exchange of wedding vows has already taken place, and the religious formalities aren’t on display.


Christian weddings are sometimes more westernized.  Weddings take place in a church and bride and groom dawn traditional western marriage attire.  This means a tuxedo for the groom and a white wedding dress with veil and flowing train for the bride.  A reception follows, and it may be that traditional ethnic dress will be absent from the celebration and only food is served.


Traditional Balinese weddings are complex, long in duration, and rich in symbolism.  They can take place for eight hours or more, entail traveling by foot from one part of town to another, and have ceremonial stages that involve multiple Hindu priests and praying in different village Hindu temples.  Gamelan orchestras and singers are often part of the festivities. The number of people officially dressed and involved in the numerous rituals can easily entail up to fifty people.


A festive, communal wedding ceremony is more the rule than not.  Wedding invitations are sometimes sent out, but that is more a formality than anything else.  The entire neighborhood where the married couple lives is welcome and in expected to be in attendance.  Many friends and family donate time, money, and their help in preparing costumes, food, and everything else a marriage ceremony entails.


Time Periods & Marriage Certification


For non-Muslim marriages, expect a ten-day waiting period before marriage certification and a marriage certificate is available.  The original certificate should be safely stored and photo copies made. 


Islamic Marriage Certificates (Buku Nikah or Marriage Book) as issued by the Kantor Urusan Agama might be available in less time, and are usually held valid throughout Indonesia and don’t require registration with any other agency if the couple plans on living in Indonesia.  It is not bad practice, though, for any mixed married couple to register with Kantor Catatan Sipil in any event.


Non-Muslim versus Muslim Marriages


Many Indonesian couples of the Muslim faith do get married through their local Mosque without reporting it to local civil authorities.  This is frowned upon by the Indonesian government, but such traditional practices still do exist.  For a foreigner, though, this is not an option. 


For the other valid types of religious marriage, there is a legal requirement for all Indonesians to register the marriage with the local Kantor Catatan Sipil.  This, of course, is binding on a mixed marriage as well.





Religious conversion is usually not a complicated process, but again, it will vary from region-to-region in Indonesia.  Many times the foreigner, for example, can be converted and married in the same week, or even on the same day of the marriage.  This must be arranged with the marriage’s presiding priest, pastor, or imam and can often be done while arranging details for the marriage itself.


It is best the couple the consult local marriage authorities for the proper procedure. Once converted, a certificate will be presented to the spouse who has converted, and that in turn can be presented as proof to the Kantor Catatan Sipil and Kantor Urusan Agama.


For conversions to Islam, it is not uncommon for the conversion to take place in a Mosque, immediately followed by the legal religious ceremony of marriage.  Two official witnesses must be assigned and present, and their signatures affixed to the certificate verifying “entrance” into the Muslim religion.



Getting Married to an Indonesian Abroad


Considering the complexities involved in getting married within Indonesian borders, many couples opt for marriage outside of Indonesia.


The good news is:  Mixed marriages as performed abroad are recognized as legal and binding in Indonesia.


In this regard, a relatively new law, called the Law of Administration of the Population (2006) (Undang-Undang no. 23 Tahun 2006 tentang Administrasi Kependukan) is now in affect, superseding the 1974 Marriage law.  It states that Indonesian citizens married outside of Indonesia will have their marriages recognized.  They need only report the marriage to the Indonesian government by registering it with an Indonesian embassy or consulate in the country where the marriage took place.  Bring along the marriage certificate to provide proof.


When returning to Indonesia, the Indonesian spouse must again report their foreign marriage to their local Kantor Catatan Sipil if they are non-Muslim, and to the Kantor Urusan Agama if Muslim.  This must be done within 30 days, or else a fine of around USD 100 is imposed and the marriage may not be considered legal by the Indonesian government. 


After registering, the couple will be issued a Tanda Bukti Laporan Perkawinan (Official Evidence of Marriage) which certifies the authenticity of the marriage and makes it legal.


As a safeguard, it is best for the mixed marriage couple to do the following though:


The last two documents are sometimes requested by the Kantor Catatan Sipil, but usually presentation of a foreign marriage certificate is enough proof.


Further Information


List of Indonesian Embassies Worldwide

Use this web site to find the Indonesian embassies and consulates in your home country.  Consult their consular services for marriage information specific to the country.


Department of Religious Affairs (KUA- Kantor Urusan Agama)

Directory of Nationwide Offices:



Department of Religious Affairs (KUA-Kantor Urusan Agama)
Jl. Lapangan Banteng Barat
No. 3-4 Jakarta 10710 Indonesia
T : (6221) 381 2306
F : (6221) 381 1436
W :

E :



Department of Religious Affairs (KUA)


Jl. Tegal Harum No. 8, Kesiman Kertalangu

Denpasar, Bali.

T:  +62 361-463442


E :

Admin  Didik Kurniawan, S.Ag.MA.  email :  HP.081336744251



Jalan Raya Tuban
Banjar Pesalakan, Kuta
Badung, Bali
T:  +62 361-755997



Persyaratan Nikah Dengan WNA  (Regulations for Marrying a Foreign National)

This page can be translated using a translator:

ImTranslator v. 3.3.4 Add-on for Firefox

Google Chrome- Google Translate


Traveling with Pets into and out of Indonesia

What are considered domestic pets?

Laws pertaining to import and export of animals in Indonesia are most immediately administered by the Directorate of Animal Health, Directorate General of Livestock Services, Department of Agriculture; and the Directorate General of Nature Protection and Conservation, Department of Forestry and Plantation as regards wildlife.

Import and export of animal laws refer to birds, cats, dogs, and monkeys.  Transport of any other type of animal should be taken up with your local Indonesian consulate or embassy.


Entering the Country with a Pet

Flying with a Pet

There are three basic methods for flying into Indonesia with your pet:

Preparations before Arrival

In order to bring a pet into Indonesia, a letter of permission must be requested of the:

Departemen Pertanian (Ministry of Agriculture)

Up. Direcktorar Jenderal Peternakan

Jl. Harsono RM No. 3-Ragunan-Jakarta 12550



Specification of the pet (species, name, gender, appearance, & other characteristics) must be included in the letter.  This letter should be accompanied by the following legal documents:



In Addition


The Direcktor of Animal Directorate, Ministry of Agriculture will issue a letter attesting to the fact that the vaccination has been valid for at least one month and will grant an import permit for an animal after the animal has been released from required quarantine from terminal A, Soekarno-Hatta Airport. Conversely, an export permit is needed to take an animal out of Indonesia.  The same procedure is used for exportation. (see below)







After Arrival


If the owner is bringing the pet into Indonesia themselves, the animal must be flown into Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport. Upon arrival with the pet, the owner must make the original documents used in application for the import permit available to officials. By law, the animal must be kept in quarantine, at the airport Quarantine Station for 14 days before the owner can claim it.  If there is any doubt about the animal’s health, it will be held in quarantine for a minimum of four months at the owner’s expense.


Leaving the Country with a Pet

Pet exportation out of Indonesia is very similar to pet importation into the country.  An export permit (CITES) is required. Observe the following procedure:


Domestic Transportation of Pets (dog, cat, monkey and others)


Crossing Borders with an Animal


Whether a citizen of Indonesia or foreign national residing in the country, it is not recommended to travel with an animal.  This includes domestic travel or travel by means of crossing borders.  An exportation permit would be required to take the animal outside of Indonesia, and a new import license would be needed to reenter the country.  As mentioned, a permit is required for domestic travel with a pet as well. The red tape involved makes the whole proposition unfeasible.


A foreigner living in Indonesia who plans on traveling away from home will have to make arrangements for proper care of their pet while on the road.


Animal Carriers


Briefly, whether accompanied by the pet owner or shipped by a professional mover, the carrier must be of ample size, equipped with ventilation, as well as food and water containers.


The animal carrier or pet container used for pet transport must be constructed of standard plastic certified to meet the standards of the IATA.  For general specifications, check the following:

For detailed specifications, download:



As a predominantly Muslim nation, Indonesia is not uniformly “dog friendly.” Many Muslims consider dogs unclean, and are many time afraid of the animals as well.  To board a confined vehicle used for public transportation with a dog is pretty much unheard of in Indonesia. This attitude is not only found amongst for in Muslim countries, but has even been reported in places like the United Kingdom where a recent case concerning a Muslim bus driver denying a blind person and their dog the right to board has been widely reported.  It is unlikely a blind person in Indonesia would be able to board any public transportation they wanted, for instance, in a Muslim neighborhood or district.

More generally, sight dogs in Indonesia are rarely if ever seen on the streets.  This doesn’t mean to say sight dogs don’t exist, but it is best to contact your local Indonesian consulate or embassy for detailed information.  Make all inquiries in one’s native country before seriously considering the importation of a sight dog into the country.

The following organizations for the blind will respond to specific questions as well:

National Federation for the Blind               Baltimore, Maryland, USA:

Guide Dogs                                                 UK, Wales, & Scotland:


The French Federation of Guide Dog Associations (FFAC)


European Blind Union





Quarantine of Pets

Preparing these documents in advance will help expedite your pet through quarantine:





The spread of rabies is a serious public health issue in Indonesia.  Rules for importation of pets differ with each region though, because they are all affected differently. 


Rules for pet importation vary according to the rabies-status of the country of origin.  In any case, quarantine is mandatory for all pets upon importation.


JAKARTA: The process is straightforward if the pet comes from a country with rabies-free status.  If originating from a country with rabies-infected status, the pet may or may not be granted entry depending on its documented health records. 


As of this writing, the following countries and regions are considered rabies-free:

Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, Brunei, Cyprus, Denmark, Fiji Islands, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malta, Malaysia (Sabah & Sarawak only), New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Turkey (including Coicos)


More information: Dept. of Agriculture, Tele. 021-781-5580




A serious outbreak of rabies occurred in Bali starting in late 2008.  Previously, the island was declared free of the disease.  As a result, thousands of islanders have been bitten by rapid animals and there have been many deaths.   The Indonesian government treats this as an ongoing, serious problem. 


Most dogs living in Bali are feral, and though a mandatory mass vaccination program was put into effect, it has been reported that some 200,000 supposed stray dogs were rounded up and eliminated by government officials.


The introduction of rabies into Bali was the result of importation from a neighboring island.

In response, the Indonesian government has instituted a ban of animal importation into Bali.  Don’t plan on bringing a pet of any sort into the island, no matter the species.  Bali is not the only area affected.  An importation ban exists in Palembang, Sumatra; Surabaya, West Kalimantan, and Papua as well. 











The following relates to human health and disease prevention as relates to rabies:


Most importantly: It is highly recommended that travelers and would-be-residents have a series of pre-exposure rabies vaccinations before coming to travel or live Indonesia.


The following website lists hospitals and health centers that can be contacted in Bali for more information:


If in Bali, contact:


The Bali Health Office

Health Command Post



RS Sanglah (Sanglah Hospital) is well-staffed, has many specialized health centers, and is well-stocked with vaccines:


Rumah Sakit Sanglah

Dauhpuri Kelod, Denpasar

(0)36 122 7915


A good Google map of all major Balinese clinics can be found here:



For the latest update on the outbreak, visit the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website as located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA:


The CDC also provides medical information about contracting and treating rabies:



Official Organizations & Helpful Web Links


Departemen Pertanian (Ministry of Agriculture)
Direktorat Jenderal Peternakan
Jl. Harsono RM No. 3-Ragunan-Jakarta 12550


Directorate General of Livestock Service, Directorate of Animal Health

Gedung (Building) C. Lantai 9

Jl. Harsono RM-Ragunan

Jakarta Selatan

 Phone: +62-21-7810090/21-7815783. Fax: +62-21-7827774


NOTE: No doubt individual pet owners will have specific questions not covered in this brief. As per the most appropriate agency in Indonesia, The Directorate General of Livestock Service (DGLS) is the best agency to contact directly with any question.  This can be done through their web site. Questions in English are welcome, and replies will be in English as well:


Animal Quarantine

Animal Quarantine Soekarno-Hatta, Jakarta

Jl. Pondasi No. 6 Kp. Ambon, Rawamangun II, Jakarta 13210

P.O. Box 1012/JAT)

Telephone : (021) 4750786     Fax No. (021) 4700493


Animal Quarantine Office in the Soekarno-Hatta Airport

Telephone: (021) 5507931   Fax : (021) 5507931


The Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association International


Veterinarians in Indonesia


Restiati Veterinary Clinic

24 Hour Emergency Service Phone: +62-361-7442430 (24 hour service)

Mobile: 08123952470 or 0811389001


Klinik & Salon Hewan          

Pinang Indah Pet Shop                                       

Jl. Ciputat Raya No. 9                       

Jakarta Selatan                                                   

Tel. 021 7664545


Veterinary Surgeon                      

Jl. Buncit Raya 11A                                            

Jakarta Selatan                                                

Tel. 021 7997734


Drh Soemarmo BJl.

Kemang Raya 29

Jakarta Selatan

Tel. 021- 79198685                                           

Pet Shops/Kennels

Groovy Pet Shop

Jl. Kemang Raya No. 44

Kemang, Jakarta Selatan

Phone: (021) 719-7704, 7179-2158

Fax: (021) 718-0872




Ragunan Kennel  (boarding kennel)

Rangunan Pasar Minggu

(021) 780 5611




Residency in Indonesia





Procedures for gaining residence status in Indonesia are complex.  Part of this has to do with the nature of the administrative laws; part in their implementation.  There is in practice no uniform way to obtain, for example, the common residency status of KITAS as detailed below.  Each provincial immigration office will interpret the law differently, set-up their own procedural basis, and in many cases demand fees that go well above and beyond those legally stated. 


The warning here is to be informed and not to pay bribes as you will forfeit your rights.  If you are aware of being extorted, then you must firmly deny paying the bribe demanded.  Furthermore you should kindly let the offending immigration official know that you will be filing a grievance in writing if they do not relent and make way for your rights under Indonesian law.  This will go a long way to securing your rights.


Also, the procedure for obtaining a KITAS as outlined in this brief may be exemplar, but it is only one variation on a theme.  There exist other procedures, depending on the immigration office.


General Overview



No matter their activities and country of origin, all foreign nationals are required to be in possession of a valid VISA in order to take up residence in Indonesia.  The citizens of eleven countries have been granted visa-free status by the Indonesian government for short visits up to 30 days, but residency VISA’s apply equally to all foreign nationals.


Reasons for residency vary.  Foreign nationals come to Indonesia to work, study, research, visit relatives or join a spouse who is an Indonesian citizen.  


A list along with brief descriptions of the most applicable residency VISAS follows:



The Sosial Budaya, or Social-Cultural visitation VISA requires an Indonesian sponsor.  It is good for 60 days along with monthly extensions up to 6 months. It is appropriate for visiting family and relatives, or for social-cultural exchange.  This is a single entry VISA.  This means if the bearer leaves the country, the VISA is rendered invalid.



This is a social-cultural visa that is good for 12 months and allows multiple entries into and out of the country during validation period.   In application is identical to number one above.


While still in their country of origin, a foreign national as hired by an Indonesian company will be granted a VITAS, or limited stay VISA.  This is extended to the worker’s spouse and children if applicable and follows the authorization of a work permit. Upon arrival in Indonesia, the foreign worker and his family will report to immigration and have all their VITAS’ transformed into a KITAS (see more below)



The KITAS, or permission for temporary residency is the most common VISA type used by foreign national residents.  It is a limited residency permit and requires an Indonesian sponsor.  Valid for five years, it is initially good for one year and must subsequently be extended every 12 months.




Notes on KITAS vs. KITAP


KITAP is in essence a “glorified KITAS” that grants the holder some unique privileges.  As with the KITAS, KITAP requires a sponsor, and this type of VISA is used mostly by foreign nationals married to Indonesian citizens with plans on permanent residence.  KITAP is valid for twenty-five years.  After the first validation period of five years, it can be extended for four more consecutive five year periods.


There are many other VISA categories that specifically include work, research, and business, but these strictly speaking are not residency-based VISA’s.


Further VISA Questions? Please Contact your Local Indonesian Embassy


The list provided above is general and not exhaustive.  To obtain details concerning specific VISA’s, visit the consular offices of your local Indonesian embassy or consulate general, or their respective web sites.  See Further Information and Contacts at the bottom of the page for specifics.






The Legal Principle of Sponsorship


In most cases, the key to obtaining a secure residency VISA in Indonesia lies in finding a responsible sponsor.  As a foreign national applying for a residency VISA, your sponsor will usually be an Indonesian citizen, a company owned and operated by Indonesians, or some other Indonesian institution, public or private.  Foreign owned companies with license to operate in Indonesia can secure residency VISA’s for foreign nationals as well.


With an Indonesian sponsor involved it is at the behest of that sponsor- not the sponsored- that a formal request is being made of the Indonesian government to grant a residency VISA to a foreign national. In many cases the sponsor is required to submit documents to the proper agencies in person, with or without the sponsored party in presence.  


Moreover, sponsors are bound to take full legal responsibility for the actions of the sponsored party.  Ultimately it might be for a court to decide, but if the foreign national commits a crime and cannot make restitution, the sponsor could be held liable for at least some if not all of the damages.  When asking an Indonesian citizen to be your sponsor, realize the favor being asked.  Make sure to inform that person of their legal responsibilities under the circumstance.


Having a sponsor is an absolute requirement of all residency VISA’s except for the case of retirement.


Common Pathways to Residency


The two most common forms of residency in Indonesia are:




Foreign nationals who come to Indonesia for work purposes must rely upon their company sponsor to apply for their work permit and VISA prior to employment.  If an Indonesian company is hiring a foreign national, the company is responsible for filling out and submitting required paper work to all necessary offices.


In brief, an Indonesian-based business must first be granted the authorization to hire expatriate personnel.  Then the company applies and is granted a work permit (IMTA, or Ijin Mempekerjakan Tenega kerja Asing- Permission to Employee a Foreign Worker).  The IMTA is written out in the new employee’s name but issued to and held by the company itself. 


At that point the company can applies for a VITAS (Limited stay VISA for foreign workers) on behalf of the employee.  The employee reports to their local Indonesian Embassy or Consulate in their home and country and has his or her passport stamped.  They can then legally enter Indonesia (along with family members applicable), and report to immigration with three work days in order to be have their VITAS transformed into a KITAS.


The VITAS is strictly temporary, allowing only for the foreign worker and family to enter Indonesia.  VITAS  is quickly replaced by KITAS.


Remember: When a VITAS is granted a foreign worker, the application for limited stay VISA may be extended to the worker’s spouse and children. 


Please visit AngloINFO’s brief on Working in Indonesia for more details on Working in Indonesia.




Foreign nationals who marry an Indonesian citizen are not automatically given the right to live in Indonesia.  They are still required to apply for a residency VISA.  An Indonesian spouse is eligible to serve as sponsor.  This means they have the right to apply for and carry out the process associated with gaining residency status for their foreign national spouse. It should be noted that the foreign national can initiate the process as well, or husband and wife can work together on the application.


At least initially, KITAS is the favored VISA when sponsoring a foreign spouse.  After two extensions, a KITAS holder is eligible for KITAP.




Please refer to the section on retirement VISA’s below.



KITAS (Kartu Izin Tinggal Terbatas), or Limited Stay VISA


Who is eligible for a KITAS?


The KITAS is the primary form of residency VISA issued by immigration.


The following persons are eligible for a KITAS, or Limited Stay VISA:


This list breaks down into two major categories- group sponsors and personal sponsors


Group Sponsors


Any one who is coming to Indonesia as invited by government, business, religious organizations or any other Indonesian institution will have their KITAS processed by their group sponsor.  The sponsor is responsible for processing all VISA arrangements.  In broader terms, the sponsor is legally responsible for the total well being and actions of the foreigner they have invited into the country.  In terms of documents, the foreigner involved sometimes only needs a valid passport for starters, though a valid birth certificate, Curriculum Vitae with work references, a yellow immunization card as well as other documents may all be required.  With an organized sponsor in charge, there should be no guess work. They are legally bound to inform the foreign guest as to the exact nature of documentation required before the foreigner ever arrives in Indonesia.  The sponsor will also direct their guest to any working details that will require the foreigner’s help and participation in terms of reporting to immigration or any other office.  


Group sponsors usually accompany their guests to these offices.  It is often mandatory that they do so.


For foreigners coming to Indonesia to work, please refer to the AngloINFO brief on Working in Indonesia.   


Personal Sponsors


As for private or personal matters- especially in terms of joining a spouse or parents- the responsibility still lies with the Indonesian sponsor.  But in all practical terms the sponsor and foreign spouse or relative will have to sort out and share the burden of documentation and reporting to immigration together. 


This section’s focus, then, will be on a foreign spouse coming to join their Indonesian husband or wife.  This category includes a large percentage of those applying for a KITAS. Once the foreign spouse has been granted a KITAS, they will have the experience and status necessary to bring in their children (of minor age only- i.e., under 18 years of age) if they so choose.  Processing a KITAS for a child is very similar in principle and practice to the process for that of a spouse.


FIRST THINGS FIRST- Obtaining an VISA Kunjungan Sosial Budaya (VKSB)


Terms:  WNI (warga nasional Indonesia)- Indonesian citizen

               WNA (warga negara asing)- foreigner, or foreign national


A KITAS cannot be obtained directly by a foreign spouse, regardless of whether the mixed marriage took place in Indonesia or abroad. The applicant must first be in possession of a VISA Kunjungan Sosial Budaya (VKSB) before applying for KITAS.  Also, the applicant must report to a Kantor Imigrasi (Department of Immigration) which officially serves the area in which the applicant and sponsor are living.  


The key document needed is a sponsorship letter.  This letter as written and signed by the sponsor must be affixed with the stamp of a notary (notaris-which in reality if a lawyer) or by the official stamp of the sponsoring organization or business.   The letter must formally address the specific Indonesian embassy, consulate, or immigration office that the WNA will be reporting to for making an application for the VKSB. 


If at all possible, this letter should be faxed from the sponsor to the WNA in their country of origin.  The VKSB can then be applied for directly at the nearest Indonesian embassy or consulate.  There are no complicated procedures involved.   This is the preferred way to apply.


In practice, the alternative to applying ahead of time in one’s own country is to obtain the letter directly from the sponsor in Indonesia.  The WNA is then forced to leave the country with letter in hand and apply for the VKSB in a neighboring country.  The nearest convenient Indonesian embassy or consulate office is in Singapore- though Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Davao, Philippines;  or Bangkok, Thailand’s could serve just as well.


Processing will be at least a three working days, and possibly five.  If an agent is paid, the turn over can be in as little as 24 hours.


FEE for self processing: around 80 USD for 6 months


Details and provisions of the VKSB are detailed below:



PROCEDURE for OBTAINING KITAS (the first time)




IN ADDITION- Process and/or Obtain the following:


Within 14 days after issuance of KITAS, sponsor and WNA should report to the Kelurahan and Kantor Lurah CaPil (office of the local neighborhood Kepala, or head administrator) for three things:



In essence, a visit to the CaPil (district mayor’s office) is a formal exercise in introducing oneself to the neighborhood, and registering one’s presence.  These documents state where you have come from, your date of arrival in Indonesia, identifies your sponsor, and registers the address where the two of you are living in the district. This is analogous to the function served by the KTP (WNI’s National ID card), which verifies the citizen’s current address.  The KTP’s address should be the same as the address being registered.


Furthermore- The foreign national and spouse must report to the neighborhood national police office within 30 days of securing a KITAS.  Processing for the following is required:


Issued by the Supervision Unit of District Police

FEE: IDR 50,000. Report to neighborhood national police station in your residential district.  You will be issued a plastic card with your picture, so you must submit photo (2 x 3 cm) before hand.


Report to neighborhood police same as above.  This is signed by the WNI spouse as requesting shelter for the WNA.


The SKLD is an especially important registration as Indonesian intelligence investigates the background of the foreigner.  It can take a month or more to actually receive this card after reporting.  All registrations listed above must be recertified with each annual extension of the KITAS.


NOTE:  This is a daunting list of certificates.  It is not always the case in practice, though, that all five registrations listed above will be “offered or requested” by local authorities.  This is the standard list as stipulated by law, but in practice each town, city, or region may implement the law according after their own fashion, and choose to ignore a given registration.  In any case, the foreign national and his or her sponsor should make inquiries about each of the registrations listed as they are all mandated by national law.






For location of your nearest tax office:








KITAS Renewal


KITAS can be valid for 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years.  Many KITAS holders extend it for one year at a time.  The WNA who holds KITAS must start the renewal process no later than one month before expiration.  The process is very similar to the one outlined above minus any reference to the VKSB, which has now become obsolete.


Fees are the same as well.




Note that someone applying for KITAP has most likely already been granted temporary residence as apart from retired persons, only KITAS holders are qualified to request a KITAP (or permanent residence VISA).


KITAP is a permanent residency card, and is good for five, five year validation periods, or 25 years total.  There is confusion in its interpretation and hence variations in its implementation across Indonesia’s immigration offices. 


Even eligibility requirements are argued.  Some immigration officials maintain someone having held a KITAS for two years is eligible; others believe it to be five years. 


In any case, a KITAS holder can have their VISA status transformed into KITAP.  The main advantage is that one need only extend it only once every five years instead of once every year or two. 


The KITAP holder is also privileged to add their name to the KK (Kartu Keluarga- or Family Identity Card), which is the official family card as registered with the Indonesian government.  This is of great legal importance if property is held by the family as well as verifying blood relations with any children there may be living in Indonesia.  Issues of inheritance, for instance, are at stake here.


Given many immigration offices will handle KITAS-to-KITAP conversion differently, it will be best to contact your local immigration office for details.  In any case, a formal letter to immigration requesting a conversion at the time of renewal for one’s KITAS is how the process is initiated.  You will be advised by your regional immigration office as how to proceed.


According to one law, the following categories of KITAS holders are potentially eligible for KITAP:





A retirement VISA can be applied for with only the sponsorship of a travel agent required. The sponsor need only write a letter on your behalf.  The rest of the process must be carried out by the foreign national by first reporting to Kantor Imigrasi.


For those wishing to retire and live in Indonesia, here are the requirements:



Depending on the foreigner’s country of origin, the retirement VISA is good for one year and can be extended yearly for a maximum stay of five years.  Because of this, you should contact your Indonesian embassy or consulate to find out the rules pertaining to your own country in specific. 


NOTE:  Those on a retirement VISA are required to pay Indonesian personal income tax on their personal earnings.








Should an Agent Do the Work for You?


Many foreign nationals employ an agent to do all that is necessary to obtain a residency VISA.  If money is no object, then this may be preferable.  From all reports, the price of an agent is three to ten times more versus doing it yourself.  The process is complicated enough that many people would rather not deal with it, especially if the Indonesian spouse involved is intimidated by Indonesian-style bureaucracy.


Deciding on an agent is one thing- finding a good one is another.  Word of mouth or asking through expatriate internet forums is a good place to start searching for recommendations.


The following may influence your decision to hire an agent:


Kantor Imigrasi (Department of Immigration) is the central office involved in issuing VISA’s.  Applications begin and end in this office. Each immigration department in Indonesia is administered differently.  As reported by many foreign nationals, immigration rules and regulations are interpreted differently by different offices.  Some rules are slighted or ignored, and in doing so, the rights of applicants can be forfeited in the process. Ignoring rules is sometimes the result of ignorance, but more often done in order to encourage bribes. Corruption is endemic to immigration offices, with some being worse than others.


This is not to say that fair and satisfying results aren’t likely.  The fact is most properly informed applicants who endure the process patiently will eventually get their VISA’s if they meet the requirements. Be aware that in order to complete the process of residency several visits to immigration are often required.


When first applying for a residency VISA, you will not have a choice as to which immigration office you will report.  The appropriate office is dictated by your address of residency.  It is best your sponsor lives in the same locality, as they might have to appear with you. You must report to the immigration office that has auspice over your area.  Generally, the so-called Class I or major immigration offices are located in each of Indonesia’s provincial capitals.  Immigration in Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bali are all easier to deal with as they process so many applications and are in general more sophisticated in their dealings with foreigners.  Jakarta’s immigration offices must take care as all foreign embassies are located in the capital, and complaints will come back to them quickly.  There are many foreign consulates in Bali and Surabaya as well.  The presence of foreign embassies and consulates do provide a level of protection.




Further Information and Contacts


Before coming to Indonesia, plan on a visit to your local Indonesian embassy or consulate in your home country.  They will provide information on VISA’s, residency requirements, as well as updates to any and all information presented in this brief.


List of Indonesian Embassies Worldwide:

List of Indonesian Government Websites:

Indonesian Department of Immigration:

List of Indonesian Immigration offices:


VISA Services

Simply do an internet search with select key words such as “Indonesia VISA services”.  Add a location such as Bali, Jakarta, etc. if desired.







Preliminary Comments


Anyone presented with the idea or opportunity to work in Indonesia should take heed of the following:


“Please be informed that it is not easy for foreigners to work and stay in Indonesia since Indonesia has very strict and complicated immigration/visa requirements and regulations, and the process can be very long. Applicants should be aware of this before making any further plans.”


This quote is excerpted straight from an Indonesian Embassy web page as written by Indonesian government officials.  To be forewarned is to be forearmed!


On the other hand, if you are a foreign national who is a prospective employee of an Indonesian company or institution, you’ll be glad to know that the bulk of the work permit and VISA responsibilities falls upon the business group who is hiring you. 


Please note: this brief focuses on the foreign worker and his or her family. 



General Considerations


Who is eligible to work in Indonesia?


The Indonesian foreign and domestic investment laws allow the employment of expatriate personnel in positions that cannot be filled by Indonesian Nationals. Work permits are issued by DEPNAKER WILAYAH (Departemen Tenaga Kerja Wilayah- Regional Department of Manpower).  They provide a current list of all professional positions in Indonesia which are open to foreign nationals.  As unemployment is an ongoing problem in Indonesia, part of this department’s mandate is to safeguard employment positions for the Indonesian people.  As long as Indonesians are not available or qualified, a foreigner may be hired to fill a given position.  This includes technicians, directors, managers, field experts, and teachers.


Indonesian companies who hire foreign nationals are expected by the Indonesian government to provide professional training for their own Indonesian employees in the area of expertise the foreign worker provides.  This is one reason why work permits are granted on a year-to-year basis.  The government would rather see an Indonesian filling the position, and will monitor job training efforts for those companies hiring foreign nationals.


Due to Indonesia’s perennial high unemployment rates, restrictions of foreign employment have been quite strict in the past, but have relaxed some in recent time.  This is especially true as relates to direct investment enterprises.  Indonesia’s trade policy has pursued foreign investment vigorously, and this has resulted in laxer work permit regulations as applied in practice.  As explained below, FDI type companies fall into this category.  FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) involves participation in management, joint-venture, transfer of technology and expertise.  This style of business partnership is presently an important part of Indonesia’s drive to modernize. 


In principle, the reasoning here leads to the following conclusion:  foreign employment in Indonesia can only be considered temporary in nature.  There are big exceptions, though, the most prominent one being in the field of teaching English as a Second Language.


No matter the terms of employment or contract drawn up between an Indonesian-based company and a prospective foreign employee, the company providing employment must apply for and obtain a work permit for their new employee.  All terms of contract will be reviewed by Indonesian authorities when they review the request for a work permit.


Applying for a work permit in Indonesia is inextricably tied into applying for a temporary stay VISA.  The two go hand in hand and are processed together. This brief will treat the two as integral components.


As detailed in the AngloINFO Residency brief on Indonesia, the basic temporary stay VISA is called a KITAS (kartu izin tinggal terbatas- Limited Stay VISA).  For those having secured employment in Indonesia, a closely related and temporary VISA is required before the KITAS.  It is called VITAS (VISA izin tinggal terbatas).  After the work permit is approved, the VITAS can be transformed into a KITAS.


In brief, here is the procedure for obtaining a work permit, followed by a VITAS, temporary stay VISA:


Work Permit & Associated Limited Stay VISA


Preliminary Information & Documents Needed


Indonesian law stipulates that the “ability to sufficiently communicate” in the Bahasa Indonesian language is a basic requirement of a foreigner applying for a work permit.  This is rarely enforced, though, as it is highly impractical.  The prospective foreign worker might well raise this point during contract negotiations with their Indonesian employer, though, just to be on the safe side.


Another consideration is: what happens if upon moving to Indonesia the job falls apart?  One possible safeguard is for the foreigner to insist on a “hold harmless” clause in the job contract.  This would hold the company liable to reimburse costs involved if such a thing occurred. 


Before the procedures are explained, here is a list of documents that the foreign worker must provide their company before the process can begin:



 16 color:  4 x 6 cm

   4 color:  3 x 4 cm

   5 color:  2 x 3 cm



10 color, 4 x 6 cm

3 color, 3 x 4 cm

3 color, 2 x 3 cm




As mentioned, the employer bears the brunt of the work.  They must provide the following:


NOTE: all acronyms for forms and agencies are translated and explained in the procedure section immediately following



For a Foreign Worker’s Permit- First Time Application:

Requirements for Work Permit Extension/Renewal:


Requirements when reporting a change of employee’s position




Expect the entire process to take up to 30 days processing time. Foreign workers need not worry about VISA status in the interim.  As long as the prospective employee reports to immigration in the first three days after arrival in Indonesia, the VITAS issued while the worker was still living in the country of origin will cover the processing period.  This is also true of the worker’s family.



A company wishing to employ an expatriate must obtain the approval of the government before proceeding to apply for a work permit on behalf of a foreign worker.  Formal approval request will come in the form of a SPT (Surat Pemberitahuan- Letter of Announcement or Notice) or SPPP (Surat Perjanjian Pelaksanaan Pekerjaan- Implementation of Employment Contract Agreement Letter), and will be directed to the Department of Manpower.





For companies:

PDMA Rencana Penanaman Modal Dalam Negeri (New Domestic Investment)

PMA  Penanaman Modal Asing (FDI- Foreign Direct Investment)    







Limited Stay VISA (KITAS or VITAS)




The foreign worker is validated for a period of one year from the date of entry into Indonesia.  If the company wishes to retain the services of the foreign employee, the work permit can be extended for one year three consecutive times.  The complication here is that the worker must leave Indonesia after obtaining an EPO (exit permit only) at the immigration office, and then reenter.  After reentering they must reapply for a new KITAS. 


FEE:  The IKTA (work permit) will be issued by BKPM only after the company has paid USD 1,200 to any BNI (Bank Nasional Indonesia). 


As with any KITAS, the bearer must report to their local Kelurahan (village or neighborhood chief), and POLRES (Regional Resort Police Station) and process the following:


Issued by Foreigners Supervision Unit of District Police

Issued by Provincial office for Resident Affairs.

Issued by Residential Chief of the village.

Issued by Residential Chief of the village.

Issued by the Regional Resort Police Station.

Issued by Regional Department of Manpower (DEPNAKER WILAYAH).


NOTE:  More details about KITAS and all of these extra registration certificates (except the last) are found in the Residency brief in the Indonesia section of AngloINFO.



Many foreign nationals own their own businesses in Indonesia.  It is perfectly legal. This is especially common in the tourist industry.  For example many hotels, live aboard dive boats, and other tourist concessions are owned and operated by foreigners.  Sometimes Indonesian business partners are involved, sometimes not. It so happens that many foreign business owners are married to Indonesians, or have Indonesian partners/operational managers.   These are not requirements, though.

Creating a business is a complex and individual process. The proper procedure goes beyond initial paperwork and is dependent on what kind of business is involved, who the owners are, and what the specifics of the contractual arrangement.  If acquiring land is a necessary component for example, foreigners aren’t allowed to own land so they most likely will have to negotiate a long-term lease.

According to the law, the minimum capital for creating a foreign investment company (known in Indonesia as a PT PMA*) is USD 100,000.  This amount of money is required in part to prove the proposition is serious. An application must be submitted to BKPM (Investment Coordinating Board), which as mentioned earlier, is an agency under the greater Department of Manpower (DEPNAKER WILAYAH- Departemen Tenaga Kerja Wilayah).

The following Indonesian website provides an outline for starting a PT PMA company.  Remember that this is but one service, and but one expressed set of procedures.  Expect variations as this is Indonesia!  The information should be checked against BKPM’s advice.


Consult your local Indonesian embassy or consulate for details.  If in Indonesia, consult with the Department of Manpower.  The best source of information is no doubt foreign business owners themselves.  What you will quickly find is that no two stories of business creation will be the same!

*PT stands for Perseroan Terbatas, or Limited Company.  PMA is the acronym for Penanaman Modal Asing, or Foreign Direct Investment. 


Foreign workers employed in Indonesia need to pay income tax and hence register with the Indonesian Tax Office (Kantor Direktorat Jenderal Pajak).  The office will issue a NWTP (Nomor Pokok Wajib Pajak- Taxation Identification Number) which comes in the form of a laminated card.  The employer should help the employee with this, but the employee should specifically inquire

Foreign workers will be required to file for and pay income tax.  The yearly wage determines the tax rate.  Employers often deduct tax from wages, but employees should monitor this and make sure the deductions are correct and are actually being paid the tax office when due and in the employee’s name.  Problems arise because the employee is required to file on their own, so double or errant payments can and do occur.  To avoid such problems, meet with the employer concerning this matter and also contact your local Indonesian Tax Office for more details.  Contact details are provided below.


Contact information and other helpful web sites

Indonesia Embassies and Consulates, worldwide

List of Indonesian Government Web Sites

Indonesian Department of Immigration


List of all Indonesian Immigration offices:




Kantor Imigrasi

Jl. Rasuna Said Kav 8-9 Kuningan

Jakarta Selatan




Tele. 021-5224658

FAX  021-5224658



Kantor Imigrasi

Jl. Di Panjaitan

Komp Mandala

Renon Denpasar 80235

Denpasar, Bali




(0361) 227828, 231149


(0361) 244340


Department of Manpower and Transmigration

DEPNAKER WILAYAH- Departemen Tenaga Kerja Wilayah

Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto Kav. 51
Jakarta 12950 Indonesia
T : (6221) 522 9285
F : (6221) 7974488
W :
E :


Dinas Tenaga Kerja Transmigrasi dan Kependudukan Provinsi Bali

Department of Manpower, Bali

Jl. Raya Niti Mandala Renon




T:  (0361) 225962 / 22559




Indonesian Tax Offices


Direktorat Jenderal Pajak   


Table of Indonesian Tax Offices- contact information (for download)



National Headquarters Tax Office, Jakarta


Kantor Pusat Directorat Jenderal Pajak

Direktorat Penyuluhan, Pelayanan, dan Hubungan Masyarakat

Kantor Pusat Direktorat Jenderal Pajak

Jl. Jenderal Gatot Subroto No. 40-42


Tax consultation call center:          (021)500200 
SMS Center:                                  0813 178 PAJAK (0813 178 72525)
Telephone:                                    (021) 5250208, 5251609, 5262880




General Taxes in Indonesia




The general term for tax in Bahasa Indonesia is pajak


The information below is current as of this writing, but will no doubt change substantially in the next several years.  As discussed below, the recent decentralization of Indonesia’s governmental structure has long term effects on local governance which are just beginning to be instituted across the country.  Keep in mind that financial stability, government services and taxation varies significantly in urban versus rural areas.  This is also true when comparing one Indonesian province to another.  There are presently thirty-four Indonesian provinces.  The richest provinces benefit most from tax revenues due to natural resource extraction.


Ongoing efforts in decentralization will effect local tax laws in the future and will apply in various ways to both Indonesian citizens and foreign residents.


Apart from income tax, listed below are some of the more prominent taxes that account for the lion’s share of government revenues as derived from taxation.





The umbrella agency SAMSAT is the bureaucratic clearinghouse for all things related to cars and driving.  As detailed in the other AngloINFO Indonesian papers on driving laws, road accidents and driving licenses, car registration takes place at the SAMSAT offices.  This is also true for paying car and road taxes.





Taxation on cars are equally applied to citizens of Indonesia as well as foreign residents.  (As noted in the other AngloINFO Indonesian papers on driving and insurance: Only foreigners with residential status can own a car in their own name)


Cars are considered luxury items in Indonesia as only 20% of the population own one. One result of this is that car dealerships are forced to pay high duties on the vehicles they import.  This substantially drives up the price of a new car in Indonesia.


Another consequence is the effect car taxes have on expatriates who wish to import a car into Indonesia from abroad.  Indonesia custom rates range as high as 300% of the car’s value.  The only exceptions to this are in the case of foreign embassy and consulate staff.




There are two basic car taxes.  The first is the vehicle registration, or title transfer fee (Bea Balik Nama or BBN). This is a one-time tax as associated with transfer of title  and costs 10% of the sales price of the vehicle.  In the city of Jakarta, that figure can go as high as 20%.  This tax is not to be confused with any VAT, or value added tax, which would be additional. (see below for more details)


After change of ownership is processed, the owner is issued a title in their own name (the BPKB- or Buku Pemilik Kendaraan Bermotor). To change title, Indonesians show their national identity card (KTP), and foreigners their passport and residential visa (either KITAS or KITAP). 


Along with the BPKB, the owner is issued a STNK (Surat Tanda Nomor Kendaraan- or Vehicle Registration Number).  A fee must be paid annually in order to reregister the number.




The second car tax is the annual ownership tax (PKB, or Pajak Kendaraan Bermotor).  This tax rate was boosted around 100% in 2009.  The tax is now equivalent to around 2% of the vehicle’s assessed value.  The steep tax hike has been controversial, the rationale being to reduce the influx of cars that crowd Jakarta’s highways.  Those who own a second car are subject to a progressive tax.  The tax on second vehicles is upwards to 10% of their assessed worth per annum, the exact rate being dependent on the car’s worth.


Passenger vehicles with engines having more than four cylinders are taxed an additional surchage.  The same is true for vehicles weighing more than 1500 kgs. (such as the very popular SUV’s).


Due to these tax hikes, the cost of Jakarta’s toll roads were increased in the range of 13-19%.




The sale or transfer of car ownership is subject to a value added tax, or PNN (Pajak Pertambahan Nilai).  Currently it is assessed as 10% of the car sales price.





The Indonesian government adminsters a road insurance fund which covers life insurance as relates to traffic accidents.  The annual fee is referred to as SWDKLLJ- Sumbangan Wajib Dana Kecelakaan Lalu Lintas Jalan, or the Compulsory Contribution Fund for Traffic Accidents.  Presently the fee is about IDR 150,000, which amounts to about 12 EURO a year.





In Indonesia there exists a long list of documents that in order to be considered legal must be affixed with a special lick-on stamp called the meterai.  It is a small, blue stamp, and must be “over-signed”” by the signature bearer when signing the document.  If part of the meterai is not penned-over by the signature, it is not legal. Meterai are sold in many sundry places, but are almost always available at the post office (Kantor Pos).  Currently the cost for a basic meterai is IDR 6,000 (about one-half a Euro).


The use of the meterai as a means of validating documents applies to everyone in Indonesia, citizens and foreigners alike. Meterai can be used for personal documents, too, such as promissory notes as associated with personal loans.


Udang-Udang Nomor 13 Tahun 1985 tentang Bea Meterai andPeraturan Pemerintah Nomor 24 Tahun 2000 tentang Perubahan Tarif Bea Meteraiare the current articles of law governing applications of the meterai.


Documents requiring meterai include: insurance contracts, notarial deeds, receipts of many kinds including tax payments, personal contracts such as private loans, letters of agreement, proxies, land transactions, almost any kind of license, power of attorney, statement letters; almost any kind of bank transaction including certificate of deposit purchases, promissory notes, loan and credit agreements.




VAT and GST (value added and goods & services taxes) are applied to most goods and services as orginate from both inside and outside of Indonesia.  Imports are subject to such taxes, but most exports are not.  As with all the other taxes covered here, this tax classification is applied equally to both Indonesian and foreign entrepreneurs who run PMA businesses (see AngloINFO article on Work and Contracts for more information on PMA’s).


VST/GST taxes are generally referred to as PPN, or Pertambahan Pajak Nilai (Value Added Tax).  The full acronym is PPN/PPn BM as taken from the governing article of law:  Undang-undang Nomor 8 Tahun 1983 tentang Pertambahan Pajak Nilai Barang dan Jasa dan Pajak Penjualan Atas Barang Mewah (Law Number 8 Year 1893 regarding Value Added Tax and Goods and Services Sales Tax on Luxury Goods). Further amendments are found in Undang-undang Nomor 42 Tahun 2003.


To summarize, PPN is the Value Added Tax (VAT).  PPn BM is the Goods and Services Sales Tax (GST) on luxury goods.


The current rate for  PPN  is 10% at point of sale by major vendors.  This tax extends to services furnished by foreign taxpayers outside of Indonesia if the those services benefit Indonesia. Provisions allow for certain items to be taxed as high as 20% with an absolute limit of 35%


PPn BM, or the luxury tax, is levied in addition to PPN.  It is imposed on the delivery of luxury goods both manufactured in Indonesia and imported.  Rates range mainly from 10% to 50%, with a few items taxed as high as 75%.


As PPN is applied to the sale of agricultural products, an important differentiation is made between modern versus traditional retailers. In deference to Indonesia’s older and more traditional market economy in primarily rural areas, cottage industries such as traditional farmer markets and other small, local business concerns such as small-time fishing are exempt from sales and service taxes.  Traditional markets support millions of mainly poor families, and taxation would threaten their livelihoods.



Type of goods that are not subject to Value Added Tax:



Types of services not subject to Value Added Tax:






In order to promote sales of luxury items to short-stay foreign tourists, the Ministry of Finance put a VAT rebate program into effect as of April 1, 2010.  If eligible, tourists departing Indonesia may apply for and receive a VAT discount on luxury goods bought in Indonesia at  international airports on the day of departure a specially designated tax counter.


Eligibility is restricted to those individuals who are not Indonesian citizens and for foreigners who have stayed in Indonesia for no longer than two months since arrival in the country.  Foreign residents are excluded.


This is a new program, and currently the list of participating retailers is short, but growing.  Most participants are located in malls across Jakarta and in Bali. (refer to Further Information below for more information)


Conditions :


Claims procedure:





In Indonesia property is assessed in two ways- the land first followed by its state of development.  Property taxes, then, are calculated based on the sum of the worth of the land and any buildings that might occupy it.  The word property, per se, is not a functional term as translated into Indonesian.  Hence “Property Tax” becomes “Land and Building Tax.” 


This tax classification is called the PBB, or Pajak Bumi dan Bangunan (literally, the Earth and Development Tax) as based on articles of law Undang-undang nomor 12 Tahun 1985 tentang Pajak Bumi dan Bangunan as amended by Undang-Undang nomor 12 Tahun 1994.


Land and building tax is payable as one, combined annual tax and is administered by local offices that are part of the larger Direktorat Jenderal Pajak, Kementerian Keuangan Republik Indonesia (Directorate General of Taxes, Finance Ministry of Indonesia).


Rates vary by region, but generally fall between 0.1% to 0.2% of the property value.  Tax reassessments take place every three years except in fast growing areas where assessment is taken every year. 


Residences valued in excess of one billion rupiah (about 80,000 EURO) are taxed at the high end of the tax scale (0.2%).  On the other end of the scale, properties valued at less than 8 million rupiah are exempt from any tax.  So too are properties used for public benefit (such as social, educational, and religious purposes) 


The government does not administer the land and building tax equally, though, and according to their own, local discretion will sometimes waive the tax as applies to poor land owners and farmers, along with those who live in temporary-style structures as built on land the inhabitants don’t own.  The village chief, kelurahan, and other local officials will command some influence over the local tax office’s waiver list.  Because of this, Indonesian property tax is often considered a middle and upper class tax.


Compounding this are those people who live on un-certificated land as held under the unwritten hukum tanah adat, or customary land law.  In this case, land titles don’t exist-  property is passed down through the generations and has not been registered with the government.  Again, local precedence as ministered through the tax office determine if and how any taxes are collected and will vary region-to-region.  The Indonesian government is slowly but surely attempting to certificate land throughout the country, and has more or less accomplished it in urban and developed areas such as Jakarta and Bali.  Hukum tanah adat still applies in countless rural areas.  Land tenure disputes do occur in places such as West Papua.

Land and Building Transfer Tax


When a piece of land changes hands, both buyer and seller must pay a 5% transfer tax as based on the sales price or government assessed value, which ever is higher.


VAT is not applicable to property transfers, but is for residential and commerical leases (10% and 6% respectively).  VAT is also imposed as a 10% one-time tax on development projects.


A luxury tax of 10% is charged buyers of luxury/upmarket houses, residences, condominiums, and townhouses. This is targeted at the wealthy and foreign resident market who tend to cluster in upscale communities in Jakarta and Bali.


Foreigners and Property Taxes


Foreigners cannot buy property in Indonesia, but can lease it, often for extended periods such as twenty-five years.  Though some terms are negotiable, the renter usually pays for property taxes.  This is considered customary as the renter usually benefits through the use of the land directly through its development.  Legally there is supposed to be no two-track system where assessment of property value and property tax differ for citizens versus foreigners.




Levels of local government which are empowered to levy and collect taxes are two:  the provinces (propinsi), and the districts (kabupaten).


Until the year 1999, Indonesia’s laws favored a highly centralized government.  Provincial and district levels had little power to raise revenue through local taxation.  By 1998 with the fall of Suharto, the central government dominated revenue collection by raising 93% of the sum total for all levels of government in Indonesia.  These revenues were primarily derived from income tax, the value added and luxury taxes, and from oil/gas. 


Of the remaining seven percent, provinces raise 5% and districts 2%.  Local government revenues came mainly from fiscal transfers from Jakarta: grants and revenue sharing from natural resources, shared property tax (PBB), and uses fees.  The decentralization laws of 1999 and 2001 helped restructure central versus local government, but still gave local levels of government little power to increase their local own-source revenues by levying local taxes beyond what law already allowed. 


These percentages and conditions have not changed much within the last decade.


As of today, provincial tax revenues derive mainly from car taxes as discussed earlier: tax on motor vehicles, on vehicle transfer of title, and on motor vehicle fuel.


District governments (kabupatens) are authorized under the Law to levy the following six taxes:


Some taxes as levied by the central government are administered and collected locally.  Prominent among these is the PBB, or land and building tax.  The newest formula redistributes allocations, giving local governments 90% of property tax collections to central government’s 10%.  New formulas have also been put in place to more fairly redistribute extracted natural resource receipts.  Natural resources sold by the state as extracted from the provinces now return to local government upwards to 70-80% of the receipts. This scheme has created a gap, enriching a few provinces while resource-poor provinces reap little.


Government decentralization has transfered new political power to local levels, but has shifted responsiblity in equal measure. Decentralization has mandated local governments to take on the onus for delivering many government services.  Despite attempts at revenue redistribution meant to enhance local government coffers, it has not always been enough to cover the costs created by new responsibilities given the provinces and districts.   


This has resulted in a widespread movement of local governments attempting to devise new revenue sources, including levying new taxes.  It has been a challenge as central laws strictly control the type of taxes that local governments can legally impose. 


Given this scenario, it is likely local taxes will increase in Indonesia.  As the overall tax burden on individuals in Indonesia is comparatively low, tax increases in many cases will be bolstered by public support (especially in the case of richer provinces) as many voters favor improved infrastructure and are willing to pay for it through taxation.





Directorate General of Taxes, Ministry of Finance, main website


Introduction to the Indonesian Tax System (in English)


Forum for Acounting and Taxes in Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesia)


Indonesian Tax Information (blog based in Indonesia)


Overview of Land and Building Tax System in Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia)


Details on laws concerning own-resource taxation at the local level


Cost and Taxes of Vehicle Registration in Indonesia


VAT Brochure (details on VAT refunds for tourists)


List of some participating VAT refund retail stores







Getting Around and Transport in Indonesia


What makes a Savvy Indonesian Traveler


Travel in Indonesia is simultaneously difficult, exhilarating, dangerous, and satisfying.  Much of the satisfaction comes from the country’s great beauty and the feeling of accomplishment of reaching remote areas that have just recently been made open to outsiders. 


The geography of the country makes travel difficult and time consuming on its own account.  The seas are boundless, the currents strong, the islands often mountainous and densely covered in rainforest.  The high frequency of earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruption, and tsunamis that occur in Indonesia make the country one of the most disaster prone places on earth.  No surprise that the archipelago is called “The Ring of Fire”.


That the country is relatively young with an infrastructure fragile and under-developed compounds things.  It is no secret that Indonesia’s travel sector is not considered safe.  After several years of total blacklist, for example, the European Union just recently lifted the ban on Indonesian airlines serving the EU by allowing Garuda Air to establish some routes direct from Indonesia.  Indonesia’s remaining fifty-plus airlines are still blacklisted.


Adding to the several passenger jet air crashes, a number of train and passenger ship accidents over the past few years continue to reinforce the world’s perception that Indonesia is incapable or unwilling to improve upon their safety record. 


The savvy traveler can move around and see Indonesia with relative safety despite all this.  This breed of traveler does their homework before embarking on any style and class of travel in the archipelago.  Tourists who are coming for the first time are prone to attempt to see too much in a short amount of time.  Due to the time consuming nature of travel and the frequent delays and postponements that come with travel of any kind in the country, it is best to take things slow and easy, and limit one’s itinerary.  Being informed and patient will help maximize the special enjoyment that can be had in traveling the archipelago.


Peak Time Travel


There are certain time of year when traveling in Indonesia is particularly challenging.  Religious holidays in particular make travel difficult due to the high volume of Indonesians who create what can only be called mass migrations across the country.  The beginning and end of Ramadan are two such times.  Christmas holiday which spans mid-December to mid-January is another.  Schools let out in July for two or three weeks, and the ranks of domestic travelers peak accordingly.


Modes of transportation covered are Buses, Trains, Ships, and Planes.



City bus service


Indonesia’s largest cities offer street bus service, but for the most part, they are not user- friendly for first timers.  Foreign residents have the advantage of experience, but tourists passing through will have to brave many unknowns.  Finding printed information as to bus routes, schedules, and addresses of bus terminals is difficult if they exist at all.  Signed bus stops do exist, but don’t expect proper bus stops to have any posted information as to route name or number.  In practice, buses will stop just about anywhere they want.  You can station yourself in a reasonably safe stretch of road along the known route and wave down the driver.   Chances are they will stop.

Bus routes are set, but there is no schedule.  The buses simply circulate around continuously. A bus’ number and destination should be posted on the front and back of the bus. Knowing some basic Bahasa Indonesia is very helpful as most locals will try and answer any question you might have about the bus system.

When boarding a city bus, you don’t pay the driver.  Once seated, a tariff collector circulates and takes your fare.  Fare amounts are set but rarely posted.  Foreigners are often gouged for double or more the going rate, especially if it is a long bus ride.  The best protection is to know the fare ahead of time, and remaining firm in offering only to pay that much.  Always carry small bills, as you won’t be given change for larger denominations.


Public buses in giant metropoles like Jakarta are home to violent crime as well. Robberies and assaults are not uncommon.  Beggars and vendors circulate through at every stop. Given other forms of safer, more private transportation are available, many foreign residents steer clear of public buses and choose other transportation.  City buses are often poorly maintained and commonly break down, too.  Exhaust leaks that pollute the bus interior are common and can make easily cause discomfort and sickness.  


Airport Shuttles


Specialized bus services tend to offer safer, more comfortable, and more reliable transportation.  The government-owned PPD and Damri bus companies, for example, shuttle passengers back and forth from downtown Jakarta to the Soekarno-Hatta airport.  Their quality is on par with bus fleets common to developed countries.


Government owned Damri buses offer comparatively high quality, comfort, and safety.  They can be found in the following locales:



Inter-City Bus Service


General Observations


Absence of Schedules


The absence of scheduled bus departures and arrivals is hard to become accustomed to for travelers new to Indonesia.  As mentioned, routes are set, but schedules aren’t.  For shorter distances traveled between cities or villages, early morning to noon is the best time to arrive at the bus terminal as the frequency of departures is high.  For busy, shorter routes, the wait for departures prior to noon should be less than an hour.  Frequency of available buses for any destination steadily decline in the afternoon, and often fade to nothing by sunset. 


Longer, cross-island routes such as travel from Denpasar, Bali to Yogyakarta are different.  Higher quality buses are often used for longer trips, and are operated by companies which sometimes require passengers make prior reservations and purchase tickets at their offices a day or two before departure.  The offices are sometimes located in out-of-the-way places, and can be difficult to locate. Other times you can simply buy the tickets at the terminal with no reservations.




For inter-city or village travel, if you are carrying a small backpack or knap sack that you can carry on your lap or stuff under the seat, you can bring on-board carry-ons.  But you may be coerced into having larger baggage stowed outside of the bus.  Many Indonesian bus travelers carry large and bulky baggage with them on bus trips.  Stowage under the passenger compartment fills up quickly.  Because of this, baggage is routinely tied to the top of the bus. Your baggage can get mixed into a sundry group and can be hard to visually locate.  Baggage sometimes falls off during transit or is stolen while you sit inside and the bus is stationery at the station or rest stop.  This is not a common occurrence, but you need to be vigilant about your baggage, and make your presence known to the baggage handlers.

Catching a Bus Out of Town

Inter-city buses almost always use a terminal for departures and arrivals.  Terminals in Indonesia often serve not only bus lines, but local transport as well, so many are swarming with vehicles, people, and activity.  For overland travel, a large portion of the population use buses, so terminals are found in almost every population center, including small villages.  Some terminals are easy to locate and reach as they are close to downtown, while others are located on the peripheries.   Each terminal serves as departure points for different outlying destinations.  You have to find out which terminal serves your need, and if you take public transport to reach that terminal, which route to take.

Questioning locals is helpful, but if there is a language barrier, updated travel guides are most reliable.  Individual country guides usually provide complete outlines of inter-city bus terminals and the destinations served. 

Longer Trips

Travelers have the option to make long, multi-day bus trips across islands such as Sumatera, Java, and Sulawesi.   The trips are very long and often uncomfortable.  The advantage is one can see the countryside and stop-over in just about any place they’d like for however long they’d like. Travelers can also take bus trips that span two islands or more, and include one or more ferry crossings. Bus fares are relatively cheap, and for comfort’s sake it is worth paying more for a better class of bus travel if it is available. 

Inter-city bus travel, especially for long overnight travel, is usually served by larger, more modern buses.  There are three classes: economy, executive, and VIP.   Sometimes only the top two classes are available. The difference between executive and VIP is primarily leg room.  Both have air conditioning, but VIP provides seats that recline into makeshift beds.  Sometimes the AC is frigid, and though you’re traveling in the tropics, having a sweat shirt handy makes the difference between getting some sleep or none. Don’t expect these buses to have an onboard toilet.  These buses will stop regularly every few hours for food and rest.  Otherwise if there is an emergency, you will have to ask the driver to stop alongside the road.  

Shorter Trips

Routes of eight hours or less are usually plied by smaller buses that hold 20 to 30 passengers in cramped conditions.  These buses are designed for the average Indonesian who is substantially shorter and lighter than most of the country’s foreign visitors.  The legroom can be a very tight squeeze, and for people who reach heights of 200 cm, such travel could not be recommended.  Though Indonesia recently put a ban on smoking in public transportation, it is rarely enforced.  These buses have no toilets either, but like the longer runs, make regular food and rest stops at predetermined places along the route.

There might be two, three, or even ten routes a day a small bus will run, but they don’t follow a schedule.  You show up at the terminal, board the bus, and once the bus is full to the satisfaction of the driver, it will finally depart.

If you are desperate to get somewhere and can’t bear the wait, your option is to buy the bus’ empty seats.  This is commonly done by tourists in remote areas where the wait can be hours, and if a quota of seats doesn’t fill, the bus driver will cancel the trip.


Taxis are ubiquitous and relatively cheap in Jakarta.  Many foreign travelers rely exclusively on taxi service while in the city.  Be sure to choose a taxi that carries a meter.  Blue Bird taxi service is reputable as found all over Indonesia.

Miscellaneous Street Transportation

Following is a list of two, three, and four wheeled transport found specifically in Jakarta in and variation across Indonesia:



Trains & Railways


During colonial times in the late 19th century, the Dutch started railway construction across Java followed by specific lines linking a couple of major cities in Sumatera.  Since the completion of those projects, the Indonesians have not expanded the system.  There exists no passenger rail service in Indonesia outside of these two islands.


The country’s only complete trans-island railway system is found on Java, and spans the full length of the island, from Jakarta in the west to port town of Banyuwangi located on the eastern coastal straight between Java and Bali.  


Unlike the bus system, the trains do attempt keeping to a schedule.  Train stations are usually centrally located in the towns where they exist, are easily accessed, and have ticket offices which allow travelers to research schedules, fares, destinations, classes of travel, and pay for tickets after making reservations.  Reservations can be made up to a month in advance and are held in computer data bases.


The Benefits of Traveling Across Java by Train


There are many branches to the railway system as it crosses Java, and sometimes several ways to get from point A to point B.   As routing is flexible, train travel will suit the traveler who wants to stop over in many parts of Java while moving east-to-west or conversely.  Usually ticket offices can help sort out the best route structure if several connections are needed.  The major train stations in places like Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Surabaya will have all the information needed, and much of it is posted on large billboards.


Classes of Train Travel

There are three classes to Indonesian train travel.  The cheapest is economi, and no reservations are required.  Economi (economy) is often oversold.  During holiday seasons, passengers are crammed into until people hanging onto exterior hand rails while standing outside of the train on the stairs of the entrance.  Those who can’t find a seat or don’t have the money simply climb on top of the economy cars.  Vendors and beggars manage to find their way onboard.

Business (bisnis) and executive (eksecutif) classes are comparable, the main difference being the latter has air conditioning.  Seats must be reserved and purchased ahead of time at a railway office. 

Names instead of numbers are usually used to identify trains.  For example, the executive trains include Argo in their name.

The six major Jakarta train stations are:  Gambir, Jakarta Kota, Jatinegara, Stasiun Sudirman, Pasar Senen, and Stasiun Kramat.  Like bus terminals, each serves distinct routes and destinations, though there may be some overlap. Gambir and Jarakta Kota are the biggest stations.  Gambir offers express trains with west-to-east destinations Bogor, Bandung, Yogyakarta, Solo, Semarang, and Surabaya.



The only cities linked by rail in Sumatera are:


Inter-Island Ship Passage

An alternative, more poetic name for Indonesia is Tanah Air, or simply Land & Water.  If any country on earth can make the geographical claim of being a maritime nation, it would be Indonesia.  With over 17,000 islands, Indonesian creates the world’s largest archipelago.  The political, religious, cultural, and economic connections between its diverse regions and peoples have been maintained for centuries primarily by ships and shipping.  Still, today, some fifty years after the advent of jet travel, ships provide the vital transportation links for most Indonesians.

Privately owned passenger ships

Indonesia has countless port towns, and a seemingly limitless numbers of harbors.  Some ports even have multiple harbors.  Each harbor that offers passage to other islands is served by an array of maritime vessels.  Most are either traditional wooden boats made by local boat builders or second hand iron vessels bought from overseas companies unloading their old fleet.

Almost all of these vessels are privately owned.  Owners often don’t keep maintenance schedules. Enforcing safety regulations is the responsibility of the harbor, with oversight given to government inspectors.  Despite the laws and enforcement personnel, the reality is that safety rarely comes first.  Ships routinely overbook passage, especially during national and religious holidays.  Periodic checks of a passenger ship’s seaworthiness are often overlooked. Many of these ships are old, rusted, and are in need of repair.

The seas of Indonesia are comparatively tame as compared to places like the North Atlantic. Because of this, ships in ill-repair are often able to slide through passage without a problem. When storms strike, though, many such ships are far less than safe.

Despite the safety alert, it must be said that ship travel can be the most enjoyable way of travel Indonesia has to offer.  Much of this is due to the great beauty of Tanah Air.

For longer voyages, iron vessels make up the bulk of Indonesia’s larger-sized passenger boat fleet. They usually have three decks and can legally carry somewhere around seven hundred people. The top deck offers semi-private cabins.  The lower decks are barracks-style; long rows of non-partitioned, double-tier bunks that hold hundreds of people and their baggage.

Boarding and disembarking a typical passenger ship can require good balance and agility.  Commonly the long, steep wooden gangplanks are very narrow and carry two-way traffic.  Many gang planks have no hand rails and bounce with the weight of scores of people trammeling across them. Porters crowd and push in efforts to carry passenger’s baggage or bundles of consigned cargo.  Add to this the crowds of passengers simultaneously embarking and disembarking.

Small portions of food will usually be served three times a day if the voyage is twenty-four hours in length.  Some food consignments sell snacks on board, but it is usually best to buy food and water before boarding.  Another option is to patronize the vendors who crowd the decks peddling food before departure.

Tickets customarily must be booked in advance through a ticket office often located in or nearby the harbor.  Unless it is a peak travel time, tickets are usually available up to and including the day of departure.  But cabin accommodations sell out quickly, and should be booked in advance if possible.

It is important to remember that these shipping companies are privately owned and all conduct business slightly differently.  

If you have health problems that might require quick hospital access, travel by ship in Indonesia might not be appropriate for you.  Once out at sea, these show moving vessels are far from any emergency response.  Cell phones are usually out of range within an hour out of any port.

Pelni- Indonesia’s National Shipping Company

Pelni lines are state owned and operated.  As is their mandate, their extensive sea routes cover the entire archipelago- east-to-west; north-to-south.  Each ship completes a circuit of several ports of call over a two week period.  At the end of the two weeks the Pelni makes port at their original port of departure, and the circuit starts all over again. The ships are massive German made vessels, and routinely carry five thousand passengers.  Animals and cargo are added to the load. Accommodations come in six classes, and in order to book a higher class cabin, reservations usually must be made considerably ahead of time. 

Ticket prices dictate the quality of your accommodations. The best accommodations feature a private room for two with its own bathroom and shower. If you buy a ticket at the last minute, you most likely will end up in one of the two or three lower economy decks.  Sanitation is often poor as the communal bathrooms often flood.  The food is also low quality. If the boat is oversold, you might find yourself allowed on board, but without access to a bunk or bed.  Many passengers end up sleeping on deck.

All this can be avoided by making sure to book passage well ahead of time.  There are scores of Pelni offices across Indonesia.  Reservations should be made only through an authorized Pelni office, and in person.  See their website for more information including a complete list of Pelni ticket offices.

Pelni offers services that are rarely found in Indonesian ship travel.  They have a resident doctor on board for one, and also have a cinema.

Pelni ships are extremely slow moving.  Many passengers booking long voyages spend several days on board.  Make sure you double check the length of time involved in your passage.


Car and Passenger Ferries

Some ports offer ferry service for cars, trucks, and buses.  They will also take on passengers, but sleeping accommodations are rarely available.  Those who board with a vehicle sleep in their vehicle.  Otherwise you simply have to stretch out on what deck space is provided.   Passengers should make sure to buy their own food and water before boarding.  What food and water is available depends on whether there is a concession onboard.  Rarely will it be provided as part of passage.

For those ports who do provide ferry service, tickets can usually be purchased at one of the offices in the harbor complex. 


Air Travel

For traveling both short and long distances, air travel in Indonesia is by far the safest, easiest, and quickest mode of travel the country has to offer.  Airports are often easy to access, small, and the check-in process is on balance more hassle-free than most of their western or eastern counterparts.


Purchasing domestic tickets can be done either at the airport, at private travel agencies, or from airline offices located outside the airport.  As is common worldwide, purchasing international flights in and out of Indonesia can conveniently and safely be done online and paid for electronically. 


On the other hand, domestic flights should be purchased in Indonesia directly, and paid for in cash.  Purchasing domestic tickets can be done either at the airport, at private travel agencies, or from airline offices located outside the airport.  If you are doing so from outside the country, ordering tickets from an Indonesian ticket agency can be problematic.  Most Indonesian travel agencies don’t take credit cards and usually require an electronic bank transfer for payment.  Tickets are faxed and sometimes give the appearance of not being official.  The process often requires the ability to read, write, and speak Indonesian, too.  If you wish to cancel a flight, processing a reimbursement can also be very difficult if done from outside the country. 


Until very recently, no Indonesian airline offered online, electronic ticketing. There are a handful of new online, third party ticketing outlets that broker tickets for several Indonesian airlines.  Transactions may or may not be secure, but reimbursement policies are a liability for consumers.  Until further notice, it is simply a good rule of thumb to reserve and purchase any domestic flight while in Indonesia itself.


The big exception to these caveats is Garuda Airlines, which now has an excellent website where tickets can be purchased with assurance and ease.


Flights are often cancelled or delayed in Indonesia, especially those serving remote areas.  In some cases, there are no other flight alternatives, and you will be forced to find another mode of transport.  This can upset your traveling itinerary, so if you plan on visiting a remote place, have a contingent travel plan in place.  Make generous allowance of time for any kind of remote travel, whatever the mode of transport.


There are many international gateway airports into Indonesia.  The three biggest are Jakarta’s CGK (Soekarno-Hatta); Bali’s DPS (Ngurah Rai in Denpasar); and Makassar’s UPG (Sultan Hasanuddin).  CGK & DPS are served by the most international connections. See a complete airport list below.


Indonesia has over fifty airlines, most of them small carriers that service limited areas.  The major domestic airlines that serve the greatest part of the archipelago with headquarters in Jakarta are:


Batavia Air (3840888;, in Indonesian only; Jl Ir H Juanda 15)

Garuda  (2311801, 1807807;; Garuda Bldg, Jl Merdeka Selatan 13)

Lion Air (6326039;; Jl Gajah Mada 7)

Mandala (3144838;; Jl Wahid Hasyim 84-88)

Merpati Nusantara Airlines (6548888;; Jl Angkasa Blok B/15 Kav 2-3, Kemayoran)

Sriwijaya Airlines (6405566;;Jl Gunung Sahari)

NOTE:  to all phone numbers given above, add Jakarta’s prefix: 021.

Of these, Garuda is considered the country’s flagship carrier.  You pay a premium, and in return fly on Indonesia’s safest airline, enjoy the best food, and have the most comfortable seating.  Lion Air might well be Indonesia’s busiest airline.  It offers the most flights to the most places for the most reasonable cost.  They make their money on volume.

Domestic Flights

Check-in for domestic flights is recommended to be two hours before departure. In larger airports, passengers usually must produce their ticket before being allowed into the terminal.  After a security check, you proceed to the check-in counter.  Along with your ticket be prepared to show your passport, but often times agents don’t ask for it. You can request a specific kind of seating and if available, airlines will almost always oblige your wishes.  Baggage for domestic flights is usually limited to two pieces weighing no more than twenty kilos.  If baggage is over the limit you will have to pay extra. Two carry-ons are usually allowed.  After check-in, you must pay an airport tax that amounts to a couple of Euros.  Boarding sometimes takes place on the tarmac, so be prepared to climb the old-fashioned mobile boarding staircases.

International Flights

Be aware that airport tax for international flights is Rph. 100,000-150,000.  Make sure you are carrying enough extra rupiah in order to pay this tax or a possible overstay of your VISA.  VISA overstay fees are Rph. 200,000 per day, up to 60 days in duration. You will not be able to leave the country until all airport taxes and immigration fines are made good.

Transportation Connections

Jakarta’s international airport (CGK/Soekarno-Hatta) has three main terminals.  Free airport shuttles connect the terminals.  Shuttle buses traveling into downtown Jakarta, a trip of nearly one hour, leave regularly.  Taxis are in great abundance.  If you take a taxi, make sure it has a meter.  Fares do not include the three expressway tolls that must be paid separately.

Bali’s Ngurah Rai (DPS) is located within ten minutes taxi ride of famous tourist destination, Kuta Beach.  The best form of transportation to and from the airport is by taxi.  (Public transportation is poorly developed and organized in Bali)  After collecting baggage, exit the terminal and find the taxi concession along the walkway outside.  Request a destination and pay the fixed fee.

Lost or Damaged Luggage

In Indonesia’s larger airports, all the major airlines have lost luggage claim offices.  Lost and misplaced baggage is a fact of life and some airlines are more culpable than others in this regard.  It is not uncommon to have to wait a few days for luggage to be returned.  File a claim in the office and make sure you get a signed claim receipt and office phone number.  If you are in a smaller airport, there should be an agent or office representing your airline.  Agents make be located in the airport complex or in the airline’s office in the neighboring town.


Further Information

Passenger Trains

Trans-Java Railway System: 


List of Indonesian Airports


Airport Guides

Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar, Bali

Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta

Hassanuddin International Airport, Makassar, South Sulawesi


List of Indonesian Airlines


Pelni Shipping Schedules






PELNI:  Denpasar (Benoa Harbor).  Service once every fortnight


Other Ferries:  Benoa Harbor

Destinations: Bima, Sumbawa; Gili Meno, Lombok; Kupang, Timor; Lembar, Lombok; Maumere, Flores; Surabaya, Jawa; Senggigi, Lombok; Waingapu, Sumba)

Other Harbors in Bali: Gilimanuk (harbor with ferry to East Java); Jungutbatu (Nusa Lembongan), Kusamba, Padang Bai, Sampalan (Nusa Penida), Sanur, Toyapakeh (Nusa Penida)


ASDP Ferries




Having a Baby in Indonesia


Maternity Healthcare in Indonesia


The Public System


Prior to the 1980’s, Indonesia’s professional maternity health care system was extremely limited.  Women gave birth as they always had, sometimes with the aid of a midwife but very rarely with any access to a doctor, health facilities, or a hospital.  This also applied to prenatal, perinatal, and post-natal care of infants.  Immunization programs didn’t exist in many parts of the country.  Vaccine stocks were insufficient.  Rural Indonesia was almost totally underserved.  The result was that maternal and infant mortality rates were both very high, as well as child mortality for children up to age five.


In the last thirty years the Ministry of Health has committed steady planning and funding for the establishment of professional medical help to pregnant mothers as well as infants. The country’s MCH, or Maternal & Child Health Care system is referred to as: Kesehatan Ibu dan Anak/Keluarga Berencana (KIA/KB).


Aside from building and equipping medical facilities, the emphasis on professional care for the KIA/KB has been on the regional training of midwives to help assist pregnant women from early pregnancy on through to post-natal care.   This is organized at the village level and successful implementation requires community volunteers. 


The public health system has seen great progress.  As poverty and underdevelopment still mars Indonesia’s future prospects, much more remains to be done to provide minimal service for the population as a whole. Professional staffing continues to be a major impediment.  The country has yet to train enough doctors or pay them a decent wage.  Their numbers are inadequate to provide for Indonesia’s fast growing population that is now fourth highest in the world.  Attracting doctors into remote areas continues to be difficult.  The doctor-per-population ratio is six times greater in metropolitan areas as in rural. The government has yet to be able to train and place medical professionals in all the tens of thousands of remote locations that make up greater Indonesia. 

All factors taken into account, human resource issues affect the health of mothers and their babies most.



MCH- The Major Public Program Providers


Indonesia’s public health system is structured and functions differently in rural areas versus urban.  




The goal is to develop health centers at the village, sub-district, and district levels, as well as in the metropolitan areas.  General care is provided in the villages, and more specialized or emergency care at the sub-district or district levels.  Sometimes those systems of care overlap when a village serves as the district seat.  Seats of governments always offer more public services, including medical.


The following public programs, health centers, clinics, and hospitals provide MCH care:







In an urban center, the Rumah Bersalin takes the form of the maternity ward in a general hospital.





Midwifes and midwifery have been central to the birthing process in Indonesia for centuries.  That tradition has been readily adopted into the government program as perhaps the cornerstone of maternal care for millions of pregnant women living in rural Indonesia.


Many Indonesian women still use midwives and prefer home births.  Midwifes also work in clinical settings.  They must be licensed (SIB-Surat Izin Bidan) in order to work legally.  When the mother is in labor, the midwife needs to make sure that the woman’s doctor is apprised of the situation and can be reached if a problem arises.  They must also make sure there is a way to transport the mother to an emergency or examination room is needed.


The quality of midwives as trained and licensed by government programs is uneven.  Their numbers as distributed across Indonesia are uneven as well.




Delivery of urban public health care is much more centralized than in the villages.  Multiple-services are found grouped together in the general hospitals.  Lab work, clinics, doctors, midwives, maternity wards, pharmacies, in-patient, out-patient, intensive and emergency care are often all located in one complex.  The number of public hospitals in any given city varies across Indonesia.  Developed areas such as Bali and Jakarta have many to choose from, but outside of major metropolitan areas, that is rarely the case.




Common procedures such as Caesarian section are routinely performed in a rural setting.  In case of serious surgery, it will likely be referred to an urban hospital.




Both rural and urban areas are generally well-stocked with vaccines.  Vaccination programs are long standing and most babies born today in Indonesia are administered a full schedule of vaccinations according to national health standards.  (See below for more information).




Biology, health, anatomy, and nutrition are under-developed curricula in Indonesia’s school system.  KIA/KB does provide prospective mothers and fathers with a MCH book as available for free at designated health centers.  Better developed district health programs sometimes offer information and classes for prospective parents.





Private maternal and child health care is rarely found in rural areas, but can be prevalent in urban settings. All the services listed above as found in public hospitals are available in the private sector, though sometimes not under one roof.  Labs, clinics, and private doctors’ practices are numerous in big cities. Private maternity hospitals are found in the most developed and populated areas.   This includes maternity clinics that work in conjunction with private hospitals which are used only at birthing time or if an emergency crops up.


MCH and the Foreign Resident


First of all, if a foreign resident chooses to have a baby in a rural setting, then the services outlined above as serves Indonesian women will be available to the foreigner as well.  The only difference may come in the cost of care. 


The balance of this paper will focus on what is the overriding norm: Foreign women seek maternal care in developed areas with an established track record of safe and high quality options.




Statistically, the larger percentage of foreign women who are living in Indonesia while pregnant choose to either return home for the birth, or travel to ASEAN hospitals outside the country.  Singapore is the preferred destination as it is close and the quality of medical care rated highly. (See more below) Thailand is known for its good medical care, too.


Many pregnant women, their husbands and families are not satisfied with Indonesia’s health care standards and express fear concerning the consequences of choosing to have a baby in Indonesia.  Lacking standards are an important part.  This includes the perception that Indonesia has poorly trained medical practitioners, ill-quipped hospitals, scant specialized treatment, and inadequate emergency services.  Hospital nursing staff, too, is sometimes criticized for less than personalized care. 


But selective choice can overcome many of these concerns.  External factors, though, carry equal weight in making this critical decision.




For instance, if a new born needs medevac out of Indonesia, it is not always possible.  If available it can be dangerous.  There can be bureaucratic complications.  Immigration authorities might deny a request because the baby has no passport.  As for the mother, it is reported that mothers in labor are denied medevac services.  It is considered too dangerous.




Foreigners with blood that is Rh negative are at a disadvantage.  Their baby will carry type negative and if a blood transfusion is required, it might be difficult finding any available in Indonesia’s blood banks. 




During the first trimester of pregnancy, women commonly have a series of pre-natal tests taken to determine whether their baby has any problems or carries a disease such as Down syndrome.  The quality of these tests as well as their interpretation is questionable in Indonesia.  Many women have complained of Indonesian doctors finding both false positives and negatives. For that reason, some women will fly to Singapore to have these tests taken.




Traffic is so bad in Jakarta that one must consider the liabilities of getting a mother in labor to the hospital in time, or transporting a sick mother or baby to specialized treatment facilities in case of an emergency.   Traffic in Bali is reaching crisis proportions as well.







Despite these drawbacks, there are a significant number of mothers and fathers who decide to have their baby born in Indonesia.


Most foreign women choose Jakarta as the preferred setting.  The perception is that Jakarta offers the best in Indonesian MCH.  Certainly it offers the most choice.  Jakarta also provides the widest range of specialized medicine and medical treatments available in the country.  If there were to be an emergency for either baby or mother, Jakarta would offer the best chance at getting the proper care.


Maternity Leave


One piece of good news for foreign workers in Indonesia:  Indonesian law mandates businesses give three month paid maternity leave to female workers.  This does not extend to fathers.  Is this paid maternity leave, do you have a choice of when to take it? For example do you have to take 2 weeks before and 10 after or can you take it all after the birth?






Making the Right Choice


Word-of-mouth is the time-honored tool for choosing the right doctor and hospital.  The expat community in places like Jakarta and Bali are in close communication when it comes to important matters such as maternal care. Pregnant women who are foreign residents reach out to others in the same position and ask for advice. Social networking on the internet is becoming increasingly important, too.  Expat forums may not give expert advice, but they are a good starting point for many.


Home versus Hospital Birth


Home birth is perfectly legal in Indonesia, and as mentioned many women choose this traditional method.  This applies to both urban and rural areas.  A foreign woman would likely need to find a good midwife and make proper arrangements with a doctor in case emergencies arise.


If you choose to have a hospital birth


Which comes first- choosing a doctor or a hospital?


The general rule in Indonesia is the following: if you choose a doctor, the choice for the hospital will already be made for you.  As in many countries, Indonesian doctors are associated with one hospital.  If you contract a doctor’s services, that doctor’s hospital will become the place of birth.


But this is not always the progression in Indonesia.  Often foreign residents who are prospective parents choose the hospital first, and search for a recommended doctor working there.  A lot of the concern with giving birth to a baby in Indonesia rests with the quality of hospital care, so questions about the best hospital are more frequent than about the best doctor.


Greater flexibility comes with doctors who work in clinics that are able to contract out birthing services in several hospitals.   Due to this as well as other considerations, international private clinics are popular choices.  Most are foreign owned and their services cater to an international clientele.  Since only Indonesian nationals can practice medicine in Indonesia, such clinics also offer foreign doctors as on-staff consultants.  Telemedicine appointments provide another option for consulting with foreign doctors.  Private clinics are dedicated to monitoring the pregnancy closely and will help guide the mother along if decisions pertaining to specialized care becomes an issue.



As for the choice between public and private, in Jakarta there are a both highly recommended public and private hospitals.  Some are general hospitals, and others are specialized for maternal and child care. (See below for Jakarta and Bali listings)


More about Choosing a Doctor


Many foreigners naturally seek out an English-speaking obstetric-gynecologist with a quality reputation.  Finding a clearing house for such kinds of information is extremely difficult. Word-of-mouth is how it is most often done in Jakarta and Bali.  For foreign workers, they will network for referrals at the work place.  There is always the possibility of picking up a referral from a foreign embassy or consulate in either Jakarta or Bali.  As mentioned, expat internet forums are increasingly useful.


Many married couples go directly to a hospital they are considering and ask to meet with doctors on staff who speak English.  For the private international clinics, the Indonesian doctors there must be able to speak English.  This is one of their selling points.


Good English-speaking obstetric-gynecologists are rarities in Indonesia, even in larger cities.  It is only in Jakarta and Bali that a real choice exists.


More about Hospitals


Visiting a Hospital- What to ask for


Married couples looking for a birthing hospital [you refer to married couple a lot – are there any problems that may be encountered by unmarried couples or even single mums?]

An astute and apt observation, Catherine- maybe the use of married couple was a bit subliminal- but it was more in an effort to be inclusive of both “father and mother”.  “Prospective parents” is an inclusive term, and maybe we should choose that.  To answer your question, a foreign woman who was giving birth out of wedlock would most likely not encounter problems in terms of receiving equal medical care- especially in developed, metropolitan areas.  Most foreign women have the means to buy quality care, and if you pay a premium, you get what you pay for, regardless.  The other option is to have the baby out of the country- and that might well be the decision taken.


In a rural area a single, foreign mom might be socially ostracized, especially if the father was an Indonesian living in that same village.  I shudder to think, really. That might be considered an extreme case scenario.  Again, I think most women in that situation would simply find safe haven somewhere. Birth out of wedlock often brings great shame not only to the parents but to the extended family’s involved.  It’s scandalous.   Mixed couples find themselves involved in this kind of situation- absolutely.  Often times they are forced to either marry or flee.  In fact I met one American woman today at the immigration office who left with her Indonesian boyfriend to have their baby in Malaysia.  Her story happens to be a good case in point.


should ask to meet medical staff- doctors and nurses, both.  Ask specifically to meet a doctor who can speak English.  Also ask for a tour of the facilities: including the nursery, maternity ward, and delivery room.  Check to see if emergency units are available such as neo-natal intensive care.  This is enough to gain a tangible sense of the hospital’s comparative quality.  Personalized care varies sometimes drastically from hospital-to-hospital.  Pay close attention to the nursing staff and their interaction with patients.


Ask specific questions about hospital protocol surrounding birth.  Who are how many are allowed to attend a live birth?  Will the father be allowed?  Will a pediatrician be attending the delivery to immediately check on the health of the new born?  Are anaesthesiologists on call 24 hours a day if a Caesarian section, epidural, or episiotomy is required?  


Find out what the routine procedures are during preparation for the birth.  For instance, some hospitals perform a routine pubic shave.  Some procedures are not up for negotiation- the patient has to accept them.  Find out what those non-negotiables are. 


Chances are many of the details won’t be enumerated and handed over to you upon request in the form of a list.  You will have to create your own list and ask your own questions. 


After birth, most hospitals routinely have the mother and baby stay in the hospital for two or three days.


Tradition of After-Birth


Many foreign women and their husbands are surprised to see that the after-birth is preserved and given to the couple after the baby is born.  It is traditional for the parents of a new born to bury the after-birth as part of a ritual.  As a source of nutrition for the baby, the placenta is considered the baby’s guardian and is buried in proximity to the baby as it helps insure the child’s safety.  A ritualized burial is also a sign of respect given to the after-birth, which is considered a living thing. The burial usually takes places in the garden next to the family’s home.


Registering your baby’s birth


After the baby is born, one of the parents will have to register the baby’s birth with Indonesian immigration.  Foreign residents with KITAS will need to apply for the baby’s KITAS while simultaneously processing its passport in the embassy or consulate of the home country.


Primary to both these procedures is the birth certificate.  The hospital will issue the parents one after the birth.  For a fee, the records department of a good hospital will help clients with immigration processing.   It is very important to ask the records department for two birth certificates- one in Bahasa Indonesia (which is provided by default), and one in your own language.  The home country embassy will request an authorized copy in translation.



Report the baby’s birth to immigration within fourteen days after. Here are the documents needed:  (originals + two or more copies of all)  Who can report the birth?

One or both of the parents, but paid brokers/agents could just as well.  Agents are ubiquitous in many immigration offices.  It is not true of all- but many.  Sometimes employers will do the immigration processing for employees.  Bigger companies especially extend those courtesies to valued employees.

Yes- good point- this could be a big problem.  If the parents were both Indonesian, they would experience trouble getting a birth certificate for their baby.  Having a baby outside of marriage is very, very frowned upon in Indonesia. Under the circumstances, immigration would put a lot of pressure on a foreign or mixed couple to marry.  Without a marriage, no birth certificate.  Without a birth certificate, maybe no visa, and possibly problems with the home country as per getting a passport. In any case, a foreign couple who were residents but not married might be forced to leave the country because of their inability to get a residential visa for their baby.



With the baby’s birth certificate in hand, apply for the baby’s passport.  This should be done immediately after the baby’s birth.



Once you have possession of the baby’s passport, report back to Indonesian immigration and apply for the baby’s KITAS.  This must be done within a 60 day period after the baby’s birth.

Are there any rules on surnames? Can the newborn have the surname of either parent or both surnames?   I don’t know the answer to this, but I have never read any testimonials or talked to anyone who ever had such a problem.  My sense is that this is not an issue for a foreign couple.  For a mixed couple, the hospital might insist that the baby take the father’s surname.  But in many places in Indonesia, surnames aren’t even used!  So that confuses things!



If a foreigner decides to give birth in Singapore, the following information details how to register:


ICA Immigration and Checkpoints Authority

Register Birth     

Visitor Seeking to Deliver a Child in Singapore






Once the baby is born, the pediatrician will begin administering and tracking the new born’s immunization schedule.

As required by Indonesian Ministry of Health, the following are required in Indonesia: 


Immunization Schedule


Birth         HB 0

Month 1    BCG, Polio 1         

Month 2    DPT/HB 1, Polio 2 

Month 3    DPT/HB 2, Polio 3

Month 4    DPT/HB 3, Polio 4

Month 9    Campak 


HB: Hepatitis B

DPT: Diptheria-Pertussis-Tetanus

BCG: Tuberculosis

Polio: Polio

Campak: Measles


Detailed in Buku KIA- Book of Maternal and Child Health, which can be downloaded:



CDC-U.S.A. Immunization Schedule


Atlanta, Georgia’s CDC, or Center for Disease Control and Prevention, provides detailed immunization schedules as required in the United States for children of all ages.  It is an expanded schedule as compared to Indonesia’s. The schedule can be downloaded at the CDC site:


Recommendations and Guidelines: 2010 Child & Adolescent Immunization Schedules




Consult with your Indonesian pediatrician if you are interested in an extended vaccination schedule.


2010 CDC Immunization Schedule for download:





Maternity Hospitals and Medical Centers



List of Maternity Hospitals & Medical Centers with Recommended Maternity Departments as located in Jakarta:




Brawijaya Women and Children Hospital              * recommended
Jl. Taman Brawijaya, No. 1, Cipete Utara
Tel: 721 1337

Medistra Hospital                                                        * recommended
Rumah Sakit Medistra, Jl. Jend. Gatot Subroto Kav 59, Kuningan
Tel: 521 0200

Pondok Indah Hospital                                              * recommended
Jl. Metro Duta No. UE, Pondok Indah
Tel: 769 2252


Bhakti Yudha Baru Hospital

Address: Jl. Raya Sawangan

Phone: (021) 7520082

Fax: (021) 7775862


International SOS Clinics

There are many located in Jakarta. Consult their websites for details:





Hospitals & Medical Centers


RSB. Kasih Ibu / Maternity Hospital, Bali
Jl.Teuku Umar No.120

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.
Tel   : +62 361 223 036, 237 016


RSIA. Puri Bunda / Mother & Child Hospital, Bali
Jl.Gatot Subroto VI No.19

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Tel   : +62 361 437 999
Fax  : +62 361 433 988


Klinik & Rumah Bersalin Griya Medika / Clinic & Maternity House, Bali
Jl.Raya Sesetan No.333 (sebelah AL Benoa)  

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
Tel   : +62 361 725 245

Klinik Umum Bersalin Mesari Usadha / Maternity Clinic, Bali
Jl.Intan LC II, Gatot Subroto

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.
Tel   : +62 361 749 253

Prima Medika Hospital

Jl. Pulau Sarangan

Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

Tel: 62-361-236225 Fax: 62-361-236203






Jakarta Women and Children Clinic  (child birth classes)
Jl. Prapanca Raya No. 23A,

Jakarta Selatan 12160
Tel: 7279 9911


Bikram Yoga, Jakarta

Yoga classes for expectant mothers


RS Mitra Kemayoran (RSMKK) (Hospital in Kemayoran, Jakarta)

Prenatal Classes

ICAC Counseling Office    (family counselors for expat families)
Jl. Kemang V, No. 20 AA Kemang, Jakarta Selatan
Tel: 717 0010 or 718 0010





International SOS Clinics

Many ISOS clinics are located in Jakarta.  Some offer birthing & natal care classes. Contact for details:




CHC Pregnancy Care Program


Chiropactic Prenatal Care


Bumi Sehat Clinic & Foundation International       *highly recommended

World acclaimed community maternal & child health center





Indonesia: Health, Doctors, Hospitals and the Medical System


Structure of Indonesia’s Healthcare System



Social Security programs are governed by the Social Security Act of 1992. Indonesia spends 1.5% of the GDP on social security programs, 95% of that is spent on old age benefits (eligibility begins at age 55). The program covers establishments with 10 or more employees and/or a monthly payroll of Rp.1 million (1USD = Rp.8950) or more. A special system of social insurance is available to public-sector employees and military personnel. Though not yet available, coverage is being extended gradually to employees of smaller establishments and to organized informal-sector worker, including persons in family employment, fishermen and those employed in rural cooperatives. The social security system is managed and administered by the Employees Social Security System (Jamostek). The Ministry of Manpower provides general supervision.

Civil servants receive social protection through a special social security program (Government Civilian Employees’ Savings and Insurance and Pension Plan). The benefit, which includes a life insurance scheme, is paid at retirement or death and is about 19 times the final monthly salary.

For the military, there is the Armed Forces Social Insurance Plan. The retirement provision for private sector workers is through the compulsory provident fund called Jamostek which was established under the Social Security Act of 1992. This act covers 10% of the population or one-fifth of the total labor force excluding the remaining four-fifths of the labor force involved in informal sector employment.

Taken together, medical and retirement benefits for select groups include:



Indonesia does not currently have a national health insurance program or retirement system that serves the population outside of the select groups listed above. Indonesians who aren’t covered will be expected to pay for medical services out-of-pocket. As mentioned, the Indonesian government invests in health with public expenditures at around 1.5% of GDP.  This is one of the lowest rates in South East Asian countries. Overall, less than 25 Euros per capita is spent on health annually in Indonesia, and nearly half of that is borne out-of-pocket by Indonesians themselves.  The other half comes from mainly from government programs, with foreign aid accounting for some of it.





Amendments of Article 28H and Article 34 (2) and (3) to Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution states that the health of all Indonesians, including the poor, is assured by law.   


With the rise of democratic institutions in 1998, the Indonesian government has implemented a few health programs that serve the disadvantaged.  Half of Indonesia’s population of 240 million lives on less than two American dollars a day and cannot afford medical costs.


JASKESMAS/ JASKESMAS – Indonesia’s largest Health Insurance program


Because this group of people is so large, JASKESMAS/ JASKESMAS health insurance constitute the largest government health care programs.


Currently, Indonesians who carry JASKESMAS (Kartu Jaminan Kesehatan Masyarakat- Community Health Insuarnce) or JASKESMAS (Jaminan Kesehatan Daera- Regional Health Insurance) are entitled to medical service that is provided free or at greatly reduced cost. In order to be a recipient, an individual’s poverty status must first be confirmed “official”.  Upon request, the village chief, or Kepala Kelurahan issues a poor family of the community a SKTM (Surat Keterangan Tidak Mampu- Certificate of Disadvantage), declaring them “impoverished” as determined by the local standards.  Determination is subjective- that is, subject to the village chief’s discretion.


The individual applies for the new program at the local general public hospital.  Parents apply for their children.  Documents needed:






There is a substantial private health care system in Indonesia, but most people are served by the public sector.


Indonesia’s health care system is controlled by a nationwide, hierarchical bureaucracy.  Doctors, for instance, are civil servants and paid relatively low wages.  National law sets forth all rules and regulations concerning health service delivery and the responsibilities of its medical professional ranks.


The organizational chart flows down through the political units:

(Tingkat Propinsi)

(Tingkat Kabupaten dan Kota- i.e., includes cities within the district)



Public Hospitals


Public hospitals (RS or rumah sakit) are found at both the provincial and district levels.  The best equipped of those hospitals are found in urban districts and provincial capitals. There are very few specialist hospitals that are publically funded.  Many of those are only found in the very largest cities, with the majority located in the capital of Jakarta.  


Village Health Clinics


The next level is the sub-district level (Tingkat Kecamatan), or PUSKESMAS (Pusat Kesehatan Masyarakat).  These are best described as village health clinics.  PUSKESMAS breaks down into three categories.  Sometimes the three functions serve under one roof, other times not:



As found at the village level, the PUSKESMAS is a very important medical provider.  For many villagers, it is the only medical access available.  A PUSKESMAS is like a very small hospital. All PUSKESMAS are supposed to be open 24 hours a day. Better funded PUSKESMAS have general practice doctors on site 24 hours a day as well as nursing staff.  Specialists call in on schedule perhaps once or twice a week, as does a dentist.  Most have some in-patient facilities and a pharmacy on-site.


As mentioned, a broad decentralization plan has been in effect in Indonesia since 2004.  That plan details the responsibilities for each level listed above are presently as follows:


Regional development has to be performed by the districts and cities, while the provincial level attends to those the lower levels haven’t covered.  Meanwhile, the central government performs the role of policy formulation, standards and providing guidance to all levels of government under them.




Only Indonesian doctors are allowed to treat patients.  This pertains to all health care facilities in Indonesia.  Expatriate physicians can be hired and kept on site only as a medical consultant.




Indonesia has a developing mental health service, but there are comparatively few practicing psychologists and psychiatrists in Indonesia.  Psychotropic medications are not generally available.




Government Act on Health No. 23/1992 states that “Health Systems” should be implemented by the community with government as facilitator.  Private sectors are encouraged to perform an active role in the nation’s overall health care system.  Government is to provide guidance, appropriate regulation, and supervision.


Indonesians who choose to use the private health system seek higher quality care, more specialized care, better facilities, and more comfortable accommodations. 


General and specialist medical practices, clinics, laboratories, and hospitals as privatized exist in great abundance in Indonesia’s urban centers, but to a much lesser degree in rural areas.  Because doctors are paid low wages for their government practices, they are allowed to practice privately.  A doctor’s office as located outside a government facility will most likely be a private practice.  This includes both general practitioners as well as specialists.


Some hospitals are run by non-profit and religious organizations.  Most are for-profit businesses owned by Indonesians.  In 2010 a new law was put into effect that allows foreign investment in the privatized health sector.  Over time this will substantially increase health care offerings to consumers.


Those who use private medical services will be expected to pay for them in cash when services are rendered or carry private insurance. 





What health services are available to foreign nationals?


Foreign nationals who travel or live in Indonesia do not need to carry any form of insurance in order to enter the country. Nor are they eligible to receive government sponsored health care.  If they are working for a company in Indonesia, they may have as part of their employee benefits package private health insurance.  Most foreign nationals travelling or living in Indonesia aren’t foreign workers.  They must either carry some sort of private insurance from their home country (such as traveler’s insurance), buy into an insurance program in Indonesia or perhaps more regionally, or pay out-of-pocket.


Foreigners who buy quality health insurance often pay extra for emergency services.  MEDIVAC/MEDEVAC helicopter evacuation is one good example. This applies, for instance, to those who may be planning for potentially dangerous guided treks into remote areas.


Indonesia is considered to have the highest rate of natural disasters in the world. For those who travel or live in areas prone to being cut off due to floods and landslides, medical evacuation can become a serious issue when an injury or illness occurs.  Trapped in a flooded area poses added risk of contact with water-borne disease. This is compounded by Indonesia’s poor sanitation practices.


In short, accidents that would otherwise be considered relatively minor can become serious or life threatening in isolated parts of Indonesia.





Indonesia’s medical care facilities and the competence of its medical professionals are ranked much lower than that of developed countries.  Though Indonesia’s health care system has improved greatly over the past two generations, its progress has stalled recently. For serious illness, most foreigners seek medical treatment outside the country.  Singapore and Bangkok are popular destinations. The same is true for well-off Indonesians.  Most Indonesians visiting nearby Singapore, for example, do so for medical reasons.


There have been many documented cases of misdiagnosis as occurs under a doctor’s care in Indonesia.  This sometimes relates to human error on the part of the doctor, but also reflects the lack of hi-tech diagnostic equipment and procedures available in the country.


Ambulance Service

Ambulance services are individually run by hospitals and clinics.  There is no reliable emergency ambulance service in Indonesia.  Indonesian ambulance attendants lack paramedical training equivalent to standards in most of the developed world.  Ambulances themselves are relatively under-equipped as well.  Foreigners living in Indonesia are recommended to investigate private ambulance services in their area.  Expect traffic to increase transportation time in metropolitan areas, sometimes significantly.

Ambulance services are non-existent in most of rural Indonesia. 






Urban vs. Rural


Foreigners who travel or live in Indonesia’s larger urban areas or highly-developed islands such as Bali will generally find easy access to health care services and pharmacies.


The opposite is true in rural areas.  These areas are generally less wealthy, have poorer health, and limited access to medical care.  The island geography makes reaching remote regions doubly hard.  Foreigners finding themselves in such areas will be affected similarly.  Emergency services are especially scarce. 



Unequal Access


The statistics are as follows: for rural areas there exists 1 doctor per 16,792 people.  For urban areas: 1 doctor per 2,763 people. Doctors are government employees and receive low salaries.  They top their salaries through private practice on the side.  Such opportunities in rural areas are few so doctors would rather not practice there.


The same is true for medical facilities.  Well-equipped hospitals especially are scarce in rural communities.  The only remote areas well-served are seats of provinces, districts, and sub-districts.





Both public and private medical facilities are open to foreign nationals.  Any foreigner can walk into a public or private hospital, PUSKESMAS (village health center), or clinic and ask for a test to be taken or to see a doctor.  Foreigners have the right to admittance as in-patients, too.


Many hospitals have ranked services, especially in terms of accommodation. General admittance-shared hospital rooms versus V.I.P. private rooms are a choice in many hospitals.  V.I.P. rooms are spacious, furnished (which often include amenities such as sofas, private bathrooms, private balconies and refrigerators) and offer better food and more personalized nursing care. 


Hospitals generally have their own pharmacies as do PUSKESMAS. 


If insurance is not available, all services are customarily paid for in total and by cash.  Payment by installment is rarely an option.




Pharmacies are found in abundance in urban areas.  Some are open 24 hours a day.  Some have private clinics in the back staffed with doctors and sometimes dentists, too.


Pharmacies in rural areas are often scarce.  The only access to medicines found in many villages is to be found at the local PUSKESMAS.  Remote areas often have no medicine stocks available if no PUSKESMAS exists. NOTE: a PUSKESMAS pharmacy is usually not as well-stocked as a commercial pharmacy as found in an urban center.


Some common drugs and medicines that would require a doctor’s prescription in a country such as the United States are freely available in Indonesia.  This is especially true of antibiotics. They will simply be sold upon request by a pharmacy.  Still, many drugs require a prescription. 


In general, expensive, highly specialized treatments and medicines aren’t available outside of major urban areas such as Jakarta.  Sometimes a trip outside the country is necessary to access them.  Even common, over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be very difficult to come by.


Finding the Proper Care


Outside of well-developed, urban areas, knowing where to find an English-speaking doctor, a 24 hour pharmacy, a qualified specialist or general practitioner, or the appropriate hospital or clinic is difficult.  Even in a metropolitan area, access to information can be difficult.  In rural areas many times there is simply no choice but to report to the one and only medical facility that exists.  


Foreign embassies and consulates are good sources of medical information.  Most are located in Indonesia’s most developed areas: Bali, Jakarta, Medan, and Surabaya. 


Visiting a local hospital or PUSKESMAS and requesting information is as good an alternative as any given no prior sources.  Reporting in person is usually more fruitful as compared to calling, even if you can speak Indonesian.


In general, researching the topic prior to arrival in Indonesia is recommended.  Web sites that carry lists of doctors and medical facilities are cited in the Further Information section at the end of the page.  Travel guides offer lists as well, but become out-of-date quickly.



Prevention and Treatment for Common Tropical Diseases


Diseases such a malaria, dengue fever, tuberculosis, typhus, polio, and rabies are serious threats to public health in many places throughout Indonesia.  It is advised that foreigners planning to travel or live in Indonesia consult with a physician before arrival.  Usually a physician will in turn consult with a clearinghouse like the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) for the most current information.  Following an update they will offer the traveler a list of recommended vaccinations and prophylactic medicines.  This should all be initiated at least two months before departure.  Some vaccination regimes are multi-stage and take place over several weeks.


Preventative medicines for malaria are cause for special consideration.  Malaria is especially prevalent in Indonesia.  West Papua has at least twenty strains and some are extraordinarily difficult to cure.   Therefore most travelers request anti-malarial medications. Many are available and some carry the risk of negative side effects. 







Country Report- Indonesia

U.S. State Department

Re: Medical Facilities and Healthcare Information



Hospitals, Clinics, and Physicians

This list contains names and addresses of facilities and individuals for medical purposes in Bali:


These sites contain names and addresses of facilities and individuals for medical purposes throughout Indonesia:







Bali Emergency and Rescue Numbers




For the best up-to-date information on disease, disease-outbreaks, disease prevention, and treatment the world over:




Special Providers for the Expatriate Community


International SOS and Global Doctor are membership-based, full-service medical organizations and are mentioned on the U.S. Embassy- Jakarta’s web site.



Operating medical clinics located in Jakarta, Bali, and West Kalimantan, International SOS  serves mainly expatriates living in Indonesia.  Indonesian doctors are available 24 hours a day.  An expatriate doctor is on staff for consultation purposes, too. Ambulances are always on call.  International SOS belongs to the medical evacuation organization, Asia Emergency Assistance which serves the greater region.



International SOS, Jakarta

SOS Medika Klinik and Jakarta Alarm Center
Jl. Puri Sakti 10, Cipete
Jakarta Selatan 12410
Clinic Tel. (62-21) 
750-5980  (appointments)
Admin Tel. (62-21) 750-5973
Fax (62-21) 750-6002-3
24 Hour Alarm Center (62-21) 750-6001
Clinic Technical Advisor : Colm Benson
Website and

Hours of Operation:
Clinic Consultation 7am to 10pm daily
Clinic Emergency Unit 24 hours daily

SOS Medika Klinik Kuningan
Menara Prima 2nd Floor
Jl. Lingkar Mega Kuningan Blok 6.2
Jakarta 12950
Telephone (62-21) 5794 8600
Fax (62-21) 5794 8686

Consultation Days:
Monday to Friday (8am to 6pm)
Saturday (8am to 2 pm)
Sunday and Public Holiday Closed

SOS Medika Klinik Bali and Bali Alarm Center
Jalan By Pass Ngurah Rai 505X
Kuta, Bali 80221
Clinic Tel. (62-361) 720 100, 710-544
Admin Fax Fax (62-361) 710-515
24 Hour Alarm Center Tel. 0361 710-505
Website and
Clinic Technical Advisor: Karen O’Keefe

Consultations : 08.00 AM to 10.00 PM daily (including Public Holidays)
Emergency Assistance : 24 Hours daily


International SOS, Balikpapan, Kalimantan Timor

PKT Office
Jl. Pupuk Raya 54, Balikpapan
Tel. (62-542) 765 966
Fax (62-542) 764 237


International SOS, Bali

SOS Medika Klinik Bali and Bali Alarm Center
Jalan By Pass Ngurah Rai 505X
Kuta 80221
Clinic Tel. (62-361) 720 100, 710 544
Admin Fax Fax (62-361) 721 919
24 Hour Alarm Center Tel. (0361) 710-505 - Emergency Assistance : 24 Hours daily
24 Hour Alarm Center Fax (0361) 710-515
Website and
Clinic Technical Advisor: Karen O’Keefe

Or call International SOS Jakarta Telephone (62-21) 750-5973 Fax (62-21) 750-6002

Consultations : 08.00 AM to 10.00 PM daily (including Public Holidays)




Global Doctor offers services similar to International SOS.  It is based in Perth, Australia.

Medical consultation with doctors in Perth is provided through telemedicine appointments.

Jl. Patimura 15 
Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta
Ph.: (021) 723-1121/7257962
Emergency: 7258115

Global Doctor International Medical Center (24hr)
Jalan Kemang Raya 87
Kemang, South Jakarta
Ph.: (021) 719-4565

Global Doctor Clinic – Mega Kuningan (8am-7pm)
Taman Kantor A 9 #A3-A
Mega Kuningan, South Jakarta
Ph.: (021) 576-2869 







Living with Teenagers in Indonesia


Youth versus Adulthood


In the West, teenagers are synonymous with youth and the young.  Rites of passage from youth into adulthood are most often associated with graduation from secondary or tertiary educational institutions.


In Indonesia, the “teenager” as defined chronologically by the age range of 13-19 is best translated as Remaja.  But Remaja more specifically refers to middle school and high school students. Mahasiswa translates best as college students, regardless of their age. The Bahasa Indonesian word pemuda, translates as “youth”. As a general term it includes both the Remaja and Mahasiswa student-aged groups. 


In a wider sociological sense, “youth” takes on more a more complex meaning beyond just age or student status.  It is not necessarily strictly bound by age or level of education.  “Youth” might be more generally thought of as all those younger people who have entered puberty but have not yet married.  Marriage is the key discriminating factor in this regard. True, the greater percentage of Indonesian youth are teenagers or in their twenties and still in school, but marriage signals entry into adulthood more so than any other single factor, irrespective of age.  It is what most succinctly differentiates pemuda from dewasa (youth from adults).


In this sense, many “youth organizations” have members who range in age up to even forty years, though marriage will not necessarily bar membership at an advanced age.  This all depends on the requirements as set forth by each organization.



The Importance of Indonesia’s Young


Youth and youth organizations have played a pivotal role in the history of Indonesia.  Pre-independence, youth congresses served to develop the leadership and ideas that would ultimately transform Indonesia from a colony into an independent nation.  Post-independence, the country’s political elite promoted youth organizations, funded them, and used them in part to advance their political agendas.  At the same time, the rise of independent student organizations at the university level mushroomed and often worked in opposition to government policy.  In fact, it was student revolt during 1998 which catapulted Indonesia out of authoritarianism and into the democratic age.


In the religious sphere, youth organizations abound as well.  The resurgence of Islam following the many Islamic revolutions across the third world in the 1970’s has fostered the creation of countless Islamic youth organizations.  The interests of every recognized religion in Indonesia are promoted and protected by their own youth organizations.  In Indonesia, where there is politics there is religion, and the two are manifest in the aspirations the older generation have for their children as the promise for a better future.


This does not mean that youth organizations don’t promote “having fun” and engaging in all manner of activities most often associated with youth.  But the influences and concerns of the adult world are melded into the greater ethos of the organizations. It is not only expected that leadership development and all manner of socialization will be carried out in course of participation, but that the organization will actually help effect all manner of national life directly. 


The mission and vision of Indonesia’s most prominent youth organizations emerge from this historical context.  Those predisposed to looking for organized youth activities that are purely recreational will find them.  Scouting, for instance, is very popular in Indonesia, and the country has the largest scouting organization in the world.  Still, political, religious, and even business interests are eager to co-opt the support of even recreational groups.  It is significant that the president’s cabinet includes a Ministry of Youth and Sports.  The ministry funds and helps organize youth organizations and their activities.  It is difficult for youth organizations to operate outside the spheres of governmental, religious, and business influence.



Major Youth Organizations


Primary and premiere exemplars of youth organizations as found in the most influential spheres of Indonesian life are detailed below:





Gerakan Pramuka is Indonesia’s scouting organization.  Historically, the Dutch founded a scouting organization in their colony the Dutch East Indies in 1912.  After the Indonesian revolution, Indonesia joined the world organization of scouting in 1953.  With over eight million members, Gerakan Pramuka today is the world’s largest scouting organization. 


Indonesian scouting is broken down into several different troops called SAKA (Satuan Karya Pramuka).  SAKA troops serve youth ages 14-25.  The seven SAKA troops and their specialties are:



Most of the SAKA are supported by related government agencies.  For example, Saka Bahari works in coordination with the navy; Saka Bhayangkara coordinates with the police and fire departments as well as search and rescue services. 


In this way, scouting provides early access into the skills necessary to establish a professional life as found in the government and military.  These agencies often take responsibility for youth training within each SAKA.  The Ministry of Health trains the members of scouting’s health services (Saka Bhakti Husada) in the areas of disease prevention and basic medicine for example. Scouting also serves the community and family life as well as food production.  


Indonesian National Youth Council


The Indonesian National Youth Council, or DPP KNPI (Komite Nasional Pemuda Indonesia), is along with scouting one of the largest youth groups in Indonesia.  The KNPI has organized chapters in all of Indonesia’s sub-districts (kecamatan), and even down to the village level in many cases.  Primarily serving as a group that develops leadership, the KNPI are advocates promoting democratic values, volunteerism, and humanitarian outreach.  They develop educational programs for youth that work to fight the social scourges of drugs, AIDS, and terrorism.


The Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sports helps fund the KNPI.  In fact, three-quarters of Indonesia’s parliament and ministry heads are current or former members of KNPI.  Interestingly, the age range for this youth organization is 18 to 40, with a majority of the members being between the ages of 25-35. 



Islamic Youth Movement & Pesantrens


The two largest Islamic organizations in Indonesia are the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and Muhammadiyah. Combined their membership is around eighty million Indonesians, and include all ages and walks of life. 


Over the last several hundred years Islam has been disseminated throughout Indonesia not so much by force and coercion, but through education.  Both NU and Muhammadiyah follow in that tradition and have established many pesantren (Muslim schools) and functioning organizations as operated out of community mosques.


Muhammadiyah believes that achieving a civil society is best done through a religious mass movement that professes an ethos of moderation (wasatiyah- the middle path).  With a membership of thirty million, Muhhammadiyah’s reputation for moderation is one good reason why Indonesia is considered religiously moderate.


Muhammadiyah Students Association (HDI) is Muhammadiyah’s central youth organization. Its mission and vision are mostly religious in nature.  Their agenda serves to safeguard Islam’s purity and to promote those sacred values through education.  Muhammadiyah devotes itself to social and educational activities and has helped build and establish many Islamic schools (pesantren) and mosques.  Most of the pesantren, serve both boys and girls and the primary and secondary levels. Since their inception in 1912, Muhammadiyah has also founded over twenty-five major universities all over Indonesia. Though they are not a political party, they seek to influence Indonesian politics through moral persuasion.


Muhammadiyah train Islamic youth to better understand Islam and carry out its mission.  They sponsor all manner of youth activities, including sports, leadership and community service, and education, all with a religious basis.


Muhammadiyah is supported by several youth organizations that function autonomously but are affiliated:



Organized Sports


Football (Futbol)



The Football Association of Indonesia:  PSSI (Persatuan Sepak bola Seluruh Indonesia)


Football, or soccer, commands a large, passionate following in Indonesia.  The PSSI is the country’s major football organization.  On the professional level it fields the national team as well as competitive leagues.  It also recruits young players for youth leagues.

With an eye towards developing professional quality players, the PSSI organizes national youth teams and leagues for ages under twenty-three, under twenty-one, under nineteen, and under sixteen. The Ministry of Youth and Sports devotes a considerable amount of its budget to supporting the national team as well as youth leagues.


Badminton (Bulutangkis)


Badminton, or bulutangkis, is considered by many to be Indonesia’s national sport.  In Asian games, Indonesia usually places very high in competition for both men and women.  Like football, Tim Bulutangkis (pro badminton team) as well as amateur badminton is supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and is taught to children formally and informally across Indonesia.



School Vacations


Listed below are holidays enjoyed by students across Indonesia for the year 2010.  To expand on this, most Indonesian students are given at least two lengthy breaks- three weeks following the end of the school year in June and July; and three weeks spanning Christmas through the first week after New Year.   Many areas release Muslim students from school part or all of Ramadan as well.


Public Holidays 2010


1 Januari (Jumat)                                 Tahun Baru Masehi                                              Christian Calendar New Year
14 Februari (Minggu)                          Tahun Baru Imlek 2561                                       Chinese Calendar New Year
26 Februari (Jumat)                             Maulid Nabi Muhammad SAW                          Birth of the Prophet Mohammed
16 Maret (Selasa)                                Hari raya Nyepi tahun Baru Saka 1932          Nyepi- Hindu Balinese day of silence
2 April (Jumat)                                      Wafat Yesus Kristus                                             Easter (death of Christ)
13 Mei (Kamis)                                      Kenaikan Yesus Kristus                                        Resurrection of Christ
28 Mei (Jumat)                                     Hari Raya Waisak tahun 2554                           Buddhist Vesak Day Celebration
10 Juli (Sabtu)                                       Isra Mi’raj Nabi Muhammad SAW              Ascension of the Prophet Mohammed
17 Agustus (Selasa)                              Hari Kemerdekaan RI                                      Indonesian Independence Day
10-11 September (Jumat-Sabtu)       Idul Fitri 1 Syawal 1431 H                                 Idul Fitri- end of Ramadan
17 November (Rabu)                            Idul Adha 1431 H                                             Muslim Festival of Sacrifice
7 Desember (Selasa)                              Tahun Baru 1432 H                                         Muslim Calendar New Year
25 Desember (Sabtu)                              Hari Raya Natal                                                   Christmas


Universal Holidays 2010
9 September (Kamis) Cuti Bersama             Idul Fitri
13 September (Senin) Cuti Bersama           Idul Fitri
24 Desember (Jumat) Cuti Bersama         hari Raya Natal



Extra-curricular Study Opportunities during Vacation


Indonesia middle and high schools students enjoy no tradition of access to so-called summer internships and special extra-curricular study programs as found in more developed countries.  Only the rich can afford such offerings as found overseas in countries such as Singapore and Australia.




It is very common to see Indonesian teenagers driving motor bikes, but rarely do they drive cars.  There is simply one reason for that:  cars are very expensive and not affordable for most young people.


More and more Indonesian youth acquire driving licenses every year.  This includes females as well as males.  With cheap credit plans and low monthly payments of around 30 USD,  an increasing number of young people can afford to buy motor bikes.  The driving age in Indonesia is 17, but many teenagers learn to drive long before that.  This is especially true in rural areas. It is a common sight to see youngsters the age of twelve or even less driving motor bikes around their small village as it is considered safe by their parents.  The police look the other way as this is simply the culture of village life and how young people learn to handle a motorized vehicle.


For a young, first time driver, getting a driving license in Indonesia is simple and easy.  Very few teenagers going for their license have a problem passing either the written or manual practice test.  These tests are designed for easy passage. 


Very few motor bike riders carry insurance unless they own a particularly expensive machine.  Read more about this topic in related posts as found in AngloINFO’s general section on Indonesia.


Youth Employment


Indonesia’s most current labor laws as regards the young are found in Undang Undang No.13, 2003 Ketenagakerjaan (Labor Laws of 2003).  In general, employers are forbidden to employee minors, that being defined as those under18 years of age.  That provision can be excluded for children as young as 13 if hired to perform “light work” as long as the development of their physical, mental, and social health is not compromised.  This latter class of under aged workers must seek written permission from parents or guardians followed by an agreement with the employer.  The child can work at most a three hour shift, and must be given a work schedule that doesn’t interfere with school time. 


Given proper supervision, children as young as 14 can accept work as assigned by an education or training curriculum. This is commonly found in the context of vocational high schools field studies.  Each vocational program requires an internship as part of the field of study.  Sometimes the internship requires travel far away from home for up to two or three months.


As the Indonesian population continues to boom, youth employment is a growing challenge for the country.  The minimum work age of 18 makes sense according to established child labor practices as reflects the nominal age of graduation from secondary school.  The problem is that fully one-third of Indonesian youth quit schooling after the eighth grade.  In 1994 Indonesia instituted the Nine-Year Compulsory Basic Education Program, which highlighted the considerable number of children whose education ended after primary school (grade 6). The number of those finishing nine years of education has steadily improved, but graduation rates for high school remain a problem.  This is especially true given the familiar urban-rural gap that characterizes so many aspects of Indonesian life.  One-half of all rural children still do not graduate from middle school.


In 2003 Indonesia’s employment rate was around 90%. Of those employed, 77% hadn’t graduated from high school while the highly educated workers- i.e. those with a senior high school degree and above- amounted to 23%. This spells problems for teenage youth who have dropped out of school.  Very few steady job opportunities exist.  This is especially true in the inner city.  In the rural areas, chances are school drop outs will be put to work by their families in agricultural capacities.


Exploitation of child labor is not the problem in Indonesia to the degree found in countries like Cambodia and India, but it certainly exists.  As depicted in the recent movie Slum Dog Millionaires, very young children as well as those approaching the teenage years are exploited by mafia groups and forced to beg for a living in the streets of Jakarta for instance.  Some children are sold into various forms of slavery by their parents simply because feeding and clothing them isn’t affordable.


The culture of informal work- usually part-time and pick-up in variety- is widespread across Indonesia.  This exists for both children and adults who find odd employment working for family, friends or neighbors.  Much of this work is task-oriented, and often requires very little time and effort.  For example, people routinely pay someone to go to the traditional market to buy some vegetables for them. Many, many people- both children and adults- survive through this system of employment.  It is especially prevalent in the rural communities, and helps to undermine the unemployment figures that better measure the formal economy.



Youth and Substance Abuse




Of all toxic drugs or illegal substances available to Indonesian youth, the biggest problem has to do with the free availability and low cost of tobacco.  Smoking tobacco has a long history in Indonesia, and the tobacco industry is very big business, employing thousands of people in factories and on the farm.  Indonesia is home to the clove cigarette, and makes the world’s highest quality.  There is considerable conflict of interest as found between public health advocacy and Big Tobacco.  Tobacco products enjoy low government taxation and are amongst the cheapest to be found in the world.


Nearly two-thirds of all adult men in Indonesia are smokers, and use of tobacco by children is clearly on the rise.  The female smoking populations- both adult and juvenile- are on the rise as well. Just recently laws banning smoking in public places such as on a bus were passed, but they are routinely unenforced.  Smoking seems a fixture of Indonesian life.


Alcohol and Illegal Drugs


Since the rise of popular and youth cultures in the West after World War II, alcohol and illegal drug abuse have not been the problems in Indonesia as reputed in many countries.  Times have caught up with Indonesia as coincided with the fall of Suharto in 1998.   The rise of western influence and a growing economy have fueled drug smuggling and general drug availability.


Indonesian drug laws are draconian.  Possession of small amounts of almost any illegal drug can translate into several years in prison.  Selling drugs will often bring the death penalty.  Indonesia is not reticent to punish foreigners as well, and has executed several in the past few years.


The deterrence as associated with stiff penalties has seemed to keep drug use at bay for decades, but in the last decade, drug use is on the rise. Even intravenous drug users (IDU’s) now have their own organization and lobby for their own human rights and health services from the government.  As tied to the greater problem of HIV/AIDS, NGO’s like JANGKAR (Jaringan Aksi Nasional Penguran Dampak Buruk Narkoba Suntik) have organized dozens of centers across Indonesia who work with both drug users and local government in order to serve the health and humanitarian crisis surrounding the life style associated with drug addiction and HIV/AIDS.


Though the casual home use of ganja is but a fraction as that found in most western countries, and the use of club drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and methamphetamine is relatively small if compared with the far-end of the spectrum as found in countries such as the United States, drug use and drug smuggling are growing problems for authorities in Indonesia.  Drug use, prostitution, and sexually transmitted diseases, and high school dropout rates are all related.  Once let out onto the streets, and with no job to support, there is every temptation for many teens to get involved.  This is especially true in Indonesia’s largest metropoles: Jakarta and Surabaya.


The story surrounding alcohol is a much different one in Indonesia.  Even though the country is predominantly Muslim, the pre-Islamic traditions concerning alcohol haven’t been uniformly tossed aside. Centuries before the arrival of Islam and Christianity homemade liquors such as arak and tuak have been enjoyed across the archipelago. As distilled from fermented rice or the sugary sap of palm trees, these spirits are part of the greater culture and cuisine. The traditions of alcohol use are factored into the relatively newer arrival of foreign religions.


Having said that, alcohol abstinence in Indonesia has been reported to be in the neighborhood of 90%.  This correlates positively and mirrors the percentage of the population that is Muslim.  There are many Indonesian Muslims who do occasionally drink, though, and often do so without being ostracized by family and community.  But the occurrence of alcohol abuse such as alcoholism is very low in the Muslim community. 


Some twenty-five to thirty million Indonesians are Christian, and their communities certainly use alcohol much more frequently than do Muslims.  This is especially true in remote areas which are predominantly Christian.  Some islands have more of a tradition of alcohol use than do others.  The youth living on these islands- especially the young males- will be subjected to significant peer pressure.  Drinking and driving is a particular problem, and alcoholism is not uncommon.  The side-effects as suffered by the family- such as domestic violence- is problematic as well.


The minimum age for drinking on premise in Indonesia is 21; for drinking off-premise is also 21.  In practice, though, if a teenager wanted to buy alcohol- especially in a rural area where it’s manufactured- these ages create no barrier to access.


Where there is homemade brew- or moonshine- it will be cheap, affordable, and accessible to just about everyone.  It is not illegal to make hard alcohols.  In the remote Spice Islands of North Sulawesi Province and the Malukus, for instance, it is ubiquitous. As packaged by the pint in recycled water bottles, it is routinely sold in roadside huts or out of the back of someone’s house.  The greatest potential danger in this unregulated system is that too often the brew is distilled improperly or spiked with wood alcohol hence becoming poisonous.  There are many reported deaths in Indonesia from poisoned alcohol every year- including those of unsuspecting foreigners.  Poisoned alcohols easily make their way into tourist areas including those of Bali and Lombok.


In such small island settings, it is not uncommon to see inebriated young males gathered together on small downtown sidewalks, unemployed and out of school.



Teenage Pregnancy


Teenage pregnancy is a taboo subject in Indonesia.  In many cases, religious intolerance and cultural pressures have kept the issue under wraps and off limits.  This has left many teenagers bereft of education and ignorant of how to approach their sexual development in an informed, safe and enlightened way. Though higher government educational departments have developed programs to teach teenagers about safe sex, local school curriculums often shun them as protested by both parent and religious groups. 


This has tragic consequences for many pregnant teenage girls.  Though schools are forbidden by law to discriminate against pregnant students, in practice most expectant mothers are expelled.  Educational offices sometimes offer medical examinations for students who need pregnancy health checks, but many families can’t afford the relatively expensive fee required.


NGO’s have made an attempt to educate teenagers on the subject of sexuality.  The Center for Information on Reproductive Health and Gender (PIKIR) is one such group as operates in Northern Sumatera.  They offer sex education courses to both senior high students and teachers alike.   PIKIR’s outreach has been well-received.  Within two years of their founding in 2000, they had already taught over 5,000 students in the Medan area about reproductive health, women’s rights, and sexually transmitted diseases.  They produce radio shows and provide private counseling, too.


Other NGO’s who have contributed like services are: the Indonesian Family Planning Association (PKBI), and YPI (Pelita Ilmu Foundation), which fights HIV/AIDS. 


Despite the provincial pressures, the Indonesian government has taken some initiative.  In 2003 the Health Ministry instituted the Adolescent Friendly Health Service (AFHS) as served teenagers through local state funded clinics.  Their 1,600 centers make for great improvement, but mainly reach only urban teens and serve only 20% of the teenagers in need.


Due to the stigma, information concerning teenage pregnancy rates, illegal abortions, and rates of pre-marital sex is unreliable. The extent to which there are significant or growing problems in the areas of reproductive health and out-of-marriage pregnancies is unclear. 


Presently, there are three chosen alternatives: marriage, handing the child over to an orphanage, and abortion.  Though illegal, there are two million abortions performed in Indonesia every years, and 30% of the women unmarried teens.







General Overview


Location is the primary determinant in the relative ease or difficulty of renting a suitable place to live in Indonesia.  Length of stay as well as personal needs and taste also makes a big difference.


Renting in Bali, Jakarta or lesser-known destinations present different challenges.  Bali is a renter’s market and generally more expensive than anywhere else.  Supply has outpaced demand in Jakarta over the past few years, so both availability and prices for good places to rent have improved. In places that are off the beaten track, the housing market will vary considerably.  It may be harder to find, but also may present easier-to-negotiate, cheaper prospects.


But before exploring these factors more closely, it’s best to provide an introduction to just what sorts of places are available for rent in Indonesia:






The start-up costs of renting a house can be more expensive than one imagines.  Gas stove, refrigerator, beds, bedding, cooling fans, dressers, and other forms of storage have to either be bought or rented.  Few traditional Indonesian homes come designed with built-in closets or enclosed garages.  Only more recent housing stock as found in upscale Jakarta gated communities or Balinese villas offer what could be considered more modern touches.



This style of housing which caters to foreign workers often features quarters for a live-in maid or servant.


See the Expat Housing Forum as listed under Further Information for a detailed look at Jakarta’s housing opportunities.




Finding a Rental


Real estate agents and agencies as known in developed countries don’t much exist in Indonesia outside of Bali and Jakarta.  But there exists a plenitude of housing services in both these areas.   Scores of them operate internet websites as well.  


In the case of Bali, many are primarily property management companies who look to rent villas or deal in real estate sales with routine rentals being a side lined business activity.  They promote their premium rentals and don’t necessarily serve those looking for simpler, less expensive accommodations.  In that sense, many lack motivation and aren’t responsive to cold inquiries by phone or email unless you want to rent a very expensive home.   In any case, it is better you show up in person to their offices.  The anecdotal evidence provided by expatriates living in Indonesia, though, expresses a mixed record concerning the trustworthiness and reliability of Bali’s housing services.


Presently, Jakarta’s situation is different.  As mentioned, Bali is an owner’s market, and Jakarta’s a renter’s.   Since the Bali bombings and terrorist attacks in Jakarta itself, a large number of foreign workers and expats have left Jakarta, leaving many vacancies in the housing and apartment complexes that were speedily developed in large numbers during the 1990’s to serve an influx of embassy personnel and foreign workers.  Contacting the property management group that negotiates leases for such planned communities is easy and they can generally be trusted.  Their leases are standard, their terms and prices competitive, and upon visiting such communities, there will be chances to meet and talk to other foreigners who are current tenants.


In the case of either Jakarta or Bali, there is one commonality, and that is the finder’s fee.  A renter who uses a real estate broker will customarily pay one to one-and-a-half month’s rent as based on their new lease as required payment.   The incentive for agents to rent pricier housing stock and neglect the rest is apparent.


Gated communities and western-style housing complexes won’t suit everyone’s taste or budgets.  Housing for much less money is available in Jakarta.  Expatriates looking for more Indonesian-style housing will have to beat the streets and head into the haunts of expatriates in order to seek out leads and recommendations.


In general, the best way to find suitable housing is through networking, both virtual and real.  This includes research on the internet, communications through expatriate website forums, and word of mouth.   For foreigners working in Jakarta or Bali, the workplace will provide much needed information.   Newspapers provide little clear information in the way of housing rentals, and one needs to know the language to benefit from what’s in print on the streets.


For those who have the luxury of time, a good option is to find a reasonable hotel, and stay for a couple weeks in order to look for something permanent.   Count on the fact that a successful search will take a fair amount of time to accomplish. Hotel rates are such that this provides an affordable option for most people.


Company-Provided Housing


Foreign residents who come to Indonesia to work are sometimes given the perquisite of company housing.   Their company arranges for housing the lease of which ends in coincidence with the projected termination of the employee’s work contract.  Incidents do occur when these two dates don’t properly coincide, or else the employee’s housing allowances are suddenly revoked or revised.  This creates problems beyond the scope of this paper, but foreign workers should be aware that they might be forced into a position to seek out housing on their own.



Housing Leases


Time Frames


When renting a house in Indonesia, if a landlord requires a lease, the time period involved is usually one or two years.  Sometimes six months is an option, and in Bali, three years is not uncommon.


Terms of lease can be problematic for temporary foreign residents whose length of stay doesn’t fit these customary time frames.   Indonesian-style housing leases usually demand full payment up front as well, especially if it is for six months or a year.  Because of this, there is a big market for sub-leasing, especially in places like Jakarta and Bali.  Sub-leasing is legal, and widely practiced.  Sub-leasing must be done with full knowledge of the landlord, and if any damages occur during the sub-lease, the original leaser is liable.


Kos rentals often demand a payment of one year in advance, too. 



Written Leases


Boiler plate, pre-prepared contracts are sometimes provided by the landlord- especially in the case of Jakarta’s large rental complexes.   These contracts are rarely negotiable. 


Outside of this particular housing niche, the lessor and leaser negotiate the terms in full and write a contract to suit their individual agreement.  The two parties sign the document as stamped with a materai (see Indonesia- General Taxation for more information on use of the materai tax stamp).  Sometimes a notary service can be called in (usually by the leaser) to secure the legality of the contract, but this is not customary as it drives up cost.   Notaries generally require a fee that is 1.0% to 1.5% of the lease contract as reported.  (Note that Indonesian notaries are closer in status, skill, and function to a western-style lawyer than they would be to a paralegal and command larger fees)


Most written leases cover only length of contract, payment due, method of payment (whether lump sum or by installment), special considerations specific to rental in question, and possibly issues surrounding a security deposit.   But in general, any specific issue of importance to the leaser should be made specific reference to in writing as part of the contractual terms.   The longer the lease period, the more careful the leaser needs to be about details.


By definition, the landlord will be Indonesian, as only Indonesians can legally own a house or property. When the lease is signed, they must present to the leaser their KTP (Kartu Tanda Penduduk, or National ID card).  A copy of the rental’s land certificate should also be provided as proof of who actually owns the rental * (copy of the land certificate).  The leaser, if foreign, needs to show their passport and KITAS (temporary residence VISA), though in some cases, landlords overlook the VISA.   


*Note: A prospective renter should not enter any housing lease without having inspected the landlord’s valid certifikat tanah (land certificate or title) which verifiably pertains to the land and its house which is being offered for rent.   The land title should be signed by the owner, and not a proxy.


Before entering a lease agreement, the leaser best review obligations the civil law mandates for both parties to the lease.  (See Civil Codes below)


Common sense prevails in bidding a lease. Chances for a long-term, smooth relationship with an Indonesian landlord will be good if preliminary meetings are civil and terms open to reasonable negotiation.  




Utilities are usually the responsibility of the renter, especially if the rental is a house.  Water and electricity hook-ups will usually be pre-existing, so establishing new service will cost nothing, or will requires at most a nominal fee.  Installing land line telephone service can be expensive though, as few Indonesians have home phones and most likely one would have to pay for a telephone line to be run out from the nearest service box to the rental in question.  But this is usually a non-issue as almost everyone uses cellular phones.  Internet services don’t necessarily require phone lines either as access through WI-FI or wireless USB modem is available anywhere there exists cell phone towers.  Monthly rates for such wireless services have dropped dramatically just recently.


Informal Rental Arrangement- the case of no written lease


There are cases where no written lease is involved, but this would more likely apply to high turn-over occupancy rentals such as kos, or boarding rooms.  Most likely in such a case rent is being paid month-to-month.  Renting houses without the demands of a written lease is extremely rare, especially if foreign renters are involved. 


Giving Notice and Lease Renewal


Giving notice is not applicable as leases can’t be broken.  This is insured as payment is required in advance, so if the tenant wants to leave, they simply tell the landlord they will be moving out.  There is no law stipulating notice, but common courtesy should inform the renter to contact their landlord some days or weeks ahead of time. In any case, this is not in practice an issue of potential conflict. 


The more pertinent question is quite the opposite, and has to do with renewing the lease.  If the relationship has been good, the law supports the renter’s right to renew the lease, with a cap of rent increase being currently set at 20%. 



The Civil Code and Specific Responsibilities


Chapter VII of the Indonesian Civil Code covers some of the basic rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.  Most regulations are comparable to lease laws found in western countries.  What follows is a list of the more important obligations attributed to each of the two parties:


Obligations of Lessor




Obligations of Tenant




Notes on Responsibility for Repairs


As noted above, Indonesian tenants are responsible for fixing minor repairs.  What is considered minor, though, is not clearly defined, and according to anecdotal evidence can amount to as much as 100 USD per repair.  This doesn’t extend to water and electricity services as the utility companies are responsible, but as for plumbing, that falls under the responsibility of either the owner or tenant.



Humbler rentals don’t present many repair issues if they come unfurnished.  Only expensive, higher quality rentals will offer modern, fully-equipped facilities that would more regularly need maintenance- such as air conditioning, refrigerator, stove, and washing machine.  But windows are another matter, and there can be cause for disagreement between landlord and tenant is such a case.


Modern high-rise apartment complexes in Jakarta often offer maintenance services and the cost is factored into the overall rental fee.


Security Deposits


Housing rentals that are furnished or offer modern conveniences almost always demand a security deposit.  Security deposits will vary according to how upscale a rental may be.  Apartments in Jakarta often ask for about one million rupiah (about 80 EURO).   Security deposits aren’t refundable unless all rent is paid and all repairs taken care of.


Tenant’s Rights


Tenants are not given many rights beyond what is mandated as a landlord’s basic obligations, and to take a landlord to court would most likely end up a waste of time and money.  Though the law is in theory “neutral” in matters concerning landlord-tenant disputes, the Indonesian court system is slow, cumbersome, and subject to corruption.


Certain common problems need to be looked out for and sometimes can be avoided.  One has to do with landlords not fulfilling the agreed-upon length of contract, as there are occasions when the rental is sold out from underneath the feet of the tenants.  According to law, lease terms that are properly written and documented are legally binding, and must be honored by either the old or new owner.  Even if the new owner attempted to evict the tenant, reasoning that they weren’t party to the lease, eviction- whether lawful or not- is a lengthy legal process in Indonesia, taking an average of nine months to complete. 


The other caveat has to do with prospective landlords who demand a down payment for securing a lease prior to having signed a contract.  This is to be avoided as sometimes the landlord will rent the housing to another party and not return the deposit.  The general rule is simple: pay the agreed-upon lease fee at the same time the contract is signed.



Conflict Resolution


Foreign residents don’t have much recourse in tenant-landlord conflicts in all truth.   Indonesian law affords little support to foreign residents when it comes to housing. Taking the issue to court has already by discussed.   Such disputes are civil, and the police wouldn’t be an appropriate party to call on. There remains good faith dealing with the kelurahan, or head of the neighborhood.  If that particular individual has influence and commands respect, it’s possible that their intervention might help.


In this case, an ounce of prevention is work a pound of cure.  Don’t enter a lease unless you have very good reason to believe you are dealing with a reputable landlord, that the rental is in good repair, and that the neighbors and neighborhood are appropriate.  Otherwise, find a lesser rental, pay month-to-month, and wait for the appropriate opportunity to come along.




Indonesian Civil Code- Leases


Bali Advertizer- Advertizing for the Expat Community Housing and Property Agents in Bali  Balinese Expatriate Forum


Living in Indonesia- expat forum


BaliBlog- Bali Travel Forum


Expat Housing Forum- detail on Jakarta’s housing opportunities


Bali Spirit- Bali Houses and Villas for rent


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For the adventurous at heart looking for expatriate haunts and news from the streets of Jakarta