Category Archives: Airports

Rupiah For Visitors

Chris explains how to get some local Indonesian money quickly and safely.

Visitors to Indonesia can have difficulty getting some local currency before or soon after they arrive, especially if transiting Jakarta Airport and needing some money fast for airport tax, or taking a Jakarta or Bali airport taxi.

This is intended to be a guide for first-timers. You can read it all or just the relevant section:

  1. Indonesian Currency 101
  2. The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs
  3. How To Know A Good (and a Bad/Dodgy) Moneychanger

Indonesian Currency 101

The currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah, usually marked as Rp or IDR. Indonesia is still very much a cash-based society, and credit cards are still not accepted in many places.

Coins start at Rp100 up to Rp500 (click on image for full-size):

Rupiah Coins

A bronze Rp500 is slowly disappearing. There is also now a new Rp1000 coin:

Rp1000 coin

It may eventually replace the Rp1000 banknote, though at the moment it is relatively rare.

Banknotes come in denominations of Rp1000 up to Rp100 000:

IDR Banknotes

The ABCs of Indonesian ATMs

Almost all Indonesian ATMs are connected to the Maestro/Cirrus network, and provide the choice of English or Indonesian instructions.

Rp50 000 banknote Rp100 000 banknote

Most ATMs dispense Rp50 000 notes (about $US6), although some give Rp100 000 (about $US12) notes. It is usually marked whether it is Rp50 000 or Rp100 000. If possible, avoid the latter unless you are e.g. about to buy something expensive.

If you want to minimise transaction fees, get the maximum amount: Rp1 250 000 ($US140) for the Rp50 000 ATMs, Rp2 500 000 ($US280) for the Rp100 000 ATMs.

BRI Logo

In regional and remote areas, the most common bank is BRI (pronounced “BAY UR EEE”), but not all branches have ATMs.

Rp20 000 banknote

In smaller cities, you might also find an ATM that dispenses Rp20 000 notes, up to a maximum of Rp500 000 ($US60) per transaction.

Please note:

1. Some new ATMs now eject the ATM card before the cash. Make sure you take the ATM card as soon as it comes out; after 15 seconds, the ATM (assumes you have forgotten to take it and) sucks the card back in to stop somebody else stealing it, and then you need to get the machine opened. At a bank, no problem; at a e.g. shopping mall or airport, that could be difficult.

2. ATMs in tourist areas do run out of money, especially during and around Indonesian public holidays. It’s best to prepare an emergency supply of cash.

Newly arrived visitors might need to get some cash in a hurry, especially for a taxi fare (if staying in Jakarta) or airport tax (if transiting Jakarta). Having said that, they also value their safety and privacy. Which airport ATM is the most suitable?

ATMs in the secure area of the International Terminal arrivals hall are the most useful because they are in a secure area and usually there are very few people using them.

CBA ATMCommonwealth Bank Indonesia has an ATM in the international terminal arrivals hall of both Jakarta and Denpasar/Bali Airports. This is especially useful for Australians who have an account with Commonwealth Bank Australia, because CBI ATMs in Indonesia have a lower transaction fee for CBA account holders.

Here is some additional airport-specific guidance for Indonesia’s three most popular international airports:

ATMs Jakarta Airport Terminal 2In the past, Indonesians and foreign residents had to pay a departure tax called “fiskal” of Rp2 500 000 per person. So inside the Departures area (upstairs from Arrivals) of the international Terminal 2 near the secure entrance, there are a large collection of ATMs – see right. You could stop in there on the way to the inter-terminal bus stop if you are changing terminals.

ATMs aren’t in one central area but are dotted throughout the airport in both the domestic and international terminals. If arriving at night, choose one that has a security camera, is well-lit and isn’t surrounded by locals offering transport/taxi rides.

Like in a shopping mall, there is an “ATM Mall” between the domestic and international terminals, below the viewing deck and near Dunkin Donuts. You can make a short pitstop in there when you are changing terminals.

How To Spot A Good (and a Bad/Dodgy) Moneychanger

1. Know Your Stuff and Your Currency
The value of the currency does fluctuate, so it’s always a good idea to check the exchange rates.

BI Exchange Rates Bank Danamon

Places you do this independently include the Bank Indonesia webpage (above left) and a local bank with rates clearly posted on its webpage, e.g. Bank Danamon (above right).

If you’re a more visual person, Bank Indonesia also does graphs. Here is the one for € / Euros:


They also do many other currencies. Choose the one you want:

$US / USD | $A / AUD | ¥ / YEN | £ / GBP | Fr / CHF | $S / SGD | RM / MYR
Other currencies

Or if you’re offline, Indonesia’s English newspaper The Jakarta Post is there to help you. Turn to page 14 (inside front page of the Business section) and they have rates for banknotes and telegraphic transfers.

In general, the rate of a good moneychanger should be a little below the banknotes buy rate. Like with managed investment schemes, if the rate seems to too good to be true, it is – the moneychanger is likely to be dodgy.

2. Work Out What You Should Get
The easy part is using your mobile/cellular phone’s calculator to work out how much you should get.

The trickier part is working out what that will look like in Indonesian Rupiah:

IDR Banknotes
Indonesian Rupiah Banknotes

Confusingly, the Rp10 000 and Rp100 000 are a similar colour, and don’t have a space, dot or comma before the last three zeroes; it’s easy to mix them up.

Rp10 000 banknote Rp100 000 banknote
Not good for the vision impaired

The quickest way to know which is which is to count how many people on the banknote: Rp100 000 has two, Rp10 000 has one.

Rp10 000 banknotes
Old and New

A new design of the Rp10 000 banknote was launched recently with a colour that is more different/contrasting with the Rp100 000 banknote, but to many people it will remain unclear.

3. Survey
Don’t be afraid to ask locals or other tourists where they went or where they recommend.

Have a look around. If the rate seems right, take a closer look. Is it often busy with other tourists? If yes, that’s a good sign. And if it’s an authorized money changer, it should have this sticker on display:

Authorized Money Changer

Please note:

1. Some places e.g. Kuta in Bali have a reputation for bad/dodgy moneychangers. If you are unsure or you cannot find one you trust, use an ATM instead.

2. For reasons never fully explained, foreign currency banknotes must be in pristine condition; no marks, tears or folds. $US banknotes must usually be a new series – 2006 or later.

3. If you had a stopover in a nearby Asian country – e.g. Singapore or Malaysia – and have some local currency leftover, you could use a moneychanger at that airport instead. The larger ones, e.g. American Express at Changi Airport, usually have some Rp50 000 notes.

What have your experiences been getting Indonesian money? Please add your own comments, hints and tips below.

Or if you have a question, please ask.

Rupiah For Visitors is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.


A guide through the maze of bemusing and ever-changing world of Indonesian city, airline and airport names.

Travelling around Indonesia can be a little confusing if you aren’t aware of the plethora of Indonesian cities’ alternate names, spellings and airport names. Some have changed names, others have changed spelling and some have changed multiple times.

This is one of the reasons why the Mau Ke Mana Flight Booking Service doesn’t just have an automated system of spitting back a list of flights and fares.

Wikipedia has a useful reference list of city and airport names/codes, but even it doesn’t cover all bases.

Here is an attempt at an all-inclusive list of all these issues, in alphabetical order:

Ambon | Bali / Denpasar | Lion Air and Wings Air | Lombok / Mataram / Ampenan Makassar / Ujung Pandang

Here are some alternate spellings, the current/official “Indonesian” one on the right:

Yogyakarta & Jogjakarta | Manado & Menado | Sumatra & Sumatera

Confusing directions

Ambon (Airport Code: AMQ) (a.k.a. Pattimura Airport, Laha Airport, Ambon City, Kota Ambon, Ambon Island, Pulau Ambon)

Map of Ambon

Ambon City/Bay/Island/Airport

The city of Ambon is located on the island of Ambon, while Ambon Airport is located in Laha, 36km from Ambon City on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped Ambon Bay. Apparently no other names were available at the time…

Confusing directions

Bali (Airport Code: DPS) (a.k.a. Denpasar, Ngurah Rai Airport)

Bali Airport MapBali is not a separate country from Indonesia, but it is an island and province with its own unique culture. Some airlines, e.g. Air Asia, also use “Bali” as the name of the airport because Bali is much more well-known than “Denpasar”.

Officially, the name of the airport is Ngurah Rai Airport or Denpasar Airport, and is located about 10km south of Denpasar, the capital city of Bali.

Confusing directions

Lion Air v Wings Air
Both airlines are part of the group/corporation and work together, like American Airlines and American Eagle in the United States, or Singapore Airlines and Silk Air in Singapore.

However, unlike Singapore Airlines/Silk Air or Garuda Indonesia and their budget wing Citilink, Lion Air and Wings Air continue to use the same website, airline code and booking system.

Their levels of service are mostly the same; the small differences are:

Wings Air plane Lion Air B737-900ER
Wings Air ATR72-500 Lion Air Boeing 737-900ER

– Wings Air operates smaller ATR72-500 planes (see above left) on shorter/less popular routes. Lion Air uses mostly Boeing 737-900ER planes (see above right) and operates on the longer/more popular routes.

– Lion Air’s baggage allowance in economy class is 25kg for domestic flights, 20kg for international flights. Wings Air has a smaller – but not strictly enforced – baggage allowance: 15kg.

– Lion Air offers business/executive class on some routes.

You can tell which flight is operated by which airline in two ways:

Lion & Wings Air 2 Lion & Wings Air
  1. The logo next to the flight number.
  2. Usually a four-digit flight number also indicates a Wings Air flight.

Confusing directions

Makassar (Airport Code: UPG) (a.k.a. Ujung Pandang, Hasanuddin Airport)

Visit Makassar

Makassar was renamed Ujung Pandang in 1971 by an Indonesian government that wanted to give the city a more Indonesian or less Dutch name (around the same time that Djakarta became Jakarta). However, it was changed back to Makassar in 1999 by then President Habibie. These days, some airlines use Makassar, others Ujung Pandang.

Confusing directions

Mataram (Airport Code: AMI) (a.k.a. Ampenan, Lombok, Selaparang, Selaparang Airport)

The capital city of West Nusa Tenggara province, Mataram is actually one part of a conurbation of a few smaller cities. The airport is actually located in the city of Ampenan (what Garuda Indonesia’s website currently calls it). It is also the only airport on the island of Lombok, so Selaparang Airport also has the working name of “Lombok Airport”. Some smaller airlines flying from Denpasar/Bali also use Selaparang as the destination city name.

New Lombok Airport
The new Lombok International Airport, still under construction

A new airport in Central Lombok, tentatively named Lombok International Airport, is also under construction. It was due to open in 2010, but still has no scheduled opening date. It is not yet determined whether the existing airport in Mataram (West Lombok) will reduce or cease operations when this new airport opens.

Map of Old and New Lombok Airports
Old and New Lombok International Airports,
located in Mataram/Ampenan and Praya respectively

The new airport is located in Praya, Central Lombok; it is closer to (the other) Kuta, but quite far from Mataram and the tourist beaches of Sengigi and Gili Islands, so a complete closure seems unlikely. Any affected passengers will be informed if when the airport is about to commence operations.

If you have any other questions or areas of concern, please write a comment below, and we’ll answer it.

Confusion! is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

‘Wonderful Indonesia’

Greeting the tourism slogan ‘Wonderful Indonesia’ at Jakarta airport; alternatives: Intriguing Indonesia, Indonesia – Simply Inexplicable, and Delectable Dewi.

The Drum notes that rather than addressing the need to clean up the several hundred “hangers on” touts and louts at Jakarta Airport or developing some sort of transport, tourist infrastructure for Indonesia, we have once again bought economy tickets on plan superficial.

The tourism brains trust after much research and endless meetings have come with “Wonderful Indonesia” which is kind of saccharine sweet but hardly reflective of Indonesia. Certainly anyone who has landed at Jakarta airport at 5pm on a Friday is hardly likely to be thinking “wonderful thoughts” on the 3 hour, 25km journey to the city center. It would also be fair to venture “Wonderful Indonesia” would be a bit of stretch if you happen to be an Ahmadiyya for instance.

Oh speaking of mindless, sponsored thuggery, if I may digress for a moment. Did we all enjoy that “Simply Wonderful” piece of Lunatic Theater brought to us by the Minister for Religion this week.  A brilliant dark comedy, gathering all the ignorant thugs in one place and then call the Ahmadiyya and say we just want to talk…uh uh!!  Honestly, people were rolling in the aisles listening to this character trying to tell rational humans that the Ahmadiyya were acting in bad faith by not turning up.

Anyhow back to tourism, perhaps some truth in advertising might be fun

We all know the Uniquely Singapore, Malaysia. Truly Asia, Incredible India, Amazing Thailand etc.  Well we have had a couple of disastrous cracks at this sort of thing in Indonesia before. Who could forget the Garuda English mangling or my personal favorite the “Wings” Airline slogan “Fly is Cheap” (apparently so was their copy writer).

Anyway, it’s one thing to criticize and another to offer a solution. So based on today’s news that retired Generals and Radical religious loons are planning a coup, nail bombs and the ongoing persecution of minorities in Indonesia, the following are the Drum’s offerings for today:


Intriguing Indonesia

Indonesia – Simply Inexplicable

Or the Drum’s favourite

Delectable Dewi


Feel free to suggest some more.


Disclaimer:  I actually think the Jakarta Airport itself is pretty slick, it’s the fight through the touts and louts that must be mind boggling for first time tourists.  Nor do I think the dangerous but comical characters that attended the Religious “Harmony” meeting are representative of anything but the vile underbelly of the human beast. Certainly, they do not represent the Indonesia I know and live in.

‘Wonderful Indonesia’ is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Denpasar to Dili Flights

Batavia Air commences flights between Indonesia’s tourist hub of Bali and Dili, capital city of Timor Leste (East Timor).

Batavia Air recently commenced daily flights between Indonesia’s tourist hub of Bali and the capital city of East Timor (a.k.a. Timor Leste), Dili.

Batavia Air advertises flights between Denpasar and Dili

Batavia Air promotes its new route,
plus recently being permitted to fly in EU airspace

The schedule is as follows:

Route Departs Arrives

Denpasar to Dili




Dili to Denpasar



*Local time in Dili is one hour ahead of Denpasar.

The inaugural flight on 27 December 2010 certainly appears to have been a joyous occasion.

Batavia Air red carpet

The first passengers were greeted by red carpet and the President of Timor Leste, Mr Jose Ramos Horta, wearing Indonesian batik. Meanwhile, senior executives of Batavia Air were wearing traditional Timorese ceremonial scarves.

The President Director of Batavia Air, Mr Yudiawan Tansari, has high hopes for this new route. Using either a weak interpreter or poor English skills, he was quoted as saying:

With the entry of Batavia Air to Dili, the Timor Leste people have other option of transportations to travel to Denpasar, Bali and other cities in Indonesia. Starting today at Dili, it is connected with 40 cities in Indonesia that have been flown by Batavia Air. In addition, cargos from Dili to the cities in Indonesia and conversely become easier and of course, we wish for the potential tourisms here are much more widely known by the people in Indonesia. [sic]

It is not known how this new service will affect the existing Merpati Airlines service; it is hoped that the extra competition from Batavia Air will help reduce fares. Previously, one-way fares were more than $US200 one-way, or double the price of flights on the more contested route of Denpasar to Kupang (close to Dili in West Timor). Currently, Batavia Air is offering one-way fares from Denpasar to Dili at a lower price of Rp1.1 million, about $US120.

Also, flight details and online booking are not available on the Merpati Airlines website for international flights; you have to call them or visit your local Merpati office or travel agent. This is unlike the Batavia Air website, which provides all this information.

Merpati booking conditions
Patriotic or Problematic? Merpati Airlines’ website offers only domestic routes
and accepts only Indonesian-issued credit cards

However, as explained in this guide to booking Indonesian flights, both Batavia Air and Merpati Airlines only accept credit cards issued in Indonesia.

You can get around this problem by using the Mau Ke Mana flight booking service. If you would like to make a booking enquiry, please click here.

Denpasar to Dili Flights is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Lawful Tax Evasion

Duty/tax-free shopping for tourists is coming to Indonesia, sort of.

It is now possible to avoid paying tax in Indonesia, not by bribing someone at the Indonesian Tax Office, but legally.

Gayus Tambahan
Gayus Tambahan
He allegedly helped many people avoid paying tax.
However, this is one scheme he can’t assist on.

As reported recently in The Jakarta Post, Indonesia is expanding a trial system of duty/tax-refunds for tourists.

All visitors need to do is:

1. Go to one of these shops participating in the scheme:

Stores with “VAT Refund for Tourist”

Jakarta: Pasaraya Blok M, Sarinah Thamrin, Metro Pondok Indah Mall, Metro Plaza Senayan, Keris Gallery at Terminal 2D’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport, Batik Keris Citraland, Batik Keris Menteng, Batik Keris Pondok Indah Mall 2, Batik Keris Pacific Place, Keris Department Store Menteng, Keris Department Store Puri Indah Mall, Jean Paul Gaultier Plaza Indonesia, Christian Louboutin Plaza Indonesia, Club Monaco Plaza Indonesia, Sogo Plaza Senayan, Sogo Kelapa Gading, Sogo Pondok Indah Mall, Sogo Emporium Pluit, Seibu Grand Indonesia, and Alun-alun Indonesia Grand Indonesia.

Tangerang: Batik Keris in Supermal Karawaci

Bali: Batik Keris at Discovery Shopping Mall, UC Silver in Batu Bulan, Gianyar, Mayang Bali in Kuta, Sogo Bali Collection, Sogo Discovery Shopping Mall, Alun-alun Indonesia Nusa Dua, Batik Keris at Ngurah Rai airport, Atlas South Sea Pearl in Sanur, Dewis in Sukawati, Gianyar and Windu Sari in Batu Bulan, Gianyar.

Two of the many choices

2. Spend a cool Rp5 million.

3. Depart Indonesia within 30 days of purchase and reclaim the 10% tax from the registered tax refund counter at Jakarta’s or Bali’s airport, after passing immigration.

This system has a few limitations and disadvantages compared with e.g. the tax refund for tourists scheme that operates in Singapore:

– You have to spend a lot more money to qualify for a tax refund.

Rp5 million is a lot of souvenirs and batik shirts. In Singapore, you have to spend a relatively small $S100, at the current exchange rate about Rp700 000.

IDR/SGD exchange rate
The current BI exchange rate for $S1.
Multiply the figure on the left by 100 to get the current value for $S100 in Rp.

To work out Rp5 million in other currencies (e.g. $US, €, £, etc) use the Bank Indonesia Exchange Rate calculator.

– You can only get the refund when leaving Indonesia, and only in Rupiah cash or bank transfer.

Option A: Indonesian Rupiah Cash         Option B: Bank Transfer

Receiving Rupiah cash just before you leave the country isn’t much use. You will have two options. Firstly, visiting a moneychanger at the airport (whose exchange rates aren’t great). That assumes the moneychanger has stock of the foreign currency you seek; they may not. Alternately, you could keep it for next time – if there is one.

In Singapore, there are other options: you can receive a refund directly upon purchase (either as a discount or as a cash refund), or do it via snail mail.

In addition, Singapore dollars are more widely accepted by moneychangers in the region than Indonesian Rupiah, probably because the currency is more stable.

As for the bank transfer option, it seems unlikely most foreign visitors are going to brink their bank details. Even if they did, they’re not likely to know e.g. their bank’s SWIFT code.

– Certain items which could be cheaper in Indonesia than the goods’ destination country (or unique items not available in other countries) are excluded.

Some of the products on the blacklist include: food, beverages and tobacco products. Also on the “no-fly list” are guns, explosive goods and any materials that are not allowed to be taken into an aircraft. (Side issue: I didn’t know you could bring guns and explosive goods on an aircraft in Indonesia).

Sorry, you cannot claim a tax refund on this item

So, the question is this: Do you think that with these limitations the tax refund for tourists scheme is a waste of time/money? (In the first six months, there were only 46 claims, totalling Rp41 million).

Please add your vote “YES” or “NO”, preferably with a reason. Other comments are also welcome.

Lawful Tax Evasion is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Family-Friendly Flying

children flying

How to get where you family needs to go with minimal stress? Which Indonesian airline is best suited to bringing the wife and kids?

Like Ross who when his family grew sacrificed his love of Jakartan public transport for Jakartan taxis, many people have to reconsider how they travel if they are bringing children, especially babies and toddlers.

But what about flying domestically in Indonesia, when you have a baby on board? Is family-friendly flying possible, and if so which airline is the most family-friendly?

We will look at some relevant issues below:

Price | Punctuality | Facilities | Baggage | Safety


Parents are already paying extra to bring their children. Which airline has the most family-friendly pricing policy?

You may not realise that currently the only Indonesian domestic airline which gives a cheaper price to children aged 2-11 is Citilink, the budget wing of Garuda Indonesia.

Citilink logo
Children fly for less than adults, only on Citilink

All other airlines charge the same for adults and children. (And curiously, when booking some airlines online you still need to enter the child’s date of birth, despite the fare being the same as for an adult.) You might have thought that this was because on more budget-oriented airlines (e.g. Air Asia, Lion Air) there are few or no in-flight services (e.g. free food) which are cheaper for kids. However, Citilink also only gives a plastic cup of water and a snack to each passenger, so maybe not.

Note also, this does not necessarily mean that Citilink will always have the cheapest fare for families; other airlines’ adult price may be cheaper overall.


Being stuck in a crowded airport because the flight has been delayed is no fun, especially with children. Which airlines have the best record for punctuality?

This is hard to verify independently.

Mandala Air logo

Mandala Air publishes its On-Time Performance here (last month 83%), and claims to be the first. Citilink used to publish its OTP on its homepage, but it was always 100% – seems unlikely – and has recently disappeared.

So, here is some general guidance: The younger the planes, the less likely there is to be a delay caused by plane issues or unscheduled maintenance. Next question: which airline has the youngest fleet of planes? Mandala Air’s webpage used to invite passengers to fly on “the youngest armada” of aircraft, while Lion Air is the official “first to fly” airline of the Boeing 737-900ER. Garuda is ordering new Boeing 777 planes, but they will be used on international routes only.

Different airlines claim to have the newest planes

There are some impartial statistics at the Indonesian Inspector-General of Civil Aviation’s domestic airline statistics page. It says when each plane in the airline’s fleet was manufactured, etc. However, I can’t vouch for how up to date they are.

However, it is not only the airlines’ fault. Many of Indonesia’s airports are operating above their intended capacity. For example, Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport had 37 million people fly to/from its airport last year; it’s designed to handle a maximum of 22 million. Similarly, Surabaya’s Juanda airport‘s capacity is 6.5 million passengers; it received 10.8 million last year.

Of course, better late than never. In this regard, Merpati has a reputation for the most cancellations, with Batavia Air running a distant second.


Which airline offers the most complete facilities for families?

Garuda logo

Garuda Indonesia wins this one because it is the only full-service airline. An added bonus: in Jakarta and Surabaya, passengers can also use the less crowded nicer international terminal for domestic departures. For recently arrived passengers on international flights, this removes the need to change terminals.

However, even for Garuda there are some areas for improvement. It doesn’t offer baby bassinets on domestic flights; maybe that’s not so much a problem for e.g. Surabaya to Denpasar (50 minutes), but it would be on e.g. Jakarta to Manado (3 hours 10 minutes) or Jakarta to Jayapura (over six hours, overnight). And in my experience, Garuda is also the only airline that makes passengers place their prams/strollers in checked baggage when checking in, rather than at the departure gate.

At the other end of the scale, Air Asia and Mandala Air now operate from the new Low-Cost Carrier Terminal 3 in Jakarta. While Terminal 1 has air-bridges for some flights, Terminal 3 doesn’t; all passengers must walk upstairs to enter the plane; this may not be so nice with small children, especially in inclement weather.


Having your baggage damaged or lost is no fun, especially with children. Who has the best or worst record?

Again, it is difficult to accurately verify or make impartial judgments.

My extended family and I have had the following negative experiences, over the years:

  • Lion Air: Pram broken beyond repair.
  • Garuda Indonesia: Bag slashed while transiting Denpasar, but no items/valuables missing.
  • Batavia Air: Wheels broken off one side of a suitcase

United Breaks Guitars, Lion Doesn’t; Lion Breaks Prams Instead

However, it’s not all bad news.

  • Unlike Dave Carroll and the Sons Of Maxwell (see above) the author’s electric guitar has survived trips on Merpati and Lion Air; no, the guitar wasn’t in the cabin, it was in the cargo hold.
  • Fragile items and electrical appliances have survived trips on Batavia Air, Garuda, Lion Air, Air Asia and Merpati.

As long as any complaint is resolved competently and quickly, that is probably just as important. Lion Air couldn’t help with the broken pram, but what was more annoying was there no form or way of reporting the damage; the ground crew just suggested leaving it there for them to repair (when it was clearly irreparable).


You aren’t going to bring your family on an unsafe airline. Which airline has the best safety record?

This area is discussed in more detail here, so this is the short version.

These airlines are currently permitted to fly in EU airspace:

Air Asia logo Batavia Air logo
Citilink logo Garuda logo
Mandala Air logo

Meanwhile, Lion Air is currently “in consultation” with the EU about its status, suggesting it will soon join them.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the other airlines are unsafe, nor that you are guaranteed an incident-free flight on one of the five above.

I have personally flown on all of the airlines listed above, and do not have any major concerns about the safety of any of them.

But this is just the author’s opinion and experience; maybe yours are different.

Which airline would you say is Indonesia’s most family friendly? Please add a comment with your vote and a reason why.

Questions on the topic are also welcome.

Family-Friendly Flying is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Medan, Worst City Ever

Is Medan the worst city in the world? An Australian expatriate in Jakarta whines his heart out.

An Australian Associated Press article about Medan, “Worst. City. Ever.” published in the Age newspaper by one Adam Gartrell begins vitriolically:

Dear Medan. I hate you.

adam gartrell
Not happy

I visited you recently and found you the most unpleasant, charmless and thoroughly depressing city I’ve ever encountered. And I’ve visited plenty of s—holes in my time.

Adam, who lives and works in Jakarta as AAP’s South-East Asia Correspondent, says Indonesia’s third biggest city and the capital of North Sumatra province, has

no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

From arrival at the hellhole of Polonia airport, and possibly getting off on the entirely wrong foot by paying a visit to the airport toilets consistently rated among the filthiest in the country (2007, 2009) the nightmare begins, with Medan said to be a city bereft of the important things like taxis, trees, good hotels, and restaurants. No mention of whether the girls of Medan are as miserably unappealing as the rest of the place however.

Big mosque
Big mosque

Medan’s closest claim to fame and the only thing to be considered a tourist attraction is its “big mosque”, he says, but that is not nearly enough to make up for its heinous deficiencies.

I understand now why you consistently feature on people’s “Worst. City. Ever.” lists.

While out one night scouring the streets in vain search of food fit to be eaten by a white man Adam’s hotel room is broken into and thousands of dollars stolen. Later, the hotel staff are distinctly and suspiciously unhelpful

Can you say “inside job”?

Medan doesn’t just bite you in the wallet however, as a night later after moving to another hotel Adam is assailed by a swarm of Medanese mosquitoes in his bed.

Mozzies never take any interest in me but your Medan mozzies made quite a frenzied exception.

The side effects of a visit to Medan can even last for weeks afterwards, as Adam some time after returning to Jakarta is struck down by a terrible illness put down to the workings of an intestinal parasite of Medan origin, but happily

I didn’t get malaria

He ends on a suitably bitter note [1]

I’ve never been so happy to board a plane as I was the one that whisked me away from you, Medan. And I never want to see you again.

Medan, Worst City Ever is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book domestic flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesia hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Tourist Visa Improvements

VisaAt long last Indonesia improves its often criticised visa on arrival system.

At long last (and almost three years after VP Jusuf Kalla first announced it), it seems that Indonesia’s Immigration Department has listened to the complaints of international tourists regarding the visa on arrival scheme.

Many complaints centred on its short duration (maximum 30 days) – which made travel to more remote parts of the archipelago virtually impossible. Some tourists also suggested very long queues at airports to buy them was not exactly the most positive or welcoming first impression of Indonesia, particularly after a long flight.

Long Airport Queue
Typically Long Queues At An Indonesian Airport’s Immigration Counter

Improvement #1: Visas On Arrival Up To 60 Days

As reported in The Jakarta Post, starting 26 January 2010 tourists can now have their $US25 30-day tourist visas extended by another 30 days.

However, the details are not yet forthcoming from the Department of Immigration about where/how this could be done, nor how much it would cost. It suggests tourists – like their expat brethren – may need to use an immigration agent/fixer/broker to make it happen in a reasonable period of time.

$10 Visa on Arrival
Vale or Good Riddance?
The $10 7-day visa on arrival

It was also announced that the $US10 7-day visa would no longer be offered.

Improvement #2: Save Time, Buy Your Visa On The Plane

The same newspaper has also reported that Indonesia’s national airline Garuda Indonesia also recently introduced a new visa service at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan. It allows visitors to avoid long queues at the airport’s visa counters and buy their visas on arrival before they arrive, i.e. before they board the plane.

Narita Visa Queue
The much shorter Visa On Arrival queue at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan

It is not known whether this service will also be rolled out to airports in the 63 other countries eligible for VOAs, or to other airlines flying to Indonesia.

Jero Wacik
The Happy Tourism Minister Jero Wacik,
Possibly Before He Visited Ngurah Rai Airport, Bali

However, as Tourism Minister Mr Jero Wacik recently discovered on an impromptu visit to the international terminal at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport, it would probably be a good idea.

What I wonder is:

  1. Do these changes make you more likely, just as likely or less likely to visit Indonesia compared to the old system? Why?
  2. What would you prefer – shorter queues at Indonesia’s airports or free visas? And do you think either of these will happy any day soon?

Tourist Visa Improvements is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, which also features listings of Indonesia hotels, special discounts on Bali hotels, Kuta hotels, Ubud hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Lounging Around in Indonesia

LoungeMeasuring up Indonesia’s many airport executive lounges, waiting around in luxury.

One of the few things I like about Indonesian airports is that executive lounges are in general much less exclusive and cheaper to visit.

Where visiting the executive lounge overseas can cost hundreds of dollars in an annual membership, in Indonesia all you need is the correct type of credit card, VIP mobile phone membership, premium bank account or (with Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air, Mandala Air) an executive class/priority ticket. Or you just pay a nominal fee in cash, often about Rp50 000.

Garuda Citi Bank Indosat VIP Card
Mandala Card Rp50 000 small

What you need: some ways to enter an executive lounge

Plus – as many Indonesian airports are often dirty, very crowded and/or in poor condition – the benefits of visiting an executive lounge are perhaps greater than normal.

You can:

free food

  • Enjoy unlimited free food and drinks. (Like in other countries, food at airports is often very expensive, so the price of a meal could be the same as entrance to the lounge).
  • Comfy Chair

  • Sit in comfort. (Despite Indonesia being home to a major furniture export industry, airports’ seating is often insufficient, uncomfortable and/or dirty).
  • Get extra value for money when flights are delayed. (Late departures are a frequent occurrence for domestic flights, especially during the wet season – Nov to Mar).
  • In some lounges, free wi-fi internet or computers with internet access, phone chargers, newspapers, magazines, etc. (Facilities you almost never find elsewhere in airports).
  • CGK toilets
    A 3-star toilet at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Jakarta

  • Use a clean airport toilet. (Many airports’ public toilets are often dirty, smelly and/or out of order).
  • Enjoy other priceless benefits: some rare peace and quiet, good customer service, along with personal space and anonymity/not being stared at. (For tourists and expats at airports, the latter two can be an issue; the first two can be problems for everyone).

However, I am aware from my own experiences travelling in Indonesia that quality at some airport executive lounges is ummmm… variable.

So let’s rate the best and the worst of Indonesia’s airport executive lounges, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Please include the following information:

Name and/or Location: It’s handy to know, especially when there are multiple lounges in the one area. With the latter, please be as specific as possible.

What you need to enter: Which airline’s or credit card’s executive lounge, and/or how much you need to pay.

Special features: What you particularly liked/disliked about it

Footnote: If you travel by train, you may not be aware that many trains stations also have executive lounges also. However, these are just nicer waiting rooms with e.g. a/c, nicer chairs and a communal TV.

Lounging Around in Indonesia is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, which also features listings of Indonesia hotels, special discounts on Bali hotels, Kuta hotels, Ubud hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.