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The Just Student Jobs Country guide for gap year travel in South East Asia - Indonesia

Where to Go - South East Asia

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Brunei | Cambodia | Indonesia | Malaysia | Myanmar | Singapore | Vietnam


Population : 237.5 million

Literacy rate : 90%

Life expectancy at birth : 70.46 yrs

Infant mortality rate : 25.68 deaths/1,000 live births

Population growth rate : 1.175%

GDP growth rate : 6.3%

GDP per capita : £1,887

Unemployment : 9.6%

Inflation : 6.4%

Climate : Tropical, hot and humid, can be more moderate in highlands

Time : Indonesia spans three time zones:

Bangka, Billiton, Java, West and Central Kalimantan, Madura and Sumatra: GMT + 7 (West), GMT + 8 (Central), GMT + 9 (East).

Bali, Flores, South and East Kalimantan, Lombok, Sulawesi, Sumba, Sumbawa and Timor: GMT + 8.

Aru, Irian Jaya, Kai, Moluccas and Tanimbar: GMT + 9.

Electricity : Generally 220 volts AC, 50Hz, but 110 volts AC, 50Hz, in some areas.

Language : Malay, English, Dutch, Javanese.

Capital city : Jakarta.

Currency : Indonesian Rupiah (as of 29/6/08 £1/ 18,275 Indonesian Rupiah.


The British Embassy in Jakarta is at

With terrain ranging from idyllic uninhabited white sand islands to the stinking throng of the endless traffic in Jakarta Indonesia is a country of extremes. A polyglot nation, bound together via the mantra, 'Bhinneka Tunggal Ika' (translating as 'many yet one') extreme cultural divergence exists here. On a natural sphere the archipelago offers incredible and often unique diversity in the shape of active volcanic ranges, endangered Sumatran tigers, elephants and orang utans as well as Komodo dragon lizards. Travelling around the archipelago is easy by boat making the country an incredibly rich place to explore. Spending a gap year here will almost certainly be a life changing experience.

Indonesia is formed from largest island group in the world, with 13,677 islands it is also home to the fourth largest population in the world and the biggest Islamic population globally. The most orthodox area is the North Sumatra region with Islamic practice elsewhere including influences from Animist and Buddhist religions. The beautiful island of Bali, is an exception to this rule with 94% of the population following the Hindu faith.

Indonesia finally ousted its Dutch occupiers in 1949 although the country officially declares it's independence in 1945. Having colonised the archipelago back in the C17 as the Dutch East Indies the occupying force was reluctant to leave and it took all the efforts of the much revered President Sukarno to win independence. In 1965 Sukarno's former military chief, the now infamous, Suharto, seized power from the ailing president. After 40 years of despotic rule under President Suharto (1968 to 1998) the country entered the recent period of democracy impoverished and facing many challenges. Progressive economic reforms were forced through during the Asian financial crisis, in which Indonesia was particularly hard hit, and the country is reaping rewards now. The new government of President Yudhoyono's economic reforms have resulted in a large reduction in the debt/gdp ratio, improved foreign exchange reserves and a strong stock market performance. There is still much to be done to allay concerns of foreign investors regarding the country's infrastructure and the distribution of wealth is problematic to solve, mainly as mineral resources are not evenly split between the islands. The challenge of the country's location on the Pacific 'ring of fire' must not be forgotten and relatively frequent volcanic and tectonic disaster here is an extra humanitarian and economic burden on the country. As of June 2008 much of the Aceh province, which had been decimated in the December 2004 tsumani, has been rebuilt. Indonesia is also receiving international assistance in disaster mitigration and early warning systems.

There is much to see in Indonesia. Despite the predominance of Islam here, Borobudur in Java, is home to the largest Buddhist stupa in the world - made from 1.6 million blocks of volcanic rock and sitting on 200 square metres of land. A major tourist attraction here the stupa, built around the 9th century depicts the life of the Buddha. Set against a back drop of lush Javanese plateau further afield brooding dark volcanoes add to the magic. For the scuba diving enthusiast Indonesia has over 54000 km of coast line to enjoy. Tangkoko Batuangus Reserve in North Sulawesi is considered by many divers to be among the best sites in the world. An estimated 3500 species of fish live here, compared to 1500 on the Great Barrier Reef, and a rather diminutive 600 in the Red Sea!

Remarkably well preserved rain forests , brought about by the isolation of many of the islands, are a beacon to the naturalist . Of the 13, 677 Indonesian islands, (oddly the Indonesian government claims 17,000) 6000 are not inhabited by humans. The 'Wallace Line' runs vertically through East and West Indonesia providing a stark divide as to the type of wildlife and plants to be found. On the Western side of the archipelago the flora and fauna is Asian and on the Eastern akin to the Australian continent. The Eastern side is considered more remarkable with rare and incredible species living in the rain forests, including brilliantly plummaged birds of paradise, musang civet cats, babi rusa; a deer like pig and komodo dragons. The largest flower and the tallest flower in the world, the rafflesia arnoldi and the titan arum respectively, can be found here. Rafflesia arnoldi, or corpse flower in light of the rancid smell it uses to attract flies, can weigh around 7kg.

A visit to Camp Leakey orang utan orphan sancturary in Borneo is also an unforgettable experience. Arriving at Kumai by Klotok boat along the Sekonyer river is incredible in its ownright ? crocodiles slither on the banks as monkeys and gibbons swing through the jungle along the 5 hour journey. The young orang utans (meaning man of the forest) ambush your arrival and you are likely to find a big blob of orange fur hugging your back like a back pack.

On a negative note the country has recently been home to sectarian tension and separatism which has undermined political and economic stability as well as severely damaging what had been a vibrant tourist industry as well as a key source of foreign exchange. The Bali bombings in 2002 , which killed 202 people, and subsequent terrorist attacks left the country as something of a no go zone however things are slowly changing with President Yudhoyono's security forces containing fundamentalist tendancies. As of June 2008 no significant terrorist attack has occurred since 2005 and recently the US government lifted its warning regarding travel in Indonesia. The densely populated cities still offer plenty of places where one can get scammed or pick pocketed and care of valuables, keeping your wits about you and haggling are imperative.

Entry requirements

Tourist visas are valid for two months, but don’t work on them. If caught, you will be deported and refused further entry into the country. If arriving as a tourist, show an onward ticket to avoid hassle. You must have a letter confirming employment with which to apply for a work permit from outside the country. As a tourist, you could do this from Singapore.


Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid, Malaria and Yellow Fever.

Tax and Insurance

Tax is around 10%. Get health insurance.

Gap Year Programmes

Click here to find gap year programmes and placements in Indonesia


Map and statistics taken from the CIA World Fact Book.

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