International Business / Spotlight on Indonesia : It May Be a Nation of 13,500 Islands, but Most of the Action Takes Place on 3

CAROL SMITH <i> is a free-lance writer based in Pasadena</i>

Although Indonesia is a vast republic of more than 13,500 islands spanning 3,000 miles from Asia to Australia, business travelers focus on the three most developed and more heavily populated islands: Java, Bali and Sumatra.

Doing Business

Government offices in Indonesia are typically open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Private offices and banks are typically open later, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The primary industries on Bali are tourism and handicrafts. On the densely populated island of Java, in contrast, there is a variety of industries. Jakarta, the country’s capital, has car assembly plants and shipbuilding; Bandung, the country’s third-largest city, has aircraft manufacturing. In addition, Batam, a tiny island near Singapore, has a burgeoning international tourism industry complete with luxury hotels and golf courses, as well as automotive manufacturing.


Business (and leisure) travelers can stay in Indonesia up to 60 days with a passport and a return ticket. For longer stays, a visa is required, said Flamad Siregar, a spokesman for the Indonesian Consulate in Los Angeles. Business visas are available through the consulate office ((213) 383-5126).

Business customs are similar to those in the United States, with many negotiations taking place over meals or on golf courses, Siregar said. Many business people in Indonesia speak some English, though translators may be needed, he said. Hotels can usually supply one.

Getting There

There are at least a dozen airports in Indonesia, but the three major airports for international arrivals are in Jakarta, on Bali and in the city of Medan in the northern part of Sumatra.


Garuda Indonesia Airlines, the national airline, flies direct from Los Angeles to Bali and Jakarta on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Flights to Biak, a remote town on one of the eastern islands, leave Friday and Sunday.

Singapore Airlines flies daily to Jakarta, Bali and Medan, connecting through Singapore. Japan Airlines flies daily to Jakarta and on to Bali through Tokyo. China Airlines flies five times a week through Taipei to Jakarta (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday) and three times a week (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday) through Taipei to Bali.

Malaysian Airlines, which connects through Kuala Lumpur, has six flights a week from Los Angeles to Jakarta and Bali. (Flights leave every day but Wednesday and Friday, with two flights on Thursday.)

Domestic air travel in Indonesia is largely handled by the Indonesian airlines Merpati and Bouraq. Garuda, which primarily handles international routes, flies only a few domestic routes.


Getting Around

Though there is a rail system on the islands of Java, Madura and Sumatra, the easiest way to get around in Indonesia is to rent a car, Siregar said. (An international driver’s license is required.) For getting around cities, you can either drive or take taxis. If you use a taxi, however, make sure you show the driver on a map where you want to go, so he doesn’t take you far out of the way to increase the fare, he said.

Buses, which are extremely crowded, are best avoided.



The currency unit in Indonesia is the rupiah (Rp.). Traveler’s checks and credit cards are accepted in all major cities. If you plan to travel to outlying areas, however, it’s best to take cash in smaller denominations (1,000 and 5,000 Rp. notes). When exchanging money, private money changers such as hotels often give better rates than banks, Siregar said. But it’s best to shop around.


There are a range of classes of hotels in all of Indonesia’s major cities, Siregar said. Jakarta, for example, has eight five-star hotels, including the Hilton, two Hyatts, a Shangri-La, the Meridien, the Regent, Borobudur Intercontinental and Mandarin Oriental. Keep in mind that government taxes add about 20% to quoted room rates.

In Bandung, the Savoy Homann Hotel (an Art Deco classic), the Grand Preanger Hotel and the Panghegar are considered the finest hotels in the city.



According to the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, a few areas in Indonesia have civil unrest and require special permits for travel. Unrest has occurred in Aceh, a province on the northern tip of Sumatra, and in East Timor, a province 300 miles north of Australia. Permits and information about civil instability are available from police in Indonesia.

As they are in many international destinations, pickpocketing and theft are problems in major tourist and urban areas. Otherwise, the crime rate in Jakarta is considered moderate. The loss or theft of a passport should be reported to the police and the U.S. Embassy. The embassy is in Jakarta at Jalan Merdeka Selatan 5 (telephone: 62-21-360-360). There are also U.S. Consulate general offices in Medan at Jalan Immam Bonjol 13 (62-61-322-200) and in Surabaya at Jalan Dr. Sutomo 33 (62-31-576-880).

For updated travel information, you can also contact the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs at (202) 647-9225.