WHAT TO BRING
Most things are cheaper to buy in Indonesia, but there are also
things that are hard to find. If you shop in Indonesia, do it in a
big town in order to find everything you need.
- Sun lotion is available, but t is easier to bring it.
- It is wise to bring medicines from your own country.
- International driving license can come handy.
- Watertight bag for your camera if you are planning to visit
islands and go by boat.
- Clothes are much cheaper in Indonesia, but big sizes can be
difficult to find.
- Shoes over size 42 are hard to find.
- Mosquito repellants are common and cheap.
- A couple of padlocks can be useful, both for your bag and for
your beach bungalow.
- For surfers bringing their own boards a board bag is
recommended. Also wax for warm waters, some extra leg ropes, a
nose guard for your board for safety, and footwear to get out over
reefs. A repair kit can save hassles. Repair shops for surf boards
are not available.
Most, but not all towns, have at least a modest Hotel or Losmen
(pension). Other words you often see are Penginapan, Wisma, Pondok
Wisata, Guest House, Home Stay, Cottage, Mess, and Bungalow. All of
them are accommodations; Wisma and Mess can sometimes be something
else. Mess Pemda or Pesanggrahan is government owned accommodation,
used by officials on visit. They are normally open for non-officials
also. In most villages, however, there is seldom any proper
accommodation. In such places there is normally a coffee
shop/restaurant (warung) or two that let you sleep for free on the
floor, as long as you eat in the place. Another alternative,
especially in villages without even a restaurant, is to ask the
village head (Kepala Desa). He will surely arrange something for
you. Just remember to try and follow local customs as a way of
showing respect and appreciation. If you are unsure, just ask. It
will be very much appreciated.
A very few places, mainly in areas where foreigners seldom come,
are always “full” when a foreigner wants to rent a room. There can
be several reasons for this. One is that the proprietor doesn’t know
how to treat tourists, or that he finds the obligatory reporting to
the police too bothersome and expensive. It can also be that they
are afraid that the foreigner doesn’t know how to use the bathroom.
There is always a story going around about a tourist who entered the
water container (bak mandi) instead of scooping up water and poring
it over himself outside the container. To enter the container is
utterly disgusting for an Indonesian and very embarrassing for us
tourists that do behave. On Pulau Weh a small hotel didn’t accept
tourists for ten years after such an incident.
Cars drive on the left hand side. Bring an international driving
license. if you have the opportunity, practice some motorcycle
driving before coming. It will likely be useful. Driving in
Indonesia is a special experience, especially in Medan.
Honking with the horn is not a way to show anger as it often is
in Europe. It can mean Hallo Mister or just being a reminder that
the light has turned green, if you do adhere to the traffic lights.
Cycling and riding a motorcycle in North Sumatra is ideal, except
along the main routes out of Medan. The black soot of trucks and
busses will quickly erase the need for sunbathing. On other roads
the traffic is scarce. Helmets are officially obligatory, but seldom
used in the countryside. It can be cold in the mountains, especially
in early mornings and a jacket is recommended for such occasions.
Rain is also common. Cheap and practical rain capes are available in
many shops. Beware of deep potholes, even in major towns. Chickens,
dogs, cats, buffaloes, cows, goats and other animals are everywhere,
so be careful, especially at night. Flat tires are not too uncommon,
but there are repair shops in every village and they do the job very
inexpensively. Gas stations are rather scarce, but gas is also sold
in many small stalls along the road.
DURING THE FASTING MONTH
For a non-Muslim tourist, the Ramadan (the Muslim fasting month)
gives traveling a new dimension. In strict Muslim areas basically
all restaurants and food stalls are closed between sunrise and
sunset. In North Sumatra there is normally always an alternative, as
a big part of the population is non-Muslim. While fasting, not only
food, drink and cigarettes are avoided, but also bad thoughts, lies
and unethical behavior. The Ramadan is a cleansing period for both
the body and the soul. If you are in a Muslim village and need to
eat, drink, or smoke, do not do it in public. It is considered
offensive and inconsiderate towards people who are fasting.