Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 1: Introduction + Jakarta

Overview and overall impression
I don't travel frequently across Indonesia. There are a number of reasons for that, such as for instance the tourist infrastructure in Indonesia which is not that good (it can take a lot of time and money to reach certain destinations in Indonesia) and security issues (at the turn of the millenium Indonesia was a bit unsafe for travellers). I'm catching up slowly, making brief trips to Indonesia every now and then.
This time I decided to visit Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and see an long time friend there. Jakarta is not exactly a tourist destination, in fact few travel to Jakarta to see the city. There is actually not that much to see in Jakarta because a lot of colonial era buildings have been demolished to make place for new developments. What is interesting about Jakarta are all those malls and shopping complexes, very elegant and comfortable inside. If you limit yourself to the "good" areas of Jakarta (in the centre near the business district), a stay in Jakarta can be quite nice. Nevertheless, it does not make too much sense to spend more than a couple of days in Jakarta unless you have a reason to stay longer.

The hotel in which I stayed was not cheap, but then it was also a four star establishment with a great room. Taxis are cheap, but food surprisingly is more expensive than in neighbouring Malaysia or Thailand. Food is actually quite pricey, especially considering average Indonesian wages. I was also told from my Indonesian friend that travelling by plane in Malaysia is much cheaper than in Indonesia.

I didn't bother trying out the local specialities and ate mostly international food in a variety of restaurants.

The place where I stayed was a nice four star establishment in Jakarta's business district. Then I enquired about those islands

Money  / Exchange rate (August 2012)
1 Euro = 11700 IDR
1 Euro = 1.25 USD
For current exchange rates check the Universal Currency Converter.

ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a Cirrus/Maestro ATM card. 

Mobile phones and prepaid cards
I bought a SIM card from Tri, a 3G operator, for use in my smartphone. Nothing spetacular, the usual combination of Internet flat rate (this time 500MB) and airtime for voice calls. Coverage was good in Jakarta.

Internet access
I used the Internet access of the hotel (WLAN) and the 3G one of the smartphone.

No rain, dry weather with a lot of haze.

Health / Vaccinations
The usual set of vaccinations for the tropics.

VISA / Entry requirements
Visa on arrival at the airport in Jakarta, costing USD 25, payable in a number of currencies. Probably only available for western tourists and tourists from developed countries (just guessing). The funny thing is that you cannot pay this visa in local currency.

This was something which concerned me before the trip, but then nothing weird happened during my stay.

Recommended things
  • The National museum in Jakarta
  • All those flashy malls and shopping complexes, especially the high end ones.

Things to avoid
  • The traffic on the streets during an average day. I made the mistake of trying to get out of Jakarta on a national holiday when half of Indonesia was on the streets.

Getting around
I was lucky to visit Jakarta during a holiday period, when there we fewer people in Jakarta and less traffic on the streets. Otherwise, on normal days, my friend told me that traffic in Jakarta is very, very heavy. I used taxis (quite cheap and metered) to get around.

15.8: Kuala Lumpur -> Jakarta
Hotel HARRIS Suites fx Sudirman, Jakarta. 68 Euro (788000 IDR, rate of booking.com) for a nice room with everything on the 45th floor of the FX skyscraper. The room has everything (LCD TV, A/C, fridge, electronic safe, phone, free WLAN, furniture, carpet floor etc. But when I show the room to my wife (via a video call) she complains that it is very simple. This is true, because the room is not as filled with stuff as for instance the Boulevard hotel in KL and is far less decorated. In fact, for 68 Euro in Indonesia you could expect a bit more. But otherwise the room is ok and perfectly adequate. Breakfast not included (costs 90000 IDR extra). Adjacent to the hotel there is a small mall.
Weather: sunny in KL and in Jakarta. Lots of haze in Jakarta, which makes the sky turn grey. Surprisingly not too hot in Jakarta (or perhaps I'm acclimatised), despite the fact that we are in the middle of the dry season.

I get up early at 6am in order to catch the 7am minibus to the airport. Later I regret that I didn't catch the later 8am minibus, which would have allowed me to sleep one more hour. But I received an email of Airasia yesterday warning to be at the airport at least three hours before the departure, because of possible delays and congestion at the airport (Hari Raya holiday in Malaysia).

Anyway, I'm at this airport early but the flight leaves with some delay and lands in Jakarta at 11:30am local time. I lose some time getting the visa on arrival. This is actually not a visa. You only have to pay the equivalent of 25 USD in one of eight possible currencies which include the USD, the Euro, the Hong Kong dollar, the Australian dollar, the New Zealand dollar but not the Thai baht.

Since I don't have enough of the suitable currency (why don't they take Malaysian ringgit or other currencies?), I have to get out of immigration, change some money in a bank, then get in again, ending up being the last one to get the passport chopped.

Once beyond immigration the next challenge is getting some cash. The ATMs here only dispense a max. of 2 million IDR (=172 Euro), too little since my bank charges me a fee of 6 Euro for each international cash withdrawal. I guess I have to change bank. So I simply change some Euro cash at a money changer.

Then I try to buy a SIM card, but the store at the airport is out of stock. So I simply catch a taxi to the hotel. This is of the Silver Bird family and charges a fixed fee of 170000 IDR for the trip to the hotel.

Along the way to the hotel I see a relatively well developed country, with good infrastructure. I was expecting a messy environment, but in fact there is not much difference between this part of Indonesia and Malaysia.

The trip to the hotel takes about 45 minutes, mostly due to the traffic jam. Once in the hotel I settle down and explore a bit the area around the hotel. I head to a nearby mall and buy a SIM card (Tri) for my phone. Some discussion with the people in this mall who try to sell me more airtime than I can possibly use. In the end I pay 32000 IDR for a SIM card with 23000 IDR of airtime.

Supposedly this SIM card offers no Internet, but once I use it I have very well connectivity to the Internet. The only problem is that within a couple of hours this SIM card has no balance on it anymore. Probably it was the data services which ate up all airtime. I should have bought the 500MB internet package for 35000 IDR, but in shop they were insisting that I buy an additional 65000 IDR of airtime for calls which I can't possibly use since one minute of calls is just 230 IDR and I'm not planning to make hours of calls. When I asked for a smaller voice airtime package they said it was not available, then however I was able to buy 20000 IDR of airtime with supposedly no Internet package.

In the evening I call an Indonesian friend and we agree to meet tomorrow.

Copyright 2012 Alfred Molon