Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Stay Safe & Healthy in Indonesia

AsiaIndonesiaStay Safe & Healthy in Indonesia

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Stay safe in Indonesia

Indonesia has been and continues to be hit by all sorts of plagues: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, terrorism, civil wars, plane crashes, corruption and crime all make the headlines with depressing regularity. However, it is important to keep a sense of proportion and remember the size of Indonesia: a tsunami in Aceh will not cause the slightest ripple along the beaches of Bali, while street battles in restless Central Sulawesi would be irrelevant among the jungles of Papua.

Unlike many other Southeast Asian countries, scams are relatively rare, especially in the less touristy areas. However, be equipped with common sense as this practice can be common in places with a large influx of foreign visitors, such as Bali.

Crime in Indonesia

The crime rate has increased in recent years, but fortunately it remains mostly non-violent and firearms are rare. Robberies, thefts and pickpocketing are common in Indonesia, especially in markets, on public transport and at pedestrian crossings. Avoid flashing jewellery, gold watches, MP3 players or large cameras. Thieves have been known to steal laptops, PDAs and mobile phones at internet hotspots.

Crime is rampant in local and long-distance public transport (buses, trains, boats). Do not accept drinks from strangers as they may be laced with drugs. Choose your taxis carefully in cities (hotel taxis are often best), lock the doors when inside and avoid using mobile phones, MP3 players, PDAs or laptops at traffic lights or in traffic jams.

Do not put valuable items in checked baggage as they may be stolen by baggage handlers. Do not leave valuable items in an empty hotel room and use the hotel’s locker instead of the room safe. Do not withdraw large amounts of cash from banks or ATMs. Guard your belongings carefully and consider carrying a money clip instead of a wallet.

Corruption in Indonesia

Indonesia is notorious for corruption. Officals sometimes can ask for uang suap (bribes), tips, or “gifts” – Indonesian phrases are uang kopi or uang rokok, meaning literally “coffee money” and “cigarette money” – in order to boost up their meager wages. Acting as if you don’t understand them sometimes might actually work. Some officials have been known to ask for furniture or anything your company sells, or for “blue” films. Even members of the Ministry of Religion have been known to extort money from newly married couples of mixed nationalities. In general, be polite, smile, ask for an official receipt for all the “fees” you are supposed to pay, more politeness and more smiles and there will be no problems. Keep calm and be patient. If you feel you have been overcharged, you should write a polite letter of complaint or request to the person’s boss. Many expatriates have done this with positive results, including a formal apology and refund of the money, and some offices will expedite the matter for you in the future just to avoid another loss of face. Even if you are dealing with immigration or the police, for example, it is best to know all the laws that affect you and bring a photocopy with you. It is not uncommon for them not to know, or at least pretend to know, the laws that directly affect them, and some have the audacity to throw a thick book of laws on the table and demand that you show them the law you are referring to.

Standard payment rate for minor offenses ( not carrying passport, losing exit card, small or imaginary traffic violations) are 50,000 Rp. It is common for the police to ask for silly amounts at first or threaten you with going to the station, but stay calm and they will be more reasonable. Also note that if your taxi/bus/car driver is pulled over, a fine or bribe is not your problem and it is best not to get involved. (If it is clear that the police acted unreasonably, your driver will certainly not mind if you compensate him afterwards).

A single bribe can lead to a seemingly never-ending chain of demands, even if all you wanted to do was give a thank-you gift. Many government officials still consider it their right to receive such money and feel not an ounce of shame or guilt; indeed, they can be outrageously brazen if you fall for them. Just say no.

Carrying identification papers is important. However, it is recommended that if an officer on the street asks for your passport, for example, you present a photocopy instead. Some officials have been known to hold documents hostage to make sure they do what they want you to do.

Civil wars and terrorism in Indonesia

There are a number of provinces in Indonesia in which separatist organizations have taken up armed struggle, particularly in Aceh and Papua. But in 2005, after the 2004 tsunami, Aceh agreed to be a special region of Indonesia with its Sharia law and Aceh is like a state but not a country. Moreover, in Maluku, the central part of Sulawesi, sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shiites or Ahmadiyyas, as well as between the local population and transmigrants from Java/Madura, occur frequently. Violent demonstrations are common during elections in Indonesia, and the Indonesian military has also been known to use violence against protesting crowds. Watch the breaking news for updates as conflict breaks out. In 2015, general elections are held on the same day in many areas and open campaigning is being reduced to cut costs, reducing tensions.

Although most demonstrations and riots take place in Jakarta, provincial capitals and even smaller towns are not immune. In case you see them, avoid it and go to another part of the city or return to your hotel. Bali with Balinese tourist concern is always quieter than the other location of Indonesia.

While the vast majority of unrest in Indonesia is a purely local affair, terrorist bombings targeting Western interests have also occurred in Bali and Jakarta, most notably the 2002 bombing in Kuta that killed 202 people, including 161 tourists, as well as the Australian Embassy and the J.W. Marriott Hotel was bombed twice. Bombings of non-tourist sites also occur, but mostly use low-yield bombs. After the 2002 bombings with about 1.2 tonnes of explosives, there are no more serious bombings and individual bombings (sometimes unrelated to a specific group) perpetrate bombings with less than five kilograms of explosives and the target is no longer tourists but police or government offices. To minimise the risk, avoid all tourist-oriented nightclubs and restaurants without strong security measures.

Still, you are far more likely to die in a road accident or from a tropical disease than from a random terrorist attack in Indonesia, so while you should be cautious, there is no need to be paranoid.

Drugs in Indonesia

Visitors are greeted at airports with cheery “Death to Drug Traffickers” signs, and recent cases have seen lengthy prison sentences for simple possession. In one high-profile case, nine Australian heroin dealers (known as the “Bali 9”) were caught and two of them were executed, while the other seven remain in prison. While other foreigners were executed for drug trafficking, drugs are still widespread.

The most common is marijuana (known as ganja, gels or cimeng), which is not only sold to tourists but also used as food in some parts of the country, especially in Aceh. At some popular tourist destinations, such as Kuta Beach, you may be repeatedly offered drugs for sale.

Heavy drugs are widely used in the nightlife scene, in particular in Jakarta and Bali, as well as elsewhere. Ecstasy, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine are widely used and punished just as harshly by the Indonesian police.

Magic mushrooms are openly advertised in parts of Bali and Lombok and although the Indonesian legal position on this is unclear, purchase and consumption is unwise.

It is highly advisable to steer clear as arrests and drug busts are commonplace and you really don’t want to get involved with the Indonesian justice system; thanks to the anti-corruption campaign, you can no longer count on getting bribed and escaping a harsh or even far worse punishment. You are better off going to Amsterdam if you want to get high.

Natural disasters in Indonesia

Indonesia is a chain of highly volcanic islands scattered along the Ring of Fire, so earthquakes are frequent and tsunamis and volcanic eruptions all too common. On 26 December 2004, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake struck the coast of Aceh, sending tsunami waves up to 30 metres high across the Indian Ocean. Hundreds of thousands died and many more were displaced. Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta spews ash almost every year. Some years the ash reaches far into the city of Yogyakarta and deadly hot smoke cascades into villages, as happened in 2010. Most of the country is unfortunately prone to this type of disaster, with the exception of the east coast of Sumatra, the north coast of Java, Kalimantan, South Sulawesi and South Papua.

From a realistic point of view, there is very little you can do to avoid any of these risks. In the event of an earthquake, you must be prepared. But volcanoes, unlike earthquakes, are much more predictable. The local media and authorities usually have a good warning of how active the volcano is and will be. Stay away from areas around the volcano and change your travel plans if the situation is imminent.

In case you are near volcanic activity – pay attention to media reports about where it is dangerous, check warning signs and escape routes in hotels. Always look out for areas of volcanic activity and evacuate if told to do so. However, if you get caught in a cloud of volcanic ash from a distant eruption, cover your mouth and nose immediately and then seek shelter in an enclosed place with a strong roof.

During indoor earthquakes, hide under stable objects or run outside if you are near the door, and stay away from high objects outdoors. Any earthquake greater than a magnitude 6.5 that lasts for a long time usually triggers a tsunami warning (usually by siren or loudspeaker). Even if you do not hear a warning, in the event of a persistent and violent quake you should immediately move away from the coast and seek higher ground.

Indonesia is not prone to organised tropical systems, yet heavy rains with thunderstorms and (sometimes swirling) winds can occur, especially during the rainy season when they are fairly frequent. Landslides occur on mountain slopes or cliffs, and flooding in lowlands or former deltas can be serious and persistent. Although there are rarely weather reports in any form of media, it is a good idea to pack an umbrella if it is supposed to rain, or to watch for any signs of an incoming storm, such as dark, piled-up and puffy clouds.

During heavy rain, when volcanic ash accumulates in recently erupted volcanoes, a lahar dingin (a very dangerous mudslide with stones and boulders) can occur.

Wildlife danger in Indonesia

Crocodiles and poisonous snakes are found throughout Indonesia, although they are rare in most areas. Cobras and green tree snakes are generally the most common. As most locals do not know the difference between venomous and harmless snakes, snakes are aggressively slaughtered in many places, and in some places they are sold as food, especially cobra and python meat.

Komodo dragons can be very dangerous if harassed. They are only found on the island of Komodo and some neighbouring islands of Flores.

Scorpions, whip scorpions, crabs, spiders and certain other animals, including weevils, can be found all over the country and, while they can be unpleasant, they are generally not fatal. Nevertheless, seek professional help if you are bitten or develop a mysterious rash.

Large predators are becoming increasingly rare, Sumatran tigers are seriously threatened along with most other large animals, and even small jungle cats are now hard to find. Birds, with the exception of certain species that have little commercial value, are absent from areas once flooded with a variety of species.

LGBT travelers in Indonesia

Attitudes towards homosexuality vary widely. There are no laws against homosexuality in Indonesia, with the notable exception of Aceh, where it is illegal only for Muslims. Cosmopolitan Jakarta and Bali boast gay nightclubs, and bencong or banci (transvestites and transsexuals) seem to have a special place in Indonesian culture, even to the extent of being hosts and MCs of television shows, as well as special districts where these types of pekerja seks komersial {PSK} (prostitute or gigolo) offer their services – albeit illegally. However, in strictly Islamic areas such as Aceh, homosexuals can legally be punished with the cane, although the law only applies to Muslims. In general, gay visitors should err on the side of discretion; while violence against homosexuals is a blessed rarity, you may still face nasty comments and unwanted attention.

Stay healthy in Indonesia

The bad news is that any known disease can occur anywhere in Indonesia – the good news is that you most likely won’t be travelling there. Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary for Java or Bali, but is advisable if you are travelling to remote areas of Sumatra, Borneo, Lombok or eastern areas for long periods. Dengue fever can be transmitted anywhere and the use of insect repellent (DEET) and mosquito nets is highly advisable. Note that the usual advice of setting the air-conditioning to the lowest setting to deter mosquitoes doesn’t work – they just fly under the covers and enjoy your body heat while sucking up a bloody cocktail; a fan on medium or high is much more effective. But all efforts are no guarantee that you are safe, vacinne is in trial in Thousand Islands people, the best way to overcome before and during infection is always drink plenty of water due to one of the side effects is internal dehydration (leakage of blood plasma) and sometimes someone never realise s/he has been infected, the virus will last in 5 days due to self limited life, even without any treatment. But if you are infected and recognise it, surely getting a doctor is the best way.

Hepatitis B is also common, especially in Lombok and the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is advisable to get vaccinated before arriving in Indonesia, but hepatitis B cannot be transmitted through food. Food hygiene is often questionable and vaccination against hepatitis A and possibly typhoid is a wise precaution. Both types of hepatitis vaccination should be administered 6 months before your trip. Seek medical attention if apparent traveller’s diarrhoea does not subside within a few days or is accompanied by fever.

Air quality in major cities, especially Jakarta and Surabaya, is poor, and the seasonal haze (June to October) from forest fires in Borneo and North Sumatra can also cause breathing problems. Remember, to bring your medication and your nebulizer/inhaler if you have asthma.

Polio has now been eradicated in Indonesia. Bird flu has also made headlines, but outbreaks are sporadic and limited to people handling live or dead poultry in rural areas. Eating cooked chicken seems to be safe.

In many cases, the local Indonesian healthcare system does not meet Western standards. While a short-term stay in an Indonesian hospital or medical centre for simple health problems is unlikely to be noticeably different from a Western facility, serious and critical medical emergencies will push the system to its limits. However, some hospitals in major cities have received international accreditation. In fact, many wealthy Indonesians often opt to travel to neighbouring Singapore to receive more serious medical care. SOS-AEA Indonesia (24-hour emergency number +62 21 7506001) is specialized in treating expats as well as having English staff on duty, but the charges are quite expensive. In any case, travel medical insurance that includes medical evacuation back to the home country is highly recommended. Before going to a hospital for non-emergencies, it is advisable to find out which hospitals are good and which are not.

In case you require a specific medication, you should bring the medication in a container/bottle of it, accompanied by the doctor’s prescription, if possible. Indonesian customs officials may ask for the medicine. If you need additional medication in Indonesia, take the container to an apotek (pharmacy) and mention the active ingredients of the medicine if possible. Medicines are usually manufactured locally under different brand names but contain the same ingredients, the ingredients are always written in smaller type next to the brand names. Pay attention to the correct dosage of the medicine and be aware that small toko obat (not apotek) knowingly sell “recycled” (expired) medicine at low prices.

For routine traveller complaints, you can often find dokter (doctors) in the cities. These small clinics are usually walk-in, although you should expect a long wait. Most clinics open in the afternoon (from 16:00). Emergency rooms (UGD/IGD) in hospitals are always open (24 hrs). Most hospitals have outpatient clinics (08:00-16:00). In some hospitals, pre-payment, payment on account or a certain amount with a blocked credit card is expected for treatment.

Be warned that the doctors/nurses may not speak English well enough to describe an appropriate diagnosis or may be reluctant to give one. Be patient and take a good phrase book or translator with you. Ask for the name and dosage of medicines prescribed, as some doctors over-prescribe to inflate their own commission, antibiotics are often prescribed inappropriately, and vitamins are often given generously.

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