Facts About Indonesia
Five main islands and thirty smaller archipelagos are home to almost 190 million people, nearly 60 percent of whom live on Java.
Indonesia, like many island strings, was formed by volcanic activity.
Indonesia has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons depending on how far west or east you are: hot and dry, and hot and wet. The rainy season, when the monsoons hit, usually begins in September and ends in April. The hottest months are May through August. Year-round temperatures range from the 70s to 90s Fahrenheit (20s to 30s Celsius), and average humidity can get above 75 percent during the rainier months! The temperatures at higher elevations are typically cooler.
When a coup attempt was made in 1965, a General Suharto organized troops and successfully thwarted a takeover.
Islam is the predominant religion of Indonesia, with Christian populations in some regions (notably Flores and the Lake Toba area of Sumatra) and one island that is Hindu (Bali). Jakarta is home to the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, and signs of Islam are present nearly everywhere you go, from the daily calls to prayer broadcast over loudspeakers five times per day, beginning at 5am, to the month-long Ramadan holiday in February.
Indonesians take their religion seriously. If you claim to be an atheist, be prepared for a debate, and if you say you're Catholic, get ready for questions about where you worship. Indonesians are generally curious about those who don't follow some sort of belief system.
The monetary unit in Indonesia is the rupiah. Keep plenty of small change with you to use for buses, bemos, becaks, etc. Change is hard to come by, so the smaller denomination you can pay with the better. If vendors don't have enough change, you often will get mints or candy instead.
Cost of Living
Indonesia is on the cusp of the Third World. Many areas still are untouched by paved roads or electricity, while others display skylines of satellite antennae and oil refineries. For a Westerner, Indonesia will seem amazingly inexpensive, but goods and services are often unavailable or of poor quality. A meal will run between 2,000RP and 8,000RP. One night's accommodation will range from 1,500RP to 15,000RP, depending on the location and the facilities. The author once paid 500RP per night to stay on the beach with some of the best surfing in the world! Local bus or bemo trips usually run at 400RP. Long-distance bus trips range from 1,500RP for a few hours on a rickety bus with jammed windows to 8,500RP for a twelve-hour journey on a rickety bus with jammed windows. A long haul on a comfortable, air-conditioned bus with reclining seats, say from Bukittingi to Jakarta (including ferry passage between Sumatra and Java) runs roughly 65,000RP. The average rate of pay for English teachers is roughly 7,000RP to 10,000RP per hour. Indonesian instructors get paid considerably less - about 50 percent less than native English-speaking instructors.
The shifting political situation in Indonesia has not created overt problems for foreigners unless they have attempted to involve themselves inappropriately or to photograph demonstrations. You should, however, keep a photocopy of your passport with you at all times, register at the U.S. or Canadian embassy, never let your visa expire, and don't get caught working without a work permit