The next time you’re planning a vacation, you might want to consider a trip to Indonesia, a fascinating country of incredible beauty and diversity. The nation is home to more than 300 distinct ethnic groups who speak nearly 750 different languages and dialects. These people have grown together to become one of the most populous nations in the world, with more than 250 million residents. That diversity extends to the natural surroundings and its animal residents. As a part of the Ring of Fire, the nation is home to around 400 volcanoes. Meanwhile its jungle contains some of the most wildly varied flora and fauna in the world. In other words, if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind trip to an exotic destination, then you can’t do much better than Indonesia. Of course, like any country, there are certain tips and tricks to avoiding trouble when you’re abroad. Here are some things not to do if you ever find yourself traveling to Indonesia.
1. Don’t Lose Your Cool, It’s Rude
Raising your voice in public is considered offensive among the Indonesian people. Shouting or causing public outbursts is not only shameful for yourself, it’s embarrassing for the people around you. If you find yourself at odds with someone, it’s best to settle your issues quietly, in private, rather than air your concerns for all to hear.
2. Be Respectful of the Country’s Religious Practices
Eighty-five percent of the country identifies as Muslim, but those practices are tempered by centuries of influence from Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. It’s an eclectic and fascinating religious belief and you should be respectful while you’re in the country. In addition, since the practice of various religions is spread pretty evenly throughout the country, there’s a general feeling of “You do you, I’ll do me” when it comes to religious practices.
3. Don’t Forget About the World’s Biggest Boneheads
The odds of getting hit with an ISIL-sponsored terrorist attack is pretty slim, but it could happen. An attack in January of 2016 claimed four lives in Jakarta. Since then, one or two smaller attacks have taken place. Again, it probably won’t happen, but it’s best to be prepared by knowing where the US Embassy is wherever you might be.
4. Getting Along in Indonesia Is Simple
If you want to endear yourself to most of the population, you need only to keep your voice down, smile, and generally be respectful. Ask permission, say thank you, and throw out a compliment based on what you’ve seen in the country so far.
5. Don’t Leave Populated Areas Late at Night
Small-level crime such as petty theft and even car jacking can occur when you’re in isolated urban areas after dark. As a result, it’s best to stick to the brightly lit, heavily trafficked parts of the country once the sun goes down. There’s more than enough fun to be had there anyway.
6. Memorize the Word ‘Boleh’
If you’d like to convince the Indonesian people that you’re respectful and friendly, simply ask “boleh?” It means, “May I?” and it serves as a kind of catch all when it comes to asking for permission in the country.
7. Don’t Use a Credit Card Unless Absolutely Necessary
Keep some cash on hand to avoid the potential for a credit card scammer who may have tampered with the machine you’re using. Credit card fraud is a growing problem in Indonesia; if you’re not careful, you might end up having some money skimmed from your account while you’re completing your transaction.
8. Don’t Get Impatient
Things in Indonesia run on a much more relaxed schedule than you may expect. As a result, it’s entirely possible that public transport will run late, that your local friend might show up late, etc. Getting upset about this natural occurrence will only cause you stress — because you sure won’t change the way things run in the country.
9. Don’t Get Anxious Around the Villagers
In big cities like Jakarta, the urban types are pretty used to visiting travelers. In smaller towns and villages, however, you might be greeted with some friendly curiosity. Just go with it — the Indonesian people are more apt to treat you like a close friend than a hostile visitor.
10. Don’t Get Into a Taxi on the Street
Call a reputable cab company and have them come pick you up if you opt to use a cab. Travelers who have made the mistake of hopping into the first cab that greets them have been robbed at gunpoint by people pretending to be legitimate taxi drivers.
11. Don’t Forget the Gift if You’re Invited to Someone’s Home
If you have the good fortune to go to an Indonesian home, you should definitely take it. When you show up, however, you should show up with a small gift that’s representative of your home country. It’s considered polite.
12. Don’t Leave Your Drink Unattended in a Club
Urban areas of Indonesia have seen a rash of drink-spiking incidents that are aimed squarely at the unprepared. They happen most commonly at clubs and nightspots populated by tourists — several Indonesian locals and tourists have gotten extremely ill as a result.
13. Don’t Point at Anything With Your Forefinger
Use your right thumb, instead. Using your forefinger is rude and using your left hand for literally anything is offensive because that’s considered the hand that people use to handle their bathroom business.