Indonesia is a very safe country to travel around, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Most of the crime that affects people in Indonesia is universal and opportunistic such as pickpockets in markets and crowded places, bag snatching and distraction thefts.
Protect Your Valuables
There are plenty of things you can do to ensure that you don’t become a target, most of it common sense. Keep your cash in a money belt and don’t go flashing a wallet full of money around. Just keep a small amount to cover immediate needs in your pocket and replenish it as required. On the subject of pockets, deep pockets with buttons or zips are highly recommended. When walking along roads or footpaths, carry handbags and shoulder bags on the opposite side to the road to prevent drive-by snatches. Don’t leave expensive camera’s or phones in plain sight or where someone walking or scootering by could easily do a snatch and grab, and lock your door when getting into a taxi to avoid bag snatchers at traffic lights. Use hotel lock boxes if available. Credit card fraud is a particular problem in Indonesia so use your judgement before using your card somewhere. For more on this topic, read our article on Keeping Your Valuables Safe.
In some area’s, there have been reports of gangs blocking roads and robbing the occupants of cars and scooter riders that are forced to stop. Most robberies occur after dark and are indiscriminant – locals are as much a risk as tourists. The message here is avoid riding around after dark, except in well built up areas where there are lots of people around. I should point out that informal road blocks aren’t uncommon in Indonesia, particularly around Ramadan when drivers passing through are requested to make a small donation to the local mosque. So if you encounter one of these road blocks when you’re out an about during the day, don’t panic. It’s unlikely to be a robbery; just fundraising Indonesian style!
The high cost of imported liquor has led to a flourishing illegal brewing industry, particularly arak, a hard liquor distilled from palm sap or rice. It can be highly alcoholic, as much as 50%, but more worrying is the fact it’s often produced in back yard operations with dubious standards. The consumption of arak, sometimes unwittingly, has led to a spate of methanol poisoning which has caused blindness, irreversible brain damage and in some cases death. In some bars, clubs and restaurants arak is sometimes offered as a straight shooter or mixed with legal alcohol and fruit juice into a cocktail. The low price of the beverage is usually a dead giveaway that arak or some other local brew is involved. Better to stick with bottled beer.
Drink spiking is another unfortunate occurrence but just as at home, don’t leave drinks unattended and never accept drinks from strangers. Most occurrences of methanol poisoning and drink spiking have occurred in bars and clubs in Kuta and Legian (Bali) and on the Gili Islands (northwest of Lombok) but other places are by no means immune. Bottom line, be wary and if you suspect methanol poisoning or drink spiking, seek immediate medical attention.
On another serious topic, be aware that the Indonesian government takes a very dim view of drug taking. Sentences are harsh and include the death penalty for trafficking. Your foreign nationality does not make you immune from punishment. You shouldn’t need drugs to enjoy your trip to Indonesia anyway!