Unusual laws to be aware of in Indonesia

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Indonesia is one of the most popular travel destinations for Australians – Bali in particular is a hot spot for eager holiday-goers.

However, Indonesia’s culture and values are a lot different than those we’re used to in our country, and therefore, certain things that are legal in Australia are not there. Heading to Bali unaware of these laws has landed many Australians in trouble with Indonesian authorities.

These laws and regulations might seem somewhat unusual to you, but it’s important that you respect and follow them in order to have a trouble-free holiday abroad. Here’s what you need to know.

Photo credit Getty/Martin Puddy

Carry identification on you at all times

Don’t go anywhere without your passport or ID (Kartu Ijin Tinggal Sementara or Residents Stay Permit) as you travel throughout Indonesia. Your passport must have six months validity on it otherwise you won’t be allowed into the country.

Make sure you keep your passport in a safe place, however, as pick pockets are common in Indonesia – they know you have to carry identification on you at all times. It might be advantageous to purchase a money belt, and even to keep a photocopy of your passport locked in your safe in your accommodation.

Avoid drugs – no exceptions!

There’s actually nothing too unusual about the fact that drugs are illegal, however, they are not something Indonesian authorities take lightly, so it’s an important one for us to highlight. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you are caught with or using drugs you will receive a harsh punishment.

Having possession of weed, heroin and cocaine (aka, Group 1 drugs) can get you a heavy fine or a couple years to life in prison depending on how much you’re caught with. However, if you’re convicted of trafficking drugs, you cold receive the death penalty. If you’re thinking, “that would never happen to me,” think again. Australian citizens have both been imprisoned and sentenced to execution for these crimes.

It’s important to note that Kuta is a destination still popular for drug dealers or undercover narcotics officers trying to trick you into purchasing drugs. Often, their sales pitch will come in a whisper. If an officer sees you listening to a drug dealer, you could be in some trouble.

Instead of drugs, reach for a delicious and refreshing Bintang!

Photo credit Getty/R.M. Nunes

Refrain from gambling

Gambling, aka punting, is illegal in Indonesia. That’s because, for the most part, gambling is run by gangs. However, you’ll want to avoid gambling anyway, as a lot of the games are rigged so foreigners end up owing lots of money. If you lose and are unable to pay, the gangs won’t hold back from violence to settle the debt.

Worst of all, because gambling is illegal, you won’t be able to seek help from the authorities. Approaching them could get in further trouble as you’ve engaged in an illegal action in the first place. To help you stay safe, note that gangs typically target single males travelling alone.

Staying safe in Indonesia

Smartraveller currently has Indonesia’s safety level at a high degree of caution. However, this could change by the time you choose to travel, so you should always double check the site before your trip.

Otherwise, if you’re travelling to Indonesia, it’s important that you keep these unusual laws at the front of your mind. Disrespecting the culture could put you in serious danger. Religion is highly valued in Indonesia, so make sure your actions are reflect the local traditions especially if you are planning on visiting a religious area.

For example, if you are going to a temple, it’s often customary to cover yourself with something like a sarong. Or, if you’re visiting destinations like Gili Trawangan, note that it’s disrespectful for women to show off too much skin, especially when walking around the village.

Additionally, be sure to pick up travel insurance to help protect you against the things that could go wrong on your trip that are out of your control.

Note: Information is current as of 20 March, 2018.


TID is an Australian online travel insurance company.


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