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While Indonesia seemingly has a reputation as being one of the more unsafe countries in Asia, risks are often limited to certain areas. Generally speaking, by simply keeping informed and being aware of the potential dangers, expats can minimise their risks of coming to harm. Most visitors and residents spend their time in Indonesia peacefully without any problems. It makes sense to be aware of the risks, but there is no need to live in fear.
The problems Indonesia faces are compounded by an underdeveloped infrastructure that is inadequate to cope with regularly occurring natural disasters, including earthquakes and flooding. Religious and ethnic tensions, which are inevitable with many different ethnic groups living side by side, are also the root cause of much of the crime in Indonesia, including a risk of terrorism.
Crime in Indonesia
Petty crime rates in Indonesia are relatively high, particularly in busy urban areas. Pickpocketing is common, as is bag-snatching, which is often done from the back of a motorbike. To reduce the risk of being a victim of such crimes, expats can take simple steps such as carrying as few valuables as possible, being aware of surroundings and wearing a secure bag that cannot be snatched from the shoulder.
ATM fraud is another possible issue, although most banks have taken steps to improve the security of their machines in recent years. When using any ATM, it is important to check for any suspicious persons in the vicinity and inspect the machine before use. Credit card fraud is also a concern and it is recommended to use cash wherever possible. Expats should take extra care to monitor their account and inform their bank immediately of any unauthorised activity.
Road safety in Indonesia
Road accidents are a serious concern in Indonesia. Traffic is busy and chaotic, particularly in urban centres, and traffic rules are rarely enforced. Roads are overcrowded and it is common for motorbikes to overtake on both sides. Extreme weather conditions in the wet season and poor road conditions add to the problems. Expats who can afford to hire a local driver often find this a suitable solution to these difficulties.
Terrorism in Indonesia
Indonesia is a large country spread over thousands of islands, all with their own unique culture and infrastructure. This can make advice about visiting the country as a whole difficult. Visiting Jakarta will be a very different experience from visiting one of the small islands. Papua and West Papua, for example, are considered to be more dangerous for visitors than the rest of the country due to ethnic violence and political instability.
The Indonesian government has taken steps to fight terrorism, but attacks do happen. They are unpredictable and places frequented by tourists and expats are at risk of being hit. These include foreign embassies, shopping malls, hotels, airports and popular tourist areas. It's important to remain vigilant, particularly around holiday times.
Natural disasters in Indonesia
Indonesia is located on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are frequent. As an archipelago, a high percentage of the land in Indonesia is located in coastal areas, so tsunamis resulting from large earthquakes can be catastrophic.
Flooding is also a problem during the rainy season and flash floods and landslides occur frequently. Jakarta is hit particularly badly with flooding every year.
Emergency numbers in Indonesia
The following numbers are the official national emergency response numbers of Indonesia but cannot always be relied on, particularly in remote areas
- General emergency number: 112
- Police: 110
- Ambulance: 118