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Cruising Indonesia - General Tips and Hints

By Sue Richards last modified Oct 27, 2011 08:25 PM

Published: 2011-10-27 20:25:15
Countries: Indonesia

We have just completed the Sail Indonesia Rally and thought the following hints and tips might be useful for future participants, or indeed anyone considering cruising Indonesia.

Chris and Lorraine Marchant
SY Gryphon

Available everywhere in 19 litre containers known as "gallons" to the locals. Some places will deliver to your boat and you will always find someone to bring it to your dinghy. We had some delivered by motorcycle taxi 3 at a time...a real balancing feat.

Only available in South Bali, unless you are prepared to buy local cylinders, therefore plan appropriately. They managed to fill anything there, including camping gaz type bottles.

DIESEL (known as "solar")
Available everywhere by jerry can and sometimes delivered. We found very little wrong with the quality, even where it was ladled from an open drum on a sandy beach. They are quite careful themselves. On this occasion, filtering it with a funnel and a pair of tights! There was a suspicion of diesel bug on occasion so take some biocide. There was also a suspicion that the diesel is of a lower calorific value then usual as some cruisers reported lower fuel economy than usual. You will be doing lots of motoring!

Cheese is very rare ...stock up well!
Breakfast cereal likewise.
Bread is available but it is rare to find what we consider "good" bread, except in Bali.
Be prepared to drink lots of Bintang, the main beer in Indonesia. Wine is very rare, the same for spirits.
Eating out is very cheap and highly recommended - if you find out which is the hot sauce first.

We took doxycycline, but almost certainly unnecessarily. We had very few mosquitoes anywhere, even up the river in Kumai, Borneo. However the risk of malaria is not nil . Many cruisers took nothing, but some take a test kit and a course of drugs if they suspect they may have malaria. We had a few other bites from other insects, sandflies and ants probably, but very few.

The biggest danger is infected cuts and bites. At least 3 cruisers had infections bad enough to need treatment with antibiotics. People who visited local doctors were well looked after and given the correct medicines. We visited a medical centre in South Bali and were treated better than in the UK and charged reasonably.

In some towns there are very cheap communal buses ("bemos"). Taxis are rare, but you can usually get a car and a driver with a bit of notice. "Ojeks" (motorcycle taxis) are everywhere and are fun - if a bit frightening. You can also get them to run errands e.g. get petrol or deliver water. Some people who have hired motor cycles or cars have had accidents, one person so badly injured he had to leave the rally for hospital in Australia. The locals charges are really cheap, they know the ropes and the idiosyncratic driving practices.

We used Cmaps and found them reliable, but sometimes off by 200 metres or so. Once you know the offset one can be reasonably confident.

There is a danger of trying to do everything. We did too much and reached burn out by the end..

Indonesians will do anything in their power to help you. Time and again people go out of their way to help you and everyone wants to know where you are from and are just desperate to have their photo taken with you. The only caution is that their helpfulness may not always be matched by their expertise e.g. in electronics. But with diesels and outboards there seemed to be lots of help available. Sail Indonesia have 2 excellent Indonesian representatives who were able to help sort just about any problem from health issues, to visa problems, to organising towing for a breakdown.

Buy a cheap Telekomsel dongle and you will have high speed Internet access in the most obscure places. The coverage, speed and the price put to shame most western countries. Mobile phone Sims are also very cheap and international calls were very reasonable. With our Telekomsel Sim we had to put in a magic number (01017 for us) before the international code, which gave us really cheap international calls.

We had absolutely no security concerns - although we did hear of one catamaran boarded in the night, the boarders were opportunists and not aggressive. The people are honest and prices are more than fair. Only souvenirs are really worth haggling over.

There are ATMs in nearly all towns now, although they have annoyingly low withdrawal limits. You can repeat withdrawals, but of course end up paying say 3 withdrawal charges to your bank instead of 1. We found nowhere that took Credit Cards.

We found this generally very low key after the first arrival, when we were greeted by no less than 29 different officials. Sail Indonesia do all they can to keep officialdom at bay. We had one over-zealous harbour master who insisted we show our papers, but he was very polite, spoke passable English and there was no question of a charge. We never felt the need to offer a bribe and only heard of one boat, of the 100 plus, who paid one. Corruption was not a problem for us.

If you are not sure about joining a rally, do not be concerned. You can do as much or as little as you wish. If you prefer to cruise on your own, you can easily do so and still have the advantages of the paperwork being made easy for you and having the backup should you need it.