If you thought dragons only existed in fairy tales, Indonesia will put you right into the story. Home to the Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest lizard, a gap year in Indonesia will introduce you to truly unbelievable experiences. The sprawling archipelago of Indonesia is one of Southeast Asia’s least explored countries in terms of backpacker hordes and mass tourism.
Becoming a ’gapper’ can be the ideal way to gain a new perspective on life and with Indonesia as your destination of choice, your year can amount to the perfect transition. Maybe you want to get away before embarking on a university degree, or perhaps your stint there falls between jobs or during a career switch. Or, maybe you simply just want to go. No matter your reason, just get there! Here are a couple suggestions to help plan your year.
By becoming a volunteer teacher in Indonesia you will have the chance to put your English skills to good use as you gain valuable cultural insight. This opportunity is available to anyone as certain qualifications or previous experience are not required. Some possible positions include:
- Teaching beginning to advanced English to students of all ages
- Instructing English for teachers and school staff members
- Helping teach music and art classes
If you are thinking about working in Indonesia and don't know where to begin your search, Jakarta is not a bad start. As the capital it is the financial hub of Indonesia and is home to such industries as electronics, automotive, chemical, biomedical, and mechanical engineering. You can also take advantage of Indonesia's bio-diversity and work in the environmental field gathering plant or soil samples, helping the wildlife and vegetation, or cleaning up the beaches. Apart from these opportunities, younger expats especially working in Indonesia work as English teachers. There are quite a few jobs for those certified in English as a Second Language (ESL) or in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).
There is a plethora of adventures to set out on in Indonesia. The vastness of this nation is hardly imaginable; your adventures will take place among the 17,000 plus islands, along the 108,000 km of beaches, or nestled in amongst over 400 volcanoes on the edge of the Ring of Fire. Indonesia's sheer diversity will keep the thrill seeking traveller busy in the best sense of the word.
Living the adventurous backpacker life is extremely affordable and a great way to meet new people, both local and co-travellers. Your journey can be as laid back or as extreme as you desire. Eat at the markets, stay in guesthouses, hostels, and beach huts, and take the time to really get to know the foreign world you are in. Living on a vagabond dime will force you into trying things that you may not have otherwise; ever try riding a donkey as the only means of transportation? Some islands don't allow vehicles so you may have to get your 'ass' up to it.
To have a truly fulfilling experience, bring your optimism, adaptability, and of course, some guts! Be sure not to miss out on the surreal surfing, exhilarating treks, the tracts of the tropical rainforest, bridge bungee jumping, and the exotic local cuisine. Be brave and try new things.
Planning Your Trip
A 30-day tourist visa can be obtained through the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in your residing country or upon arrival in Indonesia. Visas may be extended at an immigration office in Indonesia and extension lengths may vary depending on your nationality. A round-trip airline ticket is required to obtain all types of visas, and your passport must be valid 6 months past your planned departure from Indonesia
Those travelling to Indonesia for business, social-cultural, or study purposes must be in possession of a visa prior to arrival. Business and Social-Cultural Visit single entry visas are extendable within Indonesia. If you choose to travel for business or social-cultural purposes you will need a letter from both the sponsoring organization in Indonesia and the sending organization.
Cost of Living in Indonesia
The currency in Indonesia is the rupiah (IDR). Credit cards are not widely accepted outside of large urban centers and tourist areas, and traveller's checks can be exchanged at banks and larger hotels. Carry cash when visiting remote areas as many islands take only local currency and are not equipped with Automated Banking Machines.
Every day necessities are very affordable in Indonesia and can range from $15 US to $30 US depending on your lifestyle and extra curricular activities. There are numerous ways to stretch your budget and still be comfortable; take local transportation, buy from local markets, and wear local garments instead of buying familiar imported clothing.
Culture and Etiquette in Indonesia
In some areas of Indonesia, Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in local customs, laws, and regulations. It is important to respect the local sensitivities and behave in a way that avoids offending; dress conservatively, behave discreetly, and respect religious and social traditions. Religious policy enforce Shari'a (Islamic law) with respect to the Muslim population. Exercise particular caution if you are a Muslim as you could be subject to Shari'a law while in certain areas of Indonesia.
Health and Safety in Indonesia
It is your obligation as a responsible traveller to know the basic health and safety pre-cautions of any country. Some Indonesian specific notes to keep in mind:
- Some areas of Indonesia require a special permit to enter; these areas are best explored under watchful eye of a reliable and reputable guide.
- Demonstrations may turn violent and should be avoided; seek local advice on your travel plans. Long standing communal tensions, including religious tensions, are mostly calm, but the potential for violence remains.
- Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times.
- Medical facilities throughout Indonesia are below Western standards. Medical evacuations to Australia or Singapore are often required for serious conditions. Most medical staff does not speak English or French. Docters and hospitals may expect immediate cash payment for health services.
- Avian flu, dengue fever, and measles are present in Indonesia; check health reports for the areas.
- Unrestricted burning of forests in Sumatra and Kalimantan periodically cause levels of atmospheric pollution (haze) to rise to unhealthy levels, particularly from June to October. Take this into account and consult with your physician before travelling if you suffer from respiratory problems.
Contributed by Ashley Persson
Want to earn $10,000 towards your gap year?
US residents ages 14-25 are eligible to apply for our USA Gap Year Fairs Scholarship, due Apr 15th. Register for a gap year fair to learn about eligible programs!