Business Travel

Business Customs

The best time for an initial business trip is September through June, as school holidays and vacation time in the summer months can impact the availability of many business people. Visitors should check the local holiday schedule before traveling to Indonesia, and in particular should try to avoid the Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan, during which appointments are often difficult to schedule. The normal business attire is a lightweight business suit or white shirt, tie and slacks for men, and a business suit or dress for women.

Indonesia is a very diverse country, with more than 300 different ethnic groups. Some Indonesians are traditional in culture, others may be considerably “Westernized.” Many Indonesians do not conduct business transactions or make decisions in the same direct fashion Americans do, so U.S. business people should be prepared to spend a good deal of time with clients before getting down to the business transaction. Traditional Javanese culture emphasizes harmony and the word “no” is rarely used. This can make it difficult for a Westerner to ascertain exactly how a business proposal is being received. Patience and the development of personal relations is the key. Because Indonesians do business with “friends,” people who they know, developing a rapport is crucial. While quality and price are important, they are often secondary to the personal interaction of the business partners.

During business meetings, tea or coffee is almost always served and should be accepted. It should not be consumed until the host invites you to do so, which may not occur until the end of the meeting. Generally speaking, it is best to use the right hand in receiving or eating. Although hand shaking is a common practice, avoid hearty handshakes and other physical contact. Do not show the soles of your shoes when seated. Business travelers to Indonesia seeking appointments with U.S. Embassy-Jakarta officials should contact the U.S. Commercial Service in advance.

Visa Requirements

U.S. citizens traveling to Indonesia are required to have a valid visa. Visas can be obtained by applying at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington or at their Consulates in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Visas on arrival (30-day visa) are available at the airport in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Denpasar and several other large cities for a fee of $25. All travelers to Indonesia must have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of arrival in Indonesia as well as an onward/return ticket. Indonesian authorities regularly deny entry to Americans who arrive with less than six months validity on their passports. Travelers are strongly urged to check with their airline and with the Indonesian Embassy or the Directorate General of Immigration at the following links, as requirements can change on short notice.

U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security options are handled via an interagency process.


Telephone services vary between areas in Jakarta. They depend largely on the local telephone exchange’s capacity to handle traffic. Phone service is good along the main business thoroughfares and the newer residential areas, which are served by fiber optic trunk lines. In the older residential areas, service is less reliable. Extra phone lines can be costly, and obtaining them can be time consuming. International direct dial (IDD) lines are available and will allow connection to an AT&T operator, but rates are considerably higher than calling from the United States. The cellular market is in the middle of a boom with around 180 million subscribers in 2010. Cellular services could easily be obtained as various operators offering GSM or CDMA technologies.

When traveling throughout Indonesia, the options for cell phones are widely used. In terms of cell phone service in Indonesia, there are eleven carriers with GSM and CDMA technologies. Out of the eleven carriers, three GSM carriers – Telkomsel, Indosat, and XL – provide solid coverage across the country. The good thing about using cell service in Indonesia is that the service can easily be subscribed and cheap compared to U.S. standards. It is also worth noting that pre-paid SIM cards are easily purchased at many stores and kiosks. The use of BlackBerry has also been growing significantly.

Indonesia had an estimated 45 million internet users. As of 2010, broadband internet services are very much in their infancy. Problems with inferior telecommunications infrastructure will continue to impede internet growth.


Airlines flying into Jakarta include Garuda (the national airline), Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, KLM, and a number of other regional carriers. Connections can be made to all major airlines, including U.S. carriers, in Singapore or Hong Kong. No U.S. airlines currently fly into Jakarta. Internal flights are readily available, but connections not involving Jakarta are often problematic. There is an extensive rail network, but it is generally not appropriate for business travel. Extreme caution must be taken when traveling by car, as conditions are crowded and dangerous. Taxis in Jakarta are plentiful, but you should only use call taxi services available at your hotel: Silver Bird and Blue Bird are the most reliable and safest taxi services. Golden Bird cars and drivers can be hired by the day, and cost around $100 per day.


The national language of Bahasa Indonesia is spoken all over Indonesia, in addition to local languages. English is widely spoken and understood in Jakarta by most business people, although much less so in other cities. Most of the better hotels have Englishspeaking staff, as do the shopping centers that cater to expatriates. International telephone operators also speak English. The level of English can vary. Indonesian firms hoping to conduct business with foreigners generally try to employ some English speakers.


Short-term visitors to Indonesia are advised to be up-to-date on their Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Typhoid vaccinations, in addition to all routine childhood immunizations before arrival. The hepatitis vaccination series takes six months to complete. Those considering travel outside the major cities (Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, southern Bali, etc.) should take anti-malaria medication; mefloquine or doxycycline is considered adequate prevention measures against malaria. Physicians in the United States should be able to answer questions pertaining to immunizations and other health concerns.

Air pollution in the larger cities causes a number of common respiratory ailments to both visitors and long-term residents. Dehydration as a result of intestinal illnesses can be a serious, even life-threatening, condition if not treated. Persons suffering from severe diarrhea may obtain an oral re-hydration solution from a local pharmacy. If vomiting makes it impossible to adequately re-hydrate, visit a clinic immediately.

Avian Influenza – Indonesia has experienced several outbreaks of Avian Influenza (AI). Economic hardship and ignorance of modern disease control methods have combined to make Indonesia’s AI control efforts somewhat ineffective. Of the 171 cases confirmed to date in Indonesia, 141 have been fatal. Americans who travel to Indonesia should obtain up to date health information before departing the U.S.

There are a few modern, well-equipped clinics and hospitals in Jakarta that are considered adequate for minor illnesses, but expatriates generally prefer to fly to Singapore or their home countries for treatment of serious illnesses and/or operations. An adequate pre-hospital emergency system, similar to the “911” system in the U.S., does not exist in any Indonesian cities. Many local hospitals operate their own ambulances, with no common standards. Response time can be prolonged.

Food: Exercise reasonable care in food preparation at home and menu selection while eating out because of questionable sanitation practices. Imported meats, vegetables, and packaged foods are readily available from most stores in the Carrefour, Giant, Hypermart and Hero grocery stores chain (locations throughout Jakarta), at all Sogo department stores, at Kem Chicks in the Kemang district, and Ranch Market grocery stores.

Drinking tap water anywhere in Indonesia is not advised. Use commercial bottled water from your hotel or purchase from a supermarket. “Aqua” is one of the more common brands used by expatriates. Avoid buying bottled water from street vendors if possible.

Short-term visitors to Indonesia are well advised to eat only in hotels and restaurants that cater to up-scale visitors. Caution, however, should also be exercised in such “5-star” establishments. Do not eat from street stalls. Avoid raw, unpeeled fruits and uncooked vegetables, food that is prepared in advance and then left to stand, raw or undercooked meats, seafood, and shellfish in questionable eating venues.

Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays

Indonesia has three time zones:

Eastern Indonesian time is 11 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time).

Central Indonesia (Java and Jakarta) time is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time).

Western Indonesian time is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (14 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time).

Business hours are generally:

Commerce 09.00 -17.00 Monday – Friday
(note Friday prayers at 1200-1300)
Government 07.30 – 16.00 Monday – Friday
Banks 09.00 – 15.00 Monday – Friday
Shops 10.00 – 22.00 Monday – Sunday

Holiday Listing for 2011 – Local and U.S. Embassy

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings

The GOI encourages foreign investors who export to locate their operations in bonded or export processing zones (EPZ). There are a number of EPZs in Indonesia, the most well known being Batam Island, located 20 kilometers south of Singapore. Indonesia also has several bonded zones or areas that are designated as entry ports for export destined production (EPTE). Companies are encouraged to locate in bonded zones or industrial estates whenever possible. Other free trade zones include a facility near Tanjung Priok, Jakarta’s main port, and a bonded warehouse in Cakung, also near Jakarta.

There is a duty drawback facility (BAPEKSTA) for exports located outside the zones. Foreign and domestic investors wishing to establish projects in a bonded area must apply to the Capital Investment Coordinating Board. Expatriates relocating to Indonesia should seek the advice of a qualified international relocation firm. Indonesia is a “Right Hand Drive” country and only vehicles with right hand steering wheels can be imported, even for personal use.

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