Indonesia is one of the most popular countries for tourists visiting Southeast Asia. Every year, over 18 million people visit the vast island archipelago.
Bali is the most popular Indonesian destination thanks to its beautiful beaches, unique Hindu-influenced culture, and many opportunities for a spiritual retreat. But while this storied country is rich in history and culture, is Indonesia safe? Here’s our take.
Is Indonesia Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Indonesia is mostly a safe country to visit, but you’ll still need to keep your guard up. Street crime is common in most popular tourist destinations, and there have been terrorist incidents in the past.
Indonesia is also prone to natural disasters. A good place to start researching if Indonesia is safe or not is your country’s travel advisory.
The United States tells its citizens to exercise increased caution in the country, but still allows travel to most of the country. New Zealand also has most of Indonesia under a Level Two travel advisory.
There are certain regions of the country where travel isn’t advised at all due to the high risk of civil unrest and other violence. Countries tend to warn about the same problems in their travel advisories for Indonesia.
- Civil unrest
- Bag snatching
- Drink spiking
The likelihood of experiencing one of these incidents is low, especially if you take appropriate precautions when you go to Indonesia.
However, it is the duty of governments to warn their citizens about all the possibilities they might encounter when going abroad, just for safety’s sake. Let the warnings make you cautious, but don’t let them scare you off of going to Indonesia.
Besides crime, one important safety concern you have to keep in mind when going to Indonesia is the prevalence of natural disasters. Indonesia is located in the “Ring of Fire,” a region of the Pacific Ocean that is very seismically active.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.
An average of 1.5 thousand natural disasters occur in Indonesia each year, and the numbers are increasing as climate change increases the intensity of some forms of disaster.
The most common disasters that occur in Indonesia are tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, and tropical cyclones. Before visiting Indonesia, you should read up on disaster preparedness procedures so you know what to do in case a natural disaster occurs.
Follow local news and weather reports carefully and obey government alerts telling you if certain parts of the country are too dangerous to visit. For example, Mount Agung in Bali is an active volcano and authorities periodically publish alerts warning people not to visit.
Traveling to Indonesia might require a bit more preparation and precautions than traveling to the grocery store, but it is worth it. With some common sense, most tourists still wind up having a great time.
Crime in Indonesia
Crime is a problem all over the world, and Indonesia is no different. The country still has a long way to go when it comes to combating crime, but some statistics are optimistic.
The overall crime rate in Indonesia is 90 incidents per 100,000 people according to the last official metrics published in 2021. Crime has been steadily declining over the past decade, which shows that crime in Indonesian society is on a positive trajectory.
The rate of violent crime in Indonesia is surprisingly low. According to World Bank data, the rate of homicides is just one incident per 100,000 people (however, the last available data is from 2004).
The rates of other violent crimes are comparatively low. Some crime statistics separate out terrorist-related crimes and deaths from terrorism-related crime, so that might play a role in Indonesia’s relatively low numbers.
Although terrorism is a problem in the country, other violent crimes are not so prevalent. Indonesia has some problems with organized crime.
The country is rich with natural resources which according to the Organized Crime Index are often illegally exploited and trafficked abroad by organized crime actors.
Illegal mining, logging, and sale of wildlife parts such as Sumatran tigers are sadly all too common in Indonesia. There is often overlap between terrorist groups and organized crime.
Organized crime groups are behind the drug trade as well, catering primarily to tourists. Petty theft and property crimes are much more prevalent in Indonesia.
According to Numbeo, most respondents are concerned about break-ins, theft from vehicles, mugging, and theft. Indonesia’s overall score on the site’s crime scale is 45.63 out of 100, a moderate rate.
Compared to other countries of its size and income profile, Indonesia has a relatively low crime rate. There are a few theories why the crime rate is so low, including strict punishments for crime, strong community networks, and lack of access to firearms.
When looking at crime statistics for Indonesia, don’t let yourself get too comfortable despite the low crime rate. In Indonesia, many crimes go unreported due to low police coverage outside of major cities.
People also don’t trust the police due to their reputation for corruption. Let the crime statistics give you some peace of mind, but hold on to your wallet just in case.
The most common crime you’ll encounter in Indonesia, like almost anywhere else in the world, is petty theft. Street crime is common in most major cities and tourist destinations of Indonesia such as Bali and Lombok.
It comes in many different forms, including pickpocketing, bag snatching, and scams. The Australian government warns its citizens about the prevalence of petty theft in Indonesia.
Thieves operate in places that foreigners tend to frequent such as fancy shopping malls, public transportation, bars, and busy pedestrian areas. You will have to take precautions to protect your valuables in Indonesia.
Never leave your valuables unattended or put them in a place where they are easy to snatch, such as a back pocket. You may want to invest in a money belt or put some emergency cash away from your wallet so you will have a way to get home even if you get robbed.
Thieves sometimes operate from the backs of motorcycles so they can snatch bags from pedestrians and get away quickly. If you have bags, wear something that is harder to snatch, such as a cross-body bag or backpack instead of a shoulder bag.
Carry your bags on the opposite side of your body from the road and try to walk far away from the curb if possible. Indonesia is a popular tourist destination and there is a big income gap between locals and visitors.
That creates the perfect incentive for petty crimes. Tourist scams are another common crime targeting tourists. The UK government warns its citizens about common scams in its travel advisory.
Taxis are the most common source of scams, which is fairly universal.
Only use authorized companies such as Bluebird and Silverbird, or ask your accommodation for recommendations. Agree on the price of everything, including taxis, before paying.
Besides petty theft, there are far more serious crimes you have to worry about in Indonesia. That includes terrorism. Unfortunately, Indonesia experiences frequent terrorist attacks.
The UK government has a list of recent terrorist attacks, including a 2022 attack on a police station in West Java, a March 2021 suicide bomb in front of a Catholic church in Makassar, and a June 2020 attack on a police station in Kalimantan, Borneo.
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism published a memo on terrorism in Indonesia. It lists common groups behind attacks in the country, including Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, and ISIS.
Most terrorist groups are radical Islamist terrorists, but some armed Papuan groups are also considered terrorists.
Attackers usually target places associated with the government, such as government offices, police stations, and military facilities. They also target crowded places such as nightclubs, tourist attractions, and public transportation.
Religious festivals are also common targets, especially for terrorists motivated by religious extremism. The Canadian government has tips for its citizens to stay safe from terrorist attacks.
Be careful in crowds, especially when visiting religious festivals that are common terrorist targets. Follow the news while you are in the country. Since terrorists sometimes target hotels, stay somewhere with excellent security.
The risk of terrorism in Indonesia is still present, but it is declining greatly. The Indonesian government is implementing strong anti-terrorism measures.
Avoiding Bad Areas
You should avoid certain regions of Indonesia for your personal safety. Do not travel to Indonesian Papua due to the threats of ongoing violence.
The province is inhabited by separatists who have been fighting the Indonesian government for decades. Armed groups are behind violent clashes, civil unrest, and kidnapping, which sometimes affects foreigners.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional tips for traveling in Indonesia:
- Violence against female travelers has occurred in the past, especially in popular tourist destinations such as Bali. If you are traveling alone as a female traveler, make sure that you take extra precautions.
- Diseases such as malaria are common throughout Indonesia. Make sure that you apply plenty of bug spray and stock up on medication such as antimalarial drugs before you get to the country.
- Alcohol poisoning is common in Indonesia. There have been fatal incidents in the past. Don’t try the local drink arak unless you know and trust the source well. This drink is often very strong and made poorly, causing alcohol poisoning. Watch your drinks carefully in bars and clubs to prevent drink spiking.
- Indonesia’s new penal code includes penalties for common acts, including sex outside of marriage. While the Indonesian government has said it will not enforce this against foreigners, keep that in mind before you visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions that travelers to Indonesia have asked in the past:
Is Bali Indonesia safe to visit?
Bali is one of Indonesia’s safest destinations. However, robberies and street crime occur here a lot because the crowds attract a lot of pickpockets. The villas are sometimes targets for break-ins, so get accommodation with good security.
Is Jakarta safe for tourists?
Jakarta is a big city, and the rate of street crime is high. There have also been violent incidents such as muggings and assaults targeted at tourists. There aren’t that many tourist attractions in Jakarta anyway, so it’s worth skipping for your safety.
Is Indonesia safe to travel to in 2023?
Yes, Indonesia is safe to travel to in 2023. You will have to take some precautions, such as avoiding the province of Papua, but overall the country is still safe to travel to.
Which part of Indonesia is safest?
Despite the risk of petty crime, Bali and Lombok are some of the safest parts of Indonesia. Many cities in Java are also fairly safe, such as Yogyakarta, Semarang, and Surakarta, although not all of these are very popular tourist attractions.
Can you drink alcohol in Jakarta?
Yes, you can drink alcohol in Jakarta and every part of Indonesia except for the conservative province of Aceh. However, alcohol consumption is frowned upon in Islam, which is the majority religion in Indonesia. Many Jakarta bars close during Ramadan out of respect for the religion.
So, Is Indonesia Safe to Visit?
Indonesia is a place where you will need to have some precautions, but for the most part, it is a safe place to visit. Just keep an eye on your valuables and monitor the local news to learn about any threats in time, and you should have a safe trip. Happy travels!