Home Facts For The Visitor Dangers & Annoyances
Travelers are more often the victims of petty economic crime, such as theft, rather than serious crime. Foreigners are not natural targets for pickpockets and thieves, but you should keep your eyes open regardless!
Certain cities and places are worse than others; Jakarta and Surabaya are the most notorious in Java due to the wide gap between the rich & poor people living in that area.
Avoid flashing valuables such as jewelry, gold watches, MP3 players or large cameras. Thieves have been known to snatch laptops, PDAs and cellphones from Internet hotspot areas.
Crime is rampant on local and long-distance public transport (bus, train, ships). Do not accept drinks from strangers, as they may be laced with drugs. Choose your taxis carefully in cities (hotel taxis are often best), lock doors when inside the vehicle and avoid using cellular phones, MP3 players, PDAs or laptops at traffic lights or in traffic jams.
Do not place valuable items in checked baggage as they may be stolen by baggage handlers. Do not leave valuable items in hotel rooms, and use the hotel's safe deposit box instead of the 'in-room' safe.
Do not draw large amounts of cash from banks or ATMs. Guard your belongings carefully and consider carrying a money clip instead of a wallet.
Java, along with the rest of Indonesia, exercises extremely harsh punishments for drug offenses - visitors are greeted with cheery "DEATH TO DRUG TRAFFICKERS" signs at airports and recent cases have seen long jail terms for simple possession - but drugs are still widely available.
By far the most common is marijuana (known as gele or cimeng) which is not only sold to tourists but is used as food in some parts of the country, notably Aceh. Magic mushrooms are advertised openly in parts of Bali and Lombok, and hard drugs are common in the Jakarta & Surabaya nightlife scene. Still, it's highly advisable to steer well clear or, at the very least, very discreet as entrapment and drug busts are common - and you really, really don't want to get involved with the Indonesian justice system; thanks to the anti-corruption drive, you cannot even count on being able to bribe your way out anymore!
Jakarta, Sambas, Poso, the Moluccas, West Papua - these simple geographical names have recently been associated with mass killing, like Aceh and East Timor, where large-scale violence has flared up again. Lethal incidents between adjacent villages, or between a petty criminal and the crowd, take place throughout Indonesia.
Many Indonesia-watchers, both scholars and journalists, explain the violence in terms of the loss of the monopoly on the means of violence by the state since the beginning of the Reforms in 1998. Others point at the omnipresent remnants of the New Order state (1966-1998), former President Soeharto's clan, or the army in particular, as the evil genius behind the present bloodshed. Which one is true? No one knows the truth.
However, there are still many places in Indonesia in particular Java, where people live hand-in-hand harmoniously and knowing all too well that sometimes "it's better than it looks".
Indonesia strongly condemns acts of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and emphasizes the importance of avoiding the identification of terrorism with any particular religion or ethnic group. Indonesia agreed that the campaign against terrorism can only be won through comprehensive and balanced measures in full conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and International Human Rights Covenants.
Java has been connected as a nucleus of the terrorist in Indonesia due to many terrorists originating from here and some have said that it has a close link to Al-Qaeda affiliated Jamaah Islamiyah Movement.
However Java Island with it's size is not as small as many countries in Europe, and therefore has a lot of space that you can still explore. Despite the mass of negative news reports of late, this is not a representation of Java as a whole; instead most people are friendly and polite.
Generally speaking, there is racism in Indonesia. There is a distinct gap between Indonesians (pribumi) & Indonesian Chinese. The stereotype of the Chinese in Indonesia has been present since the Dutch colonial times, because of their vaunted position as middlemen between the colonials and the natives. In this kind of situation they became the target of popular anger and frustration, since they controlled most of the production and distribution of basic commodities, such as cooking oil, flour, rice and sugar, right down to the level of towns and villages. The Dutch constituted this intentionally!
However it has changed, although there are few, some Indonesians (pribumi) have married Indonesian Chinese. Sooner or later it will make an improvement on a larger scale.
In Java a large number of people with a common goal (a bus seat, a train ticket, purchasing a mobile phone, etc) generally form a surging mass, although elements of queuing are appearing. It is one of the more exhausting parts of traveling in Java, and sometimes it is worth paying extra in order to be able to avoid train and bus stations. Otherwise, take a deep breath and leap in with everyone else!
Up until recently, you could see many beggars on the intersections in Java's big cities, however numbers have dwindled since the occurrence of Indonesia's monetary crisis in 1997. Almost 90% of them came from out of the city.
The begging environment is probably the most carcinogenic occupation in a city where pollution is a serious health hazard even for those enclosed in air-conditioned offices. Shame must also be a factor, particularly in Java where self-pride is important, there's a rotating culture of begging in some families and groups.
The government is still trying to resolve this problem, but as we can see there doesn't seem to be any improvement yet, if it can't say worse. However, beggars in Java are basically trying to make a living with the occasional one sometimes acting aggresively.
It's better that we just wave our hand "saying NO" rather than keep silent as they will soon stop their begging. Eventually this action could help reduce beggars in Java's big city - sooner or later they will realize the reduction of their income from begging.
Prostitution throughout most of Java is technically illegal, but the law is not enforced. Jakarta, the capital & "Gang Dolly" in Surabaya, features a government run red-light district. The girls there are officially in the process of "rehabilitation".