Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta is centrally located on Jalan MH Thamrin No 1, facing the famous roundabout that is the capital’s main landmark, and which is known locally as Bundaran Hotel Indonesia, or more commonly Bundaran HI (pronounced “bundaran ha-ee”: bundaran is Indonesian for “roundabout”). The avenue and the general area in which the hotel is located are Jakarta’s most sought-after addresses as they house government buildings, embassies and office towers, as well as the country’s most famous shopping malls.
Indonesia is an equatorial archipelago with a tropical climate, which means the rainy season falls from December to March, while the country is generally sunny for the rest of the year. There are variations: the more eastern areas tend to follow a southern-hemisphere seasonality, while some islands, such as Bali, are sunny most of the year round. Do check online for weather conditions that are relevant to the area you may be travelling in. In Jakarta, where the hotel is located, it is always hot and generally sunny, or hazy outside the rainy season. Visitors should plan and pack accordingly.
The Indonesian rupiah is the country’s currency. In 2015, the central bank declared that all transactions performed within the country must use the Indonesian rupiah. Visitors should ensure they have either adequate amounts of local currency or a well-known credit card. Money changers, though, are easy to find in the local malls, including Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, to which Hotel Indonesia Kempinski Jakarta has direct access. In addition, many ATMs will allow visitors to withdraw local currency using major banks’ credit or debit cards.
There are countless local dialects in Indonesia, but the official lingua franca is Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia). Many, but by no means all, shops, restaurants and other suppliers of goods and services will know basic English, but it is recommended to bring a translation guide or app. Learning a little of the language goes a long way to getting along with the locals.
Although Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, religious tolerance is enforced by law. The minority is made up of Protestant, Roman Catholic, Hindu and Buddhist religions. Some areas, like Aceh province, operate under strict Sharia law, though, so it is advised that if you plan on travelling off the beaten track, you research any applicable local customs, laws, etc. before travelling (see also below).
There is no specific dress code in Indonesia, except in the special province of Aceh, where Sharia law is enforced. People in Indonesia, and especially in Jakarta, dress modernly and even fashionably, yet respectfully. A long-sleeved batik outfit is considered formal for a black-tie event. Other areas, such as Bali, have a more tolerant attitude towards beachwear and other casual attire, but it is always advised to dress modestly and appropriately.
In terms of dining etiquette, it is expected that the eldest of the group takes the first cut or meal. It is polite to accept food and beverages offered by your host, and eating with your hands is acceptable.
Food and beverages
There is a vast variety of Indonesian cuisine, because every ethnic group has its own signature dish. The most popular is beef rendang – spicy beef stew from West Sumatra – awarded by CNN in 2011 for being the most delicious dish in the world. If you are not used to spicy food, do ask your server whether the dish is hot or spicy. If the dish is prepared à la minute, you may request a mild one. Other than this, exercise caution when it comes to ordering dishes you’re not familiar with. Most food, including street food, is clean and hygienically prepared.
Indonesia does not have a culture of drinking alcohol, and while in Bali and other tourist spots it may be common to drink to excess, in the rest of the country, moderation is expected, and public displays of drunkenness are frowned upon.