Health and Safety Indonesia
If you’re new to Indonesia regarding the health and safety in Indonesia, you may need to read this artricle.
It is recommended, throughout your stay in Indonesia, to follow an antimalarial treatment. The whole country is classified in zone 3 (except Bali and the center of the big cities, which are free of any malaria). Note: Malaria is only transmitted from dusk to dawn.
Check with your doctor before departure. Many – if not all – mosquito or arthropod repellents sold in supermarkets or pharmacies are not very or insufficiently effective. Only choose a WHO-compliant range. Essential not only for malaria, but also for dengue (permanent transmission with endemic and growing peaks), chikungunya (very present in Indonesia), Japanese encephalitis…
– Hepatitis A, transmitted by water and food, is very common: vaccination essential.
– Japanese encephalitis rages permanently but especially by epidemics in monsoon period. It is a serious disease. There is a vaccine (Ixiaro®) – finally – well tolerated, recommended for expatriates, frequent travelers and tourists visiting rural areas of countries located below a line connecting Bangladesh and South Siberia, up to Queensland in south. Two shots; available at an international vaccination centre.
– Moreover, one rarely escapes what is called a Turista or Bali belly. In case of diarrhoea, drink plenty of hot tea and stuff yourself with plain rice. You can buy medicines to stop diarrhea in pharmacies without a prescription, before you leave.
– Your first aid medical kit must include paracetamol, dressings, antibiotics against respiratory infections (wet climate requires), high sun protection products and tablets or filters to sanitize and purify the water. You can also purchase a LifeStraw ultra-filtering straw before departure. Very convenient !
– In case of possible need for specific drugs, find out before leaving about the international name (INN) or the name of the Anglo-Saxon brands. You should also know that in some remote places the medicines can suffer from poor storage and excessive exposure to heat, and that their expiry date can be exceeded, when it is not a question of counterfeits, which happens frequently.
– Beware of gluttonous amoebas and bacteria such as salmonella, shigella (water, lettuce, shellfish, etc.) which can cause serious problems.
– If medical assistance proves to be essential, you should contact your insurance company first. You can then contact a consulate (where there are lists of doctors) or a large luxury hotel (they always have the answer to everything).
– In case of emergency, in Indonesian, “doctor” is said to be dokter; “dentist”: dokter gigi; “pharmacy”: apotik. Hospitals (rumah sakit) should be avoided whenever possible. If hospitalization or surgery are necessary, it is better to be transported to Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, or even to be repatriated to Europe, according to the recommendations of your insurance company.
– In each village there is a puskesmas, a sort of dispensary where a nurse and sometimes a doctor practice. Only contact them if necessary or for small injuries.
A few rules to follow
– Never drink unboiled water. Those who don’t want to take any risks will be content with drinks that have been capsuled or purified by them (tablets, microbial filters). Likewise, they will avoid the delicious fruit juices served with ice cream. But it should be noted that in the big cities of Java as well as in the tourist places of Bali and Lombok, the health situation has improved considerably in recent years.
Beware of amoebas: water, salad, seafood… vaccination against hepatitis A is recommended.
– Avoid bathing in fresh waters like the locals. Be content with the sea. This avoids schistosomiasis, leptospirosis, hepatitis A or E and other inconveniences.
– Beware of cuts and scratches. In the tropics, they can become superinfected and take much longer to heal.
– New shoes that cause blisters should be avoided because, apart from being unpleasant, foot injuries are very difficult to heal.
– An antiseptic cream in a corner of the bag is well worth the space it occupies.
– Tiger balm is both an excellent preventive cream and an effective calming agent. It has a thousand virtues related to massage.
Little trick: the problems related to a filling that jumps or a toothache that wakes up can be fought – temporarily – with the help of a small piece of cotton coated with tiger balm that we will apply there where it hurts! On a dental abscess, crushed ice in a cloth relieves.
– Heat, coupled with ambient humidity, can cause pimples to appear. Dry yourself well after a shower or a sea bath, wear loose, light and non-synthetic clothes, and put talcum powder where friction is created are small basic precautions.
– Keeping plastic flip-flops on your feet in the shower is an effective way to protect yourself from all the various fungi that flourish in the tropics.
– It’s silly, but entering a shopping center or a restaurant with very powerful air conditioning can give you strep throat in less time than it takes to tell!
– Indonesia was a hotspot for bird flu, but now only encounters sporadic residues. Only eat poultry that is well cooked, avoid all contact with birds and their droppings (markets, cockfights, etc.), and that will suffice.
Infants, pregnant women and population at risk
Some destinations may not be recommended for at-risk populations such as pregnant women, infants or the elderly, especially when the necessary prevention tools (anti-malarial, certain vaccines) are not suitable or the sanitary conditions are too precarious.
The sanitary conditions encountered in Indonesia and/or the presence of a significant risk linked to malaria encourage people to avoid a trip to this country for anyone belonging to a population at risk.
The different types of health facilities in Indonesia
The government is continuously improving the health system in Indonesia. But the level of the Indonesian health system is not comparable to “western standards”, especially in the event of illness or serious medical emergency requiring specialists or specific equipment.
There are around 1,026 public hospitals across the Indonesian archipelago. However, in the event of a health problem in Indonesia, we strongly advise you to go to a private clinic for treatment. As mentioned earlier, public hospitals are always overcrowded and severely understaffed. Hygiene can also be a problem in some these establishments, and you may catch illnesses there. Unfortunately, there are indeed many cases of patients having contracted infections of all kinds in Indonesian public hospitals.
Another problem that concerns Indonesian public health establishments is the lack of equipment, in particular that necessary for the treatment of serious illnesses such as cancer. Patients suffering from such ailments mostly travel to neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore for treatment, if they can afford it or have good medical coverage. In addition, the best health professionals in the country mostly work in the private sector.
These problems within public hospitals have favored a rather particular phenomenon in Indonesia. Something rather rare in the world, private clinics are indeed more numerous than public health establishments. The country has no less than 1,787 private clinics, which is more than 700 establishments more than the public sector. Some of these clinics have joined the national health coverage program, the JKN (Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional), but they remain relatively few in number.
The care, services and equipment in private hospital establishments are generally much better than those offered in public hospitals. However, given the large number of private clinics, the quality of care can vary greatly from one clinic to another. Private clinics are also quite expensive. Additionally, most private medical facilities are located in major urban centers, as are hospitals.
This has created a stark disparity in care between the cities and the countryside. The latter are mainly served by small regional dispensaries, and others are not at all. This is the reason why Indonesians living in the most remote areas still tend to treat themselves through traditional medicine practices.
If you live in a sparsely urbanized region or plan to settle in Indonesia, we recommend that you find out about the health centers closest to your home. Some remote and/or sparsely populated areas or islands can be served by helicopters in the event of a necessary evacuation, but this is not the case everywhere. Accidents and emergencies in Indonesia are not uncommon, so it is better that you are covered by a solid international insurance policy.
Good to know
It is strongly advised to choose insurance that includes medical evacuation. Thus, if necessary, the beneficiary can be transported to any appropriate medical facility. Such security is essential if you want to move to Indonesia, although it will significantly increase the cost of your insurance policy.
Emergency medical evacuation is normally done by helicopter in Indonesia, but be aware that some of the more remote islands of the archipelago are not served by this service. In addition, many foreign professionals choose to travel to neighboring countries (such as Singapore orMalaysia) to receive medical care, due to the shortcomings of the Indonesian health system.
If you follow this health and safety in Indonesia, normally you’ll be ok.
A little common sense, firmness, courtesy and, if necessary, a few thousand rupees should solve most situations. We cannot speak of dangers. Just a few possible confusions, certainly unpleasant, in particular in certain exchange offices, particularly in Kuta (Bali). Recount your tickets well at the counter before leaving.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against traveling to Indonesian Papua (especially in the central mountainous regions: Puncak Jaya, Jayawijaya, Paniai and Timika).
In addition, it reports acts of piracy in internal waters (Banda, Java and Celebes Seas) and in border areas with Singapore (Strait of Malacca), Malaysia and the Philippines.
Payment card, exchange
Many backpackers have had problems either with their payment cards (in the ATMs, the card codes are copied; favor bank ATMs with a storefront), or with money changers: they invent an additional tax out of the hat (theirs!) or count very quickly so that we cannot recount correctly with them. Take your time to check it out.
When Exchanging Currency at a Money Changer, Remember:
- Count in Front: Always count your exchanged money in front of the money changer representative to ensure accuracy.
- Use a Calculator: Use a calculator to verify the exchange rate and total amount, preventing calculation errors.
- Check for Counterfeit Bills: Inspect the received bills for authenticity and security features.
- Ask Questions: Clarify any doubts you have about the transaction before leaving the premises.
- Avoid using street money changers. While they might offer attractive exchange rates, you could end up losing money in the process.
- Choose Reputable Changers: Opt for well-reviewed money changers to reduce risks and ensure a smooth exchange. Opt for authorized establishments with proper facilities like entrance doors, air conditioning, and bright lighting.
Attention, here we do not joke with drugs! You will sometimes be offered it at parties in Kuta or Seminyak. Refuse politely but firmly: dealers are ALWAYS snitches, in cahoots with the police.
Indonesian prisons are not known for their hospitality. Indonesian law is ruthless.
Little risk of theft, but as always in big city crowds, better beware. Do not go out alone at night, always stay in a group.
We can never tell you enough: refuse anything from anyone, even if they are cool, especially if they are cool, and never accept to do them a favor, no matter how small. Here are our small tips concerning the Health and safety in indonesia.
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