Dealing with emergency situations in Indonesia

Hello everybody,

Dealing with unexpected situations abroad can be a very difficult matter. In order to better help expats and soon-to-be expats in Indonesia face such tricky situations, we invite you to share your advice and experience.

What are the key emergency numbers you should know by heart?

In the event of a legal problem, an accident, a natural disaster, an injury or the death of a close family member, what are the first things to do in Indonesia?

What are the things to plan ahead in order to better cope with such unexpected situations (registration at the Embassy, transport, medical, comprehensive insurance for instance)?

If you have gone through such experiences in Indonesia, do not hesitate to share your story.

Thank you in advance!


You’re probably going to hear a wild variation of stories on this topic, and that is due to the fact that “emergency services” vary considerably from one part of Indonesia to another.

What I simply mean, is that while such services are available (and pretty good) in large urban areas, for most of this country, “emergency services” means self reliance. 

For example, here in Bali virtually every village has a kul kul drum, which is a long slit drum mounted on a tower and located near the community center.  In an emergency an alarm is sounded by hitting this drum in a particular manner which also conveys the sort of emergency…fire, thief in the village, or whatever.  This sounding of the drum calls all the villagers to action to deal with the problem.

Some photos of kul kul drum towers here: … DQIQsAQIHQ

Any expat living in most rural parts of Bali would be very wise to have good contacts and connections with the closest medical clinic to where they live…including the hand phone numbers of the doctors (should the clinic in fact have any doctors).  That is the best course of action in a medical emergency, especially if late at night…call the doctor and have him or her come to you. 

That all being said, there are emergency numbers to call here in Bali, and they are:

•    Main Emergency = 112 (like 911)
•    Ambulance = 118
•    Search & Rescue = 111, 115, 151
•    Police = 110
•    Fire Dpt. 113

But as I say…the bottom line is, those numbers are generally most effective in the main tourist and population centers like Denpasar, Kuta and other areas in southern Bali. 

I have no idea (others will) what emergency phone numbers apply to other parts of Indonesia, but according to this recent article, soon it will be 112 nationwide: … -soon.html

The above has made the main stuff pretty clear.
I save all the emergency numbers in my phone, and make sure you know the location of the nearest hospital to your home, work and where ever you like to hang out.

As traffic in the cities can be a serious mess, don't assume an ambulance will get you to hospital before you die.

If possible, try to make sure you have the direct line of the nearest police station and hospital.

Indonesia is not at all like countries in the west so living in Indonesia means we need to take different circumstances into consideration.

Apart from the keeping the police and ambulance numbers in the quick dial on my mobile phone, I also keep the numbers of the security guards in the area where I live, also my father in laws number as he knows many people to assist in various situations.

I also keep some photos in my mobile phone of me standing beside senior police officers in my province. I produce these in case traffic police stop me for no reason. I've got a photo with the Mayor and one with a famous politician just in case.

Although not so common anymore, traffic police do occasionally pull over cars and try to get money with threats of going to court if you don't pay an immediate fine. However, they are scared of their seniors and will usually let you go if they realise you know their boss. Traffic police also often target cars with number plates from out of town.

Some advice, if you are driving a car and have an accident with a motorbike, assume that you are to blame. Be prepared to pay money or foot the hospital bill for the motorcyclist. Just try to come to an amount of compensation and be happy to drive away without being beaten up by all the other motorcyclists nearby.

Have a good medical insurance with an insurance company that pays quickly.

Your post reminded me of a funny story back when “Ibu Mega” was President. 

An expat I knew back then did a super job with Photoshop, and made a great pic of himself standing next to Ibu Mega.  He tried using it once to influence a local Balinese policeman.   

Upon showing the cop this photo, the cop dug into his own wallet and produced his bright yellow Golkar party membership card! 

As I recall the story, his fine was doubled on the spot! 

Bali karma…it is truly amazing! 


My Interview with

Some of my Writings on Bali:

Ubudian :

Your post reminded me of a funny story back when “Ibu Mega” was President. 

An expat I knew back then did a super job with Photoshop, and made a great pic of himself standing next to Ibu Mega.  He tried using it once to influence a local Balinese policeman.   

Upon showing the cop this photo, the cop dug into his own wallet and produced his bright yellow Golkar party membership card! 

As I recall the story, his fine was doubled on the spot! 

Bali karma…it is truly amazing! 


My Interview with

Some of my Writings on Bali:

Yup I wouldn't advise doing that either......the guy was lucky not to be arrested on the spot.

When I first bought my car, I got stopped by a very intimidating traffic cop who demanded Rp500,000 or face court on Friday. My father in law happened to be in the car. I went back to my car and told him what the policeman had said. My father in law calmly called his friend and passed the phone to the policeman who apparently got yelled at by someone very senior. His response was basically "Yes sir! Yes Sir!" He apologized to me, gave me back my license and registration and told me that I could go. That senior police officer is an old friend and customer of my father in laws and often drops by for coffee.

What I am told is that traffic police take a risk when they do this. They can get away with this 95% of the time, but it is always a gamble and if the person they stop happens to know someone senior then their career could take a drastic turn for the worst.

A piece of advice from my father in law and his senior policeman friend to avoid getting stopped by traffic police is to put a big Harley Davidson sticker on the back windscreen. But that's not something I care to have on my car.

“A piece of advice from my father in law and his senior policeman friend to avoid getting stopped by traffic police is to put a Harley Davidson sticker on the back windscreen.”

I don’t know how the cops in Bandung operate “traffic stops” but here in Bali, it’s a frontal experience, meaning, the cops pull you over as you head into their checking zone.

An HD sticker on the back windshield will have no positive effect here, but a nice big swastika (Hindu style) and with the name of the local regency board of religion might help.   ;) 

That of course keeping in mind that 99% of the police on Bali are Balinese.

Personally, I never attempt to “pull rank” or “name drop” when it comes to local officials.  Over time, they all know exactly who you are, and what family you are attached to (should that be the case).   

In Bali, these “traffic checks” are far more common in the weeks prior to the two most major (and expensive) holidays for the Balinese…Galungan and Kuningan.  I’m more than happy to help out a cop who is looking for a little addition to his low salary to help his family enjoy these immensely important holidays.  But hey, that’s just me, and it’s my way.  That said, it has worked very well for all my past near 18 years living “in paradise.”

I don't have any powerful friends, so I have to rely on being a nice chap ... plus technology.

There is no secret there is the odd bent cop in Indonesia, and a bribery attempt could well be described as an emergency of sorts, so is probably on topic.

I do advise having a dashcam running all the time, one with the ability to turn to record any interaction with officials when stopped on the road. I usually have my phone on a stand in the car.
The phone is used for satnav so the screen is aimed at me. A quick touch allows the front camera to record video, all on screen so the cop can see he's being recorded.
I haven't had any attempts at bribery since I did that.

" I have to rely on being a nice chap."

That is without question the best approach.   ;)

I can believe that. Makes sense!

No, here in Bandung the traffic police generally target cars with Jakarta number plates and people with nice new cars. Also white faces and sometimes Chinese faces also tend to get stopped as they equate Chinese and white faces with having money.

One of the places they tend to stop many Jakarta drivers is on Jalan Asia Africa opposite the big mosque just before the main post office. It's an extremely congested area and there is a busy filter lane off to the right. If you are not in the right lane and you have a "B" at the beginning of your car plate then you will certainly be stopped. Often you can see a long line of Jakarta cars all pulled over by the police.

However, when I drive in Jakarta I get lots of cars honking and I have to be extra careful when traffic police are around. My Balinese family tell me the same thing happens in Bali when Alphards and Fortuners with "B" number plates are there, not very much liked by the locals.

That sure sounds logical to me. 

I can only imagine (and I've heard stories) about driving in or around Jakarta with Balinese plates on your car.  And these stories have nothing to do with either being an expat, or a local.  As you suggest, it's the plate on the car which drew attention. 

That all being said, are we talking now more about issues of the past, or is this sort of thing still very current in Jakarta and Bandung?

It is still very current.

Another problem here is that Bandung is home to the military. And many ordinary folk get those little badges and mimic military number plates in order to avoid being stopped by traffic police. Recently, I mean in the last couple of weeks, there have been huge checks everywhere coordinated by the traffic police and military police to clamp down on this problem.

Again, it shows that it is far better to just drive safely and sensibly in Indonesia so that problems with traffic police are minimized.

Ah yes, a good point about the military (TNI) academies and strong presence in and around Bandung.  I can easily see that what you are commenting on makes perfect sense.  Much of the same goes on in the US near big military bases, and near any of the four military academies. 

Sorry to go a bit off topic, but I have mixed emotions and conflicting thoughts about two of my three son’s future careers.   

Our two oldest boys are keen on possibly pursuing military careers.  No surprise, as it’s “in their blood"  both from my Balinese wife’s family, and my own American roots.

My dilemma is centered around where, and with which military, viz, the US at one of its four academies, or Indonesia?  They are lucky in that both options are open to them.

Back to topic, I can understand very well why a local cop would be reluctant to “hassle’ or attempt to intimidate a local who is part of the TNI.  There is a “brotherhood” shared by all of them…and that brotherhood has an essential function in maintaining the security of any sovereign nation.

Hi everybody,

Please note that some off topic posts have been removed from this thread.

Let's talk about  Dealing with emergency situations in Indonesia only please.


Priscilla :)

No choice but to be "self reliant" and work together
with neighbors:
1)  Have EMERGENCY CASH always on hand, say Rp 5 million.
     When disaster strikes, CASH is KING to do anything
     in day-to-day needs (buying food, supplies, etc).
2)  Have EMERGENCY SUPPLIES (batteries, flashlights,
     canned foods, dry foods, etc).
     first aid kids,  ANTIBIOTICS, knife, scissors, etc).
4)  Solar Powered cellphone charger -- so you can
    call whomever you need to call to.
5)  One 20 liter Jerry-Can of Gasoline, for emergency
6)  Have EMERGENCY TENT -- or at least a TARP.
     In case you need an emergency shelter,
     if your house is blown away.
7)  Keep an AIR RIFLE.   You can shoot some small
    animals for food.

just ideas.

-- Juntak

Hi everybody,

Please note that some inappropriate and off topic posts have been removed from this thread.



Earthquakes are common in some parts of the country so the shelter idea is a good one.
I kept an old waterproof car cover from my old car, enough to provide shelter in a bad situation.

Excellent post Juntak.   :top:

Emergency preparedness is not something that is stressed here, nor have I ever seen it as part of TV public service announcements.  Surely during your years living in the states that is something you heard quite a bit.

While we are rarely subjected to very bad weather...earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis are always a possibility, and none of them come with much, if any, advance warning.

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