Australian travellers are being warned to exercise a high degree of caution as close neighbour Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, heads to the polls next week in a high-stakes election.
Smart Traveller, the government’s advisory service, stated on Monday “frequent political rallies and possible protests” were likely to occur in the lead-up to voting day, which will see more than 200 million Indonesians vote for their next president across the massive archipelago nation that stretches from Sumatra island in the west to the province of Papua immediately north of Darwin and Far North Queensland.
“Expect traffic delays and restricted access to locations if protests occur. Avoid protests and demonstrations and monitor local media for the latest updates,” the advice states.
The election, a three-way race between former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, former military general Prabowo Subianto and former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, takes place next Wednesday, February 14.
Boisterous political rallies are a common feature of life in Indonesia, a nation of about 270 million people, and tens of thousands of supporters can gather at stadiums to cheer on their preferred candidate.
The new warning adds to the overall “exercise a high degree of caution” risk assessment for the country, which counts Bali, one of Australia’s most popular travel destinations, as its star tourist draw.
Alongside the election, the government advises Australian travellers to be mindful of possible of terror attacks and the country’s many active volcanoes, which can erupt without warning.
The government also advises Australians to reconsider their need to travel to the provinces of Papua due to ongoing separatist activity.
“There’s been tension, including demonstrations and violence, in certain towns in the provinces of Papua, Papua Pegunungan, Papua Tengah and Papua Selatan in recent years,” the government states.
“Armed groups have stated that they’re targeting foreigners, including Australians.”
But Indonesia continues to attract millions of Australian travellers each year with its intoxicating mix of cultural power, natural beauty and affordability.
The tropical getaway was the number one travel spot for Australians in 2023, according to data from Bupa Travel Insurance, followed by the United States and New Zealand.