Thursday, April 15, 2010

Businesspeople cry foul over policy on single tariff visa

Fadli , The Jakarta Post , Batam | Fri, 02/05/2010 10:54 AM | The Archipelago

Businesspeople in Riau Islands are up in arms about the new visa-on-arrival (VoA), claiming it has led to increased operational costs.

Companies at the economic exclusive zone in Batam, Bintan and Karimun have to pay more for corporate meetings, machine services and after-sale services, said General Manager PT Bintan Inti Industrial Estate (BIIE) Jamin Hidayat.

The new policy, which has been in effect since Jan. 26, adopts a single tariff of US$25 for the first 30 days in Indonesia, to visitors from 64 countries. There is no longer a seven-day visa-on-arrival for $10.

The new regulation stipulates that Indonesia will provide a 30-day visa-on-arrival, with a possible 30-day extension.

Jamin, who chairs the Indonesian Entrepreneurs Association of Bintan, said top-level managers mostly came to Bintan for one-day meetings, and did not need 30-day visas.

“The same applies when companies deal with overseas buyers who come to check after-sales services.”

PT BIIE has 21 foreign investors with a total investment of $500 million, and employs 11,000 workers.

Jamin said there was a high rate of travel between Bintan and Singapore with many top-level managers making the island state their home base while working at companies in Bintan, Batam and Karimun.

“We have sent a letter to the government, in this case, the coordinating economic minister, asking for a special tariff at the border zones where we operate.”

Jamin suggested either a return to the old tariff or a daily charge.

“Those foreigners are not visiting for a holiday. They are here for two days at the longest. They do not need 30 days. This [VoA] tariff is not prudently implemented. It lacks socialization and has jolted us.”

Tourism, tour and travel businesses are reported to be affected.

Robert Iwan Loriaux, head of the Tourism Office of Riau Islands, said they had sent a letter of complaint to the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

“There used to be 500 golfers visiting every weekend. The number has dropped by more than half.”

The Jakarta Post’s previous reports cited tour and travel company PT Andika VIT as saying the new policy caused it to lose an order from a group of 38 tourists from India, who cancelled their visit to Batam through the Harbor Bay ferry port on Thursday.

Robert said the policy was unfair compared to the government’s fiscal policy, in which Indonesian travelers who hold a Taxpayers’ Registration Number do not have to pay fees to the immigration office.

“For Indonesians who spend money overseas, the government exempts them from taxes while foreigners who enter Indonesia and spend at least $100 must go through complicated bureaucracy.”

Like Jamin, Robert supported a special policy for Riau Islands.

Riau Islands told not to worry about visa-on-arrival single tariff

Fadli , The Jakarta Post , Batam | Tue, 02/09/2010 1:44 PM | The Archipelago

The Riau Islands' businesspeople and provincial administration have been told to stop criticizing the government's new visa-on-arrival tariff, and to drop their demands for special treatment in the matter.

Visitors applying for visas on arrival have to pay US$25 which allows them to stay for 30 days, with the possibility of a 30-day extension for another $25.

This new single tariff policy has been in effect since Jan. 26, and applies to visitors from 64 designated countries

Businesspeople at the Riau Islands, especially those in Batam, Bintan and Karimun - known as the BBK economic zone - claim the new policy was forcing them to pay unnecessary extra costs and demanded that either the tariff revert to the old system, in which they could pay $10 for the first seven days, or incorporate a daily charge.

I Gede Widiharta, head of the provincial Justice and Human Rights office, said the new tariff was part of the central government's prerogatives in foreign policy.

He added the central government could not easily revert to the $10 tarrif.

"The new policy prevails in every part of the Indonesian territory. Do not interpret regional autonomy disproportionately," Widiharta told The Jakarta Post, over the weekend.

However, Governor Ismeth said the Justice and Human Rights Minister had given BBK a green light to implement the old tariff.

Speaking to the media during the officiation of a swimming event on Friday, Ismeth said that the possible reversion had been conveyed by the minister on the sidelines of a meeting between governors from across the country and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Cipanas Palace on Tuesday.

"The minister has approved the implementation of the old tariff in Batam, Bintan and Karimun, which is $10 for a week stay and not $25 for a month stay," he said, adding this only applied to the Riau Islands.

Riau businesspeople argue the new policy has badly affected their businesses, predicting a potential loss of Rp 500 billion a year due to possible decrease both in the tourism industry and business sectors.

Widiharta, however, said based on the data at his office, which also oversees the immigration affairs in the province, there had not been a significant drop of foreign tourist visits following the implementation of the new tariff in the province.

He added that most of the 1.5 millions of tourists visiting the province came from Singapore and Malaysia, which require no visas.

Only a small number came from Korea, Japan, Taiwan and India, which are included among the 64 countries.

He said an evaluation on the impact of the new tariff would be conducted three months after its implementation. He expressed confidence in the new policy's effectiveness and merit.

Mixed messages on visa-on-arrival policy

Sun, 02/07/2010 3:10 PM | Headlines

INDONESIA: The central government has promised not to impose the new visa-on-arrival policy in Riau Island's province's exclusive economic zones, Riau Governor Ismeth Abdullah said.

The governor said that the new policy would hurt businesspeople in the province, who earlier protested the new policy, saying it increased operating costs.

Ismeth said on Friday night Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar had informed him of the decision on the sidelines of a meeting between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the country's governors at Cipanas Palace in Bogor, West Java, on Tuesday.

"Patrialis agreed to roll back the new visa-on-arrival tariff for Batam, Bintan and Karimun to the original US$10 for a seven-day stay, so there is no need to pay $25 for a 30-day visit," he said.

"The revised decision is exclusive to the Riau Islands areas, which borders other countries, and from what I heard, the new visa-on-arrival rule still applies to other parts of the country." - JP

Investors pay attention to election

Fri, 02/12/2010 2:06 PM | The Archipelago

BATAM, Riau Islands: Foreign investors at the Batam, Bintan and Karimun (BBK) special economic zone are alert to the upcoming direct gubernatorial election in July as they are looking forward to "friendlier" policies in the future.

Head of the Riau Islands office of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Johannes Kennedy Aritonang, said Thursday the investors did not care who would be the next governor as everything was still centralized in Jakarta. "The investors are just monitoring and looking forward to improvements in infrastructure and facilities ..." - JP

Doctors resign over payment

Fadli , The Jakarta Post , Batam | Tue, 03/02/2010 2:17 PM | The Archipelago

Seventeen of the 22 doctors working at the state hospital in Karimun regency hospital, Riau Islands, have reportedly resigned, citing they had yet to receive welfare fees from the Karimun regency administration.

The doctors tendered their resignation on Feb. 24, although the news was leaked to the press Monday. The Riau Islands police office has sent four doctors to the hospital to address the staff shortage.

The doctors' resignation was triggered by the administration office's failure to pay their medical service allowances as part of the employee welfare package. The doctors have demanded the regency administration replace the hospital management.

Medical team chairman Ridwan Abdullah told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the resignation was the last option chosen by the doctors after the hospital management and Karimun administration office had failed to address their complains about the allowance.

Until their resignation, the doctors had not received the allowances due to the sluggish process of funds disbursement.

"We were also concerned about the condition of medical equipment at the hospital, such as grubby surger wear," said gynecologist Ridwan.

"We asked the hospital to replace them but to no avail. The budget for the hospital is substantial, but it could not fulfill the basic demand. We eventually decided to quit."

The resignees are made up of eight specialists, two dentists and seven general practitioners. Their resignation, said Ridwan, had affected services, especially those for the low-income patients reliant on health insurance.

"Our struggle apparently needs sacrifices. We also wish people to know that we also need attention. People outside might see consider our lives to be comfortable, but that's not the case," he said.

"That's one of the reasons why the regency administration has cited that doctors can seek additional sources of income from other places, so much so that our rights are being deprived. That's definitely wrong."

Ridwan said a team from the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) and its Riau Islands' chapter is currently mediating with the Karimun regency administration to discuss the issue. "If our demands are not met, we will resign and seek other places to practice."

Karimun Regent Nurdin Basirun said the demands from the doctors were unreasonable. He deemed the doctors to be impatient with the regency administration's efforts to improve the hospital management.

"Let them just quit. Their demands are beyond the limit. We will look for other doctors."

Resigned doctors back to work

Mon, 03/08/2010 1:53 PM | The Archipelago

BATAM, Riau Islands: Seventeen doctors who resigned from the state-owned Karimun hospital because of unpaid welfare payments in Feburary, have returned to work after the regency administration agreed to meet the doctors' demands.

The chairman of the Riau branch of the Association of Indonesian Doctors' (IDI), Afrizal Dachlan, said the agreement was made during a mediating meeting between the IDI, IDI's ethical code council and Karimun Regent Nurdin Basirun.

"I can assure today that all the previously resigned doctors will be back to work again," Afrizal told The Jakarta Post.

Afrizal, however, declined to confirm whether the regency administration would fulfill all the doctors' demands.

Seventeen of the 22 doctors working at the hospital reportedly resigned, after claiming they had yet to receive welfare payments from the Karimun regency administration.

Chairman of the hospital's medical committee Ridwan Abdullah, who was among those who resigned, said the resignation was actually the result of an accumulation of problems that the hospital's management had failed to properly address. - JP

Imported cars held in Batam

Fadli , The Jakarta Post , Batam | Fri, 03/26/2010 10:25 AM | The Archipelago

Car dealers in Batam, Riau Islands, have imported and marketed hundreds of completely built-up (CBU) cars despite the absence of import regulations, leaving the cars being held by
the local Customs and Excise Office.

An importer in Batam, PT GA, has recently received orders for 24 units of Wish, Harrier, Camry and Altise cars from Toyota.

The cars, sent to Batam through Singapore, arrived early this month, but due to the lack of regulation on these particular types of cars, the local Customs and Excise Office said they could not be released from the port’s warehouses.

Another importer experienced similar problems when it imported 60 units of VW Beetle cars at the end of last year.

“We don’t understand why the technical regulations are not made clear by the government. Our customers are really disappointed. On top of that, we have already paid for the cars,” PT GA Batam’s marketing manager Antoni told The Jakarta Post.

He said the market for luxury CBU cars in Batam was relatively good especially because they are cheaper compared to other places.

He said a Toyota Harrier, for example, cost only Rp 400 million a unit in Batam, which, along with neighboring Bintan and Karimun Islands, is a Free Trade Zone.

The same model of car sells for Rp 700 million in Jakarta thanks to value-added and luxury taxes
imposed on vehicles, electronics and liquor in the zone.

Separately, acting head of the Batam Customs and Excise Office Heru Setioko called on importers to wait until the office issued its technical direction for the import of CBU cars before importing.

“It’s not yet clear what form we have to use for CBU cars imported to Batam, as free trade in
Batam is provided for production activities and not for consumer goods,” Heru said.

Many have expressed concerns that opening up imports of CBU cars to Batam would create a chance for the smuggling of these cars to other parts of the country. This is mostly due to the limited number of consumers of this commodity.

Chairman of Commission II of the Batam municipal legislative council overseeing the economy, Yudi Kurnain, said that there was a chance that CBU cars imported to Batam would be sent to other potential markets, including Jakarta.

“It’s surprising that such cars are not seen on the streets of Batam,” Yudi said.

Yudi called on police, the Customs and Excise Office and the navy to tighten surveillance on the smuggling of luxury cars out of Batam.

He said a single smuggled car could cause hundreds of millions of rupiah in state losses due to unpaid taxes.

“The free trade zone is limited to industrial production activities, and not for consumption purposes. It’s completely wrong to have the concept benefit the consumer sector,” Yudi said.

Malaysian Woman caught Smuggling Drugs to Karimun Island

From Jakarta Post
A Malaysian woman has been arrested for smuggling Ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine, locally known as shabu-shabu, worth Rp 5.5 billion (US$ 589,300) at the International Ferry Port in Karimun, Riau Island, an official said Wednesday.

Head of the port‘s Customs and Excise Office Nasar Salim said that officers had become suspicious of a purple bag belonging to 45-year-old Lim Chen Huat when it was passed through an X-ray machine shortly after she arrived from Kukup, Malaysia on Tuesday.

“We then found 10,112 Ecstasy tablets wrapped in 10 packages and two kilograms of crystal methamphetamine wrapped in two plastic bags,” Nasar told The Jakarta Post.

He added that she might be linked to an international syndicate as she had previously visited Karimun to ensure she could smuggle the drugs.

“We handed her over to the Karimun Resort Police for further investigation,” he said.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Indonesian Goverment urged to consider Singapore - Batam Bridge

BATAM: A legislator has urged the Indonesian government to consider constructing a bridge connecting Batam to Singapore as part of efforts to boost economic development in Batam.

Harry Azhar Azis, from the Golkar Party, said Monday the Indonesian government should talk to its Singaporean counterpart about such a plan.

"The bridge would give our producers better access to the Asian continent following the implementation of the free trade agreement between ASEAN and China," he said. - JP

Source: Jakarta Post

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bad weather stops ferry to and from Tanjung Balai Karimun

Over the last week, ferries have been stopped from traveling to and from Tanjung Balai on two days where the weather have been really bad. This means all the ferries from Batam, Singapore and Kukup Malaysia were not allowed to ply their routes.

Today (26th Nov) is another ferry ban day. The authorities are watching the weather closely and will lift the ban once they are confident it is safe enough to do so. However if the weather remains the same or worsen, the ban will be extended beyond 26th Nov.

Waves up to 2.5 meters and strong wind have even stopped the local fishermen from going out to make their living. Since the sinking of the ferry Dumai Ekspres 10, authorities are being extra cautious.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ferry from Batam to Dumai sank near Karimun Island

The Dumai Ekspress 10, the sister ship of the boat here, sank near Karimum Island. This is the similar boat that plies between Kukup and Tanjung Balai Karimun.

Over 25 bodies have been recovered. More than 240 people have been rescued and bought to Tanjung Balai Karimun.

This is the monsoon season and high waves are common in the Melacca straits off Sumatra.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We're number 1 on google

One of my goals when I started this blog was to be #1 on google for the search phrase "tanjung balai karimun".

Well, this week we have achieved this aim after around 6 months. We've overtaken wikitravel and wikipedia.

Thanks for supporting us..

Friday, October 16, 2009

Contributors needed!!!

Hi Everyone,

I havent been able to update this blog lately because I havent been to Tanjung Balai lately due to personal commitments.

So I am looking for contributors to this site. Anyone who lives in Balai or visit balai regularly (or even not so regularly) is welcomed to write for this blog.

Please email me at mdbehappy(XXXX)
Replace (XXXX) with @

After 4 months online, this blog has been able to achieve #2 position in google search engine for the search key "tanjung balai karimun". Yay!! One day I hope to build this blog up to even overtake wikipedia which is at number 1.

Looking forward to any contributions... Thanks

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Riau officers tired of checking for H1N1

Officers monitoring arrival gates at airports and harbours in Riau have said they are tired from checking the temperature of incoming visitors, done in an effort to prevent the spread of the H1NI virus, despite the Health Ministry's call to continue doing so.

The problem was revealed during a national meeting on the dissemination of Influenza A (H1N1) virus, held by the Health Ministry in Batam on Saturday.

The meeting was attended by heads of hospitals across the country that were recently appointed as referral hospitals for the virus.

Head of the Riau Islands Health Agency Munzir Purba disclosed the officers had to work from morning until 8 p.m., checking about 20,000 visitors entering the country from Singapore and Malaysia in five seaports and an airport in Batam, as well as a seaport in Karimun and two seaports on Bintan Island.

"The officers are very tired of checking the temperature of the visitors. We think that the action is no longer effective," Munzir said.

He said checking the temperature e of the visitors at the arrival gates was no longer effective because the H1N1 virus had spread across the country.

Responding to the problem, director general of the Health Ministry's Medical Services, Farid Husein, said the checking must continue.

"But the officers could do it in shifts, to avoid fatigue," Farid.

He said the World Health Organization had not set a standard for the number of patients needed for a country to be categorized as affected by the H1N1 pandemic.

So far, there have been about 400 H1N1 cases recorded in Indonesia, including three that were fatal.

Meanwhile, Widjajanti Utojo, head of the Dr. Slamet General Hospital in Garut, West Java, said many patients possibly infected with H1N1 could not be bothered to wait for the results of their tests.

"Many patients escape from the hospital while waiting for the results," Widjajanti said. She said her hospital had treated 60 people suspected of carrying the virus, but said only six were declared positive.

Similarly, head of medical services at Bali's Sanghlah Hospital, I Gusti Lanang Suartana, said many foreign patients became angry when they were forced to stay for six days in the in the hospital's isolation room. "Many foreign patients get angry because of that, but it will continue as there is no solution from the ministry," Suartana said.

Director of medical services at the Health Ministry, Marwan Nusri, said the laboratory testing should be conducted centrally, in Jakarta.

"It's not about the lack of equipment. But we have to do the test carefully," Marwan said.

He disclosed each test costs the central government Rp 4 million (US$400).

From Jakarta Post

MUI requests total closure for Ramadan

The Riau Islands chapter of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) has asked regencies and municipalities in the province to totally close entertainment centers, such as pubs, discotheques and massage parlours, for the duration of the upcoming Ramadan Muslim fasting month.

MUI Riau Islands chapter chairman Azhari Abbas told The Jakarta Post on Thursday the council urged the administrations of Batam, Tanjung Pinang, Karimun, Bintan, Lingga, Natuna and Anambas to close entertainment centers, starting on Aug. 21, the first eve of Ramadan.

"We have sent a circulating letter to the regency and municipality administrations. The administrations could use the letter as a basis on the closure of the entertainment centers during Ramadan."

He claimed the Tanjung Pinang muncipality administration had agreed to the MUI's request and promised to implement the total closure of the entertainment centers in the city during Ramadan.

According Azahari, the council was still approaching Batam administration and urged the municipality to close entertainment centers in the city along the fasting month.

However, Batam has its own regulation that manages the closure of entertainment centers and will close them for just four days during Ramadan, ignoring the Islamic preachers' call for total closure.

The regulation states that the closure is only the first day of Ramadan, the Koran Revelation Day on the 17th day of Ramadan and two days of Idul Fitri celebrations.

"Batam is the only city in the province that does not involve ulema in the closure of entertainment centers during Ramadan. We are very disappointed," he said.

He argued the closure of the entertainment centers along the fasting month was important to prevent immoral activities that could disturb the serenity of worship during Ramadan.

During Ramadan last year, the Batam administration also closed the entertainment for four days. The closure of entertainment along the month was feared to decrease income of workers in tourism sector.

Batam municipality spokesperson Yusfa Hendri said the closure of entertainment centers during Ramadan would be regulated through a muncipal regulation, confirming that last year the centers had been closed only for four days.

"We have to consider workers who depend their incomes on the entertainment centers. It's impossible to close the entertainment centers throughout the month."

However, he said the municipality would involve the ulema council in the planned closure of the entertainment centers during Ramadan.

"We would involve ulema in the closing and opening policies of the entertainment centers," he added, responding to the council's call.

From Jakarta Post

Riau Governor's plane lost in space

A plane carrying Riau Islands Governor Ismeth Abdullah and 13 key officials was recently forced to hover above Sumatra for two hours due to the failure of a Global Positioning System (GPS), an official said Tuesday.

Hang Nadim Airport’s aviation safety unit head, Elfi Amirm, told The Jakarta Post the governor’s chartered flight was bound for Sei Bati Airport on Karimun Island from Tanjung Pinang on Sunday when the aircraft encountered the technical problem.

Elfi said the Sei Bati Airport noticed something was going wrong with the Cassa 212 plane operated by Sabang Merauke Air Charter, as it did not land an hour after takeoff at 8:10 a.m. It normally takes less than 15 minutes to reach Karimun from Tanjung Pinang by flight.

“I reported the problem to the Singapore aviation authorities to direct the plane,” Elfi said.

The governor finally touched down safely at Sei Bati Airport, thanks to the Singapore Air Traffic Control. There is no report about how the governor and the officials on board reacted to the aviation problem.

The absence of a radar in all airports across the province has forced the province to rely on the Singapore-controlled Flight Information Region (FIR) for decades, Elfi said.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requires the nearest member country that possesses a more sophisticated navigation system to help another member country in need.

From Jakarta Post

Saturday, June 27, 2009

More shutdown

Tanjung Balai economy seems to be slowing down. From a visitor's perpective, I see some wismas and hotels shutting down. One of my favourite restaurants, the Silver Fish (next to Rasa Sayang Hotel) is now closed. This is quite sad. One thing about an economy downturn is that people have to adapt. Some people have taken on extra work, change jobs or have better marketing. One surprise I saw was Hotel Maxi being fully booked on one night when other hotels were very quiet. Hotel Maxi seems to be able to cater for bigger groups like wedding parties, conventions and seminars.

I was at Hotel Paradise which used to be one of the top hotels in Tanjung Balai. It was the quietest I have ever seen it. There seems to be a mosquito plague there... The whole place smells of baygon! If you are at the lounge area, you are practically eaten alive by mosquitoes!

Santana is now a Karaoke lounge, opposite Paradise hotel. They have dangdut singers there now. Also plenty of pretty looking PR ladies. I found out that they used to work at other places but now have to supplement their income by working at Santana. Just another sign of how bad things are now.

Durian season is in full bloom! The price is around IDR 8,000 per kg now. Try it!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Deadly Rough Sea for Returning Illegal Immigrants

This is a bad month for seafarers. Over the last 2 weeks, 3 boats have sank whilst carrying returning illegal immigrants from Malaysia. More than 10 lives have been lost. This is due to the high waves as well as the lack of safety measures in the boats that carry these illegal immigrants. Tanjung Balai is a destination for returning illegal immigrants from Malaysia who do not carry any proper travel documentation.

These boats come from Kukup, Tanjung Piai Pontian and Tanjung Pelepas Port, Malaysia. Their destintation is Tanjung Balai Karimun, Indonesia.

Tourists numbers descending

From Gustia Benny, Batam Pos

The Department of transportation, Karimun regency reviewed the application of the increase in port tax. There was a decrease in foreign tourists but the number is not too significant, only about 5 percent.

The port authorities have decided to keep the increase in port tax and will only review the increase if the number of foreign tourist drops by 30 percent or more.

Karimun street curbs freed from traders

Side walk of Tanjung Balai. Blocked pathways forces pedestrians to walk dangerously on main road.
From Tribun Batam

Most of Tanjung Balai's street curbs/walkways are being used by traders as places to store merchandise, flower pots and also used for motor cycle parking. In fact the walkways main purpose is for pedestrian use.

There was a raid by local authorities on Mon, 1st June. This was to impress upon the traders that the walkways is for pedestrian use only, not as part of the trader's selling area.

Roads such as Jln Nusantara, Jln Pramuka and Jln A Yani are not very pedestrian friendly. Pedestrians are forced to walk on the main roads, which can be quite dangerous with the heavy flow of traffic.

The local authorities have given warning that this will not be tolerated and action will be taken soon if the traders do not clear up the problem.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Checks on Foreign workers in Tanjung Balai

Immigration checks on foreign workers in Karimun. PT Saipem workers.29th May 2009, from Tribun Batam

Immigration: There are about 200 foreign workers in Karimun.

From 23rd May to 2nd June, Karimun police will be checking on foreign workers as part of the security operations in preparation of the Karimun Regency presidential election on the 8th July.

The Police Commissioner Guruh Arif, Deputy Chief Police Karimun reported to the Tribune after leading the code of ethics assembly in the police Mapolres Karimun, on Wednesday.

Based on data from Karimun, there are about 200 foreign workers in Karimun. Meanwhile, there are 41 foreign citizens with a Limited Stay Permit Card (KITAS). There are 34 person who are new KITAS owner and 7 foreign citizens who are in the process of renewal.

Of the 34, 12 are Malaysians, then followed by citizens of Italy and France as much as 4 people each. India with 3 people, while Australia, Portugal, Philippines, China each accounted for 2 people. Colombia, Sri Lanka and Ukraine each person 1.

Those on extension visa must report to us once a month.

PT Saipem perfect safety record

PT Saipem workers in Karimun Island
29th May 2009
From Tribun Batam
PT Saipem Karimun Yard recorded 2 million work hours without a single accident. PT Saipem management announced the achievement during an appreciation ceremony last Wednesday(27th May). According to Susilo Hasto, PT Saipem Public Relations Coordinator, said that accidents reduce working hours(lost time injury or LTI).

In the event, the Head of Department of Labor Karimun Regency, Syafri Salisman, represantative of Karimun Regent, hopes Saipem can become an example for other companies in Karimun, even throughout Kepri province.

In Karimun itself there are 12 large companies and also other average size foreign companies. Saipem's safety in the workplace should be an example of course. The top project leader of PT Saipem, Fox Roll thanked Saipem employees and contractors working for Saipem. "Leader in safety," he said his motto in the safety of foreign companies.

He hopes Saipem has contributed to all the companies in the Karimun. "Treat safety work as a need and not a compulsion," said Fox. In the ceremony, Head of Department of Transportation, Representative Lanal Karimun closed by giving awards to the Saipem's employees and employees of contractors, PT Multi Adverindo, Waskita PT Karya, PT Boskalis, PT Putra Tidar brave and so forth.

Tighter Inspection of Passengers in Tanjung Balai

Health check for H1N1 at Tanjung Balai's Pelabuhan (Ferry)29th May 2009
From Batam Pos

In anticipation of Swine Flu from infected areas, the Karimun port health authorities have tightened the inspection for incoming visitors.

"With confirmed cases in Malaysia and Singapore, the checks on people from these areas are have tightened," said Rizaldi, Section Head of Control and Quarantine Port Health Office Class II Tanjungbalai Karimun, Thursday.

Previously only body temperature was taken from incoming passengers. Additional steps now include passengers filling in health cards which will make it easier to contact the visitors if they are in Karimun for a longer stay.

As a result of these checks, a resident from Bulu disrict Safri (31) , who just returned from visiting Malaysia was taken to the local hospital after recording a body temperature of 38 Deg C.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Port tax to be reviewed in June

Read from Batam Pos

The Department of Transportation Karimun promised to review the port tax by early June.

This was in response to the protest from members of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurants (PHRI) Karimun, with regards to the increase of the port tax from Rupiah 25k to 60k for foreign visitors, mainly from Malaysia and Singapore.

Edi Sontek, the Chairman of PHRI complained to Batam Pos recently that many hotel and wisma rooms are empty since the implementation of the new port tax.

Hotel operators are happy
just to be able to survive on a daily basis, said Edi. However if there is no review of the port tax, many hotels will have to shut down. "If the visitor numbers continue to decrease, hotel closures will definitely happen. So we ask the government to understand our situation," explained Edi who accompanied PHRI Karimun Secretary, Tantimin SH.

Tourism starting to slow down in Tanjung Balai

On a recent trip to Tanjung Balai Karimun, I noticed a big difference from a year ago. The ferry trip from Kukup Malaysia was only half filled, with only a few Malaysians. Most of the passengers were Indonesians returning. Even the coffee shop operators in Kukup were complaining that they see a drop of around 30% in business. They also mentioned that the Malaysian immigration were tightening the entry requirements for Indonesians (maybe due to the economic downturn in Malaysia). More indonesians are asked to show uang tunjuk when they enter Malaysia. This is the amount of money that the Indonesians have on them to prove they are here on a social visit and can afford to pay for their stay instead of working illegally. If the visitors do not have enough uang tunjuk, they are sent back to Indonesia.

I also heard that a ferry operator from Singapore to Tanjung Balai Karimun recently cut their daily trips from 6 a day to just 3 due to low passenger load.

Maximillian hotel was quiet, even on a Saturday. The local restaurants were also very quiet. They are normally very popular with tourists who frequent them for their fresh seafood. The local Karaokes (KTV), night clubs and disco are also affected. One employee told me they are really feeling the global economic downturn now. If they have a time machine, they would love to go back a year ago!

I think there are a few different reasons why Tanjung Balai is starting to feel the pinch now. Firstly it was the economic crisis, then there is unreasonable increase in TBK's port tax from Rupiah 25k to 60k for foreigners. Recently there was a threat to shut down Villa, the brothel complex. This may have scared off some people.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Indonesian Hotel & Restaurant Org: Tourist Numbers Down in Karimun

Read from Batam Pos

The Indonesian Hotel & Restaurant Organisation (PHRI) Karimun, has asked the local goverment to review the recent increment of the international port tax. This is due to the impact on the numbers of tourist from the new regulation. The occupancy rates of hotels and wismas directly affected by it. Numbers of rooms sold cannot even cover operational cost.

"Don't wait till the situation is intolerable before the goverment begins to react. We ask the goverment to be proactive to the people's complaints," said the secretary of PHRI Karimun, Tantimin SH, yesterday. The truth of the decline in tourist numbers, says Tantimin, can be seen from the Immigration Inspection Place (TPI) international port Tanjungbalai Karimun. All international tourists from Malaysia and Singapore enters via TPI.

Kelly, another member of PHRI says, the port pass tarriff which increased from Rp25 thousand to Rp60 thousand, is much higher than those charged by Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore charges it's visitors 6 Dollar plus 18 Dollar fuel surcharge. Malaysia only charge RM10 which is only around Rp30 thousand.

"With such high charges, visitors are reluctant to visit Karimun," he adds. In terms of facilities, Karimun International Port is far from adequate. There are no clean water and the aircondition is almost non-existent.

Facilities at Batam Center Port is much better. However it's port tax is only Rp43 thousand only.

Kelly also admits that occupancy rates are now very low. Many hotelliers have complained to PHRI. Some have even admitted to zero occupancy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Foreign Visitors Decreasing

Translated from Batampos Kunjungan WNA Menurun

6th May 2009

KARIMUN - The number of visitors from foreign countries to Tanjungbalai Karimun continues to show a decrease after the implementation of the new seaport tax on the 1st May 2009. Foreign passport holders are charged the seaport tax of Rp60 thousand, local passport holders are charged Rp30 thousand. Previously the seaport tax was apllied to all at Rp25 thousand.

Seaport tax increase according to Regional Regulation... where the seaport exit tariff for outbound ships to foreign countries (Singapore & Malaysia) was charged at Rp60 thousand. "The number of foreign arrivals entering since the start date has decline since 3rd May. It averages out to be a decline of around 50%.", said A Pramudite, Head of Port Immigration Inspection Unit (TPI) in the Tanjungbalai Karimun international seaport , Tuesday (5th May) yesterday.

A Pramudite mentioned that normally there are 15 trips a day made by foreign bound ferries. However on Friday, only 12 trips were made. "In fact we had no problems implementing the increase of the seaport tax but our record shows that the decline in foreign visits is visibly obvious," he said.

Based on data obtained from the TPI Tanjungbalai Karimun, foreign arrivals in the month of March reached 23,949 people. While April was 22,967 people. The high seaport tax rates that applies to foreign passport holders has attracted complaints from Malaysians. This is because the seaport tax in Malaysia is only RM10, about Rp 30 thousand. Malaysians have complained this to Afa, a taxi driver who often works from the harbour.

"Guests are now saying that they no longer want to visit Karimun because the seaport tax is double that of Malaysia" Afa grumbles. There are consequence due to the increased seaport tax tariff. Afa admits his livelihood is threatened. Bringing guests around Tanjung Balai is no longer viable. "How can we earn a living if there are no more visitors? We hope that the local authorities will review the seaport tax," said Afa.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Demonstration at PLN Karimun (Electricity Supplier)

There was another demonstration at the PLN Ranting Karimun office, located at Jalan Pertambangan yesterday (27th April) at around 19:30 WIB. This time the demonstrators were hundreds of residents from Jelutung, Babusalam Kelurahan, Kecamatan Tebing, Tanjungbalai Karimun.

The demonstration was triggered by the frequent blackouts (mati lampu/pemadaman) occurring at their place. The blackouts can occur twice a day. The worst thing is that the blackouts normally happen at night which affect their children, many of whom are studying for their junior high school national exams (UN) . "They are forced to use oil lamps.", said Sariman and Woko citizens of Jelutung.

Batam Pos reporter was on the scene and saw the demonstrators arrive around 19:30 by motorcycles. However they found the PLN office to be empty.

Edi Firman, the Manager PLN Ranting Tanjungbalai Karimun was not at the office. Edi arrived around at 20:00 WIB, after being driven by Karimun police personnel using a police patrol car.

At approximately 20:10 WIB, Karimun Regent Nurdin Basirun was seen amongst the residents. Nurdin was seeking to calm the residents. Soon after that Karimun Vice Regent Aunur Rafiq was also at the location.

At around 20:25 WIB, Edi accompanied Yusuf Sirat, commissioner III DPRD Karimun came out of the office to meet the people. Using a megaphone, Edi tried to explain the causes of the blackouts in the Jelutung region.

"The blackout was caused by mechanical problems on the Allen machinery, specifically on Piston 6. We have been trying to fix it since morning." Edi said.

After hearing this, the residents did not accept it because the blackouts have been occuring for over a week. Edi then said that the area is prone to lightning. Every time lightning occurs, blackouts will occur. The residents just did not accept the above explanation.

As a result Edi could not respond. The resident then started to scold and berate Edi. The situation became calmer when Yusuf Sirat who is also a Jerutong resident started to address the crowd. He said that the problem will soon be fixed.

Translated from Batam Pos

Monday, April 27, 2009

Beautiful sunsets in Karimun Island

Beautiful sunset overlooking Tanjung Balai, Karimun shorelineI'm always amazed at the beautiful sunsets I see everytime I visit Tanjung Balai, Karimun. It sometimes takes my breath away.

View of Gabion Hotel from Maxi Hotel
Treat yourself to visual feast by going up to the 7th floor of Hotel Maxi during sunset.

Tanjung Balai town sunset

Another beautiful sunset in Tanjung Balai, KarimunAnother good spot to relax and enjoy the view is Pantai Gloria next to the ferry terminal.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Increase in Ferry Port / Terminal Tax

Sea Port Tax increment June 2009. Tanjung Balai KarimunThis is the latest increment in the port tax. You have to pay this when you depart Karimun island. About a year ago, the port tax was only rp 10k. It then went up to rp 25k. From May 2009 onwards, it will be rp 60k for foreigners and rp 30k for Indonesians. This makes the port tax even more expensive than the port tax in Malaysia and Singapore!

This wouldn't be so bad if the facilities and services were up to scratch. The waiting lounge is always very stuffy. The air conditioner never works! When you arrive, every opportunity is taken to take uang kopi from you. If you bring in your laptop, you will be delayed. If you do not have an Indonesian chop on your passport, you will also be asked to contribute...

When you are about to depart and you are paying the port tax, you can be sure there is no change available if you do not have the exact amount required. Or if you do not have any indonesian rupiah left, they will ask you to pay in RM or Sing $. Not the converted amount but the foreign amount as is RM25 to pay for rp25k! Then every step of the way to your ferry, there will be numerous people asking for uang kopi!

I know some good people in immigration. They are not all bad. However the port terminal experience is one of the worst for visitors to Karimun Island and Indonesia in general. This is the place where people will decide whether they want to return again if they have such bad experience. It's unfortunate that so much potential tourism is lost for such short term corruption and gain.

Things to do around Tanjung Balai Town

Narrow street of Tanjung Balai. Take a walk around town. Don't get stuck in your hotel or else you will miss many things. There are only 2-3 main streets in town. They are narrow, so be careful. Watch out for the holes in the sidewalk. Some places, you have to walk on the main road because the sidewalk is blocked. Watch out for the traffic when you do so.

There are a few nice cafes/restaurants which are airconditioned. Try them out.

Wooden bus, oplet. Tanjung Balai Karimun This is a schoolbus carrying the local kids. The body is made from wood. Very colourful and cute. Note the driver's window.

Magnificent temple on Jalan Nusantara, Tanjung Balai townThis is a chinese temple on Jl Nusantara near towards the market area.

Night market or pasar malam in Tanjung Balai, KarimunIf you head towards the ferry terminal, you will pass the pasar malam. This night market opens around the late afternoon and is open till about 10pm. Great to buy snacks and food.

Kuih kuih at the pasar malamOne of the food stalls at the pasar malam.

Friday, April 24, 2009

News: MV Falcon rough ferry ride from Singapore

PT Info Falcon Management reported that it's ferry, MV Falcon 2, could not depart from Singapore due to high waves and and being swamped rather than water leakage as reported earlier.

"Approximately at 19.00 WIB, whille passing Takong Kecil Island, MV Falcon 2 was trapped by very strong sea waves. The sea water came over the top of the ship, "said PT Indo Falcon Port Captain, Johanes Diano Bani , Thursday (23rd April).

Johanes thinks that the water came in through the ventilation shafts on the upper deck. Then it flowed through to the passenger compartment in the front. This condition prevented us from continuing to Tanjung Balai Karimun in the bad weather condition. So the captain decided for a rescue operation. He decided to change course for the nearest island for shelter and called his company for immediate evacuation.

Meanwhile Johanes said, the captain announced to the passengers of 46 people (not 63 people) that the ship could not continue in it's travel.

"After MV Falcon 5 arrived, passengers and goods were transferred aboard. The evacuation occured between 20:00 and 21:00 WIB. Passengers who were evacuated to MV Falcon 5 arrived in Karimun around 22:21 o'clock WIB in safe condition and no baggage was missing or damaged," he said.

The next day, Wednesday (22nd April) during high tide, MV Falcon 2 was taken to Tanjunguncang, Batam for a dock inspection.

"From the Tanjunguncang inspection, we found no leaks in the boat. There was no leak under the waterline. During the MV Falcon 2 incident, water came through the top of the ship and ventilation and could not sail to Batam, "John said firmly.

Hotel Wiko

Hotel Wiko at night. Tanjung BalaiHotel Wiko is one of the newer hotels in Tanjung Balai. It has a bustling feel about it with a food court and restaurant area right on it's front step. The star pub is also popular for it's live band performances. I understand that the live band now only operates on Saturday nights, and the rest of the nights it's just a karaoke lounge. It was pretty empty when I went there on a Monday night. Actually even the food court was pretty quiet. The parking area seems to be always full though.

When I stayed at Wiko a few year back, it was too busy! The rooms are not very well sound proofed and you hear every footstep and activity outside your room.

Seafood restaurant in Hotel Wiko's food court areathis is one of the restaurant outside Wiko. A little expensive.

The location is pretty good as it is near the market, the disco, the massage parlours, etc. There is a hair salon on the ground floor.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hotel Maximillian

Hotel Maximillian reception area. Tanjung Balai KarimunThis is the best hotel in Tanjung Balai Karimun. With it's recent renovation and additions, it is a complete destination by itself.

note the Wellcome on the sign (should be Welcome)

The staff are well trained and friendly, especially the ladies in reception. Roni Susanto, the asst. Manager speaks good english and will take care of your needs efficiently. I even had the manager/owner of the hotel offered and drive me personally to one of the local entertainment outlets one night, when the hotel taxi was not available.

Room 302 suite, hotel Maxi tanjung balaiThere is a wide variety of rooms to choose from, Sing$28 studio rooms to >Sing$100 suites. Be aware that some rooms on the lower floors from the old wing do not have any views due to it being blocked by a building next door(bird nest factory).

This is the older suite (I was forced to take it once when the hotel was booked out). This can happen on weekends, so book

View from hotel maxi rooms. You can see the outside area of Hotel Gabion.Some of the rooms in the new wing are also blocked, however you can catch the sea views when you walk the corridors in the new wing. The rooms are always clean.

new wing rooms with sea view

View from Hotel Maxi, Tg BalaiCorridor view

Outside sea view eating area in Hotel Maxi, KarimunThere is a hair salon on the ground floor. They are very professional, friendly and reasonably priced. The seaview restaurant in also on the ground floor with nice views of the sea and surrounding islands. There is also a conference room which seems to be quite well used.

This is the outside area of the seaview restaurant.

On the 2nd floor there is a spa and massage centre. Very nicely decorated and equipped. There is a cold and hot pool plus a steam sauna. The last time I went to have a look(when it just opened), the hot pool wasn't hot enough and the cold pool wasn't cold enough. It may be different now. The massage ladies were not up to my standard. I prefer to call in my "ibu massage" who does a better job. You can get your massage on the 2nd floor or up in your own room.

Pool lounge area. Hotel Maxi Tanjung Balai

On the 7th floor, there is a cafe/KTV lounge. This area has fantastic view of the whole island. Very impressive.

Skyview lounge Hotel Maximillian, Tanjung Balai Karimun

There are 3 pool tables in the front area.

7 floors of stairways in Hotel Maxi BalaiIf you decide to stay at this hotel, please tell Roni that you heard about it from this website! I might be able to get a better discount next time I drop by... :)

No you do not have to walk up 7 flights of stairs! There is an elevator right to the top

News: Singapore opens consulate in Batam.

The Singapore Consulate in Batam is open, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday (23rd April 2009).

The consulate will provide consular services for Singaporeans visiting, living or working in the Riau Islands Province. As Batam is only about 1.5 hours from Karimun Island, this is a very convenient service for Singaporeans here.

It will also promote and facilitate more intensive interactions and cooperation between Singapore and Riau, said Singapore's MFA.

The consulate is located on the 8th Floor of Sumatera Convention Centre, Jl Engku Putri, Kav. 01, Batam Centre, Batam.

Contact details are: Tel: +62 (0778) 470070, 470071 and Fax: +62 (0778) 470076

The Consulate will open daily from Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm, and from 1.30 pm to 5 pm.

It will be closed on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Global Economic Crisis Affecting Tanjung Balai Karimun?

Is the world financial crisis affecting Karimun Island? There is a definite decrease in tourism from neighbouring countries like Singapore and Malaysia. Anecdotal feedback from ferry operators, taxi drivers indicate a drop of around 30-40% in the last 4-5 months. Hotels have also been affected badly. There is no indication yet whether the FTZ investors like PT Saipem will be affected.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

News - Local workforce skills low, foreign workers seize opportunity

Translated from BatamPos

Monday, April 13, 2009

KARIMUN (BP) - The Department of Labor (Disnaker) Karimun Regency, Drs Syafri Salisman admitted his concern about the low skills of the local workforce (naker). Unfortunately, the opportunity to fill the jobs available cannot be achieved.

"I will admit it if our local workers' skills are still low. So, not surprisingly, if the job opportunities are taken by workers from outside the region, " said Syafri, last Saturday (11th April 2009) .

Regarding the statement made by Syafri, comments by dpc Chairman of the Confederation of All Indonesian Workers Sartikat (K-SPSI) Karimun Regency, Hanis Jasni. Hanis firmly stated that 5,000 jobs
promised for local workforce when PT Saipem opened, will not be realized. The issue is that the Karimun workforce cannot reach the numbers required.

Syafri add, he himself is unsure of the 8000 unemployed in the figures in the Karimun census. "From some of the data obtained, unemployment
in the Karimun is only around 4000 persons." said Syafri.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Promise to promote Karimun Island to Singapore Investors

Indonesian ambassador to Singapore Wardana, promise to promote Karimun island to potential Singaporean investors. "In order to promote the potential of Karimun we are here to see it for ourselves.", he said during a launch during the three-day visit to Karimun, recently (12th April 2009).

Moreover ambassador Wardana said that the investment opportunities are huge, now that Karimun is confirmed as a Free Trade Zone (FTZ). This is also an advantage with the close proximity to Singapore. Ambassador Wardana said the areas that will be reviewed will be the potential of the agriculture, tourism and maritime industries. "We will hold talks with stakeholders in Karimun, and later we will hear and see the existing conditions for ourselves." He said specifically.

Meanwhile, Karimun Regent Nurdin Basirun said, Karimun will be introduced to the outside world, particularly Singapore. That is why we invited the ambassador to view the potential of Karimun region.

Still Living like kings?

Tanjung Balai is famous (or infamous) for it's sex tourism like it's cousin, Batam. This industry took off when gambling was booming in Batam and Karimun island and drew lots of tourist from Singapore and Malaysia. With gambling, prostitution expanded too.

In 1995 General Sutanto was chosen as the head of Indonesian National Police force and he closed down all illegal gambling. This had a dramatic effect on the sex industry but it still remains as one of the major draw for tourism to Tanjung Balai.

The current world economic slowdown has affected the flow of tourism to Tg Balai. The visitors from Singapore and Malaysia is much less now compared to one or two years ago. Hotels in Tanjung Balai are definitely feeling the effect.

Electricity Supply crisis

Karimun Island has been experiencing an electricity supply crisis for over 4 years. Rolling blackouts are a nightly affair and things are not getting better. Most hotels have to use their onsite power generator (genset)to get by. This is not a good sign for FTZ investors which requires a reliable source of electricity.

For the residents of Tg. Balai, the main town of Karimun Island, it is a huge disruption on their lives. Most businesses that open at night like hotels, nightclubs, ktvs, restaurants, shops need to run their gensets in order to survive.

The average length of the rolling blackout is around 4-6 hours. They mostly happen at night when the usage rises. PLN (the electric supplier) will shut down supply to areas on a rotational basis. The locals will say "mati lampu" (lights out or blackout) when this happen.

Most home owners will not have gensets and have to rely on battery powered backup lamps. So this means that TVs, PCs and sound systems will not be operational. Another problem that arises from the blackouts is that when the power comes back on, the voltage is not stable and a lot of electrical devices have been damaged by power surges.

Some hotels have better gensets than others. The good ones will kick in almost immediately, whereas others may take a few minutes to start up. The authorities really have to do something about this problem if they want Karimun Island to progress.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

News - PT Saipem spends Rp 2.5t rupiah for largest fabrication yard in Karimun, Riau

PT Saipem is investing heavily into Karimun island.

The Jakarta Post
Tanjung Balai Karimun
Mon, 04/07/2008 11:16 AM

Italian-based turnkey oil and gas contractor Saipem International has begun construction of a massive fabrication yard in Karimun, Riau Islands, with a total project investment of Rp 2.5 trillion (US$271 million).

During the launch ceremony of the ground-breaking facility Friday, Saipem offshore general manager Yves Inbona told the press the yard would be the company's largest production facility of its kind.

Occupying some 140 hectares of land, the facility would have a production capacity of 30,000 tons of oil and gas related components.

"The production facility will be one of the company's largest. Products from here will be allocated for demands in Indonesia as well as for neighboring areas," said Inbona, adding the company expected the facility to start operations in 2010.

He said Karimun Island was chosen to house the facility due to its free-trade zone status.

The company, which plans to employ 5,000 workers, has requested local administration improve business infrastructure on Karimun, including highways, power capacity and ports to help boost the operation's efficiency.

Riau Islands governor Ismeth Abdullah said the project signaled the revival of foreign direct investments in the province.

In a bid to lure more foreign investment into the country, the central government is planning to grant Batam Island, Bintan Island and Karimun Island special economic status whereby various business facilities there will benefit from free-trade.

Batam is located around 30 minutes from Singapore by ferry.

Ismeth said the administration decided to make Karimun Island a center for maritime business due to its deep water access that can accommodate large vessels, making it ideal to serve as a shipyard and offshore production facility.

"We are confident more and more international companies will come to Karimun to construct production facilities, especially those related to maritime and offshore businesses," he said.

Friday, April 10, 2009

News - Dozens of houses smashed by mini tornadoes

Belasan Rumah Dihantam Angin Puting Beliung

Translation from above:

Residents in the vicinity of Bukit Tiung, Tanjungbalai Karimun District, at around 09.30 WIB was shocked by the onset of mini tornadoes on Monday 6th April 2009.

As a result, dozens of homes, especially those located near the Chinese cemetery was damaged by the heavy wind.

"My kitchen was not spared from the tornado. In my neighbourhood, around 12 homes were damaged’ said owner of RT 02/ RW 07, Fachrurozi, yesterday.

The wind also damaged two other buildings, namely the hostel of Marga Yeo and Ngiap E pagoda which is located on the top of the Chinese cemetery.

"From dozens of homes affected by the tornado, one home was severely damaged. That is, the house owned by Day. Fortunately, the house was empty. Just one day before the owner moved to a new place, "he said.

A local resident, Sukoyo said that when the incident happened, he was outside the house and saw a cloud of wind coming from the South or the sea from Puakang

When he saw the wind, Sukoyo shouted for the people to get out of the houses. This was to prevent the loss of life. But, the roof of the building of houses were damaged by the tornado"he said.

Tumidan, a Tiung Hill resident said, it's been a very long time since this region has been affected by tornadoes. Dozen years ago or around 1992 tornadoes damage the building in this area.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pemilu - Election

Today the national election is being held. You will notice that the whole island is plastered with posters and banners. The authorities have ordered some businesses to close down to "facilitate" the smooth running of the election.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Money - Rupiah

Called uang. The local curency is the Rupiah. I normally change most of my rupiahs in Balai itself. Better exchange rate. There is an exchange right in the immigration centre just after custom check. There are a few money changers around town too.

I don't suggest using credit cards there. It cost a lot and I don't feel safe using it. Lots of story about cc fraud.

Always have lots of 5k & 10k notes around. Great for tips for the hotel staff. If you go to balai 4 the first time, the chaps in the immigration counter may try to bully you for some uang kopi (bribe). They will normally point to some Singapore or Malaysia $10 notes on their desk, hoping for the same. Just drop a 10k note there casually. DON'T do this after your first trip. Once you have a balai chop on your passport, you are a veteran:)

Some hotels in balai quote Sing dollar as the room rate. If you have Singapore notes, keep them for the hotel bill. It's cheaper. Otherwise they will convert it to rupiah at an exorbitant rate.

The minimum wage for the Karimun regency is around 900k rph per month. So it is not a lot. Somehow, they get by. That's why the tips are much appreciated.


Tanjung Balai looks like a dangerous place at first. When you first exit the harbour, you will be mobbed by the taxi touts and it can be scary. They can get quite aggressive. If you dont intend to use them, just ignore them with contempt. It's all in the body language. To avoid any problems with taxi drivers, always agree on the price and services first. Normally hiring the taxi for a short trip around town is 30k rupiah. An ojek ride is 10k.

You will also notice people staring at you if you are a foreigner. Regardless of whether you are a westerner, Singaporean or Malaysia, the locals will know and stare at you. Again, ignore them. Most of the people staring at you are unemployed and bored, not criminals looking to rob you.

Generally there is very little crime against visitors. Just do the normal safe things like not be conspicuous with lots of money. I always carry and use a money clip with just a few 50k rupiah notes and small change. I do not use my wallet which may contain millions of rupiah. Leave your wallet and passport at the hotel or room safe. Don't worry if the polisi ask for ID. Just say that it is with the Hotel. You are required to surrender your passport to the hotel when you check in anyway.

There are lots of stories online about how dangerous balai can be. However I have not felt threatened. The only time I was a little worried was in my dealings with the polisi. Some bad apples will always look for ways to "cari makan" (earn a bit on the side). That is another story altogether.

Sometimes, visitors who are showy will get a bit loud and become assholes. Then they attract trouble for themselves and their companions. Just be cool and polite. Let the little things pass by. If someone overcharge you 5k rupiah for something, let it go and just don't go there anymore.

For bigger issues, it is who you know that will matter. So always try to be friendly to the locals like the hotel manager, etc. Don't bother with the hanger ons... They just want a free ride.

If you go to places like the disco and KTV, try to get a local guy to with you first. A bit of safety and orientation is needed to know the dos and donts. Get to know the locals. It helps.. You then have to decide how helpful and trustworthy they are.

Don't wear expensive watches and jewelry. Leave them in your room safe.


The indonesian language is very similar to Malaysian Malay. However there are distinct differences. Here are some translated words to help you along:

Motor - Motorcycles
Mobil - (pronounced mobeel), cars
Supir - driver. Can also mean to drive
Santai - relax
Sarapan - breakfast
Makan siang - lunch
Makan malam - dinner
Roomboy - Bellboy and the guys that you call for room service
Ojek - motorbikes that acts as personal taxi. Also to mean the bike driver. Just call ojek on any street and someone should respond to you to bring you around balai.
Balai - short name for tanjung balai.
kantor - office room
hp - pronounced ha-pay. Handphone
Pulsa - handphone credit or top up.
Pelabuhan - port
Wisma - cheap hotels. normally with common bathroom.
Capet - (pronounced cha pet) tired
Lantai - floor, lantai 1 = first/ground floor
Oplet - small vans that acts as buses.

If you have any questions, feel free to post and I will try to translate.


There are about 60 hotels in Tanjung Balai, Karimun. I will post a list of them here.

  • Hotel Maximillian
    Jl. Nusantara
    Widely known as hotel Maxi, this is the best hotel in town. No question about it. It's facilities are about 3-4 stars standard but by Balai standard it is 5 stars! It recently had an upgrade and extension which includes more rooms, new dining area, conference room, massage and spa facilities, karaoke ktv lounge. The staff are well trained and friendly. The asst manager, Roni is always helpful.

  • Hotel Gabion
    Jl. Nusantara No. 45
    Tel: 0777-326222
    Standard hotel with no lifts. So quite a bit of a walk if you are on the 4th floor! Loong corridors too!

  • Hotel Wiko
    Newish hotel with a lot of facilities nearby. There is a food court right in front, Star pub with live band, massage centre, hair salon, etc.

  • Hotel Rasa Sayang
    Jl. Ampera
    Tel: 0777-323881
    Oldish hotel.

  • Hotel Paradise
    Jl. Setiabudi
    Tel: 0777-23111 /23222
    Pronounced as Parah dees. Many rooms. Good parking if you have cars. Quite extensive KTV rooms.

  • Hotel Padi Mas
    Jl. Pertambangan
    Tel: 0777- 325555

  • Hotel Holiday Karimun
    Jl. Trikora No. 1
    Tel: 0777-21065 / 21666

  • Hotel Paragon
    Jl. Nusantara N0. 38D
    Tel: 0777-21688

  • Hotel Pelangi
    Jl. Teuku Umar
    Tel: 0777- 23100 / 232000

  • Hotel Alishan
    Jl. Kapling Blok A No. 10
    Tel: 0777-324888

  • Hotel Erikson
    Jl. Kapling No. 1
    Tel: 0777-23123

  • Hotel Shangrilla
    Jl. Pramuka No. 62
    Tel: 0777-325325

  • Hotel Horizon
    Jl. Setiabudhi No. 15
    Tel: 0777-324008

  • Hotel Satria
    Jl. A. Yani No. 1A
    Tel: 0777-325888

  • Hotel Marina
    Jl. Pertambangan No. 108
    Tel: 0777-323888

  • Hotel Taman Bunga
    Jl. Yos Sudarso
    Tel: 0777-324088

  • Hotel Artha
    Jl. Pegadaian No.9
    Tel: 0777-31591 /31730

  • Hotel Asia
    Jl. Teuku Umar
    Tel: 0777-325678

  • Hotel Tanjung Balai
    Jl. Nusantara No. 127B
    Tel: 0777-22772

  • Hotel Royal
    Jl. Nusantara
    Tel: 0777-22225 / 22289

  • Hotel Top Star
    Jl. Setiabudi No. 1
    Tel: 0777-323868

  • Hotel Mitra Pesona
    Jl. Nusantara No. 15
    Tel: 0777-31456

  • Hotel Mirama
    Jl. A. Yani No. 8
    Tel: 0777-325818

  • Hotel Puri Indah
    Jl. Ampera
    Tel: 0777-326788

  • Hotel Gloria
    Jl. Yos Sudarso No. 46
    Tel: 0777-21133

  • Hotel Indah
    Jl. Nusantara No. 27
    Tel: 0777-21490

  • Hotel King Star
    Jl. Setiabudi No. 38
    Tel: 0777-22346 / 22348

  • Hotel Karimun
    Jl. Yos Sudarso
    Tel: 0777-21082 / 21088

  • Hotel Millenium
    This is more of a long term hotel than a daily hotel. I know locals who live here and pay rent on a monthly basis.
    Jl. Teuku Umar
    Tel: 0777-325333

  • Hotel Nirwana
    Jl. Nusantara No. 12A
    Tel: 0777-31820

  • Hotel Nusantara
    Jl. Nusantara
    Tel: 0777-31646
There's lots more...

Tanjung Balai

Tanjung Balai town. Crowded and cramped.
Tanjung Balai is the main town of the island. It's very compact and hectic. Most streets are one way streets and there are more motorcycles(motor) than cars(mobil).

This is a bustling town with a sizeable Chinese (Tionghua) community. As you can see a lot of buildings are built right into the sea via pilings.

Karimun island

Karimun island
Karimun island is a beautiful indonesian island near to Malaysia and Singapore. It's main town is TanjungBalai or Tanjung Balai. Look past the narrow and dirty streets and the staring locals and you will see a laid back and natural island with smiling people.

In January 2009, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inaugurated Free Trade Zone (FTZ) status on the island of Batam, Bintan and Karimun (BBK) in the Riau Islands Province. This is a very important to the future development of Karimun island.

Karimun island's proximity to Singapore(1.5 hour ferry ride) and Malaysia(1 hour ferry ride) makes it an important transport and business hub. It also connects to the smaller islands around the area as well as stops for the larger ships to Medan.