Here are some frequently asked questions many
cyclists have about their proposed trip through Sulawesi, Indonesia.
ROADS AND TRAFFIC
What are the roads like?
The roads are a mixed bag. Generally they’re in reasonable condition but if there’s been a period of heavy downpours
potholes will invariably appear and in Central Sulawesi and Toraja landslides are not infrequent.
On a scale of 1 (bad) - 10 (good) the road conditions for each of the trips would be:
- 9 : North Sulawesi
- 7 : Central Sulawesi
- 6 : Toraja
- 8 : South
What’s the traffic like?
In the urban hubs of Makassar and Manado it is quite dense. In Palu, Gorontalo and Pare-pare it is ‘constant’ but
not overly heavy. Of the inter city roads most of the roads out of Makassar and Manado are really busy.
All over Sulawesi as you approach a town the traffc thickens and as you leave it, it this. Overall for each of the
trips, heavy (10), light (1).
- North Sulawesi : 4. Only in and around Manado and Gorontalo is the traffic thick but for no more than 20 km all up.
- Central Sulawesi : 3. Only leaving Palu and approaching Luwuk Banggai.l
- Toraja : 6. Makassar - Maros and in and around Rantepao.
- South : 6. Leaving Makassar and Bulukumba - Takalar.
What are the drivers like?
Compared with drivers in Australia Sulawesi drivers are friendly, tolerant and accommodating. I have never experienced road rage in Sulawesi.
What is the terrain like?
Although the details vary from route to route most of the trips have a high percentage of mountains and hills. I try to stay away from flat
areas because these are usually densely populated with negative implications for the volume of traffic.
Will there be a daily ride plan?
The general plan is to be on the road by 6.30 am and to have reached the destination by lunchtime or near the destination by lunch (about 2 pm)
so that there’s time for a siesta before yoga at 5 pm followed by dinner at 7 pm. The distance of each daily ride is dictated mostly by
availability of suitable accommodation 70 - 90 km down the track depending upon the terrain.
Is the emphasis of the trip on cycling or touring?
We’re touring on bikes. I want to encourage a spirit of using the cycling to explore the culture through which we’re passing, rather than cycling
for cycling’s sake, which you can do anywhere.
When can I ride in the support vehicle?
Anytime, as long as there’s a spot.
Do we need to bring our own bikes?
No, there are bikes for hire.
Should I get my bike serviced before departure?
Is hiring a bike an option?
Is buying and re-selling a bike an option?
Yes, but it does require an investment of time thinking and working it through. Remember not too many people in Sulawesi are on top of English
and not everyone wants to buy a bike.
Which style of bike would you recommend?
Mountain, hybrid or touring bikes are the go, As a general thing I would not recommend a road bike.
Folding bikes have obvious transport advantages. On the Toraja ride their small wheels do pose extra challenges.
Which tyres should I use?
If you bring a mountain bike, bring 1.3"-1.7" slick tyres rather than nobby ones.
How should we prepare our bikes?
Get your bikes fully serviced before departure. I strongly recommend a kick stand. Pack them at home or ask your bike shop to do this. Do not
pack them at the airport. Deflate the tyres..
What do we do about spare parts?
Bring parts that you could need.
Our suggested list of parts and tools is: multi tool, patch kit, quick link in case of broken chain, chain lube, 1 spare tube. The bike
shops in Sulawesi have very limited ranges of stock, so, if in doubt bring it.
Will we need lights?
Bring both front and rear lights and helmet twinklers, just in case we have delays and we run into dark.
The support vehicle will have a pump that handles presta and schraeder (car) valves. But bring a small one
just in case you get separated from the group.
Do we need panniers?
Can we put our bags in the support vehicle?
Yes. But bring soft bags, not inflexible suitcases.
What sort of cycle shoes do you recommend?
I’ve worn regular cleated cycle shoes and found them to be okay. I now wear aerated cycle sandals. My son wears joggers.
What cycling clothes should we bring?
Cycle shorts, long sleeved polyester top, cycle sox, cycle sandals, Osama head scarf, sunnies, summer arm coolers.
Is there facility for re-charging batteries?
Yes, in most places but maybe not in any village stay. The power points take 2 pronged circular plugs. AA or AAA batteries
are available in most places.
Do we need bike locks?
What are the bike shops like?
Outside of Makassar and Manado there won’t be anything too flash.
What technical skills will the support personnel have?
1. Changing and patching tubes
2. Adjusting brakes and gears
3. Adjusting and greasing bearings
4. Wheel true-ing
5. Replacing brake pads
6. Bleeding hydraulic brakes
7. Adjusting handlebars, stem and seat
8. Bike cleaning
9. Chain repair and replacing
10. Headset adjustment.
NON BIKE GEAR
What non-bike stuff should we bring?
We’ll provide a WTBL (What To Bring List) a month before departure.
What clothing do you suggest we ride in?
Helmet, sunnies, cycle shorts, long sleeve shirt, cycle sox, cycle sandals / shoes, sunscreen.
What clothing should we bring for after riding?
Long baggy shorts, t-shirt, sandals, cap. Ladies are advised to wear long sleeves rather than short sleeves. More details a
month before departure.
What are the "dress codes" that women, in particular, need to cater for?
Indonesians are more concerned with dress codes than Westerners are. However tourists are not expected to abide by all
their dress code. The most formal gear that you could possibly need will be slacks / modest dress and a shirt with a
collar and long sleeves.
Should we bring rain gear?
Bring a rain jacket.
Should we bring a swimsuit?
Yes, but you can always swim in your cycle gear. Women, to avoid un-necessary attention should swim in long sleeved loose
fitting tops if there are male onlookers.
Should we bring lightweight, quick drying, bug-proof clothing?
What will the temperatures be like?
We will never be far from the equator so you need to expect warm days. Whether nr not this warmth affects you is a function
of how well you’ve physically prepared yourself for the ride.
Will there be mosquitoes?
Yes. Bring mosquito repellant. Your rooms will be sprayed with Baygon and you will be supplied with mosquito coils. You may
wish to bring a mosquito net.
Will the mosquitoes be malaria bearing?
Will there be cooler weather anywhere (that we need to pack for)?
In some places, yes, so bring a light sweater.
Are there any Indonesian food regulations that we should be aware of?
What sort of food will we be eating?
There will be an effort to provide nutritious authentic Indonesian food.
There will be an extra effort to provide local specialities especially village cakes.
No effort will be made to provide Western food.
Western food will not be available outside of big cities.
In Makassar, Manado and Rantepao the hotel breakfasts will include international food.
Breakfasts in other places will be nasi goreng (fried rice) or sweet breads, tea and coffee. In traditional
Indonesian circumstances fresh fruit is often hard to find.
The standard fare will be rice, fish or chicken and vegetables.
Lunches will be at warungs (small roadside cafes) along the way. They will be rice or noodle based with soup being ever present.
Dinners will generally be fish or chicken dishes. A big effort will be made to always have vegetables in
the meal, and fruit.
The support crew will be scouring the countryside for local fruits and local village snacks (kue kampung).
There will be very little or no western food.
Fresh dairy produce will usually not be available but tinned milk is usually available.
How will vegetarians manage?
IF you let us know WELL AHEAD OF DEPATURE vegetarian needs can GENRALLY be catered for, but not always. Sulawesians
are not vegetarians.
Will it always be possible to get clean water?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
What extras should we bring?
I never take any "extras" but if you expect you’ll have cravings for this or that then bring them.
What’s the drinking water like?
You can get bottled water just about everywhere.
It’ll be available on the support vehicles.
Drinking water is always supplied in hotel rooms.
As a rule Indonesians boil water before drinking it. There is no need to ask the question ‘is it alright?’ if you are given water.
What nutritional supplements should we bring?
None. Pocari Sweat, an electrolytic drink, will be on the truck.
Will there be places to buy nuts or high protein snacking food?
No. We’ll be making an effort to provide kue kampung or village cakes. These are usually made from cassava, or
sticky rice, palm sugar and coconut flesh. Easy to pig out on. Lots of carbs, pretty low on protein.
Should we bring our own protein bars?
If you think you’ll miss them or need them, bring them ‘cause you won’t be able to get them outside of Makassar.
Will I be able to get boiled eggs?
By the kilo.
Do we need to bring a first aid kit?
No. There will be one in the support vehicle.
What inoculations do you recommend?
Please consult your GP (as soon as you can because some of the vaccinations need to be taken months before
departure). The GPs should consult the most recent Health Department recommendations. Be aware that these
Has anyone gotten sick on any of your trips?
Yes. The two most common complaints are diarohea and the common cold. Everyone should be prepared to have a short
bout of diarohea as our foreign digestive systems need to get used to the Indonesian environment.
What medicines do you suggest we bring?
Medications for diarohea, cold and flu. If you forget to bring them there are plenty of these medications available
How should we prepare ourselves physically for the trip?
First, make sure you get necessary vaccinations several months before departure.
Second, have a dental check up.
Third, start your build up sooner rather than later.
Build your strength and endurance slowly over the months before the trip.
Include good doses of hilly terrain in your preparation.
As a target I’d suggest that in the week before departure you cycle on 3 successive days when you do
30km, 40km and 50km. Cycle touring is like exams: you can’t cram the night before.
If you can do these rides, 3 days in a row, without rest days in between you should manage well in Sulawesi.
In your preparation don’t forget to do lots of stretching and / or swimming, to relax the muscles
Should we bring any Yoga gear?
Yes. Yoga mat and suitable bottom for Yoga such as baggy shorts or track suit bottom. Yoga pants if you’ve got them.
What is the best way to get to Makassar?
Regardless of where home is you will need to go to Jakarta, Denpasar or Surabaya. You cannot fly direct to Makassar
from either Sydney or Singapore but the situation is changing os check the net or consult your travel agent.
Can we do any better than the 20 kg limit on our baggage?
Garuda has a 15 kg dispensation for cyclists plus 7 kg cabin.
How useful is Bahasa Indonesia in Sulawesi?
Very useful. As useful as French in France. Bahasa Indonesia is the official national language of the country. It
is spoken throughout Sulawesi. There are many other languages spoken in Sulawesi but none are as useful as
Indonesian. Indonesians warm quickly to foreigners who make the effort to learn Bahasa Indonesia.
How can we learn about the culture of Indonesia?
The Lonely Planet guidebook on Indonesia is an excellent starting point.
How can we learn some basic phrases?
The Lonely Planet Indonesian Phrasebook. Berlitz Indonesian Phrasebook with CD is also a good option.
Do we need to take out our own insurance?
What sort of insurance should we have?
Comprehensive travel and medical insurance.
Is there any civil strife anywhere near our route?
No. In the late 90’s, early 2000s there was some civil strife in Central Sulawesi. This no longer exists.
How safe is it to leave our things in our rooms?
I’ve never had anything stolen from any hotel room in Sulawesi.
Is it necessary to lock our bikes when we stop for a drink etc?
Can we leave surplus cases and baggage in a secure place in Makassar?
Yes. Our hotel will allow us to leave bike boxes etc there, for no charge.
What do you mean the trip includes police approvals?
These need to be viewed as "insurance". That is, you don’t need it until you need
it. If anything seriously goes wrong the police will need to be involved. If the
police now about us before such an eventuality there will be no hesitation in
providing the required assistance. If they don’t know about us there could be
What currency should we bring in cash?
You should get Indonesian rupiah as soon as you can at the last international airport. Outside of Makassar it is not
likely that vendors will accept anything else.
How much cash do you recommend?
I would not change more than USD 200. I’d get anything more from the ATM.
Would you bring travellers’ cheques?
Do they have ATMs?
Yes. All of the towns that we stay in will have ATM. I’ve never had a problem with any of my VISA cards.
CARGO, POST, COURIERS
If we make purchases on the trip, can they be transported back to Makassar for us?
Is it difficult to arrange shipment home via post or some other way?
There is a courier service in Indonesia called TIKI. I’ve found them to be most reliable for shipping both inside
Sulawesi and internationally.
How do I pack my bike for shipping?
I strongly suggest you get a bike box from your local bike shop. You will need to take the pedals and front wheels
off, as well as deflating both tyres.
Is the internet available on our tour?
North Sulawesi : Manado, Kotamubago, Gorotalo
Central Sulawesi : Palu, Poso, Luwuk
Toraja : Makassar, Rantepao, Palopo
South South Sulawesi : Makassar, Malino, Sinjai
But note that internet services are expanding
Can I buy an Indonesian cell phone sim card?
Will there be landlines where we’re going?
Yes, but not for pubic use.
Will accommodation for the first and last nights of the tour be booked?
Yes. I recommend that you arrive the day before the trip starts.
Can Colin arrange accommodation if we want to arrive early and / or leave late?
Is accommodation booked for the final day of the tour?
Do we need visas?
You can purchase VISA UPON ARRIVAL at the airport. If you are planning to stay more than
30 days you should arrange a two month visa before beginning the trip.
What’s the accommodation like?
In major centres it will be close to ‘the best’. In all other places it will be ‘the best
available’ but, just in case, bring some silk liners if you’re concerned about bed sheet cleanliness.
What are the toilets like?
In most of the accommodation the toilets are of the sit down variety. In most places along the way they will be of the
squat variety. Some of the toilets will have automatic flushing facilities. In most places along the way the toilets
will need to be manually flushed. In Makassar toilet paper will be supplied. In most of the other places water will
be the cleansing agent.
What are Indonesian toileting procedures?
In essence water is used instead of paper. The traditional toilet is a squat toilet with a small tub of water and ladle
beside it. The ladle is held in the right hand and water is poured into the cupped left hand. The left hand is then used
for cleaning. The operation is finished off with a soaping and rinsing. There’ll be further explanation at the orientation
before we start cycling. In the meantime you should get VERY used to squatting because in many (most) places sit down toilets
will not be available. Those who have hip and knee flexibility will find squatting easier than those who don’t.
Soap is not always supplied, so bring your own or consider bringing along “wet-ones” or anti-septic hand cleaning gel.
* 1 – 2 depending upon laundry availability and diligence of rider.
- Water bottle 1 only
- Cycle gloves
- Sun glasses
- Long sleeve jersey 1 - 2*
- Cycling shorts 1 - 2*
- Cycle shoes / sandals
IF YOU’RE BRINGING YOUR OWN BIKE
Tools, optional because the driver will have:
- Multi-purpose bike tool
- Tire lifters
- Patch kit
- Tire pump
- Repair satnd
- Tools to fit most bikes
- Some spare brake and gear cables
- Chain oil
- Spare drop out for bike frame (take your bike to your local bike shop)
- Spokes for rear wheel (drive & non drive sides) & front wheel with spare nipples (2 each).Tape them to the non drive chain stay of your frame.
- Cleat screws (check your cleats before you leave)
- Emergency tyre boot (tyre patch)
- 1 brake cable
- 1 gear cable
- A spare quick link for chain.
- If bringing a mountain bike with fluid disc brakes - bring a spare olive and spigot for the line might be handy. If they are mineral oil type, bring a small bottle of mineral oil. Dot 4 fluid will be easy to find.
- Spare tube IMPORTANT
- Spare tire
- Unusual spare parts for your highly unusual bike
Personal medical / health gear
- Sun block
- Chap stick
- Groin cream
- Malaria tablets (follow doctor's advice)
- Diarrhea medication (electrolyte powder and Imodium)
- Wound plaster and betadine
- Eye cleanse drops
- Antiseptic cream / papaya gel
- Insect repellent containing DEET
- Anti-fungal powder
The support vehicle will be carrying:
- A fairly complete St John's first aid kit
- Drinking water
- A cool box
- Mosquito coils and Baygon
Accommodation stops (most) will provide:
Note: You will be told beforehand if they don’t.
- Drinking water
- One soft carry-all bag, not a hard one
- Swim suit
- Wet towel (chamois)
- Nice shorts
- T shirt (1 - 2)
- Long trousers
- Sandals (if you do not bring cycle sandals)
- Sun cap
- Toilet gear plus hand sanitizer
- Small backpack or bumbag for items u want to carry on your person while cycling
- Chargers for electronic stuff
- Voltage converter for 220 Volt
- Travel clothesline - laundry will be done where it can be done