Liquid Lunch

Last updated: May 22, 2014
Liquid Lunch

Liquids can still be carried on Indonesian domestic flights.

One way that Indonesia’s diversity of cultures is evident is in the varying attitudes and rules regarding alcoholic drinks.

Sharia Police AcehIn Aceh, a ban on alcohol is strictly enforced by the sharia police

Drunk in Bali…while in Bali, drunken tourists are a common sight in the evening, generating a “travel warning” from the local prison warden.

In Central Kalimantan, alcohol is not for sale… while in Lombok, tourists have died from consuming home-made or adulterated alcoholic drinks containing methanol.

Bintang Beer BottlesIn most parts of Indonesia, locally produced beer is freely available in e.g. supermarkets next to the Coke and Sprite cans (except just before and during Ramadan) and relatively cheap; as well as Indonesian brews like Bintang and Anker, there are also local versions of Heineken and Guinness. By contrast, imported spirits are rarely found and very expensive due to a different tax rate; churches which use port during communion often have to ask their members to bring a bottle back from Singapore. The author was frequently asked by different expat friends to bring back a bottle of wine or spirits from his annual trip to renew his visa in Singapore; for international arrivals, the duty free allowance for Indonesia is currently one litre of any type of alcoholic beverage, so bringing a slab/case of beer is a bad idea.

Beverages On Board
So, if you can’t bring beer from overseas, where can you buy it locally?

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport is located just outside the city limits, in the regency of Tangerang. A conservative Islamist mayor introduced a law that alcoholic drinks can only be purchased at licenced premises for on-the-spot consumption, excluding the airport’s international departure duty-free shops – which are for departing passengers only, anyway.

So you need to visit the nearest supermarket in West Jakarta: Hypermart at Mal Daan Mogot.

View Larger Map With Directions
A = Soekarno-Hatta Airport, B = Hypermart @ Mal Daan Mogot

Taxi drivers all know the way via Jl Peta Barat; when their taxi is empty after taking passengers to the airport, drivers want to return to Jakarta without using the airport toll road. (This also makes it easy to find a taxi back to the airport afterwards.)

Please note that while bringing alcoholic drinks may not be banned, it may be risky.

Airport security may try to extract a bribe by telling you that alcoholic drinks are banned. They aren’t; if you ask for a written version in English of this “ban”, they can’t provide one. Having said that, budget airlines like AirAsia officially do not allow people to bring their own snacks/drinks in their hand luggage – to encourage you to buy from their overpriced menu – but personal experience is that this ban is not enforced.

Plastic wrap baggage machinePlacing alcoholic drinks in checked baggage might seem safer; however, it may result in someone trying to steal it between the check-in counter and the aircraft, by cutting/slashing a hole in your luggage. If you are concerned, you can spend Rp25 000 ($US2.50) on having your item wrapped in plastic. More tips about airport baggage security here.

Have you taken alcohol on board an Indonesian domestic flight? Was it in checked baggage or carry on? Which airport/s was it? How was your experience with airport security?

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