It seems that Sharia law is now applied in the northern tip of Sumatra (Indonesia). That is, in the province of Aceh. The province of Aceh on Google Map.

Does anybody have experience traveling/living there? I want to know the restrictions imposed by the Sharia law (both for males & females), hence the impact it would have on my daily life when traveling there (if going at all).

Note that traveling there during the Ramadan is something to be very aware of. See more on the dedicated question How much is a visitor affected by Ramadan in Aceh (Indonesia) considering it has Sharia law?


1 Answer 1


Aceh's sharia is pretty standard if strict stuff:

  • No alcohol or gambling.
  • No khalwat ("proximity") between unrelated, unchaperoned men and women. This extends not just to the obvious (eg. sharing a hotel room), but even dining together in restaurants etc.
    • That said, an unmarried Western couple can simply claim to be married, and they'll most likely be just fine.
  • Conservative dress for women: headscarf required, no bare arms, no open necklines, no tight pants/leggings or bikinis on the beach.
  • Shops and restaurants close during prayers five times a day.
  • Friday is a holiday, many shops are closed either entirely, or during/from the noon prayers. Sports, swimming etc is generally not appropriate.

There is some confusion over whether sharia even applies to non-Muslim visitors. Legally, the answer appears to be "yes", but in practice, not really — I'm certainly not aware of any visitor getting punished under sharia law. Enforcement also varies by region, touristy bits like the beaches of Sabang (Weh) don't really bother and even alcohol is widely available (if pricier than usual).

  • 1
    @jpatokai thx for your input, it does seem very strict to me! Whether those laws apply to foreigners: the answer seems "yes", visitors from foreign countries may not get punished under sharia law but it does not seem to stop them from getting in trouble, note that the local police is happy to let things happen when locals "make their own justice". See lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forums/… As pointed out in the article "We are just a visiting traveller in a foreign country", so respect the law or don't come.
    – Adriano
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 12:32
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    I'm just going to add that I truly think it is a bad idea to represent an idea like bullet 2's inner bullet. Even if it works for 99 thousand couples, being that ten thousandth couple to get caught will for sure ruin your vacation and beyond that have repercussions like the average westerner can't even imagine.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 12:42
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    @CGCampbell: that caveat is already in place, that's what "most likely" means! Your plane most likely won't crash, you most likely won't get mugged, you most likely won't be arrested if you break some particular law. All with different probabilities and severities if you're unlucky, of course. Is there something on meta about the wisdom of answers on this site advising people which laws they can "most likely" ignore, though? Sometimes it's important to understand what local laws are habitually ignored, sometimes it's best to obey the law even when nobody else does. Commented May 26, 2015 at 13:22
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    @Rory Homosexuality is considered completely unacceptable. But again, if two male "friends" share a hotel room (with separate beds), who's the wiser? And all strict Islamic countries have underground gay scenes, even I was regularly hit on in Saudi... Commented May 26, 2015 at 13:49
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    The third bullet point is definitively not Sharia, but cultural reference. Sharia requires the headscarf and "proper clothing", the definition of which varies across regions. It's safe to follow all of these. Also for men, shorts are a no-go.
    – FooBar
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 14:48

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