Indonesia Travel tips and Guide
With over 13,000 islands, Indonesia has something unique to offer everyone. From the cool white sands and raucous volcanoes of Bali to the vibrant capital city of Jakarta to the untouched lands of Sumatra, you can always find something different here. Indonesia is home to a vast array of indigenous animals, too (including the Komodo dragon!). With extremely inexpensive local food and reasonably-priced accommodation, it’s no wonder Indonesia is a popular destination among so many travelers. I hope you use this guide to plan an excellent trip there (though one visit is certainly not enough!). Be sure to visit some of the lesser known areas in the country and just not stick to Bali and Lombok! Indonesia is really diverse!
Things to See and Do in Indonesia
- Relaxed in Bali
Bali is probably the most famous of Indonesia’s islands. Although often crowded with travelers, there is no escaping the fact that this place is beautiful. Try some surfing at Bingin Beach or visit the Pura Besakih, the Mother Temple, which is a truly stunning building. Make sure you see some traditional Balinese dancing in Ubud.
- Dive in GILI Island
For a true sense of an island paradise, head to the Gili Islands. You won’t find any cars on these islands; bike travel or horse and cart are the ways to see all that Gili has to offer. You’ll find excellent scuba and snorkel facilities, as well as nightlife, on the party island of Gili Trawangan. A single-tank dive will cost around 500,000 IDR.
- Explore Borobudur
Borobudur is a huge Buddhist temple complex dating from the 9th century, making it older than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. I personally love this site. As you walk up to the top, you can see reliefs meant to highlight Buddhist teachings. It is said you can’t move on to the top until you discovered the meaning of each relief. Admission for foreign adults is around 275,000 IDR.
- See Komodo Dragons
The subject of more nature documentaries than pretty much any other lizard, the Komodo dragon is a force to be reckoned with. They are fierce creatures. Komodo National Park is the only place to see the world’s largest lizard in the wild. Admission is 150,000 IDR during the week, with prices rising to 225,000 IDR on Sundays and holidays.
- Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park
You’ll not want to miss out on getting a snap of the smoldering Bromo volcano as it lies surrounded by the almost lunar landscape of the Sea of Sand. If you’re there in mid-August, you’ll be just in time to see Upacara Kasodo, the monthly ritual which the Tenggerese take part in. Get up early to catch one of the most memorable sunrises of your life.
Other Things to See and Do
1. Explore Hindi Prambanan
This is the crowning glory of Hindu temples and was built in the 10th century. At 150ft, the main temple is actually taller than Borobudur. This is an architecturally impressive site, so chances are you’ll spend more time taking pictures than you will take admiring the ancient statues. Don’t forget to put down the camera and enjoy the view with your own eyes. Admission is around 240,000 IDR for foreign adults, and 120,000 IDR for children.
Indonesia’s capital is a large, bustling city with a population of over 10 million. For a moment of calm, people-watch from one of the cafes overlooking Fatahillah Square in the Old Batavia, the Dutch quarter, where you can take in the historic architecture. In terms of nightlife and eateries, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Jakarta.
3. Snorkel or dive in Bunaken
The Bunaken National Marine park is where you’ll want to go if diving or snorkeling is your thing. These deep waters offer fantastic visibility and some of the world’s most biodiverse marine life. Keep an eye out for tuna, sharks, rays, turtles, and sea snakes. Entry to the marine park is 50,000 IDR per person, though children under 10 enter free.
4. Have a spa day
When you are in a place like this, it only seems right to treat your body to some probably much needed, deep pampering treatments. Getting a massage is basically a given, but why not do it on a beach. Body wraps, facials, manicures, and pedicures are also a nice bonus. Prices will vary but expect to pay at least 270,000 IDR.
5. Broaden your taste buds
With such a mass amount of islands composing Indonesia, there is a huge number of different cuisines to try. Don’t get stuck eating the same thing over and over again. Javanese, Sundanese, Padang, and Balinese food are just a few different preparations to get excited about.
6. Visit Yogyakarta
Known as Yogya for short, this city is considered to be the main tourist city of Java. There is an interesting blend of old customs with modern living here and a certain artistic and intellectual presence hangs in the air. There are a number of restaurants, clubs, shopping areas, historical sights, and museums to check out.
7. Shop in Denpasar
This is the capital of Bali and essentially the central spot of development and financial growth on the island for the past two decades. It is heavily populated and there are a number of shops to see as well as an arts center and the Museum Negeri Propinsi Bali.
8. See the orangutans in Sumatra
A mysterious and very human creature, the orangutan finds its habitat on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. A visit to see these primates is a moving experience. And, given the rapid deforestation and fires in the area, you probably want to do this sooner rather than later as these animals are gravely endangered.
9. Explore village life in Kalibaru
Kalibaru is a small village on the southeastern side of Java. It’s quiet, secluded, and a great place to tour a local cacao plantation or one of the many other types of plantations in the area on your way to or from Bali.
10. Bogor Botanical Gardens
65km outside of hectic Jakarta, lie the Bogor Botanical Gardens. With over 200 acres of land and 15,000 species of plants and trees, the gardens are a lovely spot in which to lose yourself for a couple of hours. Admission is around 13,000 IDR.
Accommodation – Hostels usually cost around 120,000 IDR for a dorm. For a private double, prices start around 200,000 IDR. Free WiFi and free breakfast are quite common. Generally, prices will be significantly lower outside of the major cities. Since hostels and home stays are so cheap, camping is not very common unless you’re on a trek. Most budget hotels begin at 200,000 IDR per night for a double room. This will usually include free WiFi and breakfast. For a chain hotel, prices begin around 400,000 IDR per night. Airbnb is widespread ,with shared accommodation averaging around 400,000 IDR per night and entire apartments, expect to pay at least 400,000 IDR per night.
Food – Local food is extremely cheap, with street food costing under 10,000 IDR. For an inexpensive meal at a local restaurant, prices start around 14,000 IDR. For a meal at a mid-range restaurant for a nicer meal, drinks, and table service, expect to pay as much as 80,000 IDR. Western food is much more expensive but is still relatively affordable at around 125,000 IDR for a meal and drink. Fast food will cost around 45,000 IDR. A beer at the bar will cost around 30,000 IDR while a week’s worth of groceries will cost between 300,000-400,000 IDR. (However, food in the country is very cheap and I would encourage you to eat out as often as possible as kitchens are hard to come by!
Transportation – For traveling between islands, ferries cost around 7,000 IDR (and up) for a ticket from East Java to West Bali, and the rates go up from there for other routes. An eight-hour journey on a bus costs around 70,000 IDR. Overnight buses will start at around 130,000 IDR. Flights to and from the country are incredibly cheap, with one-way tickets to Singapore costing as little as 250,000 IDR. A one-way ticket to Australia starts at 500,000 IDR.
Activities – Attractions are not hugely expensive. You’ll pay around 220,000 IDR for entrance into Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and the same for Bunaken. Borobudur costs 275,000 IDR. The famous Mt. Batur hike is between 500,000-900,000 IDR.
Suggested daily budget
400,000-670,000 / 30-50 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out at the cheap markets and street stalls, keeping your drinking down, not taking expensive tours, and using local transportation. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect your number to be on the higher (or far above it).)
Money Saving Tips
- Eat on the street – You can pick up tasty local fare for under 10,000 IDR. Street side snacks, soups, and noodles will keep your wallet fat and your belly full! Markets are your best bet for finding seriously cheap food.
- Bargain hard – Nothing is ever at face value in Indonesia. Bargain with sellers as most of the time the price they’ve quoted will not be the price you’ll pay if you bargain!