INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE CONTENTS
Indonesia At a Glance
Being one of the most diverse countries we’ve ever been to, Indonesia is the epitome of a country which has a little bit of everything for everyone. From the lush rice fields and waterfalls of Bali to iconic temples and volcanoes in Java, to the incredible wildlife in the deep jungles of Sumatra, Indonesia is a country that is largely underrated.
While the sandy shores of Bali are frequented by many, there is so much more to this incredible country that remains unexplored.
Indonesia Quick Information
Currency: Indonesian Rupiah
Electricity Socket: 230V AC electricity. Power outlets are usually two-pin round plugs. To avoid the hassle of having to buy new adapters for everywhere you go, we recommend picking up a Universal Travel Adaptor before you leave.
Visa: In Indonesia, 169 countries can now obtain a visa on arrival. This is valid for 30 days but cannot be renewed or extended. If you wish to stay in Indonesia for longer, you can pay for a tourist visa (there is a special line in the immigration customs for it). This gives you 30 days plus a chance to extend it for another 30 days through any immigration office. If you want to stay for longer, it is also possible to get a social visa which gives you around 6 months.
Safety: Although violent crime is fairly rare, there is a lot of petty theft, especially in touristy areas like Bali. With that being said, as long as you are sensible with your belongings (always put your bag strap across your body), never leaving your things unattended, you will be fine.
ATM skimming is also pretty common so whatever you do, make sure you only go to ATM machines that are directly connected to a bank or to go to machines which have surveillance systems pointing at the machines at all times.
Based on our years of experience of traveling all over the world, we would never leave home without travel insurance. We recommend Safety Wing as they have great adventure travel coverage as well as affordable monthly plans.
Apart from petty theft, alcohol poisoning is another serious issue that Bali and the popular Gili Islands is facing. Due to heavy alcohol import tax, some local vendors opt to stretch out their supply with other chemicals so it’s best to stay away from the local arak and only buy drinks from reputable bars and restaurants.
Chances are, if you find a beach bar offering ridiculously low cocktails, the local alcohol might be mixed with extenders.
Indonesia also has a zero-tolerance for drugs, with the death penalty being imposed on a few convicted criminals so never put yourself at risk by carrying packages for people or even going to parties where you know drugs would be present just to be on the safe side.
Language: Everywhere you go in Bali, you will easily be able to find people who speak English, especially in touristy areas like Canggu, Ubud, and Seminyak. However, the further you decide to go, the level of English lowers.
With that being said, no matter where you go, the people who work in the tourism and hospitality industry always has a good understanding of the language. The local language is called Bahasa and is spoken and understood widely despite the fact that they have about 300 native dialects.
As mentioned, although English is widely spoken, it doesn’t hurt to learn a few words to help you out.
- Good Morning: Selamat Pagi
- Yes: La
- No: Tidak
- Thank you: Terimah Kasih
- To eat: Makan
- Spicy: Pedas
- No Spicy: Tidak pedas
- Vegetables only (for vegetarians): Sayur saja
- Cool: Bagus
Festivals and Celebrations: When traveling around Indonesia, watch out for the end Ramadan (July) as a lot of stores and restaurants are closed during these periods.
During this time, making bookings for both accommodation and transportation is recommended. Other big celebrations worth seeing are Nyepi, which is the Balinese New Year celebrated in March.
Transportation: Transportation is a bit of a mission in Indonesia as it is pretty spread apart.
We recommend using Bookaway or 12Go website to view bus, boat, and train schedules ahead of time. We’ve used these websites all over Asia and it saves us the hassle of lining up in travel agencies or bus stations. This saves you a lot of time as trying to sort out tickets using a travel agent is a pain!
In Bali, I suggest downloading the Blue Bird Taxi App to help you get around from one place to the next. Grab unfortunately is frowned upon by the local taxi drivers so you have to be discreet when using it.
Indonesia Trip Planning
When is the best time to go to Indonesia you ask?
Generally speaking, Indonesia has a hot tropical climate all year round. However, the monsoon season can be a real bummer. April to October makes up the Dry Season while November to March is usually rainy.
However, as it is such a large country, it is best to check specifically for where you are planning to go. The best time to go in a nutshell is April to October as there is usually minimal rainfall.
A lot of people also ask us which we recommend visiting Indonesia vs Thailand? Click the link to find out what we recommend.
Traveling Indonesia can be done as cheap or as expensive as you want. Everywhere you go you will find cheap homestays as well as luxury villas for less than $50-$100 a night. Listed below are rough prices of basic costs for things in Indonesia.
Generally speaking, a budget of $25-30 a day is pretty good. If you’re planning on doing loads of tours and activities during your time, consider stretching your budget up to $35 a day:
Budget: $6-10 (dorm) $15-25 (private)
Food (Typical Meal For One)
Street food: $2-3 local warung meal
Very nice restaurant: $15
1.5L Water: $0.37
Beer: $1.86 (big bottle)
Beer in a bar: $4 (big bottle)
Motorbike Rental $4/day ; $44/month
Public Ferry: $5
Flights within Indonesia: $33-$50
What to Pack for Traveling Indonesia
What to Pack for Indonesia depends entirely on where you are going and what you are planning to do. If you are heading solely to Bali with the intention to soak up some sun and surf some waves, you won’t need to bring any outdoor or trekking gear.
When in Bali, a few of the important things we recommend taking with you would be good quality reef safe sunblock, RFID wallet,(credit card and ATM skimming is super popular here!), and a good pair of polarized sunglasses.
After spending months at a time traveling in and out of Bali, we decided to create an entire Bali packing list to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the essentials.
If you’re heading to Java or Sumatra, a sarong to cover your shoulders in temples and light quick dry pieces of clothing is recommended. If you’re planning on doing any of the treks, good trekking shoes are a must!
For a more detailed list including outdoor gear essentials, check out our Southeast Asia packing guide with has information on all the basic things to bring when traveling this region.
Best Things to Do in Indonesia
As mentioned, Indonesia is a country that has a little bit of everything for everyone. Despite being frequented by millions and millions of tourists every day, there is still a large portion of Indonesia, mainly in Java and Sumatra that remains largely unexplored. Here are a few of the best places things to do in Indonesia.
If adventure is your thing, Indonesia has no shortage of them! From surfing, white water rafting to paragliding, take a look at these epic adventures that can be found all over Indonesia.
Get Your Surf On
Home to some seriously epic waves, the Indonesian shoreline is considered as heaven for surfers. Offering everything from beginner waves to large barrels, there is no shortage of good waves in Indonesia.
If you’re Bali bound, consider checking out our article on the best surf spots in Bali which features breaks in Canggu, Medewi, plus the famous breaks across the beaches of Uluwatu and the beaches in Canggu.
Alternatively, if you hate crowded surf lineups, head to places in Java like Batu Karas and G-Land. Apart from that, Lombok, Mentawai islands, and Nias Island are all massive surf destinations which are worth checking out.
We just spent a week exploring Lombok and loved every bit of it. Seriously epic waves with not so crowded lineups!
If you want to take your surfing to the next level, consider joining these surfing camps in Bali which includes surfing lessons, accommodations, gear rental and more.
Surfing Lessons in Bali: If you’re interested in getting surfing lessons while in Bali, here are a few of our suggestions. 2 hour surf lesson in Canggu (one of our favorite breaks) or this beginner surf class in Kuta, Bali.
Visit All of Bali’s “Instagram” Hot Spots
Let’s face it, Bali is all over Instagram due to its many pretty locations. If you don’t have much time to explore and travel around independently, you can also go on this epic Bali scenic tour which will take you around the most beautiful places around the island.
If you’re looking for the opposite of mainstream, check out our guide on the most unusual things to do in Bali for some inspiration. This article walks you through all the places that are downright weird and unusual (airplane graveyards, anyone?)
Get Healthy in Bali
One of the best things about Indonesia, Bali, in particular, has an overwhelming amount of healthy food choices. Everything from meditation retreats, yoga seminars, to super healthy organic restaurants and cafes. The cafe scene here is amazing and has loads of great options for those that are looking to get healthy even while on holiday!
In Canggu in particular, there are tons of great restaurants that are worth checking out. In this Canggu food guide, we walk you through a few of our top recommendations.
Attend a Cooking Class
When in Indonesia, we recommend going on a culinary adventure by attending a cooking class where you can learn how to cook all the delicious Indonesian fares. Everything from nasi gorengs, delicious rendangs and more.
We recommend checking out the cooking classes in Indonesia through a website called Cookly who lists all the classes available in the Gili Islands, Kuta, Seminyak, and more.
Eat, Pray, and Adventure in Ubud
Popularized by the famous film, Eat, Pray, and Love, Ubud has become a popular spot for travelers. Apart from doing the usual rice field and waterfall sightseeing, there are also heaps of adventurous things to do in Ubud.
From whitewater rafting to mountain biking to Mt. Batur there are loads of options for those who like to stay active.
Recommended Tours in Ubud
Given that Ubud is so popular, check out our guide on the best Things to do in Ubud as well as some of the must-do tours and activities while in the area.
- Best of Ubud Tour– This tour takes you through the rice fields, waterfalls, and the famous monkey forest in Ubud. It’s a great tour that gives you an overview of the entire place.
- Whitewater Rafting- Whitewater rafting in Ubud is so much fun. Depending on the season, the rapids can be pretty fun but for the most part, they are leisurely and calm ones- perfect for those who want to try it for the first time.
- Waterfalls tour- If you love nature, this waterfalls tour in Ubud is an awesome way to see the best of the countryside! The local guides also add a great touch as they fill you in on local Balinese culture.
Explore the Many Mountains and Volcanos
Java, Indonesia is home to some of the most beautiful mountains and volcanos imaginable. To date, one of our favorite travel experiences is seeing the sunrise over Mount Bromo.
The way the sun slowly illuminated the valley was truly a magical experience. The fact that we did it without a tour made it even more special.
See the Cultural Wonders of Yogyakarta
If you’re looking to explore the cultural side of Indonesia, head on over to Yogyakarta to see the majestic Prambanan Hindu temples as well as to watch the sunrise by Borobudur which is the largest Buddhist temple built in the 9th century.
Although we’ve seen lots of majestic sunrises while traveling Southeast Asia, the one in Borobudur easily makes it to our top 5! Check out our Yogyakarta photo diary for some travel inspiration and tips!
Explore the Exquisite Marine Life
If you’re an avid scuba diver, the diving in Indonesia is some of the best in the world! From the historical dive sites in Bali like the USAT Liberty Wreck in Tulamben to other sites in Tulamben and Nusa Penida and Lembongan.
If you’ve never dived before and are considering learning, you can get certified in the Gili Islands or in the Komodo National Park.
In Indonesia, hands down, some of the best diving is in Komodo National Park and Raja Ampat. Our diving trip to Komodo was amazing! Every dive we did, we saw sharks, tuna as large as tables, and other large pelagics. We honestly felt like a kid in a candy shop!
If you are serious about your diving, a liveaboard in Indonesia is something you have to do. The liveaboard diving in Komodo as well as in a few long liveaboard diving trips in Raja Ampat takes you to the best-unexplored dive spots in the country and is well worth doing.
Live like a King
One of the best things about traveling around Southeast Asia is the incredible value for money when it comes to accommodations. In Bali, believe it or not, you can rent out an entire villa for $100 or less! We’ve stayed in some pretty incredible places all over Indonesia for the same price as a Travelodge in the UK.
Based on our personal experience of living all over Bali, we’ve compiled a list of a few of the best villas:
Trekking in Sumatra
If you have time, another recommended activity is to go trekking in Sumatra to see the Orangutans. We did a four-day trek and got to see some pretty amazing wildlife along the way. At one point, we woke up in our makeshift campsite with one large Orangutan curiously staring at us from a nearby tree.
It was definitely an incredible experience and something I would do again in a heartbeat.
Apart from trekking to see the Orangutans, there are a few other things to do in Sumatra that we highly recommend like chilling out in Lake Toba, surfing in untouched reefs, and exploring the many beautiful sights near Berastagi.
Bask by the Beach
Last but not least, the beaches in Indonesia are world-renowned, with many people flying in from different parts of the globe. From the beaches in Bali to the untouched islands in Raja Ampat or Aceh, there are heaps of awesome places to visit.
If heading to Bali, you can check out our articles on the things to do in Canggu, things to do in Nusa Dua and things to do in Seminyak. Similarly, our things to do in the Gili Islands is a pretty popular post about one of our favorite places in Indonesia.
Tours Around Indonesia
If you prefer traveling with a group tour, we highly recommend G Adventures. They are a super reputable company and have been running tours around Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia for ages.
The reason why we love G Adventures is because they have loads of different tours that cater to different age groups. They have wellness tours, tours for 18-30 year olds, and even tours that take you all over Southeast Asia, allowing you to explore a little bit of everything.
If traveling by yourself isn’t your jam, check out the variety of tours that G Adventures has and the details and dates of each trip. We suggest using the filters in the sidebar to help you find a tour that fits your travel dates and travel style. We highly recommend their best of Java tour as well as their wellness tour in Bali.
What to Eat in Indonesia
Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, Indonesian food isn’t that well known. To help you figure out what to try during your visit to Indonesia, here’s a breakdown of a few must-try dishes in Indonesia.
Nasi Goreng: Nasi Goreng is your traditional fried rice made with kecap manis (a thick soy sauce) served with a fried egg, some crispy fish crackers, and a small side salad. Some places serve this with a few skewers of chicken satay or fried chicken.
Mie Goreng: This noodle dish is made up of thin yellow egg noodles stir-fried with a variety of vegetables. You can have it with chicken, pork or tofu-it’s really up to you. Similar to Nasi Goreng, you can get this dish almost everywhere from cheap warungs to big restaurants.
Gado-Gado: A salad made up of boiled potatoes, eggs, carrots, green beans, and tofu served with a hefty serving of peanut sauce. YUM!
Rendang: Rendang is a made from a mixture of coconut milk cooked in with lots of spices, giving it that rich and spicy flavor. It is often made with beef but you also have other variations such as chicken, mutton, or goat.
Places to Stay in Indonesia
In terms of finding accommodations, we’ve done all the hard work for you and have listed down a few of our top hostels and hotel recommendations in each area so be sure to check them out when planning your trip!
We know that there are heaps of choices out there so we’ve tried to narrow down your search. Bali has loads of cheap villas and places to stay while Sumatra and Java are still rather basic in comparison.
Read our where to stay in Indonesia guides:
Books to Read When Traveling Indonesia
Apart from our travel guide, here are a few other recommended reading material for your trip to Indonesia.
Volcanoes, Jungles and Leeches: A Glimpse of Indonesia: This hilarious book is a first-hand account of a man traveling through Indonesia, experiencing some of the countries best adventures.
BALI – Zen Traveller: A Quick Guide: If you’re looking for a Bali specific guidebook, this particular one offers great advice on the best things to do.
Take Off Your Shoes: One Man’s Journey from the Boardroom to Bali and Back: This great book talks about his real-life account of moving from busy New York City to chilled to experiencing the chilled out lifestyle in Bali. It’s a hilarious account that talks about cultural differences, struggles, and more.
Hotel K: The Shocking Inside Story of Bali’s Most Notorious Jail: This book gives you an INSANE overview at what really goes on in Bali’s most notorious prison which is home to tons of foreigners. It’s a pretty interesting read and really gives you a glimpse into corruption and local politics.