Indonesia Travel Tips
With over 13,000 islands, Indonesia has something unique to offer for all sorts of visitors. 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 with so many travelers. If only it was easier to fly to!
- Accommodation: Hostels usually cost around $12 per night for a shared room and $24 for a double private. Prices will be up to half the price outside of the major cities. Most hotels begin at $27 per night for a double room.
- Food: Local food is extremely cheap, starting at $.50 USD for street food and $1 for a full local meal. On average, you’ll spend $2-3 for a meal. Western food is more expensive but is still affordable at around $9 USD for a meal and drink.
- Transportation: For traveling between islands, ferries cost around $0.50 USD (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 $5. Overnight bus will start at around $9.50.
- Activities: Attractions are not hugely expensive. You’ll pay around $6.50 USD for entrance in to Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and the same for Bunaken. Borobudur costs $20 USD. The famous Mt. Batur hike is between $30-60 USD.
Money Saving Tips
- Eat on the street - You can pick up tasty local fare for around $.50 cents! Street side snacks, soups, and noodles will keep your wallet fat! 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!
Top Things to See and Do
- Relax in Bali – Bali is probably the most famous of Indonesia’s islands and for good reason. 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. Bali is more expensive than the rest of Indonesia. Make sure you see some traditional Balinese dancing in Ubud. It was a highlight of my trip!
- Dive in the Gili Islands – 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.
- 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 a UNESCO site and is the only place to see the world’s largest lizard in the wild.
- Jakarta – 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.
- Watch the Sunrise at Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park – One of the most popular tourist attractions on Java is Mount Bromo and its National Park. You’ll not want to miss out on getting a snap of the smouldering 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.
- Explore Hindi Prambanan - This is the crowning glory of Hindu temples and was built in the 10th century. At 47 meters high, the main temple is taller than Borodudur and is architecturally impressive. Chances are you’ll spend more time taking pictures than you will admiring the site and its ancient statues, so don’t forget to put down the camera sometimes.
- Amaze yourself in Borobudur – Borodudur is a huge Buddhist temple complex dating from the 9th Century, making it older than Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Like Prambanan, Borobudur has also been afforded World Heritage status with UNESCO. 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 the relief.
- Snorkel or Dive in Bunaken – The Bunaken National Marine park is where you’ll want to go if diving and snorkeling are 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 creatures is a moving experience.
- 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.
- Find Tranquility in the Bogor Botanical Gardens – 60 km outside of hectic Jakarta, lie the Bogor Botanical Gardens. With over 80 hectares 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.