Indonesia is a Southeast Asian nation made up of hundreds of different ethnic groups. This sprawling archipelago has more than 17,000 islands, thousands of which are volcanic.
From glorious temples to majestic mountains and with a myriad of things to do, Indonesia never ceases to intrigue even the most experienced traveler. Indonesia is most famous for it’s breath-taking beaches, Komodo dragons and lush jungles that are home to elephants, tigers and orangutans.
Although Jakarta, on the island of Java, is the vibrant capital city of Indonesia, Bali is probably the most famous and most beloved destination for travelers to visit. Awe-inspiring and enchanting, Indonesia is a destination that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.
Indonesia Travel Info
Language: Many languages are spoken in Indonesia but Indonesian is the official language followed by Javanese and Sundanese. Many Indonesian people can speak conversational English.
Currency: Indonesian rupiah.
Visa: Visiting Indonesia requires a valid passport but no visa is required for travelers from nearly 140 countries if you plan to stay for less than 30 days. A visa upon arrival can be issued for USD 35 and can be extended if you want to stay longer than 30 days. Tourist, social or cultural visas can be issued by a consulate outside of Indonesia for a 60 day stay and can be extended for 30 days up to three times.
Electricity: Indonesia operates on 220V supply voltage and standard frequency 50Hz. Power sockets are of two types, C and F. You can expect two pin socket and plug just like the ones found in Europe. The pins are not flat or rectangular but round. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Indonesia is an ethnic and cultural melting pot where travelers can witness a great variety of festivals, cultural events and ceremonies throughout the year.
Nyepi: Nyepi meaning “the day of silence” is New Years Day in Bali and you will find that on this day everything is closed for business as people fast and meditate all day long. Before Nyepi the Balinese people will be busy cleaning and scrubbing their religious statues, praying and holding ceremonies.
Eid al-Fitr: The Festival of Eid, also known by locals as Idul Fitri or Lebaran. After a month of fasting, the Muslim community in Indonesia celebrates the Festival of Eid to announce the end of the fast. During this Indonesian festival you will find people wearing new clothes and celebrating the day with sweets, vermicelli and other tasty dishes.
Pasola: Pasola is one of the most exciting and world famous Jousting Festivals where people ride horses bareback and throw holas or spears at each other in order to overthrow the opponent. This traditional Sumba ritual is believed to keep the spirits happy and bring a good harvest. Every year the date and venue of the festival is announced in advance. So stay tuned!
Safety In Indonesia
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to Indonesia. Bag-snatching, pick-pocketing and other scams to take advantage of travelers are common in some places. Female tourists should take care to dress appropriately and be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some parts of Indonesia are dangerous so always do your own research before you go and make sure that you avoid dis-reputable places. Based on many years of solo travel around south-east Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Indonesia trip. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
10 Amazing Things To Do In Indonesia
Indonesia has always been a top destination for divers. It has amazing diving spots like Togean island and Raja Ampat that boast three thousand marine species and vast biodiversity. The Raja Ampat Islands, off the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua was voted one of the best diving spots in the world. Togean island is the less explored island and is a secret diving destination with a lot of unexplored areas if you’re feeling adventurous.
The best scuba diving destinations in Indonesia are:
- Manado, Sulawesi
- Gili Islands, Lombok
- Komodo National Park, Flores
- Raja Ampat, Papua
- Pulau Weh, Sumatra
- Wakatobi, Sulawesi
Visit Prambanan and Borobudur Temple
Near Yogyakarta lie two of Indonesia’s most beautiful ancient wonders, the Prambanan Temple and the Borobudur Temple. Borobudur is a unique Buddhist temple in Asia and the largest Buddhist structure on earth. Prambanan temple also called the Candi Rara Jonggrang is a well known ancient Hindu Temple in Java, Indonesia. You are going to be amazed by how well the remains of the two kingdoms have been preserved. The religions followed in the kingdoms were Hinduism and Buddhism.
Hike up a volcano to watch the sunrise
Indonesia is home to several volcanoes, the most famous being Mount Bromo and Mount Rinjani. Mount Bromo is Indonesia’s most iconic mountain and the most popular to hike despite the fact that it’s an active volcano with a crater that continuously churns out sulphorous smoke. Mount Rinjani is located in Lombok and is another of Indonesia’s most popular trekking spots. The hike is back breaking but if you succeed in completing it, you can witness a spectacular sunrise and a bird’s eye view of the entire island of Bali.
Go sightseeing on a Becak
Ride a becak in cities like Malang and Yogyakarta and buzz about Indonesia in style. These becaks can go down even the narrowest of streets so get to see lots more than you usually would if you were sightseeing on foot or by tour bus. Feel the wind on your face and immerse yourself in the sights and smells from each nook and corner of the city. Just hold on tight 😉
Swim and Kayak at Lake Toba
Lake Toba is a jewel in the crown of North Sumatra and always flooded with visitors who come to check out the world’s largest Crater Lake. Swim in the clear waters of the lake surrounded by mountains or go kayaking. If you fancy a spot of kayaking then walk to the shoreline and choose a vendor here who’ll be happy to rent you one.
Learn how to surf at Kuta Beach
Kuta beach in South Bali is a great place for surfing newbies. The waves are gentle, which makes it a perfect place for beginners and anyone that wants to learn how to surf. On this famous Bali beach you can get surfing lesson on an hourly basis and you can also rent a sponge board and ride the waves on your own. If you don’t like getting your hair wet… visit Kuta Beach anyway for the stunning instagram sunset photo opportunities.
Mingle with Digital Nomads in Ubud
Ubud is Bali’s major culture and art hub with an ever growing network of digital nomads. Soak up the laid back ambience or catch up on some emails with digital nomads and other location independent entrepreneurs in pretty much any Ubud cafe. If you fancy more of a cultural experience in Ubud then visit the art galleries here that have the works of several prominent Balinese artists on display. Dance lovers can watch the Tek Tok dance which is a new form of Balinese dancing amalgamated with the traditional form at the Bali Culture Centre at Ubud.
Go trekking at Bukit Lawang
Bukit Lawang is an Orangutan Sanctuary and the last few places on Earth to see orangutans living in the wild. In these lush tropical rainforests you can also go trekking and tubing on the river but it’s the orangutans that steal the show here!
Celebrate Independence at Monas
Monas Tower in Central Jakarta is a national monument that stands 433 feet tall and symbolizes the Indonesian struggle for Independence. It is situated at the Merdeka Square and has a public museum. You can get a bird’s eye view of the city of Jakarta from the observation deck on the top of the tower.
Shop ’till you drop
Indonesia has one of Asia’s best shopping destinations… Jakarta! The big shiny malls of Jakarta house various international brands and more. On the other hand if you love street shopping you can get excellent bargains in the local markets and smaller malls particularly in places like Bali which has some beautiful handcrafted wooden sculptures you can ship home.
Other than these top things to do in Indonesia, there is so more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems.
What To Eat In Indonesia
Nasi Goreng: Nasi Goreng is considered to be the national dish of Indonesia. The meaning of Nasi Goreng is ‘Fried Rice’. It’s cooked in the usual south Asian way where cooked rice is stir fried in oil, but the twist is the delectable spice mix that gives it the Indonesian touch.
Beef Rendang: For all the non-veg lovers this is a must-try. This Spicy and rich beef curry takes forever to cook which gives the meat the tenderness and flavor to die for. Rendang originated from Pandang, Sumatra and has become one of the most loved dishes served in the country.
Nasi Rawon: Nasi Rawon is another heavenly dish for the beef lovers. It is a black beef soup. The dark color and the strong nutty taste is extracted from keluak or black nuts and certain other secret spices. It is usually served with rice.
Siomay: One of the main ingredients in this Indonesian street food is peanut sauce. Siomay is the Indonesian version of steamed fish dim sums which is served with eggs, steamed potatoes, cabbage and loads of peanut sauce. Lookout for a bicycle vendor with a large steamer on the back of his bike because the local street vendors always make the best Siomay.
Sweet Martabak: This is one of my favorite Indonesian desserts, Sweet Martabak is basically the Indonesian version of a pancake. You can opt for the filling of your choice from the three available options – peanut, chocolate and cheese. The only thing I don’t like about Martabaks is that they are only sold in the evenings. 24 hour availability should be mandatory!
Where To Stay In Indonesia
Indonesia is an incredibly affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Indonesia is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget. Hostels and dormitories make travel to Indonesia affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
If you’re traveling to Indonesia during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. Indonesia is a pretty popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Indonesia.
If you’re backpacking in Indonesia or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Indonesia Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Indonesia
There’s a wet and dry season in Indonesia but temperatures rarely dip below 68°F (20°C). The best time of year to visit Indonesia is between May and September when it’s dry and sunny. If you prefer less crowds, lower prices and can tolerate heavy tropical downpours then go in the wet season. The rain only lasts for a few hours a day and then the sun comes out so you can still have a good time in Indonesia during the wet season.
Indonesia Travel Budget
Indonesia is an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets, high and low. The cost of your trip to Indonesia depends on the comfort level you want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in hostels and eating street food then budget between $20 and $35 a day. If you’re looking to stay in private rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Bali then budget about $100 to $200 plus a day.
- Budget: $5-12
- Mid-range: $12-$35
- Splurge: $35+
Meal For One
- Budget: $2.00-$8.00
- Mid-range: $8-$15
- Splurge: $15-$50
Indonesia Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Indonesia, like most other places in South East Asia, is a breeze because it’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates. Tropical southeast Asia climates also mean high humidity so lightweight and breathable lose fitting clothing is essential.
Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater just in case. If you’re visiting during the wet season bring a rain jacket and an umbrella. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need in the larger cities such as Jakarta and Malaysia.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Indonesia include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Indonesia check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Asia Packing List For Female Travelers.