10 Travel Tips for Indonesia

posted in: Asia, Indonesia, Tips | 40

The first time I visited Indonesia was a few years back and that too, it was only Bali. With my recent visit, I not just managed Bali but a bit of the rest of the country. While I cannot claim to know the country with these visits, I definitely can share a few travel tips for Indonesia. Should you be planning a visit, these travel tips for Indonesia will definitely help you plan better.

Plan your visit with these travel tips for Indonesia
Plan your visit with these travel tips for Indonesia

From places to stay to practical tips about currency, packing and food, I have tried to cover them all as a travel guide for you. So here, goes –

My 10 travel tips for Indonesia.

1) Plan beyond Bali

Bali has almost become synonymous with Indonesia. It is not surprising that if someone says they are going to Indonesia, they are basically traveling to Bali. While Bali is an extremely enjoyable and one of the must-visit destinations of Indonesia, do try to include places beyond Bali.

The islands of Indonesia from high up in the sky
The islands of Indonesia from high up in the sky

Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, diverse cultures and something for everyone – no matter what interests you. If you are heritage and culture buff, you can include Yogyakarta as a possible destination along with Bali. Or alternatively, for a wildlife and nature buff, Flores with the famed Komodo islands is a great option. And then, there are the unexplored islands of Sulawesi and Gili Trawangan– which has the best of both and which I have added to my wanderlist :D.

Travel Tips for Indonesia - Use internal flights to travel between destinations in the country
Travel Tips for Indonesia – Use internal flights to travel between destinations in the country

The best way to visit these destinations is to use the internal flights in Indonesia. You can pre-book them using the Skyscanner app. Pre-booking ensures that you get a seat and that too, at the best flight prices for Indonesia.. These flights are generally, limited in terms of frequency and capacity. You will find that flights within Indonesia are fairly affordable too.

2) Visa for Indonesia

For around 169 countries, Indonesia has a FREE visa on arrival option. You can check the list of these countries here. The visa is valid for 30 days and all you need is a passport that is valid for at least 6 months. Also, keep your return ticket handy, in case the passport official at the airport asks for it. The entire process is quite smooth.

Visa on Arrival in Indonesia
Visa on Arrival in Indonesia

In terms of any airport tax – there is a fee that we foreigners, have to pay. However, most airlines add this to the ticket price. I did not have to pay anything extra when I landed at Bali.

3) Making sense of the Indonesian Currency

Among all the travel tips for Indonesia that I have shared, this one is by far, the MOST important. Indonesian Rupiah is a really confusing currency. Every travel guide to Indonesia tells you that Indonesia is a fairly inexpensive country. The first time I dealt with the currency, I felt that this statement was a myth. I mean how can a Balinese Massage of IDR 150,000 be called cheap? Well, the reality is that IDR 150,000 means INR 750 (USD 11.50).

As per the exchange rate today –

1 USD = 13,000 IDR

I Euro = 14,360 IDR

I INR = 195 IDR

Travel Tips for Indonesia : Known the conversion rates of Indonesian Currency Vs. other currency well before heading to Indonesia
Travel Tips for Indonesia : Known the conversion rates of Indonesian Currency Vs. other currency well before heading to Indonesia

In Indonesia, most people refer to the denomination less the last three zeros. So, if a shopkeeper tells you that a particular item costs you “20”, it does NOT mean IDR 20. He means it costs “IDR 20,000”. Similarly when he says 200, it means it costs IDR 200,000. It is extremely essential that you confirm and reconfirm with the shopkeeper on the price he means. Use the calculator by all means to communicate and beware of people who try to fleece you owing to the difference in currency.

Currency exchange is best done in USD. You get a better exchange rate. However, remember to carry only USD notes that are after the year 2000. They do not accept the older notes. There are various exchange centers in Bali and the bigger towns. The rates are generally displayed on digital boards in front of the shop. I also, realize that you can bargain for a better rate with some of these centers.

In the bigger cities, I found it easier to use the credit card. I did not get charged anything additional. 3% is the credit card fees that is added to your bill by the vendor but if you negotiate well, they give you the same as a discount. In the smaller towns like Ende and Labuan Bajo, you might not be able to use your card a lot. Hence, load yourself with cash for these towns. Exchange centers are quite easily found here and the rates are the same.

4) Local SIM card in Indonesia

I have never been so confused about the local SIM cards in other countries as I have been in Indonesia. The combination of the Indonesian currency and non-standard rates for a SIM card is what gets you in a tizzy. It is here that I hate to admit that we got cheated. As soon as we landed, Rutavi and me almost picked up two SIM cards at the airport. Fortunately with some good sense prevailing, Rutavi suggested that we pick only one as a trial. We were charged IDR 450,000 for the Simpati card which gave us 12 GB of data and incoming calls.

Thrilling Travel Tip: Simpati as a brand is recommended as it is suppose to have the best reception across Indonesia, even on the smaller Islands.

Travel tips for Indonesia - Buying a Local Sim is a challenge
Travel tips for Indonesia – Buying a Local Sim is a challenge

However, what we did not realize till we met the locals and the other bloggers was that we had paid three times the price that the SIM card was actually available for.  What was worse was that there was no standard rate for the SIM. Some of the bloggers paid IDR 250,000 for it and some even more. The vendors across Bali seem to be selling it at different rates too. Thanks to our Malaysian friend David, we found this shop in Seminyak who charged us IDR 125,000 for the same card.

Thrilling Travel Tip: If you are head to Komodo, you will find the same price for the same SIM card (12GB data) at the Labuan Bajo airport. For 5GB data cards, the price was lower at IDR 70,000

Note in the picture, the SIM card does give you a rate of IDR 50,000 plus another IDR 50,000. Adding the service tax of 10%, you kind of come to this same rate. However, none of the vendors really follow this and charge you higher. Remember that you need to bargain well when it comes to picking up the Local SIM. And yes, do not buy at the Bali Denpasar airport.

5) Packing for Indonesia

Besides your clothes and accessories remember to carry the following – Bug Spray, Sunscreen and some Aloe Vera gel for a little after sun soothing . Aside from this, remember to carry a universal charger. Everywhere in Indonesia, you will find these kind of electric sockets.

Travel Tips for Indonesia: Carry a universal charger
Travel Tips for Indonesia: Carry a universal charger

I forgot my universal charger and got stuck with no charging point for mobile or camera or even laptop. Thanks to my fellow blogger Lucie who had an extra one that I managed 10 full days in Indonesia.

Another tip is to keep in mind the baggage restrictions on internal flights. Remember I mentioned that they are limited in terms of capacity. Most of these are ATR aircrafts and you are allowed only 10 kgs of check-in baggages and one piece of hand baggage. Sigh!

6) Hotels in Indonesia

Our Hotel - Coconut Garden in Maumere, Indonesia
Our Hotel – Coconut Garden in Maumere, Indonesia

Bali, Yogyakarta and Jakarta have hotels of all budgets and facilities. However, when it comes to Labuan Bajo, Ende and the smaller places, there are limited ones. Remember to book well in advance to get a hotel of your choice. All these are available online on Skyscanner for you to evaluate and book. Most of these hotels are quite tourist friendly and are a good source for local information.

Thrilling Travel Tip: In Bali, avoid booking in Kuta which is filled with tourists. Instead take a hotel in Seminyak or Nusa Dua.

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7) Food in Indonesia

Gado Gado - A local vegetarian dish
Gado Gado – A local vegetarian dish

Bali was an absolute foodie’s delight. From seafood to tasty vegetarian options, there was enough in Bali to try out. Being a vegetarian, I did not find it difficult at all. I definitely recommend the Gado GadoNasi Goreng and Misi Goreng dishes. Also, sample their Sirsak fruit juice – quite an unusual non-alcoholic fruit drink. Being an extremely tourist friendly destination, you can even find Western food and Indian food restaurants in Bali. However, when you head east to the Flores islands, vegetarian options do get limited.

Capchay - Vegetarian dish in Indonesia
Capchay – Vegetarian dish in Indonesia

I developed a taste for their seaweed dish – Capchay (pronounced as Chap-chay) and tofu. :). It was not bad to be honest, and since I was having fun, food did not really bother me.

8) Shopping in Indonesia

Dream catchers on display in Bali
Dream catchers on display in Bali

From cute little caps to tiny idols of Ganesha and dragons to the colorful dream catchers, Bali markets beckoned us with their lively spirit and colors. However, when you go street shopping, be prepared for some obnoxious prices. The vendors quote double the actual prices. So, you must bargain on the street shops. A better option would be to head to some of these smaller shops or the ones at cultural centers. These guarantee you quality products as well as reasonable pricing.

More shopping options in Bali
More shopping options in Bali

Once you are in East Indonesia, shopping is not so great. There isn’t anything specific that I would recommend buying from here.  However, if you like Rutavi head to Yogyakarta, you are bound to go beserk. Take a look at her blogpost to discover how much and what all, you can shop in Yogyakarta.

9) Local transport in Indonesia

Travel Tips for Indonesia: Local conveyance including taxis and bikes
Travel Tips for Indonesia: Local conveyance including taxis and bikes

With bigger places like Bali, where distances are huge, you may need to hire a cab to get between points. This time on, thanks to Skyscanner, most of my internal transport requirement was taken care of. However, I recall from my last visit that we had ordered some radio cabs with the help of our hotel. Given my last experience, I checked with the local team this time on to get the name of Bluebird cabs as the most recommended across Indonesia. You can call them through their toll free number and you generally get a taxi within 10 minutes. Keep enough cash to pay the driver. Again, you need to pay by the meter.

Shrinidhi and his rented bike Scoopy - in Bali
Shrinidhi and his rented bike Scoopy – in Bali

Another option in places like Bali is to rent a two-wheeler as my fellow blogger Shrinidhi discovered. You can get complete details of how to rent and what to expect through this post here. I would even recommend this in smaller towns like Labuan Bajo and Ende where the distances are not much. It is easier to use two-wheelers or explore these town by foot.

10) Respect the local sentiments

Uluwatu temple in Bali
Uluwatu temple in Bali

Indonesia is a culturally diverse country with three different religions being practiced. While you will find Hinduism prominent in Bali, when you head to the other parts like Flores, you will find a lot of Muslims and Christians. Remember to be sensitive to their cultural sentiments – for example, do not offer alcohol to the Muslims or pork to the Christians. When in Bali, remember to dress appropriately when visiting a temple by covering your legs and shoulders. It is always a good idea to read up a little about these customs before heading to Indonesia. It is not just about being sensitive as I discovered, but also, delighting the locals by thanking them in their language. Suksma (Thank you in Balinese) and Themakasi (Thanks in Bahasa) to Lucie for introducing me to this delight. Loved seeing the joy on the faces of the locals when I thanked them in their language.

Well, that is it from me on the travel tips for Indonesia. So, are you already packing your bags to head to Indonesia? Remember – you can check your flight options to Indonesia and their prices through this link.

10 Travel Tips for Indonesia

P.S: I was a part of the Bloggers’ trip organized by Skyscanner and Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia.

 

 

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40 Responses

  1. Very good information Ami it will be very useful for anyone who is planning to visit Indonesia 🙂

  2. Nice tips. The photos give a kind of a virtual tour.

  3. Ami, You always surprise me with your blogpost. This post is more of a personal experience which creates a whole new spectrum towards tips. I love how you included the picture of sim card and the plug point. Honestly I survived the plug point after I got one from Tijilis.. Happy go lucky I was.. Lovely post!

    • Thanks Rutavi. Our mistakes do teach us a lot. Best to share them so that the others don’t have to go through those mistakes.

  4. Do not offer alcohol and pork to the moslem, the Christian are ok with both of them. Airport tax is paid by everyone including locals, not just foreigners

    • Thanks Eko. Airport tax for locals and foreigners is included in the tickets 😀 Thanks for the additional tips.

  5. All great tips!!! Especially loved that you started with seeing more than just Bali.

  6. Very useful tips indeed for people planning to visit Indonesia 🙂

  7. useful tips but yes indonesian currency will be little bit confusing and i think the price of SIM card wont be that expensive as i live in Indonesia too.. but i hope you enjoy to visit Bali

  8. very informative post and helpful tips.

  9. Great tips. Very informative. We have travelled to about 70 of the 17000 islands! And hope to do more next year. It is a wonderful place everyone should visit at least once in their life time!

  10. That’s some great tips for 1st timers to Indonesia and thanks for the mention Ami. Glad you guys bought only one SIM card then… 🙂 Anyway, my data plan was more than enough as when I got back, I still had 4GB of data left! lol. Hope to catch up with you on some other trip, somewhere and take care. ~ David.

    • Thanks David. I am glad too …abt the Sim. I had some data left over when I got back too. We will definitely be catching up somewhere soon!

  11. Thank you much for this informative post!

  12. Very informative. The currency part is important, especially when they talk about 20 and you get shocks to understand it is 20k and then the conversion that follows.

    • Absolutely, I got a shock of my life the first few times. But as I got hang of it, I realised that it was affordable.

  13. These tips should come in handy to me soon!

  14. Great post Ami! Very detailed, useful and informative for anyone planning to head to Indonesia in the near future. Sharing it!

  15. So much great inspiration and information in short post. Thanks. We agree that as amazing as Bali is there is so much more to Indonesia.

  16. This is so comprehensive and useful so saving it under Indonesia! I have been there but still forget about the details which can be very inconvenient as I don’t speak bahasa indonesia, maybe it’s time to pick up the language!

  17. Adam, Bite of Iceland

    Great tips Ami! It’s good to know that you can rent a scooter in Indonesia. That’s what I love to do in Asia – I usually go to a place, rent a scooter and explore the area on my own. It was a wonderful experience both in India and Vietnam. Indonesia is still waiting for me.

    • Thanks Adam. I think most people prefer renting the scooter as it gives them a better flexibility. Hope you get to Indonesia soon! Cheers

  18. Nice tips for a planned visit to Indonesia. I am especially pleased that there are good vegetarian options available, as that is something important to us wherever we go.

  19. I did 2 weeks in Bali and Yogyakarta. I really want to go back and explore indonesia more.

  20. Lovely blog with useful information and pictures.

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