1 month travelling from Lombok to Java passing by the Gilis and Bali: how much did we spend? Find our detailed numbers about this backpacking trip.
Backpacking Indonesia: our complete guide to travel on a budget
Indonesia is the ultimate paradise destination! It's the world's largest archipelago, with over 13 000 islands! Some of them are deserted islands! Needless to say, it wouldn't take a lifetime to travel the length and breadth of Indonesia...
The most popular tourist destinations are Bali, Java, Lombok, Flores, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and Borneo. On this page, you'll find all the general information you need to plan your trip to Indonesia, one of Southeast Asia's must-see countries. And if you want to go further, you'll find all our articles written during our 1-month trip through Indonesia at the end of the page.
- Map of Indonesia
- The best time to visit Indonesia
- Where to go in Indonesia
- 7 days in Lombok, the itinerary
- 10 days in Bali, the itinerary
- What to do in the Gili Islands?
- 4 days in Nusa Penida, the itinerary
- 2 weeks in Java, the itinerary
- Things to do in Flores
- Visit Komodo island in 1 day
- 2 weeks in Borneo, the itinerary
- 3 weeks in Sumatra, the itinerary
- Things to do in Sulawesi
- Choose an Indonesia tour package
- How to get to Indonesia?
- How does backpacking in Indonesia cost?
- Accommodation in Indonesia
- Visas for a trip to Indonesia
- Indonesia and COVID
- Which vaccines are required to travel to Indonesia?
- Driving in Indonesia
- Transport in Indonesia
- Is it safe to travel to Indonesia?
- Religions in Indonesia
- A few Indonesian basic words to travel
- Indonesian festivals and celebrations
- Indonesian cuisine
- Wifi and Internet in Indonesia
- Our blog articles about Indonesia
Map of Indonesia
Indonesia is often overlooked on a trip through Southeast Asia compared with Thailand, Vietnam, or Laos, for example, due to its remoteness. Yet this country has so much to offer, in terms of culture, paradisiacal landscapes, and gastronomy!
Here's the map with all our articles about our 1-month backpacking trip to Indonesia:
The best time to visit Indonesia
Because of its geography, Indonesia has a tropical climate with 2 seasons: dry and wet. As the country is so vast, the seasons are not the same everywhere... However, the best time to visit Indonesia is from May to October, the dry season. During these months, it rarely rains: this is certainly an advantage for activities, but we mustn't forget that it also means that the landscapes are drier and less verdant.
We visited Indonesia just after the rainy season, in April, and we don't regret it at all! The vegetation was lush, there was little rain and the temperatures were very pleasant. Occasionally, a thunderstorm refreshed the atmosphere at the end of the day, but that was all. In short, we advise you to visit Indonesia just before the dry season (or just at the beginning) to avoid crowds.
The wet season extends from November to April. The volume of rain varies from region to region, and it rains more in the mountains than on the coast.
There is one exception, however, if you want to visit eastern Indonesia, in particular West Papua and the Moluccan archipelago. Here, the seasons are reversed, and the best time to visit eastern Indonesia is from September to March.
Where to go in Indonesia?
Our trip lasted 1 month through Indonesia, and when it came to preparing our round-the-world itinerary, we both agreed that we wanted to discover Indonesia. But neither of us really knew what to expect. Sure, we'd seen a few articles on the blogosphere that had us dreaming, but no plans!
Our original plan was to travel overland from Thailand via Malaysia to Indonesia. However, our itinerary was way behind schedule and we wanted to change continents. As our flight to Australia was leaving from Jakarta, we thought it would be a good idea to arrive directly in Lombok and then have 1 month to leisurely return to Jakarta. Honestly, it was a great idea! Indonesia is just huge, and if we'd started our trip to Jakarta, we'd probably never have made it to Lombok! What's more, it meant we didn't have to travel twice between Lombok and Jakarta. If you have to leave via the same airport you arrived in, it's important to calculate the journey time...
To help you plan your trip, we've put together a detailed itinerary for 1 month in Indonesia. 1 month is a long yet short time to visit a country like Indonesia! To get the most out of this archipelago, we advise you to visit several islands, as each has its own cultural heritage and very different assets. Travelers/backpackers often prefer Bali and/or Lombok, but Indonesia is much more than that! Your itinerary will also depend on your budget, as outdoor activities are often expensive... We'll come back to budget travel in Indonesia below!
- 6 days in Lombok: our trip got off to a gentle start with a few days in Kuta. Leisure, surfing and a few motorbike rides on some of the world's most beautiful beaches!
- a 3-day trek to Mount Rinjani: Benoit needed a sporting challenge, while I was feeling really good about my beach/hammock/fruit shake/beach/sleep rhythm! For the first time on this trip, we decided to go our separate ways for a few days! Benoit set off to conquer the Rinjiani, while I took the water temperature in the Gili Islands!
- 6 days in the Gili Islands: it's hard to describe the Gili Islands... We set our hearts on Gili Air, and this little bubble of serenity reconciled me with the aquatic sports. Diving, snorkeling, beaches, walks and bike rides, sunsets... Here's the (tough) Gili Islands program!
- 9 days in Bali: once Benoit was full of endorphins and I had a great tan, we set off to discover Bali! After a few days in Ubud, Bali's cultural and artistic capital, we hit the road again on a motorbike. 3 days exploring northern Bali, with the cherry on the cake a sunrise from Mount Batur! In fact, this first night-time volcano climb was to be the start of a series!
- 7 days on the island of Java: this last week was rather sporty, with the ascent of the Kawah Ijen volcano and its mythical blue fire, followed by the ascent of Mount Bromo! To finish on a high note, Benoit visited Yogyakarta and the Borobudur temple, two of Indonesia's must-sees!
7 days in Lombok, the itinerary
As previously mentioned, Lombok is famous for its paradisiacal beaches around Kuta, in the south of the island, but that's not all! Once you've enjoyed Selong Belanak and tried your hand at surfing, you can explore the north of the island on a scooter, visiting Lombok's typical villages and immersing yourself in nature. Waterfalls, rice terraces, hiking, etc., the choice is vast! And if you love trekking, we can't recommend a 3-day ascent of Rinjani enough!
10 days in Bali, the itinerary
Indonesia wouldn't be Indonesia if it weren't for Bali! This Island of the Gods is very popular with tourists, whether it's for Kuta (not to be confused with Kuta Lombok!), Ubud, Amed, Sidemen, and the volcanoes, of course! Here's the itinerary for visiting Bali and its must-sees in 10 days:
- 4 days in Ubud: Bali's cultural capital is a must for any backpacking trip to Indonesia. You'll discover exquisite handicrafts, temples galore, traditional dances, and much more. In short, don't miss Ubud! And don't forget to leave for 1 or 2 days to explore the region around Ubud! What's on the agenda? Stroll through the rice terraces, perform a purification ritual in one of the magnificent water temples, or visit some of the more unusual temples.
- 3 days in northern Bali: between Munduk and Mount Batur, take a dip in one of the many waterfalls and visit the most famous temple in northern Bali!
- 3 days in Amed or Uluwatu: if Bali's beaches are more to your liking, head for Amed on the more authentic north-east coast, or for the more remote Bukit peninsula in the extreme south of the island. Here, you'll avoid the crowds who prefer Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu for their partying. The Amed region is magnificent and an ideal diving spot if you skip the Gili Islands. The Bukit peninsula, on the other hand, is more suited to surfing and walking along the beaches and cliffs.
- (Bonus) 2 days in Sidemen: this charming village is set in rice paddies at the foot of Mount Agung. If you've never seen rice fields and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Sidemen is the place to be. Don't miss the Gembleng waterfall!
As you'll have gathered, we don't really recommend Kuta, Seminyak, or Canggu as part of your Bali itinerary. This is a very touristy area, and the preferred spot for party-goers and/or expatriates. It's a far cry from the authenticity you're looking for in a trip! But if you've come to Bali for parties, these three towns are sure to please!
4 days in the Gili Islands
The small island of Gili Air is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful diving spots in the world! We've passed on this activity in favor of snorkeling and admiring the underwater fauna and coral reefs. But Gili Air is above all a place for peace and relaxation, as there are no vehicles on the island! Walk or cycle to explore Gili Air, sip a fruit shake as the sun sets, take an Indonesian cooking class, or take a shuttle to neighboring islands: Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan... On Gili Air, take the time to savor this idyllic environment!
Things to do in Nusa Penida
We chose Gili Air over Nusa Penida, but there's no doubt we'd have loved this 200 km2 island too! Accessible from Bali or Lombok, the island of Nusa Penida is a picture-postcard setting, with manta rays, breathtaking cliffs and white sand beaches bordered by turquoise water! How can you resist? Hop on a motorbike and take a tour of the island, lounging on the many stunning beaches and admiring the many viewpoints. The best-known spot on Nusa Penida is undoubtedly Kelingking Beach (you've probably seen this photo all over the guidebooks ;)), but other spots are worth it. Crystal Bay, Atuh Beach, Diamond Beach, Angel's Billabong, and Peguyangan waterfall (which isn't a waterfall, but rather a staircase leading down the cliff to a temple) are the most remarkable, but I think everything on Nusa Penida is!
Note: Nusa Ceningan, the neighboring island, is just as heavenly as Nusa Penida, but smaller: you can easily visit the island in 1 day.
2-week backpacking Java, the itinerary
With more than 1 000 km of coastline, we had to make some choices when it came to planning our itinerary on the island of Java! We opted for the east and center, ending up in Jakarta to catch our flight, but there's so much to do on this island! Here's our 1-week itinerary and some ideas for extending your backpacking trip to Java in Indonesia:
- 4 days in East Java: we can clearly say that this was the most intense part of our trip to Indonesia! We combined the ascent of Kawah Ijen and Mount Bromo! We had taken a 3-day tour, but if we had to do it again, we'd do it in 4 days to rest a bit between... Ijen and Bromo are clearly 2 of Java's must-sees, so don't miss them!
- 3 days in the special territory of Yogyakarta: Yogyakarta is an almost obligatory stopover on the island of Java. It's home to Borobudur, the world's largest Buddhist temple and a UNESCO World Heritage Site! But there's more to Yogyakarta (Jogja) than Borobudur; we also recommend a visit to the city and the temples of Prambanan in particular.
- 1 day in Malang: from Mount Bromo, you can stop off in Malang on the way to Yogyakarta. Java has a good rail network and Malang can cut the journey in 2. Untouched by tourists, the town offers an immersion in everyday Javanese life. In Malang, wander around the 2 squares in the center of town, Alun Alun Tugu and Alun Alun Malang, wander through the ultra-colorful houses of the Jodipan district (Kampung Biru Arema and Kampung Warna Warni), enjoy the tea fields as far as the eye can see from Bukit Keneer and discover Java's most beautiful waterfall, Tumpak Sewu (or Coban Sewu)!
- 1 day to climb the Merapi volcano or Mount Merbabu: if trekking is in your blood, then we recommend hiking up one of the 2 giants north of Yogyakarta for breathtaking views!
- 2 days on the Dieng plateau: at an altitude of 2 000 m, the Dieng plateau is more popular with Indonesians than with tourists. This corner of Central Java has many attractions: watch the sunrise over the Dieng Plateau from Sikunir Dieng Hill, discover the region's volcanic activity, stroll through lush vegetation and meet the locals!
- 4 days in the Karimunjawa Islands (or Karimun Jawa): if you want to visit Indonesia and Java off the beaten track, then the Karimunjawa Islands must be on your itinerary! This archipelago to the north of Java is not very touristy. Here, you'll find a gentle pace of life, turquoise waters, snorkeling galore, magnificent sunsets and walks/hiking in Karimunjawa National Park. It's a bit of a long way to get there, but well worth it to find yourself in paradise and experience something authentic with the locals!
Note: we don't necessarily recommend a stay in Sumatra, Indonesia's capital city, which offers little interest.
1 week in Flores, the itinerary
Flores Island, a small island 350 km wide in eastern Indonesia, is often crowded with tourists, especially in Labuan Bajo, as it's the main departure point for cruises around the island of Komodo and the national park of the same name. But this island is much more than that! In 1 week on Flores, you can visit from west to east: enjoy Kanawa Island and its superb seabed, explore Riung Bay and its 17 islands marine park, climb the Kelimutu volcano, discover the small traditional villages around Bajawa... The island of Flores offers great opportunities to visit Indonesia off the beaten track!
Visit Komodo Island in 1 day
As mentioned above, Flores is the starting point for cruises around
Komodo Island and the National Park in 1 or even 3 days, or from Lombok to Flores via Komodo. If you have the time, it may be worth taking a cruise, but the longer they are, the more expensive they are. It's up to you to decide, depending on your itinerary and budget, but we'd advise you not to overlook Flores! Note that the island of Komodo has lost some of its authenticity over the years, especially when it comes to the famous Komodo dragons...
2 weeks in Borneo, the itinerary
Borneo is the 3rd largest island in the world and is shared between 3 countries: Indonesia to the south with the five provinces of Kalimantan, Malaysia to the north and landlocked Brunei. The Indonesian part of the island is little-known, with tourists often preferring the northern Malaysian coast. So if you don't want to do like everyone else and want to visit Indonesia off the beaten track, head for Kalimantan!
Because of its size, you could spend several weeks on the island of Borneo... A 2-week stopover can take you to the best of Kalimantan. From Pontianak, head for Tanjung Puting National Park, a wildlife reserve, especially for orangutans, threatened by intensive palm tree cultivation. Then, early in the morning, head for the floating market of Lok Baintan, in Banjarmasin, where women sell their crops from boats. If you want to immerse yourself in the daily life of the Dayak people, the Loksado region is the place to go. Borneo also boasts its own little corner of paradise, the Darawan archipelago in the northeast of the island. Composed mainly of the islands of Derawan, Sangalaki, Kakaban and Maratua, you'll find turquoise waters perfect for snorkeling, a lake where you can swim with jellyfish that don't sting... In short, a true haven of peace!
3 weeks in Sumatra, the itinerary
The island of Sumatra is almost 2 times "smaller" than Borneo, but still ranks sixth among the world's largest islands! To vary the pleasures of your Indonesian itinerary, we suggest you visit Borneo or Sumatra, which are far less touristy than Bali or Lombok.
In 3 weeks in Sumatra, you can:
- trek several days into the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park to observe the last wild orangutans, from the villages of Bukit Lawang or Ketambe;
- climb the Sinabung and Sibayak volcanoes (2460 and 2181 m respectively) from the town of Berastagi and relax in the hot springs;
- enjoy Lake Toba: the world's largest volcanic lake is impressive not only for its size (500 m maximum depth for 100 km long) but also for the Samosir island at its center, where you'll meet the Batak ethnic group;
- further south, visit Kerinci Seblat National Park: the country's largest national park also offers its share of treks through the lush jungle but with a very different fauna. Here you'll find Sumatran tigers, rhinos and other ultra-protected species. The vast expanse also surrounds Indonesia's highest volcano, Kerinci, which rises to 3805 m and is still active!
- taste paradise for a few days on Pulau Weh Island in the far north, on the remote Banyak Islands, or the four Mentawai Islands in the center;
- rent a bike to go around Lake Maninjau and lose yourself in the magnificent scenery of the Harau Valley around the town of Bukkintingi.
3 weeks in Sulawesi, the itinerary
So, how about one last island to visit in Indonesia? Let's finish the trip with Sulawesi, formerly the Celebes island. Still untouched by mass tourism, you can cross it in 3 weeks from north to south or south to north, depending on your travel itinerary, as each end of the island has its own international airport. Authenticity, culture, traditions, and nature in abundance are the words that best characterize Sulawesi!
In the north, you can explore underwater life at Bunaken National Marine Park, with its incredible diving/snorkeling spots, or at Tumbak, a small Bajau (sea nomad) village that's a little isolated; visit Tomohon, a mountain town in the heart of the Lokon and Mahawu volcanoes, ideal for trekking. Don't miss the Togian Islands, one of Sulawesi's little jewels! Here you'll find everything you need for a magical stay: total disconnection (no Internet and limited electricity), jungle, crystal-clear waters, idleness, magnificent sunsets, villages... Choose the Bomba, Wakai and Malenge islands for a balance of activity and serenity!
On the way down, stop off at Tentena to enjoy the coolness of the impressive Saluopa waterfall and Lake Poso. Then spend a few days around Rantepao, in Tana Toraja. This region is well known for its rice fields wedged between mountains, its traditional villages and the Toraja culture with its singular architecture and rituals. Be sure to attend a funeral ceremony with a guide - you'll never look at death in the same way again... Finally, before arriving in Makassar, you'll undoubtedly pass by Lake Tempe and its floating houses.
If you've read it this far, you'll have understood that you'll have to make some choices when it comes to preparing your Indonesia travel itinerary! In the end, it all depends on what you want to do (beach or activities), how much time you have and your budget (activities are often expensive). One thing's for sure, though: we'll wish we'd explored the other islands!
Choose an Indonesia tour package
If you're looking for a more cocooning or simply more relaxing vacation experience in Indonesia, we recommend you take a look at all the tours offered by the Evaneos website. This travel agency allows you to create your own tailor-made trip to Indonesia with local agencies! For a country like Indonesia, it really makes sense to use local service providers. Prices range from very reasonable to exclusive. Quotes are customized, so it's up to you to judge the level of comfort and assistance you want for your trip!
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How to get to Indonesia
The main airports in Indonesia when arriving from abroad are Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and Surabaya International Airport on the island of Java, Denpasar International Airport on the island of Bali and Lombok International Airport on the island of the same name. If you're flying from Europe, it's a safe bet that you'll make a stopover in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore before reaching your destination in Indonesia.
Round-trip flights from France generally cost between 500 euros (a good price that can generally be obtained on an off-season trip) and 1000 euros (the average price in the high season). After that, the more flexible you are about your travel dates and departure city, the more likely you are to find a good deal. Don't hesitate to compare prices between different airports in Indonesia! Note: you can even set an entire country as your point of departure and arrival to maximize your chances!
To find the cheapest flights to Indonesia, it's best to compare prices on Skyscanner and use the price alert system to stay informed when prices drop.
Money and backpacking budget for a trip to Indonesia
We organized this trip to Indonesia independently with a backpacker budget. Indonesia is a country that lends itself extremely well to backpacking!
Indonesia's currency is the Indonesian rupiah (IDR) and its current rate is 1 euro = 16 000 rupiahs. Don't forget to check the current rate before you leave!
Here's what we spent on average during our backpacking trip to Indonesia.
|Expense item||Daily budget/person|
A total budget of around 23 euros per person per day.
These figures are of course purely indicative and correspond to what we spent during our trip. The above budget includes absolutely all our expenses on site (including the tourist visa on arrival) and excludes the cost of plane tickets, any pre-departure vaccinations or travel insurance.
For more details, we suggest you read our article dedicated to the Indonesia trip budget.
Accommodation in Indonesia
To find accommodation in Indonesia, we mostly looked for hotels directly on-site. This often leads to good deals, but we were in the wet season! If you're looking for accommodation or a hotel in the dry season in Indonesia, we recommend you compare rates on the map below. You'll find all available apartments and hotels. Enter your dates and adjust the filters (accommodation type, price and ratings) to refine the results:
Which visa do I need to travel to Indonesia?
To visit Indonesia, you'll need either a visitor visa or a tourist visa, whichever is more convenient for you. Note that visa exemption used to be valid for several countries like France, Belgium and Switzerland, but since 2020, following the health crisis, it has been suspended until further notice...
If you want to stay less than 30 days in Indonesia
If you want to visit Indonesia for less than 30 days, you'll need a visitor visa. To obtain one, you have 2 options: apply for it on arrival, or take the necessary steps online before your departure to obtain an e-visa. Whether on arrival or e-visa, the cost of a visitor's visa for Indonesia is 500 000 rupiahs. This visa is valid for 90 days and does not authorize re-entry into or exit from Indonesian territory.
Visa on arrival: obtained on arrival in Indonesia, before going through immigration. To extend it by 30 days, go to an immigration office (cost: 500 000 rupiahs).
E-visa: you need to create an account and apply for an e-visa on the Indonesian government's official website, at least 48 hours before your departure for Indonesia, with your passport, a passport photo and your credit card in hand. If you wish to extend your stay, you don't need to go to an immigration office; this can be done in your personal space on the official website (cost: 500 000 rupiahs).
If you want to stay longer than 30 days in Indonesia
To travel through Indonesia for more than 30 days, you have the choice of either taking out a visitor visa and extending it (see above) or applying for a 60-day tourist visa. The latter is more expensive than the former, costing 1.5 million rupiahs, but is non-renewable. It is also valid for 90 days and does not allow multiple entries and exits into the country. This visa can only be obtained online, via the Indonesian government platform. As you will quickly realize, this tourist visa is not very attractive financially speaking. As the procedures for obtaining and extending a visitor visa are online and less expensive, we recommend the first option!
For trips longer than 60 days, you can apply for a run visa, i.e. leave the country and re-enter to obtain another visitor or tourist visa. Alternatively, you can apply for a 211A visa, but you'll need to be sponsored...
Please note: to obtain a visa, your passport must be in very good condition and valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry into Indonesia, and you must have a return ticket or proof of exit from Indonesian territory (although you won't always be asked for this). If you overstay your visa, you will be fined 1 million rupiahs for each day you overstay. After 60 days, you risk expulsion from the country and a ban on entering Indonesia...
Indonesia and COVID
Since March 2022, it has been possible to travel again to Indonesia. However, it would appear that a certificate of vaccination for the 2nd dose, received at least 14 days before departure, is compulsory... You should also download the SATUSEHAT application (COVID tracking and tracing) onto your smartphone. For the latest information on these measures, please visit the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia website.
Vaccine requirements for Indonesia
Like many other Southeast Asian countries, no vaccinations are required for travel to Indonesia. However, some vaccinations are recommended:
- Hepatitis A et B;
- Japanese encephalitis;
For information on vaccines for travel to Indonesia, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Driving in Indonesia
Apart from driving on the left-hand side of the road, getting behind the wheel in Indonesia isn't all that difficult. The roads are mostly asphalted and in very good condition. The only point where you need to be careful is in the big cities, where traffic can be dense... Choose 125 or even 150 cm3 motorbikes, as some stretches of road can be quite steep!
Before driving a motorbike in Indonesia, you need to have an international driving license, marked A1. Apply for it 6 months before your departure, so you can visit Indonesia in total freedom!
Please note: check that your travel insurance covers you for driving two-wheelers! If you don't have a motorcycle license, your insurance may refuse to cover you...
Transport in Indonesia
In Indonesia, the bus is the most common means of transport on all the islands. If you're planning to visit Java, note that it has a very good rail network. Don't forget the train, which is often faster, more comfortable and less expensive than the bus! To get from island to island, you can also take a ferry or an internal flight.
Is Indonesia safe?
We wouldn't say that Indonesia is necessarily a dangerous country, but rather that you need to be careful. To give you an idea of the situation, we take a look at the risks of traveling to Indonesia.
Natural hazards in Indonesia
This is undoubtedly the country's primary hazard. Indonesia lies on the famous Pacific Ring of Fire, a subduction zone of tectonic plates that contains over 70 % of the world's volcanoes! Due to the movement of these plates, seismic risk is very high in Indonesia, and natural disasters such as tsunamis and eruptions are frequent. The country lies at the convergence of 3 tectonic plates and boasts over a hundred active volcanoes!
Depending on current volcanic activity, safety perimeters may be established. Before and during your trip to Indonesia, be vigilant and ask the locals for information and check this volcano monitoring site.
Scams in Indonesia
Oh, scams are commonplace in Southeast Asia, and Indonesia is no exception. Quite simply, you have to negotiate for everything! In some places, tourists are seen as walking wallets... But we can assure you that, when you get off the beaten track, the sincerity of Indonesians is unquestionable!
We do, however, warn you about taxis and touts in Indonesia. When you arrive at bus stations, ports, or other touristy spots, people will want to help you and take you somewhere (workshop, vehicle, taxi...). The best thing to do is to pass quietly by without saying a word. To take a taxi, we strongly recommend you take a Blue Bird or a Grab, the Asian equivalent of Uber. Prices are fixed, which means no worries about rigged or inactive meters!
Thefts in Indonesia
There is some petty crime, but few major risks overall for travelers. We had no problems of this kind during our stay in Indonesia, but thefts are fairly frequent. Always keep an eye on your belongings and avoid displaying valuables. Also, be careful when you're driving a motorbike: if you're using a smartphone as a GPS device, it could be ripped off.
Religions in Indonesia
Indonesia is a country where several religions live side by side, and where freedom of religion is enshrined in the constitution. However, although several religions are represented on the Indonesian islands, the most widespread is undoubtedly Islam. Almost 87 % of the population declare themselves Muslim, making Indonesia the world's largest Muslim country.
It seems (or at least I had the impression) that the Hindu religion is also very present, and this is the case on the island of Bali, but it's the only island in Indonesia where this religion can be found.
For travelers, religion is no barrier, even if it's important to respect Indonesian customs and traditions. The country is a seaside destination, and bathing suits are no problem on tourist beaches. However, women need to remember to cover at least the shoulders and cleavage when walking down the street. I opted for long but light pants and a T-Shirt with short sleeves (no strapless tops) and always felt 100 % comfortable in this outfit.
To visit religious places, you often have to wear a sarong. Sarong rental is very often included in the price of the entrance ticket (and beware of scams when approaching tourist sites). You can also kill two birds with one stone by buying a sarong when you arrive in Indonesia: it'll give you peace of mind for your stay and make a nice souvenir to take home :).
Indonesian basics for travelers
Indonesian is a relatively easy language to learn, at least the basic vocabulary... But Indonesian is much more complex, with over 740 different languages! In fact, what is often referred to as Indonesian is Riau Malay or Bahasa Indonesia.
The huge advantage of Indonesian is that the language uses the Latin alphabet, so it's relatively easy for travelers to find their way around signs and menus. We're not going to give you an Indonesian lesson here, but here are a few vocabulary words that might come in handy during your trip!
|Hello||Selamat pagi||Goodbye||Selamat tinggal|
|Thank you||Terima kasih||How much is it?||Harganya berapa?|
|Yes/No||Ya/Tidak||My name is...||Nama saya...|
|Eat||Makan||Bus station||Stasiun de bus|
|I'm looking for...||Saya mencari||Hotel||Hotel|
|Downtown||Pusat kota||Cheers!||Tepuk tangan|
Festivals in Indonesia
Because of its many religions, Indonesia puts on its festive clothes a little more often than other Southeast Asian countries. Here are a few festivities in the year for attending one of these events during your visit to Indonesia!
- February or March: Bau Nyale in Kuta, on the island of Lombok, is an opportunity to witness the gathering of thousands of Sasaks to fish for nyale, a kind of worm with aphrodisiac properties. The festival lasts all night and is punctuated by live entertainment.
- February and September: Galungan takes place every 210 days in Bali. For several days, offerings and rituals celebrate the creation of the universe and the victory of good over evil spirits. The last day is Kuningan, symbolizing the departure of the ancient spirits who have descended to Earth to return home. During this period, everything slows down or comes to a standstill.
- March or April: le Hindu New Year, or Nyepi, is celebrated mainly in Bali, the only island in Indonesia where Hinduism is dominant. After 3 festive days dedicated to purification (Melasti), time seems to stand still for 24 hours... During this "day of silence", everything is conducive to calm and meditation. The slightest noise, light or activity is said to attract evil spirits. Everything is closed, and we strongly advise you to stay at home like the Balinese! Don't neglect logistics if your trip to Bali coincides with Nyepi: buses and planes are at a standstill!
- April and May: Ramadan is an integral part of life for Indonesians, the majority of whom are Muslim. The country doesn't stop living, but getting around can be a little more complicated as many Indonesians return to their families, whether at the start of Ramadan or at the breaking of the fast (Eid el-Fitr)...
- May: the birth of Buddha (or Waisak) is celebrated in May. From the temple of Mendut, not far from Yogyakarta, Buddhist monks don their traditional robes and the procession reaches the temple of Borobudur. Prayers and chanting punctuate the day and evening.
- July: the kite festival in Sanur, south of Bali, brings together thousands of Balinese and tourists to share in this veritable art form. The sky is colored by the sometimes immense creatures, masterfully flown by young and old alike.
- August: August 17 is symbolic for all Indonesians, as it's the country's national holiday and independence day! (Indonesia gained independence in 1945 after being colonized by the Netherlands, then invaded by Japan during the Second World War) Cultural and sporting events and parades take place all over the country, including traditional sailboat races on the island of Jakarta.
Food in Indonesia
Indonesian cuisine is delicious, but perhaps a little less varied than that of the rest of Southeast Asia. We enjoyed Indonesian meals, but it has to be said that the typical dishes are a little less numerous than in other countries... This is no doubt due to Indonesia's cultural diversity and vastness. In any case, be sure to eat in warungs whenever you can! Warungs are small restaurants that don't charge much but serve delicious traditional Indonesian dishes at very low prices. Here are the must-try Indonesian dishes for your trip:
- nasi goreng: this is without a doubt THE Indonesian dish par excellence! It consists of fried rice with onions, vegetables, chicken, an egg, and a sweet soy-based sauce. You'll see many variations as you travel through Indonesia!
- mi goreng (or bami goreng): same as nasi goreng, but with noodles instead of rice!
- gado gado: perfect for vegetarians, this typical Indonesian dish resembles a salad of vegetables (carrots, spinach, green beans, etc.), tofu, and tempeh, served with a delicious peanut sauce!
- babi guling: be sure to try this dish when you visit Bali! It's a dish based on roast pork, stuffed with ginger and various spices that you won't find on the other islands, which are predominantly Muslim.
- gudeg: this dish, typical of Yogyakarta and Central Java, consists of jackfruit cooked in coconut milk, accompanied by rice, aromatic herbs, egg and chicken.
- satay: you'll find these marinated chicken skewers (or any other meat) just about everywhere, often served with a peanut sauce.
- rendang: first slow-cooked in coconut milk, the beef or lamb is then seasoned with various spices and served with rice to create a very tasty dish!
- kopi luwak coffee: reputed to be the most expensive coffee in the world, we don't necessarily recommend you try it... We explain all about kopi luwak here.
Wifi and Internet in Indonesia
Wifi is available in all tourist areas of the country. If you need more freedom, such as a GPS for your scooter, you can buy a prepaid SIM card anywhere in Indonesia. Even better is to buy it as soon as you arrive, directly at the airport. Since 2018, sellers have had to register your future SIM card with your passport and your phone's IMEI (to obtain it, type *#06# as if making a call). So avoid the little street stores that would overlook this, and go for the operators' stores! We recommend Telkomsel for its excellent network coverage of the Indonesian territory. Expect to pay around 120 000 rupiahs for 32 GB, more than enough for a 1-month trip in Indonesia.
In terms of time zones, Indonesia straddles 3 different time zones (from GMT + 7 to + 9). For example, between Java and France, there's a 5-6 hour time difference (depending on whether we're in winter or summer time), but further east in Bali, there's a 6-7 hour time difference!