A Backpacker's Tale

Backpacking
Indonesia

Imagine if you mastered everything you needed before backpacking Indonesia. Well, since you landed here you are on the right path (Give yourself a hearty pat on the back). 

By the time you get to the bottom of this post, you will have in-depth insights that will significantly improve your travels in Indonesia.

A lot of travelers get intimidated by the sheer size of the country, I mean there are over 17,000 islands in Indonesia. 17,000 I.S.l.A.N.D.S! Over 300 different spoken languages and hundreds of different cultures, from the small water tribes like the Bajo to the Javanese people who make up a majority of the population. There are a lot of awesome experiences withlocals in Indonesia. 

Are you starting to see why people find backpacking Indonesia daunting? It makes my head spin just thinking about it!

After reading the last, excellently written paragraph (*cough) you might be asking yourself. Where do I start? Is backpacking Indonesia even possible?

Yes! And by the bottom of this page, all your stress and worries will fade.

I’ve spent around 5 months traveling in Indonesia. Much of that time I’ve explored the tourist hotspots but I’ve also spent a good amount of time venturing off the beaten path. 

Being such a massive country it is impossible to cover it all in one blog post, and anyone claiming to do so is trying to sell you something.

 But this guide to Indonesia will go over everything a traveler needs to know. 

We will go in detail on cost and budgets, the best places to go, awesome things to see and do, what to expect, apps, safety, packing, helpful phrases, and much more!

So what are you waiting for, become a guru of traveling Indonesia?

What to Expect When
Traveling Indonesia

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Indonesia is diversity, and no two cultures or islands feel exactly alike. 

Actually, some islands feel like they are a completely different country. Yet the welcoming people, stunning scenery, legendary beaches, and delicious food remain consistent across the entire country.

It is an exhilarating country, and while Bali is awesome, there is much, much more to Indonesia that what many tourists actually see.

For travelers who love wandering off the tourist trail, you’ll fit right at home in Indonesia! There are over 2,000 inhabited islands across the country. And, good news for you, most of them are far from the well-beaten tourist trail. 

This leaves plenty of room to blaze your own trail and create your own adventures miles away from the throngs of other travelers. (P.S. If you find anywhere awesome shoot me a message!)

Wildlife in Indonesia is awesome. Watching an imposing Komodo Dragon patrol the beach will make your jaw drop, while simultaneously making you fight an urge to run back to the boat and hide. 

And seeing Orangutans swinging from trees like they are overweight ginger pole vaulters will leave you speechless. The wildlife of Indonesia is one of the major highlights of the country and it has made for some of my most memorable moments.

The wild array of wildlife, landscape, and cultures make Indonesia an unforgettable place!

3 Ultimate
Backpacking Indonesia Itineraries

So now that you have a good idea of how much money a trip to Indonesia will cost the next obvious thing is where should you go? 

In a little bit we will go over each destination in detail, but for the moment lets take a look at some sample itineraries.    

10-14 days Indonesia Itinerary

If you have 10 -14 days to explore Indonesia then sticking around Bali will give you the most bang for your buck.

Kuta – (2 days at the start / 2 days in the end): With only a couple weeks I would start and end the trip in a little luxury so I would go for a nice beach resort in Kuta. (Canggu has a lot of options). Spend your time in Kuta learning to surf, partying, shopping, and more.

Ubud – (3 days): Next, I would head to Ubud for the natural scenery. After 2/3 days in Ubud doing things like sunrise at Mt. Batur, doing some yoga, visiting Ubud Palace, the art museum, and exploring the monkey forest.

Gili T or Lombok –  (2/3 days):  If you go to Gili T then I would focus my time on snorkeling, or diving. Lombok I would spend my time hiking seeing things like Lake Segara Anak and Mount Rinjani.

3 Weeks to 1 Month Indonesia Itinerary

If I had three weeks to explore Indonesia then I recommend starting in Java and working your way over to Bali and flying home from there.

Jakarta – (3/4 days) Jakarta is a typically Southeast Asian city so I would only plan on spending on 1 day in the city and then use the other two for day trips to places like Thousand Island.

Tanjung Putting – (3/4 days) Next I would head deep into the jungles of Borneo to spy on the “humans of the forest” (Orangutans) via boat. Boat trips range from 2 to 3 days. So this really depends on how much you want to monkey around. ( I make no apologies for the pun).  

Bali – (7-8 days) Ah yes, Bali. I would spend a week in exploring Bali having adventures like surfing, yoga, sightseeing temples, and more. Then I would use Bail as a home base for the rest of this Indonesia Itinerary. )

Komodo National Park – (3/4 days)  Komodo is much more than just the layer for dragons. The national park is full of jaw-dropping views, remote islands, pink beaches and more. It is one of my favorite spots in the entire country. Here you can snorkel or learn to scuba (manta point is awesome), get the newest photo fab at the top of Padar Island, or try your luck surrounded by Komodo Dragons.

Gili T- (2/3 days) Towards the end of the trip I would plan a few relaxing day on Gili T.

Wakatobi –  (3 days) If you want to venture out off the main tourist spots then head to Wakatobi and Hoga island for deserted beaches, scuba diving, and water tribes.

 

Cost of Traveling
THrough Indonesia

In some ways, Indonesia is cheaper than backpacking other countries in Southeast Asia, yet some things cost a little more. For example accommodation, food, and sightseeing are extremely cheap when compared to countries like Thailand. But on the other hand, you’ll spend more money flying between the different islands than you would busing around other nearby countries.

For example, on my last trip to Indonesia (which lasted about a month) I took over ten flights, between different islands. However, if you are on a super tight budget your best bet is to stick to the main islands like Java, Bali, and Sumatra. 

This will help lower your budget by limiting the number of flights. 

You can easily sightsee around these islands by motorbike, bus, or tour.

Personally, I would suggest budgeting a little extra to give myself wiggle room to wander from the tourist track. The way I see it is that the cheaper price on all the other travel essentials helps balance out the cost of the flights

Recommended Budget for Travelers

Indonesia has a lot of options and prices vary drastically. You can stay in a hostel dorm for as little as 4-5 USD a night or rent a luxury villa on the beach that will set you back over $100. 

I prefer saving money and staying in hostels rather than splurge at resorts and hotels are some of the cheapest in Southeast Asia. 

Food is another area that is cheap! You can get awesome meals for as little as 3-5 USD.

Indonesia Daily Budget Breakdown

STYLESLEEPINGEATINGGETTING AROUNDSIGHTSEEINGDAILY $
Backpacker$5-$8$5$3-$6$12-$22$25-$41
Flashpacker$8-$16$15$12$22-$33$49-$70
Living Large$100+$35$25$33+$199+

Budget for Adventures

Indonesia is a land of fun and exciting adventures. From real life dragons to beautiful jungle hikes. From sweeping vistas to underwater worlds there are an countless adventures waiting for you in Indonesia. 

Cost of Adventures in Indonesia

1 Day Komodo Island Tour: $150

3 Dives in Komodo National Park : $112

1 Day Trip Mount Bromo Sunrise Tour: $88

Bukit Lawang (Orangutan Boat and Trek): : $61-$300

Wakatobi Scuba Diving: $120-$190

Bali Surf Camp : $220

 

 

Best Time of the Year to
Visit Indonesia

Indonesia has two dominant seasons; dry, and you guessed it… wet. One perk is that the temperature always sits between 70-90 degrees year round! Far from cold, and never too hot.

Dry Season (May – October): The sun is always shining and without any rain, it feels hotter than the thermostat reads.

Wet Season (October – April): I love rainy seasons because they cool everything down, and the storm clouds do a nice job of blocking out that harsh Southeast Asian sun. When you mention a wet season most people picture a nonstop monsoon for months on end. However, most days it only rains a few hours. 

But occasionally, there are massive downpours that will last for days. If your traveling in the rainy season then make sure you come equipped with the right travel gear.

Peak Tourist Season: The summer months are the biggest tourist season for Indonesia. This means slightly higher prices (starting in May) and larger crowds.

Off Season: Surprise, surprise the wet season is the low tourist season in Indonesia. However, it is my personal favorite time to visit, and not just because the prices are low and I am cheap. There are fewer crowds, and even though I’m also a tourist, less waiting in line and smaller crowds are always a plus. Of course, if you venture away from the hotspots you can escape the crowds all year round.

Where to GO When
Visiting Indonesia

Indonesia has everything a backpacker could want! 

From remote islands to islands ruled by dragons, you can find anything  and everything in Indonesia. 

But with so many islands to choose from where should you go? 

Let’s look at some of the best places to visit when backpacking Indonesia. 

Indonesia Travel Tips Placeholder
Indonesia Travel Tips

Bali

Backpacking-Thailand

Obviously, Bali has to come first. Right!? Bali is the most popular destination in Indonesia. Backpackers, expats, and nomads flock here to do their own “Eat, Pray, Love” thing, drink on the cheap, surf, learn yoga or mix and match some combination of all of them. And we know with great popularity comes great commercialism.

Don’t get me wrong, Bali is definitely worth visiting

Just make sure to leave your beach bungalow or that bar with the $0.50 drinks and spend some time exploring other things this world-renowned island has to offer. 

There are ancient temples, small local fishing villages, rice fields, and other nearby islands to explore.

Outside of the tourist cities, like Kuta, Bali still retains a lot of its local charm and you shouldn’t miss it.

Plus Bali is perfect for surfers. (Check out this Bali surfing guide)

Where to...

 

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
Kuta: Pudak Sari Unizou Hostel ($15)Poppies Restaurant ($)Uluwatu Temple
Ubud: Puri Garden Hotel & Hostel ($17)Room 4 Dessert ($)Monkey Forest
Canggu: The Tipsy Gypsy Hostel ($11)The Local ($)Mount Batur

Gili Trawangan

Just a hop, skip, and ferry ride away from Bali lies this tiny island. Now, when I say tiny I mean it. You can bicycle around this island in around an hour. There aren’t even paved roads! Gili Trawangan (Better known as Gili T) has made its name off of scuba/free diving, snorkeling, and partying. 

The bad thing about Gili T is everyone tries to sell you drugs. Even walking down the dirt lane, that doubles as the main road around the island, locals whisper “weed”, “Cocaine”, “Meth”

Drugs are extremely illegal (some even carry the death penalty) and you never know what they have been cut with. My advice is to pass on grass.

Where to...

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
Beach Bum ($8)Pearl Beach Lounge ($)Diving and Snorkeling
My Mate’s Palace ($13)Night Market ($)Bike Around the Island
White Coconut Cottage ($37)Diversia Restaurant ($)Turtle sanctuary on Gili Meno

Wakatobi

Wakatobi-2

Chances are you’ve never heard of Wakatobi unless you’re a scuba diving junkie.

This beautiful island doesn’t get much attention for western tourist. I didn’t know about it until I was almost there, but I quickly fell in love with Wakatobi. 

But their loss is our gain!

This is a perfect island getaway that has all the creature comforts without being touristy.

The locals love visitors, and there are cool things to do like Bajo villages (People who live on the water), sailing, hiking, snorkeling, and relaxing on the pristine and untouched beaches.

A great day trip is Hoga island which is a little more remote and just as beautiful.

Where to...

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
Wasabinua ($25)Wasabinua Resto & Coffee ($)Hoga Island
Patuno Hotel ($40)WarKop Sombu Dive ($)Bajau Village
Wisma Maharani ($13)Kopi Paste Coffeeshop ($)Scuba Diving

Jakarta

I haven’t seen as much of Jakarta as I should, but from what I’ve seen there isn’t anything that sets it apart from other Southeast Asian capitals.

 I’m adding it here because there is a good chance that when flying to Indo you will either land in Jakarta or Bali. 

Jakarta is worth spending a couple of days for the food, temples, monuments, and shopping. But chances are this isn’t the reason you spent 20 hours on a plane flying to Indonesia.

There are some good day trips to places like Thousands Island and Bogor. Overall, Jakarta is worth visiting, but don’t dedicate too much of your time to this city, there are better places to visit in Indonesia.

Where to...

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
Wonderloft Hostel ($7)Historia ($)Thousand Island
Six Degrees ($8)Le Quartier ($)Taman Mini Indonesia Indah
Capsule Hotel Jakarta – Old Batavia ($7)Mie Chino Pasar Santa ($)Bogor

Lombok

Lombok has risen in popularity in the last few years. Sitting right next to Gili T, this massive island is a haven for those seeking to escape the party crowd that runs amuck on the other islands.  

I always imagine that Lombok is what Bali was like before the massive wave of tourism hit. 

The whole island still has a lot of its local charm. Lombok is a haven for nature lovers and surfers. The major site on Lombok is the stunning Mount Rinjani, this active volcano is one of the best sites in the entire country.

Where to...

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
Pipes Hostel ($9)Plecing Kangkung ($)Tiu Kelep Waterfall
Botchan Hostel ($9)Sate Rembiga ($)Gili Air
Bidara Cottage ($18)Ashtari Lounge ($)Mount Rinjani

Ubud

Ubud

This Balinese town retains a lot more of its culture than Kuta. It is popular for its landscape, yoga schools, and holy sites. Over the years, Ubud has gotten the reputation as a hippie hotspot, and to a degree that’s true. 

But Ubud is also an awesome home base for motorbike trips and outdoor adventures.

Where to...

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
Pondok Permata Homestay ($18)LUXE Barbeque & Grill ($)Ubud Palace
PADI Backpackers House ($7)Balinese Home Cooking ($)Monkey Forest Road
Cahyatika House & Spa ($50)Warung Pondok Madu ($)Yoga Lessons

Kuta

Kuta, the closest city from the airport in Bali, is known for its surf spots, alleyway markets, and shopping.

If none of that piques your interest then you will want to pass through Kuta as quickly as possible.

However, if it sounds like your idea of a good time then Kuta is an absolute blast.

Start the night at Sky Garden which has an all you can eat buffet and all you can drink beer for a couple of hours every night, next stumble to Alley Cats for some Vodka red bulls, and a few hours later use your new found Vodka red bull energy to rush back to Sky Garden for a free hour to cocktails!

Where to...

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
Kuta-M-Boutique Hostel Legian ($8)Crumb & Coaster ($)Kuta Beach
Puri Rama Hostel ($7)Warung Indonesia ($)Sky Garden
Cara Cara ($19)Johnny Tacos ($)Uluwatu temple

Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta is famed for all the great things to do around the city. The three biggest attractions are the epic volcano of Mt. Merapi and the incredible temples of Borobudur and Prambanan

This Javanese city carries an air of tradition and it is a great place to shop for authentic souvenirs. 

The locals make excellent hand made crafts and leather goods and throughout the city, you can explore the historic palace, bathhouse, and fort.

Where to...

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEE
OtU By OstiC House ($8)Abhayagiri Restaurant ($)Mt. Merapi
Nextdoor Homestay ($15)Gubug Makan Mang Engking Soragan Castle ($)Borobudur
Bhumi Hostel ($5)Bakmi Jowo Mbah Gito ($)Prambanan

Indonesia -
Best Things to do

I’ve months traveling Indonesia, having epic experiences, and I’ve still only done a fraction of the things that the country has to offer.   The country is so diverse and also so many various and thrilling adventures that the country warrants years of travel. 

Sadly, most of us don’t have years to wander Indonesia ( I mean, there is a whole lot of world out there to see, right?)

But here is a list of some of the best things to do when backpacking Indonesia.

Face A Dragon

Backpacking-Indonesia-Komodo

Komodo National Park is full of lush jungles, and beaches, but it is also home to one of the most intimidating creatures I’ve ever seen, the Komodo Dragon. These dragons don’t look too frightening while laying down staying cool in the dirt (which seems to be how they spend most of their time).

But when you see one patrolling the beach, its massive torso swinging side to side with every step, its alert eyes taking in everything while projecting an air of confidence, that practically borders arrogance, and the poisonous droll hanging from its mouth. Well, then it is an entirely different story.

Wild Komodo Dragons are an intense experience that ONLY Indonesia can provide. The creatures hold a certain amount of beauty in their own lizardy, I will destroy you, way and you don’t need to stress too much as you will always have a guide to protect you from death by dragon.  

Komodo is one of the coolest outdoor adventures you can have in Indonesia.

RAJA AMPAT ISLANDS

Scuba diving pros and wannabes listen up!

Raja Ampat Islands are a must when backpacking Indonesia. Unbelievably scenic, these islands are home to crystal clear water and epic underwater wildlife. The diving in Raja Ampat is some of the best in the entire country (which means it is some of the best in the entire world)

There are liveaboard for divers, or if you are just looking for a relaxing beach holiday there are some great resorts as well.

Things to Do in KOMODO NATIONAL PARK​

Orangutan Watching in Tanjung Putting

While Komodo is awesome, I think my favorite wildlife adventure is Orangutan watching in Bukit Lawang. This animal sanctuary located on the humongous island of Sumatra (Or Borneo if you prefer) can only be reached by overnight boat. 

Wild to the region these massive “humans of the forest” are as playful as they are beautiful, and this is one journey worth the time and effort. 

The park rangers, whose primary job is to protect the Orangutan, set out food at certain spots so you are practically guaranteed a good look at my fellow ginger friends.

While they sit and eat enough bananas to wipe bananas splits off the Baskin Robbins menu forever,  you’ll be able to snap some photos and bask in awe at these incredible creatures.

Orangutan Adventures

Boat to Bukit Lawang

If I sold you on the Orangutan sanctuary above then you have zero choices but embark on this voyage. The 2-day boat ride ( 1 day there and 1 day back) to get to Bukit Lawang is an adventure in itself. 

The jungle envelopes you as the boat slowly churns down the narrow river channels. From the deck you’ll see hundreds of monkeys running through the trees, my favorite is the beer belly Proboscis Monkeys and small gators on the water’s edge, or are they crocodiles (I always get those two mixed up)

At night you sleep under mosquito netting while the steady rocking of the boat slowly lures you to sleep. 

This boat trip is fun, exciting, and shows off some parts of Indonesia you can’t see any other way.

Visit a Bajo Tribe Floating Village

While there are a number of these villages throughout Indonesia I’ve only visited the Bajo people, off the coast of Wakatobi. As boated towards the village hundreds of flying fish skimmed above the water in an unforgettable display. There are also Dolphins that live around the area. 

The Bajo are people who live on tall houses built on stilts in the water.

 At low tide, they walk out to collect sea urchins and other sea creatures for food or trading. The people are poor, yet happy, welcoming, but not used to foreigners, and it is one of the most photogenic places I’ve been in all Indonesia.

Borobudur Temple

Let’s cut to the chase, Indonesia has  ALOT of temples. Although no temple in the country compares to Borobudur.

This three-tier temple dates back over 1,000 years and is one of the greatest/biggest Buddhist monuments in the world.

This UNESCO site draws everyone from instagramers to historians.

And is worth visiting, even if you’re “templed out”.

Tickets & Tour

Uluwatu Temple

Dozens of playful monkeys roam around these temple grounds (watch out they steal shit).

The major attraction is the sunset Kecak Dance which is a vibrant Balinese Hindu dance/storytelling of the Monkey King. It is a scenic temple sitting on the coastal cliffs of Bali that takes on an amber glow at sunset. 

This area is also popular among surfers and there are some great surf spots along the coast.

UluWatu Dance

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, or known among the locals as Mandala Suci Wenara Wana, is a nature reserve that is filled with wild long-tailed monkeys.

Deep in the thick forest of this sanctuary is the Hindu temple of Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, or better known as the Great Temple of Death ( insert ominous noise here). Thick jungle and a death temple! Is anyone else getting an Indiana Jones vibe?

Other creatures, besides monkeys, live in this forest sanctuary.

There are over 80 different species of birds, lizards, and other small forest creatures call this place home.

Monkey AROund on These Tours

Bunaken

Bunaken is a good spot for those looking to explore the scenery and nature of Indo!

It is an incredible island with a stunning marine park. Adventure junkies will fall in love with the world-class diving, snorkeling, and sightseeing.

Explore Bunaken

Mount Batur

If you’ve ever looked at a postcard of Indonesia then there is a good chance you’ve already seen Mount Batur.

This is the most iconic site in the country. And with good reason. The views of this active volcano are epic! The best time to head here is at sunrise.

Batur Awesome Sunrise TOur

Padar

Padar

I’m not going to lie. I wish I could keep this island a secret, and have it all to myself. But sharing is caring, and what can I say, I love you guys!  Without a doubt, Padar is the most incredible spot in Indonesia that I have visited. This little island lies in Komodo National Park, yes there are dragons on Padar.

To say Padar is beautiful is an understatement. The island looks like you stepped into Jurassic Park.  

The crowning jewel of the island is the viewpoint that takes in half the island, and surrounding ocean.

There isn’t a lot to do on Padar other than taking in the beauty, a couple of short hikes, and photography. But it is 100% worth the visit!

Tours that Go to Padar

Yoga in Ubud

Udud is to free spirits what skydiving is to the adrenaline junkie.

This hippie hangout is famed for its yoga and laid back lifestyle.

One good thing about Ubud is that it takes you away from the beach resorts of Kuta and into the lush green landscape of Bali. It is known for arts, culture, spas, and yoga. If you want to lay back and chill then Udud is your place!

Surfing in Bali

Bali has become a surfer’s paradise in Indonesia. Even if you are not a pro surfer it is a great place to learn and hone your skills. ( I caught my first wave on Kuta Beach).

Boards are cheap and easy to rent, and the waves tend to have a nice break.  

There are tons of spots all around the island that continue to draw thousands of surfers to Bali each year.

Popular Adventures in Bali

Snorkel in Gili T

Gili T is known for diving and freediving. However, I passed on both because I couldn’t stop snorkeling. It was that epic. There are a variety of fish, and if you are lucky sea turtles.

Much of this marine life is right off the beach so even if you’re not a strong swimmer you can have a good time.

Scuba Dive

Whenever I write about Southeast Asia I spend a lot of time telling people to Scuba dive. Maybe because it’s such a serene and life-changing adventure. 

Perhaps it is because it is extremely affordable. Or maybe it is because this region has some of the best diving in the entire world. And Indonesia has the top diving spots of all Southeast Asia.  If you are looking for a new adventure, I can’t think of anything better than learning scuba diving in Indo.

Liberty Wreck

This wreck dive is the most popular dive spot on Bali. The remains are covered in coral and lots of reef fish inhabit the area. The wreck starts at 5 meters under the water so it is also a good place for snorkeling

Divers can go down 30 meters to check out other areas of the sunken ship.

Enjoy some Luxury

There is nothing wrong with indulging in a little luxury in Indonesia. I mean, we all deserve a couple days away from loud hostel dorm rooms, so whenever you can splurge without blowing your bank account to rubble take advantage of it.

Imagine your staying at a luxury resort, every morning you head to your private pool for breakfast and a mimosa as you take in the sweeping view of the surrounding jungle.

While I wouldn’t do this too often our you will blow your backpacking Indonesia budget, but every once in a while treat yourself.

Lake Toba

Welcome to the largest volcanic lake in the world! This is a great place to escape the chaos and have a few fun and relaxing adventures. There are nearby are ancient villages, hot springs, and road trips that make excellent day trips.

Lake Sidihoni

This lake is part of Lake Toba, but a little trickier to get too. However, the work is worth it as this is one of only a handful of places in the world where you can explore a lake inside a lake (Yes, you read that right).

Pink Beach of Komodo

Pink-Beach-Komodo-National-Park

The pink beach isn’t the best place I’ve been to Indonesia. The day I visited it only had a slight reddish tint. However, I might have just visited on a bad day. Microscopic organisms share this beach with throngs of tourist. Our tiny friends emit a red pigment that gives the entire beach a pink hue. 2

Even though the beach wasn’t as red as my ginger curls, the water has great visibility and the curious schools of fish make this a great spot for snorkeling! And the timeless views encapsulate the unparalleled beauty nature.

Bogor

Bogor offers an escape from the bustling city streets of Jakarta. The markets and stores are less hectic. Riverside walks, cycling, gushing waterfalls, and rock climbing replaces the loud noises of crowds and traffic jams. 

These lush botanical gardens host hundreds of species of orchids as well as other plant life.

Blue Flames at Sulfuric Lake Ijen

Located on the island of Java, this otherworldly lake contains some of the highest concentrations of sulfur gases and molten sulfur of any lake in the world. These flammable gases come into contact with oxygen they burst into deep blue flames.

Ulun Danu Beratan

This iconic temple located high in the mountains showcases the beauty of Bali at its finest.

Sitting on a small plateau this towering temple overlooks the scenic Lake Beratna. No trip backpacking Indonesia is complete without visiting Bali, and no trip to Bali is complete without seeing at Ulun Danu Beratan.

Tamansari Water Castle

This water castle which is often referred to as the garden of Sultan Yogyakarta, is a well-maintained complex.

It served many purposes through its long history such as a vacation home or a place where the Sultans family would be taken to be kept safe.

It is a massive complex, with long halls, and enormous buildings, all of which are kept in pristine condition.

Prambanan Temple

This massive temple complex is made up of multiple spire towers that jut up into the sky. Originally a Hindu temple built to honor the gods.

With shrines dedicated to Shive that contains a huge statue of the god/goddess.

Because of its unique design, Prambanan has become one of the most visited temples in Indonesia.

Liang Bua Cave

This is the spot where they discovered Flores Man. These are hobbit sized humanoids were once thought to be distant relatives of humans.

Although, new research shows that they might be an entirely different species. There is a small museum, and although it is a little out of the way it is still kind of cool.

Mount Rinjani

Mount Rinjani is one of the highlights of visiting Lombok. From the top of the mountain, you get grand views of the crater filled lake. 

But do not be deceived, you are actually looking into the eye of an active volcano. Mount Rinjani is hotspot for day hikers and photographers.

Where to Stay in
Indonesia

Ah yes, what are the best options for finding the perfect place to retreat too after a long day exploring in Indonesia?

The five bookings sites I use when traveling anywhere in the world are Hostelworld, Booking.com and Tripadvisor, Agoda, and Airbnb ( Save $40 off Airbnb with this link).

I like to mix up my type of accommodation as I go. The majority of the time I stay in hostels and Airbnbs( If you have an Airbnb coupon code you can get some great deals).  But every once in a while I will book a hotel to enjoy a little more privacy and luxury.

Let’s look at the average price of accommodation for some of the cities I mentioned above!

Average Price of Accommodation by City

 HOSTELSAIRBNBHOTELS
Kuta$9$120 (Decent ones for around $20)$70
Ubud$7$53 ( Some great ones for around $20)$68
Gili T$6$53 ( A lot of them are only $18!)$65
Jakarta$9$34$60
Yogyakarta$6$36 $43

Getting Around
in Indonesia

THailand

With flights, ferries, buses, and bikes there are numerous ways to get around Indonesia.

However, your options vary depending on where you are as well as where you want to go.

These are the top modes of transport to use when backpacking Indonesia.

Flights

Where buses are the king of Thailand, flights are the champion of Indonesia. Chances are you will be taking at least a few flights to different islands in the country. Luckily there are some good options for flying around Indonesia cheaply.

The three best budget airlines to use in Indonesia are AirAsia, Citilink, and Lion Air. These bare-bone airlines don’t offer many perks but that is what makes the ticket prices so cheap.

Buses

This mode of transportation isn’t as popular as it is in the rest of Southeast Asia. This could be because bus conditions range wildly depending on companies, and the take forever to reach their destination.

However, buses are a good choice when hopping around the same Island. The best bus network is on Java, with Jakarta, the capital city, being the major bus hub. There aren’t too many bus/ferry combos like you see in countries like Vietnam and Cambodia.

If you’re trying to travel as thrifty as humanly possible then buses/ferries are for you. But it is better to plan these journeys as you go instead of purchasing a combo ticket; sometimes the buses arrive late, and the ferry will leave without you.

Mini Buses

In many ways, Minibusses are more popular than actual tourist buses. 

They are always packed and not as comfortable as their big brothers and sisters. But you are trading space and comfort for speed and reliability. 

They are slightly more expensive but are usually equipped with A/C, which is a huge perk in the hot season, and get you from A to B quicker than the traditional buses.

Ferries

It should come as no surprise that a country with so many islands has a vast ferry network. There are ferry routes that connect all the major islands of Indonesia. However, these ferries take a lot of time (I’ve seen ferries that take days)

This is a good option if you are traveling to nearby islands, however, I wouldn’t recommend it for long distance travel. Ferry conditions aren’t the best, and because they often oversell tickets you might not get a seat.

Renting A Motorbike

On the bigger islands you will see some travelers embarking on road trips. If you are moving around a lot then this is a fun/cheap adventure that will give you a unique view of the country. Driving in Southeast Asia is crazy so if you are not confident on a bike start somewhere where the traffic isn’t hectic. 

Renting a Car

Renting a car is an option if you have an international driving license. I’ve never rented a car in Indonesia so I don’t have too many tips on this mode of travel. But the option is there.

Grab

Uber was a good option for Indonesia. However, Uber’s Southeast Asia operations were taken over by Grab. I’ve haven’t used the service since this happened recently, but I doubt much has changed. 

So if you are traveling around a city I would recommend using Grab. You know the price upfront, there is no hassling or arguing, and most of the time these services are cheaper than Tuk Tuks and cabs.

Getting & Extending Visa's
in Indonesia

There is a huge chance that you won’t need to apply for a visa for Indonesia! The country keeps adding more and more countries to the list of visa-free entry. 

In 2019 more country have been added and now the list sits at 169 countries that have visa-free travel (meaning you just get a stamp at immigration)  

Once you get your passport stamp you have 30 days in Indonesia. Overstaying your visa comes with a hefty fee of 23 USD a day which you have to pay before exiting the country. So make sure you leave before your visa has expired.

169 Countries With Visa Free Travel in Indonesia

  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • Cape Verde
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Commonwealth of Dominica
  • Comoros
  • Costa Rica
  • Cote D’Ivoire
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong SAR
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau SAR
  • Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Palau
  • Palestine
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Island
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and Grenadines
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • U.K.
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uruguay
  • USA
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Vatican City
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Extending Your Visa in Indonesia

Planning on spending more than 30 consecutive days in Indonesia. Well, this is where things start to get a little tricky. Now I know you are thinking  “I’ll just extend visa-free entry, right?” Wrong, it is impossible to extend.

So I repeat if you are planning on more than 30 days in Indonesia then do not enter the country visa-free, instead, do one of these two options.

1- Apply for a Visa on Arrival: Instead of going straight through customs follow the signs for Visa on Arrival. This gives you the same 30 days that visa-free entry does but also gives you the option to extend your visa for an extra 30 days.

The downside is that this visa comes with a hefty fee of 35 USD. And you also have to pay another 26 USD at the consulate office when you extend the visa. This makes the total price of 61 USD and gives you a total of 60 days in Indonesia! 61 USD might seem like a lot, and compared to some countries these are expensive visas.

However, when you break it down the price is just over a dollar a day. What a bargain. And as we will see these much cheaper than the next option.

2- Visa Run, Baby: If you are already in Indonesia then a visa run is your only option to stay longer. A visa run, in case you are not familiar with the term, is simply catch the cheapest flight to another country, stay there a few days, and then fly back to Indo. Unless you get a great deal on a flight this is going to cost more than the $61 to buy the visa and extend it.

I should also note that if you do to many visa runs back to back there is a chance immigration will deny you entry into the country.

Withdrawing
Money in Indonesia

If you make your bank aware that you’re traveling you shouldn’t have any problems withdrawing money in Indonesia. Like everywhere else in the world there is a surcharge for using ATM’s, Plus whatever international fee your bank might charge. That is why it is important to have a bank account that works for travelers.

Personally, I use Charles Schwab that reimburses ALL the ATM fees. (I’ve literally been traveling with groups of friends that all transfer me their money so I can draw it out for them) .

If you don’t have a bank that gives you back the fees than make sure you plan them into your travel budget. Finding an ATM with the lowest fees is a gamble, and you won’t know the exact fee until you stick your card in, however, fees range from $3 -$8. That is a ton of cash!

Exchange Rate

Everyone’s a millionaire in Indonesia! The coins and bills range from 50 IDR to 100,000 IDR (Around 8 USD). 

So plan on carrying around a lot of bills and make sure you have the right travel gear to handle all the coins and bills. 

On the right is the current exchange rate for USD to IDR.

Current Exchange USD TO IDR EXCHANGE RATE

 




Safety Tips For
Traveling in Indonesia

Backpacking Indonesia is a very safe. But reviewing safety tips is never bad idea.  

Protect Yourself Online

VPN’s keep your data safe when connecting to public networks at hotels and cafes.

 Identity theft is not fun, neither is someone gaining access to all your logins and credit cards like what happened to my mother in Italy. 

I often use BestVPN which lets me know the best VPN on the market right now. 

Buy A Lock, Use The Lock

Theft isn’t common in Indonesia, although does can happen. 

The most common form of theft is from a hotel room, or other travelers in your hostel dorm. There is an easy, and obvious, way to avoid theft. Lock your stuff up!  Another good tip is to not leave your valuables on the table, even if you are sitting right next to it. 

For example, don’t leave your phone/wallet sitting on a table while you are eating a meal. You are just creating a target for yourself and there is a chance, a very small chance, that someone will grab your valuables and run.  

Methanol Maddness

Methanol is something I am extremely conscious of when backpacking Indonesia.

Especially, at beachside bars on some of the smaller islands. In an effort to save money some bars and nightclubs serve  methanol (arak) in mixed drinks. 

One traveler many years ago went blind after drinking too much methanol on Gili T (at least that’s the legend), and some people have even died from it. It is best not to F$%@ around with it.

I have definitely been served methanol in Indonesia. A hangover after drinking methanol is like a normal hangover, plus being hit by a truck.

This is why at smaller bars I tend to stick to drinking beer.

Awareness is Key

This isn’t a strictly for traveling Indonesia, rather it is a tip to follow anywhere in the world. Be aware of your surroundings, young grasshopper and trust your gut. If the place your staying gives you a bad vibe, move. 

If you get chills thinking about walking down that road, don’t!  Be aware and prepared and you’ll never be unpleasantly surprised!

Look out for scams

Every country has scammers, even Indonesia, these scams are always changing and evolving as travelers become aware of them.

Just keep in mind that if it sounds to good to be true, it is. 

Another scam to watch out for in Indonesia are money changers.

Double check to make sure they are giving you the right amount before giving them your money.

One way to avoid them is by always booking your day trips, tours, and tickets through reputable companies, hotels, or hostels.

I’m always blown away when people don’t put forth a little effort in learning a handful of words and phrases in the local language of the country they are visiting.

It is fun, respectful, and gets you millions of bonus points among the locals!

So what do you need to know?

Let’s look at some important phrases travelers need to know when traveling in Indonesia.

Best Phrases For Traveling Indonesia

Permisi – Excuse Me
Hola – Hello
Berapa harganya? – what does it cost/how much is it?
Sorry – Maaf
Terima kasih (te-ree-ma ka-seeh) – thank you
Ya – Yes
Tidak (ya – tee-dak) – no
Ini apa? – What is this? –
Sama-sama (saa-maa saa-maa) – you’re welcome

Di mana toilet? (dee maa-naa toilet?) – where’s the bathroom?
Bisa tolong saya? – Can you Help me!
Jangan terlalu pedas (jaa-ngan ter-laa-luw pe-dash) – don’t make it too spicy
Enak (e-nak) – delicious
Boleh kurang? (bo-leh koo-rang?) – can I get it for less? (For hagglers)
Tolong (tho-long) – help
Selamat Pagi – Good morning (before 12am) 
Selamat Siang – Good after noon (before 6 pm) 
Selamat Sore – Good evening (after 6 pm) 

Indonesia
Travel Checklist

What the essentials when visiting Indonesia? Let’s go over some of the things you need before backpacking Indonesia. 

Travel Insurance

A lot of travelers view insurance as a scam, trust me it’s not. These people are risking thousands to pinch pennies.

I can’t force you to get travel insurance, nor do I want to. It is 100% your choice, but I urge you to think hard about it.

I’ve saved thousands on hospital bills because I was smart enough to have insurance, and I know tons of other travelers, and bloggers that have as well.

I wouldn’t backpack Indonesia without it.  But like I said, the choice is yours. 

I always use WorldNomads which offers the best coverage to travelers and has great rates.

You can even get a free quote!

 

Flight

Yes yes, I know that I am stating the obivious. 

You’re best bet for getting to Indonesia is flying from a major travel hub! You can get one way tickets from the USA for under $400! And round trip for somewhere around $500-$600. 

I have an entire list of insanely cheap flight tips! 

And another blog post about how to use Kayak Explore to your advantage and knock hundreds off your travel budget getting to Indonesia.

Packing List

Alright, so you’ve mastered everything about traveling Indonesia to this point from where to sleep to asking for the toilet, and your ready to pack your bags, hop on a plane, and start island hopping.

You unzip your bag, scratch your head, and realize you’ve no clue what to pack

Well, let me help you with that as well! These are some pieces of travel gear I always pack when backpacking Indonesia.

It is important to note that my packing list might not work for you 100% of the time. After all we are all different. But like the pirate code this is more like a “guideline”.

Osprey-Farpoint

Osprey Farpoint – It’s hard to backpack Indonesia your home away from home! Personally, my weapon of choice is the Osprey Farpoint.

It comes with an day pack, lockable zippers, and a comfy internal frame!

You can check it out on Amazon or REI

  • 1- Pair of Jeans
  • 5– Shirts
  • 5 Pairs of Underwear of Your Choice
  • 1 – lifestraw (Or equivalent)
  • 2 – Sets of Swim Trunks
  • Flip Flops
  • 3- Pairs of Socks ( You’ll wear flip flops most of the time)
  • 1- Pair of shoes
  • 1- Microfiber Towel
  • 1- Money Belt
  • 1 Light Jacket/Hoodie
  • All Necessary Toiletries
  • Camera
  • Go Pro Hero 7

Dressing Properly in Indonesia

As we briefly touched on, Indonesia is a conservative country and this is reflected in how locals dress. But also in how YOU should dress. 

Dress modestly, don’t show your shoulders and cover your legs. 

This is more important on islands like Java that are prominently Muslim, rather than the more liberal tourist areas like Bali.

This goes for swimwear as well. Stay away from short shorts and two-piece bikinis.

A good rule of thumb is when in doubt, copy the locals. You’re just a visitor so it is important to be respectful of local customs and values.

Vaccines

Let’s talk shots! 

No, not the fun shots you get at your local watering hole. I mean the “why is that needle so big” type of shots

Luckily you only need the standard “traveling to Asia” shots before heading to Indonesia. These are Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Tetanus, Rabies and Poliomyelitis. And if you’re planning on venturing into rural areas then you should also get Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis.

Malaria – I’ve never worried about Malaria pills when in Indonesia. However, it is a risk in certain parts of the country. If you want to be safe and are heading to one of these areas then Malaria pills are a good idea.

Areas with Malaria – Maluku, Maluku Utara, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Papua, and Papua Barat, Labuan Bajau, Komodo Islands, Kalimantan (Borneo), Nusa Tenggara Barat, Lombok, Sulawesi, and Sumatra.

While it might seem like there are a lot of areas with Malaria it is important to remember that it is mostly in rural areas that you probably aren’t visiting. There is also a low transmission rate.

Indonesia
Etiquette

Make your mamma proud while abroad, impress locals, and leave a positive impression by avoiding these common social mistakes.

Don't Yell

Talking loud, or showing angry in public is considered extremely rude.  So if you have had “one to many” and feel the urge to scream, yell, and run amuck with your friends, then…don’t

Not only is it poor etiquette but it gives all us travelers a bad name. Also, you find yourself getting angry at anyone from a friend to a merchant who won’t budge on price don’t show you’re anger by being loud.

Don’t Booze up in Public

People tend to ignore this unwritten rule in the major tourist cities like Bail, but you should tell try to follow it.

As we touched upon a few times, Indonesia is diverse and one of the main religions is Islam which, if you didn’t know, frowns heavily on drinking.

While it is technically not illegal to drink in public, outside of tourist hotspots, it isn’t considered polite.

Limit Using Your Left Hand

As a lefty, this is my kryptonite.

Using your left hand to handle money, hand something to someone, or shake hands is considered extremely dirty.

Since the left hand is often considered the bathroom hand.  When I am traveling in Indonesia the only thing I try to do with my left hand is eat and only if it is with utensils.

Never Touch A Local on the Head

Like when backpacking Thailand you should never touch an Indonesian person on the top of the head. The head is the most sacred part of the body in Indonesia and touching a local on the head is a massive sign of disrespect. 

If you touch someone on the head sincerely apologize immediately.

Tipping is Appreciated

Unlike many other countries in Asia, you SHOULD tip in Indonesia.

However, contrary to the west, where we tip everyone from out barber to drivers, you really only need to tip at restaurants in Indonesia. Standard tipping practice is 5-10%.  

Some restaurants tack on the service fee on the check in which case a tip would not be required, although you are welcome to leave some extra coins.

That being said you don’t need to tip bartenders, cafe waiters, taxi drivers, doormen, tour guides, and stylist unless you feel the service was top notch.

Say Thanks ( In Local Language)

Indonesia culture is rooted in politeness.

It doesn’t matter who you are talking too never end a conversation without saying thank you (Preferably in Indonesian).  

No one will give you grief if you don’t say thank you. But I’ll wager they will be thinking about it after you have left.

Things to Avoid When
Backpacking Indonesia

When traveling across Indonesia there are some things you should try to avoid. These will help you immerse yourself into the culture as well as keep you safe and healthy.  .

Avoid Tap Water

Tap water in Indonesia is full of germs and tiny microbes that will wreak havoc on your body, leaving you bathroom bound and sick for a few days. When cooking a lot of travelers have mixed opinions about using tap water. Personally, I think it’s fine to cook with as long as you boil it first.  

One habit I use around the world is using tap water when brushing my teeth.

This introduces a limited amount of germs into my system and helps my body built up resistance to them. I’ve never gotten ill using this method, but I also know a lot of other travelers that think I’m crazy for doing it. I

‘m not going to say you should or shouldn’t do this. I’m just throwing the option out there.

Watch Your Step Around the Canang Saris

Walking around, especially near markets, temples, and shops, you’ll see little square baskets made from leaves with flowers inside.

Never take one as a souvenir and avoid stepping on them. Known as canang sari these are Hindu offerings the Balinese people leave to their gods and are meant to show their devotion and self-sacrifice.

As they as offering to their gods you can easily imagine how disrespectful it is to step on them, even if they are already smooshed.

Observe Don't Affect

Indonesia is a country of remarkable beauty and diverse wildlife.  It is important to pay respect to both the country and it’s inhabitants by having as little of an impact on them as possible.  

When snorkeling and diving never try to touch the fish or break off a piece of coral. Don’t try to taunt the monkeys or lure them closer for a photo. It is always better to observe rather than effect.

Avoid Drugs

I know we all like to get a little wild when traveling! I love meeting friends, partying, and exploring the nightlife of a different country.

However, as I mentioned a little earlier. Drugs laws in Indonesia are no joke.  They pose serious conscienceless for people who violate the law. Including tourist

Phone &
Internet

If your phone has a sim car and is unlocked then getting phone and internet in Indonesia is as easy as leaving immigration and buying a sim. 

Prices affordable for any backpack budget and you can get a few GB of data for around $10

Another option is T-Mobile which gives you unlimited free data in Indonesia in over 100 other countries. It isn’t the fastest internet but it works! 

5 Best Travel Apps for
People Traveling Indonesia

 This helpful app contains more information than you could ever learn about Indonesia. 

The app is full of tips, photos, video, and much more.

This awesome app lets you call a motorbike taxi to your doorsteps. These bad boys get you from A to B quick and fast.

GoJek is more than a taxi service! They can even do beer runs, or other deliveries

I always recommend Map Me because it is easy to easy, and lets you navigate your surroundings even when you are not connected to WiFi. 

 Good in a pinch this app shows you all the open cabs around you. It lets you book a cab and set the pickup point.

XE currency always give you the most update exchange rates. So you can know how much exchanges are ripping you off. 

Indonesia:
Fun Facts

You’ve just learned everything you need before traveling in Indonesia. Nice! I like to end massive post like this with some fun facts. These are just a few facts that make Indonesia special.    

Indonesia has the world’s largest Lizard (Komodo Dragon).

You can touch both hemispheres when traveling Indo. 

There are over 130 volcanoes. 

There are 8 Unesco Sites in Indonesia. 

 There is 54,716km of coastline. (Remote beaches anyone?)

The Rafflesia Arnoldi is the worlds largest flower.

It is the largest archipelago in the world. 

Lake Toba is the biggest volcanic lake in the world.

Borobudur temple is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

Indoensia has the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th largest islands in the world.

 Jakarta has a population of over 11 million people making it the 13th largest city in the world. .

Indonesia has one of the largest populations in the world with over 261 million people.

139 Million of those people live on Java.

There we go! We just conquered all the things you need to know, you have now mastered this vast country!

Let me know how your backpacking Indonesia trip goes in the comments below!

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