Traveling in Indonesia
Indonesia really exceeded all of my expectations about travelling there. Not only is it even cheaper to travel in Indonesia than in the Philippines, but the people that live there are some of the nicest people on the planet. I have never had my face hurt from smiling for so many pictures or been exhausted from meeting literally every single person we passed on our way to an activity. Indonesia was our 5th stop on our 2017 Asia trip. I felt guilty that we were only going to visit Java and not the other big islands, but then I realized that most travelers only even go to Bali. So then I felt pretty good that we spent time in several different cities as we made our way from the tip of Java all the way down to the bottom. We flew into Jakarta from Manilla and spent our first week in the capital. We took a bus to Bandung where we spent 4 days before taking a train down to Yogyartha. After seeing the the temples and ruins there we flew into Bali where we visited Kuta, Ubud, Lovina, Amed, and the Gili Islands. Our visa was only good for 30 days otherwise we would’ve loved to stay forever.
The Cost of Travel in Indonesia
- Currency: Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
- Exchange Rate: 13215 Rph = $1 US Dollar
- Accommodation: $6-$15 for a private room
- Food & Drink:
- Street food $1 for any Indonesian staple meal
- Restaurant food $2-$3 for local dishes
- Restaurant food $3-$5 for western food
- Tea or fresh juice is $0.50 or less
*Indonesia is a super cheap place to travel. We booked most of our rooms ahead of time on booking.com because the rates they have online are often much cheaper than the posted rates and there’s no room to be scammed or lied to about what it includes or what it costs. Indonesia is the first country on our Asia trip that we actually took taxis around the city quite a bit because of how incredibly cheap they are.
Tips for Traveling in Indonesia
- Download the Grab app for taxis and input your payment method. Grab operates alongside Uber and GoJek as Indonesia’s top ride sharing apps. You can book a car or even a scooter. Rides around the cities will usually cost less than $1 usd. You know the rate ahead of time and it bills your credit card so you save cash and there is no getting ripped off. You can also have it pick you up and drop you off anywhere you would like, so it makes getting around super easy.
- Blue Bird taxi Group is the other preferred taxi for travelers because they are metered. There are several fake versions of them though, so make sure to look twice at the logo and the signage.
- ATM’s are everywhere, but you can’t get more than 3,000,000 Rp out of them which is about $225 usd. So you will get stuck with a good amount of ATM fees.
- The faucet water is really gnarley in Indonesia and by that I mean it has Ecoli and other terrible things in it. Make sure to keep it out of your mouth and off of any open cuts.
- If you don’t surf or do yoga, you aren’t going to like Bali very much. It is a beautiful place to be, but it’s also filled with privileged white kids from Europe pretending to be hippies while they are on vacation.
- You will very likely want to get a local SIM card in your phone. You must have an ‘unlocked phone’ or an iPhone 6 or better to do this. A lot of things require you to have a local phone number and it is also useful for the data when you need maps or to look something up. You can purchase plans with plenty of data and unlimited calls and text fur under $7 usd in any city.
- Train tickets need to be booked about a week in advance in Java. You also can’t book tickets online without an Indonesian credit card, so you will have to go to the train station and buy a ticket in person for several days later. This makes it difficult if you were planning on taking the train out of a town you were only going to spend a day or two in.
- Alcohol isn’t consumed on Java because Muslims don’t drink alcohol. On Bali people are Hindu and it is forbidden for higher caste people to consume it in public. Given that, it is up to you how you want to come across as visitor. There are some shady underground bars and clubs in Java. In Bali it is widely consumed, but mostly by tourists.
Things to do in Indonesia
- Jakarta is the capital city and a great place to get formerly introduced to Indonesian culture. There aren’t a whole lot of tourist activities to do, but being in the city gives you a chance to go to some authentic markets and meet some people.
- The temples in Yogyakarta are a big stop for people traveling on Java. The Prambana Temple is a large hindu temple and the Borobudor Temple is actually the largest Buddhist temple in the world. See my post on how to reach them for more info here: How To Get To Prambanan and Borobudor Without A Tour
- Bali is obviously a big attraction for a lot of people. Towns like Ubud and Kuta are really for those with specific interests like surfing and yoga. However, both have other offerings as well such as the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. There are volcanoes to see on the island and other good beach towns too, such as Amed and Lovina.
- The Gili Islands are a popular destination for people hanging out on Bali or Lombok. They are about an hour from Amed by boat and consits of three decent sized islands where you can really relax.
Jakarta is not a big ticket item for most people traveling in Indonesia. However, I also feel like if you don’t spend a few days in Jakarta, you aren’t earning your stripes travelling in Indonesia. The capital is home to the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and is a pretty big slap in the face about how different Indonesia is from the rest of the region. There aren’t a lot of big activities to do besides seeing the national monument, visiting museums, or checking out the mosque. That is part of the deal though. Jakarta is home to more than 10 million people. The pace of life in the capital is an indicator of the economic prospects of the country as a whole. The city is definitely on it’s way to becoming a major hub for business in Asia. Jakarta was our first taste of the country and we soon realized that Indonesian people were way too nice and just so excited that were there visiting.For ore on Jakarta, check out my blog post Things To do In Jakarta.
Bandung is the second largest city on Java. Talk about a unique experience by accident. We did’t run into any other backpackers the entire time we were in Bandung, but there was a lot to do to keep us busy. The Alun Alun mosque has a nice AstroTurf plaza where everyone hangs out at night. Kids play soccer and adults drink tea. You will definitely be posing for a lot of pictures if you go here. There is a long strip of market in the area around the plaza too, where you can shop for Batik and pretty much anything else. One of our favorite activities was going for a hike in the Wisatawan Nusantara national park area. There are wild monkeys there that you can observe and some old caves to explore. We took the train from Bandung to to Yogyakarta.
Yogyakarta was the first taste of tourism in Indonesia we got. The town is a decent size and people come from all over to see the two different temple structures on the outside of town. We stayed for 4 nights in Yogyakarta before flying out to Bali. There are several big activities to do in this town but the main features are the Borobudor and Prambanan temples. The Borobudor is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It makes for a great day trip and is a really cool site to get up close and personal with. The Prambanan Temple is a large Hindu temple built around the 9th century AD. For more on visiting these temples be sure to check out my blog post How To Get To Prambanan And Borobudor Without A Tour.
Kuta is probably the most popular spot in Bali. That’s because it is located right by the airport so people can come for just the weekend from Australia to surf. The town has been completely taken over by the tourism industry. There are giant malls, fast food, and resorts scattered all over. Kuta has some really nice beaches, but the town looks like what would happen if Cancun and Las Vegas had a baby together. We rented a scooter and stopped along the coast at all the different beaches while we were there. Some of them are definitely meant for surfing because the waves are too crazy to even swim. There are some other nice areas though where you can relax in the water. The downside to renting a scooter is that the traffic is somehow worse than Jakarta in this area. A 20km ride took about 1.5 hrs.
Ubud is a nice little town located in the hills about an hour north of Kuta. It’s definitely got a bit of a overwhelming hippy vibe because of all of the yoga retreats there. White girls come from all over the world and spend thousands of dollars to pretend like they are living a life free of attachments at all inclusive yoga resorts with spas, wifi, and shopping galore. However, there is still some authentic fun to be had around Ubud. The sacred monkey forest is a big tourist attraction for people who have never seen monkeys before, but it is still pretty fun. You get to watch people who couldn’t obey the rules get their phones and cameras stolen by monkeys all day. There are some nice trails around the Ubud area for trekking as well as several cool temples to check out. The elephant cave is a really cool ancient site. It’s funny that it is only a 15 minute walk from town and yet all of the barefoot yogis took private taxis and hotel shuttles to get there. I did have the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had in Ubud. There is a tourist market that has a booth roasting local beans fresh and it is only 10,000 Rupiah per cup.
Lovina is a quiet fishing town on the north side of Bali. You can stay anywhere along the shore in Lovina beach is where most of the hotels are located. We stayed about 5km away from Lovina proper and still had plenty of fund. The water isn’t too inviting for swimming because it is kind of murkey and has a lot of runoff in it. The black sand beaches are nice though and the sunsets are beautiful. The good thing about Lovina is that the locals are so excited to have tourists that there is always something going on to do. Most of the bars and restaurants have live music or dance every single night. There were two beach festivals happening back to back while we were there. We took a bus from Ubud to Lovina and then took a shuttle from there to Amed.
Amed is the closest pushing off point to the Gili islands from Bali and also on of the few places for offshore snorkeling on Bali. Most people are doing some variation of that route either traveling around Bali and then going to Gilis or the other way around. The town stretches pretty far down the coast line with no real heart of town to say is central for anything. There are plenty of restaurants and bars. There are probably like 15 different reggae bars that have live music every night. A lot of people come to go diving and there is no shortage of dive shops in Amed. If you are like us and just want to relax and the beach and do some snorkeling there is plenty of that too though.
We chose to go to Gili Air for our Gili island experience. Gili T is supposedly way busier and more of a party town and Gili Air is a lot more laid back and quiet. There are no cars or scooters on Gili Air. Only horse buggies and bicycles. There are many dive shops that take people out around the other islands. You can walk all the way around Gili Air in about an hour. There are a lot of great restaurants on the island that have tables on the beach and bonfires at night with very affordable food. There is only one ATM in town so bring some cash. Otherwise, all of the nicer hotel restaurants and some of the nicer bars accept credit cards. Most of the reef around the island is dead, but the sea grass makes way for the occasional sea turtle sighting.
- Ride Sharing Apps In Indonesia
- The Cost Of Travel In Indonesia
- Things To Do In Amed, Bali
- How To Visit Prambanan And Borobudur Without A Tour
- Things To Do In Jakarta