20 Travel Tips for Indonesia
Indonesia is a country comprised of over 17,000 islands boasting some of the world’s most beautiful tropical landscapes. With a population of over 260 million, the diversity of this country will astonish you and leave you wanting more!
I traveled to Indonesia during my summer vacation and had a mere 12 days to see as much as I could. In my time there, I managed to venture around Jakarta, Bali and Nusa Penida and I racked up nearly as many travel tips as I did misadventures and fabulous memories!
Are you off to Indonesia? Check out my top 20 travel tips below for smooth adventures on your trip abroad!
20 of the Best Travel Tips for Indonesia!
1. Download offline maps on your phone.
One of the first things I do when traveling to a new place is download an offline map of the area I’ll be exploring. Google Maps and Maps.me are two great applications that let you do so. It’s immensely helpful to have this information at your fingertips when without WiFi, especially for someone who is as prone to getting lost as I am!
2. Drink bottled water.
It’s not recommended to drink from the tap in Indonesia so make sure you stock up on bottled water while traveling around the country. My favorite thing to do is purchase a large 2+ gallon jug of water and refill my reusable bottle throughout the trip. Indonesia can get hot so take care to stay hydrated!
3. Use Blue Bird taxis.
Blue Bird taxis are the safest and most recommended taxi company to use in Indonesia – including Bali, Lombok. Jakarta and more. The price is set by a meter so there’s no need to worry about being ripped off. Blue Bird also has an app that lets you pay with credit card and order a taxi to your current location from your phone. If you chose to pay the driver directly, they only accept cash.
Be wary of taxis that look very similar to Blue Bird – a lot of them do! When you arrive at CGK airport in Jakarta you should see a line of people. You’ll need to take a number from a touchscreen kiosk and wait in line for the next available taxi. This same service isn’t at the Bali airport, but you can order a ride from the app once you land.
4. Consider picking up a SIM card.
I’m a huge fan of having a SIM card wherever I travel solo because I love the flexibility and peace of mind it gives me. So in Indonesia I picked up a Telkomsel SIM card with 7 GB of data at a small shop in Canggu, Bali for 150,000 rupiah or about $11. I couldn’t make calls from it, but I was able to access data all around Bali and even had spotty service on Nusa Penida. Trip Savvy provides really thorough information about it here.
If you can help it, avoid buying a SIM card at the airport as the prices are much, much higher than the street price. Go with the expectation of paying around 150,000 rupiah and you should be all set!
5. Check your visa obligations.
Citizens from 169 countries are eligible for a free tourist visa valid for thirty days. Indonesia also offers a free visa-on-arrival to citizens of 61 countries – including the United States – so no need to apply for one ahead of time! This visa is also valid for 30 days and can be extended an additional 30 days if needed.
For more information, you can read what countries are eligible for what visa and all of the requirements here.
6. Anticipate the unexpected.
If there is one lesson I learned from my travels in SE Asia, it’s that you can’t control or anticipate everything. Cancellations, missed transportation, weather changes, anything goes. As a control freak this was a stressful experience for me!
Eventually I began to love the go with the flow attitude, and I learned the importance of having a loose itinerary. I extended my stay in certain areas and shortened my stay at others because I didn’t really know what I wanted until I was there and saw it for myself!
Having booked my accommodation through booking.com, it was easy to change my plans and take advantage of the free cancellation services they offer. Try to book with places that let you cancel up to 24 hours before without a cancellation fee for ultimate flexibility.
7. Rent a scooter.
Scooters rule the road in Indonesia and getting around the country is much faster when you join in on the terrifying fun! Technically you need an international driving license along with your license from home, but never once was I asked for it when renting or driving. People tend to turn a blind eye to the rules, but it’s important to understand that this is the law.
If you want to abide by the rules, you can obtain a tourist driver’s license from some local police stations in Indonesia.
One last thing, please promise me you’ll protect your noodle and wear a helmet at all times! And real shoes! I personally got into a minor scooter accident and having those safety precautions as back up could have been extremely necessary. The law does also state that you must wear a helmet – although this seems to be another thing that local police let slide. Just protect your noodle folks!
8. Drive on the left.
If you do decide to join the masses and hop on a scooter of your own, prepare to drive on the left side of the road!
9. Respect the local traditions and beliefs.
The Indonesian population is quite religiously diverse. On Java, the majority of people are Muslim while in Bali the majority are Hindu. Keep this in mind as you travel through Indonesia and be sure to check what the local customs are for each island you intend to visit.
In Bali, you should keep an eye out for the small religious offerings placed on the ground and all around, and avoid disturbing them. You’ll also need to wear a sarong and (sometimes) a hip scarf to enter temples. And for my ladies, you’re not allowed to enter temples while menstruating.
10. Travel light + pack only the essentials.
Indonesia and the rest of SE Asia offers so many amazing travel experiences that you’ll most likely be hopping from place to place fairly frequently. Traveling light will only make this process easier. It will also give you the room to purchase the extremely affordable souvenirs you’re inevitably going to want! I learned this lesson the hard way from being too prepared and overpacking.
Don’t forget to bring your travel adapter! Indonesia uses the ‘C’ type or European-style two-pin round plugs.
11. Bring travel soap to clean up and keep fresh.
This may be a tip more geared towards backpackers, but consider bringing travel soap to keep your clothes and bag fresh and clean! In Bali I found I was doing a lot of beach and active activities, which left me with stinky, wet clothes to carry the rest of my trip! Nobody likes a stinky bag.
12. Carry cash and carry small denominations.
Smaller merchants and local markets prefer cash and in small denominations when you make a purchase. I had no problem taking cash out from the local ATMs with my American debit card so it was super convenient to grab more when needed!
Most hostels and popular restaurants do take card, but be sure to check beforehand if you’re cashless. Cabs seemed to only accept cash.
13. Pack earplugs and an eye mask.
Usually I have no issue sleeping in any environment – loud or well-lit, it doesn’t matter. But in Bali the roosters and motorbikes wake up early. Without fail they will let you know around 5 am that they are ready to start the day. If you need your beauty sleep, come with some earplugs and an eye mask to avoid the few grumpy mornings I had myself!
14. Interact with the locals.
Indonesians are such friendly people! Everywhere I went, folks greeted me with genuine smiles and happy hellos. Don’t be shy to interact and have a conversation. It will definitely brighten your day!
15. Enjoy the fresh and locally sourced food.
Indonesian food is very cheap and very delicious. Fresh fruit, curry dishes, fried rice and noodles, and more! For authentic and affordable Indonesian fare, visit a warung, small family owned restaurant, and dine with the locals!
You should only eat cooked fruits and veggies or produce that you can peel yourself to avoid stomach complications. I never once had a problem, but for the sensitive stomachs out there it’s important to know.
16. Know what the tipping expectation is.
Indonesia is a diverse country made up of 17,000 islands and subcultures, so depending where you are traveling, there are different tipping expectations to keep in mind.
In Jakarta, people will expect a tip for their services. There isn’t the same 15% standard we know in America, but a 10,000 or 20,000 rupiah tip should be enough – possibly more for higher priced services.
In Bali most restaurants include a service charge on the bill, so it isn’t required to give an additional tip when dining out. For spa treatments, offering a tip to your masseuse or treatment provider is definitely the polite thing to do and I also offered small tips to my taxi drivers for their service.
17. Learn some survival phrases.
The official language of Indonesia is Indonesian, but in some places like Bali, locals may speak both Indonesian and a second language. Try to learn a few survival phrases for your trip if you can. It can be super helpful!
Welcome – Selamat datang
Hello – Halo
Thank you – Terima kasih
Yes – Ya
No – Tidak
Do you speak English? – Anda bisa bicara bahasa inggris?
Sorry/excuse me – Maff
Excuse me/pardon me – Permisi
Where is the toilet? – Di mana kamar toilet?
Help! – Tolong!
Where? – Di mana?
How much/many? – Berapa
18. Prepare for squat toilets and don’t forget the tissues.
I think this is just a good general rule for travel. Toilets in Indonesia were missing toilet paper and soap 90% of the time in the less touristy areas. In Jakarta, I actually had a hard time finding public bathrooms, so take advantage when you have one easily accessible!
19. Carry two wallets.
Another tip I’d read online before coming was to carry two wallets. One to hold for potential bribes or theft and the other to safeguard in a difficult place to find/reach. I honestly never had a single issue and never once felt remotely threatened or at risk, but it’s something to consider.
20. Avoid drugs, or anything illegal at all costs.
Countries in Southeast Asia have a reputation for being a party paradise filled with magic pizza and special brownies. Indonesia is NOT like other SE Asian countries in this regard and illegal drugs are taken very seriously here.
You could be sentenced to severe punishment if caught with drugs and possibly even the death penalty for smuggling. If you haven’t heard of the Bali Nine, take a moment to read about it to give you a better idea of how seriously the Indonesian government takes drug offenses. This article over at Trip Savvy does a great job breaking down the Indonesian drug laws.
There you have it my friends! My top travel tips for Indonesia. This country definitely captured a little piece of my heart and I know one day very soon I’ll be back to see what more wonderful Indonesia has to offer.
Do you have any other important Indonesia travel tips to share? Comment below!