Indonesia Travel Guide

Indonesia travel guide

Indonesia is a land of contrasts. This country offers a chance to go shopping in a concrete jungle of large cities or meet the primeval tribes in remote villages, visit tropical rainforests of Sumatra or hit its numerous stunning beaches. Indonesia is one of the most densely populated countries in the world located in Southeast Asia on both sides of the equator. Also known as the Land of Thousand Islands, there are more than 16,000 islands to visit, each of them has its own history and traditions. With more than a hundred of ethnic groups living here, the main reasons to visit Indonesia are its cultural heritage, virgin nature and great opportunities for practicing water sports practically at any time of the year. Some Indonesian islands still have their nature as it was a millennium ago. The number of wild animals is steadily declining, however. Malayan sun bears got their last refuge on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Sumatra is also home to black gibbon, jaguars, rhinoceroses and tigers. The island of Komodo is the only place on the planet to see Komodo monitor. Indonesia is an ultimate destination for budget travelers with cheap food and affordable accommodation prices. In this guide I have put together all the beautiful places and islands I visited during my trip to Indonesia and that I’d be really happy to visit again.

Getting Around Indonesia

Buses are the main means of transport that allow to reach almost any corner within the country. Given that Indonesia is an island country, ferry services are usually included in the price of a ticket if your route involves sea crossing. Prices for the buses and minivans depend on the region and road condition. Day buses are the cheapest option, but be ready to meet some chickens, pigs and smoking passengers. Safety here leaves a lot to be desired due to pickpockets and careless driving. Long-distance buses will start at around 5-6 USD. Overnight buses will set you back around 10 USD depending on the region. Sometimes coaches provide air conditioning and TV. Minibuses (bemos) are really popular, they travel a short distance and are very cheap. In major cities like Jakarta and Surabaya you can find dokar or horse-drawn, two-wheeled carriages that run for short distances. Trains are available on the islands of Java and Sumatra and connect all major cities. First class and business class cars provide A/C, power sockets and soft seats. Economy class cars have wooden seats, no A/C, usually opened windows and smoking passengers. Train tickets are much more expensive than buses. Flights are really cheap and can get you virtually everywhere in Indonesia.

Accomodation in Indonesia

Expect to pay around 8-9 USD for a dorm room in a hostel. This price will usually include free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Budget hotels provide double rooms from 16 USD. Chain hotels set their prices from 30 USD per night. Airbnb is great, providing options from 35 USD for a studio apartment. It might be really tough to find proper accommodation during the New Year, Christmas holidays and after the holy month of Ramadan, so you should book it in advance. Some hotels may hold a deposit, which is removed after checkout.

Food in Indonesia

Food is really cheap in Indonesia, so you can get a meal from street vendors for less than 2 USD. Try to check vendor maintains good personal hygiene when handling food, however. The fastest way to get some food is to find Kaki Lima or five feet, mobile kiosks or stalls, which are proficiently maneuver in any Indonesian city, town or village. Generally, they serve cheap rice, noodles and porridge. A bit more prestigious are Warung eateries offering quite the same menu as kaki lima, but providing plastic chairs and a canopy to their customers. Rumah Makan, the eating houses provide indoor dining. Expect to pay around 2-4 USD in such eateries. Local food like meatballs, fried rice or noodles in EsTeler 77 or Bakmi Gajah Mada (GM) is around 2-3 USD. For fast food combo meal expect to pay as much as 4-5 USD. Since street food is so cheap, basically there is no need to cook your own food, however, you may expect week’s worth of groceries cost between 25-35 USD.

How to Do Indonesia On a Budget

The most obvious way to save money in Indonesia is to cut expenses on accommodation by finding appropriate option upon arrival. With so many hotels, hostels and guesthouses all across Indonesia, a great chunk of them can’t be found on the Internet, but still offer good value for money. However, I prefer to monitor possible options before I go to compare prices, I usually book accommodation for 1-2 days just to keep finding cheaper options when I’m there.

The price of goods and services in Indonesia is usually determined by your nationality, age, status, and most importantly by knowing at least a few phrases in Indonesian. Make sure to use at least basic words while communicating with the seller, compare prices and bargain hard as price is always negotiable in Indonesia.

Before buying batik or any other Indonesian trinkets from street vendors, get their real value first in one of the fixed price shops, which can be easily found in any touristy area.

Flights are usually cheaper and faster than trains and ferries in Indonesia. Make sure to compare airfares with the cost of ferry travel.

Top Things To See and Places to Visit in Indonesia

Visit Komodo National Park

Komodo National Park is the only place on the planet where Komodo dragons can be found. These monitor lizards are recognized as dinosaur descendants, while the largest creatures reach a length of 3 meters and weigh about 80 kg. Most travelers who depart from Denpasar Airport and find themselves in Labuan Bajo take an organized multi-day tours. This way is the easiest if you can afford to pay around 100 USD per person per day. There is also a way to plan your own trip with private guides, but this would require more time and not always convenient as some overnight ferries don’t provide sleeping facilities. Since Komodo National Park is a UNESCO site, you won’t find hotels, cafes or any other tourist infrastructure, visitors are only allowed to stay with locals in the Kampung Komodo village. Homestays are available throughout the village with prices ranging from 11 to 23 USD per night. National park admission is around 17 USD. Make sure to swim at the Pink Beach and go snorkeling.

Trek Up the Mount Bromo

The mount Bromo, located in East Java, is perhaps the most spectacular and popular attraction in Indonesia. It gained its name after the Hindu god Brahma, while there is an ancient Pura Luhur Poten Hindu temple on the northern slope of the volcano. With three observation decks on Mount Batok, Mount Kursi and Mount Bromo, you get a great chance to enjoy the highest point of Java – Semeru volcano. Tours to Bromo cost around 16 USD per person. You can also reach Bromo from the town of Malang or from Probolinggo on your own. Most travelers who come here to watch the sunrise, stay at Cemorolawang. Shuttle buses will take you to the volcano for around 2-3 USD. Upacara Kasada ritual is the reason to visit Bromo in mid-August.

Jakarta

One of the world’s largest megalopolises, Jakarta has a lot to offer. An embracing old city (Kota Tua) offers an interesting insight into the Jakarta’s colonial past, there are several nice museums and dozens of shopping malls. People watch from one of the cafes at the Fatahillah Square or in the Pasar Baru, the oldest market in Jakarta. Gaze at colorful fishing boats in Sunda Kelapa Port or get lost in the narrow alleyways of Glodok, Jakarta’s Chinatown. A visit to Big Durian is a must if you want to have a closer look at Indonesian lifestyle.

Explore Borobudur

Borobudur is perhaps the most outstanding Buddhist temple in Indonesia, and can be compared to the Cambodian Angkor Wat and the Bagan in Myanmar. Located in Central Java around 40 km (25 mi) from Yogyakarta, the temple dating from the 9th century shaped in the form of a symmetrical stupa. With several stone staircases leading up, you can reach more than a 400 Buddha sculptures. Some of the sculptures are sitting in latticed stupas, which makes an old belief still viable. Stretch out your hand and touch the Buddha sitting in a stupa with your eyes closed, make a wish. It is believed it will surely come true. Borobudur admission fee is 22 USD. Operating hours from 6 am to 5 pm.

See Javan rhinos

Ujung Kulon national park is a UNESCO site where virgin nature was preserved because of the devastating eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883. The coastal area is home to mangroves and casuaries, the central part of the peninsula is filled with savannahs surrounded by low-mountainous rainforests. Ujung Kulon national park is considered the only refuge for several dozen species of endangered Javan rhinos. Admission is around 11 USD for foreigners on the weekdays, with prices rising to 17 USD on Sundays and holidays.

Hike Up Krakatoa Volcano

One of the most notorious volcanoes in the world. Located 60 km (33 mi) northwest from the province of Banten, Krakatoa is a group of small islands with a central one known as Anak Gunung Krakatoa. You can reach the archipelago by boat from the coastal town of Carita. With the prices for boat trip ranging from 150 to 300 USD depending on boat size and amenities, it makes the voyage pricey but worthwhile spending. It also matters how hard you bargain. Most boats land on the East Coast of the island and you start your journey to the volcano from there. Since Krakatoa is an active volcano no trip there should be made when it is unstable.

Relax at Lake Toba

A runaway destination, lake Toba is located in the northern part of Sumatra, and in my opinion it should be on any bucket list. Beautiful nature, wonderful mountain range, rice fields and of course, the turquoise water of the lake can be found here. I visited lake Toba in early March when the chances are you might be hit by heavy rainfall. During low season expect very few people around and affordable prices. The best way to get to Lake Toba is by bus from the city of Medan to Parapat. You can find the bus you need at the Amplas bus station. Once you there make sure to visit Batak village on the island of Samosir and Sipiso piso waterfall.

Hang Out At Gili Islands

A small archipelago of Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air next to a Lombok island has very calm and laid-back atmosphere with countless tiny cafes next to the beach area. You can still hear reggae here (if you know what I mean) and you wouldn’t meet any cars or motorcycles to disturb local tranquility. Accomodation on Gili islands can easily be found upon arrival, there is no need to book in advance. With plenty of guesthouses and bungalows all around you can pick the one you like just by strolling the beach. I had a pretty bungalow for 12 USD per night with no extra amenities. Gili islands also possess great facilities for scuba diving and snorkeling. Prices vary, on average it is around 40 USD.

Enjoy Corals And Reef Fish in Bunaken

If you visit Indonesia for scuba diving or snorkeling, then you should probably be heading to the Bunaken National Marine park right away. With about 25 dive sites and being just one-hour boat trip from Kota Manado, Bunaken island offers great visibility and the most diverse aquatic ecosystem in the region. For around 20 USD you can admire turtles, sea snakes, rays and sharks.

Get A Glimpse Of Indonesian Culture in Museum Nasional

With a diverse collection of textile, tribal art and sculptures, Museum Nasional in Jakarta is an awesome place to learn about the history and culture of Indonesia. I would advise visiting this museum to get as much amazing information about the country as possible in a short time. It is like traveling throughout Indonesia. Located in an old colonial-style building near the National Monument and the Old City, some rooms have air conditioning, which is great during hot summer days. Make sure to visit the Treasure chamber with unique bracelets, necklaces and jewelries. Admission is less than 1 USD!

Go Rafting in Green Canyon (Cukang Taneuh)

An amazing canyon immersed in green colors located some 30 km (19 mi) from the popular beach resort of Pangandaran can easily be reached by OJEK motorcycle taxi. The best time to visit Green Canyon is during the dry season, which spans from April to September. July and August is the period when canyon gains its beautiful transparent green water. The entire area is breathtaking, while the river is quite shallow. The place may be overcrowded on public holidays. With about 10 km (6 mi) route and 6 hours of floating, climbing and cliff jumping, Green Canyon is a totally unforgettable experience. Expect to pay between 10-16 USD for boat rental.

Prambanan

Just 17 km (10 mi) northeast of Yogyakarta, the temples of Prambanan are the best remaining examples of Java’s period of Hindu cultural development. With numerous Shivaite and Buddhist elements in architecture and sculpture, Prambanan is a highlight of any trip across Java. The temples were built in the 10th century, but two centuries later the Prambanan Plain was abandoned when the Hindu-Javanese kings moved to East Java. While most of the temples greatly suffered from earthquakes and treasure hunters during the past few centuries and some of them are wrapped in scaffolding, the site is architecturally impressive and is a must in Southeast Asia. Early morning or evening is the best time to enjoy Prambanan. You may expect to pay around 19 USD admission fee.

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