Discover Destinations When to Travel How to get around Visa Other Tips Packing list Places to stay
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago consisting of more than 17, 000 islands, of which over 7, 000 are uninhabited. The island of Java is the country’s most populous island which is home to over half of the country’s population.
In Indonesia, you can expect a country of countless cultures and traditions, landscapes, wildlife and history. Each island has its own identity which has been created over time, offering you an entirely new experience at every stop along the way.
The Indonesian landscape may be the world’s most diverse, offering everything from stunning white sand beaches to rice fields as far as the eye can see to 127 active volcanoes. The rich history of the country can be seen everywhere in the countless temples, religious, and historical sites.
Indonesia is also home to over 17% of the world’s wildlife, with over 300,000 species. Some of the world’s most unique wild animals can be found here, such as komodo dragons, tigers, orangutans, rhinoceros, dolphins, manta rays and so many more. Komodo National Park is for example the only place in the world where you can see Komodo dragons, the largest lizards on earth, some of them up to 3 m long.
Indonesia is one of the safest Southeast Asian countries to travel and the people of Indonesia are extremely friendly, welcoming and will go out of their way to offer a helping hand. You will be surprised by the assistance they offer without expecting anything in return except a thank you. It’s a refreshing change from many Asian countries.
Be aware that you are expected to dress somewhat conservatively in some parts of Indonesia, particularly when visiting historic or religious sights. While it is fine to dress less modestly around the pool, beach or resort, it is expected that you cover up your arms and knees when exploring cultural and religious sites. Carry a sarong with you at all times, you just never know when you’ll come across a historical site that may want to see while walking around town.
To provide some extra help with planning your trip, I have written about my top three favourite destinations in Indonesia; Bali, Flores, and Yogyakarta. Below, I will explain why I’ve chosen these three destinations as my top 3 in Indonesia:
1. Bali, also known as “The Land of Gods” is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The stunning beaches are the perfect place to take in colourful sunsets, watch local surfers and soak up the sun. The jungles of Ubud will leave you in awe at the lush greenery and the mix and the chilled vibes of Canggu will make you feel at home. Although it is the most touristic island in the country, it remains one of my personal favourites. Visit our page about travelling from Yogyakarta to Bali to find your best travel options.
2. Ready for a more adventurous trip? Make your way to Flores and take a boat tour to Komodo National Park to enjoy the pristine beaches, superb hiking, and superhub diving and snorkelling. Within this park, you’ll find Komodo island, also referred to as “Home of the last dragons”. Komodo National The island is home to over 4,000 Komodo Dragons, the largest lizards on the planet with some growing up to 3m long. To travel here, read our page on How to travel from Bali to Komodo.
3. Yogyakarta is one of the foremost cultural centres in Indonesia. It is home to the huge, magnificent temples of Borobudur and Prambanan temple, built in the 8th and 9th centuries. Yogyakarta is filled with history, culture and religious sites unlike anywhere else. Taking the day train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta will present some of the countries’ most amazing sights of rice terraces, small villages, and local life. Read our page on Jakarta to Yogyakarta to find your best travel options.
Another great destination if you are looking for a beach holiday is the Gili Islands. These three little islands off the coast of Lombok, all offer gorgeous beaches and warm, blue waters. Gili Trawangan, the largest of the three islands, is the most visited with a busy nightlife, countless restaurants and bars. Gili Air is a little smaller and much more mellow, you will find restaurants and shopping but it’s definitely a place to go relax. Gili Meno, the smallest of the islands offers a strong local character, you will not find as many tourists or amenities but it’s the perfect place to escape it all. See our route on Bali to Gili Islands for more info.
When to travel to Indonesia
Indonesia has just two seasons, wet and dry. The tropical temperatures average 28°C during the day, throughout the year. The dry season is from May to October and the wet season begins in November/December and ends in March/April.
While you can visit this country year-round, between the months of May and October, you will find the best weather. If you choose to visit Indonesia during January and February, be prepared for the wet season and expect cloudy days and several hours a day of rain. If you don’t mind putting your plans on hold for a couple of hours each day, it’s still a decent time to visit. Keep in mind that volcano hikes are usually off-limits in January and February because these are the wettest months.
How to get around Indonesia
Indonesia is located in Southeast Asia between the Indian and Pacific oceans and spans 1,904,569 square kilometers. While some of the larger islands are easily traveled by bus, car or train, the majority of travel throughout Indonesia is by boat or ferry.
If you are travelling long distances between islands that host airports, we suggest flying. There are a few budget airlines in Indonesia that offer domestic flights at a low cost. However, many of the islands do not have airports and you will need to take local ferries or boats to reach your next destination.
While on the islands, you’ll find an array of transport options, taxis, rickshaws (becak), buses, trains, and scooters. Many travellers opt to hire a car and driver for a day or two to drive them around. This is quite affordable and will save you from the dangers of driving somewhere new and unfamiliar. Although not always available or permitted in every region, many travellers use apps like Gojek or Grab to order bikes or taxi rides online.
Train travel is only available in Java and Sumatra. On the island of Java, train travel is one of the most popular forms of transport because it offers excellent sights, comfort, and reliability. Another option is taking the bus, but they are not equally as comfortable, don’t always run on time and may make frequent stops throughout the journey.
City buses are an extremely cheap and easy form of transport. However, they are not air-conditioned. They’re also rarely on time and can get quite crowded. When in the city, always negotiate with your taxi and becak drivers for a fair price. If you choose to rent a scooter, be sure you have an international driver’s license, are aware of the local laws and always drive with extra caution.
Getting a tourist visa for Indonesia is quite simple because most travellers are visa-exempt. Foreigners from 169 countries are able to enter Indonesia at any of the 124 immigration checkpoints and will be granted a 30-day stay, this stay cannot be extended. Visitors from 68 of these countries can apply for a Visa on Arrival and will be granted a free 30-day stay which can be extended an additional 30 days with a visit to the local immigration office and a fee of $35 USD paid upon arrival.
Note that you need to pay this fee directly on the day of arrival, otherwise you will miss the chance to extend your visa and need to leave the country within 30 days. If your country is not listed among the 169 visa-exempt countries, you will need to attend your local Indonesian Embassy or Consulate to apply for a visa.
Last, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months and you will be required to show proof of a return or onward ticket leaving Indonesia.
The currency used in Indonesia is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Roughly 1 euro or usd is equal to 16.000 IDR. Or to be more precise as of November 2022, 100.000 IDR was equal to $6.40 or €6.25.
ATMs are easy to find in popular destinations like Bali or Yogyakarta. If you venture out to other islands, it can be a lot harder to find one. On smaller islands like Gili Islands or Nusa Penida, you find ATMs around the harbour, but to be on the safe side, always bring enough cash when travelling to smaller islands or the less touristic areas of Indonesia.
Making payments with cards is becoming more common in Bali, but take into account that many restaurants still charge around 3% extra charge when paying by card.
Withdrawing money from ATMs is mostly free of charge, but your own bank will likely charge a fee. The maximum withdrawal is mostly between 1.500.000 and 2.500.000. A few of the trusted ATMs are Mandiri, BCA, BNI and City Bank.
PRO TIP: Permata Bank charges a fixed withdrawal fee of 49.999 if you use a foreign card, so better to avoid this ATM because you can use almost all others without extra charges.
Packing list for Indonesia
How to make sure you packed everything you will need for your trip? Short answer: Impossible. There is no such thing as a perfect packing list.
Luckily there are 2 little steps that we can share with you to become an awesome packer:
Step 1: Put all the clothes you want to take with you on your bed.
Step 2: Pack half of them.
If you follow the steps above, you will be one of the top 1% packers in the world. Packing around heavy bags is not enjoyable when travelling so we suggest packing a lot less than you think you will need.
Often, after a few days of travel, you will realize you have too much stuff and begin to throw things away that you are not using daily. Also, keep in mind that shopping is cheap in Indonesia, and almost all amenities can be bought as needed.
I do suggest packing sunblock because it can be quite expensive in Indonesia.
To see the complete packing list, visit our page in which we share our ideal packing list.
Pondok Kita Canggu – Bali
Set in Canggu, this accommodation offers an outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, a shared lounge, and a garden. Within walking distance to beaches, shopping, restaurants, and all amenities. The hosts will make you feel at home and the rooms are clean and comfortable. Breakfast can be included with your stay for just an additional $4.
- Swimming pool
- Great location
- Clean and comfortable
- Friendly staff
Private rooms start at $28 per night
Tu Sandat Homestay – Ubud Bali
Set in Ubud within walking distance of the Monkey forest, this accommodation offers a garden and outdoor terrace for guests enjoyment in a quiet area. The owners are known to be extremely helpful and friendly. The rooms are large and the beds are extremely comfortable. A delicious breakfast is included with your stay.
- Breakfast included
- Quiet area
- Clean and comfortable
- Friendly staff
Private rooms start at $25 per night
Le Pirate Island – Komodo Island
While you can’t stay directly on Komodo Island, you can stay nearby and enjoy the luxury of the outdoor huts at Le Pirate Island. Each hut comes with a private terrace and beds above offering stunning ocean views. There is a restaurant and bar on-site and all huts are beachfront. After exploring Komodo Island, this is the perfect private island to return to enjoy relaxing and taking in the sights.
- Private island
- Beachfront huts
- Restaurant and bar on-site
- Excellent service
Rooms start at $43 per night
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About the author(s)
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.