Indonesia is a stunning destination with its adorable nature and blend of cultures. The better you are prepared for your first trip, the higher the chances that everything is will go smoothly and you will want to revisit it again and again…Though it is just impossible to place all do’s and don’ts in one post, I point out five major issues you have to learn and take into consideration while planning your journey.
1. INDONESIAN CLIMATE
Indonesian climate is mostly tropical, which means that it is dry season from June to October and rainy season from November to March. Some areas have their own micro climate. While everything should be clear with dry season, I’d like to draw your attention to some issues you may face if travel during rainy season. Firstly, does it rain all the time? No, it does not, but when it rains, it’s more like a shower rain that can go on for several hours. But it is still quite hot, so rain is like a relief.
Travelling during rainy season is possible, but you should be aware of possible mudflows and stormy weather. Some beaches get quite dirty. In addition, access to some national parks may be restricted or you may be simply advised not to go.
Bali with dominating Hinduism is a metropolitan and liberal island. You are unlikely to face any restrictions in terms of clothes or get any looks if your shoulders and knees are not covered. The exception may be temples and saint places, where you will be also offered something to wear.
Other majority of the islands including such large islands as Java and Sumatra are predominantly Muslim. So, it is better to wear more modest and less attractive clothes. No mini-skirts, no low-cut dresses. You will not be pulled by morality police, but extreme attention is promised.
3. SECURITY AND HEALTH
Indonesia is generally a quite safe place; however it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. Indonesia is not tolerant to drugs. Even if you were not planning to use/sell any drugs, take a good care of your belongings, especially at the airport where it is hot and crowded and you are deadly tired and lose your vigilance.
Besides this, I would just suggest to plan your trip in advance and have a clear idea where you go, how and with whom. Some people prefer to keep their documents with them, some prefer copies. In any case, I would suggest having a copy our passport with you or at the hotel.
I know it sounds boring, but travel insurance is a must even if you do not ‘plan to do extreme sport or other crazy stuff’. If you get sick and especially poisoned I strongly recommend not relying on the medicine you brought from home, especially if you come from the northern hemisphere. Germs and viruses are different there and it is definitely better to go to local doctor, unless you have enough courage to fight with Asian parasites for a couple of weeks alone.
4. FOOD AND DRINKS
Indonesian cuisine is amazing in my opinion. The main ingredient is rice varying in taste and flavor rice, served with wide rannge of extra ingredients. Here are some dishes you should try:
Nasi Goreng – Fried rice, can be served with chicken, egg and sea food
Nasi Putih and Soto Ayam – Boiled rice and Chicken soup
Gado-gado — boiled or steamed vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, fried tofu and tempeh and peanut sauce
Pisang goreng – Fried banana for the dessert
Local canteens are called Warung, they are very cheap (around 1-2 USD for lunch) and actually tasty. Usually they look like this:
If you are newly arrived, I would suggest paying a bit more, like 3-5 USD and having a meal in a restaurant. This does not mean that all restaurants are that cheap, especially in touristic places.
After you already get used to local water and food, make sure you visit Warung. You just follow the same logic as anywhere in the world while searching for a place to have dinner.
Here is one of street food examples, you can even come with your plate:
Speaking of drinks, Indonesians love sweet tea, it is even sold ready in plastic bags. Indonesian coffee is noteworthy, too. Varying in taste and color it is a matter of your preference, but it will definitely wake you up.
You can also try Kopi Luwak coffee, famous of its extravagant preparation method. This lovely Asian palm civet is fed with coffee berries. Then farmers collect beans that cannot be digested from civet’s excrements.
The beans are washed, dried and then roasted by these authentic ladies:
The taste is like coffee I would say, but worth trying at least once. By the way, this is the most expensive coffee in the world. The pack of 100 gr will cost 15 USD.
There are plenty of fresh juices sold on the streets and restaurants. I would only suggest avoiding ice, as it may not be from the drinking water.
Traffic in Indonesia is left-hand and very chaotic. Crossing the street may be challenging for the new comers; and on the crosswalks without traffic lights cars are unlikely to give pedestrians a way. In most cases you have to build eye contact with the driver and show him that you want to cross the road, gesture as if you request him to stop. We used to call this gesture ‘Powerful hand’ as it indeed saved a lot of lives 🙂 Do something similar like this guy does:
Public transportation is not everywhere well developed. On Java the situation is not bad in my opinion. There are buses between large cities (some are quite good, but once we had to travel with hens) and buses and mini buses Angutan (or Bemo) circulating in the cities. Average fee is 4-5,000 IDR (0.38 USD).
Not all the trains look like this:
By paying a slightly higher amount of money you can travel in better conditions:
Keep in mind that there are plenty of airports (on all major islands and more than one on some og them) and local airlines. I have flied with Air Asia, Garuda Indonesia, Batavia Air, Lion Air. Usually you can buy tickets online, but sometimes it may not work so you have to go to travel agency. The fee is quite cheap and in addition you will be saving your time and energy.
I pay special attention to Bali as it is the most popular destination and public transportation there is close to zero, so you will be either using taxi or renting vehicles. Apart from regular taxi, there is also Ojek taxi (Scooter taxi), which can be a good option just if you don’t travel with a group of people, and some streets on Bali are very narrow, so scooter is the only solution in that case.
There are plenty of place of rent a bike or car with English speaking personal. Renting prices depend on bike’s model, conditions and duration of lease, but can be around 3-6 USD per day.
When renting a bike or a car, don’t forget about vehicle documents and learn about vehicle insurance conditions. Make sure you have international driving license and a brave heart, as traffic rules only exist in theory.