Indonesia Travel Guide
🗝️ Key Facts
💶Currency: Indonesian rupiah (IDR)
🕙Time Zone: +7/ +8/ +9 GMT
📞Phone Code: +62
✈️Best time to visit: Year round
🍷Drink: Bajigur and Bandrek spice drink
🗺️Don't miss: Sceneryand paradise baches / Borobudur
🗺 Menu of Contents:
Indonesia is located in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than 17.000 islands! The biggest island is Java, the world's most populous island, home to more than half of the country's population. The country shares land borders with Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the eastern part of Malaysia.
Colourful and exotic, the vast archipelago of Indonesia is spread across 5,000km of ocean in Southeast Asia, including popular tourist destinations like Bali, Sumatra and Java as well as roughly 6,000 other relatively unknown but inhabited islands.
The mysterious islands of Indonesia each hold their own charms: the resorts of Bali offer nightclubs and beaches; the sprawling metropolis of Jakarta is a melting pot of Indonesian language, food, and architecture; the jungles of Sumatra are home to elephants, tigers, orangutans and other wild creatures; and the palaces and monuments of Yogyakarta offer a glimpse into an ancient civilization.
Travelling by air to access Indonesia and its islands is the most logical and practical option.
For visitors, getting to Indonesia is fairly easy thanks to direct routes by flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, which offers direct non-stop flights from London and Amsterdam in Europe and Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in Australia. it also possible to travel from many asian cities and from China direct to Jakarta. Other countries offer direct one one stop transit flights from their main hubs. Emirates or Turkish Airlines are some of the most popular.
Travelling in Indonesia, between neighboring islands, you can choose between local ferries or short flights. If you have enough time, ferries are very economical and a practical way to see the scenery and the local way of life. However many times, conditions are quite rudimental and travelling with light luggage, backpacking or just for tours is best for this option. Otherwise taking flights is cheap as well when booked in advance.
In big cities like Jakarta, public transport is good to get around, renting cars and taking tours out of the cities to see the countryside. However in smaller communities, taking taxis unless you drive is more a normal option.
❗Attention: If you do decide to rent a car, there are a few things to know. International Driving Permits are officially required in Indonesia, but most car rental companies will gladly rent to you with only your home country driving license. However, if you’re pulled over by the police (they often see foreigners coming and will wave you over for no clear reason), be prepared to be asked to pay a bribe to avoid being charged the official infraction fine. These “spot checks” are a regular occurrence in Bali for example, where many foreigners drive cars and scooters, making them easy targets for extortion. We recommend getting an International Driving Permit if you plan to spend more than a few weeks in Indonesia (to avoid police hassle).
❗Attention: In all Indonesia there is a limitation on where you can use APP based taxis and normal ones. The normal taxis must be taken to/from Hotels, Airports, ports and Malls. Where as the APP based taxis can be taken from all other locations. This is imposed by law, which means drivers could get fined if found taking travellers from the wrong destinations. Unfortunately it means that tourists need to get the normal taxis on most trips.
However, for practicality makes sense using the apps as they are much cheaper and convenient, plus drivers will rarely refuse a paying foreigner!
You can always ask your hotel/accomodation for more info or for them to arrange a pick up for you.
The main variable weather factor of Indonesia's climate is rainfall. Split by the equator, indonesia has an almost entirely tropical climate, with the coastal plains averaging 28°C, the inland and mountain areas averaging 26°C, and the higher mountain regions, 23°C. The area's relative humidity is quite high, and ranges between 70 and 90 percent. No matter where you go, be prepared for high temperatures and humidity.
The extreme variations in rainfall are linked with the monsoons. There is a dry season (June to September), and a rainy season (December to March). Western and northern parts of Indonesia experience the most precipitation. Western Sumatra, Java, Bali, the interiors of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Irian Jaya are the most predictably damp regions of Indonesia, with rainfall measuring more than 2,000 millimeters per year.
For the best season to go, actually all year round can be good to go, however slightly less hot temperatures are appreciated during January and February.
On the other hand, it can rain more during this time. In the Summer, it can be dry, but humidity levels are higher and the temperature sensation can be well above 35 °C!
Lightweight cotton clothing is advised throughout the year, with an umbrella or raincoat for sudden cloudbursts. Taking abundant sun cream, sunglasses, hats and drinking plenty of water is also advised!
❗Attention: Typhoons can hit the Islands of the Indonesia between September and December, and can cause rainstorms and heavy winds. However, not every Typhoon that hits Indonesia is a strong one, and in some years only a few Typhoons occur during the tropical storm season. Stay connected to weather forecasts and in the event you get caught by the storm, always stay inside and if possible ask for upper rooms floors (to avoid flooding).
Indonesia's cooking has some similarity to the cuisines of nearby Thailand and Malaysia. It's agriculture mainly produces rice, palm oil, tea, coffee, cacao, medicinal plants, spices and rubber. Also, by history, Indonesia was a key stop on the spice route to Europe. It means the diet has been highly influenced by the trading empires of Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and China. The staple diet for most Indonesians is nasi (rice), but this is swapped on some islands with other foods such as noodles, corn, sago, cassava and sweet potatoes.
Coconut milk is used extensively in sauces and soups. Indonesians like their food highly spiced, with an emphasis on ingredients such as lime leaves, lemongrass, tamarind, cloves, cinnamon and chilli. Be wary of the tiny and very hot red and green peppers included in salads and vegetable dishes. Seafood is a regular feature on menus and many dishes are favoured with shrimp paste, known as terasi or belacan.
Indonesian specialities include: Rijsttafel, a Dutch-invented smorgasbord of 12 various meats, fish, vegetable and curry dishes. Nasigoreng, considered the national dish it consists of fried rice, flavoured with spices and usually eaten with accompanying vegetables. Ayam goreng, fried chicken, a national staple. Soto, traditional soupy broth with rice cakes and noodles, often with chicken or beef. Sambal, a very chilli sauce condiment served with every dish. Bakso, Indonesian meatballs usually made from chicken or beef. Sate, skewers of beef, fish, pork, chicken or lamb, cooked on hot coals and dipped in peanut sauce. Rendang, a speciality of Sumatra; a densely spiced coconut curry with lime leaves and buffalo meat. Gado-gado, a Javan salad of raw and cooked vegetables with peanut and coconut milk sauce. Babi guling, a roast suckling pig, a delicacy from Bali.
As for drinks, remember it's a land of spices, so making rich drinks that are fresh, unique, and healthy are a tradition in the country. Most of their drinks are a mixture of spices with healthy nutrients. Most Indonesian drinks are available through the year, while some of them are only served during formal occasions or on specific functions. Note that being a muslim country alcohol is not generally consumed by the locals. However for tourists and in popular resort areas there are cocktail bars, clubs and major restaurants serving international beers and spirits.
Here are some of the most popular, traditional Indonesian drinks you’re likely to encounter: (non-alcoholic)
- Bajigur, a typical drink from the area of West Java, has a sweet and savoury taste as it is made from coconut milk and palm sugar.
- Bandrek, is the perfect drink for cold weather. Made from ginger and brown sugar, while pandan leaves and spices such as cinnamon and cloves can be added to increase the richness of the drink.
- Sekoteng, is a hot drink, native to central Java. With a ginger base, ingredients such as mung beans, peanuts, pacar cina, and chunks of bread are mixed together. Sekoteng can be seen sold on carts.
- Wedang Jahe, originated from the Javanese language, meaning hot drink. Made from ginger, cardamom, palm sugar, cloves, white sugar, black pepper and lemongrass. Pandan leaves are normally added to all Java drinks to enhance the spices in the drink.
- Wedang Ronde, another traditional beverage from Java, is ginger water containing ronde (balls). It tastes best when had with roasted beans.
- Bir Pletok, this night drink originated during the Dutch Colonial Period and Japanese Invasion. Made from ginger, cardamom, lemongrass, cinnamon, kayu secang and sugar, Bir Pletok is had at night to warm the body. This is yet another healthy drink which is believed to prevent cold.
- Cendol, is a typical Indonesian beverage which is made from rice flour, and served with grated ice, liquid palm sugar, and coconut milk. The main ingredient of this drink is rice flour, which is processed in such a way that it is first dyed green, and then printed through a special filter, in the shape of the grains.
- Es Teler, is a drink containing pieces of fresh avocado, young coconut, jackfruit, and diluted coconut milk. Sweetened condensed milk and syrup are added along with shaved ice or ice cubes to complete this delicious drink. Another variation of Es Teler is available which contains grass jelly, kolang-kaling, Pacar Cina, pieces of apple, papaya, Sapodilla, melons, bread, and jelly.
With around 17500 islands, Indonesia can't be explored lightly. However the country is now improving and marketing itself for better tourism services. It is perhaps, that when you think of Indonesia, you will recognise more the famous name of Bali. My trip was actually to the real part of Indonesia where everything happens, it's capital, Jakarta, and the Island of Batam.
Despite some heavy traffic levels and highly polluted, Jakarta is an interesting metropolis of modern, colonial and historical architecture, together with plenty of museums which one can visit to understand better the Indonesian culture and it's people. Jakarta offers a great mix of society levels, from luxury neighbourhoods and a financial city to the more local, poorer districts where you can see how do people survive with the bare minimum.
However, the city centre is safe to walk around day and night, with often locals admiring tourists and even trying to say hello and practice their English.
It's cheap to eat out, take local transport and visit museums. It's perhaps a good city for those with a budget. But when it comes to tours, Indonesia doesn't offer group tours, meaning that if you travel alone you can expect to pay a private tour for as much as 90 USD, even for just a city tour! But local transport is very handy to take, fully air conditioned, frequent and easy to use with an electronic card. Even taxis are cheap!
Batam, was a another island I visited. It's a practical trip from Singapore, more local and less developed. However, it's appeal resides more on the cheaper shopping opportunities, massage centres and entertainment.
With a basic understanding of how the county is, I hope now to discover and report on the more beautiful and natural side of Indonesia.
When coming to Indonesia for the first time, one should come with an open mind and be patient. Locals are nice to visitors, with little crime rate, but also there is a lot of poverty in the cities. Checking and doing some research before you come is the best way to ensure you take back a better experience from this country which has so much to offer and so much to see!