Compared to Australia and New Zealand, we found travelling in Indonesia a bit of a challenge. For a start, we were dealing with a completely new language that neither of us spoke; we were travelling huge distances by often dubious public transportation, coping with strange new foods and an unfamiliar currency – that’s all part of the fun when it comes to travel though, right? When you are heading to a new country though it’s nice to have some insider tips; if you’re planning to travel Indonesia we’ve put together some tips to help you make the most of your trip.
Our Top Indonesia Travel Tips
Here are some of the things we wish we’d known before we decided to travel in Indonesia:
- Ideally, don’t start your trip in Jakarta unless you’re prepared for what awaits you. As you can see from our nightmare stay in this sprawling city, we had a tough time. For an easier start, look into arriving in Bali.
- Always use metered BlueBird, Xpress or Gamya taxis to avoid being ripped off. When we arrived at airports we were often tackled by aggressive local drivers who wanted to charge us expensive fixed prices and would insist that BlueBird taxis don’t operate from the airport. That’s a lie – in actual fact the local drivers intimidate the metered taxi drivers away to force travellers into paying unfair prices; we witnessed this firsthand. We also got stuck out at the beach a couple of times due to local drivers operating an expensive racquet and threatening any BlueBird drivers who dared pick up from the area. Whenever this happened, we’d usually walk ten or fifteen minutes away from the area and find a BlueBird to hail down in the street.
- To avoid taking taxis to or from the airport entirely, get the Damri. These local buses are incredibly cheap and cost less than a couple of pounds for journeys as long as two hours. Look out for the Damri bus stop at the airport, which is usually located near the taxi rank. Once again, local drivers won’t want you to use the Damri; we were told a few times that we’d missed the last Damri when we knew full well there was one due to arrive soon.
- It’s often cheaper to fly than catch boats in Indonesia. We found it much cheaper and faster to fly from Java to Bali and from Bali to Lombok then it would have been to get the boat. For instance, we were quoted £40 per person for a return ticket on the fast boat from Bali to Lombok but we managed to fly return for only £27 per person. The cheapest domestic airline we found was Merpati.
- Book in advance to visit Komodo Island. We were keen to visit Komodo Island but we didn’t make it in the end because we left it too long to book flights and the trip became unaffordable. We were adamant that we didn’t want to get a boat from Lombok or Bali to Komodo after reading how dangerous they can be in this post by Adventurous Kate, who got shipwrecked on her journey to the island. On investigation, we found that boat trips were pretty expensive anyway and when we first arrived in Indonesia we saw cheap domestic flights online to Labuan Bajo – the jumping off point to Komodo – for only £70 return per person. Unfortunately, we left it too late to book the flights and within a couple of weeks they had quadrupled in price and we wrote the trip off as simply too expensive.
- Book flights at the airport. While some domestic flights in Indonesia can be booked online, frustratingly, you can’t use a western credit card to book flights from local companies like Merpati. We tended to go to the airports and shop around at the ticket counters to get the cheapest prices and pay in person.
- Don’t buy combined bus and boat tickets. Our hotel in Lombok organised cheap combined bus and boat tickets to the Gili Islands for us and we were dropped just short of the harbour and hounded by the tour company, who wanted us to book expensive return trips with them. This went on for about 45 minutes before we lost our cool and demanded they give us the boat tickets we’d paid for; we then walked the rest of the way to the harbour. It’s a much better idea to get a metered taxi to the harbour and buy your boat ticket from the office there; it’s cheaper and less hassle then dealing with shiesty drivers.
- Don’t buy malaria pills in Indonesia. We didn’t buy any anti-malarial pills before we left the UK because we foolishly believed we could get them cheaper in Asia. In actual fact a trip to a medical clinic to have a necessary third Hepatitis B shot and get a couple of weeks’ supply of Larium tablets (which we felt conned into buying) cost us around £100 – it would have been cheaper had we done all that in the UK. As a side-note, you don’t need anti-malarial pills for visiting Bali or Java but many doctors recommend them for Lombok, Flores and the Gili Islands – we know that lots of travellers chose not to take any at all though.
- Be prepared for airport taxes – these range from £1.65 to £10 per person and cannot be avoided; they’re just another way to get extra cash from tourists.
- Look for accommodation on arrival to save money. If you can handle trudging around with your backpack searching for rooms then this is the best way to find somewhere nice in your price range. We found that many guesthouses, hostels and hotels in Indonesia don’t advertise online or have a website anyway so it’s best to search in person – this allows you to haggle over the price of the room too, we got some good discounts by doing this. If you plan on staying somewhere for more than a couple of nights you’re also likely to get a bit of a discount.
- Catch a shuttle bus between Kuta and Ubud. This is cheaper than a taxi and should only cost IDR50,000 (£3.33) – buses can be arranged from your hotel easily.
- Be aware of rabies. The disease is prevalent in Bali so be careful (especially if you visit the Monkey Forest). We were glad that we’d had our pre-rabies vaccines before we left the UK – although we’d have to get more shots if we were bitten by a rabid animal; it gave us peace of mind.
Do you have any Indonesia travel advice?