Right on our doorstep, Indonesia is an ideal destination for a long weekend away, whether you head to Bali, Lombok or Yogyakarta, or go by boat to Bintan or Batam or islands nearby. With over 17,000 islands, there’s obviously plenty to explore! And there’s plenty to do too, from diving, golfing and dining to relaxing in a luxury villa. Before you head off on your break, it pays to do some research. We’ve done the legwork for you and compiled a mini guide on where to go in Indonesia, plus a whole bunch of tips for travel. There’s everything you need to know on visas, destinations, money, culture and more.
A boat ride away!
We’re so happy Telunas Beach Resort and Telunas Private Island is able host everyone again. The resort, a ferry and boat ride away from Singapore, is built entirely over the water and overlooks a beautiful stretch of white sand beach. It’s home to 18 over-water bungalows, ranging from individual guest rooms to three-bedrooms with a loft. The resort has a cool over-water dining room and lounge where guests can dine with a sunset view.
Expansive views, thatched roofs and cooling provided by the natural ocean breezes are just a few other things that make Telunas Beach Resort a unique vacation experience – perfect for work-cations or reunions with friends and family.
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How does waking up to sea vistas at Seminyak sound? That’s what you’ll get at The Legian Seminyak, Bali, a boutique resort where all the suites boast unparalleled ocean-facing views. You can choose from a variety of accommodation options, from a beachfront sanctuary for two to a multi-bedroom suite for families. Meanwhile, the Beach House is a three-bedroom villa with pool and direct beach access that can accommodate weddings and intimate events. You’ll eat and drink well at The Legian, too, thanks to the resort’s contemporary and local cuisine with an Asian twist, and refreshing artisan cocktails.
For ultimate exclusivity, you can opt to stay at The Club by The Legian Seminyak, Bali. Located next to the resort’s main entrance, The Club is a private estate with a 30-metre pool, private outdoor seating area and 13 private pool villas. It comes with a dedicated butler, private limousine service, daily afternoon tea, cocktails and canapés, laundry, and complimentary in-villa private bar services.
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Sumba kinda wonderful
City life, shopping malls, crowds of tourists – want to get away from it all? Indonesia’s Sumba Island, an hour’s flight away from Denpasar airport, is arguably Bali’s best-kept secret. At around three times the size of Bali with a fraction of its population, Sumba has rugged savannahs and low limestone hills that rub shoulders with fields of maize and countryside hamlets.
Indigenous community beliefs – most people here follow the Marapu religion – mean that unique rituals and traditions loom large in Sumba. Every year, the Pasola festival involves hundreds of local warriors riding bareback on Sumba’s Sandalwood Ponies and hurling spears, an event believed to bring fertility to the land.
The island is also known for the precious art of Tenun Ikat (handwoven fabric). Head to the villages to watch local women produce elaborate motif cloths created from a dye of indigo leaves, root bark and pounded turmeric.
Discover more of the beauty and deep-rooted tradition of Sumba with a stay at one of these three properties on the island.
#1 Nihi Sumba
Located near Sumba’s famous surf break and a deserted stretch of private white sand, this resort’s tagline is perfectly justified as “the edge of wildness”. It houses 27 villas and treehouses with ocean views, huge terraces, four-poster beds and private infinity pools. Your personal butler can also arrange anything from surf lessons or mountain biking, to paragliding or a visit to the hotel’s chocolate factory. A highlight is an enchanting horse ride along the sand on a pony from their Sandalwood Stables.
#2 Cap Karoso
Set on a six-mile beach backed by forest, Cap Karoso is built on culture, community and sustainability. It features tranquil studios, suites and villas with chic, serene interiors fused with Sumbanese antiques and Indonesian art. Julang restaurant is helmed by guest chefs who use ingredients grown on the resort’s organic farm. Facilities include a creative Kids’ Club, an open-air cinema, spa, gym and yoga platform.
#3 Lelewatu Resort Sumba
Designed as a tribute to Sumba heritage, each of the resort’s rooms reflect the island’s elegance and incorporate traditional craftsmanship. Sumbanese artistry is present throughout and handwoven ikat accents create a homely feel. Don’t miss a trip to Lapopu Waterfall, the highest waterfall in the province and home to Sumba hornbills and almost 60 species of butterflies. Or you can visit Waigali, the first village built by the first inhabitants of Sumba.
To learn more about Sumba or find other hidden gems in Indonesia, visit Lightfoot Travel at lightfoottravel.com.
Planning a trip to Indonesia? Here’s everything you need to know!
Population: 279 million
Religion: Predominantly Muslim, but Hinduism is dominant in Bali
Emergency number: 112 (standard GSM number)
- Indonesia is made up of 17,508 islands, with only about 6,000 of these inhabited by people.
- Indonesia is one of the largest producers of nutmeg in the world.
- Krakatoa’s 1883 eruption may have been the most destructive in modern history, but the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa was the largest.
- Indonesia is home to the Komodo Dragon, the largest living species of lizard, growing to a length of three metres.
- There are over 700 indigenous languages in Indonesia.
- The word “java” has become slang for coffee, on account of the coffee beans grown on the island of the same name.
Eid al-Fitr (referred to as Lebaran or Idul Fitri in Indonesia) is the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer. Celebrations include breakfast, brunch or lunch dishes of rendang (spicy beef), ketupat (rice dumpling), opor ayam (chicken and coconut) and more, along with snacks of peanuts, biscuits, kue and other sweets. Dates vary each year.
Hot spots and itinerary ideas
Popular destinations include Bali, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Lombok, Aceh and Bintan. The eight World Heritage Sites include the Borobudur temple, Komodo National Park and Sumatra’s rainforests.
- Java: Jakarta – Yogyakarta – Borobudur – Bromo
- Bali: Seminyak – Ubud – Lovina – Sanur – Nusa Dua – Uluwatu
- Sumatra: Medan – Lake Toba – Berastagi – Bukit Lawang
Staying safe and healthy
Malaria and dengue fever exist in many parts of the country, therefore use adequate protection and keep antimalarial medicine on you. You should also avoid swimming in freshwater streams and lakes as disease-causing organisms can be present. On a different note, unlabelled bottles of the locally distilled rice spirit called arak can have dangerous additives that are used in the production process. Finally, check the most recent COVID guidelines for any updates to restrictions.
While you’re there, please don’t…
- Climb over monuments or places of worship; it’s highly disrespectful.
- Talk with your hand on your hip, it’s considered impolite.
Before you go, read …
- This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer – a love story that takes place at the end of the Dutch colonial period
- Flight 714 by Hergé – Snowy and Tintin’s 22nd adventure sees them snarled up in a kidnap plot taking place in Indonesia. Read it to your children, or yourself!
Before you go, watch …
- Laskar Pelangi (“The Rainbow Troops”) – tells the story of 10 school children and their two teachers on a Sumatran tin mining island
- The Year of Living Dangerously – a rookie Australian journalist (Mel Gibson) gets caught up in the Indonesian civil war in 1965.
They said it
“The firm tree does not fear the storm.” – Indonesian proverb
“Because Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, hundreds of languages and people from scores of regions and ethnic groups, my time here helped me appreciate the humanity of all people.” – Barack Obama
“Long live my land, long live my state; My nation, my people, entirely; Let us build its soul, let us build its body; for the Great Indonesia” – First stanza of Indonesia’s national anthem
Do I need a visa?
There have been changes to Indonesia’s visa policy in the past few years. Currently, the passport holders of 170 jurisdictions do not need a visa to enter Indonesia: these include Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, the US, India and the UK. However, nationals of 69 other countries can apply for a visa on arrival (30 days, US$35).
How long will it take me to get there?
2 hours (Jakarta) or 2.5 hours (Bali) flying time from Singapore. Indonesia is between 7 and 9 hours ahead of GMT.
What’s the money situation?
The official currency of Indonesia is the Indonesia rupiah (Rp). Shops widely accept MasterCard and also Visa, and you won’t have trouble finding ATMs throughout the country.
When’s the best time to visit?
While the weather is warm year-round, rainfall is very common from November to March. May to September is generally considered the driest time, but parts in the north receive rain throughout the year.
What’s the lingo?
The official language is Bahasa Indonesia, but English is also widely spoken. Here are some phrases to get you started:
- Hello/Good morning: Hello/Selamat pagi
- What is your name? Apa nama anda?
- My name is __: Nama saya __
- How much? Berapa banyak
- Thank you: Terima kasih
- Yes: Ya
- No, thank you: Tidak terima kasih
Last but not least
Is there anything I should know about meeting the locals?
Indonesians typically shake hands when greeting each other. Only shake an Indonesian woman’s hand if she initiates the handshake.
What’s a must-try dish?
Gado gado – a salad of boiled vegetables served with a peanut sauce dressing; also, on the Hindu island of Bali you mustn’t miss babi guling, or roast suckling pig.
What should I buy as a souvenir?
Puppets! Looks for shadow puppets (wayang kulit) and also wooden doll puppets (wayang golek).
Like this? Read more stories on Indonesia in our Travel section.