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 instead. 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 Indonesia break, it pays to do some research; we’ve done the legwork for you and compiled a mini guide to visas, destinations, money, culture and more. Read on for tips and inspiration!
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.
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