Indonesia Travel Guide

Complete source for Indonesia travel blog updates & backpacking tips

Indonesia Travel Guide

Complete source for Indonesia travel blog updates & backpacking tips

Indonesia Travel Guide

Indonesia is raw, uncharted travel at its best. This group of 17,000 islands is largely unexplored by tourists and it has everything you could want in an adventure: volcanoes, waterfalls, jungles, underwater coral reefs, and lots of unique wildlife above and below the sea.

The most famous destination in Indonesia is the island of Bali, with its green rice paddies, luxury resorts, and local cuisine, but there are some other interesting places in Indonesia too. The islands of Komodo, Sumatra, and Sulawesi are great places for seeing exotic wildlife, while less known Sumba has white sand beaches and rolling green hills.

Java, the most populated island, has some incredible volcanic landscapes and ancient Hindu temples like Prambanan and Borobudur. Read through this complete Indonesia travel guide for more info on what to expect!

 

Where Is Indonesia?

First things first — where is Indonesia on the world map?

Indonesia is a country located in Southeast Asia and it’s made up of more than 17,000 islands. The main islands are Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Sulawesi, and the Indonesian part of New Guinea (known as West Papua or Irian Jaya).

Indonesia is surrounded by Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Australia, as you can see (in red) on the map below.

Bali Map Where Is Bali Island Indonesia On The World Map

 

Climate

Indonesia is a tropical country, so the weather is hot and humid year round.

The climate can vary a bit between islands, but generally Indonesia has a rainy season that runs from November to April, and a dry season that runs from April to November. It’s still very possible to visit Indonesia in the rainy season, but give yourself some buffer days in case of bad weather.

The best time to visit Indonesia depends on what you’re looking for. The nicest weather is during the dry season, when it’s generally sunny and windy. This is a great time to hike a mountain (or volcano) and go see wildlife in the jungle.

However, the wet season can be a great time to see waterfalls and bright green crop terraces, and the rain is mostly in the evenings or at night anyway, so it’s usually not too disruptive.

Indonesia Travel Guide Blog Backpacking Tips Rammang Rammang Sulawesi
The spectacular Rammang Rammang karst village in south Sulawesi

 

Is Indonesia Safe?

Indonesia is one of the safest countries in the world, with a very low murder rate of 0.5 per 100k inhabitants (92% lower than the global average), according to the United Nations yearly study.

I’ve traveled in many parts of Indonesia and haven’t really witnessed any crime. Just take normal precautions. Indonesia is a Muslim country, and outside of Bali the culture is very conservative, so it’s important to dress modestly. Terrorism is not a significant issue here and attitudes toward foreigners are generally welcoming.

The biggest safety risks are transportation and natural threats, like animals, mosquitoes, volcanoes, and earthquakes. I’d also stay away from motorbikes here unless you’re an experienced driver in Southeast Asia. However, one of my closest brushes with death in Indonesia was probably a boat trip in Sumatra where we ran into a bad storm.

Mosquito spray and bed nets are always a good idea, especially in the rainy season and outside of the city. Malaria is still a serious problem in West Papua and the Mentawai islands, as well as some parts of Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. You can find a helpful map of the main risk areas for malaria here. The malaria risk areas have shrunk quite a bit now, but there are still some places in Indonesia you may want to take anti-malarial pills.

There are many types of venomous snakes and other dangerous animals in Indonesia, but they’re not common to see in the popular tourist areas, even if you go hiking.

Torajan women in traditional dress
Tanah Toraja traditional dress in Sulawesi

 

Budget

Indonesia is a very budget friendly travel destination, with hostels available from $5 and private hotels from $10. Meals are also cheap, costing about $1 to $5 depending on location.

Transportation in Indonesia is generally by motorbike or car, and these can be rented, but hiring a driver is cheap and often preferable.

I’d recommend downloading the transportation apps Grab and Go-Jek; these are great for getting around in the cities, and you can also order food with them.

 

Indonesian People

Indonesian people are the nicest! I even married one!

The country has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world, and we’ve stayed in homestays all over Indonesia without any worry. The people are really friendly and welcoming.

If you travel outside of Bali, especially in remote parts of Java or Sulawesi, you’ll probably get lots of funny photo requests from the locals excited to see a rare ‘bule’ (foreigner).

For every island and province in Indonesia, there’s a unique culture to go with it. Some of the top cultural destinations in the country are Sumba, Tana Toraja (one of the world’s most unusual cultures), Wae Rebo (a remote mountain village in Flores), and of course Bali.

Bali may be touristy, but it still has a lot of great culture to soak up. The Balinese language, dress, traditions, and architecture are still very intact and haven’t changed too much since Bali became popular with foreigners.

Toraja people and kids
Toraja kids

 

Infrastructure

When you’re traveling in remote parts of Indonesia outside of Bali and the big cities, infrastructure may be limited. Oftentimes that means no WiFi or air-conditioning (fan only), and sometimes it means washing yourself with a simple water scoop instead of a shower. On more remote islands (such as the Banyaks), you may have no electricity at all except by generator in the evening.

Being without these daily luxuries takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it to see some of the best places off the beaten path in Indonesia (and not just Bali). The infrastructure will catch up over time as tourism continues to grow in new areas. For now, enjoy the wilderness experience for what it is!

 

Indonesian Food

Indonesia has a lot of great food, and the dishes are similar to what you’ll find in Malaysia and Singapore.

Some good things to try are Satay Ayam (chicken skewers), Rendang Sapi (spicy beef rendang), Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Martabak (omelette pancake), and for dessert Pisang Goreng (fried bananas).

Don’t expect to find any Western food outside of Bali (except for the occasional Pizza Hut or KFC in big cities), but that’s okay.

 

Things To Do In Indonesia

There are so many amazing things to do in Indonesia, it’s hard to know where to start.

Everyone goes to Bali, which is an amazing island (don’t get me wrong!), but it’s been suffering from overtourism and overdevelopment for years.

If you branch out to the other islands in Indonesia, you can see smoking volcanoes, sulfur lakes, pink sand beaches, tropical rainforests, exotic wildlife, and so much more.

Indonesia is one of those countries where if you’re not exploring the outdoors, you’re doing it wrong.

Don’t waste any time in the cities, just get in nature as soon as possible! Of course you have the islands and beaches, but there are also all kinds of other scenery in Indonesia too.

From Sumatra to Papua, you can find a wide variety of lakes, mountains, caves, rainforests, giant boulders, sand dunes, and more.

Bali is famous for its green rice terraces, but you can also see scenic crop terraces all over Java, Lombok, and many other islands. Check out the Dieng Plateau in central Java, or the steep Majalengka terraces in West Java!

You can explore a sparkling limestone cave at Rammang Rammang in Sulawesi, or swim in a blue pool at the Rangko Cave in Flores.

One of these prehistoric caves in Sulawesi even has the world’s oldest known cave art made by humans, which we found completely fascinating!

Read More: Best Things To Do In Indonesia

Best Things To Do In Indonesia What To Do In The Islands
Lake Toba is the biggest volcanic lake in the world
Best Things To Do In Indonesia What To Do In The Islands
The giant granite boulders of Belitung

 

Volcanoes In Indonesia

Indonesia has 400 volcanoes — more than any other country in the world, and 130 of them are active.

Most of the volcanoes in Indonesia are open to tourists for hiking, and at some of them (like Mount Bromo in Java) you can even walk up to the edge of the smoking crater!

Where you have volcanoes, you also have plenty of volcanic lakes and hot springs!

Some of these hot springs are suitable for swimming, and others make for fantastic photos. The most famous volcanic lake in Indonesia is probably the Kawah Ijen crater in East Java, which is pretty close to Bali.

Two other great spots to check out are Kawah Putih in West Java, and the three lakes of Mount Kelimutu in Flores.

Read More: Best Hikes In Indonesia

Best Things To Do In Indonesia What To Do In The Islands
Mount Bromo in Java
Best Things To Do In Indonesia What To Do In The Islands
The smoking Bromo crater

 

Waterfalls In Indonesia

A lot of the best waterfalls in Indonesia are located in Sumatra and Java, but even the smaller islands like Bali and Lombok have some great ones too.

In fact, pretty much every island in this country has at least a few stunning waterfalls if you do a bit of exploring.

One of the biggest falls in Indonesia is the Ponot Waterfall in North Sumatra, which is a giant 3-step waterfall near the famous Lake Toba, and it has a height of more than 250 meters (820 feet)!

Read More: Best Waterfalls In Indonesia

Best Things To Do In Indonesia What To Do In The Islands
Curug Cimarinjung Waterfall in West Java

 

Wildlife In Indonesia

Indonesia has almost 20 percent of the world’s animal species, so there’s a lot of endemic wildlife to see here that can’t be found anywhere else.

You can watch the world’s biggest lizards on Komodo Island, bug-eyed tarsiers at the Tangkoko Reserve in Sulawesi, wild orangutans at Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, and of course the famous macaques at the Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali.

Indonesia has some of the world’s most important rainforests, and sadly a lot of them are critically endangered because of rampant deforestation. In addition to the animals, which are amazing, you can see giant banyan trees and the world’s biggest flowers.

Indonesia is also part of the Coral Triangle, a tropical ocean wonderland with most of the world’s coral and fish species.

Needless to say, it’s a great place to go diving or snorkeling, and you can see all kinds of rare fish, colorful corals, sea turtles, manta rays, and if you’re lucky you may even get to swim with a whale shark!

We’ve had great success snorkeling in pretty much every part of Indonesia, but our top pick would probably be Belitung island in south Sumatra.

Sumatran Orangutan at Bukit Lawang Indonesia
Orangutan viewing at Bukit Lawang is a highlight of Sumatra

 

Beaches In Indonesia

When people think of nice beaches in Asia, they think Maldives or Thailand, not Indonesia.

Indonesia beaches are fantastic, but they tend to be underrated because a lot of the really good ones are hiding in remote places without easy access. On the bright side, that means you’re more likely to have them to yourself!

With some exploring, what you’ll find are the most amazing white sand beaches, dazzling pink beaches, and black volcanic beaches, along with top quality surf spots, and occasionally some very photogenic cliffs, boulders, and shipwrecks.

Read More: Best Beaches In Indonesia

Best Things To Do In Indonesia What To Do In The Islands
Red Sand Beach at Labengki Island
Best Things To Do In Indonesia What To Do In The Islands
Tanjung Tinggi Beach in Belitung

 

Landmarks In Indonesia

Two of the best landmarks to see in Indonesia are Borobudur Temple, which is the biggest Buddhist temple in the world, and Prambanan Temple, which looks kind of like the Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

They’re both located in Yogyakarta city in central Java, and Borobudur is a popular spot for sunrise.

Most of Indonesia’s photogenic temples are located in Bali. A few iconic Balinese temples you should check out are Uluwatu, Tanah Lot, and Ulun Danu Beratan.

In Java, the temples have been reconstructed from their old ruins (like Angkor Wat), but they’re still pretty fascinating.

For natural landmarks, check out Bali’s famous Kelingking Cliff, or the iconic Padar Island viewpoint in Komodo.

prambanan
Prambanan is one of Indonesia’s best landmarks

 

Best Islands In Indonesia

Indonesia has more than 17,000 islands, so get to hopping! We’ve spent years exploring Indonesia, and still barely scratched the surface.

In Komodo or Raja Ampat, you can even stay on a comfy liveaboard boat and spend several days roaming the seas to your heart’s content.

There are so many hidden gems waiting to be discovered in this wild and wonderful country, and many of the best things to do in Indonesia are off the beaten path.

If you want a hint, start looking in Sulawesi, Maluku, and Sumatra. All of these islands have many, many spectacular scenic places that have never been seen by foreigners yet.

Read More: Best Islands In Indonesia

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