Indonesia Travelling Tips

Indonesia is as wide as the United States, with over 18,000 islands, many different cultures and faiths mingle, making travelling Indonesia a very diverse experience. With a history of being dominated by the Portuguese, Dutch and then briefly by the Japanese in World War II, it’s amazing how these happy people can embrace others so easily.

Western culture has only really touched the cities, making for great adventures, but also some difficulties for western travellers.

Indonesia Travelling Tips – Water
Gili Island FoodWater
is generally not safe to drink in Indonesia. Bottled water is everywhere, but is cheapest in large supermarkets and gas stations, from 2,700 Indonesian Rupiah. You can bargain with vendors if the price is not labelled.

I took a filter system and reused the bottles, getting water from the bathrooms or using boiled water when able.

Ask at your accommodation how much a local pays, or ask a local, otherwise you’ll be paying a lot more. I have had a filling lunch for 4,000 Rupiah at a food stall.

Indonesia Travelling Tips – Fruit and vegetables
Be aware that there have been recent tourist deaths from poorly washed salad on an airline. There is a snail that eats a toxic plant and then excretes the toxin in its trail of slime as it moves across produce. If not washed off or cooked, a small amount is deadly. Only eat what can be peeled, washed well or cooked. We still ate the inside of tomatoes and cucumber, leaving the skin.

Although we never had food poisoning, we often had a grumbly tummy. ‘Bali Belly’ is common as food hygiene is far below western standards. Try to eat where there is good reviews, lots of people and locals, or where it seems fairly clean. I also stayed away from meat often to avoid poisoning and after seeing how cattle and chickens were kept.

Indonesia Travelling Tips – Hygiene
Traditionally Indonesians use water to clean themselves after going toilet. Outside of the cities, toilet paper is not often available, so remember to keep some sheets handy.

Pick some up at a supermarket and keep it with you, as well as some soap and hand sanitiser.

Sub-standard plumbing in Indonesia means toilet paper is mostly unable to be flushed. If there is a bin in the toilet, it is likely you should put used paper in there, ask if no sign.

Shampoo, conditioner and laundry powder/liquid are sold in single use packets almost everywhere, so you only need to bring a travel pack.

Bali Food Offerings
Rats get a free meal with the Bali food offerings

Buy there

  • Toilet paper
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitiser

Things to expect:

  • They don’t say goodbye on phones, just hang up. This isn’t considered rude
  • Plastic wrap is often left on beds and sofas after being purchased, to stop bed bugs
  • Often no toilet paper or soap – have your own at hand
  • Indonesians generally don’t eat together, they grab food from a large amount made in the morning whenever they are hungry. This means often (not so much in Bali), ordered food can come out up to 45 minutes later than others at your table. More touristy areas are better and often very quick
  • Almost every island has different religions and cultures. Expect loud temples calling prayers day and evenings in some areas, food offerings outside shops and homes in others (be careful not to burn your ankle on incense sticks) and different dress requirements
  • Public transport often waits until it has ‘enough’ passengers before leaving, so you wait until the bus fills up than leave on time
  • If asked a question, they feel obliged to answer, even if they don’t know. If they don’t answer straight away, they probably don’t know and try someone else
  • Most money changers only give out Indonesian Rupiah
  • Some ATMs don’t accept the smaller chipped cards, we only found this in Labuan Bajo. Take a few different cards in-case