Indonesia Travel Tips
With anything from 13,466 to 18,306 islands, depending who you ask, sprawling over 5,000 kilometres across the equator, Indonesia isn’t the easiest place to navigate as a traveller. Here’s five key travel tips to help your holidays in Indonesia go well.
Don’t Try to Do Too Much
And, whether you’re island-hopping, braving west Java’s toxic traffic, or stuck behind a fallen tree on some slender jungle road, it’s amazing quite how long journeys can take – even if you fly.
Pick a region – or a well-trodden tourist route, such as Bali-Lombok-Flores or Bali-Java – and stick to it.Or try one of these Indonesia itineraries for size.
Pick the Right Time to Visit
Because of the archipelago’s sheer scale, there’s no best time to visit Indonesia: conditions will always be good somewhere, and less good somewhere else. Roughly speaking, the rainy season coincides with the European winter in Java, Bali and Lombok, and with the European summer in Maluku and Raja Ampat. Mainland Papua and Borneo are rainy all year round, while Sumatra and Sulawesi have multiple weather systems. The rainy season presents travel challenges from landslides to litter-strewn beaches and murky seas, not to mention high humidity, grey skies and, ya know, rain, but can also be a beautiful time of year with fewer tourists.
Besides the season, there are wind and sea conditions to consider: while of particular relevance to divers and surfers, big seas can also make some islands hard to reach. The tourist season peaks in July and August, which is the European summer and Australian winter, with a subsidiary peak in December-January, which is European winter and Australian long holiday, and, increasingly, a spike for China’s lunar new year holiday as well as the Easter break. In tourist meccas like Bali and the Gilis, expect price hikes and congestion.
For most visitors to Indonesia, April to June is a sweet spot, but check the climate for the area you’re visiting before you book.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fly
I love overland travel and, for that matter, Pelni ferries as a means of getting around Indonesia. And if you’ve got the time, overland – be that train, bus, bemo or bike – plus boat remains the best way of getting to know the country.
But if you want to cover ground, you’ll need to fly. Airline travel in Indonesia is very affordable and, given the terrain and weather conditions at some airports, safer than you’d think: national carrier Garuda, its low-cost subsidiary Citilink, Indonesia AirAsia, Lion Air and Batik Air meet EU safety standards.
Booking can be harrowing process since many international card companies flag transactions made in Indonesia as fraud and airline websites don’t always work. Online travel agents like tiket.com or nusatrip.com are much more reliable than smaller airline websites.
Do Your Research
Even if you’re lucky enough to be doing longterm travel, Indonesia’s geography and visa regulations does not generally make flying blind rewarding. If you’re going off the beaten track you’ll need to learn some basic Indonesian, and I’d recommend picking up some books about Indonesia as well, including a decent guidebook: besides the print versions, Travelfish members can download niche guides to a range of different areas.
Get Travel Insurance
Accidents in countries with inadequate hospitals can come in really expensive, as I found out. And medical events from dengue to pericarditis can run to thousands of dollars in hospital fees. So don’t travel Indonesia without travel insurance.
Always read the Ts and Cs to ensure you’re covered for what you plan to do, be that diving, surfing or riding a motorbike – I don’t think there’s an insurer on the planet that will cover you unless you’re licensed, sober and wearing a helmet. World Nomads offers great adventure travel cover for Indonesia, but check their motorbike conditions carefully.