"Backpacking Indonesia: Hard Work But Big Rewards" Top 5 Page for this destination Indonesia by jungles

Indonesia Travel Guide: 19,340 reviews and 50,892 photos

Disclaimer

Even though it's been almost three years since Nick and I made our four-month trip through Indonesia, I've decided to build my Indonesia travel pages ahead of more recent trips, simply because there seems to be a lack of information on some of the more remote places we visited. So, hopefully travellers who want to get off the beaten track in Indonesia will find these pages helpful. Please keep in mind, however, that it has been three years and I don't have an Indonesia guidebook with me for reference, so in most cases I won't be able to remember specific hotels, restaurants, bus timetables, etc. Actually the bus timetable question is easy because they don't exist, but more on that later. I also have to apologise because I don't have many photos at the moment. Since my then-brand-new digital camera fell into a river near the beginning of the trip, and Nick was still using a film camera back then, the only photos we have right now are the ones we scanned and uploaded on webshots. I'll try to coax Nick into scanning some more when he goes home to Australia for a visit in August.

Below is a summary of the highlights of Indonesia, followed by the difficulties involved in travelling there. Remember too, that Indonesia is a big country, and since getting somewhere always takes much longer than you think it should (see difficulties below), in four months we did not by any means cover the whole country. We did not visit Sulawesi or any islands east of Timor, so whatever is there (and I hope to find out one day!) will not be included in my highlights.

Highlights

Temples - mainly those at Borobudur and Prambana, but some of the Balinese temples are lovely too.

Orangutans - Don't miss these amazing creatures! You can get up close and personal with them at Bukit Lawang in Sumatra (check on current situation) or Tanjung Puting National Park in Kalimantan. The latter park is incredible and is almost certainly the better option of the two, especially following the flood that devastated Bukit Lawang in November 2003.

Volcanoes and Volcano lakes - Indonesia is full of them. Mt. Rinjani, Mt. Bromo, Kelimutu, and Seven Mountains Lake in Kerinci-Seblat National Park are some of my favourites.

Traditional ceremonies - We happened to catch a cremation ceremony in Bali that was truly amazing. They occur regularly on the island in August.

Traditional villages - Wae Rebo in Flores, the villages around Pero in Sumba, and Tambung Malahoi in Kalimantan are some of the hidden gems we came across.

Difficulties

Transport:

Buses - Roads are very poor, making overland travel very bumpy and time-consuming. Add in the fact that leg room is an unknown concept, and that conductors can and will always make room for one more person, and travel becomes very uncomfortable, especially if you are of above-average height. Also, there is never a schedule for buses; they always leave when full. If your timing is unlucky, you could find yourself riding around town for an hour or more listening to the conductor shout out the name of your destination before you finally have enough passengers to make the trip profitable.

Ferries - These can be comparatively comfortable, but make sure you know what you are getting as there are many different classes, and the same class might vary drastically from one boat to another. On one ferry the cheapest ticket might get you a bed in a dorm-type room with 100 other people, while on the next it might mean nothing more than a shot at some dirty floorspace on the deck.

Trains - These are not common; they really only run in a few places on Java. The economy class trains out of Jakarta are very crowded, hot, and uncomfortable, but again there are many different classes and prices to choose from.

Flights - We only took a flight once, to get to Kalimantan, but you may want to seriously consider this option, even if you are the most buget-minded of budget travellers. Domestic flights are generally very cheap, and they will save you lots of time, allowing you to see more of the country.

Food:

I'm sorry to say that the food in Indonesia is generally pretty awful. There is just no variety at all, and after awhile you get sick of choosing between nasi goreng (fried rice) and mie goreng (fried noodles). Of course in the touristy areas like Bali and Lombok you can find all kinds of great restaurants, but in out of the way places, keep your expectations very low.

Theft:

We were unfortunately robbed three times during our four-month stay, though thankfully none were violent incidents. All three times money was stolen out of locked bags in our hotel room. See how to prevent this in my 'Warnings or Dangers' tip.

Language:

If you get off the tourist trail at all, you will find that Indonesians not involved in the tourist industry speak very little English. Fortunately, Bahasa Indonesia is a very simple language, and it's really worth taking some time to learn at least a few basics. For some helpful phrases see my 'Local Customs' tip.

So, if you want to get off the track in Indonesia, you should be prepared to rough it a little bit, as you'll have to do without things like hot water, air conditioning, or food with flavour. If you're prepared to do this, then the rewards will definitely make it worth your while. Just give yourself plenty of time to explore, and bring lots of patience.


I have also made individual pages on the following places in Indonesia:

Java:
- Pangandaran (Cikembulan)
- Pelabuhan Ratu

Sumatra (North to South):
- Danau Toba
- Bukittinggi
- Sungaipenuh
- Bandar Lampung

Kalimantan (Borneo)

Riau Islands:
- Lingga Island

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful scenery, orangutans, unknown places to be discovered
  • Cons:Buses, food, and theft, as described above
  • In a nutshell:It's not always easy, but it's definitely worth it.
  • Last visit to Indonesia: Sep 2003
  • Intro Updated Apr 29, 2006
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Reviews (42)

Comments (9)

  • vickidewi's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    The fact about Indonesian food is not true! Indonesia has a huge variety of cuisine stretching from Sumatera to Papua. Nasi goreng and mie goreng is just our national food. But each place has its own local cuisine. It's worth trying and experiencing. Try the extreme food in Sulawesi as they eat bat, snake, rat, and many other weird things. Or just simply try the cow brain curry or chicken feet soup. Hmm...it's so yummi!!!

  • Aug 8, 2010 at 9:18 PM

    hm... this rather unusual for me. could you tell me which hotel you're staying?

  • polyprincess's Profile Photo
    Sep 15, 2008 at 10:23 PM

    Food is fine in Idnonesia it just depends on what you are comparing it to and whether you are willing to try things. It is no more dull that pasta or pizza in Italy! (when on a budget)

  • explore_discover's Profile Photo
    Aug 21, 2006 at 3:22 AM

    My Pleasure, Your page desereved that Photo

  • hunwagner's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2006 at 2:54 AM

    Your page made the jump to #10 this week - the Top 5 should not be too far now! :-)

  • nepalgoods's Profile Photo
    Jul 22, 2006 at 9:28 AM

    Great tips! One day I have to visit Indonesia!

  • Glorija's Profile Photo
    May 28, 2006 at 12:07 PM

    Indonesia really is such a marvelous country. It is nice to see people who enjoy travelling there. I loved it. Thanks for lovely wish since I am one year older :) Bye,G

  • Apr 27, 2006 at 9:14 AM

    Wow! Great tips and pictures. I like the waterfall and the buffalo fight. It all sounds very interesting. Thank you. Greetings from Cape Town.

  • BluBluBlu's Profile Photo
    Apr 21, 2006 at 1:20 AM

    Superb informative pages! Blu

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