• Indonesia Island Hopping

TSR Wiki > Life > Gap Years and Travel > Your Adventures Indonesia Island Hopping

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Indonesia is a tropical country consisting of 17,500 islands. Blessed with sunshine all year long, gorgeous landscape from pristine beaches to lush rainforest and friendly locals, you are guaranteed to have the trip of your life and bound to fall in love with the country. Don't be fooled into thinking Indonesia is 'just another island getaway'. Because the scale of experiences you'll have in this magical country are truly epic. Miles of empty beaches, steamy verdant rainforests, volcano studded valleys, culture rich cities, ancient temples - and that's just the places they tell you aboutith such a wide choice you'll never be out of things to do or places to explore!

Visit Indonesia's Official Tourism Site for more things to see or do. There are millions of things to do in Indonesia, and even an Indonesian like me have too many options to choose from. What are you waiting for? Fall in love with Indonesia now!

Where I Went

I've lived in Indonesia for 17 years! I was born there before I moved to England. I still go to Indonesia to see my family, and I'll visit Indonesia this summer. Here are some of the best islands in Indonesia that I've been to. I've given star ratings for adventure, relaxation and culture aspects you'd expect to find in these Indonesian islands (5 for the best).


Adventure ***

Relaxation *****

Culture *****

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Balinese nightlife in Kuta district.
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Balinese women in the temple.

You'll find gorgeous beaches and enjoy Balinese marine life, but you'll also be treated by Bali's nightlife. Cheap beer, summer air and friendly locals attract more younger travellers than other parts of Indonesia. Visiting Bali is like having a bundle of things in one go, so it suits short visits, but its charm will keep you from leaving at the same time. I went to Bali last September, it was a low season so it's so good to enjoy Bali with less tourist and things weren't as pricey as in July-August.

Balinese nightlife in Kuta and Legian district is very famous. Legian street is lined up with clubs packed with travellers and fire dancers. Legian district's clubs still engage foreigners despite the Bali bombings in 2002 that destroyed 2 clubs there, and you can see the Bali Bombing Memorial in Legian. If you are going on a night out in Bali, try some 'magic mushroom' for a 'heightened sense', it's totally legal!

If you're more to appreciating the local culture, Bali offers a mix of mysticism and culture here, and you'll often see Balinese women taking their offerings to the temple in traditional clothing with offerings stacked on their head. You'll find it hard to keep your camera in your bag as Balinese people loves vibrant colours, which will look gorgeous in your camera. Balinese countryside are also well known for its gorgeous rice terraces.

You can also enjoy the marine life here if you have diving licenses, if you haven't got one you can obtain one by joining of of many PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) licensed diving courses here. Enjoy manta rays and sun fish in Menjangan Island or sea turtles and sharks around Nusa Penida in South Bali. Or if you want a hassle free dive without licenses, you can snorkel around South Bali. You can also do water activities here from surfing, rafting, fishing, kayaking to more casual banana boat or jet ski rides.


Adventure ***

Relaxation *****

Culture **

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Tanjung Aan beach in South Lombok.

If you want to see quiet and pristine beaches, go to Lombok. Lombok consists of the main island and 3 small islands called 'gili' on the North West of the main island called Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno. You can get around the islands by using boats, but the boats often stop operating by 5 PM in the afternoon. Gili Trawangan is the biggest gili and offers the best nightlife and is the busiest among the 3 gills. One thing to note is that there are no motor powered vehicles in the gilis, the only way to travel in the gili is by using horse drawn carriages or bike, but the gilis are very small and you can get around by foot.

You can have parties in the gills or simply enjoy the sea life by diving or snorkelling. Be spoilt with the beauty of the beaches, and you'll feel like having a private beach in low times, as Lombok is far less crowded than Bali. Lombok is actually crowned the 'New Bali' by travellers for its similarities with Bali (gorgeous beaches and rising night life).


Adventure **

Relaxation ***

Culture ****

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Sumatran cuisine.

This island offers you with its vast range of flora and fauna as well as exotic food to treat your taste buds. You can go to safaris to see elephants in the wilds and tigers (in Lampung, South Sumatra), orang-utans in Aceh (in North Sumatra) and Rafflesia arnoldii, the biggest flower in the world (in Bengkulu, East Sumatra). If you want to treat your taste buds, the whole island will offer you with an endless choice, from the bitter Aceh coffee (Aceh, North Sumatra), sweet bika ambon Meranti (cake in Medan, North Sumatra), spicy rendang (slow cooked beef in Lampung, East Sumatra) to oily calorie-filled celimpungan (fish cake with spicy coconut milk in Palembang, East Sumatra). Be sure to go to Padang food restaurant to taste the whole island in one table. I am from Sumatra, and I've spent most of my summer here. Trust me, the food's good!


Adventure *

Relaxation ****

Culture *****

The Island of java is Indonesia's main island. It is the most populated island in Indonesia. Java is mainly divided into 3 regions, the West, Central and the East. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia is in the western part of the island.

Central Java

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Yogyakarta's city centre

I grew up in Central Java and Java is well known for its friendly locals and rich mystical culture tracing back to the ancient kingdoms. Go to Yogyakarta to see the palace (with a royal family still living there), eat in the angkringan (a kind of street food vendor available in the evening) or explore Beringharjo market for its antiques. Yogyakarta is still retaining its charm from its past as a kingdom with dutch colonialisation reflected in the architecture and town planning. Apart from its charm, the locals are the friendliest of all and you'll find yourself a part of the locals.

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Borobudur temple.

You can also see Borobudur temple, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world and one of the world's 7 wonders in Magelang, a town just outside Yogyakarta. Visit Borobudur Temple during the sunrise or sunset for a breathtaking view.

West Java

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Green Canyon in West Java.

You may fancy swimming in the turquoise water of Green Canyon's in Pangandaran, West Java. The canyon is shaped by nature with gorgeous stone walls and clear turquoise water inviting you to dip in. Visit Green Canyon during dry season between April and October when the water is clear emerald colour and the water level is not too high. Visiting Green Canyon during the rainy season between September and March is not a good idea, the water will not be clear and the heavy tide will make it unsafe.

East Java East Java has the longest bridge in Indonesia connecting Java with Madura island. Madura is famous for its bull racing and 'sate' Madura (barbecued beef in skewers). However, Madura is very warm and dry and it can become quite uncomfortable to travel there during the summer.


Adventure *****

Relaxation *

Culture ****

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Dayak traditional bird dance.

This island offers you with an endless adventure. Nearly half of the island is covered in rainforest with native tribes living in it. Have your Indiana Jones adenture in this island exploring the rainforest, meeting people from the tribes or playing with orang-utans in the wild. Dayak Tribe of Borneo is the most famous tribe in Borneo known for their bead crafts, bird dance, elongated earlobes and the famous Dayak tribal tattoo. You can experience getting a traditional Dayak tattoo here using traditional tools if you're brave enough. Make sure to buy jewellery made from Kalimantan precious stones and gems or Dayak's bead craft to remind you of the island's beauty and adventures.

New Guinea

Adventure *****

Relaxation ***

Culture **

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Raja Ampat's view from airplane.

This island has thousands of tiny islands around it with gorgeous marine life. The most famous diving site here is probably Raja Ampat. Located off the northwest tip of Bird's Head Peninsula on the island of New Guinea, in Indonesia's West Papua province, Raja Ampat is an archipelago with over 1,500 small islands surrounding the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta, and Waigeo, and the smaller island of Kofiau. Explore one of the most bio-diverse marine habitats on the planet in Raja Ampat with its 1,508 fish species, 537 coral species (75% of all species that exist in the world!), and 699 mollusk species.

If you love climbing and mountaineering, make sure you climb Puncak Jaya (or Carstensz Pyramid). It is one of the world's famous 7 summits. Puncak Jaya has an 'eternal snow' spot and it is the only place in the world with snow in tropical area.


Adventure ****

Relaxation ****

Culture **

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Komode dragons in Komodo Island.

Live among the tribes for a week or two in the Luba and Bena villages in its traditional houses. Bena is also noted for its Stone Age megaliths. Or visit Komodo island to see the komodo dragons in its natural habitat. Komodo island is the only natural habitat for Komodo dragons, dinosaur's closest living relative. Flores might just be a tiny island compared to the other islands, but its rough beauty is starting to attract tourists from around the world.

Kelimutu is the most famous tourist attraction in Flores. It is a volcano with three coloured lakes located in the district of Ende. These coluored crater lakes change colours depending on the oxidation state of the lake ranging from bright red to green and blue. While Labuan Bajo on West Flores attracts scuba divers, as whale sharks inhabit the waters around Labuanbajo. There are snorkelling and diving locations along the North coast of Flores, most notably Maumere and Riung.

What Was Great?

To me, Indonesia is great! I've lived in Indonesia for 19 years and I still fall in love with the country again and again. What's great about Indonesia?

Indonesian's Slow Pace You will never be out of things to see or do, and when you're too tired to explore you can always slow down by taking the Indonesian's slow pace (literally, Indonesians are carefree people who tend to do things slowly and chill out a lot). Indonesian loves good company (smile, talk, and make friends!) and good company. You'll also meet travellers from around the world here, and you're bound to have the friendship of a lifetime with these fellow travellers. Trust me, you'll love being around Indonesians!

Low Cost of Living It is very cheap to get things here. The living cost is very affordable for students, from accommodation, transportation costs, to food. You can get a nice meal in a restaurant for as low as £2.

The Weather Indonesian weather wouldn't change so drastically, it is mainly sunny and if it is going to rain, it will at least give you enough time to grab an umbrella. Indonesia has a year-long summer and its warm weather makes you feel summery and the sunshine makes you feel happier. The weather is bound to keep that smile on your face.

Travel Letdowns

Indonesia is gorgeous, but it may not perfect. Here are some of the letdowns of Indonesia.

Public Transportation To be honest, Indonesian public transportation isn't the best if not terrible compared to British public transportation. There are often delays in air travels and 2 hours delay for trains are unfortunately very common. It's very cheap though, but it could mess your travel plan and itineraries you've set up weeks before.

The High Season Try to avoid Bali in July where all the school kids and foreigners flood Bali, and then you'll lose the intimacy sense of the locals or you simply don't 'mix' with the Indonesian's friendly atmosphere as you'll be more likely to be treated as a tourist rather than a traveler. Visit Lombok instead for less crowded 'Bali' experience. Other part of Indonesia will not be as crowded as Bali at these times.

Tourist Fare Some locals (mostly in touristic spots like Bali) will often charge tourists higher price for things like transportation cost, attraction entries, or souvenir prices. Try to act like you know the place and say that you can find a better deal in other places, don't just take prices offered to you. Try to bargain, prices will likely to go down. I am lucky enough to look like the locals, but once they heard my accent (I have a mix of English accent to my Indonesian) they often put the 'tourist fare' for me.

Travelling Around

There are flights from London to Jakarta (Indonesia's capital), then you can use domestic flights to travel to other parts of Indonesia. Air transport is probably the safest and quickest way to travel in Indonesia. Use buses and trains to travel to different cities and simply use the public transportation like city buses, mini buses or local traditional transportations (such as pedicab or ox drawn carriages) for short travels. Ojek is a popular way to travel short distance, it is basically a motorcycle 'taxi' and it is a very cheap alternative to travel around. Try to avoid taxis without meter or agree on the price in the beginning, go into taxis with meters otherwise.

To cross the islands it may be safer safer to use airplane, but if you are tight on budget try boats, ships or buses. Or you can rent car or motorcycles to get that authentic 'on-the-road' feel. Indonesian vehicle rentals usually take most driving licenses. However your preference, just enjoy the journey!

When to Go?

As I've said in the beginning. Indonesia is blessed with a year-long summer, but the best time to visit Indonesia is during dry season between April and October when humidity is relatively less and the weather is pleasant at this time of the year. Though travel in the wet season is possible in most parts of Indonesia, it can be a deterrent to some activities like mountain climbing.

Indonesia’s ‘high season’ is actually not that bad. The December–January Christmas holiday period and the school holidays still brings a wave of migratory Australians, and Europeans head to Bali, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi in July and August.

The main Indonesian holiday periods are the end of Ramadan, when domestic tourists fill resorts and prices escalate (not that bad, though!); Christmas; and mid-June to mid-July, when graduating high-school students take off by the busload to various tourist attractions, mainly in Java and Bali.

Travel Costs

The costs will depend on your travel style, will you go rough or travel like a king. Take it surviving bare bones in Bali for a week you'll get away with £50-£100, to live comfortably £100-£200, but with more than that you'll probably live like a king. This includes accommodation, food and transportation. Your biggest spending will be on the flight (return flight is usually around £500-£1000) but that's all, when you set your feet on Indonesia's ground it's totally your choice in how you'll spend your money.

5 star hotels are available in big cities (£££) while 3 star hotels are more common on bigger islands like Kalimantan and Sumatra, and touristic spots like Bali or Lombok (££). On tinier islands expect to stay in family run hostels or guest houses (ranging from £-££), in this case you can have a bargain price. Just be polite, throw huge smile, be patient, and haggle for a good price. The facilities in the hostels might not be gold, but suits budget travellers and the price.

If you want to, you can spend £1 for food for a day, to £20 a day if you want to eat like a king. How much to be exact? I'm not sure as it depends on your travel style, but it could be very cheap on low season, and still cheap even in high season. Foods are especially cheap in Indonesia (£), even in cafes and bistros they're still okay (££). Just remember that Indonesian loves good food and you'll bound to treat your taste buds in rich Indonesian cuisine for less!

£1= Rp. 15.000

What will you get with Rp. 15.000? A good meal, a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of beer or a cup of coffee in a nice cafe.

Travel Tips

  • Visa As a UK citizen, you can obtain 'Visa On Arrival' for US$ 25 (for a stay no longer than 30 days and another US$25 for 30 days extension) in Indonesian airports.
  • Clothing It's a tropical country, it is hot and humid. Wear loose clothes, but be modest in other islands than Bali or Lombok. It means hanging around with bikini and short shorts in Bali/Lombok is okay, but not in Sumatra or Java.
  • Be Safe Indonesian largest notes are Rp. 100.000 (around £7) Rp. 50.000 (around £3), don't just show people you have them in your pocket! You'll be more likely to be charged higher price or attract pickpockets.
  • Smile Indonesians are friendly, you'll make friends really easily if you smile and try to start a conversation.
  • Expect Attention You are exotic to Indonesian's eyes as you look different from Indonesians. People will stare at you and tell you how beautiful you are. You'll either be happy for the attention or feel uncomfortable.
  • Bargain and Haggle If you go to traditional markets, try haggling to save money. Start going down to half of the price given to you and haggle with a huge smile for higher success rate. Try making the seller like you by being friendly, but be careful not to fall for the 'tourist fare'.
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