Dos and Don'ts in Indonesia
During my four years of studying in the UK, I’d frequently ask people to guess where they thought I was from. And 9 times out of 10, they’d get it wrong—people would always mention Southeast Asian countries that were seemingly more well-known, such as Thailand,
Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines. But people would rarely mention Indonesia, which surprises me sometimes, because Indonesia is the 4 th most populated country in the
world but it’s not as well known to people in Western countries! Indonesia is a large country that consists of more than 17,000 islands—it’s the largest archipelago in the world—and an extremely rich and diverse culture. Most people in the West know of Bali as a popular tourist destination, but a lot of people also don’t know that Bali is a part of Indonesia. I find that quite a pity because Indonesia is such an amazing country with breath taking natural landscapes, diverse languages and ethnicities, delicious food and great experiences. Indonesia is a great place for travellers, and I am going to write about some travel tips you can take if you want to visit the country, from an Indonesian herself.
Don’t just visit Bali
As I’ve mentioned before, most Western tourists only know of Bali when it comes to
Indonesia, but Indonesia is so much more than just Bali. I can somewhat understand why;
I’ve been to the island a couple of times myself and it really is a beautiful place, I never get
bored of it. Bali’s got a lot of places to visit; it has pretty sandy beaches, tranquil Hindu
temples, the Monkey Forest, the rice fields of Ubud, and great cafes in Canggu. However, I
think people are missing out on the rest of the country, because there’s so much more to
explore in Indonesia.
Indonesia is a large country, and there are so many sights to see and things to experience.
Near Bali, there is a lesser known island named Lombok, which is also surrounded by the
smaller Gili Islands. Lombok does not shy in comparison to Bali; it’s populated with white
sand beaches and has great hotels and resorts, with Mount Rinjani towering over the region.
For those who are into diving, a visit to Raja Ampat is a must—located near West Papua, it
has one of the most unbelievably beautiful natural landscapes, with crystal clear waters,
barely-touched islands and colourful coral reefs. Diving in Raja Ampat is one of the best in
the entire world, and you need to visit if you get the chance.
There’s also certain things that are only unique to Indonesia that most Western tourists
might now know about. One of them is Komodo Island, where you can find Komodo National Park. This national park is home to the Komodo Dragon, the largest lizard and reptile in the world. The park also contains various other flora and fauna that roam free in the area. This is something that you can’t see anywhere else in the world, so definitely put Komodo Island on your list if you’re looking to travel to Indonesia. Also, don’t forget to visit the capital city Jakarta; it’s a huge metropolitan city with countless great restaurants and cafes, vast shopping malls and great places for nights out.
Do get around on a motorbike
Sure, taxis are available in most major cities, but you need to try getting around town in a
motorbike! It takes a lot less time to get to where you need to be, and you get to see what’s
around you so much more compared to if you’re inside a car. In touristy places like Bali,
there are places where you could rent a motorbike and get around on your own, but make
sure to be extra careful and practice safety precautions while riding a motorbike because
trust me when I say Indonesian roads are scary and quite unforgiving!
If you’re in a major Indonesian city and you want to get around on a motorbike like the locals
do, download an app called Gojek (not sponsored, I promise). It’s an app that allows you to
hail a ride either with motorbikes or cars, and it also does a lot of other things, like order
food, send packages, and even shop your groceries for you! Kind of like Uber, but better,
and faster. I use this app all the time and I imagine it would be really helpful for tourists too.
Do be adventurous in trying new food
It would honestly be a crime not to try Indonesian food if you visited! There is such an
incredible variety of traditional Indonesian food, as each province/region has a different kind
of cuisine. As a whole, Indonesian food is very flavourful and often times quite spicy, as it
uses a lot of different herbs and spices, so those who have a weak stomach or aren’t very
good at handling spicy food should be careful. The Indonesian level of spicy is a whole
different league—I don’t like spice myself and whenever I ask restaurants to make my food
not spicy, somehow they still taste spicy to me!
It would take ages for me to go through all of the cuisines from the different regions of
Indonesia, but there are several ‘general’ Indonesian foods you need to try. First, you should
try nasi goreng, which is Indonesian style fried rice. It’s sweet and savoury at the same time,
different than fried rice from other Asian countries—you’ll find this in most, if not all standard
Indonesian restaurants. Another one is sate ayam, or chicken satay, which is served with
peanut sauce and a little bit of chilli on the side. The peanut sauce really makes the satay,
which you often eat with lontong, or rice that’s been shaped into a cylinder and sliced.
A dish that many Indonesians love that you should try is rendang, which is slow-cooked beef
in coconut milk and spices. As the beef has been cooked for a long time, it gives it a tender
and soft texture combined with the intense flavour of coconut milk and spices. It is so
delicious that CNN ranked it first in a list of the world’s 50 best foods (with nasi goreng being
the second one), so if that doesn’t make you want to try it, I don’t know what will! You can
find rendang in a Padang restaurant, that also serves a lot of other Padang delicacies. Fun
fact: Padang restaurants serve all the different food in front of you, and there’s so much that
they often stack the plates on top of each other. You only pay for the food from the plates
that you touch, so you can just leave whatever you don’t want to eat untouched. In
Indonesia, it is also common to eat with your hands, so don’t be afraid to dig in. So if you’re
visiting Indonesia, please do be adventurous with your food choices because we have so
much to offer with our cuisine—and I promise you won’t regret it.
Don’t forget to carry cash
The Indonesian currency is the rupiah, and they go in thousands unlike major Western
currencies. The last travel tip I would give you is to always carry cash in Indonesia—I know
in places like the UK contactless card payments are almost everywhere, but cash is still king
in Indonesia. You’ll definitely be able to pay by card at restaurants, shopping malls and
stores in big cities, but if you’re travelling to places that are further outside big cities, you
should definitely carry cash with you. And even if you are travelling in a major city, you won’t
go wrong with paying with cash—just don’t bring too much around at once to avoid being
pickpocketed and losing all your money at once.
So those are my Indonesia travel tips in case you were thinking of visiting the country—I
hope that you find them helpful, and that your experience travelling in Indonesia is an
amazing and unforgettable!