Indonesia DIY: 12 travel tips for an unforgettable trip


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When people think of Indonesia, they often think of Bali. But this amazing country is actually made up of thousands of islands, each with its own unique character.

A travel to Indonesia DIY is a great way to experience the country in a different way. You can explore the places that interest you most, and you have the freedom to decide what to do each day.
Here is some essential information about this fascinating country and how to organise a DIY Indonesia trip!

DIY trip to Indonesia

We had a great DIY Indonesia trip, visiting a few islands: Java, Bali, Nusa Penida and the Gili Islands (and a quick passage to Lombok).

Each of these islands has its own unique characteristics and distinctive traditions. In this article, we’ll give you some general info about this amazing Asian country, which might be useful if you’re planning a DIY trip to Indonesia.

We’ll answer questions like ‘How do I get around Indonesia?’ or ‘Is Indonesia dangerous?’ or ‘When’s the best time to go to Indonesia?’.

DIY Indonesia: Payments and Indonesian currency

In Indonesia, the Indonesian currency is the rupiah (IDR), and the exchange rate is about 0.00006 € per 1 IDR (as you can see, the Indonesian currency has extremely low purchasing power). To change your money and get rupiahs, the Indonesian currency, you have three options during your Indonesia DIY trip:

  • Exchange offices at the airport or in the city: upon arrival at the airport or in major Indonesian cities, you will find exchange offices that will allow you to exchange foreign currency into Indonesian rupees;
  • Banks: There are several banks in the main cities where you can change your money, but bear in mind that on the smaller islands there are only ATMs;
  • ATMs: ATMs are widely available in Indonesia, especially in the cities, but can also be found on the smaller islands, although not always with money available. You can withdraw Indonesian rupees directly from ATMs using an international debit or credit card.


However, you have to be careful about two things, especially if you are planning a DIY trip to Indonesia and will not have ‘assistance’:

  • Banks may set daily withdrawal limits and maximum amount limits per single withdrawal. These limits can vary from bank to bank and are generally very low (maximum of 2,000,000 rupees, the equivalent of about €180);
  • Because of the withdrawal limits, you may have to make several transactions to obtain the amount you need, e.g. to pay for accommodation or other expenses. After a certain number of consecutive withdrawals it may happen that the ATM will no longer return your card (it happened to us on the third withdrawal), so if you have the possibility, withdraw with different cards to avoid any hiccups during your DIY trip to Indonesia.

Remember that bank fees and exchange rates applied to international transactions may vary between different banks and financial institutions.

Indonesia DIY travel tips: What language should you speak?

The language in Indonesia varies from island to island. In Bali, the main language is Balinese, while in Java, it’s mainly Javanese. English is spoken, especially in tourist areas and shops and banks. In resorts, hotels, restaurants and tourist places on the most visited islands such as Bali, Jakarta and Yogyakarta, staff usually speak English or at least understand the basics.
English in less touristy places: In areas less frequented by tourists, especially in some parts of Java or more remote islands, you may find it difficult to find people who speak English. If you’re in a bind, a translation app on your phone can be a real lifesaver.

Basic expressions: It’s always good to learn a few basic Indonesian phrases, like ‘thank you’ (terima kasih), ‘yes’ (ya), ‘no’ (tidak), and ‘hello’ (halo). These can be useful and appreciated by locals.
Even if you don’t speak the local language and your colleague doesn’t speak English, you can often overcome language barriers with non-verbal communication, such as gestures and smiles. Locals are usually helpful and willing to communicate with foreign visitors.

The visa for a DIY trip to Indonesia

If you have decided to embark on a DIY trip to Indonesia, the basic information you need to know is that for travellers to Indonesia for tourism purposes with a stay of less than thirty days, a visa is required, which can be obtained on arrival by paying a fee of 500,000 Indonesian rupiah. This visa can be extended for a further 30 days at the local immigration office.

However, it is important to meet two requirements:

  • Passport validity: your passport must be valid for at least six months from the expected date of arrival in Indonesia.
  • Return ticket: you must have a confirmed return ticket from Indonesia.

The visa can also be purchased at the airport upon arrival, but you will probably be asked to pay in cash, so we suggest you stop and withdraw at an ATM first!

How to get to and around the islands during your DIY trip to Indonesia

The main airports in Indonesia for international flights are Jakarta on Java and Denpasar on Bali. There are many domestic flights from these airports to other Indonesian islands, including Lombok and Sumatra.
A return flight from Europe to Jakarta costs between around €1,000 and €1,500 and the main airlines you can choose from are Qatar Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines, with a stopover. From America, there are flights with a stopover with airlines such as KLM, American Airlines and Cathay Pacific for around €1,500. If you are coming from Australia or Asian countries, there are direct flights to either Denpasar or Jakarta airports. Domestic flights cost between €60 and €150 and we recommend Garuda Airlines.

Some remote islands without airports can only be reached by sea, such as Nusa Penida or the Gili Islands.

There are three main options for sea travel:

  • Public ferry: This is the cheapest option, but can be slower and less comfortable. Public ferries connect many of the islands in Indonesia and are a common choice for local travellers;
  • Speedboats: Speedboats are a faster option than public ferries, but usually cost more. The Eka Jaya company is well known and considered reliable by Indonesians and tourists. They offer faster and more comfortable services to the most popular islands.
  • Private boats: It is possible to book private boats through local guides or locals. However, if you choose this option, it is important to ensure that the boat is safe and reliable.

Which of these options you choose for your DIY trip to Indonesia will depend on your personal preferences, your budget and where you want to go. For our DIY trip to Indonesia, we opted for a scheduled domestic flight between Java and Bali and between Lombok and Java, and a fast ferry from Bali to the Gili Islands and from the Gili Islands to Lombok.

Viaggio in Indonesia fai da te - Porto di Sanur a Bali in Indonesia

Trip DIY Indonesia: Sanur Port

Tips to travel to Indonesa: getting around the hinterland

On the islands of Indonesia, the most popular means of transport used by travellers include cars and scooters. Here are some tips to travel to Indonesia on the choice of means of transport in different situations on a do-it-yourself trip to Indonesia:

  • Local Driver: Booking a local driver is often an advantageous option, especially if you are looking for a stress-free and comfortable experience. A local driver knows the roads, can advise you on routes and help you avoid traffic and parking problems. This option is particularly useful for travelling between tourist attractions and is generally low cost;
  • Scooters: A common form of transport on many Indonesian islands, scooters are ideal for short journeys, especially in crowded areas or during the evening hours. It is particularly popular in Bali and Nusa Penida, where distances are relatively short and the scooter can be an economical and practical choice;
  • Bicycle: On some islands, bicycles are the only means of transport, such as on the Gili Islands. On other islands where there is a lot of traffic, we advise against hiring a bicycle;
  • Car hire: Road conditions and traffic levels can vary greatly between the different islands of Indonesia. Before deciding to drive, it is important to check road conditions, distances and traffic levels;
    Public transport: Some islands, such as Bali, have a public transport system, although it is not as extensive or organised as in other tourist destinations. Public transport includes buses and minibuses.

Driving and traffic

Driving in Indonesia can be a unique experience, but it is important to be aware of some local considerations and rules. Here are some important Indonesia DIY travel tips:

  • Driving on the left: In Indonesia, you drive on the left, which may be different from driving in many other countries. Before you get behind the wheel, make sure you are comfortable with this driving style;
  • Heavy traffic: In some areas, such as Jakarta and parts of Bali, traffic can be extremely congested and queues can be long. Avoid rush hours if possible and consider travelling in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid heavy traffic.
  • Driving ‘the Indonesian way’: scooters are very common in Indonesia and local drivers have a rather ‘adventurous’ driving style, so it is important to pay close attention to scooters;
  • Road conditions: In major cities and tourist areas, roads are generally in good condition and well maintained. In some rural or less developed areas, roads may be unsealed. On the island of Bali, roads are often narrow, so avoid oversized cars if you can;
  • International Driving Licence: To hire a vehicle in Indonesia you must have an International Driving Licence. Although you may hear of car rental companies that do not require this licence, it is important to have it in case of emergencies or road problems, as it may be required by local authorities or insurance companies;
  • Insurance: Check that you have adequate insurance cover for your vehicle, especially if you are hiring a car. Check insurance details before hiring a vehicle to ensure you are covered in the event of an accident or damage.

In general, driving in the country can be a fascinating experience to explore the islands and enjoy the full experience of a DIY trip to Indonesia, but it is important to be informed and to drive carefully, especially in areas with heavy traffic or less than ideal road conditions.

Viaggio in Indonesia fai da te - In bicicletta tra le risaie i villaggi e i campi di Yogyakarta

Cycling in the villages

Viaggio in Indonesia fai da te - Noleggio scooter per muoversi alla sera a Ubud nell'isola di Bali in Indonesia

By scooter in the center of Ubud

Becak, mezzo locale di trasporto a Yogyakarta in Indonesia

In becak in Yogyakarta

Health situation and vaccinations for a DIY trip to Indonesia

The health situation in Indonesia can vary greatly depending on the regions and islands you visit. Here is some useful tips to travel to Indonesia in the best possible way:

  • Hospitals and medical centres: the main hospitals are located on the larger islands and in popular tourist areas. On the more remote or less developed islands, medical facilities of a certain standard are not guaranteed. However, there are emergency clinics that are open 24 hours a day;
  • Health insurance: it is essential to have adequate health insurance before travelling to Indonesia. This insurance should cover on-site medical expenses, emergency medical evacuation and repatriation if necessary;
  • Vaccinations and prophylaxis: there are currently no mandatory vaccinations for travelling to Indonesia. Before setting off on your DIY trip to Indonesia, consult your doctor or an immunisation centre to check if specific vaccinations or prophylaxis against diseases such as hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria or other tropical diseases are recommended;
  • Health precautions: while travelling, follow the usual rules of hygiene and take precautions to avoid illness, such as drinking water in sealed bottles, avoiding raw or undercooked food, using insect repellents and protecting yourself from the sun;
  • Pharmacies and medicines: in the more developed tourist areas, you will find well-stocked pharmacies. However, we recommend that you carry a small first aid kit with common medicines such as painkillers, anti-diarrhoeics, anti-emetics and dressings.

When is the best time to visit Indonesia?

Indonesia’s climate can vary a lot depending on where you go. Here are some things to know about the climate in Indonesia:

  • Northern islands (Sumatra, Kalimantan, etc.): These regions get a lot of rain all year round. Temperatures stay pretty consistent, with only minor changes between summer and winter.
  • Southern islands (Lombok, Bali, Jakarta, etc.): In the southern islands, temperatures are pretty constant, with only slight changes throughout the year. The rainy season usually falls in the winter months, while the summer months tend to be drier. However, weather conditions can vary from year to year, so the climate in Indonesia may not exactly reflect the average forecast. For instance, there might be heavier rain in unexpected months like July.

As you can see, the climate in Indonesia varies a lot depending on which island you decide to visit. But if you’re planning a DIY Indonesia trip and you’re going to be in the southern islands, you’ll find the weather is pretty similar everywhere.

April is a good time to visit Bali and other islands even though it’s the rainy season because there aren’t many tourists and the rain is short-lived.

In September, the weather in Indonesia is at its most intense rainy season.

In general, we can say that the answer to the question “Indonesia when to go?” is that the period between May and August is the one with the greatest probability of finding excellent weather in Indonesia.


Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country, with the exception of Bali, which is a Hindu island. It’s important to respect the various religions during a DIY trip to Indonesia.

If you’re travelling to islands like Java, it’s a good idea to plan your clothing in a way that is not offensive to Muslim culture. For instance, it’s best to avoid tank tops or super tight shorts in public or places of worship. A short-sleeved T-shirt and a pair of knee-length shorts are perfect.
Similarly, you’ll probably struggle to find alcoholic beverages on Muslim islands.

Viaggio in Indonesia fai da te - Tempio hinduista sull'isola di Bali in Indonesia

Indonesia DIY trip: hindu temple in Bali

The food

Indonesian cuisine is full of delicious flavours and dishes that are worth trying during your DIY Indonesia trip. Here are some typical dishes and tips for exploring the local cuisine:

  • Nasi goreng: fried rice is one of Indonesia’s most iconic dishes. It is prepared with rice stir-fried with various ingredients such as eggs, vegetables, chicken or shrimps;
  • Mie goreng: fried noodles are another popular dish that came to Indonesia from Asian influences. They’re similar to nasi goreng but made with noodles instead of rice.
  • Nasi campur is a dish made with white rice as the base, to which various dishes are added. These may include meat, vegetables, boiled eggs, peanuts and more.
  • Satay are skewers of meat, usually chicken, marinated and grilled. They’re served with a delicious peanut sauce. They’re a delicious and popular snack. You’ll find satay pretty much everywhere, but especially in Java. We even saw people on scooters with grills already lit and ready to go!
  • Rendang is a stew of beef cooked with a mixture of spices, including chilli, until tender and tasty.

If you want to experience authentic Indonesian cuisine, we recommend seeking out the local warung, where you can enjoy traditional dishes at affordable prices.

If, on the other hand, you are in the mood for a more varied cuisine, you won’t struggle to find restaurants of all kinds, including Indonesian ones that, in addition to typical dishes, offer reinterpretations of their recipes and international dishes such as burgers, pizza or grilled meat or fish dishes. Our advice is always to try the traditional dishes in order to fully enjoy the local culture (watch out for the chilli in this location!) and fully experience a DIY trip to Indonesia.

Viaggio in Indonesia fai da te - Cena internazionale in un resort di lusso a Bali in Indonesia

DIY Indonesia trip: Dinner in an international restaurant in Bali

Viaggio in Indonesia fai da te - Cucina tradizionale in Indonesia a base di noodles nel Mie Goreng

DIY Indonesia Trip: Breakfast of Champions with Mie Goreng!

Viaggio in Indonesia fai da te - Cucina locale in Indonesia a base di riso con il Nasi campur

DIY trip to Indonesia: Nasi Campur

The costs of a DIY trip to Indonesia

From what we saw on our DIY Indonesia trip, Java was the cheapest island, while the Gili islands were more ‘expensive’, with Bali falling in between.

Either way, the cost of living in Indonesia is very low, here are some examples:

  • Eating in a warung: €3 to €5 per person;
  • Eating in a mid-range restaurant: 10 to 30 euro per person;
  • Eating in a high-end restaurant: 30 to 60 euro per head (in resorts another story, there are experiences that can go up to more than 100 euro);
  • Cost of a small beer: about 2 euros, but it varies a lot;
  • Cost to enter temples in Bali: about 1 euro;
  • Cost of a taxi for a journey of about 20-30 minutes: 10 to 15 euros;
  • Cost of a small bottle of water: 0.50 to 1 euro.

However, there are some things that cost more than in Europe, such as wine and cigarettes: for example, a bottle of wine costs a minimum of 25-30 euro.

The cost of a DIY trip to Indonesia can vary considerably, especially depending on the facilities where you decide to stay, but you can take an average cost of €3,000 per person for a fortnight as a reference.

Is Indonesia dangerous?

Many people, and especially those planning a DIY trip to Indonesia, ask whether it’s safe to visit. Various sites, including that of the Foreign Office, have lots of information about safety in Indonesia.
Our answer is no, but we haven’t visited all of Indonesia, so we can only speak for Java, Bali, Nusa Penida, Lombok and the Gili Islands.

In general, we’ve always felt safe. We’ve never found ourselves in strange situations or situations that made us feel uneasy.

Obviously, as in all countries, you have to take the usual precautions, like not wearing flashy jewellery, not walking at night in the outskirts of cities or in unpopulated areas and not leaving anything in sight if you have your car.

So, to answer the question ‘Is Indonesia dangerous?’ the answer is no, but just be careful on your DIY trip to Indonesia!

With this article we hope we have given you some useful general information for planning your DIY trip to Indonesia, and if you want to go deeper, we recommend you read the related articles too! Planning a do-it-yourself trip to Indonesia can be a bit complicated, especially if you decide to visit several islands and if you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact us. We wish you a good read and as always… trip to try!

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