When people think of Indonesia, they’ll most likely think of Bali, but this wonderful country has so much more to offer! It’s no doubt that Bali is definitely beautiful and worth a visit, but with visits to the other islands you also climb volcanoes, trek through the jungle to see orangutans, visit ancient temples, take island hopping boat trips, and snorkel in crystal clear waters. Have a read of our ultimate guide to help prepare you for a backpacker tour in Indonesia!
1. Pack to suit your itinerary
There’s so much to do in Indonesia, whether you’re looking for adventure or rejuvenation, there’s something for everyone! Although Indonesia has two distinct seasons, wet and dry, the temperature averages out at a consistent 28 degrees all year round. Be sure to pack appropriate clothes to handle the heat, like light, breathable materials and lots of sun cream, as your bound to be spending most of your time outside.
If you’re just travelling to Bali to relax on the beach and explore the local areas, you’ll probably only need to pack beachwear, swimming costumes and clothes to cover up at religious temples and monuments. Flip flops and sandals are a go-to choice of footwear in Bali, but there’s no harm in bringing some comfortable, close-toed walking shoes too.
If you’re planning on exploring more of Indonesia (which we absolutely think you should!), you’re going to need to back a few more variations of clothes. A visit to the island of Java isn’t complete without seeing Mt. Bromo and Mt. Ijen. One of the most popular activities there is camping on the volcanos to catch the sunrise in the morning. Despite being a tropical country, the temperature tends to drop once the sun goes down around the volcanos, so be sure to pack a warm jumper or jacket to keep you warm.
For many, a backpacker tour to Indonesia wouldn’t be complete without trekking through the jungle in search of orangutans! These treks can be quite challenging and even slippery at times, so require comfortable and sturdy shoes.
Local market in downtown Ubud
2. Leave some room in your luggage
Much like the rest of Southeast Asia, you’re guaranteed to come across an abundance of markets on a backpacker tour in Indonesia, selling locals crafts, traditional clothing, as well as more touristy items. It’s a good idea to leave some room in your suitcase or backpack on your way here as you’ll definitely want to buy some souvenirs for your friends and family.
The markets are also a great place to buy clothing appropriate for the climate. Items like sarongs, scarves, loose trousers and hats, are all readily available in Indonesia. So don’t stress yourself out trying to buy all these before your trip, the ones here will probably be much nicer anyway!
Indonesian street food stall
3. Eat what the locals eat
Much like other parts of Southeast Asia, experiencing the local cuisine is one of the highlights of travelling to Indonesia. As a nation made up of thousands of islands, Indonesian cuisine is made us of numerous regional cuisines, like Padang, Javanese and Balinese. Indonesian cuisine has been influenced by many other cultures seen in China, India and the Middle East.
To really get a taste of the local cuisine, we recommend hitting up the abundance of street food stalls and small restaurants on offer everywhere you go. Aside from food stalls on wheels, you’ll also find traditional warungs, which are small, simple restaurants on the sides of the road with plastic chairs outside. Don’t underestimate them though, these types of places are where you’ll find the most delicious, authentic food, and for the very best price!
Here are just a few of the most popular dishes to try during your travels:
• Satay/sate – skewers usually made from chicken, grilled over coals and covered in a spicy peanut sauce. There are over 10 different styles of satay found in Indonesia and the meats can be swapped out for lamb or beef.
• Nasi Goreng – traditional fried rice made with kecap manis (thick soy sauce) served with a fried egg and crispy fish crackers. If you’re lucky, some places serve this with a few skewers of chicken satay or fried chicken!
• Mie Goreng – noodle dish made from thin yellow egg noodles, stir-fried with a variety of vegetables and a meat of your choice (chicken, pork or tofu options are almost always available).
• Rendang – a spicy meat dish made rich with coconut milk. It’s traditionally made with beef but you switch it out to chicken or lamb.
A local warung in Bali
4. Keep toilet paper or tissue in your bag
Most restaurants and cafes in the more touristy parts of Indonesia will have western-styled bathrooms. However, if you’re visiting more rural areas, you may find that the toilets aren’t what you’re used to. Squat toilets are found in many countries across Asia, and despite seeming like a daunting experience, they’re actually a lot more hygienic than regular seated toilets!
It’s a good idea to keep some tissues or toilet paper with you in your day bag, in case any local public toilets aren’t fully stocked. You’ll also be able to stock up on tissues very cheaply from corner shops throughout your trip, so don’t worry about taking a bunch with you.
5. Bring a reusable water bottle
When on a backpacker tour around Indonesia, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time outside in the heat, so you’ll need to stay hydrated. Unfortunately, tap water in Indonesia is not suitable for drinking, so it’s best to stick to filtered or bottled water. Bottle water is incredibly cheap and readily available, however, if you want to help cut down on plastic use, we would recommend bringing a reusable bottle with on your travels.
Many cafes and restaurants, especially those in Bali, have filtered water that you can use to fill up your bottles, either for free or for a very small fee. If you’re sticking around one location for a while, why not buy a 2-litre bottle of water to keep in your accommodation, which you can use to refill your bottle for day-to-day!
Indonesia locals are some of the friendliest in the world!
6. Learn some handy Bahasa phrases
In the more touristy areas of Indonesia, you’ll find that many of the locals have a good understanding of English. However, if you’re travelling into more rural areas this is likely to lessen. Whether you’re visiting touristy areas or rural areas, it’s always a good idea to learn some simple phrases in the local language, which is Bahasa Indonesian. Here are a few helpful words and phrases to get you started!
Good Morning – Selamat Pagi
Yes – La
No – Tidak
Please – Tolong
Thank you – Terimah Kasih
To eat – Makan
Spicy – Pedas
No Spicy – Tidak pedas
Vegetables only (for vegetarians) – Sayur saja
Published 22nd March 2019