A country with over 17,000 islands, 8,000 of which are inhabited, Indonesia is like 100 countries in one, and is an absolute joy to explore.
But, being unlike any other country on earth does mean that there are a few country specific things to know before you depart.
Things to Think About Before Visiting Indonesia
Will You Venture Outside of Bali?
With thousands of temples, amazing surfing, and vibrant food scene, Bali truly is the holiday dream. But there are plenty of other destinations in Indonesia that are just as special and, let’s face it, a lot less crowded.
We’re not saying you should skip Bali but if you have time to add extra destinations, by all means, do.
Alternative destinations in Indonesia include hiking Mt.Bromo, diving in Raja Ampat, spotting orangutans in Sumatra, or snorkeling in Bunaken Island. For something closer to Bali, head to the nearby Lombok island that offers both amazing surfing and hiking.
Secure Your Internet Access
Not all travelers know that the internet in Indonesia is censored by the government. And this is something you should prepare for in advance, because you may find it’s too late once you get there.
Blocked sites include mainly pornographic and gambling content but there have been instances of the government extending the ban. Several streaming websites and messaging boards, including Vimeo, Reddit, and Tumblr, were blocked until this year.
In May 2019, the government also temporarily disabled WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram following riots in Jakarta. If you need to stay connected during your trip, we recommend you download a VPN app on your phone beforehand.
Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN hides your IP address by connecting you to the Internet through a server in a different country. That way you can bypass government Internet censorship.
Tick Surfing off Your Bucketlist?
If you’ve never tried surfing before, Indonesia is the perfect place to do it. The most popular surfs are in Bali, but you’ll find fantastic surfing conditions all over the country.
The Mentawai Islands have some of the most consistent breaks in the world, while Lombok and Sumbawa offer great conditions for all levels.
Serious surfers will almost certainly have the Moluccas on their bucket list. These islands located between West Papua and Sulawesi have long been known for their perfect beaches and reliable winds, offering swells to die for.
The surf culture in places like Canggu or Kuta dictates the way of life. Surfing isn’t just about that hour or two you spend on the water – it’s how you dress, where you eat, and how you face challenges.
To experience that in a surfing mecca like Bali or Lombok is a truly unique thing to tick off your bucket list!
Will You Rent a Scooter?
Nothing beats the freedom that renting your own scooter gives you. Even in Bali, a scooter lets you escape the crowds and find an empty beach all to yourself.
Scooters rule the roads in Indonesia though driving in the hectic traffic might be a bit terrifying, and could be dangerous if you’re not skilled. Accidents are common on scooters here, so this is something you should think about carefully, in advance.
Because tourists commonly come off scooters, in Bali in particular, you should first check that your travel insurance will cover you if you plan to rent one. Many exclude this from their policy.
And we recommend putting time into learning how to drive a scooter in advance, before you arrive. This is because Indonesian traffic conditions are challenging for even experienced riders, and a false sense of confidence is what causes most accidents here.
There are two things you need if you decide to drive in Indonesia. Firstly, you need an international driver’s license alongside your driver’s license from home to legally drive.
You should be able to get an international driver’s license easily in your home country. If you forget, however, you can still get a temporary Balinese driver’s license (or tourist driver’s license), for example in the police station in Denpasar, Bali.
Secondly, remember that in Indonesia you drive on the left side. If this is something you’re not used to, start slowly and pay extra attention to the traffic.
If you do get into an accident, you should know that the foreigner (you) is always at fault. Always.
Indonesia Specific Essentials?
You might have your packing / essentials down to an art for general travel, but Indonesia requires a few other unique essentials.
If you’re going to travel outside of Bali, you’ll likely encounter many squat toilets and most of them with no toilet paper to be found. Always carry tissues with you and add a small bar of soap for good measure.
Another great item to bring on your trip is a shawl or a sarong. In Bali, you’ll need to wrap a sarong around your hips to visit any of the temples.
If you’re a woman, a sarong or a shawl will also be handy when visiting places of worship in the Muslim parts of the country, although this time covering your shoulders and hair.
A shawl is also a life-saver if you find yourself directly in the scorching Indonesian sun and don’t want your shoulders sunburnt. In short, bringing a shawl is never a bad idea.
Even if You’re Partying, Say NO to Drugs
Many travelers head to Bali to party, but you should be aware in advance that Indonesia has a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs and treats the matter extremely seriously.
Nightclubs and private parties in Bali and Jakarta have been raided by the police searching for drugs before. The execution (yes, execution) of eight foreign drug convicts in 2015 should serve as a stark warning for every traveler.
Indonesia is a spectacular country, but don’t under any circumstances do drugs.
And besides, the country is so special that we guarentee you’ll want to spend every waking minute sober!