Exchange Rate: USD 1.00 to 13,300 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR)
Just like the Philippines, standards in Indonesia were higher than many other countries we’ve visited so far. All of our hotels were private rooms with ensuite bathroom, clean, comfortable with working amenities (wifi was also pretty good all throughout the country!):
Jakarta (4 nights) – We chose the Red Planet Pasar Baru hotel in Jakarta (USD 20.75 / night). The hotel was really well located in Central Jakarta with food places and night markets nearby. The room was spotless clean and had a comfortable bed. Wifi was great too! We really enjoyed our stay at the Red Planet hotel and didn’t want to leave.
Yogyakarta (4 nights) – We stayed at The Cube Hotel in Yogyakarta (USD 19.60 / night). The hotel was really nice – clean room, comfortable bed and working amenities. It even had a rooftop pool overlooking the city that we enjoyed.
Cemoro Lawang (1 night) – As part of our tour to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen, we were assigned a room for one night at the Nadia Hotel in Cemoro Lawang (the stay was included in our tour price). The hotel was pretty bad – beds were really uncomfortable and we had a few issues with blackouts and the hot shower. The 5 hours we spent here were more than enough.
Sempol (1 night) – Similar to the Nadia Hotel in Cemoro Lawang, we stayed one night at the Catimor Homestay in Sempol village (as part of our tour). The hotel is in bad conditions (as a proof, our room door handle broke when we tried to open it for the first time!). The rooms were dirty and walls extra thin – we could hear voices coming from several different rooms! Again, the 5h we got to stay at the hotel were more than enough to make us want to leave it.
Kuta (8 nights) – Our first two nights in Bali were spent at the Bali Paradise City Hotel in Kuta (USD 20.70 / night). The hotel was fine, except that it was pretty far from everything, including restaurants. For the additional five nights, we stayed at the POP Hotel (USD 22.35 / night, including breakfast), this time much closer to Kuta Beach. The rooms were small, but efficient and clean – perfect for backpackers. We came back to Kuta for one more night at the end of our stay in Indonesia; this time, we got a hotel right next to the Bali airport since our flight was early the next morning. The Manggar Indonesia Hotel (USD 22.74 / night) was a fine overnight stay next to the airport.
Gili Trawangan (3 nights) – We stayed for three nights at the Beach Bungalows (USD 22.50 / night). The hotel was beach front and had decently clean room – definitely one of the best affordable ones I saw in Gili Trawangan. Wifi was a bit slow though.
Sanur (8 nights) – The Sadana Bali Guesthouse (USD 22.50 / night, including breakfast) was a nice choice for our 8-night stay in Sanur. The hotel was well located (only a short walk to many restaurants, bars and the beach) and also had clean and comfortable rooms. We took advantage of the pool and the kitchen as well (it has been a while since we last cooked, so it was nice to try it for a few days!).
Money Saving Tips
- We found that most hotels in Indonesia weren’t that open to bargaining and we almost always ended up paying the rates they had advertised. Cities in Indonesia are also fairly big and not the most pedestrian friendly, so booking in advance is probably better than walking in.
- We were in Indonesia during high season and thus the rates of the hotels were likely higher than usual. Having said that, however, we also lucked out catching the latter part of Ramadan, during which time many hotels offered major discounts on their rates and Ramadan Specials.
Food & Drinks
Indonesian food was diverse, colourful, with strong flavours! We spent an average of USD 7 per person per day trying out some of the most popular dishes. We ate mostly at restaurants, since there tended to be little difference to street food stalls (which were also scarce in some regions).
It took some time to figure out what to order, but we got the hang of at least the classics by the end. Nasi Goreng (fried rice) is a good default, while any sate dish (skewered meat) pretty much always hits the spot. Other highlights include rendang (slow-cooked meat), soto (soup with noodles), and gado-gado for a vegetable fix. We only wish we had more time to delve into more regional variations.
Money Saving Tips
- Eating local dishes mentioned above is a lot cheaper than Western ones, especially in super touristy areas (*cough* Bali). Not to mention they make for a fun culinary experience.
- Head to the local warung (family-run restaurant, cafe, or shop) for a bite to eat instead of the fancy resort restaurants catered to foreigners. The ambiance might not be 5-star, but it’s cozy and special in a personal way that no amount of money could replicate. At the right warung, the food will be 5-star at 1 dollar sign.
- The cheapest way to drink is, of course, to buy alcohol from a grocery store or mart rather than ordering from a bar. Especially on the beach, there’s no one stopping you from picking up your own drinks and enjoying them by the water. Bintang is the national beer brand – give it a try!
Indonesia is a huge country. Huge! It spans more than 5000 km from east to west and more than 2000 km from north to south. During our 30-day stay, we only managed to see a small fraction of the country, from Java to Bali and as far east as the Gili Islands (a fifth of the whole country, at most). It’s actually kind of pitiful if you look at map and compare where we visited to the whole thing. We flew from the Philippines into Jakarta for USD 130.80 per person with Tiger Airways. From Jakarta, we made our way east taking a combination of transportation methods.
Train – We took a 6-hour local train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta, which cost USD 10.60 per person. The train ride was hassle-free and better than expected. Tickets can be bought at machines in any Indomaret/Alfamart/7-Eleven or at the ones in the station. There’s no need to join the massive line at the station ticket counter (we think the locals don’t know about the automated machines…).
Bus – From the airport in Jakarta, we took a local bus into Central Jakarta (USD 3 per person). The bus and the ride were fine and it is a far cheaper method than taking a cab into the city. Jakarta also offered a free tourist bus that we took to go around the city. These buses run every 20 minutes or so and are new and have air conditioning.
In Bali, we took a bus from Gilimanuk (coming from Java) to Denpasar for USD 3.25 per person for the 4h ride.
Ferry – We used ferries when transferring from one island to another. From the Kentapang port in Java to Gilimanuk in Bali, the local ferry takes only one hour and costs USD 0.60 per person.
To get from Bali to the Gili Islands, we booked a bus + ferry transfer that cost USD 22.50 per person, one way. No matter which boat operator you book with, the service provided is pretty much guaranteed to be bad. From the initial 3-hour expected journey, we ended up taking 7 hours. The port at Padang Bai is horribly crowded and disorganized. Be prepared for a long day of lots of waiting.
Taxi – For short rides in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, we made use of taxis. The drivers in Jakarta were usually honest and used the meter for all the rides we took (given that we stuck to Blue Bird or Express companies). In Yogyakarta, a few drivers wanted to overcharge us, but we usually found an honest one after a few tries. It was nice not to have to fight over the fare every time we needed transportation!
Bicycle – While many tourists rent motorbikes in Bali, I opted for a simple bicycle to take me from the hotel to the kitesurfing spot on Sanur beach (only a 3km ride). It was nice to enjoy the fresh air coming from the Indian Ocean and to admire the view, while casually paddling the bike.
Money Saving Tips
- Jakarta offers a free tourist bus that takes you to most of the city’s tourist attraction. It is a convenient and comfortable way to explore the city without paying for transportation!
- When taking cabs, here are some warning signs to immediately walk away/get out. 1) If the driver refuses to use the meter. 2) If the driver mentions some sort of minimum (i.e. minimum fare of 50,000 rupiahs). 3) If the taxi company isn’t one of the reputable ones (Blue Bird and Express in Jakarta) or is an imitator (legitimate Blue Bird taxis have the logo everywhere). If you find yourself in any of these situation, don’t even bother wasting your time with that cab/driver. We had minimal trouble with taxis in Indonesia by following these rules.
- An alternative to the many horrible private companies that run ferries from Bali to Lombok is to take the local ferry. It departs from Padang Bai to Lembar Harbour in Lombok every hour (24 hours a day) and only costs USD 3 per person. It is also a lot more stable when crossing the rough sea (given the size of the ferry when compared with the private speedboats). The only downside is that you will have to find a ride from Lembar Harbour to your final destination in Lombok.
Indonesia had numerous activities and entertainment options:
- Masjid Istiqlal (Jakarta) – USD 2.25 donation
Even though there is no official entrance ticket, the staff in charge of the tourists was very persuasive when asking for a donation. We ended up donating USD 2.25 for both of us. Proper attire to visit the mosque is also available onsite (men should cover legs and women should cover legs, arms and hair). In case you are not dressed properly, there are robes to borrow at the visitor’s center.
- Sunrise tour to Borobudur (Yogyakarta) – USD 36.00 per person
Arguably the most iconic Buddhist temple in the world, we made sure to appreciate Borobudur to the max. We booked a car to take us from Yogyakarta to Borobudur at 4am (1-hour drive – USD 7.50 per person). We arrived just on time to get our sunrise tickets from the Manohara Hotel (USD 28.50 per person) that allows admission starting at 4:30am, instead of the regular tickets (USD 18 per person) that only let you set foot on the temple grounds after 6am. The ten extra dollars were well worth it and we enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunrises we have ever seen and redeemed ourselves from Angkor Wat.
- Mt. Bromo and Mt. Ijen Volcano tour – USD 81.40 per person
We joined a 3D/2N tour from Yogyakarta to visit volcanoes Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen in eastern Java (USD 50.25 per person). The trip included two nights of accommodation and transportation from Yogyakarta all the way through, ending at the Kentapang port on the eastern coast of Java. The itinerary was grueling! However, we not only survived it, but we enjoyed some of the most unique experiences on this trip – volcano trekking! In addition to the tour costs, we had to pay entrance fees at Mount Bromo (USD 16.12 per person) and at Mount Ijen (USD 15 per person), which included a guide and gas masks to see the blue fire.
- Day tour in Bali – USD 55.11
We hired a car + driver for the day (USD 37.50 for the car) to take us around Bali and see some of the touristic attractions. We had the car for over 10 hours and visited a few sights in Bali – Goa Gajah, Tanah Lot and Uluwatu temples, as well as some rice paddies and a luwak coffee farm. The entrance fees summed up to USD 6.35 per person and an additional USD 7.50 to watch the Kecak Dance performance during the sunset at Uluwatu temple. In the end, we ended up giving a USD 3.75 tip to our driver.
- Snorkeling Tour (Gili Trawangan) – USD 7.50 per person
Since all dive centers had an agreement and charged the same price for dives (around USD 38 per tank), we decided to take a snorkeling trip instead. For USD 7.50, our excursion took us to three snorkel sites (which had a lot of divers on the bottom!) and included lunch. The only downside was that the boat was really crowded with 50+ people!
- Kitesurfing (Sanur) –USD 228.75 for approx. 12 hours of equipment rental
Having missed the wind in the Maldives and the Philippines, I finally caught it in Indonesia and decided to go kitesurfing! It was a lot of money, but our budget could handle it given that we didn’t make it to Komodo island (which would have cost even more than this). The wind stopped after the third day and the fun ended (though our pockets were thankful). There were a few kite shops on Sanur beach that rented equipment for around USD 49 for half a day.
Money Saving Tips
- Taking the tour to Mount Bromo and Mount Ijen was probably the cheapest way to do it (definitely the most convenient one!). DO negotiate the prices offered though!
- Prices in Bali are HIGHLY inflated. The same tour that we took to Bromo and Ijen was being sold for USD 608 per person in Bali vs USD 81.40 in Yogyakarta!!! Whatever price is offered to you for whichever activity should be negotiated! Don’t stop if the agent immediately gives you a 50% discount – continue pressing harder until you find the right price, which could be much lower. There are hundreds of agents in Kuta and Sanur and they all provide similar services – so don’t be afraid to shop around.
We had a few miscellaneous expenses in Indonesia:
- Visas on Arrival – USD 35.00 per person
We got our visas on arrival at the Jakarta airport. The whole process was fast and hassle free.
- SIM Card with Telkomsel + 4.5GB data – USD 0.50 for SIM, USD 11.50 for data
We got the Simpati SIM Card with Telkomsel and a 4.5GB data plan for USD 12. (The large data plan was due to anticipating being on the remote islands of Komodo and Flores, which didn’t end up going to. Normally 1.5GB is more than enough.) The coverage was pretty good and the 3G speed was decently fast. We did this at the local 7-Eleven for price not inflated. I think we made quite the impression with the cashier who probably never had to manually cut a micro SIM card into a nano one before.
We also incurred other smaller miscellaneous expenses (toiletries, laundry, souvenirs, etc) that together summed up to USD 56.
Indonesia is a vast country and we just scratched its surface. Our original plans to go to more remote islands like Komodo and Flores were cancelled by a combination of timing and costs. The farther and more remote you go in Indonesia, the bigger the budget that is necessary. What we did was probably the cheapest areas in the country. We will have to come back with more money to explore the natural jungles of Sumatra, hike after Komodo dragons in Komodo National Park, live with the local tribes in Sulawesi and Papua and dive in the gorgeous reefs of Raja Ampat.