Travel Guide: Indonesia
Planning a trip to Indonesia? Here’s everything we learned during our 1 month stay in the land of a thousand kings.
Choose a city on the map below for more travel tips!
Indonesian currency is called rupiah (abbreviated Rp). Exchange rates fluctuate all the time but a good, conservative rule of thumb for quick estimations would be 100,000 IDR = 10 USD, 7 EUR, 6 GBP.
Hotels or guesthouses are anywhere from 115,000 rupiah for a basic room with a fan and cold water to 58,000 rupiah for your own bungalow with AC and hot water. We stayed up on a hill at Puri Sari in Penestanan, Ubud. We enjoyed it because it was quiet, tucked away from the busy part of the city, but we still had access to many shops and restaurants. We stayed for the whole month and paid only 3,500,000 rupiah (around $12 USD a night). Our room did not have AC, just a fan, but being up on the hill it never got too hot. We had a double bed, hot water, a big shower, a porch and fresh fruit and tea every morning. We would recommend this place to anyone staying in Ubud. The owners Wayan and Puri are extremely kind and will make you feel like you’re at home.
During our month-long visit, we tried many different Indonesian dishes–here are some of our favorites.
This is a shredded chicken porridge topped with soy beans, scallions and a sweet soy sauce. It’s a very popular breakfast item. My favorite dish in Indonesia. A bowl of this costs around 35,000 rupiah.
This is an Indonesian meatball soup. It usually consists of meatballs, noodles, bean sprouts, egg and a crispy wonton. We found the best is usually served by street vendors called warungs, who tow around little mobile kitchens by moped or bicycle and set up shop on the side of the road at mealtime. This soup costs about 8,500 rupiah.
Pronounced “chom-por”, this dish consists of rice, choice of meat, veggies, egg and sometimes tempe. It costs around 35,000 rupiah.
Goreng means fried, so this dish is fried rice. It is often served with an egg on top and fried shrimp crackers. Be careful ordering Nasi Goreng Special… the meat you get with it may be chicken heart. It costs around 35,000 rupiah.
Mie means noodle, so this is a fried noodle dish that has vegetables mixed in with a fried egg in top. It costs around 35,000 rupiah.
Nasi means rice and Padang is the Capitol of West Sumatra, where this dish originated from. You will find these kinds of restaurants all over Southeast Asia. It’s buffet style, with a variety of food like fish, beef, chicken, curry, veggies, potatoes etc. You start with a plate of rice, pick what you want and pay accordingly. The best part is that it’s dirt cheap! We would share a plate with two drinks for 90,000 rupiah.
We were advised not to drink any tap water unless it was boiled first. Bottled water is available everywhere and it’s cheap. We bought large bottles for 4,500 rupiah.
Everyone we encountered in Ubud was extremely friendly. A couple of times I caught people glaring at me but as soon as I flashed a smile I would get one back.
We spotted this sweet old ibu precariously balanced on a stool, trying to cut down a fairly large tree branch with a handsaw. Matt decided to jump in and give her a hand! She was so grateful for the help she offered him a bottle of water and a photo memento!
Most of the roads in Ubud were freshly paved with minimal potholes. The only problem we had were the small shoulders; you feel like you are in the way of traffic with cars and mopeds zipping by you.
The only long bike trip we took in Ubud was up to Mt. Batur. The road was steep and there was nothing to see, so we don’t recommend our route.
When we didn’t feel like riding our bikes we would rent a scooter for 50,000 rupiah a day, or take a taxi. Taxi’s are everywhere in Ubud. You will constantly be offered a taxi while walking down any main road in the city. They are relatively inexpensive as long as you know how to haggle. We took an hour and a half ride from the Denpasar airport to Ubud for 250,000 rupiah. When we needed a ride down the hill to the Ubud Clinic when Haley had a particularly high fever (a 2 minute drive), a cab driver offered to do it for 50,000 rupiah. I said 10,000, and he said yes.
Cell Phone Service
We used IndoSat IM3. The SIM card was 120,000 rupiah, and we added 245,000 rupiah worth of credits (pulsa). This lasted us at least 3 weeks, even after making several calls home to the US. If you run out of pulsa or they expire, you have a month to purchase more or your SIM card will deactivate. We did not buy internet service, so we aren’t sure how to set that up. Dial *555# to check your credits
Good to Know
Most restaurants and shops in Ubud have western toilets… but not all. You will run into places where the porcelain bowl is ground level, and instead of toilet paper you will find a bucket and ladle. Here’s what you do:
- The first and most important step… bring your own toilet paper!
- Use the bathroom (it will involve a deep squat).
- Don’t put any used TP in the toilet! There should be a small wastebasket nearby. Now you know what it’s for.
- Ladle water into the toilet to flush (it will take about 6-10 pours).
- Wash your hands. Sinks with soap are usually outside of the stall.
Both the Muslim and Hindu faiths consider the left hand ‘unclean’, as traditionally this is the hand used to clean oneself in the toilet. So when you eat and if you ever shake someone’s hand or hand something to someone it is polite to use your right hand.
Most shops and taxi’s will start with a high price. Don’t be afraid to haggle, it’s part of the culture of Bali. Haley’s aunt, Ketut, would always negotiate for lower prices with no exceptions. That being said, you’re not visiting Indonesia to exploit poverty, so don’t be rude and aggressive about it. You will get a sense of what a fair price is the more time you spend in the country.
Words/Phrases to Know
|Terima kasih||Thank you|
|Sama sama||You’re welcome|
|Bagus dapat jumpa kamu||Nice to meet you|
|Berapa harganya?||How much?|
|Minta||May I have|
|Nama saya||My name is|
|Saya mau||I would like|
|Terlalu mahal||It is too expensive|
|Sedikit||Just a little|
|Pak or Bapak||Mr.|
|O||Sugar, No Milk|
|Satu Lagi||One more|
|Selamat Pagi||Good Morning|
|Selamat Sore||Good Afternoon|
|Sampai Jumpa Lagi||I’ll see you later|
|Apa Kabar?||How are you?|
|21||Dua puluh satu|
|20,000||Dua puluh ribu|
|200,000||Dua ratus ribu|
We probably aren’t getting the language absolutely perfect, but if you follow along with these examples, we promise you people will at least understand what you mean, which is a start!
|Selamat pagi!||Good morning!|
|Nama saya Matt.||My name is Matt.|
|Apa nama kamu?||What’s your name?|
|Bagus dapat jumpa kamu.||Nice to meet you.|
|Apa kabar?||How are you?|
|Apa kamu mau?||What do you want?|
|Saya sedikit lapar… Ada mie goreng?||I’m a little hungry… Do you have fried noodles?|
|Tidak ada mie.||No, I don’t have noodles.|
|Ok, apa itu?||What’s that?|
|Ikan bakar. Kamu mau?||Barbecue fish. You want it?|
|Ok. Minta satu teh o panas, satu kopi keras dan satu air kelapa?||Ok. Can I please have one hot tea with sugar, one strong coffee and one coconut water?|
|Berapa harganya semua?||How much for everything?|
|Dua puluh ribu.||20,000 rupiah.|
|Ok. Dimana kamar kecil?||Ok. Where is the toilet?|
|Di sana.||Over there.|
|Terima kasih.||Thank you.|
|Sama sama.||Your welcome.|