My time in Indonesia in 2019 is done. Finished. Kaput. Over. Now I'm in Australia, having begun my Working Holiday Visa. I've started a new job, and am excited about what Australia will bring. I already did a retrospective article on my time in Indonesia, but let's put the icing on the cake. Here is a breakdown of what I spent over those crazy, amazing eight weeks.
Food - $347.32
To anyone who has been following my travels, this should be of zero surprise to you. I love to try new cuisines, and Indonesian is quite a developed one. During my trip, I ate every single meal out, spending between $1-3 per meal. My daily average cost for food (about $6 per day) is far cheaper than it has been in most other countries. This is a testament to how inexpensive and filling food is in Indonesia.
Accommodation - $302.02
I'm pretty sure I never spent more than $9 for a night of accommodation during my whole stay in Indonesia. Hostels are plentiful in the more touristy areas and can be had for as cheap as $2-3 per night (often including free breakfast). Private hotel rooms can easily be had under $10 in most cities.
Transport - $219.83
Although Indonesia has possibly the WORST public transit of any place I've been to, it's not too expensive. Because good public options aren't always available, however, it isn't as cheap as in a country like India. Bemos, taxis, buses, and boats are just a few ways of getting around.
Activities - $210.52
The main chunk of this spending comes from the 4-day 3 night Komodo National Park boat trip I took (costing around $165), and man, was it worth it! It is quite easy to spend a lot on activities in Indonesia, so watch out for your budget!
Miscellaneous - $135.47
This includes everything else: toiletries, laundry, clothes, currency conversion, etc.
Average daily cost of $21.32. Pretty good, considering that Komodo trip, huh? Indonesia is the kind of country you can easily travel on for $15-20 per day. Many tourists spend a fair bit more (especially in touristy places like Bali), which you'll want if there is anything specifically fancy you plan on doing. But if you want, you can bum it here and have an incredible time!
My two months trip in Indonesia is winding to a close. What an adventure it has been!
I had the pleasure of visiting a small chunk of this monstrously sized country, all in the eastern part AKA the Lesser Sunda Islands. During my trip to Indonesia, I went to 13 different islands. From most to least populous, they are:
Bali (4.3 million)
Lombok (3.3 million)
Flores (1.9 million)
Sumbawa (1.4 million)
Gili Air (1800)
Gili Trawangan (1500)
Gili Meno (500)
Gili Bola (n/a)
For scale, the population of these islands constitutes less than 11 million, or about 4% of the total population of Indonesia. When you look at the proportion of islands, the number gets even slimmer. According to the CIA World Factbook, there are 17,508 islands in Indonesia. The 13 I visited make up just .07% of the islands in the country.
The point is, Indonesia isn’t really a country you can just “visit” to get a good sense of it. It is a mammoth and unwieldy place, and basically a mini-continent in its own right.
Indonesia is incredibly diverse in terms of religion and culture. Although the vast majority of the country adheres to Islam (no doubt Java’s 141 million population makes up for a massive chunk of that), there are large amounts of people practicing other religions. In fact, within the span of just a few weeks, I stayed on an island that was majority Hindu, some that were majority Muslim, and some that were majority Catholic. The country also sports over 300 ethnic groups and native languages.
I want to go into detail about various aspects of the adventure. For funsies, we’ll go from least to most pleasant.
The worst part of the trip was DEFINITELY transportation. Man, Indonesia really has some of the most atrocious public transit of anywhere I’ve been. Buses can be hard to come by outside of big cities, and most land transport is by way of shared minibuses (called “bemos”) and cars. Finding an adequate ride often takes a lot of searching, and the transport never ever leaves on time. Mostly, they will drive around for a long time filling up the vehicle until it’s at maximum capacity. And by maximum capacity, I mean being uncomfortably crammed into a seat that is way too small for most adult humans. Boats are usually a bit more comfortable (at least they are not usually THAT crowded), but it should be noted that their safety record in Indonesia is far from stellar.
Another major problem here is cleanliness and pollution. There is garbage strewn everywhere and it’s not a lovely sight. It’s a damn shame because so much of the landscape here would look way better without heaps of trash thrown about. It’s also very common for locals to burn their trash, so watch out for the daily plumes of smoke all over the place. It is clearly very toxic stuff to be breathing in and is a major contributor to air pollution in Indonesia.
The food that I ate was pretty good. I’d give Indonesian cuisine a B- rating overall (obviously subject to change if I ever explore more of the country). Don’t get me wrong, it’s usually cheap and tasty. However, the cuisine definitely does not have that WOW factor of the greatest cuisines (Indian, Thai, Malay, etc). The dishes of white rice and sides of protein/vegetables can get a bit boring. I wish Indonesian food had a bit more diversity in terms of their carb choices (though some regions do prioritize cassava), and utilized spices in a more complex fashion. Some of my favorite dishes include Soto Ayam (a type of chicken soup), Nasi Campur (a staple of rice with several side dishes, slightly different at each restaurant), and Rendang (a beef curry).
Many people visit Indonesia for beautiful beaches and sea life, and it’s no wonder why. I saw, swam in, and snorkeled in some incredible beaches during my two-month stay. Unfortunately, some of the prettiest beaches (I’m talking the tranquil Koka Beach in Flores) have issues with plastic on the sands and in the water. However, others are well-maintained. You will certainly not be lacking for ocean options when you visit Indonesia.
Maybe the pinnacle of my trip was a 4 day, 3-night boat cruise through Komodo National Park (and several other small islands). On both Rinca and Komodo island, we were able to see the fearsome dragons up close, as well as the prey animals (deer, boars, buffalo, monkeys) they survive on. All in all, this trip was one of the best $165 I’ve ever spent in my life, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Indonesia. I am currently waiting on several rolls of film to be developed, so I hope to be able to eventually share some incredible photographs from this journey!
I’m going to do a separate article on money and costs during my stay in Indonesia (spoiler alert: it’s a very inexpensive place to travel). Stay tuned!
For several days now, I've been stuck in Mataram, the capital city of the Indonesian province of West Nusa Tenggara. Located on the island of Lombok, Mataram has a population of over 400,000. It is a local center for industry and education, and sees very few tourists compared to other areas of Lombok. I'm here awaiting my visa extension, which has taken about four days to process.
At first, the prospect of waiting around a city for nearly a week was depressing. There are relatively few things to see around Mataram, and I felt my time could be better spent checking out some beautiful beaches or stunning volcanic scenery. I must reveal, however, that these past several days have been just what I needed. Let's take a look at why this is, and what my experience in Indonesia has been like thus far. To do this, we will rewind back three weeks, to October 18, 2019.
I flew into the island of Bali, not knowing what to expect. Conventional wisdom said it would be crowded with tourists, clamoring for spots on many of the beaches. My plan was to spend just a week or two in Bali, then make my way east to some of the other islands. Between my stays in Kuta, Ubud, and Padangbai, most of my fears were confirmed.
Droves of sightseers had taken over Bali, mostly short-term holidaymakers from Asia, Australia, and Europe. Amidst the local culture and regional poverty had sprung up numerous five-star resorts, Western restaurants, and tourist offices at every corner. I've never been to Cancun, but I'd imagine Kuta attracts a very similar crowd as that Mexican city. Ubud, another highly popular Bali destination (much of that due to its inclusion in the book/movie Eat, Pray, Love) has way more tourists than local people. For a city famous for its culture, Ubud sure has a hell of a lot of shops and restaurants catering to other cultures from around the world.
A common argument I have heard is "Well, the mass tourism is a good thing, because it helps the economy." There is a well-reasoned response to that:
Although tourism makes up 80% of Bali's economy, something like 85% of that money is in the hands of non-Balinese investors. In fact, believe it or not, there is now even a Trump hotel in Bali. Vice News did a great article explaining how many local people have been hurt by rising costs due to tourism, and the massive amounts of water being consumed by resorts and hotels (leading to shortages). Yes, I'm sure many residents have profited and are doing great due to the tourism sector; however, it is not all peaches and cream.
So yeah, Bali was a bit disappointing, but that's not to say there was nothing to love. Much of the local culture and cuisine is still there, though one needs to wander away from the tourist strip in order to experience it. One thing that really struck me in a positive way was the architecture (Balinese buildings are gorgeous and have a very distinct look to them). I've also heard that certain areas in the north of the island are still relatively free of tourists; perhaps I shall have to return and check some of those places out.
After recovering from a nasty bout of Bali Belly, it was time to leave the island and head to Lombok. No sooner had I reached my destination then I took a ferry to check out some of the nearby Gili Islands, an archipelago located off the northwest coast of Lombok. It consists of Gili Trawangan (by far the most touristed and "party vibe" of the three), Gili Air, and Gili Meno. Of the Gili Islands, I visited Trawangan (commonly referred to as just "Gili T") and Meno.
The Gilis were wonderful for snorkeling, and with no motorized vehicles to be found on the islands, were quite relaxing. Trawangan had far too much partying (not my cup of tea), but Meno was tranquil and quiet. Gili Meno is thus far one of the highlights of my Indonesia trip: not too many tourists, beautiful beaches and water, and a laid back local vibe. On my first day there, I sustained the worst sunburn of my life, which I have been nursing most of my time here in Mataram.
Which brings us back to Lombok's capital city. This is truly the first time in Indonesia where I'm without fellow tourists. I've spent the last few days trying regional cuisine, watching movies, working out at the nearby gym, and soaking in the atmosphere of the city. I have even made an Indonesian friend! While Mataram isn't an especially beautiful or interesting city, it feels for once that I am truly in Indonesia. Sure, meeting other tourists is an integral part of traveling to any country. However, sometimes it is nice to take a break and get to know an area the way local people do.
I feel refreshed and ready to continue my journey through Indonesia. Bring it on!
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.