With over 260 million people and 18,000 individual islands, one can say Indonesia is a huge country. It is very easy to think of just Bali and Lombok as the tourist destinations in Indonesia, but those are just two of the islands. There are so many places to be seen and experiences to be had with this island nation.
What makes Indonesia truly special is its culture, or actually, many cultures. About 80% of the population are Sunni Islam, 5% protestant, 3% Roman Catholic, 2% hinduism (Mainly on Bali), and 1% Buddhist. Every island seems to have a different feel cultural weather that is in food, religion, language, or lifestyle. This is extremely fascination as they all are one country, but the long separations that the islands have had from each other causes some vast differences.
Well, if you are looking for a cheap holiday full of beaches, parties, amazing food, and a good time, look no further than to Indonesia. In one day you can be standing on an amazing beach to summiting an active volcano. You could be diving in some of the most colorful reefs and then hanging out with the Komodo Dragons. Indonesia is a land of contrasts, and that is what makes it a truly special country!
Top Things to Do
- Bali – If you are in Indonesia, you have to make a stop in the rich and colorful island. It is beautiful, but can be overcrowded with tourists. While in Bali, relax on Kuta Beach and learn to surf. Head north into Ubud and explore the cultural center of the island. Go to the monkey forest and climb the volcano at sunrise. The west side of the island is said to be far more relaxing and less tourists. (I would only spend a day or two in the Kuta area as the best of the island is elsewhere)
- Lombok – A short ferry ride from Bali is the large island of Lombok. People say this is what Bali was like many years ago. Tourism has increased on this island, especially in the Gili Islands, but you can still find your tropical adventures with less people.
- Dive the Komodo Islands – Set sail on an epic live aboard dive boat. Go scuba diving 2-5 times a day and end up on the Komodo Island. See one of the worlds largest reptiles. Not only are these islands beautiful, but full of wildlife other than the dragon. It is also a UNESCO site which is pretty cool.
- Explore Old Customs – Visit Yogyakarta which is one of the main cities in Java, but still has an old feel. A lot of customs can be lost with age, but this city is said to keep that charm. There are beautiful temples everywhere you look and culturally very different than Bali and Lombok.
- Jungle Safari in Sumatra – Sumatra can be hard and expensive to reach, but well worth it. My friends went on a 5 day jungle expedition with a local guide and said it was the best experience of their life. Wild monkeys were everywhere, even at night making it hard to sleep. It is a way to explore an Island that is trying to protect the natural beauty and animals by creating awareness.
- Visit Jakarta – Jakarta is one of the worlds most populated cities. Experience the city life in the 4th largest country in the world. Eat like a local with the street food and try to blend into the concrete jungle. Warning: Traffic can be miserable. People either love or hate this city. Try to spend a day or two in transit in this city. If you love it stay, if not, leave. Simple as that.
- Surf – Learn to surf. Indonesia is one of the best known surf destinations in the world. Wherever there is a wave, there will be a board waiting and a local to help teach you. I spent three days learning to surf. Do I still have it in me? Not sure, but at least I tried!
When in doubt, eat like a local. This was my philosophy when in Indonesia. There are food carts and small noodle/rice shops everywhere you go. Once again, get off the beaten path to get the real Indonesian food experience. Even in the main tourist hubs, food is still cheap, but quality can be hit or miss. Make sure to try the following:
Satay – Grilled meats
Gado Gado – (My Favorite) vegetables in peanut sauce
Nasi Goreng – Fried rice with eggs and spices
Mi Goreng – Fried noodle Dish
Fruit Milkshakes – Pretty much speaks for itself, but so fresh!
Overall Country Cost – $ (1/4)
Hostels – $5 – $10 USD per person
3 Star Hotel – $20 – $80 USD
Breakfast – $1 – $5
Lunch – $1 – $5
Dinner – $2 – $7
(Note: Lower prices are for local carts or stand. Sit down restaurants will be the upper end of quote.)
One Week Bali and Lombok – Fly into Bali and spend 1 full day in Kuta surfing and exposing the city. As soon as you can head up to Ubud and stay for 2 nights exploring the cultural center of the island. You can take day trips around the area to visit volcanoes and temples. Head back to Kuta only to take a ferry either to Lombok mainland or head to the Gili Islands.
In the Gili islands there are three islands. If you are looking for a younger party crowd go to Gili Trawangan. If you are looking for a romantic and relaxed time go to Gili Air. The Gili Islands are changing every year. The first time I was there and looking at pictures now, man has it changed. Is it good or bad, I cannot say, it is just different.
One Month – Fly into Jakarta and take a few days to get accustomed to the time and culture. Then head over to Central Java and visit Yogyakarta. Spend a few days here exploring the old culture. Next, head over to Bali and spend the next 10 days doing everything from the week in Bali and Lombok itinerary itinerary. Next, fly to Sumatra and spend a week exploring the jungle and seeing the remoteness of the island. Make sure to do a jungle trek, it will be worth it! I just hit on the highlight items. There are about a thousand other amazing places you can go. I included about an 8 day buffer to explore all a parts of the island you want.