Due to the size of Indonesia these travel tips for the independent traveller refer to the island Java only.
When to go?
The best time is from May to September. That’s when there is the least rainfall. Check the dates for Ramadan and avoid the week before and after, since that is when a lot of Indonesians travel and the roads are blocked with long traffic jams.
In many parts of Java there is permanent bumper-to-bumper traffic. Other than on the few motorways in the west, the average speed is a maximum of 50 km/h. The train connections are a little faster and more comfortable.
You can get a room with an en-suite bathroom from 25 to 35 USD per night. For food, 10 to 20 USD per day are sufficient, if you don’t go to restaurants with upmarket service. It can get expensive when it comes to visiting attractions. Since traffic is slow and the local buses often wait until there are enough passengers, you almost have to rent a car with driver for 30 to 50 USD per day – as well as potentially a tour guide for around 30 USD. Otherwise you don’t get to see much in a day.
Telephone and internet
Buy a SIM card from Simpati upon your arrival at the airport. Just for call time and text messages within Java it is sufficient to put 5 USD on the card.
If you also want mobile internet it is going to cost you more. In Java’s larger centres most hotels and hostels have Wifi, in the country it’s a case of getting lucky.
Taxi and co.
The blue Blue Bird taxis are reliable and always use the meter, which is called Argo here. With other taxis this is a gamble. Most of the time the drivers want to gouge tourists.
You can expect them to demand twice the normal fare. Potentially you can negotiate with the driver and get him to lower the rate, but most of the time they don’t relent and insist on their exorbitant price.
Rent a vehicle?
If you can handle the chaotic driving style on Java, then renting a car is a good idea. Use your horn continuously to draw attention to yourself. Permanent breaking readiness is a must in Java. Motorcycles are not often available to rent and they are only recommended in rural areas with less traffic. Indonesia holds Southeast Asia’s record for fatal motorcycle accidents!
As already mentioned, you should find out when Ramadan falls and avoid the week before and after it. The remaining holidays can be found here.
Most Indonesians don’t speak a word of English. Get your information online and at the hotel before you get on your way.
Crime and annoyances
There is not a lot of it in Java. In larger cities you have to be more careful than in the countryside. Beyond that, common sense rules apply – don’t leave your things unattended and so on. Unfortunately not many hotels in Java offer safety deposit boxes.
Trying new foods?
At this point I would like to remind you of the rule to never try new things when you are travelling for a long time the following day or night.
Outdoors for a long time
Apply suntan lotion during the daytime. In the evening you are going to need a tropical mosquito spray. During the day you should also cover your head and drink sufficient amounts of water. Between nine and 5 pm it’s generally nice and warm everywhere. In the early morning, at dusk and during the night it can get rather cold in the elevated regions. A jumper and a jacket come in handy at those times.
- The Indonesians are early risers. You should adapt to that and get up at six o’clock and see to it that you are on your way by 7.30. After 4pm the local buses have ended their service in most regions. You have to factor that in when planning your daytrip.
- From 4.30, in some places already at 4 am, you’ll hear the first call to prayer, which is broadcast by the mosques via loudspeaker. And there are a lot of mosques in Java, as you’ll notice.
- In conservative hotels couples need a certificate that proves they are married. Otherwise they are not allowed to check into the same room. Check the comments on booking sites before you book a hotel, especially in east Java.
We also have travel tips for other countries, e.g. Burma / Myanmar!
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