A big-hitter on the travel circuit, Indonesia has long captured the hearts of visitors with its unbelievable beauty, welcoming people and beguiling culture. Despite the volume of people who touch down here every year, serenity and intrigue is forever in the air here and there’s a pocket of peace to be found at every turn. Here are some things to note before your stay.
On the roads
Life on the roads in Indonesia is lived chaotically and loudly, with horn blasts down every street (the loudest is always the winner). Drivers are selected carefully by us for their knowledge and caution navigating the sometimes-frenzied traffic. Road conditions can be hit and miss, with many roads studded with waste and poor signage.
Smoking is a major health issue in Indonesia and you’ll undoubtedly walk through many tobacco clouds during your stay. The smell of clove cigarettes, known as kreteks, preferred by the vast majority of smokers in the country, will forever remain a pungent (but, admittedly, not completely unpleasant) reminder of your trip.
The key to elevating a good holiday to a legendary one is in the quality of the guides you have showing you around. After all, they’re historians and foodies, cultural experts and village locals, who know the childhood games played by school children, the hidden-away restaurants that serve the best food and the inside info to get you to the front of the most magnificent monuments. We choose the absolute best guides to help you navigate your holiday. Look out for false guides who frequent the entrances of the biggest tourist hotspots – while they’re rarely threatening, they are persistent and can be difficult to escape. If anyone tells you a sight can only be visited when accompanied, be aware.
The height of the season hits Bali and Java the most in July and August, when its population swells with the frenzied excitement of visitors. Prepare for crowds and queues and all the trappings of mass tourism. The label of tourist can mean prices are multiplied sometimes ten times higher than the cost for locals, and that can even include things as seemingly fixed as the price of museum entry. Generally prices are very affordable to European wallets though and everything is negotiable in Indonesia, if you have the time and the inclination to barter. When it comes to tipping, service industries expect a small monetary gesture after a job well done.
There are many stray dogs in Indonesia, most of which are peaceful. A ubiquitous sight to inhabitants, they live alongside locals with little fuss. Wild monkeys, especially macaques, are also rife and there are many forests and temples where they roam freely. Familiar with interested tourists, they can be mischievous and are known for stealing food and even wallets!
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world and Islam dominates many elements of Indonesia’s culture. During Ramadan, guides and drivers aren’t as readily available and many restaurants are closed for lunch. Following the same customs as many Islamic nations, Indonesia is known for its religious harmony and throughout the country, Muslims, Hindus and followers of other religious often mix.
There is so much waiting for you in Indonesia – paradise beaches that offer a slice of real-world heaven, another level of kindness from the type of locals who wear year-round smiles, history that will make you gasp and cultural sights that will stay with you forever.