Indonesia

Spanning between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Indonesia is made of over 17,000 islands with various cultural traditions across the country. Although ‘Bahasa Indonesia’ is the official language, there are over 700 languages spoken across the country!

Indonesian people are friendly to everyone, always willing to share their full smiles and help one another. The local food is fresh (and spicy), with a lot of rice harvested from the paddies covering the land. This tropical country is full of life and history and safe for travelers from around the world!

 

Map of Indonesia showing main features and attractions for culture and tourism
Map of Bali showing main features and attractions for culture and tourism

The Basics

Currency – Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) | 15,000 Rp = $1 USD

Language – Indonesian, with local dialects on different islands (Bali = Balinese)

Outlets – Type C & F, compatible across Europe

Tipping – Tipping is not common, but a mandatory government tax of 10% is added to most bills

Water – Tap water is not potable. Drinking may lead to severe food poisoning!

SafetyLevel 2 – Terrorism & Natural Disasters

July – October

Indonesia is a tropical country located along the Indo-Pacific plate boundary. Indonesia has more volcanic activity than any country in the world due to this location and hosts some devastating natural disasters. While these global forces don’t operate on our seasonal schedule, it is something to be aware of!

On the surface, Indonesia has a tropical monsoon climate, with 2 distinct seasons. The wet season brings heavy rainfall through the months of November-March, raining almost daily! The dry season is between April-October, which makes this window the best time to visit anywhere in Indonesia.

In my opinion, the best time to visit Indonesia is between July and October. This is at the end of the dry season when the heat starts to cool down, and this is also the best window to see the Mola-Mola sunfish! If you’re not already a diver, you’ll want to check out what you’re missing beneath the waves, as Indonesia (Bali specifically) is the best place to spot the world’s largest bony fish.

Tourist season is a major factor for Bali, although there are tourists year-round. Check out the neighboring islands of Java or Lombok for a more authentic experience!

 

Celebrations & Events in Bali

  • Nyepi (Day of Silence), Bali – June
  • Full Moon, Hindu regions – Monthly

Indonesia’s location has been an important stop in trading routes between the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia, creating a complex cultural blend throughout history. The region has been influenced by religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Confucianism, and Christianity, which have all come together uniquely to create the Indonesian culture.

Known for its lively style of dance and music, which shares the ancient stories passed down through generations. Indonesia has strong spiritual connections which are shown through numerous styles of art and expression. The country has ornate temples with intricate stone carvings to show their commitment to the divine. The local people practice regular ceremonies of gratitude within their communities.

Every island has its own unique culture which has been proudly preserved and passed down for centuries – each with its own languages, religion, customs, and way of life. While there are many similarities between the areas as the people have adapted to a similar climate, your experience is sure to change based on where you are! 

Java

Java is predominantly Muslim, with Islam deeply ingrained in the island’s cultural fabric. The Javanese practice a unique form of Islam that is often intertwined with local traditions and beliefs. Javanese culture places a strong emphasis on community, harmony, and respect for elders. The concept of “gotong royong,” or mutual cooperation, is an integral part of daily life. Traditional arts, such as batik and wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), hold a significant place in Javanese culture. Javanese society is characterized by a hierarchical structure, where deference to authority and adherence to social norms are important. The island is known for its ancient temples, such as Borobudur and Prambanan, which reflect its rich historical and religious heritage.

Bali

Bali is predominantly Hindu, and its unique form of Hinduism incorporates elements of local beliefs. Balinese Hinduism centers around ceremonies, rituals, and the harmonious balance between humans, gods, and nature. Balinese culture emphasizes “Tri Hita Karana,” the principle of maintaining harmony between humans, nature, and the divine. Community involvement and artistic expression, such as dance, music, and visual arts, play a vital role in daily life. Bali’s vibrant ceremonies and festivals are an integral part of Balinese identity. The island’s artistic heritage is showcased in its temples, traditional performances, and intricate offerings.

Lombok

Lombok has a mix of religions, with the majority of the population adhering to Islam. The Sasak people, Lombok’s indigenous inhabitants, practice a unique form of Islam with cultural influences. Sasak culture places importance on communal values, such as mutual assistance and cooperation. Traditional Sasak architecture and handicrafts reflect their cultural heritage. Lombok’s traditional way of life is characterized by rice farming, fishing, and weaving. The island’s landscapes include pristine beaches, lush hills, and the famous Mount Rinjani.

Sumatra

Sumatra is more than just coffee production, although that is a major economical factor, it is a diverse island with a mix of religions, including Islam, Christianity, and indigenous beliefs. The Minangkabau people, known for their matrilineal culture, practice a unique form of Islam that respects women’s leadership roles (love to see it). The Sumatran culture celebrates adat (customary law), which varies among different ethnic groups. The Minangkabau, for instance, emphasizes values such as mutual support, respect for women, and consensus-based decision-making. Sumatra’s culture is deeply intertwined with nature, and the island is home to rich biodiversity. Traditional ceremonies, such as the “randai” theater of the Minangkabau, showcase storytelling through dance and music.

Borneo

Borneo supports many religions, including Islam, Christianity, and indigenous beliefs. Many Dayak ethnic groups, the island’s indigenous inhabitants, practice animism and have unique spiritual practices. Borneo’s diverse ethnic groups have distinct values and customs. The Dayak, for example, value their connection with nature and practice rituals to honor spirits and ancestors. Borneo’s indigenous communities maintain traditional ways of life, often involving subsistence farming, fishing, and craftsmanship. The island’s rainforests are of great importance to local cultures and biodiversity, which have been continuously devastated by western palm oil production. 

If you find yourself in Indonesia, you’ll never want to be inside! The tropical climate, lush greenery, and vibrant wildlife create a world you don’t want to step away from. Indonesia is so much more than waterfalls and rice fields, although those are amazing too. Explore the hidden gems dotted along black sand beaches and steep cliffs, both an ode to the volcanic activity that created the thousands of islands of Indonesia. 

For those adventure seekers looking to go beyond, head to Mount Bromo on Java, where plumes of smoke erupt out of a moon-like landscape, which sometimes even glows blue in the nighttime! Indonesia is home to the most active volcanoes of any country (76 to be exact), leaving plenty of opportunity to get out and explore where the Earth turns itself over. 

If you’re really looking for a unique and unforgettable experience, catch a boat over to Komodo Island, where visitors can spend a few days exploring the rugged terrain, keeping a lookout for the largest lizards on Earth (but keep your distance)! Although Komodo dragons are feared and revered for their predatory behavior, there are rangers to help keep travelers and locals safe. And if that sounds too comfortable for your taste, check out what is waiting in Borneo, where orangutans and leopards claim this ancient rainforest as home. 

While there is so much to see on the surface of these rugged islands, just wait until you see what is under the water. Indonesia’s islands are surrounded by vibrant coral reefs and aquatic life! The country’s location along a fault line also brings in some of the deeper sea species, like the Mola-Mola or Manta Rays, which frequent the shallower waters for migration and feeding. Hosting some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world, getting under the waves has to be on your list when visiting these islands.