The complete 2015 guide to travel through Indonesia from East to West
Here is what we’ve learnt about the country, crossing it from East to West for 7 weeks. There won’t be any spoilers. We don’t want to say too much, because like us, im sure you would like to discover Indonesia for yourself. However we would like to share with you a few things we wish we knew in advance.
First of all, know that it won’t be easy as most of Indonesia is not used to seeing westerners. You will be a stranger in strange lands. Outside of Bali and tourist hotspots, prepare to be stared at, yelled at, beeped at and asked to pay much more than locals for everything. If you don’t think you will be confortable with that, maybe try skipping Indonesia. Cruises are possible from Australia to Malaysia. If you think this will be an adventure, and are up for this unique experience, read on:
The main challenge you will face in Indonesia is having to negotiate for everything. You will develop that skill quite quickly. The best advise we can give you for this is to learn numbers in Indonesian (see our 1st post on Kupang) as early as possible. It will be much easier to do “business” that way, especially outside of Bali. Unfortunately it seams to be in the Indonesian culture that foreigners should pay more than locals for the same things. Learn to fight for the money that you worked so hard to earn. Of course, paying 3000IDR for a bemo when locals pay 2000 isn’t too bad, but when you’re forced to pay 25.000 for it that’s another story. And this will happen a lot so be warned.
How to avoid scams:
. Either it be a hotel, a bus, or a tour, never, ever go for the first one you find!Compare,even if that means going back to this one later because it’s the best deal! This bus agent asks you to pay 230.000IDR for a 20h trip? This “official” office asks you for 325.000 for the same trip? And this bus driver 200.000IDR? Well you know what to choose…
. Walk! Everytime you get off a bus or a ferry or a train you will be approched by drivers:
“mister!” (either you’re a man or a woman doesn’t matter you will still be called mister in most places)
“where are you go?”
These are the most expensive type of transportation you will get, and of course way more expensive than the price charged to the locals. We found that by just walking less than 20 minutes in most cases, we would find cheap hotels we could rest in. Simply say “no thank you” and walk… you could also make it a game, be a little bit cheeky so it’s not just annoying but fun:
-“misterl!” where are you go?”
-“Narnia!”; ”to infinity and beyond!”, “Hogwarts” you name it… One that works really well is:
“right here!” by pointing your finger straight in front of you…they leave you alone straight away.
That’s crazy the amount of money we saved just by walking that extra mile every time (yes even after 20hours on a bus and exhausted).
. If you do need to take private car, bemo, minibus etc. make sure you agree on a price BEFORE getting into the vehicle, other wise you will arrive at your destination with a nasty surprise. Trust me, any time we failed to follow this rule we regretted it. And of course if your mode of transport is taxi, make sure that it is metered, and the meter is turned ON.
.Get a sim card and use it to locate accommodations, bus terminals and train stations on your phone so you know where to go when you get to your destination.
. Pack a travel kit for the bus/train/ferry trips:
-long pants+jumper with hoody. The air-con will be at the maximum most of the time
-an eye mask for sleeping
-big bottles of water
-any entertainement, it can be quite long and unconfortable, you might want to distract yourself from these 2 facts
. It might seam harsh but don’t trust anyone:
-“you have to buy a sarong from me to enter the temple”
-“you have to pay a guide to enter the temple!”
-“economy room full, superdeluxe ok!”
-“your bus finish, come on my scooter!”
You will hear everything, follow your guts, and even if they insist, give yourself some time to think about what they are saying before you take any quick decision.
. Ask the hard questions:
“is the price (hotel, taxi etc…) for 1 person or 2?” “bag included?” “what time is the check out?” “does the price on the menu include taxes?” “if I check in now (early morning), do I have to pay extra?“etc…
. When you rent a scooter, take a video and record every part of it before you go; any scratch, any dent. Or they might try to claim that you caused the damage and charge you for it.
. Never leave all your notes in your wallet. Keep the biggest amount in a secret pocket in your big backpack and only take what you need for the day, and look poorer than you are, no fancy clothes, sunglasses or backpacks or you will be charged a fortune.
. And of course as for any country, learn the value of the money in your currency before you get there, enjoy the food with caution, and only drink suitable water (you can’t drink from the tap in Indonesia, but we were ok using it for brushing our teeth)
Ok, you’re ready for Indo?
To make your life a little bit easier we’ve given more details on how to cross the country like we did from East to West: From Kupang to Dumai, with informations such as:
–how much you should expect to pay for buses, bemos, ferries, hotels, food, so you can negotiate as hard as we did.
–where to find the terminals and stations,
-how to get a cabin on a ferry,
–how to buy (bus, train, ferry) tickets
-what to see and do (ok there’s a bit of spoilers after all)
-and all of this on the cheap!
Here are all the informations you need to travel through Indonesia on a budget, without flying at all:
1- East: Indonesia’s door step: Kupang
5-West: To Sumatra and beyond
We hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment if it does or if there is anything you think needs to be added.
The Our tiny little world team