Travel information for first time comers to Indonesia

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Indonesia archipelago is a highly under-touristed destination with an amazing list of attractions to offer independent through to luxury travellers. Aside from the world famous island of Bali, Indonesia is one of Southeast Asia’s least explored countries in terms of both backpacker hordes and mass tourism.

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When to go

Generally speaking, April through to November is the dry season. Bali sees its peak tourism across European summer (July and August) and Australian Christmas holidays (December and January). Bali and the Gilis see the bulk of Indonesia’s arrivals, and other spots are deserted in comparison.

Bali via Richtopia

A side effect of monsoon in developed areas is very dirty oceans. The problem is especially acute in South Bali and South Lombok, where the heavy rains wash clogged-up drains out to sea—don’t be surprised to discover you’re sun baking next to, or swimming beside, a soiled discarded nappy. Some volcanoes are closed for climbing (with good reason) over peak wet season in December through January.

If your primary concern is avoiding lots of tourists, just skip Bali. In comparison to other Southeast Asian nations, in Indonesia it is very easy to dodge large numbers of tourists, as most of the archipelago sees very few tourists. Obviously the tourist infrastructure will be missing to a corresponding degree.

What to do

Learn to dive: Indonesia offers arguably the best diving in Southeast Asia and there are no shortage of places to learn—or just dive. We learned in the Togean Islands, but Bali and Flores (among many, many others) are also very popular diving locations.

Cooking courses and food walks: Doing a cooking course at Bali Asli, Bumbu Bali or Hotel Tugu will be a great way to learn a bit more about Indonesian fare—and they’re just a few of the culinary offerings on one island.

Surfing: Okay, first things first, learn to surf. Once you have that in the bag, we’d be pointing you towards Kuta in Lombok, and Maluk and Lakey in Sumbawa. As with the cooking courses, we’re just scraping the surface here. Indonesia has a lot of waves.

Surfing in Bali via Epic Gap Year

Courses and personal improvement: Seen Eat Pray Love? Yoga mat packed? Destination Ubud.

How long to go for

When you’re talking about a nation of some 17,000 islands, you need to be realistic in what you are trying to achieve. Simply put, we’d say a reasonable timeline to travel from Pulau Weh in the west to Kupang in the east, with a few side trips here and there, would require a minimum of six months. Minimum.

Two weeks should be about your baseline for any one of the main islands—and while that will be sufficient for you to knock off some of the main attractions at a comfortable pace, a month is a better spread. A month in Sumatra, a month in Bali, a month in Lombok, a month in Sumbawa, a month in Flores … You did put your leave form in right?

Trying to cover too much territory in too little time does not work in Indonesia. If you have limited time (say two weeks) make judicious use of domestic flights and be selective in where you go. Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Ubud and Gili T will work in two weeks assuming you’re flying the longer legs—we wouldn’t advise trying to fit in more.

If you are planning a longer stay, it pays to familiarise yourself with Indonesia’s visa rules. They change occasionally and some rules are enforced haphazardly, complicating what should be a simple process.

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