Indonesia recap

Indonesia is vast and has so many things to do and see. I always had FOMO (is this phrase still a thing?) since it was impossible to fit everything in. Paring down to a 30-day itinerary was a lucky problem to have. I arrived in Indonesia on July 26 and left on August 25. Below is a summary of the locations, accommodations, transport, and tours from my time in Indonesia.

Jakarta (July 26 to 28)

  • Accommodation: Capsule Hotel Jakarta
    • I didn’t like Jakarta at all, but the staff at Capsule was the city’s saving grace. They knew everything and took guests out for tours and drinks. The hostel wasn’t particularly close to sights, but it was near a train that could take us wherever we needed to go. The dorm and bathrooms were decently clean. Each bed was in its own “cube,” which offered a good amount of privacy.
  • Transport to Jakarta:
    • Two-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta
  • Transport within Jakarta:
    • I took Grabs from the airport to the train station and from the train station to my hostel. I took short walks around my hostel but felt uneasy. This has been the only time I’ve felt uncomfortable walking around during my trip.
  • Tour:
    • Half-day city tour with Capsule Hotel staff
  • Blog post:

Yogyakarta (July 28 to 31)

  • Accommodation: Losmanos Hostel
    • The hostel was cute and had a pool. The dorm consisted of ten single beds; no bunk beds. It was nice to have our own beds, but I would have appreciated mosquito nets, as I got a lot of bug bites here.
  • Transport to Yogyakarta:
    • 7.5-hour train ride from Jakarta
  • Transport within Yogyakarta:
    • I tried to walk whenever possible, but Yogya is a large city. I took a few Go-Jek rides, and it was great to be on the back of a motorbike again. I was on a group tour for Borobudur, so the tour company provided transport via van. I took a public bus to get to Prambanan, which was about an hour one-way.
  • Tour:
    • I booked a sunrise tour of Borobudur through my hostel and didn’t get the name of the tour company. While Borobudur was beautiful, the tour had a couple of mishaps. Two couples (one French and the other Australian) were on my tour, and both had issues with the company. The French couple disputed the price of the tour, saying they were quoted a cheaper price over the phone than the one our tour guide gave. The Australian couple got annoyed with the way our tour guide dealt with the French couple and refused to go on the tour as a result.
  • Blog post:

Surabaya (July 31 to August 1)

  • Accommodation: The Hostel
    • I used Surabaya as a rest point between Yogya and Probolinggo. Lee, the owner of The Hostel, was very helpful. He provided tips on where to stay in Probolinggo and helped book train tickets. He also made us breakfast in the morning. The dorm was basic but clean, and I liked that each bunk had a privacy curtain.
  • Transport to Surabaya:
    • 5.5-hour train ride from Yogyakarta
  • Transport within Surabaya:
    • I only left my hostel to get dinner at a nearby mall. I took taxis to go between the train station and my hostel.

Probolinggo/Ijen (August 1 to 3)

  • Accommodations:
    • Clover Homestay. I shared a room with a Dutch traveler that I met in Surabaya. The staff arranged transport to and from Mount Bromo. They also booked us a tour to Ijen Crater. While I can’t recommend the Ijen tour they booked (see “Tours” below), the staff was otherwise helpful.
    • Arabica Homestay. The TripAdvisor reviews (in the link) say it all. If you have a choice on where to stay around Ijen, don’t go here.
  • Transport to Probolinggo:
    • 2.5-hour train ride from Surabaya
  • Transport within Probolinggo:
    • I walked from the train station to my homestay but otherwise didn’t see much of the town.
  • Tours:
    • Half-day tour of Mount Bromo
    • Two-day, one-night tour of Ijen Crater. I didn’t get the name of the tour company (this never works out well for me), but if you go to Clover Homestay, don’t book the Ijen tour they offer. In general, Probolinggo-based tours to Ijen don’t have a good reputation. Tours based in Banyuwangi, such as Ijen Blueflame Tours, have much better reviews.
  • Blog post:

Bali (August 3 to 10, August 22 to 24)

  • Accommodations:
    • Capsule Hotel New Seminyak (Seminyak). This is the sister hostel to Capsule in Jakarta. I got a small discount for staying here because I had been a guest at the hostel in Jakarta. It has a pool and bar and is very social. I had no problems meeting people. It’s close to nightlife and the center of Seminyak, but it’s in a pretty quiet area – as long as the guests at the bar don’t keep you up.
    • WaterBorn (Canggu). This was one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in. I thought I was in a hotel. Everything was enormous: the dorm room, the closets, and the bathroom. The pool was immaculately clean, and the wifi was among the best I had in Indonesia.
    • Liang House (Ubud). I loved the family who ran this guesthouse. They helped me booked a roundtrip fast boat ticket to the Gilis and couldn’t have been nicer. That said, I didn’t love the dorm room. It was clean, but a couple of things bothered me. I had an upper bunk and couldn’t sit up straight because there wasn’t enough head space. Only a curtain separated the bathroom and bedroom. I might be high-maintenance, but I was uncomfortable with this. Wifi was good.
    • Wisna House (Sanur). I stayed in a private room, which was clean and had great air conditioning. Breakfast was delivered to my room every morning. Wifi was great. The family running the guesthouse was lovely.
  • Transport to Bali:
    • Hourlong ferry ride from Ketapang in Java to Gilimanuk in Bali, then a 4.5-hour bus ride to Denpasar. A mini-adventure. We waited about an hour for the bus to fill up, and we ended up having more people than seats. People had to stand or sit in the aisle. A girl sitting next to me on the bus threw up (in a bag, thankfully), and a staff member casually threw the bag of vomit out the window.
  • Transport within Bali:
    • I mostly walked within each town. Ride-hailing apps like Go-Jek and Grab are banned in Bali, so I relied on taxis or tour companies to get me between towns.
  • Tours:
  • Blog posts:

Gili Trawangan and Gili Air (August 10 to 14, August 19 to 21)

  • Accommodations:
    • La Favela (Gili T). Fun hostel with a pool and bar. It was easy to meet fellow travelers. The staff was wonderful and helped with bike rentals. The dorms had only single beds and no bunks.
    • Captain Coconuts (Gili Air). The dorms have beds with mosquito nets that hang from the ceiling. That’s the real selling point here. There’s a pool, and the staff prepares a good, free breakfast. The showers have little slots that are open to the outdoors, which could be a benefit or a negative, depending on how much you like nature.
  • Transport to the Gilis:
    • For my first trip to Gili T, I took a two-hour fast boat ride from Padang Bai in Bali.
    • To get from Gili T to Gili Air, I took a 20-minute boat ride, which stopped at Gili Meno before arriving in Gili Air.
    • For my second trip to Gili T, I took a 30-minute public boat ride from Bangsal in Lombok.
  • Transport within the Gilis:
    • Walking and biking. That’s all you need.
  • Tour:
  • Blog post:

Senggigi (August 14 to 16, August 21 to 22)

  • Accommodations:
    • Villa Mataano. I treated myself to a private room here, in anticipation of my hike up Mount Rinjani. There was a pool, and the room and bathroom were clean. My room even had a TV with cable. Breakfast and a mid-afternoon snack were delivered to my room every day.
    • Aurora Cottages. I stayed in a private room here after Rinjani. It wasn’t as posh as Villa Mataano, but it was still perfectly nice. The room and bathroom were basic but clean. This was another homestay with in-room breakfast deliveries.
  • Transport to Senggigi:
    • For my first trip to Senggigi, I took a 30-minute fast boat ride from Gili Air to Bangsal in Lombok and then a 40-minute van ride from Lombok to Senggigi.
  • Transport within Senggigi:
    • I walked between my accommodations and the center of Senggigi, which took about five to ten minutes.
  • Tour:
    • Half-day surfing lesson with Nayaka Surf School. The staff was friendly, but I greatly preferred the surfing in Canggu. I didn’t write a blog post about surfing or Senggigi because I was ambivalent about both. The beach in Senggigi had a lot of coral and rocks, which were challenging obstacles when hopping (or falling) off a board.

Mount Rinjani (August 16 to 19)

  • Accommodations:
    • Pondok Guru Bakti (Senaru). Not the fanciest place, but fine for a night before my hike up Rinjani. It was certainly cleaner than Arabica Homestay. The guesthouse had a restaurant that served free breakfast and dinner for an extra fee.
  • Transport to Rinjani:
    • Two-hour drive from Senggigi to Senaru, which was covered by Syam Trekker, my tour company for the Rinjani trek
  • Tour:
    • Three-day, two-night hike up Mount Rinjani with Syam Trekker
  • Blog post:

Expenses

During my 30 days in Indonesia, I spent about $2,264.18, or $73.04 a day. This total includes an overnight layover in Kuala Lumpur after I left Indonesia.

My expenses were categorized as follows:

  • Entertainment: $1,062.43
    • This category includes tours, activities, entrance fees, and spa treatments. The most expensive activity was my three-day trek up Mount Rinjani, which cost 2,715,000 IDR + a $50 deposit (about $254 total). This included accommodation the night before the trek, meals, camping equipment, and transport from/to accommodations before and after the trek. The next most expensive activities were a day tour of Nusa Penida (1,600,000 IDR or about $120) and two fun dives on Gili T (982,000 IDR or about $74). One of the cheapest entertainment expenses was a 24-hour bike rental on Gili T, which cost 50,000 IDR/$4.
  • Accommodation: $441.61
    • I stayed in private rooms in Probolinggo (480,000 IDR per night split between two people, or about $18 each), Sanur (325,000 IDR/$24.50 per night), and Senggigi (675,000 IDR/$50.50 per night at Villa Mataano, and 400,000 IDR/$30 per night at Aurora Cottages).
    • I stayed in dorm rooms ranging from 65,000 IDR/$5 per night (six-bed dorm in Ubud) to 250,000 IDR/$19 per night (three-bed dorm on Gili T).
  • Food: $425.39
    • I could have spent a lot less on food if I didn’t eat so much western food in Bali and the Gilis. I was getting to the point where I really missed salads and sandwiches, so I indulged these cravings. My most expensive meal was sushi in Senggigi, which cost 150,200 IDR/$11. Most of my meals ranged from 40,000 IDR/$3 to 100,000 IDR/$7.50.
    • Like most of southeast Asia, bottled water is cheap in Indonesia. I could get a liter of water for about 40 cents. Alcohol ranged from 40,000 IDR/$3 for a beer (prices could go lower, depending on the store or happy hours) to 150,000 IDR/$11 for a shot (this was at a club in Jakarta; I never had to pay anywhere close to this for a drink elsewhere in Indonesia).
  • Transport: $274.25
    • This includes my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta (about $38), trains, buses, taxis, motorbike rides, and boats. I didn’t have to fly within Indonesia, which helped keep expenses down. Trains were reasonable (e.g., 450,000 IDR/$34 for a 7.5-hour ride in business class from Jakarta to Yogyakarta). Transport within Bali was expensive (500,000 IDR/$38 for a one-hour transfer from Canggu to Ubud) since we couldn’t use ride-hailing apps.
  • Miscellaneous: $60.47
    • This category includes a Telkomsel SIM card (300,000 IDR/$22.50). I don’t remember how much data was included with the SIM card, but it was plenty for my stay in Indonesia. As expected, service was non-existent on Mount Rinjani and around Ijen, but it was fine everywhere else I went.
    • I bought a sweater and headlamp for my Rinjani trek, which cost 225,000 IDR/$17 total. After the tour, I kept the headlamp but left the sweater with Syam Trekker.

Indonesia has an abundance of riches, and I missed many of them. Listed below are some of the more noteworthy ones.

  • Tana Toraja
    • The Toraja people on the island of Sulawesi have fascinating death rituals. As described in this National Geographic feature, deceased family members often remain in the home for weeks or months before burial. The living family members interact with the corpse. Funerals are huge events that the whole town attends. I met a few travelers who were planning to go to Sulawesi in the hopes of attending a funeral.
  • Kelimutu/Flores
    • Before coming to Indonesia, Kelimutu in Flores was high on my list due to the volcano’s three colored lakes, which can be black, red, and turquoise. I had trouble figuring out a way to fit this into my itinerary since transport to and within Flores isn’t 100% reliable. Once you get to Kelimutu, you need some luck to get a clear view of the lakes. I reluctantly gave up on going to Kelimutu this trip. Hopefully I’ll be able to go when I have more time to devote there.
    • Flores in general is supposed to be beautiful. Taking a four-day boat trip from Lombok to Flores is popular among backpackers. The conditions on the boat can be rough – the accommodations can be crowded, and there are no showers – but the views of the coastline are supposed to be worth it.
  • Komodo
    • To be honest, I was indifferent to seeing a Komodo dragon in person. I’m sure it’s a cool experience, but I had other priorities in Indonesia. Sorry, dragons; I’m sure you’re really offended.

Finally, some general notes about Indonesia:

  • I met a Swiss-Indonesian traveler in Malaysia, who recommended that I download the Go-Jek app in Indonesia. This was great advice. Go-Jek is an Indonesian ride-hailing app similar to Grab and Uber. Go-Jek seemed to be more widely available than Grab or Uber, which made it valuable when searching for transport. You can also use the app to for food deliveries and massages. Sadly, I stuck to transport and didn’t use the app to its full potential.
  • Don’t get me wrong: Indonesia is amazing, and I will jump on any chance to return. However, every traveler will get frustrated in Indonesia at some point. Transport was the usual cause of frustration for me.
    • When I used ride-hailing apps, drivers usually asked me for my location, which could be difficult to communicate due to language barriers. (I’m not blaming the drivers for not speaking English. It’s my issue since I don’t know Indonesian.) This can lead to a sequence of drivers canceling rides when you can’t provide your location.
    • Drivers look for chances to earn extra cash. For instance, I booked a transfer from Gili Air to Senggigi, which included a fast boat from Gili Air to a port in Lombok and a van ride from the port to Senggigi. Once the van driver reached the center of Senggigi, he said he had to drop me off on the road since my accommodation was far away. I asked him for the best way to my accommodation, but he just kept saying it was far. When I said I would find a taxi, he changed his tune and said he could drive me for an extra fee. I agreed to pay the driver 20,000 IDR/$1.50 to get to my accommodation. The ride ended up being just a couple of minutes; I easily could have walked but wasn’t smart enough to check the distance on my phone. Good move on the driver’s part.
  • Travelers like to joke about “Indonesian time,” where you can expect a request of, “Please wait just five minutes,” to mean, “Sorry, sucker, you’re stuck here for at least 30 minutes.” Interestingly, the pickups for all my tours were five to 15 minutes early.
  • I thought the touts in Phuket and Malaysia were flirty, but the touts and tour guides in Indonesia were something else. To be clear, I’m not trying to say anything about my looks…and I definitely wasn’t attracting anyone with my constant sweatiness. I think they were just excited to see a (any) solo female traveler. A typical exchange went like this:

Eager Indonesian Tout (EIT): Where’s your boyfriend?

Solo Female Traveler (SFT): I don’t have one.

EIT: I can be your boyfriend. What kind of boyfriend do you want?

SFT: Uh…someone funny?

EIT: I can be funny!

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