1. Money is everything here (well, it is everywhere in the world, but I found it more assertive and cunning here).
You can get anything or do anything you want, but for a price. And there is almost no way to get an upfront answer on the 100% cost of anything. For example, make sure to get a full list of items that are included when signing up for things like tours, i.e., if the activity is in a National Park – is park entry included? Lunch? It seems common practice for people to “forget” that certain extras are not included and to charge for them at a later time when you’re cornered or are busy having a good time.
2. Be prepared for trash.
Absolutely everywhere. In the streets, in the rivers, in the jungle, on a mountain, in the ocean, everywhere. We asked our tour guide at Mt Ijen why local people just throw their trash on the ground, and his response was, “Because we just don’t care”.
3. Never accept the first offer when bartering.
Stall holders will never start with a price that is neither fair, nor what the item is worth. Even if you suggest a price only slightly lower, you will be getting a better deal. This will probably take you a while to get used to, but see point 1 to make you feel better. You can also shop around first to see what the going rate is elsewhere so that you can go into the actual deal with more knowledge (whether its souvenirs, clothing, tours, activities, anything).
4. A car/scooter horn toot is meant as “Be aware of me” rather than used in anger.
It’s hard to get used to, as where I’m from I’ll only toot when someone has been driving like an idiot near me. People will toot when passing you, if they see you pulling out, if they are coming around a corner on your side of the road… Get used to the tooting, it will haunt your sleep for a while.
5. Use social media if you’ve ever got a question.
Apps like TripAdvisor are brilliant at answering all those questions you think are silly, because someone else has already asked it. I use TripAdvisor all the time if I need information of whether a company is legit, where to go for dinner or things to do around you at that exact moment and info on what other travellers thought of it.
6. You will be woken up at a ridiculous time regularly by the Muslim prayers.
Given that 70% of Indonesia’s 260 million people are Muslims, you are never too far away from the often and loud-speaker broadcast prayers. Apparently, the tradition of broadcasting the prayers via loudspeaker to the entire village/town/city was actually one Mosque trying to be louder than it’s neighbour to attempt to win attendants. Now it is just a reality of life here in Indonesia. This is not really advice, just a warning!
7. You will get used to showering right next to your toilet.
The majority of bathrooms in Indonesia have a bathroom that is just one large room – with nothing to separate the shower spray from going all over the bathroom. Keep in mind the location of the toilet roll also before turning on the shower, so as to avoid soaking it through (as I have done on many occasions).
8. You will get confused with their currency.
The rupiah. Apparently due to inflation some many years ago, but now just annoying, the rupiah’s smallest denomination is 100. And this is equivalent to $USD0.007. Using the Big Mac index for clarity, a Big Mac here will cost you Rp. 30,000, which sounds ridiculous but is actually only $USD2.19.
9. Always carry your own toilet paper (especially for the ladies).
I know this will be the case for a lot of countries we are travelling to, but it is very important even around the busy, built up, tourist parts of Indonesia. We’ve been to restaurants, cafes, bars, gas stations, hotels, airports, etc, that have not supplied TP.
10. You will find a renewed love for rice, or ‘nasi’ in Indonesian (or you will learn to loathe it!).
The Indonesian’s I have met absolutely love rice, and will genuinely have it happily for every meal. I love french fries, but could not happily eat them for every meal, every day. Clearly the rice treats them well, as they are some of the fittest, most hard-working people I’ve ever seen. One of the most famous dishes from Indonesia is Nasi Goreng, which is basically fried rice with the addition of vegetables and meat or seafood – and if you stay at a traditional homestay or hotel, you will be served this for breakfast. It takes a while to get used to it, but luckily, they make a bangin’ fried rice!
Have you travelled to Indonesia? Do you have any other pieces of advice? I would love to hear your thoughts!