Best and Worst Things About Indonesia
I don’t think Indonesia needs much of an introduction. It’s divers’ and beach bums’ paradise. Most of the people who travel through South East Asia visit Indonesia at one point or the other. Those who are not really into traveling (boooooring!) will have heard about Indonesias volcano eruptions and frequent earthquakes at the very least. In the end it is the 3rd most volcano-rich country and earthquakes (albeit small ones) shake it almost every day.
When it comes to our reasons for visiting Indonesia, I knew how beautiful Indonesia was underwater so for a long time it has been my dream to scuba dive here. Kristina visited Bali before and loved it so it was a no-brainer for us.
Having visited four different regions (Amed, Nusa Lembongan, Gili Air and Komodo – more about them in separate posts) of Indonesia we have formed a solid opinion about it. Below I summarized what we liked and disliked about Indonesia.
1. Fantastic underwater world. In Indonesia I saw a lot of things I have not seen before: Mantas, Sea Turtles, Sharks, huge Napoleon fish, and some smaller stuff (like the hilarious dancing Juvenile Oriental Sweetlips!!!) that really made the dives here feel unique.
2. Affordable prices. It is not unusual to find reasonable accommodation for under £5/night (check Agoda and Booking for best deals), scooter rental is £2-4/day and food is mainly £1-4 per meal. Even activities like scuba diving here are cheaper than anywhere else. My cheapest dive in Amed was £16.
3. Nice temples and other attractions. We really could have done a better job at visiting more of those but there are a lot of cool temples and other attractions to explore here. It seems it is difficult to run out of things to do wherever you are in Indonesia!
4. Year-round good weather. I honestly feel this is one of the biggest misconseptions and reasons why so many people miss out on the best of Bali and Indonesia. According to a quick google search October to April is the monsoon or wet season. Just the word monsoon makes people think of unstoppable tropical storms with days of continuous rain. Well, we stayed in Indonesia during the peak of rainy season (January and February) and over the period of four weeks we had 4-5 events of rain. By saying events, I mean some clouds came it rained for a bit and then it stopped the same day. Most of this bad weather happened at night so we did not even know about it until we got out to find wet pavement and puddles on the streets.
As a matter of fact, I believe this misconseption about weather opens up huge opportunities for travellers and especially Europeans for whom monsoon season in Indonesia is winter time to visit Indonesia, enjoy great weather and avoid the crowds.
5. Safety. In Indonesia it did not feel people were actively trying to scam us and no place we’ve been to felt dodgy. We felt welcome. Generally people are genuine and will try to help as much as they can, but that does not mean you should let your guard down.
1. Food. We found it difficult to find decent vegetables and fruits in shops or markets. This might be related to seasons though. Local food in warungs is okay but your body gets tired of nasi goreng and curry every day. More upmarket restaurants have reasonable Western food but it is a bit more expensive.
2. ATM withdrawals. Maximum you can take out in a transaction is normally limited to 2.5 million which is around £130. Our pounds go far in Indonesia but it is still a very small amount you can take out in one go. With our card we pay per transaction so these fees have added up. Also, unreliability of ATMs made me feel we had to stock up on cash whenever we could to avoid running out.
06/03/2019 Update: It is yet to be confirmed by our bank but it looks like our best card for foreign currency withdrawals has been skimmed and two withdrawals have been made that we know nothing about. Be extremely careful with ATM withdrawals in Indonesia!Some things I always do is pull and wiggle the bit where the card is inserted, check the keyboard and don’t withdraw if there are any suspicious looking bits attached to the machine.
3. Rubbish everywhere. It’s in beaches, streets, burial places, people’s homes and gardens. I am sure it is not a straightforward problem to solve especially with the amount of tourists some of these islands get, but something needs to change. It was encouraging to see dive shops organizing weekly beach and reef cleanups though.
4. Risk of natural disasters. You can’t control nature and it could happen anywhere but it kind of sucks to know there is a real risk the earth could start shaking bringing whole buildings down. Indonesia has also seen a fair few tsunamis over the last decade or so risk of natural disasters is quite high. Apparently we had a small earthquake when we were in Gili Air, but I could not feel anything.
Is Indonesia worth a shot?
Overall, we enjoyed ourselves very much in Indonesia and so yes it is definitely worth visiting! Every island or place we went to had something unique. Unfortunately though, we could not visit every place that we wanted to (Raja Ampat, Ubud in Bali, Nusa Penida and more). Hopefully this will be a good reason for us to come back.
Have you visited Indonesia recently? What did you best about it?