Budget Travel – 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. For us, Europeans, however, this is a distant country and knowing how much to budget for travelling in Indonesia might be a challenge. For this reason I will break it all down to hopefully make money in Indonesia an easier challenge to crack.
In Indonesia cash is by far the best way to pay for things. As far as our experience goes, the ATM machines come in two types – the 50k note ones and the 100k note ones. ATMs do not charge an additional withdrawal fee so the only thing you pay is whatever your own bank charges you for a non-local currency withdrawal.
In some countries like Thailand and Philippines ATM fees are super high (£3-5 per withdrawal) which makes cash a lot more expensive and card payments start becoming more attractive. As mentioned above, in Indonesia you have the luxury of withdrawing cash cheaper.
Now, it all may seem great so far, however, ATMs in Indonesia are really unreliable. We have struggled withdrawing money on Sundays in particular. My thinking is that cash is topped up on Friday and then Monday again so on Sunday there is barely any left anywhere.
In some smaller islands cash machines might be few and if none are working you are really out of luck and out of options. This is why it is better to have a buffer of cash (at least 1-2 days-worth) and use opportunities to withdraw extra when you come by an ATM that works.
Another downside is that you will most likely only be able to withdraw 2.5 million rupiah at a time which is £132 or $175. If you get lucky you might get 3 million.
Credit/Debit card payments will almost always attract an additional 3% fee added (in IDR) to your bill. At the time of writing (March 2019) £1 = 18790 IDR, 1$ = 14250 IDR, 1Euro = 16000 IDR.
Note: It has been confirmed that our card has been skimmed in one of the ATMs in Indonesia which leads me to urging everyone to be extremely careful when using ATMs not only in Indonesia but all over the world. Before putting your card in check the ATMs carefully and use the ones that inside bank offices if possible. Luckily we did not have a lot of money in the card and it was refunded to us anyway but it still was very unpleasant.
When we were developing a budget estimate for Indonesia we expected a nice meal in an average restaurant to not cost more than £2 per person (or around 40k IDR). We ended up overshooting our food budget by about 40%. Don’t get me wrong – eating out is not expensive in Indonesia, but 40k IDR per meal will only be possible if you eat at the most basic eateries.
Big Water bottle – 5-6k IDR
Meal (Curry) at restaurant – 60k IDR
Healthy fruit smoothie bowl – 70k IDR
Large Beer at a restaurant – 35k IDR
Fruit Smoothie – 40k IDR
Although most of travellers opt for hiring a motorbike for exploring islands, bus services are the most popular for tours/trips/activities. The nice thing about bus services is that it is very common for passengers to be picked up from their hotel and returned back to the hotel as well. For island hopping you will most likely have to buy ferry tickets from one of the many travel agencies.
Unlike in Thailand, where asking your hotel might result in you getting a better deal, we found that in Indonesia the best thing is to go directly to ticket desks on main ports/piers.
Moto hire in Bali – 70k IDR
Gasoline 1 litre – 10k IDR
Generally bikes offer good value in islands where distances are more significant and traffic is not too hectic. Just don’t forget to ask for a helmet! Don’t hire if you are refused to be given one.
Also, Indonesians seem to trust tourists and tend to not ask to keep your passport as a deposit. Actually we have never been asked for any deposit.
The only two times we had to use a mini bus was when we travelled from Amed in the North of Bali to Bali airport and also from Lombok Bangsal Ferry terminal to Lombok Airport.
Amed – Denpasar Airport. Mini bus was 170k IDR per person, but it took waaaaay longer than the private transfer we booked to get to Amed from the airport. Private transfer will cost you 450k-500k IDR but I would probably say it is worth the money if there are 2+ people travelling.
We used Moyo Tours (www.moyo-tulamben.com) for our transfer and they were really good.
Lombok Bangsal Ferry terminal to Lombok Airport. 150k IDR per person but transfer from Gili Air to Lombok Bangsal was included in the price too. We booked this one directly from Gili Air ferry terminal.
We took a number boats during our time in Indonesia. Usually this is a budget friendly option for getting from place to place and is also quite quick and comfortable. Buy tickets directly from the ticket desks in piers and don’t bother with agencies you find on streets.
Bali (Sanur) to Nusa Lembongan – 150k IDR per person (speedboat)
Nusa Lembongan to Gili Air – 375k IDR per person (speedboat)
Gili Air to Lombok – 15k (slowboat – leaves as soon as boat fills up – other Gili islands will have similar prices)
There are a lot of budget friendly accommodation options which offer good value for budget travellers. We have been able to find places to stay for as little as £5 or $7 but it depends on what sort of deals you find online and how good you are at negotiating.
Bali (Sanur) – 150k – 180k IDR (AC + hot water)
Nusa Lembongan – 250k-350k IDR (AC + hot water)
Gili Air – 125k-250k IDR (AC + cold water)
Labuan Bajo (Komodo) – 80k-200k IDR (AC + cold water)
Amed (Bali) – 100k IDR (AC + hot water)
Click here to see our hotel in Nusa Lembongan.
Here for our cool wooden bungalow in Gili Air.
Here for our hostel in Labuan Bajo.
Here for our hotel in Amed, Bali.
Or find your own Accomodation in Indonesia using Agoda search box below. Always double check Booking to compare prices.
Attractions in Indonesia are generally really affordable.
Scuba diving – 500k IDR per dive approx. consistent in any location (Indonesia is a perfect place to get your Scuba certification done – prices are good and dives are really cool – read my post about SSI Rescue Diver Course I did in Amed, Bali)
Snorkelling – 100k per person in Gili Air
Snorkelling – 500k per person in Komodo Nat Park (full day trip with breakfast + lunch and also visit to Rinca Island to see Komodo Dragons)
Snorkelling + island hopping tour in Komodo Nat Park (speedboat) – 1.2 million IDR per person.
Snorkelling + island hopping tour in Komodo Nat Park (slow boat) – 375k IDR per person (slower boat – less destinations)
In my eyes Indonesia offers some of the best price/value ratios in the world for all the categories covered above.
A quick example for someone coming to visit Indonesia for two weeks from the UK (insurance excluded) could look like this:
Return Flights – £500 (although using Skyscanner I can see return deals starting from £389 in May-June 2019)
Accommodation (budget hotels for 14 days) – £100 ($132)
Food (14 days at 300k IDR per day) – £220 (4.2 million IDR) or $295.
Transportation – £100. This includes a generous 1 million IDR (£53 or $70) for speedboats and 7 days of motorbike hire (£26 or $34) + a little bit for fuel and additional 300k IDR (£16 or $21) for airport transfers.
Sightseeing and Entertainment – £160. This should cover you for a few day trips to temples or boat tours, some scuba diving, snorkelling and more.
Total – £1080 or around £77 ($102) per day all included.
Note: Check your personal Visa conditions. For the majority of Europeans free visa is issued upon arrival and is good for 30 days.