Spread across much of Southeast Asia, Indonesia is a very culturally and geographically diverse country. Made up of over 17,000 islands with 700 languages spoken, the country's diversity makes it a hotspot for tour goers looking to explore a tropical destination.
With the bustling city of Jakarta as the capital, other top destinations in Indonesia are the islands of Bali, Java, Lombok, and Sumatra. These tropical islands include a mix of rich culture, dense jungle, and beautiful sandy beaches. On a tour of Indonesia, you'll likely find yourself exploring a mix of volcanoes, temples, and national parks.
Choosing a tour in Indonesia can be difficult because there are so many options -- each focusing on different highlights around the country. Those looking to book a tour in Indonesia focused on adventure will certainly have their pick, as will those looking to explore culture, wildlife, or a mix of all of the above!
Indonesia is a mix of cultures, religions, languages, and foods -- all of which can be experienced on culture-based tours. Many tours start in the bustling city of Jakarta before heading to Borobudur Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, or Prambanan, a Hindu temple in Yogyakarta. A popular destination is Ubud, which is considered to be the cultural and spiritual center on the island of Bali. Don’t forget to try murtabak, an Indonesian street food that can be ordered up sweet or savory!
Considering Indonesia has the most active volcanoes in the world, it should come as no surprise that many adventure tours are based around hiking and trekking expeditions. You can head to Lombok for a guided hike of Mount Rinjani -- the second highest volcano in Indonesia. Mount Bromo, located on eastern Java, allows you to peer down into its crater after hiking up a massive set of rock stairs. You can also hike up Mount Batur, located on Bali, or explore it on a guided downhill cycling tour.
Given that Indonesia is made up of a collection of islands, going on an island tour is a popular way to see different parts of the country. The Gili Islands, made up of three smaller islands, are famous for coral reefs, sea turtles, and the fact that motorized vehicles are forbidden. You can relax on the beaches or learn to surf -- if you are up for the challenge! Some island tours even visit Komodo Island -- the remote home of the famous Komodo dragon.
If you want the opportunity to observe and interact with Indonesian wildlife, you can find a tour that brings you to them. Stops like the Wildlife Rescue Centre in Yogyakarta allow you to help care for sun bears, orangutans, and many other species. The Ubud Monkey Forest on Bali is filled with hundreds of monkeys -- but watch your belongings and don’t feed them!
Any tour around Indonesia is going to be a memorable experience that you will remember for a lifetime. That said, finding the right tour experience for your interests, budget, and timeline will take some research and planning.
Best Time to Visit Indonesia
While the guidelines do change from region to region, the best time to visit Indonesia is generally May through September. These months see the hottest and driest weather. July and August are considered “high season” in the touristy places like Bali so it’s recommended to travel just before to just after these months, if possible.
Monsoon season -- October through April -- is still hot but far more humid. Tours do operate but downpours can interrupt schedules for island ferries and hiking activities, for example.
What to Look for in a Tour to Indonesia
Indonesia is divided up into many different islands -- each one featuring a different side of the country. As such, tours usually focus on a specific area or region over a number of days. For example, a cultural tour that lasts a few days might only cover the island of Bali on land. An island hopping tour, on the other hand, might take you on planes and ferries to cover greater distances.
In general, you will want to seek out tour operators that have reviews of their routes and a reputable track record. Most tours (and their base fee) should cover the basic details like transportation and accommodation with extra activities and upgrades for additional costs. Do not be afraid to ask questions about fee breakdowns before you purchase a tour itinerary.
Typical Tour Cost
Tour costs for Indonesia vary between tour type and the areas covered. A typical 8-14 day “ultimate tour” of trekking, beaches, and adventure around Bali, Lombok, and/or the Gili Islands can cost anywhere from $700 to $1200. A typical 9-day island hopping tour that includes Komodo Island costs around $950. That said, certain areas can be visited very cheaply without sacrificing quality. An 8-day land trek around just Bali can cost an affordable $550.
Aside from base tour costs that cover accommodations, transportation, and a guide, you will need to factor in the cost for flights to get to Indonesia, as well as additional costs like travel insurance, some meals, and travel visas.
Packing Tips & Gear Rentals
In general, packing for Indonesia should include light, versatile clothing items that can be layered and worn in changing weather conditions. Having proper footwear for whatever activities you are doing is essential -- especially for adventure tours with lots of hiking.
If you are going to Indonesia on a cultural tour, be mindful of the dress code for religious sites. Shoulders and knees will need to be covered, but you should also follow any other specific rules outlined before entering.
Gear rentals for activities like camping or scuba diving should be covered and organized by most tour companies. That said, be sure to inquire about any additional gear rentals you will have to organize on your own in advance of an activity.
Other Tips for Travel in Indonesia
If you are heading off on a tour of Indonesia, it is important to remember that Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population along with many other religious, ethnic, and language groups. As such, you should be aware of changing customs around what to wear, what food is available, and how you communicate with the locals.
English is spoken in most touristy areas of Indonesia. In rural areas, however, it would be wise to brush up on a few basic words or phrases in Indonesian, a basic form of Malay language.
Before you travel to Indonesia, it is important to consult a travel doctor to ensure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations for the area. Bottled water is widely consumed for drinking -- and it is advised to even brush your teeth using bottled water as well. If you want to get a taste for Indonesia's diverse culinary offerings, be mindful that consuming street food is common, but your body may not be familiar with the ingredients or methods used for food preparation.
As with any country in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is a relatively safe country for travel but risks still remain. Indonesia is known to be geographically unstable with earthquakes causing travel disruptions in some regions.
The rates of petty crime -- usually pick-pocketing -- is higher in tourist areas and targets foreign travelers. Luckily, much of the crime in Indonesia is non-violent. Always be aware of your surroundings and your belongings, especially on public transportation.
If you are considering renting a motor scooter, be sure to have the proper license and always wear a helmet. Police corruption is somewhat commonplace and paying a small bribe to avoid a “fine” can, and does, happen.