Travelling to an exotic archipelago along the equator may sound a bit pricey and intimidating — flights, accommodations, transportation expenses, and more. But having a great time in Indonesia costs less than you might imagine, and there are ways to slice the budget even more. Check out our tips on how to travel (and enjoy) Indonesia on a budget.
Book months in advance
This may not be news for avid travellers, but purchasing tickets months beforehand almost always guarantees a better price. Some airlines have special offers and promotions that would allow you to select dates within a particular travel period, sometimes months away from the booking period. As soon as you’ve chosen your travel dates, check prices with your favourite booking app or website and don’t hesitate. The same goes when booking flights to travel within Indonesia.
There are many routes you can take to reach the vast archipelago, depending on where you come from. Some travellers find it cheaper to fly to Kuala Lumpur first, then get a connecting flight to Jakarta or Bali. Take time to compare and plan your entry into Indonesia.
Choose the right season
Much like everywhere else, flight and accommodation prices will most likely spike during peak seasons. In Indonesia, that happens around New Year’s and during school break from June to July. Try to avoid these months if your schedule is flexible, as tourist attractions will be equally packed during this time. If you don’t mind a little rain, travelling at the end or beginning of the wet season (October or March) will also be more affordable.
There is a local, cheaper alternative to everything you need, whether that’s food, clothes, groceries, or even art and souvenirs. Opt for the traditional market to get locally made goods that are often much less expensive than imported or branded items. By purchasing local goods, you are also contributing to the community’s economy and may even wind up with better quality and authenticity.
Find affordable activities or attractions
In a sweeping archipelago made up of thousands of islands, there’s no shortage of things to do – even for those on a tight budget. Most beaches in Bali, for example, charge less than $0.4 for entrance and parking. That goes for most natural attractions as well, including lakes, waterfalls, rice terraces, and more. This makes sight-seeing one of the best and most affordable activities to do in Indonesia. Entering temples can cost $4 or less, and some art galleries may charge you slightly more but still well below $10. Government-run museums or galleries usually require a mere pittance and sometimes they’re free of charge. You can also check out our guides on the best things to do for free in Bali or Jakarta.
Go for public transport
Ditch the cab and try your luck with public transportation. Many cities in Indonesia actually have reliable public transportation systems that will definitely be kinder to your wallet than hailing a cab everywhere you go.
Most cities in Indonesia have online ride-hailing services such as Uber, Go-Jek, and Grab. If your destination is not within public transport’s coverage, using these apps to find a ride will still cost much less than taking a conventional cab. But if you’re travelling alone, give the motorbike ride (ojek) a go instead of a car. It’s cheaper and faster as it weaves through traffic.
Stay in a hostel or kost
Most tourist destinations like Bali, Yogyakarta, or Lombok have many great modern hostels to choose from. If you can stand a little tropical heat, choose non-air-conditioned rooms with lower rates (even those rooms will most likely have electric fans). If you’re planning to stay for a few weeks, you can try renting a room. Renting a kost in Indonesia is very easy and straightforward, you just need to choose a place and pay up front. If you rent a room or a bike weekly or monthly, you can negotiate for a better price.
Step up your haggling game
Sometimes, vendors or service providers will try to get the most out of visitors, especially foreign tourists. In most traditional markets, it’s acceptable and quite common to haggle. No-fail tip: Always drive a hard bargain at first (at about 60% off the initial price). When the vendor says no, increase your asking price a little and that’s when you’ll most likely strike your deal. Sometimes pretending to walk away towards other vendors also helps get the price you want.