Surviving Indonesia #1: How to Travel Savvy in Indonesia

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As an archipelago country stretched across the equator, Indonesia offers travelers diverse kind of destinations with various activities as well. Despite having the dry season, heavy rain are still pouring down through out the year. When traveling to Indonesia, it is best to always have a plan B, considering a bad weather.

Infrastructures like paved roads and public transportation are still underdeveloped in many areas outside Java island and Bali. Electricity and clean water are also scarcely available in remote villages and small islands. Your dream vacation can turn to nightmare without savvy preparation and knowledge. Here are some practical knowledge to consider before you set your foot in Indonesia.

Accommodation

Online internet booking services such as expedia and agoda have made choosing a place to stay for your dream vacation a seemingly effortless task to do. One thing a traveler must remember is that all those services treat hotels as their clients and display pretty brochure-material photos on their page.

Although such services provide user’s hotel review box below the hotel’s description, it is still highly suggested to ask opinions from other fellow travelers who have previously visited the destination. Reviews and recommendations taken from internationally trusted guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, Insight Guide or Frommer’s is also useful as a comparison.

Book all your hotel rooms first prior to your departure. Hotels especially those in rural villages and touristy destinations in Indonesia are notoriously known to set high room rates for travelers who haven’t booked their rooms and look desperately in need for a place to spend the night.

For budget travelers, couchsurfing can be a cheap yet culturally challenging way to stay. It is a good opportunity not only to mingle with local people, but also to learn the local culture, custom, and language at your destination first hand.

Alternatively, budget hotels are mushrooming in Indonesia during these past few years. Amaris Hotel and Pop Hotel chain are two budget friendly hotels that open branches in many major cities in Indonesia. Fave Hotel, Tune Hotel, and Ibis Budget Hotel are other budget hotel chains which are available in several major cities in the country with service and amenities quality to guarantee you a good night sleep.

Transportation

If you are not planning to go outside Java island, you might want to consider taking a train ride to do city hopping, especially if time is not a problem. The ticket fare is apparently cheaper than airlines ticket and if you get to travel pass the north coast railway, the green hilly landscape as well as the northern coastal view is such a pretty sight for your eyes.

Choose to travel by early morning train to enjoy the splendid scenery along the way or else take the night train if you intend to arrive early the next day to have more spare time exploring your destination.

It is suggested to take executive class trains such as Turangga, Taksaka, Gajayana, Bima and the Argos such as Argo Bromo Anggrek, Argo Lawu, and Argo Dwipangga than to take the business class. All the executive class trains are equipped with air conditioner, adjustable seats, LCD TV, and electric plugs to ensure passenger’s comfort along the trip.

While traveling by train can only be done in Java, taking a flight is required to get to destinations outside Java island.

Major commercial airlines such as Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, Indonesia AirAsia, and Lion Air usually only serve flights to capitals and big cities on every provinces. To reach Indonesia’s remote towns, travelers need to change flight and continue their journey using smaller airlines like Wings Air, Susi Air, and Trigana Air to small towns and remote areas.

Remember to check the flight frequency to and from your destination. Small airports located on small islands such as Natuna Ranai, Bau-Bau or Wakatobi only serve flights to other cities once to three times a week.

Planning for city hopping? Checking the flight routes and match them with your itinerary would surprisingly not as easy as you thought it would be.

I once set an itinerary to travel from Jakarta to Bandar Lampung then to continue my journey to Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Island, Sumatra. Later on I had to change my plan because there isn’t any airlines serving direct flight from Bandar Lampung to Pangkal Pinang although both cities are located in Sumatra.

Don’t get fooled with how close your destination is on the map, especially if it is located outside Java island.

Manado and Palu which are both in Sulawesi might look close on the map, but again there isn’t any direct flight available from Manado to Palu. Most flight from Manado requires you to transit in Balikpapan—which is located in West Kalimantan instead of Sulawesi—before taking you to Palu.

Not only causing a longer flight duration, the transit also cause the flight fares to soar up to around Rp 1,200,000 – Rp 1,600,000 [US$120.15 – US$136.20].

 

*Photo courtesy of Renny Puspita

 

This article is originally published on The Jakarta Post Travel

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