Spending 5 months in Indonesia made me realize how under prepared I was, and also how over prepared I was for some other stuff. So instead of going in these same situations like me, I’ll give you all I’ve learned from these 5 months so you can adequately prepare for your trip to Indonesia according to how long it is!
Do Expect extreme hospitality, people are very excited to see tourists, especially blond or colored ones in general!
However, Do Not Expect that this excitement will lead to good conversations with locals, barely anyone in Java speaks conversational English. So apart from where are you from, what are you doing here, you won’t get much.
Do Expect an answer to all of your questions, whether you ask them in English, or if you speak Bahasa Indonesia. But, Do Expect that this answer will be a “YAA”, in that case, Do Not Expect that the answer is correct, or has anything to do with the question.
A little experiment I carried out with my girlfriend many times was when we were asked where are you from? Or “dari mana” in Indonesian, we said any made up names, Fajita land, Bortosh Republic, whatever comes to mind, and the answer was always “Ooo Yaaa!”
Do Expect amazingly tasty food! Do Expect it to be extremely spicy (usually Sambal, the spicy sauce, is added to the side, make sure you mix a bit and decide the level of spiciness for you!)
Do Expect to get a bout of diarrhea, whether when you first arrive or a bit later. Same with the Delhi Belly, but a little milder, no one gets through Indonesian food without one of these, not even Indonesians!
Do Expect to get a lot of stares at you. Indonesians have the culture of unashamed staring, they won’t care if you stare back, and it is not rude for them, it is quite normal.
Do Expect to be treated like a movie star! Several school kids, even many adults, will come to you and ask to take your picture, or take a photo with you! “Mister, photo photo!!” Do Expect these requests to come at the most random times! While you are just sitting in a park (expected) or while you are at a restaurant, hands full of sauce and mouth full of food and chewing (kind of unexpected.)
In Bali, Lombok, and Gili Islands, Do Expect that everyone will speak English! Do Expect that everything is double priced compared to Java Island, especially on Bali. Do Not Expect the movie star treatment anymore, you aren’t THAT special as they see lots of foreigners everyday!
Do Expect to get extremely dirty! Indonesia is very dusty, especially on the high ways. So double that dirtiness if you are traveling with a motorbike! Do Expect black water running of your body when you shower after a long motorbike ride!
In the rainy season, obviously, Do Expect A LOT of rain, it is not just light showers, it is strong ones that will make you stay inside sometimes! Also, Do Expect a lot of mud showers when on the streets later, non if the Indonesian drivers take into consideration slowing down a bit when driving into water, so if you are nearby, or driving a motorbike, you are getting that mud shower!
Do Not Expect to spend a lot of money! My last month, I had a little bit over 600 Dollars, and I wanted to travel! And travel I did! With two weeks in Gili Islands, few days in Malang and a few days in luxurious hotel in Surabaya, where I spent all the money I had left! I did think I would get broken, but instead, I ended up doing a little souvenir shopping on my last day because I had a bit of extra money!
Do Not Expect that Bali is the best place in Indonesia!! Do Expect to find many off the touristic path places, Indonesia is a HUGE country, with many places that are never visited by tourists, and only some locals (that live nearby) know about! So get your adventurous self ready and go exploring other islands and even new places that aren’t mentioned in the guidebooks on the islands! Do Expect to get lost as the roads are extremely mazy, whether inside the cities or the high ways!
Lastly, Do Not Expect anything out of Indonesia! Indonesia is a land full of surprises, starting from the surprise of who speaks English and who doesn’t (Literally, a doctor might not speak English, but a fried rice seller would…You get the idea…) to the surprise of the amount of places you can discover! Have both, low and high expectations out of Indonesia! But most of all, embrace all experiences you go through, and that is how you’ll have an unforgettable experience in Indonesia!
Have you ever been to Indonesia? Did it live up to your expectations? What about other countries? Which countries exceeded your expectations in anyway?