What you should pack obviously depends on where you are going to travel. Indonesia is a huge country comprising of many different islands, cultures and religions (although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim), so you should consider all these things when you are about to pack. Whatever your destinations are in Indonesia, you’ll probably end up in Bali at one point, which is one of the easiest holiday destinations. Bali is Indonesia lite, so you need to focus on the others destinations while packing.
The climate in Indonesia is almost entirely tropical with humidity between 70% and 90%. So be prepared, you are going to sweat. A lot. The country has wet and dry seasons instead of four seasons, so bear that in mind when you are booking your holidays.
Before packaging, you should decide between a backpack and a wheeled suitcase. Maybe it has something to do with age but, in my opinion, unless you are going to travel to very remote areas and walk a lot with all your belongings (which most of us don’t do), a wheeled suitcase is much more comfortable to use. Just bring a medium-sized backpack so you can do a short trips without having to carry all your stuff.
So here's the list of things you should and shouldn’t bring when traveling to Indonesia:
What to pack:
- Compact power strip: Depending on where you travel to, many hotels only offer one electricity socket. So, for those cases when you only have one socket and many items that need to be charged, you can charge all at once.
- Power plug adapter: depending on the kind of plugs you have at home. Indonesia uses a two-pin type power plug, 220 volts, similar to European countries.
- Light-weight torch (a LED headband torch is my favorite): you won’t always have your phone lantern available.
Smartphone/tablet: to access the internet at free WiFi spots. If you want to stay connected and you are travelling outside the big cities or
tourist destinations, you can also buy a cheap local SIM card for your unlocked phone and buy internet data. This is a good option if you are travelling, for example, to Flores, Sulawesi or
Kindle (or other e-reader): if you are going for a long trip and/or you don’t want to carry a couple of books. Bear in mind too that is quite
easy to buy or exchange second hand books in touristic places.
Don’t forget your chargers!
You'll need a small torch if you want to go up to Mount Kelimutu (Flores) early in the morning to catch the sunrise.
It's quite cool so bring some warm clothes and a pair of shoes to do some light trekking, especially if you want to take the
shortcuts on your way down!
CLOTHING, FOOTWEAR AND ACCESSORIES
- Lightweight, light colored and loose fitting clothes will help you to keep cool. Tight-fitting and dark colored clothes retain the heat, so bring them only as an extra layer for when you need to keep warm. TIP: also include some nicer outfits. If you are in not in touristic area, you might be invited to a wedding! Most locals love to mingle with foreigners.
- Loose, sleeved tops and long (below the knees) pants: you can basically wear whatever you want in Bali, but when in other parts of Indonesia is better not to show too much skin to avoid people staring at you, as most people dress quite modestly.
- Warm sweater and socks: because sometimes you can experience a drastic fall in temperature and you’ll want to be prepared. And because you’ll need them for the long air-conditioned flight.
- Swimwear: keep in mind that if you are going to travel outside of Bali or Lombok, people might not be used to see women wearing a bikinis (local people usually wear regular clothes when going to the beach and swim. And of course, they don’t sunbathe). If you don’t want to be stared at, bring some shorts and a t-shirt you can use as “decent” swimwear.
- Flip flops or sandals: for everything.
- Comfy shoes: sport shoes or trekking shoes, especially if you are going to climb one of the volcanoes or do some hiking. You can do a lot with just a pair of flip flops, but sometimes they are not the best option.
- Sunglasses: it’s sunny, very sunny.
- Scarf/sarong: use as you like, but a scarf or sarong can come in useful when it gets cold. Use one as a skirt when entering a temple, or as a blanket, or as a towel… even to cover yourself when the sun is too hot.
The Gili islands (Lombok) are perfect for some days of relaxation. Snorkeling, diving, spending the day at the beach and watching amazing sunsets is almost all you can do. But who needs more than that?
Though Lombok is a muslim area, the islands are very used to the tourists, so you can wear your bikini without any worries here (no topless allowed though, it's clearly signalled).
- Mosquito repellent: though you can buy it easily mostly everywhere. You can even buy sachets at the street kiosks. The most powerful is Autan, more so than the “natural” ones… because it is basically poison.
- Sunscreen: you will need tons and it’s pretty expensive in Indonesia, so better bring it with you.
- Sanitary towels: you can find them easily, but they are usually pretty bulky and not particularly comfortable, so it´s better bring your own.
- Tampons: carry with you all you need. You can find them in Bali but in other places of Indonesia they are almost non-existent.
- A Mooncup / menstrual cup: not only the best option ever, but especially here, where most of the toilets have water hoses that makes easier than ever to wash it.
- Earplugs: you never know who is going to be your neighbor. And when in areas with mosques… well, just have in mind that the first call to prayer is at 4-4.30 am.
First-aid kit: this one depends a lot on where you are traveling to and what you are going to do, so use
some professional advice here. Do not bring what you can’t use properly (except maybe some spare syringes –I’ve always carried them, though fortunately never used them). For me the basics
are: plasters, gauze pads and medical adhesive tape, butterfly closures, diarrhoea tablets, paracetamol and my favourite: propolis extract (its anti-bacterial properties make it perfect to
treat burns and cuts, strengthen your immune system and relieve sore throats).
The boat trip from Labuan Bajo to Rinca and Komodo (Flores) is quite popular. Full of luscious islands and clear water. Though it's being developed quite fast for the increase in tourism in the last few years, the island of Flores is far from being crowded.
Just have in mind that the biggest city of the island has a population of about 50.000...
- Your passport, obviously!
- A copy of your passport. Have it scanned and send it to your own mail. Take some photos with your camera phone too.
- International driving license: if you are planning to rent a car or a motorbike. Most of the times you won't be asked for it when renting a motorbike, but it will help you if you are stopped by the police.
- Health insurance: if you are lucky enough to have free and universal healthcare in your country of origin, you are maybe unaware of how much you would have to pay if you need health attention while in Indonesia. Think that if you need to go to the hospital because of an ankle sprain, fever or anything else, you could end paying thousands of dollars. Just do it, seriously, pay for that travel insurance.
Debit/credit card: most of the time you don’t pay commissions when paying with your card, so use it as much
as possible (instead of paying with cash I mean!). Sometimes though, the vendor will charge you an extra 2-3% of your purchase (which is the commission that is charged by the bank for using
the card service and is usually assumed by the vendors).
Many tourists ride motorbikes in Bali (along with the locals, of course), because it's the easiest way of moving around and incredibly cheap. Public transportation doesn't really exist and with the bike you can literally explore every corner of the island of the gods.
Be careful if you are driving in Indonesia, the roads are not great and holes, bumps and all kind of obstacles are very common in the middle of the road. Traffic regulations are not very popular either, so you must expect everything while driving.
What NOT to pack
- Mosquito net: because, seriously, you are not going to use it.
- Sarong for the beach: Bring an old one if you already have it, but you can buy a new one there. There are millions of shops selling beautiful and cheap sarongs that you can buy anytime.
- Towel: if your hotel doesn’t provide you with one (or two) you can easily buy a cheap one.
- Too many clothes: you won’t use them. And if you go to Bali you can have them washed at a very low price (1-2 dollars per kilo). There are laundries everywhere.
- All your money in cash: it’s not very secure or comfortable to have hundreds of dollars in cash. Just use an ATM (first thing to do at the airport) because, anyway, your bank will probably give you a better rate than a currency changer.
- Basic toiletries: tissues, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste… you can easily find them all and probably at a lower price. Just bring some of each to last you for the first few days.
Reusable water bottle: you cannot drink tap water anywhere in Indonesia, so you’ll have to buy bottled
water or use a water bottle with filter.
Indonesia is well known for its amazing underwater life, so doing some snorkeling or diving is a must. The best thing is that you can dive just about anywhere in Indonesia, though in some places the reef has been heavily damaged by cyanide or bomb fishing.
Bunaken (Sulawesi), Raja Ampat (Papua), Komodo (Flores) are amazing and yet unspoiled places well worth a visit.
Its location in fish-rich waters and a long fishing tradition, makes Indonesia one of the biggest seafood producers (and consumers) in the world.