A few years ago, my wife and I decided to travel to South Asia for an indefinite period. During our stay in Asia, Indonesia was an unmissable country in our eyes. However, we had decided not to go to Bali, to avoid mass tourism, and we rather focused on the islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi, two destinations still considered as being off the beaten track. In the same line as the other “budget articles in Asia”, I’ll present you here everything you need to know for your travel budget in Indonesia.
Prices may have changed slightly over the past few years, but from what I’ve seen, it’s almost similar to what I’ve experienced in 2019. To avoid any endless debate, I point out that we were on a Southeast Asian tour, as backpackers, with a small budget of 15€/day per person – an amount we finally never reached during this whole trip.
This article is the first one about Indonesia. Others will follow about places I was lucky enough to see, especially on the island of Sumatra for one month. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to visit Sulawesi, as I got sick and was flown back to France at the end of our trip.
Regarding the tourist visa in Indonesia in 2021, if you stay less than 30 days, you are exempt. You can then extend your stay for another 30 days. For those preparing a trip to the area, you might as well be interested in knowing which budget plan for a trip to Laos, right?
To organize your stay in the country, I think there are five main points allowing to evaluate the budget:
- Budget to go to Indonesia
- Cost of accommodation in Indonesia
- Budget for transportation between the Indonesian islands
- Budget to eat in Indonesia
- Leisure budget in Indonesia
At the end of the article, I’ll try, as always, to give you some budget details for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 1 month or more in Indonesia. I will also tell you what I personally spent during the month I was there. These numbers are quite realistic for backpackers or around-the-world travelers.
They are not absolute truths of course, but rather orders of ideas. I try to give as much detail as possible in this article so it will help you see things clearer. I must admit that Indonesia is one of the countries where we spent the least money. Traveling there really doesn’t cost much, which is perfect if you are on a budget and can get by for a pittance. As a reminder, the currency of the country is the Indonesian rupiah (or ruphia – Rps). 1€ is about 15000 Rps.
Unlike its neighbors (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia mainly), it is quite possible to enter the country through a large number of airports. Why is that? Quite simple because Indonesia is composed of more than 16000 islands… all these possibilities of discovery leave us dreamy honestly, right?
Two main airports are the most-used gateways when traveling to Indonesia: Jakarta (CGKI, Java Island) and Denpasar (DPSI: Bali Island). Obviously, these are the two most affordable airports if you want to find cheap flights. From the US, it will cost between 500 and 700$ for a flight from the main cities, which is more or less the same prices when flying from major European cities.
Some pictures of Indonesia to make you feel like you’re already on vacation!
I’m going to get things straight right away: you probably won’t break the bank sleeping in Indonesia. I mean, again, it always depends on how you travel and your notion of comfort. For those who don’t feel comfortable not booking anything in advance and deciding on the spot (what I do like!), you can of course look on the usual sites, like Booking.
About prices, they seem to vary quite a bit between the islands. Obviously, you will pay more for your guesthouse or homestay in Bali than you’ll do in Sumatra. The prices announced below are based on what I have seen in Sumatra or Java, for example. With a slight increase in prices in recent years, and if you want to go to Bali or Lombok, I think you will have to raise prices a little to get a more topical idea.
For those who are looking for nice accommodations for your trip to Indonesia, here are some personal recommendations.
When I was in Indonesia, in a whole month, I never slept at more than 60000 Rps a night for two, that is to say about 5€. Clearly, we don’t break the bank there, do we? In most cases, we slept at 50000 Rps/night (3,8€). Even in some tourist areas of Sumatra, prices were even lower.
At this price, you get a simple but clean room with a fan, enough for a backpacking trip. It seems that prices are a bit higher in the tourist spots of the country, but if you do a bit of research, you can find guesthouses for 6 to 8€ a night (around 100000 Rps) even in Bali!
For those who are looking for nice accommodations, you will be spoilt for choices in all the islands of the country…
If you are planning a trip to the country, you should already be tearing your hair out to know which islands you are going to visit! There are so many that choices will have to be made, mainly according to how long you’ll stay there, your desires, if you like tourists, and your budget, to a lesser extent.
Let’s start with a quick point about the means of transportation on the islands. No matter which islands you are going to visit in Indonesia, the transportation remains more or less the same, that’s to say the great classics: bus, minibus, train, scooter, ferry, plane, cab, etc. I didn’t have the opportunity to test all of them during my month in Sumatra, but I still took many of them.
The transportation options are endless when traveling to Indonesia!
Even if some airlines serving the islands are blacklisted, that’s a fact, the plane is still the safest way to travel (like anywhere in the world for that matter). Of course, disasters do happen, but compared to the risks of bus or boat accidents in the country, it is a good plan.
Very good point moreover: traveling in Indonesia by plane on domestic flights is really not expensive, and you can find flights for 25/30€ between islands without worries. Here are some prices to give you an idea, one way:
- Jakarta (Java Island) to Medan or Padang (Sumatra Island): from 50€
- Jakarta to Denpasar (Bali Island): from 40€
- Jakarta to Banjarmasin (South Borneo Island): from 60€
- Jakarta to Makassar (Sulawesi Island): from 50€
- Jakarta to Sumbawa: from 80€
To make it simple, from the island of Java, you can easily go to many other islands in Indonesia for 50€ one way. If you are looking for the best rates for internal flights in Indonesia, it is right here.
Of course, those who are saving money or plan short trips between close islands, the boat is a very good solution. You will find all kinds of boats: fisherman, speedboat, ferry, etc.
I only had the opportunity to take a boat once, since I stayed only on the island of Sumatra for the whole month. I also got some price ideas for you!
- Parapat to Tuk Tuk (on Lake Toba, Sumatra): 10000 Rps/person,
- Public ferry from Bengsal (Lombok Island) to Gili Trawangan: 12000 Rps per person (10 000 Rps for Gili Air),
- Crossing from Java to Bali (with car): about 156 000 Rps
- Speed Boat from Ubud (Bali) to Gili Air: 250 000 Rps,
- Ferry from Gilimanuk to Ketapang: 6500 Rps / person
This is also an option in the country. You can either rent a car with a driver (between 250 000 and 300 000 Rps/8h) or rent a car and drive all by yourself. Between us, I am not convinced that it is really interesting, both financially and for meeting people in the local transport. You can for example book a rental car that you’ll pick up directly at the airport via this car rental comparator.
You will often use it to go to the airport, for example. Prices are never fixed, and you should ask other travelers around you for price ideas in the areas where you are. A cab ride in a tourist area is around 50,000 Rps.
Once again, as often in the country, prices are a bit according to whether they like how you look and they vary quite a bit depending on which island you’re on. In 2019, the price of gasoline is about 8500 Rps/Liter. As an example, here is what I paid for:
- One day around Berastagi (Sumatra): 100 000 Rps (gasoline included)
- One day on the island of Samosir (Lake Toba): 80 000 Rps (gasoline included)
- One day on Bali: between 50 000 and 60 000 Rps (in 2017-2018).
Needless to say, be careful when driving a scooter as there are a lot of accidents, and the Indonesian traffic rules are pretty different from the French ones, aren’t they?
They are mini-buses and local buses very present everywhere in the country. As a general rule, a short trip costs about 5000 Rps/person. Some price ideas from my side in Sumatra:
- Medan to Bukit Lawang Bus Station: 6000 Rps/person,
- Bus station from Medan to Bukit Lawang (80 Km / 2h): 20 000 Rps/person,
- Bukit Lawang to Berastagi (2h): 15 000 Rps/person,
- Kabanjhe to Siantar (2.5h / 95km): 250,000 Rps/person.
Impossible not to take a bemo during a trip to Indonesia!
That’s not what I personally did on Sumatra, but it seems that many travelers do take the train, especially on the island of Java. You should know that there are 3 classes of transport: economy, business, and executive. It is a means of transport I appreciated the few times I took it in Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Laos). It allows you to be with the locals and to meet people, all this for a cheap price. For more info, you can check this bible about train travel. Count for example:
- 50000 Rps/person from Probolingo to Yogyakarta.
- 150000 Rps/person (economical) from Jakarta to Yogyakarta
Just as in all Southeast Asia, you will not break the bank on food in Indonesia! Some other examples of prices from my month there:
- A local dish (Mi Goreng or Nasi Goreng) in the street: 10000 Rps (sometimes 15000),
- A plate of white rice: 3000 Rps,
- A packet of cakes: 5000 to 7000 Rps,
- A soup in the street: 10000 Rps,
- A 1 L bottle of water: 2500 to 4000 Rps,
- A local beer at the supermarket: 10000 to 15000 Rps,
- A menu at Mac Do: 45000 Rps,
- A Pepsi/Coca: 6000 Rps
I’ll talk about it later on in my budget for my trip in Indonesia, but clearly, you will not spend much. In touristic restaurants, prices can be multiplied by 2 or even 3 compared to the street food. Concretely, you won’t necessarily eat better, you’ll pay more, and you’ll only be with tourists, sounds tempting?
Regarding activities, everything will depend on your way of traveling and of seeing things. The more time goes by, the less I think paid activities are necessary to make a good stay. I will naturally say the opposite and privilege meetings, places off the beaten track, taking time, etc.
Nevertheless, when on a trip or on vacation often, many people would want to do and see as many things as possible. Here are some examples of prices for leisure/activities:
- Average price of a temple entrance: 15000 to 20000 Rps/person,
- The Monkey Forest in Bali: 80000 Rps/person,
- Trek to Mount Ranjani on the island of Lombok: negotiate between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 Rps/person for the 3 days.
- Half day in Bukit Lawang National Park to see the Orangutang: 750 000 Rps
For those who rather plan their activities in advance for their vacation, I recommend looking at this great website that compares activities and finds the best prices for you!
In particular, you can find the activities:
Have a good vacation!
Just between us, I’m making a brief personal aside, but you really don’t have to go on organized tours to enjoy the idyllic setting in front of you! You will find on all the small islands (and the big ones too, for that matter) ways to have a nice trip for cheap. From what I could have seen of Indonesia, here are some ideas:
- Enjoy the heavenly white sand beaches and coral reefs around; just by snorkeling, you can see the beauty of the endemic fauna and flora. The underwater world in Indonesia is breathtaking! A little idleness in turquoise waters never killed anyone, right?
- Discover the beauties of the rainforest. I remember spending a lot of time in this lush vegetation near Bukit Lawang. It’s pretty crazy what you can see, if you take the time to look carefully!
- Go talk with the population, for example in a local restaurant: it is frankly something I more and more do and you learn so many things…
- Rent a scooter and discover the surroundings of the island where you are, especially the rural areas. Whether it is in the Moluccas, Komodo, Sulawesi or around the Toraja country, there is always something to see without going through a local agency. I often made the most beautiful encounters and discoveries being alone with a scooter: rice fields, hiking in an active volcano, sunrise on a splendid valley… There are many beautiful sites without any tourist that you can access all by yourself!
Here are the figures of my month spent in Indonesia, on the island of Sumatra. Prices may have possibly changed a bit since a few years, especially in the tourist sites where prices can be much higher. A few worth noting points to understand the numbers:
- We were on a tour of Southeast Asia, on a budget, based on 15€/day/person,
- We traveled the country as a couple, which can sometimes reduce the bill,
- We ate in the street or in the small local restaurant (we avoided all the tourist restaurants),
- The only tourist activity over the month was the entrance of the Bukit Lawang national park,
- We tended to negotiate the accommodation and transportation prices when it was possible.
Here is the summary of the figures for the 34 days spent in Indonesia, for two people, on average.
In the end, making a cheap trip in Indonesia is really easy. It is even cheaper than Thailand, Laos or Cambodia. These figures are consistent with the ones I could find on the net. As a general rule, I saw between 17 and 20€ per day for 2 people for Indonesia, in economic mode.
As usual in this type of article, I try to give you some advice on the conceivable expenses for a trip to Indonesia. I mean, only to guide you, because it is very difficult to give you precise figures. There are too many factors to take into account when calculating a budget, and as many ways to travel. Depending on your way of seeing things and staying in the country, you will be able to travel economically or not.
I will distinguish 3 categories of people: the economical ones, the ones who are a bit wider, and the ones who are really wide! For backpackers, I go with the basis for my trip in Southeast Asia, that is to say about 19€/day for two people. For the others, I would say 30€ and 40€ per day.
Here are some ideas:
For budget travelers, you can count on 700€ for a month in the country for two people, for expenses on site. If you can find a plane ticket for 400/450€ from where you live, you can get by for about 1500€ for the month, for two. This is most economical way, but still realistic according to my own experience and what I have seen.
For those who want to take a little margin (30€/day), plan about 2000€ for a month in Indonesia, for 2 people. With 2500€ for the whole month, you truly have a very large budget to visit the country, in my view.
If you don’t have a full month in the country and plan to go there for a shorter period of time, you can plan about 150€ per week in economy mode for two people, and 250 to 300€ to really be zen.
Life is really cheap over there and you will be able to travel for a pittance if you want to. For the others, who are more into “vacation in nice hotels” mode, you can obviously treat yourself for much less money than in France too, but you will obviously explode the figures presented in the article.
That’s it, I’m coming to the end of this article on the budget for a trip to Indonesia. I hope that you are now well aware of the possible expenses. Don’t get too hung up on the budget in a country like Indonesia, especially if you’re on a world trip (you’ll be going into much more expensive areas!). If you are planning to travel in the area, the article on Cambodia travel budget will surely be useful!
Enjoy the country, it is such a beautiful place, a real little paradise for me!
Have a good trip,