Tips: Indonesia


BAHASA INDONESIA is the official language in Indonesia and is widely spoken throughout the country. This so-called uniting language of Indonesia was officially announced for the first time in 1928, as part of the pledge of "one people, one language and one nation". Apart from Bahasa Indonesia, there are a lot more local languages (dialects). Some can be totally different in both writing and speaking. For instance in Bandung, locals also speak Sundanese, while in Manado they speak Minahasan. If you are interested in knowing more about Bahasa Indonesia, please click this link:


If you speak Italian, Spanish or Deutsch, it will help you in speaking Bahasa, because of pronunciation similarities. You can listen to the pronunciation by clicking the Bahasa Indonesia phrases (currently for Ms Internet Explorer users only).

Good morning (12am-12pm) selamat pagi How are you? apa kabar?
Good afternoon (12 pm-3pm) selamat siang (I am) fine (saya) baik
Good evening (ca. 3pm-6pm) selamat sore Thank you terima kasih
Good night ( 6pm-12am) selamat malam Your welcome sama sama

EuroTalk Interactive
Talk Now! Learn Indonesian, from

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RosettaStone V2

Indonesian, Level 1
, from

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CULTURAL AWARENESS. People are basically the same everywhere on this planet, in that there are friendly, unfriendly, kind, and nasty people. However, generally Indonesians are friendly. Locals often smile alot when they are talking to you, for any matters, which could lead into an impression that they are laughing at you or not being serious, which indeed is not always the case. Another phenomenon which you might experience, is that many of them do not use alot of eye-contact when talking..

It is unusual in Indonesia to raise the voice. For instance on the street, people avoid shouting or yelling. They might look at you with strange faces. Generally, kissing in public is also considered inappropriate. People of the same sex might hug or hold hands in public and it does not mean they are more than just friends.

A few other things considered as impolite are touching someone's head, using the index finger to call someone over, and using the left hand to pass or receive something, such as money, papers, food, drinks, and so on.

Certainly there will be a lot of cultural differences that you might observe (learn) once you are there; the list can go on and on. Just keep in mind, as we expect foreigners to respect our own culture in our backyard, so do they elsewhere in the world or in Indonesia.

HEALTH. It is recommended that you prepare your own medicines/drugs from your local chemists or clinics. However, international brands such as Norit, Optrex, Panadol, Strepsils, Vicks and so on are easily available in big cities. Possible (common) health problems are stomach upsets and mosquito bites.

One of local chemist in Bandung

Stomach upsets. Please be aware of hot (spicy) food since it can be really hot (spicy). Sometimes ice cubes can cause problems too; of course it depends on where you get them. It should be fine in hotels, big restaurants/cafes, as usually water is boiled before freezing it. Tap water is generally not potable. You'd better buy bottled water for drinking. Widely known brands in Indonesia include Aqua, Ades and Vit. Imported bottled water is also available in big cities.

Mosquito bites. As Indonesia is a tropical country, you need to protect yourself from mosquitoes. The easiest way to stay away from them when travelling is by covering your legs and arms with clothes or mosquito repellents. Good and reliable products are easily available in many places. For sleeping, either use mosquito spray or a mosquito net.


More information on health issues for traveling overseas (such as dengue/malaria symptoms, other diseases, and so on) is available on these links: the US Department of Health and Human Services, the UK Department of Health, Australian DFAT.


CLOTHING. Just imagine a tourist from inland Africa, the Middle East or an American Indian walking on a street in a beautiful small town in Australia, northern Europe or far east Asia in summer wearing their customary/traditional clothes...Unless you want to get similar "extra" attention from local crowds, it is advisable to respect how locals normally dress.

In Indonesia, Islam is the predominant religion, hence, women travelers should first look around if they want to wear bikinis on beaches. Generally in other public places, women are also advised to cover their shoulders and legs (at least down to their knees).

However, places like Bali island, Bintan island, Manado and Jakarta are a bit more relaxed. For example, women in bikinis are visible in Bintan or Manado. Sometimes women even go topless on certain beaches in Bali. Tank tops (sleeveless shirts) are also common, particularly, in cafes, discotheques or pubs in these areas. In Bali, topless men or women with tank tops are already considered as part of the daily life in areas near beaches.

People are expected to be formally dressed when visiting police and government offices, mosques, temples or churches. Some officials might not like to see you wearing thongs (flip flops) or shorts at their offices.

Locals in a discotheque

Local youths in a shopping mall

SHOPPING. Bargain! Unless you are shopping in big shops or shopping malls where fixed price is common, this is the first word you have to remember when you shop in stalls in marketplaces or shops. Sellers often offer you 2-3 times above the normal price. The first thing to do is to politely ask for his/her best price (or "special price" for you) before getting into further challenging "negotiation".

It would be better if you ask your hotel staff, tour guides or taxi drivers for the current local price range. Additional readings on how to bargain (from external sources) are at:,

Shops' opening time is usually around 9am-10am and closing time is between 9pm-10pm.


TIPPING. Tipping is generally not, yet, a standard practice in Indonesia, though in most hotels, a service charge of 10% is usually added to your bill. In restaurants where no service charge is added, a tip of 5%-10% will suffice, depending on the service and if you feel like to give one. Tipping taxi drivers or "keep the change" is appreciated but not mandatory (up to the next Rp. 1,000), if you are happy with your taxi service. It is advisable to carry small change, as taxi drivers might not have alot of small notes. An airport or hotel porter expects to be tipped per bag (around Rp. 5,000 to Rp. 10,000 per bag).

TOILETS. The further away you are from big cities, the less likely you might find toilet paper rolls in public toilets. If you want to be safe, you can buy your own rolls in shops or shopping malls in big cities before going further. Squat toilets (Turkish toilets) are also more common than sitting toilets. Sometimes you might find a water jet (cleansing water jet) next to the toilet - don't mistake it for a shower. Usually toilets are located in shower rooms.

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