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How Much Money Do I Need For Indonesia?-may become the main question for all of you before come to Indonesia. Indonesia, the big country, has so many places to visit and also culture and activities that you may try. From visiting temple, scuba diving, hiking mountain and seeing sunrise, and also make Batik or wood carving. So, your budget depends on where you go and the activities you wish to take part in.
There are myriad activities to take part in; from scuba diving to jungle treks to batik and woodcarving courses. The amount and nature of your activities should drive your budget making decisions as these will be the most expensive parts of your visit to Indonesia. A little time spent planning the things you want to see and where they are will go a long way to keeping you on track and on budget.
That being said, preparing your budget for Indonesia will not be radically different than the rest of Southeast Asia as Indonesia is still largely a poor country and if you make the effort to step off the beaten track, it’s as cheap as anywhere in the world to travel. In general, outside of the popular tourist destinations, Indonesia is a very inexpensive country, and budget deals can be had in these places as well with a little searching. On average, for basic food and accommodation, I spent about as much per day in Indonesia as in the other countries of Southeast Asia, but it was the amount of travel as well as the activities that I wanted to participate in that drove my budget up.
Visas in Indonesia
Citizens of 64 countries arriving in Indonesia at anyone of 20 international airports or 23 seaports may apply for a Visa on Arrival (VOA) from the Indonesian Government. The cost of the VOA is USD 25 and you could pay in US dollars cash or Indonesian rupiah cash, and is valid for 30 days. It is possible to extend your VOA one time for an additional 30 days at any one of the country’s immigration offices located in most major cities. Note that some offices take longer than others to process and you should apply for the extension with a least a week left on your current VOA. If you are planning to stay longer, multiple entry tourist visas may be obtained outside of Indonesia and are valid for one year. However you can stay longer than 60 (sixty) days in Indonesia at any point so you must leave and return. The fee for a multiple entry visa is USD 100.
Indonesia’s currency is the rupiah and it’s roughly trading at about 13.000-14.000 to the USD and fluctuated around 1-5% during my time there. Coins exist but are not frequently used as many vendors will simply round to the nearest banknote, often in your favor, but occasionally not. Banknotes start at 1000 rupiah and go up from there: 2000 rupiah (a quarter), 5000 rupiah (a half-dollar), 10000 rupiah (near one dollar) 20,000 (a dollar and a quarter). 50,000 (four dollars) and 100,000 (8 USD).
While I didn’t see many businesses openly advertising that they accepted US dollars, most will roughly know the exchange rate and will accept US dollars if needed, but don’t expect to get a good rate if you need to use USD in a pinch.
ATMs and Currency Exchange in Indonesia
Since most people arriving in Indonesia will be arriving by plane, obtaining rupiah on arrival at any airport is easy enough. There are ATMs and currency exchange booths at every international airport and is also available for exchange prior to flying in the airports in Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur and most other connecting airports. While the rate at airports is slightly (1-2%) lower than the published rate, it’s usually a good idea to change a bit before leaving the airport.
Most big cities will have myriad exchange booths and banks. In the tourist areas beware of the booths located down alleyways advertising extraordinary high rates in popular tourist areas as I heard more than one story of problems and traveller being shortchanged. In small communities and rural areas, exchanging foreign currency might be challenging, so be prepared before setting out.
Indonesia has four state owned banks, BNI, BRI, BTN, and Bank Mandiri. Most ATMs operate as kiosks or outside bank branches and therefore are available 24 hours. Once you leave larger cities and tourist areas, ATMs become more difficult to find, so be prepared before you head off the beaten path by visiting an ATM.
Many ATMs will have a sticker on the front denoting the denomination in which cash is provided, either 50,000 or 100,000 notes. While it means more bills, try and stick to the 50,000 notes as it will save you headaches in the future. The 100,000 rupiah note is often tough for many business and vendors to break in many places so think ahead and break them as often as possible at 7-11 or other larger businesses. Trying to break one in a rural area can be a challenge sending a food cart vendor scrambling around to borrow money from others to provide change. Having many small bills are they key to easy purchases in Indonesia.
Credit Cards in Indonesia
Credit cards are possible to use in most major cities and tourist areas, but are rarely accepted in rural areas or with budget accommodation operators. Wherever you are except for the most high-end establishments, expect to be charged a 2-3.5% premium to use your card as most businesses won’t pay the credit card’s fee. Visa and Mastercard are king in Indonesia and while it’s possible to use American Express in some places, it’s rare and the fee will be even higher.
Accommodation in Indonesia
Rooms in Indonesia can be had at all price levels and there are a number of different types of accommodations. Check Agoda.com or booking.com for a wide array of hotels in Indonesia that you can book online ? prices range from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels. On the budget end, hostels with dorms aren’t that prevalent, but there are losmen (like hostel) or small budget hotels in all cities and in rural areas. Outside of major tourist hubs and big cities rooms can be found for as little as 100,000 rupiah (7 USD) but don’t expect much at that price except a bed. Sometimes it was possible to find rooms with more amenities at this price, but expect to spend a bit more for air-con, hot water, and a TV. Many places provide breakfast with the room as well. In the more popular tourist areas expect that price to double for accommodations on the low end and expect the gap to increase between services and value. At most places, depending on vacancy and season, bargaining for the room price was possible and I was often able to reduce the price. It is also quite common to ask to see the room before booking as well and can be a good way to judge what’s a fair price in a given place. There are a number of ways to book arrangements online, but often the cheaper places do not have websites and can be found by just walking around when you arrive in town.
The Indonesia’s Internet
While not the fastest or most reliable in Southeast Asia, the internet is widely available in most areas of Indonesia. Rates in Indonesia at Internet cafes are extremely cheap, even in the more touristy areas. Wifi is also very easy to find and many guesthouses, hotels, and restaurants offer it for free to their customers. While I carried a laptop with me, during my time in Indonesia I never paid for internet usage and was surprised at how easy it was to find free wifi. If you need to buy mobile wifi, there are a lot of provider like Telkomsel, XL, Indosat, and Smartfren that provide rental mobile wifi.
Summary: Daily Budget for Indonesia
Indonesia is a difficult place to nail down a daily budget as the country is so diverse and a budget that will work for traveling just through rural Sumatra may not work for one spent on the beaches in Bali. Also, your budget will depend on how much distance you’d like to cover as Indonesia is bigger than you’ll think and transportation costs can skew your budget.
Overall, USD 25-35 a day for a solo, bare budget backpacker is quite doable an will get you basic accommodations, 3 meals and a few beers or transport everyday, but will be stretched in the highly famous areas or if you plan to move around frequently. Couples shouldn’t spend much more since most accommodations are guesthouses and losmens and therefore charge the same price if there are 1 or 2 occupants. Couples can get by on USD 40-50 a day.
If you increase those figures by half as much, you can travel quite comfortably and move about quite freely. Indonesia is slowly becoming more expensive as tourists discover more of Indonesia, but cheap food, transport, and accommodation are still widely available if you don’t mind basic accommodations, stick to your budget, and bargain respectfully for prices. In tourist areas, bargaining is more difficult and higher prices are quite common because hotels and vendors know there are people who will pay those prices without question, so walking around to find the best deal becomes even more necessary.
Sources: Flickr VasenkaPhotography, Anis Eka