What I wish I knew before visiting Indonesia for the first time

Having travelled quite a bit the past six years, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with throwing some stuff in a suitcase the night before hopping on an intercontinental flight. I’d even dare to say that my packing style is getting closer and closer to my boyfriend’s – and anyone who knows how a man packs knows that that says a lot!

So when we planned our trip to Indonesia last month, I took the same approach. I use the word “plan” loosely because we booked a flight to Bali and arranged a hotel for the first two nights. The rest was all up for us to decide once we arrived. Clearly, I’m not much of a planner. At least when it comes to traveling.

After arriving in Bali, though, there were some things I wish I knew before:

Indonesia is BIG

Okay, this should have been an obvious one, but coming from the US, you typically assume that most countries are no where as big as the states. What I didn’t expect was how big the distance is between the different islands of the Indonesian archipelago.

Travel is not always easy – or cheap

I learned this based on the above learning. We though we would just jet over to Kalimantan for an orangutan river cruise. Only there are no direct flights from Bali to Kalimantan, and flying with the only trustworthy airline (Garuda Indonesia) would take over 24 hours and over €200 each way. Basically no other airline is recommended to travels since all the other airlines have such poor safety ratings – no thanks! So we decided that we’ll just have to plan that part of our trip better next time to accommodate seeing orangutans. Although we had 4 weeks in Indonesia there was no way we were going to spend 2 full days in airports. The silver lining: it gives us a great reason to go back!

We immediately learned that land travel is also not easy – though it is very cheap! Driving from Ubud to Uluwatu took us nearly 3 hours in our shuttle. The distance is 48km (30miles). So that also discouraged us a bit from trying to move around too much. We were on our trip to relax after all, not spend the whole time sitting in a barely moving vehicle.

Geckos are everywhere

Ok, this wouldn’t have been necessary to know – but I loved the geckos and I think it would have made me even more excited for the trip. So if you’re planning your trip to Bali or Lombok (and probably most Indonesian islands), get excited – there are adorable geckos everywhere!

Tampons are hard to come by, and expensive

Sorry fellas, this one is for the ladies. Try as you might to plan your natural rhythms, sometimes your body just decides to do what it wants – and that usually happens on vacation. Luckily I could find some tampons in Gili Air, BUT a box of 10 cost about €8! The price was pretty out of control. I assume because they were only being sold to tourists, and they know a girl will pay anything to take care of business. Afterward when we were on the main island of Lombok I checked out of curiosity at the Indomarkets in Kuta, and tampons were nowhere to be found. So ladies, pack wisely. Just in case.

and on that note… pack the outdoorsy stuff you think you might need.

did, in fact, bring hiking boots with me. I thought we might do some major hiking, but based on the rain, I was wrong. My boots ended up either getting stolen or falling off my backpack in Padangbai. No loss for me… they were pretty stinky anyway. Hope they found a new home. Anyway, my point is, I thought maybe I would buy new hiking boots somewhere else. I soon realized this wasn’t possible because I never saw any shoe stores the entire time I was there, let alone any outdoor stores. Point is, bring what you need if you think you’ll be needing.

Some areas of Bali, even besides Kuta, are very westernized

I had more or less assumed this to be the case before going, but it did really strike me when we were there. We spent 2 nights in Seminyak – sorry Seminyak lovers, I think that place is pretty unfortunate – to me it felt a lot like Miami Beach, which is not the reason I was visiting Indonesia. We also spent 2 nights in Canggu which I liked initially, but in hindsight it felt like Amsterdam but in Bali. Every restaurant we went to could have been dropped into the Pijp neighborhood of Amsterdam and felt completely in place. Like I said, I expected this, and for the most part we avoided these areas, but still its good to know.

Bringing a backpack was a good decision

There were so many moments during our trip that I was so grateful we were backpacking. From jumping from bouncing docks on to moving boats, hopping off of boats into knee deep water, and for the lightness of packing, having a backpack was ideal. I honestly don’t know how people could travel with a normal suitcase, unless they are on an organized tour.

For the rest, I don’t think I would have wanted to know anything else in advance. Part of the pleasure of traveling is the amount of discoveries you make along the way.

What I wish I knew before visiting Indonesia.jpg

What do you wish you had known before visiting Indonesia?

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