Ultimate backpacking guide for Indonesia

Embark on an adventure through the two Indonesias, the best known Bali and the most remote Flores. There are two very different realities in the country of the 17,000 islands. Bali, perhaps the paradisiacal destination par excellence. With its Villas lost among rice fields and in the middle of the jungle with infinity pools overlooking the sea of Bali. On the other hand you will discover the most remote Flores where there are no hotels where to stay and children practically never see a tourist.

Bali is temples, nature and paradisiacal beaches, but it does not really represent the reality of Indonesia that I wanted to know. For this reason, I took a few days to see what else Indonesia kept when you got away from busy Bali.

Your ultimate guide to Indonesia:

  1. Best time of the year to go to Indonesia
  2. Best tips for Indonesia
  3. 15-day itinerary in Indonesia
    1. Days 1 to 3: Discovering Bali: Ubud and around
    2. Days 4 and 5: Discovering Bali: Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan
    3. Days 6 and 7: Discovering Bali: Uluwatu
    4. Days 8 and 9: Labuanbajo, diving in Komodo
    5. Days 11 and 12: Komodo National Park
    6. Days 12 to 14: Most remote Flores Island: Roadtrip to Ruteng
    7. Day 15: Labuanbajo
  4. Backpacking budget for Indonesia
  5. Where to stay in Indonesia
  6. What to do in Indonesia if you have more time

Official exchange rate 1EUR = 18,000 IDR (rupiah)

Best time of year to visit Indonesia

In a country that covers more than 17,000 islands and stretches from southern Malaysia to northern Australia, it is difficult to choose a good time of year that is suitable for all regions. So I’m going to focus on Bali and Flores.

Do not worry about the temperature, since it is relatively constant throughout the year and is around 21ºC -27ºC between maximum and minimum. What can affect the most is the rains, although not very persistent, they do have a greater presence between the months of December to May. The driest climate and therefore the most suitable to visit both islands is between the months of June and August.

If what you are looking for is tranquility, keep in mind that Bali receives tourists every month of the year, but the “peak” times are in summer.

Basic tips for Indonesia

I could give you a thousand tips about Indonesia, but these are the most remarkable:

  • Rent a scooter and tour the island on your own. Don’t let a tour take you up and down the island with air conditioning. Get lost on the roads, stop the motorcycle when it suits you to see temples and rice fields, explore unknown beaches and run out of gas at times (this happened to us, but in the end we managed to get it back on track)
  • Do not feed the monkeys, as they spoil and become aggressive over time. Also, do not carry bottles in sight or loose objects because if they take them you can forget about them.
  • Cold, who said it could be cold in Bali? All over the island it cools when the sun goes down. If you are going to go on a scooter at night at 21ºC at 50km / h in a tank top, you are going to have a hard time, so don’t forget a sweatshirt or a windbreaker.
  • Sun protection, make sure it is waterproof, especially if you are going to surf and be constantly entering and leaving the water. It would not be the first time that I ended up pulling my skin in strips for not choosing the sun cream correctly.

15-day itinerary in Indonesia

After a stopover in wonderful Istanbul (lee el post sobre el stopover), we arrived in Jakarta.

Surely as you read you will miss a key visit, such as the Gili Islands. I did this trip in 2018 when it was the year that the earthquakes shook southern Indonesia, with the epicenter in Lombok (the neighbor of Bali). This led to many people having to evacuate to Gili and Bali and we had to cancel that part of the trip.

Days 1 to 3: Discovering Bali: Ubud and around

The visit to Bali is divided into two parts, north (Ubud) and south (Uluwatu) from where we will be staying and we will dedicate ourselves to exploring the entire island.

From Ubud you can visit countless places less than an hour and a half away, all you need is to get a scooter. You can rent anyone in the same hostels or homestays that you stay.

Ubud is perhaps the most charming city in Bali, it has several temples in the center such as the Pura Taman Saraswati and the Ubud Palace, both can be visited. The morning is dedicated to visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest 50,000 rupiah, it is an immense park built around temples where you will see countless macaques. They are adorable and quite mischievous, they love to play and have fun with the tourists who are walking around. Sometimes things are stolen from them and it is fun to see tourists screaming when some of these monkeys go to their heads and do not want to let go of them. So be careful, and above all do not give them food.

In the afternoon, we parked the scooter and started to walk around the Ubud market, visit the temples that we have mentioned and explore what would be our home for the next three days. We discovered a street with a lot of warungs (restaurants) Jalan Gootama.

The next day, as it is already being very typical, we get up early to avoid crowds and head towards Campuhan Ridge Walk, a one-way road and / or through beautiful rice fields and beautiful hills. You will find it very quiet, since it is not usually crowded at all, most people go only to Tegallalang. The path runs along a hill with its characteristic solitary palm trees. Just 25 minutes away by scooter are the iconic Tegallalang Rice Fields. It is about spectacular rice fields hanging down the slopes of the mountain, we were walking and taking photos everywhere which “influencers”, then we found a beautiful warung with magnificent views where we ate the classic Nasi Goreng (fried rice noodles).

Another feature of Bali is the waterfalls, there are them everywhere, but they are usually quite crowded, as we were heading north we took advantage of the way to stop at the spectacular Nungnung waterfalls. A waterfall over 30m high that released a curtain of water that left you drenched. The way up is well worth contemplating them and it is that you will be at least 30 minutes climbing stairs to return.

As I anticipated, you cannot forget the sweatshirt / jacket, as we headed north to visit the Pura Ulan Danu Beratan 50,000 rupee temple, an intense fog began to settle on the road and the horizon. The temperature plummeted and we had to have a hot coffee when we got to the temple to warm up.

Do you remember what I told you about the time of earthquakes? Well, the third day we had to live one, in the area where we were hardly noticed, but it was enough to run out of the restaurant where we were, since suddenly everything began to shake for little more than a second.

That day we were not in Ubud but in Padang Bai where the Blue Lagoon is located. A cove that you have to walk a little path to get to and where you will be practically alone. We dedicate that day to sun and beach and little else. On the way back, as I said before, we were left stranded with the scooter because we ran out of gasoline. We were in the middle of a kind of highway and at the traffic light the motorcycle did not want to start, after several attempts we stumbled to the first place where we could refuel.

Days 4 and 5: Discovering Bali: Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan

The Nusa Islands is a group of three islands formed by (from largest to smallest) Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. We visit the two little ones and we sleep in a nice cabin. There are boats that leave Denpasar every two hours for about Rs 500,000 y / v.

The best way to tour the islands is by bicycle 55,000 rupiah / day, I warn you that they are not the best bicycles to climb hills, but they serve to move you up and down. These are the sites that you cannot miss:

  • Yellow bridge: Bridge that joins both islands, with a width of less than 1.5 meters, through which only motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians can pass. As you will see, there are no cars in Nusa Ceningan.
  • Blue Lagoon (Ceningan): Beautiful location on a cliff with an entrance to the sea with turquoise waters. Just 5 minutes away you have Mahana Point, a restaurant on a cliff where you can see surfers catching real waves.
  • Devil’s tear and Dream beach: Beautiful volcanic rock cliffs from which to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Blue Lagoon, Nusa Ceningan

The next day we were enjoying Sandy Bay Beach and resting at the hotel. In the afternoon we headed to Uluwatu and ended up partying in horrible Kuta. Kuta does not have any kind of attraction, it is only a place to party in macro-clubs and bars.

Days 6 and 7: Discovering Bali: Uluwatu

What is Bali if not beaches? That was our next two mornings in Uluwatu. Explore secluded beaches in the morning and cultural visits in the afternoons.

The first recommendation is Padang Padang Beach, it costs a bit to find it, but it is the price you have to pay to go to a beach with little traffic, that and 20 minutes of walk and steps to the shore. We were practically the first to arrive at the beach, we looked for our place and we let time pass.

In the afternoon we visit Pura Uluwatu 30,000 rupiah, a spectacular temple on the top of a cliff you will see one of the best sunsets in Bali. We would end our day having dinner in Seminyak and having a cocktail at the famous “chiringuito” La Plancha.

The second recommendation is Bingin Beach, perhaps a bit more crowded and with more warungs, but what better way than to have a Bintang and a Nasi Goreng on the seafront?

Sunset from Pura Tanah Lot

Finally, as you should know by now, Bali apart from beach is sunsets and what better sunset than Pura Tanah Lot 61,500 rupiah. Positive part: Spectacular sunset with the sun falling behind the iconic temple, which path is covered with the rise / fall of the tide. Negative part: There are more people than in the Eiffel Tower, so be patient and find your moment to immortalize your memories.

Days 8 and 9: Labuanbajo, diving in Komodo

The second stage of the trip begins, Isla de Flores. Its main city is Labuanbajo. What to say about Labuanbajo? The truth is that there is not much to say, the place is ugly as it is alone and has no attraction … BUT, it has one of the best “diving spots” in the world with one of the largest marine fauna that exists, from here You can visit the Komodo National Park and for those who want to escape the conventional it is “only” 6 hours by scooter from Ruteng (the center of the island). People usually come to take the tour and leave, but we chose the best hostel and we met fantastic people who made the stay in Labuanbajo more enjoyable.

The first day we were closing all the activities of the following days, diving and 2D1N cruise in the Komodo Park. Being frank, there are only two options when hiring the tour, or maximum luxury and having a kidney taken out to pay for it or traveling in ninth class, with a poorly cooked plate of rice and sleeping crammed on mats in the cellar. At least we met a group of Spaniards with whom we laughed a lot and the experience was etched in our memory. It doesn’t matter where you hire it, they all sell the same thing.

You cannot miss the Labuanbajo food market where you will eat the best fresh fish and seafood of your trip and at irresistible prices. Lobster and Barracuda are the star dishes.

We did the scuba diving with the boys from Dragon Dive Komodo, a group of French boys in love with the sea who have set up a spectacular diving school and hostel. Super recommended!

We paid Rs 2,060,000 for the dive, they are western prices and you will find them like this throughout South-East Asia. It was our first dive and we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but being one of the best scuba diving spots in the world, it couldn’t disappoint, and it didn’t … We saw all kinds of corals, fish and giant tortoises. An unforgettable first experience.

Days 11 and 12: Komodo National Park

The Komodo dragon is the longest reptile in the world, it can measure between 2 and 3 meters and weigh up to 70 kg. Although seeing the Komodo Dragon is not one of your priorities, I recommend you embark on this adventure just to enjoy two days in the open sea, see Padar Island and bathe among Raya manta rays.

Komodo dragons live in the 300,000 rupee Komodo National Park and are protected by rangers. The sad part is that the dragons that you are going to see seem to be there as a tourist attraction and even sedated. It is a question that we had, since some are very still and you can get very close to them.

In the afternoon our “luxurious” cruise (irony) set course for Pink Beach, where we would drop anchor and spend the night. Pink Beach is a beach that, as its name says, is pink, that is due to the color of the plankton that inhabits it and gives it that color.

As I anticipated, we slept in subhuman conditions so to speak, thirty people on mats in the cellar with a diesel smell that could not be tolerated. But the different couples we met made the night more enjoyable, some even went up to sleep on deck because they did not have to endure the smell of feet, sweat and diesel.

In the morning a roar (the engine starting) woke us up at 5am to head towards Padar to see the sunrise. It was an unforgettable experience, watching the sun rise from the middle of the sea as we made our way to the top of Padar Island. Padar Island has, from my point of view, one of the best views of my traveling experience.

Padar Island, Flores

The captain then set sail for Kanawa Island making a snorkelling stop at Manta Point. I already warn you that they will try with all their desire not to stop and they will tell you that there are no blankets and the current is too strong not to stop and return home sooner. There was quite a bit of tension with the captain, but in the end we made him stop the ship. It is true, the current was very strong, because the mantas live in waters with very strong currents and these displaced us several hundred meters from the boat. But we had the opportunity to see a group of mantas mating and even a blacktip shark.

Kanawa Island, the last stop was for total relaxation, resting on the shore and seeing giant starfish while snorkelling, seeing lionfish (very dangerous), sharks and other marine life. From there two hours awaited us watching the sunset from the deck with a soft and pleasant breeze.

Days 12 to 14: Most remote Flores Island: Roadtrip to Ruteng

This is the least touristy part of the trip, and although different from the others, very authentic in its own way. When you put in Google the route from Labuanbajo to Ruteng you will see that it tells you that it is 3 hours and only 150 km, although the kilometers are true, the time is not. Think that the road is in very bad condition and you are going to go on a scooter, so count about 6 hours.

On the way to Ruteng we made a stop at some waterfalls, Cunca Wulang Waterfall. To get there you will have to take a very steep path on a scooter and you will think you have lost yourself, eventually you will reach the door and a ranger will have to guide you. You will find a beautiful canyon, with only local people bathing and jumping into the water.

We continue our journey to Ruteng through the Spider Web Rice Fields in Lao, although difficult to see, if you go early you can climb a mountain to admire them. Ruteng is the main town in the center of Flores, it is relatively large, it has a market, schools and even some tourist attraction. What I recommend is that you simply go for a walk around the town and let the children come up to you and ask you questions in English even if when you answer them they don’t know what you are saying. We were staying in a homestay and its very nice owner told us all about their traditions, weddings and religion in Flores. A hug to Rima and his wife!

Day 15: Labuanbajo

We had half a day left to start our return to Barcelona and we spent the morning in Labuanbajo at The Palm Komodo Hostel. We were with our Basque friends on the Komodo tour, bathing in the pool and drinking cold Bintang.

Backpacking budget for Indonesia

Indonesia more than any other country is a place where you can travel for very little money a day and sleep for € 5 in a hostel or rent luxurious villas that cost hundreds of euros. On this trip we stayed in mid-range hotels with A / C and swimming pools that we spent a good time finding and they were really good value for money. Most dorms in hostels you can get them for € 7-8 / night and you can eat streetfood at a very good price, although it is full of restaurants for Westerners for € 6-7 / person.

Backpacking budget for Indonesia

Another expense that you will not be able to avoid is the airplanes and is that the country of the 17,000 islands has this inconvenience or take boats that can take several days between islands. A flight between Jakarta and Bali (Denpasar) can cost you around € 35 / person, the rest of remote islands can cost you around € 75 / person each way. Withdraw cash for free with N26. If you don’t have an N26 card register and earn 25€ of free credit.

Where to stay in Indonesia

These are the best places where we stay, we recommend them all except one for the treatment we received from the owners (Candahill Mullya Village, very nice but its owners tried to charge us twice through booking and we had to sue through the App):

  • Orchardz Hotel Bandara // Jakarta (Airport): Very practical to sleep 10 minutes from the airport, the price includes the shuttle and you have early breakfast. Very comfortable and clean. Perfect to rest after hours of flight and start the trip the next day.
  • Puri Kobot // Ubud: Nice four bedroom Villa with pool, super clean and spacious, we stayed for three nights. The owners bring breakfast to your room.
  • Komodo Garden // Nusa Lembongan: Beautiful cabins, with outdoor showers in true Bali style. They are just 3 minutes walk from the beach.
  • Dragon Dive Komodo Hostel // Labuanbajo: Perhaps one of the best hostels I have ever seen, both for atmosphere and facilities. The French guys who run it, do all kinds of activities at night, beer pong, pizza night and it is very easy to meet people and make small groups of friends. It is super clean and has dorms and shared rooms.
  • The Palm Komodo Hostel // Labuanbajo: Although we did not get to stay, some friends told us that they were there and very clean, it has one of the best views of the town.
  • Blue Parrot // Labuanbajo: It is a villa on a cliff with designer rooms and the most luxurious was the whim (for only € 50) in Labuanbajo. Although the breakfast is quite improvable.
  • D-Rima Homestay // Ruteng: It’s a homestay, its owners couldn’t be more charming. Although perhaps not the standards of accommodation that a Westerner seeks it was clean and we learned a lot about the local culture.

What to do if you have more time in Indonesia

The country is immense and it would take months to know everything, but without a doubt, the following destinations cannot be missed on the next visit:

  • Borneo: Meet the jungle and orangutans through the Klotoks.
  • North Java: A couple from Madrid recommended that we go deep into the jungle on an expedition to meet the aboriginal tribes.
  • Jakarta: The big capitals of these countries always have much more to offer than we can apparently believe.

… and many other destinations in islands, Lombok, Gili, Yogyakarta etc …

I hope I have convinced you to explore the more and less known Indonesia and its wonderful people and places.

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