Travel Do’s and Dont’s in Indonesia


Indonesia – a vast archipelago comprising more than 17,000 islands, contains a population numbering around 255 million people, a number that makes Indonesia the fourth most populous country in the world. We have six religion in Indonesia: Islam, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Confucius. The largest religious group in Indonesia is Islam. Indonesia is also one of the largest Muslim country in the world. Indonesian cultures are very different from Western cultures as there exists a difference in experience, belief-systems, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, spatial relations, and much more. Moreover within Indonesian itself there exists a multitude of different cultures. This makes Indonesia a complex country, and therefore an interesting country.

Of course no one will expect you to immediately understand or behave like an Indonesian, but it will be wise to take some time in order to gain insight into the Indonesian culture(s) and start to think and become a little bit more ‘Indonesian’. Generally speaking, people from Indonesia, especially on the island of Java, appreciate the polite smile of foreign people they are introducing, and they will certainly give you a smile back. Friendliness is in their nature, so you should just be relaxed.

I was born in Indonesia, and now also live in Indonesia. I’ve been to some other countries outside Indonesia, so I understand Indonesia is regarded as a “different world”. That’s why I’m writing this to brief you about my country and how to behave like a local. Below are the general travel do’s and dont’s in Indonesia. But, if you’re visiting Bali, these travel do’s and dont’s might not applied. Bali is quite different with other cities in Indonesia, because it’s full of foreigners.

Indonesia Travel Do’s:
– Eat like a local in small restaurant, which means eat with your right hand.
– Use right hand when eating, gifting, or receiving a gift.
– Do handshake with your right hand to greet someone. But if you greet Muslim men/women, it’s another story. Some Muslim men/women in most cases they will just nod, smile, and clasp their hands. They find it more acceptable to keep a distance from the person they are introduced to.
– Do respect when Indonesian are praying. Muslims pray 5 times a day (Dawn prayer, midday prayer, afternoon prayer, west prayer, evening prayer). When they are praying in a Mosque, they use a loudspeaker. You’ll find it so noisy, especially for those of you who stay nearby Mosque.
– Take your shoes off when entering places (house, worship place, etc).
– When crossing the road whether you’re using zebra cross or not, use your right hand to stop the cars if the cars are in your right, and use your left hand to stop the cars if the cars are in your left. Crossing the road in Indonesia can be quite challenging.
– Dress like a local, which means long pants and sleeve shirt/tops, especially for women.
– Bring toilet paper if you go to the toilet. Toilet paper is seldom supplied in public places. Many Indonesians instead use water to clean with their left hand, so they don’t need any toilet paper. In most of Indonesia, the bathroom features a large water tank and a plastic scoop.
– Drive a car/motorcycle, or rent a driver is a common way to explore the city. Most public transportation in Indonesia isn’t well maintained yet.
– SMILE! Do you know that Indonesian are the world’s friendliest people? 🙂

Indonesia Travel Dont’s:
– Don’t speak loudly to Indonesian people. They might think you’re rude. Indonesian people are soft and gentle.
– Don’t dress with Tank Top and Short Skirt when you’re in public places, especially for women. You don’t want to get a lot of looks by local people, right?
– Never use your left hand for anything, as it’s considered the hand you use to wipe yourself in the bathroom. If you’re left-handed and suddenly everyone looks at you with disgust, that’s what’s going through their minds.
– Don’t complaint/disturb when Indonesian are praying, especially when Muslims are praying in the Mosque. Religion is the most sensitive topic in Indonesia.
– Don’t force to drink beer/wine/alcohol with you. Most of Indonesian are not drink beer/wine/alcohol.


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