Indonesia Travel Itinerary – Tours, Ideas and Routes

Indonesia, a nation of 17,508 islands making Indonesia the world’s largest archipelago state. With a population of over 200 million, it is the world’s fourth most populated country and the majority of the Indonesian people are of a Muslim faith. Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy after India and the United States. Indonesia has a turbulent history and has suffered countless natural disasters in recent years, the tsunami in Aceh in 2004 and the Yogyakarta earthquake in 2006 being some of the worst seen in modern history.

Probably the cheapest way to get around but also probably the slowest and most trouble. A lot of tourist offices offer to book your buses for you, all they do is charge you more than it would cost if you just turned up and put you on the worst bus possible.

The other option is a ‘tourist shuttle’ bus, this will cost you more but you’ll hopefully be picked up from you hostel and dropped off where you want all trouble free. Obviously its not as character building as haggling your bus ticket, being lied to, ripped off, crammed in, sharing your with chickens and bags of onions and finally your bus setting on fire.

To make your way to a bus station it will usually mean you’ll need to hop in a bemo. Bemos are little mini buses and each one is customised to their owners tastes often with ridiculously loud sound systems installed.

Bemos will fly around the cities and towns, one guy hanging out the open door touting for customers. The problems arise when you need to get in one with your backpacks, Bemos are very cramped for a westerner anyway but with a large bag (and guitar) its pretty awkward. With taxis costing comparably so much more they are you only real option when on a budget. The guide books give you costs for bemo rides but you’ll nearly always have to pay twice as much. This is probably due to the backpack taking up space.

Cheap flights can be found fairly easily. In some locations it can be hard to find somewhere to book a flight but it’ll save you a lot of time. We travelled overland from Bali to Flores and flew back with Merpati as the overland trip took days. The trip overland was one of the best experiences but very tiring.

If you’re travelling overland you’re going to have to get a ferry if you want to hop between the thousands of islands. There are many ferry routes going from many times a day to monthly. Ferries are a great experience, there not very comfortable (we spent one night sleeping on the concrete floor as cockroaches rang around us) but you will see some memorable things.

We spent 6 weeks travelling though Indonesia, this is the route we took.

Bali to Labuhanbajo

We landed in Denpasar in Bali spending a couple of nights in the touristy Kuta from New Zealand, we then headed to Gili Air of the coast of Lombok for a relaxing week stay on the beautiful island. From Gili Air we had quite an eventful journey travelling for 2 days on 2 ferry’s and 2 buses through Lombok and Sumbawa to Labuhanbajo on the island of Flores. From Labuhanbajo we took a boat out to the islands of Rinca and Komodo to see the famous Komodo Dragons.

Labuhanbajo to Moni

From Labuhanbajo we took the local bus to Bajawa where we visited the Ngada villages and Hot Springs at Soa. From Bajawa we got a bus to Ende through beautiful mountain and forest scenery. From Ende we took a second, smaller bus to Moni. In a rainstorm through dramatic winding forest roads and cascading roadside waterfalls, the small bus kept filling up until an incredible number of passengers, surprisingly the locals didn’t enjoy the winding roads and we had to avoid passengers being sick out the bus window as we paid! From Moni we rode on the back of a couple of motorbikes to visit the incredible coloured lakes of Kelimutu.

Moni to Jakarta

From Moni we travelled by bus back to Ende where we took a flight back to Denpasar, avoiding the exhausting 2 day overland  journey. After a night back in Kuta we got a bus to Ubung ferry terminal, a ferry across to the main island of Java where we got a bus to Probolinggo to take a jeep to see the sunrise at Mount Bromo. From Probolinggo we headed to Jakarta, being unable to visit Yogjakarta as a result of the terrible earth quake that had just hit. This was probably the second worst journey and involved about 3 buses, one over night, and on an improvised row of seats, a plank between rows for about 6 hours. We spent 2 nights in Jakarta where struggled to find things to do, probably the highlight being kite flying with the local kids.