Indonesia Spending Summary
Overall score (Dan) = B
Overall score (Jocelyn) = B
Total days = 7 nights,7 days
Total cost = $825
Cost per day = $118 / day
Flight costs = $913 for two flights from Brisbane
Indonesia was our first dip into our three month journey of Southeastern Asia. We had mixed feelings after our time in French Polynesia, New Zealand, and Australia because we knew things were going to be quite different, but we were excited about what was to come.
Our flight landed late in Bali and it was about 11pm as we rode in our hotel shuttle from the airport. The city was surprisingly alive for that time of night and surprisingly big as we passed nonstop building and people on our way to the hotel. We quickly learned this wouldn’t be the same experience as Julia Roberts had in Eat, Pray, Love! The next morning we headed out to start our journeys in Indonesia. We quickly learned why our friend called Bali the “Cancun” for Australia – as most Aussies use it as a cheap party town, much the same as many Americans do in Cancun.
However, as we ventured away from the beaches and beyond the beaten path on Bali, we started to see much more of sites we expected. The “cultural capital” of Bali is Ubud and is filled with local crafts, culture, and cuisine. If you’ve ever wondered where Pier One buys their wood carved giraffes and other handicrafts – look no further than Bali! The streets were lined with small shops selling their handicrafts made locally.
It got even better when we took the short flight to Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Volcanoes speared into the horizon and the landed was developed as far as we could see. It’s no wonder Indonesia’s population is 242 million while their land mass is just slightly less than three times the size of Texas. Yogyakarta is the jumping off point for some of the most amazing Hindu and Buddhist temples in the world – mainly Borobudur and Prambanan. I’ll get more into that later.
Now, on to the expenses. We finally got our spending down in a big way, but we were still a bit surprised at how much we spent as we had some help along the way with free hotel nights. Overall though, we were really happy with everything we got to see for the price we paid.
How far does your money go in Indonesia?
Indonesia is the place you go for a luxury experience on a tight(er) budget. We took our per day spending down from $200+ a day in New Zealand and Australia down to $120 per day while still living quite nicely. Their currency is quite confusing because $1 US Dollar equals roughly 9,500 IDR (Indonesia Rupee). You feel rich when you get 1,000,000 IDR for $100 US Dollars, but it all becomes very confusing when you start buying things! A meal seems really expensive when you’re paying 120,000 IDR until you realize it’s only $12 US!! They say many sneaky vendors will take advantages of tourist’s inability to keep track of the zeroes.
You really can live a high life in Indonesia for an affordable amount. Sure, if you go all out in Bali and stay in the expensive resorts you can easily pay $500+ per night, but if you stick with the smaller and locally owned hotels, you can get a quite luxurious place for $65 per night. We also stayed at one of my new favorite hotels on points for free – the Sheraton Yogyakarta. Once again, it was on hotel points so it was free! We were also upgraded to a beautiful Executive Suite due to my hotel status.
Excursions were also quite cheap in Indonesia. We hired a driver for a full day in Bali – which included a car and gas – and he took us on a 10 hour tour of Ubud, rice terraces, and even his local town’s market for a total price tag of 450,000 ($45 US)!! He was so great that we tipped him 100,000 ($10) and he was incredibly excited to receive it. We also hired a driver in Yogyakarta to take us to Borobudur and Mt. Merapi and he was with us for around 8 hours for 600,000 ($60). We definitely saw a lot and didn’t have to deal with the scary traffic. Indonesia boasts some of the most incredible archaeological sites in the world, and the only site we’d rank higher that we’ve seen in person is Machu Picchu.
It was also nice to leave the camper van’s cramped “kitchen” behind along with our set meals in Australia. We got quite adventurous with some of our eating and a few times had to point to items on the menu and hope we knew what would come out. Luckily, we never got a case of “Bali Belly” and our bellies stayed as full as our wallet! Most meals were between $3-$8 US and usually included meat, vegetables, and rice or noodles.
There’s a reason Bali is overrun by Aussies and not Americans – it’s 20 hours away from the US with very few direct flights. Compare this to Australia where you can get there between 4-9 hours depending on the departure city. If you’re going to spend two days flying over and back, you better make it worth your while by staying longer and enjoying some $6 massages. Oh yes, that should probably be in the “Good” section – a one hour Balinese massage ranges from $4-$6 US!
If you travel to Bali and never leave the touristy/beach areas of Kuta, you probably won’t ever enjoy it. Sure, you can get one hour surf lessons for $10 each and cheap booze, but you also have to dodge vendors every few feet offering you surf lessons or trinkets and dodge unruly Aussies a few too many drinks in. You can head over to the markets to get plenty of cheap merchandise, but once again it comes at a high price of annoyance!
In conclusion, we really enjoyed the history and culture of Indonesian and were able to easily keep our spending down while doing so. We knew we were off the beaten path when the first group of locals approached us asking for pictures. At first we were leery, but when we realized it was out of astonishment of seeing white people and out of innocence, we probably took hundreds of pictures with the locals.
Next up: Singapore, Malaysia