top of page

Indonesia: Things to Know (2020)

Where To Go

Packing List

Visa Requirements

Getting Around

Internet Access

My Quest For Zest...


Backpacking Bali, Indonesia




New Earth Cooking School

Nusa Penida

Nusa Lembongan

Gili Islands

Gili T

Gili Air








Backpacking Indonesia, what to pack

(I overpacked from the beginning, read below to learn from my mistakes!)

Yay adventure awaits! So you've booked your ticket at this point, right?...Squaring away the last minute packing todos before you throw all that you know to the wind and head for South East Asia?...If you're anything like me, this won't be the first blog post you're reading to help determine what to pack, what essentials to bring, and how in the world you're going to decide what favorite outfit you're going to leave behind...I hope that I can help, so you won't make the same packing mistakes as me and have to pay $100 to ship unnecessary items home, oye...

Let's start with a little background context. I have been backpacking for over 3 years on and off, I'm no amateur. I know less is best and the minimal route is preferred for several reasons. First, you will want to save space to buy a couple new unique and "backpacker trendy" outfits or accessories. Second, you want to flow like the river, blow in the wind, be light as a feather, what ever metaphor you resonate with to understand easy movement is critical, you don't want to be lugging around a burden from place to place. And third, you honestly end up wearing the same thing over and over again (bi-weekly or monthly washing haha) so you don't need near as many clothing items as you think. If you can manage to only bring a carry-on size backpack, you are golden! I haven't quite mastered that yet, working on it, but I still have my 80L pack on the back and small backpack with electronics and essentials on the front (that also serves as a day-pack).

Know, these tips are mostly recommended for a backpacker / long-term traveler. If you're coming for a week get-away or glamorous holiday, you're packing list I'm sure will be quite different and you'll mostly likely need to look elsewhere for advice... This packing list will reflect my hippy, minimalist, traveler-over-tourist persona.

So what to include inside your temporary home? What are the essentials and must haves when coming to Indonesia? Here's the low down, take or leave it as you please...

When leaving your home country...

In your carry-on have: something warm and comfortable for the plane journey, a tooth brush/paste, wallet, passport and travel documents, electronics and chargers, camera, journal and pen, headphones, a book, healthy snacks, & refillable water bottle. I advise to wear a pair of close-toed shoes (tennis shoes or hiking shoes*).

*You will rarely wear or find yourself needing close-toed shoes. However, if you plan to workout or run, as you will find many backpackers do, especially on Bali, then you will want a pair. Also, if you plan to climb any volcanoes or do trekking you will want them. If you are solely coming for beach days, don't bother! To get from island to island you'll often find you have to take your shoes off anyway to walk to the boat.

In your pack (for the adventurer with a little extra money to spend) have:

One outfit

A pair of pajamas

Yoga clothes

A bathing suit

7 pairs of underwear

2 pairs of socks

Rain poncho

Quick dry towel


Snorkel and mask

A couple items that are unique to you (instruments, yoga mat, essential oils, small singing bowl, another book or 2, flow toys, cards, games, frisbee, etc.).

Any medications needed or extra contacts

Shower needs.

Small first aid kit can always come in handy

Flash light and pocket knife never hurt to bring*

And hmm...that about sums it up haha!

*Make sure your pocket knife is always in your checked luggage. Also, a phone can often suffice as your torch.

Shocked?!? Take the risk and trust me! Well, I'm assuming you're flying into a semi-big city (possibly on Bali) and plan to hit at least a couple well visited backpacker hot-spots during your trip. When this is the case, you're going to be overwhelmed with the trendy and affordable clothes for sale at road-side stalls or in cute boutiques. You've left generous space in your pack and you need're going to want to buy everything you see...but, try to just choose 3-5 outfits that are must haves.

Don't think you're the "hippy clothes" type? Spend two days out of your comfort zone in the midst of other travelers and you'll open up faster than you think. Besides, there are so many clothing options you're bound to find at least 300 things you want and have to narrow it down to 5 or so. With the excitement of a new world, you're going to want to explore, shop, eat, soak it all in, staring on your first day, so don't stress that you packed so lite...

Check the list below for what you're especially going to want to keep your eye out for that will be practical and necessary for your travels...or the following list will help those that aren't so risky...

In your pack (for the adventurer bringing comforts from home) have:

First of all, know, that you will shop, haha! I'm almost certain that you will acquire some new outfits, the options are just too hard to resist. And it makes a practical and unique souvenir. Often, depending on where you travel as well, you can find sustainable and handmade articles.

However, I understand that setting off into foreign land with just one outfit or two is a bit unsettling. So, here is my recommendations for what you'll need:

I pair closed-toed shoes

1 pair sandals (comfortable, to wear at all times)

4-7 pairs of underwear (can hand wash as needed)

2 pairs of socks

1 bra

1-3 sports bras (depending on if you plan to do yoga or workout)

2-3 bathing suits (if you can mix and match, this gives you variety...and keep tan lines in consideration haha)

1 pair pajamas (omit if you will be staying in private rooms haha)

1 sarong (can easily purchase on the first beach you visit, women are always hustling you to buy one)

1 towel (quick dry is always best)

Toiletries (shampoo/body wash, tooth paste, tooth brush, floss, contacts, deodorant (if you use haha))

1 long dress (I find it super useful my dress can also be worn as a skirt to diversify the wardrobe)

1 short dress

1 skirt (I recommend long but flowy and breathable)

1 pair overalls

1 pair shorts (loose or fitted, as long as they are comfortable and go with different tops)

2-3 tank tops (can be paired with skirt, overalls, shorts, or worn during yoga/workout)

2 yoga tops (can omit and just wear sports bra or tanks)

1 short sleeve shirt (that can also be used for trekking)

2 pair short yoga pants (when you have a regular practice or plan to workout)

1 pair loose long pants

1 pair leggings

1 jacket (for trekking or sometimes different regions are cooler, especially at night)

1 rain poncho

Remember, that anything you forget, didn't bring, or need, you'll be able to buy it abroad!

You can easily go more minimal than this packing list and you can easily go more in excess. I believe this is the happy medium! You'll have wardrobe options without excess pack weight or feeling like you're constantly wearing the exact same thing over and over again. You can layer up and stay warm or be bare naked on the nude beaches, depending on your destinations and itinerary. You'll find you only do laundry when it's seriously time (you'll know), so rewearing items multiple times is OK. In the heat, you'll often find you live in your beach attire and although people are in trendy suits, I vote for practical and comfortable that leaves for an even tan line.

Pack light. Travel far. Enjoy the journey.



Visa requirements Indonesia

Knowing a country's visa requirement well before departure date is a must. Some countries require you to apply for a visa before arrival, some you can obtain a visa on arrival, and some you don't need a visa at all! It varies from place to place, even within South East Asia, and it varies based on your nationality. Visa problems could potentially hinder your travel plans, so it's best just to inform yourself, to the best of your ability, with the most up-to-date information, prior to your travels.

Potential problems with visas that could arise are...

  • overstaying your visa (which leads to paying large fines, being detained, or being deported),

  • being denied a visa,

  • or being unable to extend your visa.

Unfortunately, I encountered a large fine of roughly $70usd for overstaying just one day in Indonesia. I was really bummed having to pay this sum of money, because of how many days it could last me on my budget. I was also leaving on my visa-run and it was an honest mistake. So make sure to count your days correctly to avoid overstays!

The information provided is specifically for USA citizens. The information may be the same for your country of origin, but it's best to double check other sources or your embassy website.

Flying into Indonesia, the airport you are leaving from will most likely need to see proof of departure from Indonesia. You must show onward travel. This could be a plane ticket out. You can find cheap flights via Skyscanner , Air Asia or Scoot.

This "proof of onward travel" is a problem for those like me, that don't have a plan or time frame and were planning to arrive and figure it out from there. In this case, I recommend just finding and booking the cheapest flight you can ($25usd+), booking a flexible ticket that you possibly would take, reserving a flight and using this to try and squeak by the agent, or getting creative on the computer ;).

For Indonesia you have two options, and it really depends on how long you plan to stay in the country (or how long you think you will stay haha!). If your stay is less than 30 days, you don't need a visa and will just get a stamp as you pass through immigration. If you plan to stay longer than 30 days, or don't have a time restriction and have the luxury of "getting stuck" in Indonesia, I recommend getting the VOA (visa on arrival).

There is a separate queue for VOA, and is often shorter than immigration lines. Plan to pay around $30usd. This visa will allow you to extend your visa for an additional 30 days, without having to leave and re-enter the country. However, note that even with the VOA, before your initial 30 days is up, you will have to go through the extension process. This process is done by either A) visiting an immigration office with all the proper documentation and leaving your passport for a couple days or B) paying an agent $50-75usd to take your passport for you and handle all the documentation. Even if you go with option B. you will still have to go to the immigration office with your agent for fingerprints and signatures after the visa has processed. So, even with the VOA there is still a process for the extension, but it is saving you from having to fly out of the country and back in.

If you plan to do a visa-run you can find cheap flights to neighboring countries such as Malaysia or Singapore. I have heard from other backpackers that you can take a night flight from Indonesia, land and sleep in the airport of another country, and then take a morning flight back into Indonesia. You are mainly looking to have different dates for your exit and arrival stamps. Some airports even have pod style hostels for overnight stays and sleeping in comfort. Airports however, don't really like or encourage backpackers to do this type of visa run and you may run into some obstacles. I personally recommend, if you're taking a visa-run, to make it into a 2-3 day holiday for sight seeing and exploring.

The airport in Bali has a luggage storage (maybe other airports do to, it's best to look online first) that you could leave your backpack at while on your visa-run, just taking the essentials with you in a day pack. The storage is typically cheap and secure. Otherwise, you could ask your hostel or guesthouse to secure your bag while you are away if you plan to return to the same location.



traveling Indonesia, transport

If you don't want to drive yourself, riding 2 or 3 on a scooter with friends is manageable. There is also the app GRAB or GOJEK where you can hire a motor bike taxi for a cheap price. It will get you where you're going and faster than by car. Sometimes you can even work out a deal with the driver to wait for you at the attraction or beach. You typically have to wait 5-10 minutes for a ride, depending on your location. Using one of these apps will be a lot cheaper than finding a ride on the street.

To move island to island you will need to take a boat/ferry. I advise to wear easily removable sandals because you often have to walk a little bit in the water to reach the boat. You can get your ticket from the port or online in advance.

The Gili Islands have no cars or motor bikes. Use bicycle or horse and carriage to get around the island.



Today, no matter where you travel, unless you’re going into remote nature or choose to be off-grid, there is a high chance that you will have access to wifi. Growing up during the peak of the technology revolution, I sometimes find myself wondering what travel would have been like before computers, smart phones, GPS, translator, online bookings, blog recommendations…

Internet and online access have become an integral part of daily life on a world wide scale. The cascade of digital content is rapidly growing with no view in site that it will slow down. 5G is on the rise and already implemented in countries within SEA and more and more businesses and brands are digitizing.

For a traveler, whether the business or tourist type, most people will rank internet availability as a top priority. This could be for purposes of working remotely, checking in to worried parents or family back home, posting awesome travel pics to social media, booking your next accommodation, checking into flights, finding the closest vegan restaurants near you, reading the most up-to-date blog post from Root to Rise, etc. Luckily, I found that all Indonesian islands I visited had adequate access to Internet.


For decades, Indonesia has been a major tourist destination and nomad land for content creators. With that being said, accommodation and cafes are well aware of the importance of having wifi. The connection often poses no problems. If you run into slow response times, normally if you talk to the person in charge, they are willing to restart the router. Some cafes or guesthouses will tend to have stronger and faster connections than others, you can often find one or two comments about it in the reviews on trip advisor or google. Indonesia has countless cafes you’re going to want to not just eat in but vibe in; so, going on a "crawl" for a good connection can be a fun thing! Within a couple days, you’ll figure out your go-to work spot and have at minimum 3 drinks and food items that are your "go-to" favorites.

What you may need to lookout for is islands or places that have power outages or cuts throughout the day. This could potentially pose a problem to your work schedule. However the outages typically don’t last more than a couple hours. If you’re willing to look at the bright side, sometimes an uncontrolled break from the screen is a blessing in disguise.

Personal Routers

I have met some people that travel with their own portable wifi router, but I don’t think this is necessary unless you are going to a really remote area for an extended amount of time and have online work to complete. If you are going to a more off grid destination for a couple days, think of it as a luxury and a reprieve from technology to fully immerse yourself in the present moment. Check-ins, work and photos can be reassumed when back in signal.

VPN Numbers

There has been some discussion among backpackers and online entrepreneurs about whether or not purchasing a VPN number is valuable or not. I did some research before my trip, knowing that I would be spending a bit of time on my laptop completing course work for my Health Coach Training Course and running my own business Root to Rise while abroad. While traveling thus far, I have not found that it is necessary to get a VPN. There have been times where certain webpages have been blocked or banned (for example Netflix in Indonesia) where I think having a VPN would allow access to the site. However there has never been a major situation thus far hindering my ability to work or find a secure network.

SIM Cards

The more I travel, the more useful I find getting a SIM card upon arrival. For starters, on a solo trip, I find it comforting to have reassurance that I can access maps or contact someone without having wifi. SIM cards in Indonesia are super cheap and you can pick from several plans that typically range anywhere from $7-30 depending on the amount of days or data you want covered. There are stalls within the airports you can buy from, and although they are normally somewhat more expensive than if you wait to purchase one from a shop at your destination, I feel the few extra dollars to save on stress is worth it. To be smart, I sometimes just purchase the cheapest package at the airport so I have coverage to begin my journey, and later as it expires find a place to ‘top up’.

Because wifi is so available, you can easily manage without a sim card. So it’s really just preference and budget!



Stepped straight off the plane into paradise…from day one I was in love with Indonesia. The air was warm like a hug. The traffic was heavy, but different than the chaos like in India, and it was mostly scooters, no cows. The locals are super friendly and engaging. The road side stalls are packed with fresh tropical fruit. The local cuisine is good and the boutique vegan cafes are top notch. Prices are cheap and quality is high. It’s a backpacker haven. Beautiful waterfalls, white sand beaches, epic snorkel and diving for casual day activities…I’ve never felt like travel was so easy.

There is a spiritual essence in the air that’s hard to go unnoticed. Indonesia is comprised of so many islands within a boat rides reach, exploring the diverse customs, cuisines, and vacation vibes of a few destinations is made easy, and accessible for all lengths of travel and every budget!

Read about what to do and where to eat on each island in the separate blog posts of Indonesia in "Around The World"! For easy access, click the links under Destinations In Indonesia at the top of the page.

62 views0 comments


bottom of page