Island Hopping in Indonesia

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I spent a month island-hopping through incredible Indonesia, the world's largest island country. With thousands of volcanic islands each home to a wide variety of cultures, languages, beaches, volcanoes, wildlife and nature, it's impossible to visit every one! I had to narrow down my route with the free 30-day visa issued to Canadian travellers. Check the Indonesian embassy for your country's visa options.

Island-Hopping Route

By far the most popular international airport to arrive at in Indonesia to commence island-hopping is Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar on the famous island of Bali. Our route for the month was:

  • Bali - 8 nights
  • Nusa Penida - 2 nights
  • Gili Islands - 2 nights
  • Lombok - 3 nights
  • Sumbawa - 1 night (overland travel only)
  • Flores - 7 nights
  • Sumbawa & Lombok - 1 night (overland travel only)
  • Bali - 5 nights

MONEY

The currency is the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). At the time of writing, $1 CAD was equivalent to approximately 10,670.50 IDR. I only spent cash while traveling in Indonesia, but had a credit card for backup and occasional online hostel bookings. I recommend carrying your day's budget in an easy-to-access place, with the rest safely tucked under your clothes in a secure money belt. You can take cash out at ATMs around the country - only use local, reputable banks where the ATMs are attached to a bank (not stand-alone nor those in convenience stores). I recommend Mandiri Bank. Budget approximately $20-40 per day to cover your accommodation, food, transport and activities.

WEATHER

Indonesia is hot. Always wear a hat to protect your head from the sun rays and avoid spending too much time with uncovered skin in direct sunlight. Always remember to reapply after you've been in the water. I highly recommend bringing plenty of thin, loose clothing to stay cool and to keep your shoulders covered.

GETTING AROUND

When you're island-hopping, the best way to get around will be by local ferries. As you read this post, you'll read how to get from island to island. Once you arrive on each island, you have a couple options for transport. I recommend local buses, shuttles, hiring a private driver or, if you're up for the risk and challenge, a scooter is the cheapest way to go.

SIM CARD & WIFI

You can get yourself a SIM card for while you're traveling in Indonesia for data and calls. Airport vendors tend to be more expensive than those sold in convenience stores - just head into Kuta to pick one up on your first stay. The main network is Telkomsel and you can top up pay-as-you-go pulsa credit. Ensure you purchase Flash data (not local data) so that you can use it as you move around the country. We did not choose to get SIM cards as all the hostels we stayed in had super fast wifi plus we use Maps.Me, an offline maps app meaning we don't need data to get around.

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation in Indonesia can range from a few dollars per night to in the hundreds, depending on how fancy you're going (and if you're just looking for a dorm bed or an entire villa to make all your Instagram dreams come true). I recommend using Booking.com as they typically don't add an additional fee and often let you pay at the hostel instead of online.

FOOD & WATER

You won't want to consume any water in Indonesia that hasn't come from a sealed bottle unless you want to end up with a case of Bali Belly! Avoid any drinks made with ice. Ensure any water you drink comes from a bottle that you opened! In terms of eating in Indonesia, there are no typical grocery stores such as you may find in New Zealand and the prices are so cheap in local restaurants that your best option is to eat out or at your hostel! Many main dishes go for just 20,000 - 50,000 IDR ($1.90 - $4.70 CAD).

Bali, 8 nights

Arrive: fly into Denpasar airport

Get around: I recommend the Grab or Go Jek apps, which operate a bit like Uber and will connect you with a driver to pick you up and drop you off at your destination. If you're up to the challenge, scooters are by far the cheapest way to get around - but be ready for unreliable road conditions, different driving habits and you must have a license (you can be fined for driving without one). Your accommodation can also help you book shuttle buses which are cheaper than private cars.

Go:

  • Kuta
    • STAY: Pudak Sari Unizou Hostel, dorms from 175,000 IDR
    • DO: we only stayed here due to the proximity to the airport and our late arrival time. I would skip this altogether if you arrive earlier in the day and can travel further away from Denpasar.
  • Uluwatu
    • STAY: Karma Backpacker Hostel, dorms from 95,000 IDR
    • DO: visit Dreamland Beach; go swimming at Thomas Beach; spend the afternoon exploring Uluwatu Temple
    • READ MORE: my detailed guide to how to spend a day in Uluwatu can be found here
  • Canggu
    • STAY: Swanky Bunk Hostel, dorms from 80,000 IDR
    • DO: try your hand at surfing at the beach (Batu Balong is best for beginners); watch sunset; eat amazing food at Bokacika
    • READ MORE: my detailed guide to Canggu can be found here
  • Ubud
    • STAY: WW Backpackers, dorms from 100,000 IDR or Uma Kutuh Bungalow, dorms from 42,000 IDR
    • DO: wander the streets and markets; eat delicious foods at the Warungs in town (Sun Sun Warung is the best!); explore Ubud Palace; wander around Saraswati Temple; walk the Campuhan Ridge; explore the waterfalls of the region; visit Tegallalang Rice Terraces; go visit Tirta Empul Temple and Goa Gajah Temple; hike Mount Batur at sunrise
    • READ MORE: my complete guide to Ubud can be found here
  • Lovina
    • STAY: Santhika Bed & Breakfast, dorms from 182,000 IDR
    • DO: explore Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist Monastery and Temple; jump in the Banjar Hot Springs; get a massage; watch the sunset from Dream Hill
    • READ MORE: my guide to Lovina can be found here
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Thomas Beach, Uluwatu

Pura Desa Batuan Temple

Pura Desa Batuan

Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple

Goa Gajah Temple, Ubud

Goa Gajah Temple

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Ubud

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Brahma Vihara Arama

Tirta Empul Temple

Tirta Empul Temple

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Banjar Hot Springs

Nusa Penida, 2 nights

Arrive: take the ferry from Bali to Nusa Penida; most hostels can arrange this transport (bus + boat) for you departing from Sanur in southern Bali and arriving at Toyapakeh in Nusa Penida.

Get around: I recommend hiring a driver for the west side of Nusa Penida as the roads are not as good quality as Bali. A scooter is doable on the east side as the roads are paved and in much better condition! Always be ready for unreliable road conditions, different driving habits and you must have a license (you can be fined for driving without one).

Stay: The Packer Box, dorms from 190,000 IDR per person but you may be able to find cheaper non-refundable rates on Hostel World.

Do:

  • climb down into Giri Putri Cave Temple
  • see Atuh Beach
  • scramble the steps down to Diamond Beach
  • snorkel with turtles and manta rays in Crystal Bay
  • swim in Angel's Billabong
  • see the bridge at Broken Beach
  • spot the most famous view at Kelingking Beach
  • find the hidden natural pools at Tembeling
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Diamond Beach

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Kelingking Beach

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Manta Ray at Crystal Bay

Tembeling Natural Pools

Tembeling Natural Pools

Gili Islands, 2 nights

Arrive: take the ferry from Nusa Penida direct to the Gili Islands via a mid-ocean harbour near Lembongan. Eka Jaya fast boats operate daily at 9am and 1pm from Toyapakeh; you can book this through your accommodations.

Get around: the Gili Islands are so small that you can walk anywhere, although bicycles are also very common methods of getting around quickly! Avoid using any of the horse-drawn taxis; the animals are not well-treated.

Stay: Fantastic Bamboo Hut, dorms from 125,000 IDR per person

Do:

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Gili Meno underwater statues

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Gili Air

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Gili Trawangan

Lombok, 3 days

Arrive: take the public ferry from Gili Air departing starting from around 8:30am once there are 40 confirmed passengers; tickets are just 12,000 IDR

Get around: the hagglers at Lombok Ferry Terminal were the most aggressive we met anywhere in Indonesia so we recommend taking a Bluebird Taxi to your first destination. After that, we haggled with local buses and open-back trucks to get us around. You can also book transport such as taxis and private cars through your accommodations but buses are much more fun and cheaper!

Go:

  • Senaru
    • STAY: Blue Mountain Cottage, homestay rooms from 150,000 IDR
    • DO: The two main waterfalls in the area are Tiu Kelep Waterfall and Sedang Gile Waterfall, both impressive and gorgeous.
    • READ MORE: my detailed guide to visiting Senaru and Lombok can be found here
  • Sembalun
    • STAY: Radiya Guesthouse, homestay rooms from 200,000 IDR
    • DO: The main reason to come to this area for us was to visit Bukit Selong, a viewpoint overlooking the local vegetable fields, and to hike Pergasingan Hill with panoramic views over Sembalun and the surrounding mountains. We enjoyed exploring the local villages, saying hello a thousand times and waving at all the locals.
    • READ MORE: my detailed guide to visiting Sembalun and Lombok can be found here
  • Kuta
    • STAY: J.A Hostel, dorms from 70,000 IDR
    • DO: Kuta Lombok is known for its ocean access; the beaches here are beautiful and nowhere near as busy or touristy as others we have visited. Tanjung Aan is a short yet bumpy scooter ride out of town and is the perfect place to hang out - think white sand, blue water and gorgeous surrounding landscapes. Nearby, you can do a small walk up Merese Hill, best at sunset, to view the waves lapping up the rocks.
    • READ MORE: my detailed guide to visiting Sembalun and Lombok can be found here
Tiu Kelep Waterfall, Senaru

Tiu Kelep Waterfall

Merese Hill sunset, Kuta

Merese Hill

Pergasingan Hill, Sembalun

Pergasingan Hill

Flores, 7 nights

Arrive: We did the slow and cheap local method to travel from Lombok to Flores taking 2 ferries and 2 buses across 25 hours. Read about that epic journey here!

Get around: The cheapest way of crossing Flores is by public bus, easily booked with your accommodations. You can always try and haggle for a lower price, too!

Go:

  • Labuan Bajo & Komodo National Park
    • STAY: Ataflores Hostel, dorms from 110,000 IDR
    • DO: Labuan Bajo is the gateway to Komodo National Park so get out on the water and see one of the most stunning spots in Indonesia!
    • READ MORE: my detailed guide to Komodo National Park can be found here
  • Ruteng
    • STAY: Centro Ruteng Hostel, dorms from 100,000 IDR
    • DO: We spent the evening wandering the town of Ruteng which had a warm and welcoming atmosphere - children chased us shouting hello, locals asked for selfies, people working in a church gave us a free tour and took photos for us and a class of martial arts students showed us their skills (both in the martial arts and in their grasp of the English language!) outside the local cathedral. The biggest highlight of the day may have been the delightful bakery we stumbled across where sweet treats were available for just 1,000 IDR ($0.09 CAD).
    • READ MORE: stories from the roads of Flores can be found here
  • Bajawa
    • STAY: Marselino Homestay, homestay rooms from 160,000 IDR
    • DO: Bajawa for us was not much more than a stopover town so we wandered the streets before spending the evening reading!
    • READ MORE: stories from the roads of Flores can be found here
  • Moni & Mount Kelimutu
    • STAY: Angi Lodge, homestay rooms from 500,000 IDR
    • DO: Moni is the gateway town to our entire goal of Flores which was to hike Mount Kelimutu, the famous volcano with 3 colourful lakes.
    • READ MORE: my detailed guide to Mount Kelimutu can be found here
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Mount Kelimutu Volcano

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Padar Island, Komodo

Long Beach, Komodo

Long Beach, Komodo

Finishing our Trip

After Flores, we headed back via the 25 hour trek to Lombok and took a public ferry from Lombok to Bali for 46,000 IDR. We spent another 2 nights in Ubud and then 3 nights in Lovina to finish off our trip; I have added both of these to the first Bali entry at the top of the page for clarity.

I hope this post helps you plan your epic Indonesia adventure and don't hesitate if you've got more questions!

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