Ask the Experts: What's the inside track on Indonesia?

This week our Ask the Experts panellists have got a real challenge on their hands, with the task of unfurling a journey to Indonesia, one of the world’s most diverse and complex countries.

Remember, if you have a burning question, simply email the panellists with your question and you could find it featured in a future edition of Ask the Experts! If things are a little more urgent, you can find these three and plenty more experts in your local STA Travel store.

Craig from Newport in South Wales did just that, with a question about his upcoming travel to Indonesia. Buckle up, here’s Craig’s question:

I’m interested in visiting Indonesia next year, what are the highlights, and how easy is it to travel between them? Craig in Newport

It’s pretty vague; but our Experts are used to going in blind and pulling out the goods. Let’s see how they get on this week…

Mark at STA Travel Belfast begins…

Great question, Craig! The two main entry points into Indonesia are Denpasar, Bali and Jakarta, Java. Or, be imaginative and fly into Singapore before catching a ferry to Sumatra. Alternatively, fly into Kuala Lumpur and take a similar journey from Malacca or Penang in Malaysia.

Bali is Indonesia’s most famous tourist hub, with plenty of accommodation options, especially in the hotspots of Ubud, Kuta and Nusa Dua; which are the best places to arrange onward travel to Lombok and the Gili Islands.

Jurassic Park

Ubud is the perfect place for some discovery walks through verdant landscape | Photo by The Wandering Angel

Garuda Indonesia is the national airline, offering domestic flights, as well as connections to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Rail travel in Indonesia is limited to Sumatra and Java. Most backpackers take the inter-island ferries, and bemos (basically minibuses) or auto rickshaws. Looking for an insider tip? Remember to bring US$25 for your visa on arrival.

Kim at STA Travel Dundee goes on…

Ahhhhh, Indonesia! Happy memories of days out on horseback in the hills of Java. Craig, I’m going to share with you a postcard I received from some customer’s of mine, that I think sums the place up perfectly…

“Hello from Bali! We are having the most amazing time! The weather has been perfect and we have been everywhere.

So far we have been surfing, visited both land and water temples, rice and coffee plantations, hot springs, the monkey sanctuary, all three Gili Islands, Lombok, ridden elephants, cuddled lions, jaguars and orang-utans at Bali Safari and Marine Park (a must see).

We have parasailed, been on a flying fish, snorkelled, sunbathed, and of course had more than a few messy nights out! Yesterday we went on a cycling tour which was awesome, and learned how traditional Balinese people live.

Still to do the volcano sunrise trek and white-water rafting. Thank you so so much for all your help, it’s been our best holiday ever! Love Fiona, Rhona, Zoe and Diane.”

Getting around is easy, getting around safely is a different story altogether! Go for a trip like ‘Classic Bali & Lombok‘ with some chill out time at the end to get the most out of awesome Indo!

Heather at STA Travel Nottingham concludes…

Great postcard, Kim! I love it when customers take the time to send in positive titbits like that. Now, Craig, if you haven’t heard already, Indonesia has so much to offer, across a huge range of islands, so it can be difficult to travel at any speed between your chosen destinations. However, some of the main highlights are easily accessible within a short space of time.

Bali is the one of the most visited destinations in Indonesia, offering a feast of culture, in a land where locals still wear their traditional dress, and give morning and evening offerings to the Hindu gods.

Many people don't realise that Bali is a Hindu enclave, among largely Muslim Indonesia | Photo by Expert Heather! 

In my opinion Kuta doesn’t offer a true Balinese experience, so you are best to head elsewhere on the island. Sanur is a great alternative where you can visit the local food market, or stroll along the beach. Elsewhere on the island you have the opportunity to climb Gunung Batur, an active volcano located in the centre — it’s a fairly easy climb, with amazing views. In the north of the island, there is the chilled out beach resort of Lovina; the beach has black sand and you can venture out to see the dolphins, learn to cook some Balinese delicacies or head out to the natural hot springs.

Bali has many temples to explore, with many hidden in the middle of thick rainforest, and you can also dive with Manta Rays over on Nusa Lembongan.

Outside of Bali, southern Java has Gunung Bromo and the temples of Borobodur. Gunung Bormo is another active volcano and a great climb, it offers a good contrast to Batur. Borobudur is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is famously beautiful at sunrise, when the tiers of stupas and soft light smother the magnificent structure.

As Mark and Kim touched on, you could also head over to the Gili Islands, which act like tiny pieces of paradise. They’re really chilled, with the opportunity to do lots of diving or snorkeling with all sorts of marine life and turtles.

Another great spot a little further away is the island of Komodo, where you can see the famous Komodo Dragons. Overall, Indonesia offers some amazing things and is easily one of my favourite destinations.

Now it’s your turn! Take the place of our Fourth Expert, and lay down your own experiences about Indonesia; or email us a question of your own for consideration.