If you are visiting Indonesia as a tourist, you are probably looking for gifts or souvenirs to bring back home. You may also be wondering if there are some cheap items that are worth buying here more than in your home country.

The objective of this article is to help you with your shopping. I will give you tips on what to buy, what NOT to buy, where to shop, and how to avoid scams. I've written it with two locations in mind, Jakarta and Bali, where most tourists will go at least once.

What NOT to Buy in Indonesia?
Indonesian factories are not famous for producing high-quality goods. They often sell cheap products for the local market only, protected from competition by high tariffs and quotas on imports.

For this reason, rich Indonesians like to go abroad for their shopping, in Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand for instance. Sometimes, they even make a business from bringing goods for their family and friends.

Here are a few things that are not worth buying in Indonesia:

Imported electronics (mobile phones, cameras, computers, etc):
Compared to Malaysia, I've noticed that prices are on average 10 to 15% higher in Indonesia. Even worse, there is a chance that you will buy a fake product unknowingly (for instance in electronic malls like Mangga Dua ITC).

There are interesting bargains online, especially on e-commerce websites like Lazada or MatahariMall.com. Some of the sellers are based in Batam, a free-trade zone across Singapore with lower taxes. In any case, it is unlikely you will get much lower prices than in your home country.

Luxury imported goods (branded clothes, perfumes, bags, watches, cars, etc):
The government scrapped its tax on luxury goods in 2015, but there are still high import duties and tariffs. 

Alcohol
Imported alcohol products are hit with a 275% tax. Local alcohol products have an excise tax of up to IDR88,000 per liter.

Endangered animals
Indonesia is one of the main suppliers of endangered species in the world. Even though such animals are easy to buy in local markets, it is illegal.

Tropical wood furniture
If you buy furniture made from tropical wood such as merbau or teak, there is a high chance that it has been logged illegally (whatever your seller is telling you).

Even if the wood has been certified, Indonesia is so plagued with corruption that you can't be 100% sure it actually comes from a sustainable plantation.

Finally, if you add the risk of buying low-quality wood plus the cost of shipping, it just isn't worth the effort. Consider also that you might have to wait several months for your order to arrive.

Instead, just look for second-hand teak furniture on a site like eBay and you'll certainly find what you need closer from your home.

Luwak coffee
Luwak coffee, or "kopi luwak" is made from coffee beans found in the excrements of a small animal called the civet.

It is now well-documented that mass demand for "kopi luwak" has led to both animal cruelty and scams. Don't encourage such practices, or at least get certified beans from a reputed seller (for instance, Ross Kopi).

Fake Ralph Lauren Polos
In case you are wondering, all the Ralph Lauren Polos sold in Indonesia are fake. Ralph Lauren does not have an official store in the country because their name was registered (stolen) by a local Indonesian.

Drugs
Obviously. You can read my article: Is it dangerous to use drugs in Indonesia.

15 Best Things to Buy in Indonesia
You must be wondering by now if there are things you should buy in Indonesia. The answer is: Plenty!

You will obtain the best deals on the products that are made entirely in Indonesia, using local material and labor. Ideally, you should be able to carry those things with you back home as the cost of transportation can be prohibitive (at least as much as the price of the goods you are sending).

Below is my Top 15 recommendations of things to buy in Indonesia for gifts, souvenirs, or just because they are cheap.

Small handicrafts and accessories
Indonesian artisans from all over the archipelago produce a great variety of traditional handicrafts: Hand-woven bags, kites, kitchen ware, utensils, puppet, masks, dreamcatchers, baskets, lamps, mirrors, etc.

To make sure you are buying authentic, hand-made products, avoid cheap shops in touristic areas and visit instead small boutiques and local markets. In Bali for instance, you can go to the Pasar Seni in the village of Sukawati near Ubud.

To estimate the price of a product, I generally use the following technique: First, I ask the vendor how many hours of work were necessary to create it. Then, I calculate the labor cost considering that half a day's work is worth around IDR50,000. Finally, I add the material cost (price of the wood, fabric, etc) and a reasonable seller's fee.

Batik
Wayang (masks) with batik patterns
Traditionally, batik fabric was hand-dyed in a long process involving wax and pattern stamps. Nowadays, 99% of batik clothes sold in Indonesia are made with machines that can print more colorful patterns.

To buy traditional, high-end batik clothes, you can visit any of the Batik Keris stores (in every high-end mall in Jakarta or Bali).

Modern batik can be found almost anywhere. You can also buy them online on Zalora or Berrybenka.

Ikat
The particularity of ikat fabric is that the yarn is dyed before being woven. Though the term "ikat" is Indonesian, it is unclear where this technique originally started.

The website Bobobobo has a great collection of beautiful clothes with ikat patterns from the designer Didiet Maulana.

High-quality ikats are also sold in Alun Alun shop in Grand Indonesia Mall (Jakarta) and in high-end boutiques in Bali.

Sarong
A sarong is a piece of cloth, sometimes made from batik, that can be wrapped around the waist and worn as a dress. It can also be used as a towel for the beach, as a tablecloth, as a light blanket, etc.

It can be very cheap, around a dollar if you buy it from the street. More expensive, sophisticated sarongs are available online on Zalora or Bobobobo.

Beauty products
There are plenty of beauty products that are made in Indonesia, including soap bars, shampoos, creams, lotions, body scrub, etc.

One of the most famous brands, Martha Tilaar, has plenty of shops in the country (www.marthatilaarshop.com).

Another recommended brand, based in Bali, is Sensatia.

You can also buy online on Berrybenka - Beauty Products or on SoapBali.com

Tropical wear
There are hundreds of fashion designers in Bali, Indonesians or foreigners. While their products are expensive, they can be a great gift or souvenir for your girlfriend, especially considering some items may be hard to buy abroad.

In Bali, some of the famous brands are Paul Ropp, Lost In Paradise, Bamboo Blonde, By The Sea, or Mist.

Custom-made furniture
Though I wrote earlier that you shouldn't buy tropical wood furniture in Bali, an exception can be made if you need something very specific, tailor-made.

You can ask reputed companies like YMB or My Own Bali. Don't hesitate to negotiate hard!

Indonesian food and ingredients
If you cook, you may be interested to bring back home some ingredients specific to Indonesian cuisine, such as red chili, clove, galangal, turmeric or nutmeg. In any supermarket and in most convenience stores, you can also buy sambal, kecap, coconut milk, bumbu, Rendang sauce, Gulai sauce, noodles, etc.

Indonesian crackers, called "krupuk", can be offered as a small gift, especially to children.

Photo prints
One of the best souvenirs you can bring back from Indonesia are photo prints. Before heading back to France, I always print my best shots and keep them in France as a memory. The price is at least half compared to what you would pay in Europe (around 10 US cents for a photo the size of a postcard).

Most printers in Indonesia do not use official branded cartridges (they use refills made in China). This means the quality might not always be up to your standards. Try with a few prints before making a large order and don't hesitate to shop around.

Gem stones
In Jakarta, you can visit the Rawa Bening market, the largest gem stones market in all Southeast Asia. If you know your stuff, there are excellent deals to be made.

More information: 25 Best Markets in Jakarta

Jewelry (gold, silver, pearl)
Again, as long as you know enough to discern between a fake and a genuine piece, you can purchase low-priced, handmade jewelry in Indonesia.

The cheapest shops are often in city centers (for instance in Jakarta in Cikini), but you can also buy more elaborate items in designer boutiques (check UC Silver or Atlas Sea Pearls among others).

Paintings
Paintings are easy to buy in tourist areas in Ubud or Kuta. Unless you visit an artist's gallery, it is most likely that you'll buy reproductions. Do not overpay thinking they are originals!

Cheap no-brand clothes
Middle-class department stores like Matahari or Ramayana are present in every major city in Indonesia. They sell very affordable clothes, shoes and accessories that are made in Indonesian factories.

(Clove) cigarettes
Indonesia is a paradise for smokers. A pack of Marlboro costs 6 times less than in France and 10 times less than in the UK.

You can also buy clove cigarettes as a gift or a souvenir, whenever you want to be reminded of the smell of Indonesia.

If you search hard enough, you may find weird cigarette brands. For instance, those Adidas cigarettes I bought in Bandung:

Medicine
You can buy medicine over the counter very easily in Indonesia, even without a doctor's prescription (Note: Do it at your own risk!): Antibiotics, sleeping pills, anti-depressant, etc. Often, you'll get the generic stuff, which is even cheaper.

Do you have more ideas?
This was an overview of the best things to buy in Indonesia for souvenirs, gifts, or just because they are cheap. Do you think I forgot something important? If yes, please just leave me a comment below.

2 comments to '' What To Buy in Indonesia: Souvenirs, Gifts and Cheap Stuff "

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  1. You forgot to mention prescription glasses... It's not a souvenir, but it is much cheaper in Indonesia (like 5 times less compared to Germany)...

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