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Guide to Choosing the Best Travel Insurance for Indonesia

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
When I speak with short-time travelers in Indonesia, I am baffled to realize only a few have a proper travel insurance or a medical evacuation insurance. Among long-term residents and expats, there are also many who do not have health insurance, particularly among those without a working permit.

The objective of this article is to convince you that spending a few dollars per day on an insurance is not a waste of money. Even if you are on a tight budget, you can get a cheap one (as low as 3$ per day if you take a yearly subscription - check here) that will at least save your ass in case of a serious illness or accident. If you cannot afford it, then you probably should not travel to Indonesia.

Why you need a travel insurance in Indonesia
While you certainly need insurance everywhere, there are even more reasons to get it when you travel in Bali, Jakarta or the rest of Indonesia:

You are exposed to more risks
There are several risks specifically related to being in Indonesia. Some are unfortunately too common: Dengue fever, malaria, dog bites, food poisoning or motorbike accidents are really not that rare. If you've lived in the country long enough, you probably know a few people who had these problems.

There are generally lower safety standards in everything in Indonesia: Construction, food, transportation, roads, activities, etc. This increases the likelihood of an unfortunate event as well. You can read more tips about this topic here: WorldNomads Travel Safety Tips.

Medical care in Indonesia is very expensive
According to the AAMI, a day in an intensive care unit in Indonesia can cost up to 3,000$. Even in the cheapest hospitals you can expect to pay 800$/day.

Facebook groups like Bali Expats or Jakarta Expats are full of horrible stories of people who had their lives ruined in a few minutes because they did not plan their trips properly. Here are just a few examples (click on the photos for the whole story):
Some of them actually had an insurance, but they didn't read the fine prints. Not having a a motorbike license is often a reason for not being reimbursed for instance. I will give you tips later in this review on what you should be looking for to make sure your risky activities are covered.

More banal problems can be quite costly as well. Among my friends, several ended up in shitty situation for common accidents or diseases:

First one hit his head by diving into a pool: 1000$ in Sanglah Hospital (local one) for a few stitches and X-rays.

Second one got bit by a street dog in Legian: 3,000$ including anti-rabies medication.

Third one got a very bad case of dengue fever combined with malaria. He went into a coma and he had to stay 4 weeks in hospital. Total bill: 25,000 dollars. Luckily, he was covered and everything was paid for. It was after this unfortunate event that I rushed to get an insurance actually.

Private hospitals will never accept you if you cannot pay
In Indonesia, the decent hospitals are run as a strict business and not a charity. If you arrive bleeding to death after an accident, the doctors will not treat you until they make sure you can pay. If you can't, you'll be left outside. It's as simple as that.

An American will probably understand that. For a French, this concept is a bit hard to grasp as we are used to get healthcare for free.

Hospitals will overcharge you
You should know that as a foreigner with or without a working permit, you will be charged more for medical treatment in Indonesia. Expect to pay at least 2 times more than locals, more if you don't have a resident visa.

Many doctors have a poor ethic. If they can find a way to inflate your final bill, they will probably do it. It is a bit like going to a random auto repair shop in Europe: Most likely you will be charged for stuff you don't need.

Serious accidents will need a medical evacuation
Since many hospitals cannot treat the most serious patients, medical evacuation is often needed. To give you an idea of current prices:

Evacuation from Indonesia to Singapore: From 25,000$ to 50,000$
Evacuation from Indonesia to Australia: From 40,000$ to 70,000$
Evacuation to Europe: Up to 100,000$

Don't expect compensatory damages
The concept of third party responsibility is foreign to most Indonesians. If you are hit by an Indonesian drunk driver, don't expect you'll get any money from the person who was responsible. Actually, even if he is at fault, he could possibly still manage to get money out from you if he is a well-connected assh*le. The same thing apply if you have an accident within your hotel or while doing an activity with a company. If you are dealing with a local company, don't even think about getting compensatory damages.

What types of insurance do you need in Indonesia?
The type of insurance you need in Indonesia depends on your activity (working, retired, tourist, etc), your length of stay, your activities and your area of travel.

Travel Medical Insurance:
An insurance that will cover your medical bills for a limited duration (usually less than 90 days) when you are traveling outside of your home country. If you are traveling to Indonesia, it is the minimum you should get. For expats it is not necessary as long as they have an expat insurance.

Travel Insurance:
A generic term for an insurance that will cover several aspects of a trip: Medical problems, but also flight cancellation, theft, lost luggage, etc.

There are several websites where you can get a price estimate for your travel insurance in Indonesia. You can check WorldNomads which is a partner of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. Among the famous ones you also have SmartTravel from AXA and Travel Guard from AIG.

You can find more options in your home country. The advantage of WorldNomads is that it is very easy to apply online and you do it even if you've already left home.

You can also search through the comparator Insure My Trip.

International Health Insurance or Expat Medical Insurance:
Travel insurance is for travelers and covers emergency situations. If you live permanently in Indonesia, you need coverage for regular health expenses such as dental care, optics, medical check ups, pregnancies, cancer treatment, etc. Those are typically not included in Travel Insurance policies.

Expats working in Indonesia should subscribe to the mandatory BPJS health insurance scheme. It is cheap, but don't expect to much from it. Many will also have their employer's insurance.

For the other expats without a company plan, you can either purchase a normal travel insurance for long term travel (but then you won't be covered for non-emergency situations) or purchase a dedicated Expat Health Insurance from a private company.

The latter is usually more expensive, but you should consider that you'll get more reimbursements as well. Reputed companies include Allianz, April-International, AXA, GMS, etc.

Repatriation/Medical Evacuation Insurance: An insurance that guarantees your medical evacuation will be paid for if needed.  The cost is usually reasonable, as little as 150$ per year, and it can save you tens of thousands of dollars. Remember that for serious injuries, you will not be able to be treated properly in Indonesia. This insurance is particularly needed if you plan on visiting remote areas.

If you purchase an insurance from WorldNomads, it is already included.

Things to check before purchasing a travel insurance

The obvious first step before purchasing a travel insurance is to make sure you don't already have one. You are probably aware that when you buy your plane tickets with a Visa or Mastercard, you are entitled to some kind of (limited) insurance. If you are traveling on a tour group, you may also already have one automatically added (though you can refuse it and buy your own instead).

Once you know for sure that you will need a travel insurance in Indonesia, you should be careful to check the following:

What is the maximum payable amount that I can get?
I think 200,000$ is the minimum amount to get considering how high some hospitals bills can be in Indonesia.

Is the medical evacuation included or not?
If not you will have to pay extra with another company. This is an essential part of your insurance and you need a high ceiling as well (minimum 150,000$).

Can you contact your insurance company 24/7? Can they approve a quotation 24/7?
This is a must in case of a major emergency. If you cannot prove quickly that you can pay for your treatment, the best hospitals may refuse you.

Do you have to advance the money?
Some insurance can give a guarantee to the hospital that your bill will be covered so you don't need to pay upfront.

Are there any exclusions?
There are always a lot of exclusions (things that the insurance does not cover). Read carefully to avoid any surprises. If you are planning to do dangerous sports and outdoor activities in Indonesia, ask for instance if surfing, scuba diving, diving, rafting, hiking, jet-skiing or paragliding are included.

What is the motorbike situation?
Motorbikes are a major cause of accidents for foreigners in Indonesia. Be careful as almost all insurers require a valid international license for the driver (even if you are a passenger). A specific motorbike license is also required for vehicle with more than 150cc. If you were drunk, high or not wearing a helmet at the time of your accident, you can also say good-bye to any potential claims.

What if you hurt someone?
Check if you can get reimbursement for third party damages.

The website of WorldNomads provides a lot of great tips to help you choose the right insurance. You can also make a simulation for your trip so you'll know exactly how much it will cost you and how long you will be protected. Don't forget to read the fine print very carefully to make sure you won't have any unexpected surprise.

How to save money on travel insurance?
The companies I've mentioned before are quite affordable. You'll only pay a few dollars per day for coverage. You can try to make a test on WorldNomads to see how much you will pay depending on your age, your country of origin, and the number of people you want to protect.
Click to get a a travel insurance quote from WorldNomads
If the amount is really to big for you, there are a few ways to lower the price even more:

Buy longer
This need some commitment, but naturally the longer you purchase, the cheaper it get. I made a test on WorldNomads for myself and got the following:

  • 7 days travel insurance to Indonesia (for a French): 26.70 euros (3.8 euros per day)
  • 4 weeks travel insurance to Indonesia (for a French): 93 euros (3.3 euros per day)
  • 365 days travel insurance to Indonesia (for a French): 804.30 euros (2.2 euros per day)
Make your own simulation here: Quote from WorldNomads.

Buy for several people at once
If you travel with your girlfriend or your family, you should choose the same reputed company for everybody.

Don't insure flights and valuables
This is what I do. Considering I travel alone with cheap flight tickets, last minute hotels bookings and few valuables, I don't really care about getting reimbursements on those things. The only thing I care about is not jeopardizing my whole life with an accident I can't afford to have.

Choose high deductibles and excess
Your insurance deductible and your excess are minimum amounts your insurance will charge you on any claims, not matter what. If your deductible for an accident is 1,000$, the insurance will reimburse you any medical expenses above 1,000$.

The philosophy of choosing a high deductible is the same as the previous point: It is for people who only want help if they are in big trouble. Having to pay 1,000$ from your own pocket sucks, but you can always find the money.

Don't buy it from your airline
When you book a flight, your airline or your tour operator will offer you to buy an insurance. Those are usually pretty bad deals and the prices are not interesting.

Compare
You can use Insure My Trip to search for the best deals. Be careful with cheap insurance companies though. If they can give a very cheap price, it probably means they don't reimburse much. You cannot have it all.

Rely on your credit card insurance only
This is possible but you must know the limitations of this strategy. In general, when you pay your trip with a classic Visa or Mastercard, you get 3 months of insurance with maximum reimbursement of less than 15,000$ (please check again with your banker to be sure). This ceiling is really too low in my opinion. You also have a lot of restrictions on what you can claim as well as high deductibles.

What insurance do you use?
This article would be greatly improved with your input. Which insurance did you choose for traveling to Indonesia? Did you succeed in making claims? If you are an expat, do you have a health insurance? Do you recommend it?

Personally, I have an expat insurance company that only insure French nationals. The name is CFE, if you are French and need more information about it you can email me thibaud@jakarta100bars.com. I pay 100 euros per month and I've made 2 claims that went well. The main one was for a gallbladder infection that kept me a week in Kasih Ibu hospital in Denpasar. The total bill was 7,000$ for 8 days and I had 5,000$ reimbursed.

Guide to Choosing Your Hotel in Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
I am asked daily by readers for tips about choosing a hotel in Jakarta. This little guide should answer all the questions I've ever received such as:

- What is the best area to stay in Jakarta?
- Where can I find a cheap guesthouse for under 10$ per night? Is there a backpacker area in Jakarta?
- What are the best budget hotels in Jakarta? Which hotel chain offers the best value for money?
- What is the best accommodation for less than 50$?
- Which 5-star hotel should I choose? Which 5-star hotel is the closest from action? Which 5-star hotel has the best bars and restaurants?
- Can I bring girls to my hotel in Jakarta? What are the names of girl-friendly or guest-friendly hotels in Jakarta?
- Can I actually sleep in Alexis Hotel, Malioboro Hotel, Travel Hotel or Classic Hotel?
- Is there a spa or massage parlour near my hotel?
- Which hotel do you recommend near the airport?
- Which hotels are connected to popular malls?

Important: I included a direct link to Agoda to help you book your hotel. I make a small commission on every booking so if you like this review and value the hours I spent writing it, I would be really grateful if you used one of these links. If you don't like Agoda, you can also use my links to HotelsCombined.com (hotel comparator) or  Booking.comThe price is the same for you!
16 Cheap Girl-Friendly Hotels in Jakarta

If you have other questions, please write them in the comment section below and I'll do my best to answer it.

What is the best area to stay in Jakarta?
Since Jakarta is so big, deciding on where to stay in Jakarta really depends on what you will do there.

Traffic should be your main consideration and you should choose the location that will minimize as much as possible the time spent going from one place to the other.

1) If you are in Jakarta for work and you need to go to a lot of meetings, choose a hotel close to your meeting points or close from your office, even if they are not in central locations. The traffic usually gets better starting 9pm so you can still go out quite easily after that.

Anyway, there are now malls almost everywhere in Jakarta so wherever you'll stay, you will be close from a fair number of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, gyms, cinemas and hang out spots.

If you are having meetings all over the city, then choose a location near the major roads such as Gatot Subroto, Sudirman, Thamrin, Gajah Mada or the Jakarta Inner Ring Road.

2) If you are in Jakarta for fun or for party, then you must decide what is your style:

- You want to party in the expensive nightclubs in Central and South Jakarta?
It is best to stay anywhere near from Jalan Sudirman, Plaza Indonesia, Mega Kuningan, Jalan Rasuna Said, Plaza Senayan. Kemang is too far in my opinion but it could be an option if you want to be close from the best Western food options.

If you are with a group, you can consider renting an entire apartment:  Check for apartments in Jakarta.

- You want to party with locals in North and West Jakarta?
Choose a hotel in one of these neighborhood: Chinatown (Glodok), Gajah Mada, Mangga Besar, Hayam Wuruk, Tamansari, Lokasari, Pecenongan. Hotels in these areas usually offer a much better value for money than in the South but the surroundings are more dirty and less safe. You also won't have nice malls, only Gajah Mada Plaza and Lokasari Square. Mangga Besar hotels are all girl-friendly and they are close from hundreds of great street food options.

Another good point with this location is that you can still reach Central Jakarta quite easily within 30 minutes. There is a very convenient busway line running from Kota Station to Blok M that you can use.

Alternatively, if you are mostly interested with karaokes and massage parlours instead of clubs, you can go to Kelapa Gading, Mangga Dua, Grogol and Taman Anggrek. These areas also have huge malls nearby and they are not too far from the airport with the toll road.

Read my guide: Bachelor Party in Jakarta

3) If you are in Jakarta as a tourist, then I would recommend staying near Thamrin or Wahid Hasyim. Alternatively, you could also stay near Mangga Besar or Kota, but if you are not familiar with Jakarta you may feel uncomfortable as those areas are 100% local.

Where can I find a cheap guesthouse under 10$ per night? Is there a backpacker area in Jakarta?
As you will read in any guidebooks about Jakarta, the backpacker district is located in Jalan Jaksa. It is nothing compared to other popular traveler hubs in Southeast Asia like Khao San Road in Bangkok or Bui Vien in Saigon. You will only find a handful of guesthouses, usually not well-maintained and not very clean. Nearby, Jalan Wahid Hasyim has more choice but the prices are higher (at least 30$).

To find a decent room in Jalan Jaksa, you need to go inside the gangs (small streets) and look for guesthouse signs.  The prices are currently set at around Rp70,000 per night for a room with a fan. AC will cost you at least double.

In the past few years, there has been an increasing number of backpacker hotels that have opened elsewhere in the city, sometimes with higher standards. Teduh Hostel in Kota Tua or Six Degrees in Cikini are good examples. Their prices are quite high though, even for a bed in a dormitory.

I would still recommend Jalan Jaksa because of its very central location. It is next to Gambir train station (from where you can go to Yogyakarta or Bandung). It is also near from several key things to do in Jakarta like the Monas or the Istiqlal Mosque. 500 meters from Jaksa, the Sabang street is famous for its street food options.

What are the best budget hotels in Jakarta?
There are several budget hotel chains in Jakarta: Ibis Budget, Neo, Fave Hotels, Amaris, Pop Hotel, Whiz, Hotel 88, D'Prima. The price vary between 20$ and 45$ per night.

One of the cheapest budget hotel chain in Jakarta is RedDoorz. They have dozens of locations in the city which are in fact independent small residences. The level of comfort is good considering the price, usually less than 20$ for a double bed room. In particular, they have some very-centrally located property that I've review here: 5 Best Budget Hotels in Central Jakarta.

I also recommend to check the properties of ZenRooms. They are cheaper than traditional budget hotel chains yet they offer the same value for money. They have quality linens, flat screen TVs, free WIFI, individual AC and clean bathrooms.

They are currently available in several locations in Jakarta and in the rest of Indonesia.

Fave Hotels also have a great value for money, though they are a bit more expensive than RedDoorz.

Based on my experience though, the standards can be quite different within the same chain depending on who is the owner. For instance, the Fave Hotel in LTC Glodok is fantastic, probably because it is owned by Agung Podomoro Land (one of Indonesia's largest developer). Another great one is Fave Hotel Gatot Subroto. On the contrary, I stayed in Fave Hotel Kemang and Pasar Baru, both disappointing.

Also, the price may vary a lot depending on the location: The Fave Hotel Thamrin costs double compared to the one in Kelapa Gading.

If you plan on going bar-hopping in Blok M, you may want to stay in Fave Hotel Melawai which is walking distance from the infamous hostess bars. It is guest-friendly/girl-friendly.

Finally, there is also a Red Planet Hotel in Pasar Baru. If you have been to the Philippines, you will know it's one of the best budget hotel chains there.

What are the best 3-star hotels in Jakarta?
3-star hotel chains in Jakarta are Ibis, Harris, All Seasons, Santika and Holiday Inn. The price depends on the location and the day of the week (cheaper on weekends). In general, they will cost between 45$ and 60$ per night.

Again, within a chain there can be big differences. Ibis Tamarin and Ibis Arcadia on Jalan Thamrin are getting old but Ibis Harmoni is brand-new. 

I think it is best to find out when the hotel was open and to choose the more recent ones. All Seasons Gajah MadaAll Seasons ThamrinFour Points by Sheraton and Holiday Inn Thamrin were all opened less than 3 years ago.

What are the best 4-star hotel chains in Jakarta?
The prices of 4-star hotels in Jakarta vary greatly depending on the location. The cheapest ones, located outside the city center in Mangga Dua, Gajah Mada or Ancol can cost less than 60$ while those located near Sudirman or Thamrin cost up to 100$ per night.

The best chains are Novotel, Mercure, Santika Premiere, Aston, Swiss-Belhotel and Best Western. Again, don't trust a chain blindly, make sure that the hotel was built recently.

The newest 4-star hotels in Jakarta are: Mercure SabangHotel Santika Premiere Hayam Wuruk and Novotel Gajah Mada

Which 5-star hotel should I choose? Which one is the closest from nightlife?
5-star hotels in Jakarta are almost all located within the Golden Triangle (Sudirman - Rasuna Said - Gatot Subroto). For this reason, all are rather close from any happening places.

Still, it is even more convenient to choose a hotel attached to one of the big malls. For this reason, you may want to choose:

- Kempinski, attached to Grand Indonesia
- Grand Hyatt and Keraton at the Plaza, attached to Plaza Indonesia (other options nearby include the Pullman Thamrin and the Mandarin Oriental). The Hyatt is a great option as it is close from Immigrant club, Cloud Lounge, Dreams Ego Lounge and Skye Rooftop.
- Ritz Carlton SCBD, attached to Pacific Place (there is also a Ritz-Carlton in Mega Kuningan)
- Fairmont, attached to Plaza Senayan (2 minutes walk)
- Pullman Grogol, attached to Central Park
Sheraton in Gandaria City
Raffles Hotel in Lotte Shopping Avenue - Ciputra World

A JW Marriott was suppose to open in Lippo Mall Kemang Village in 2014 but the project seems to be late.

The Shangri La and the Mulia are also popular with male because of their live music bars, BATS and CJs.

Can I bring girls to my hotel in Jakarta? Which hotel is guest-friendly or girl-friendly in Jakarta?
People are always wondering if they are allowed to bring a girl to their room in Jakarta. The answer is: 90% of Jakarta hotels are girl-friendly.

The only places where you may have problems are family guest-houses or small family hotels located in conservative areas. Outside Jakarta, there have been a few cases of over-zealous mayors raiding hotels to hunt unmarried couples sleeping together. These raids are actually against the law since it is not unlawful to sleep with someone you are not married to. The rule of law does not always apply in Indonesia, but hypocrisy does.

If you stay in any hotel with 3 stars or more, you will be most certainly allowed to bring guests overnight.

An ID is generally required so make sure your girl has her papers.

Hotels located in red-light districts are used to receive night visitors. If you are planning to go wild, then you may want to choose a room in Chinatown, Mangga Besar, Gajah Mada, Kelapa Gading, Mangga Dua, Blok M or Taman Anggrek.

Some naughty hotels also offer plus plus massage services in the room or in their spas. For example: Orchardz Industri, Orchardz Jayakarta, Orchardz Hotel Airport, Sparks LifeB'Fashion, Fashion Hotel (Gunung Sahari), Prinsen Park, Olympic Hotel.

At last, you also have some famous transit hotels such as Hotel BI Executive in Ancol. In this hotel, rooms have mirrors and porn movies are available at reception. You can also park you car just under your room if you want to be discreet.

Can I actually sleep in Alexis Hotel, Malioboro Hotel, Classic Hotel, etc?
Brothels in Jakarta often have a hotel license because it gives them more flexibility with the law. In particular, it allows them to open during ramadan.

Even though they are not listed on the traditional online booking engines like Agoda or Booking.com, they do accept guests.

Update August 2016: You can now book a night in Classic Hotel on Agoda.

Is there a spa or massage parlour near my hotel?
I wrote a long review that I update regularly about the location of all spas in Jakarta. Please read it: Where are the massage parlours in Jakarta?

Where can I sleep near the airport?
There is a growing number of budget hotels that have opened near the airport. You even have one, Orchardz Bandara, which is a hidden bordello.

The Airport hotels are located on both sides of the highway. If you have a flight early morning, it is best to choose a hotel on the left side of the road so it will save you 10 minutes.

A very good choice is the Swiss Bellinn or the Ibis Styles Airport.

Which hotels are connected to popular malls?
Choosing a hotel located inside a mall is a great idea as it will save you a lot of time. I already listed above the 5-star hotels located inside luxury malls:

Grand Hyatt and Keraton at the Plaza, in Plaza Indonesia
Fairmont in Plaza Senayan
Sheraton in Gandaria City
Raffles Hotel in Lotte Shopping Avenue - Ciputra World

You also have the following:

Mangga Dua Square: Amaris and Novotel
Pluit Junction: Fave Hotel (also not far from Emporium Pluit)
FX Mall: Harris Suites FX
ITC Mangga Dua: Le Grandeur
Seasons City: Amaris
Mahaka Square: Hotel Santika Gading
Mall Kelapa Gading: Pop Hotel, Harris Hotel and Conventions (and there is a Fave Hotel accross the road as well)

Some hotels are not connected to malls, but they are just located within walking distance. For instance:
Mall Of Indonesia: Whiz Prime
WTC Mangga Dua: Hotel Neo Mangga Dua
Emporium Pluit: Holiday Inn Express CityGate
Mal Ciputra: Hotel Ciputra
Plaza Semanggi: Crowne Plaza
Plaza Senayan: Century Park
CityWalk Sudirman: Intercontinental MidPlaza
Sarinah: Sari Pan Pacific, Artotel, KosendaFour Points by Sheraton
Rasuna Epicentrum and Pasar Festival: Aston Rasuna and JS Luwansa
Kuningan City: Manhattan Hotel
Kota Casablanca: Park Lane
Ciputra World One: Somerset Grand Citra
Bellagio Mall: Oakwood Premier Cozmo
Blok M Plaza: Oak Tree Urban, Hotel Melawai, Amaris Panglima Polim

Which Hotels are Gay-Friendly in Jakarta?
Only one hotel is openly gay-friendly in Jakarta to my knowledge. It is "House of Bare", a small guest house located in West Jakarta, not far from Taman Anggrek and Central Park.

Conclusion
I hope this Jakarta hotel guide will cover all your questions about where to stay in Jakarta. Again, if you have any questions, just type them below and I'll answer them.

10 Best Things to Do In Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
Many tourists hate Jakarta because they visit it the wrong way. They check the things to do in a guidebook or on the internet, and then try to do as many as possible in a short time.

Since they are not familiar with the city, they get stuck for hours in traffic, walk in the heat from one sight to the other, and spend more time bargaining than actually talking with Indonesians.

I am not saying that Jakarta is perfect, but if you know what to do, you can definitely have a good time.

Below is my list of the 10 most recommended things to do in Jakarta, starting from the best. An alternative title for the article could probably have been "How Not To Hate Jakarta". Your suggestions are welcome, please just write a comment at the end.

You can also read Is Jakarta worth visiting? for more information.

1) The best thing to do in Jakarta is to date a local (at least for guys)
Let's be honest here. Would Jakarta be as interesting for expats as it is today without Indonesian girls? Certainly not.

Dating local girls is the main activity of most guys I know who live here, and even for those who already have a Western wife. It is a fascinating introduction to Indonesian culture and the best way to learn the language. Leaving Indonesia without this experience is a bit like leaving Italia without eating pizza.

As a traveler, an easy way to get a date is to use online dating apps like Tinder. I wrote an article with the best services you can use: Online Dating Apps and Sites in Indonesia. Many girls in Jakarta will be suspicious about your intentions if you are a tourist though. If online dating does not work, you can read more advice in How to Meet Girls in Jakarta.

2) The second best thing to do in Jakarta is to party
The nightlife is one of the few areas where Jakarta can compete with Bangkok or Singapore. If you go to X2 on a Saturday night, you have at least 200 tourists. I don't think there are as many visiting the National Monument (Monas) over the whole weekend.

Clubs in Jakarta are not perfect but they are fun. Foreigners get a special treatment as long as they dress well and, unlike in Europe, you stand a chance with girls.

My whole website is about Jakarta nightlife. If you are not familiar with it already, start with Best Nightclubs 2016, Jakarta Nightlife 2015 and Jakarta Nightlife Guide.

3) The third best is to eat Indonesian food
I advise you to do the same when you visit Jakarta. You can go to Sabang street in Central Jakarta or Mangga Besar street in Kota (for more ideas, read Street Food in Jakarta) and choose one of the crowded food stalls. The prices are low: A dish without meat usually costs around Rp10,000, a dish with chicken or fish about Rp20,000 and a dish with beef or lamb between Rp30,000 and Rp50,000.

Don't make the mistake of only trying Nasi Goreng as you'll miss hundreds of delicious specialties. My personal favorites are Gudeg (cooked jackfruit), Ayam Gulai (chicken with Indonesian curry), Beef Rendang (slow-cooked beef with spices), Bebek Mercon (duck with extra spicy sauce), Grilled Fish with Dabu-Dabu (Manado spicy sauce), Lawar (minced vegetables and meat), Konro (ribs soup), etc.

You can also read: How I Became Fat in Indonesia.

4) The fourth best is to get a massage

Indonesia is one of the best countries in the world to get an excellent massage.

In Jakarta, for just US5$ you can have a professional masseuse at your door who will massage you for an hour. The easiest way to find a therapist is to download the app Go-Jek and to use the feature "Go-Massage". Alternatively, almost every hotels in Jakarta with more than 3 stars have an in-house spa or 24/7 massage services.

You can also check independent spas. The prices are between 15$ and 30$ for a 90-minute treatment in a decent venue. For a luxurious one, you can read my article: Best Luxury Spas in Jakarta.

To find the spa nearest from your place, you can use my guide Finding A Spa In Jakarta. Beware as I'm also mentioning plus plus spas (that are also quite an experience... you can try Delta if you are curious).

Expat women would tell you that Jakarta is a great place to have an inexpensive creambath, a nail polish or a scrub. Beauty salons are not expensive and they can be found everywhere.

5) The fifth best is to do nothing 
"Nongkrong" ("hanging out" in English) is the trademark hobby of Indonesia. Basically, it means doing nothing with other people.

You can hangout pretty much anywhere: In a coffee shop, on top of a rooftop bar, in a restaurant, in front of a 7-eleven, in the street, at a friend's place, at the mosque, etc. All you need is at least another person. You may also add a beer, a kretek, a coffee and some snacks. A chair is not required as you can see on this photo:

You may feel it is a waste of your time but it's not. It is a time for relaxing, eating, drinking, socializing and adapting to a new environment. In such a hectic city, slowing down is essential to avoid going mad.

6) The sixth best is to walk around
As surprising as it may seem, my favorite day-time activity in Jakarta is simply to walk around in normal Indonesian neighborhoods. It is a free and simple thing to do, yet very rewarding.

Whenever I have guests coming to Jakarta, I always take them for a walk and they love it. It allows them to discover the softer, slower-paced side of the city, where regular folks live.

This is something you can do almost anywhere as long as you understand how Jakarta is organized. Most of the malls, offices, luxury residences and hotels are located along huge streets like Rasuna Said, Sudirman or Gatot Subroto. As soon as you venture behind those skyscrapers, you have smaller and smaller streets (also called "gangs"), where only motorbikes can enter. The atmosphere changes completely: It becomes almost rural with no traffic, low-rise houses, chicken running wild and women going to the mosque with their daster (a sort of daytime pajamas).

This drawing may (or may not) help you understand:
Three nice areas for walking around are Glodok (Jalan Kemenangan, near the Chinese temple Vihara Dharma Bhakti), Tanah Abang (you can go to Jalan Kebon Kacang I, II, III, etc) or Pasar Baru (Jalan Kelinci).

7) The seventh best is to visit the tourist spots
Some tourist spots in Jakarta are interesting, but it would be a mistake to visit them before doing the things listed above.

My most recommended attractions are the Istiqlal Mosque, the National Museum, Taman Fatahillah (a square in the Old Town with several museums and coffee shops) and Sunda Kelapa (the old harbour). All of these can be done within a day if you start early and if you choose a hotel in a central area (Where to Stay in Jakarta).

Other sights that you can skip:
Monas is not that special and the surrounding park is not well maintained.
Taman Mini is too far from the city center so it will take you the whole day to visit it.
Waterbom and DuFan are two themed parks that are only interesting if you have kids.

If you need more ideas, I have been to most tourist attractions in Jakarta and I reviewed them on Jakarta100bars here: Things to Do in Jakarta. You can also check my ranking of the best museums: 16 Best Museums in Jakarta.

8) The eighth best is to learn Indonesian
Indonesian is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It is easy to learn because there are no verb tenses or declensions (noun modifications). You can make sentences just by putting up words together. The pronunciation is also simple: Every letter has a sound.

A traveler I know managed to reach a conversational level within two weeks only. All he did was to memorize 200 words, then seize any opportunity to start a conversation with Indonesian people. He was dating a girl also, that helps.

If you stay in Jakarta more than a few weeks, or if you live in Southeast Asia, I recommend you to learn at least a few words. It will make your Indonesian experience richer and more enjoyable.

9) The ninth best is to go shopping
Indonesia is a protectionist country. This means anything imported or requiring imported components will be expensive, and anything that can be made local is (normally) cheap.

Shopping in traditional markets and shopping streets is a great local experience. I've written a complete article about these here: 25 Best Markets and Shopping Streets in Jakarta.

Shopping in middle class malls is also fun and you may find a few bargains (though not as good as in Thailand or Vietnam). Indonesian-made clothes and accessories are generally cheap. Electronic equipment, mobile phones, computers and cameras with a local brand don't cost a lot as well, but the quality can be poor. There are always a lot of fake products too. Some of the best middle class malls are ITC Mangga Dua, Mall of Indonesia, Mall Kelapa Kading, Mall Ambassador and Mall Taman Anggrek.

Shopping in luxury malls like Plaza Indonesia, Plaza Senayan or Pacific Place is not really interesting in terms of prices. Most items sold are more expensive than elsewhere. Those malls are still worth a visit if you want to see the glitzy side of Jakarta. It is also where you will find the most popular cafés, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and cinemas.

10) The tenth best thing to do in Jakarta is to get out
If you don't get out from Jakarta once in a while, you will start to hate it. There are flights from Jakarta to most airports in Indonesia, making it the best base to visit the country. 50$ will take you thousands of kilometers away to white sand beaches, world-class reef corals and indigenous tribes.

Get some travel ideas here: 11 Indonesian Islands You've Never Head Of and Bali Cheap Travel Guide.

7 Reasons Thailand Attracts More Tourists Than Indonesia

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
Thailand welcomed over 29 million foreign visitors in 2015 while Indonesia only had 10.41 million. Almost 3 times less. 

This is quite an abnormal situation considering Indonesia is a much larger country with better beaches, better surfing, better diving and better hiking. The cultural and natural diversity of Indonesia is unmatched in Southeast Asia. There are 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Indonesia and only 5 in Thailand. If only Indonesian cuisine was more famous, it could compete with Thai food (similar Malaysian food was named 6th Best in the World by CNN). Indonesians are just as nice as Thai people, and they speak English better. 

Despite this potential, why are there so few foreigners visiting Indonesia compared to Thailand? 

1) Bad Location and Less Flights
As with any businesses, location is always the main factor to explain success or failure. Thailand is closer from China, from the rest of Asia and from Europe. Unsurprisingly, it receives more visitors from all the countries in those areas.

For a European, a Chinese, an Indian, a Japanese or a Russian, it is always shorter, cheaper and easier to go to Thailand.

Logically, the only two nations that send more tourists to Indonesia are Singapore and Australia, both its direct neighbors. Unfortunately they are dwarf countries with a combined population of less than 30 million people.

Being wider, Indonesia is more difficult to visit. You often need to take an additional internal flight, making a trip even more long and costly. For instance, the famous diving site of Raja Ampat in Papua is 4 hours and 300$ away from Jakarta.

China
The impact of China alone is crucial. In 2015, Thailand received over 7,9 million Chinese visitors, 27,5% of all their tourists. In the meantime, Indonesia had only about a million.

The number of direct flights from China to Thailand is impressive. There are over 30 cities in China with direct flights, arriving to 8 Thai destinations (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Krabi, Surat Thani). Direct flights from China to Indonesia are much more rare: Only Jakarta, Bali and Manado have some, from only 10 Chinese cities.

The prices from China to Thailand are much lower as well, not only because it is shorter, but also because there are a few low-cost airlines operating on these routes (Thai Smile, Air Asia, Spring Airlines).

A Chinese can get a return ticket to Thailand for less than 100$, but he'll need to pay at least $400 if he wants to travel to Indonesia.

2) Poor Infrastructure
Flights and location cannot explain everything. Americans are just as far from Thailand as they are from Indonesia: Both destinations require a 24-hour flight that costs about 500$ one way. Yet, in 2014, Indonesia was visited by 251,000 Americans and Thailand by 763,000.

Reading the 2015 Global Tourism and Travel Report, the major difference between the two countries resides in the "Tourist Service Infrastructure" (number of hotel rooms, car rental companies, ATMs, etc). On this criteria, Thailand ranks 21st globally and Indonesia 101st.

With a GDP Per Capita about 30% lower than Thailand, Indonesia is also a few years behind Thailand in terms of economic development. Jakarta is still waiting for its first mass transportation system whereas Bangkok has had one since 1999. Bangkok has cheap and world-class hospitals while in Bali any serious accident requires medical evacuation. Modern highways connect Thai cities, while in Java, it takes an hour to drive 30 kilometers.

The fact is, it is more comfortable and easier to travel within Thailand compared with Indonesia. If you've been to both, you probably know what I mean.

3) Mismanagement
As I see it, the Indonesian government just does not care about its citizens or visitors: It does not care to repair the road or to clean the streets, it does not care to create parks or proper sidewalks, it does not care to improve education or hospitals. It only seems to care about making money by awarding contracts and privileges.

The result is chaotic: Roads in Indonesia are clogged with traffic, even in small towns. You cannot walk safely and public transport is dreadful. Wherever you go, you see huge piles of trash, even in remote rural location.

It is not a money issue: In Senopati, one of the richest neighborhoods in Jakarta, sidewalks are broken as well and streets are dirty. The local government in South Bali is really wealthy, yet they need the help of Coca-Cola to clean the beaches. Tackling issues is just not their main priority.

Some backpackers may find Indonesia more adventurous and fun to visit, but for most people, a holiday should be simple, relaxing and safe. Thailand wins hands-down on these three points.

4) Negative Perception
According to a 2015 survey, 43% of Australians had a positive image of Indonesia and 59% a positive image of Thailand. Their main concern was a perceived lack of stability, safety and cleanliness.

In international news, Indonesia rarely makes headlines unless there is an earthquake, a tsunami, a volcano erupting, a terrorist attack, a giant forest fire, or a foreigner being executed. You'll also hear about Indonesia in the bizarre news section: The Man Tree, The Sex Doll Fallen From Heaven, the 2-Year Old Smoking child, the World's Fattest Kid, etc.

Local politicians are populists who don't care about the image they give abroad as long as they get votes at home. It is common for them to boost their popularity by stirring nationalist sentiment, even if it means bullying another country. The Vice President Yusuf Kalla's is a good example of these methods. He was the one who initiated the campaign to pay back the tsunami relief aid before the Bali 9 execution. He was the one who declared that Singapore should be thankful for 11 months of clean air, in the middle of the haze crisis. This gave such a disastrous image that some Indonesians wondered whether public officials should hire a PR agency.

Any effort to push forward sharia law will also get a fair amount of publicity: The proposed ban on alcohol, the threat to the LGBT community, the virginity tests, the criminalization of casual sex, the canning in Aceh or even the debates over whether it is allowed to wish "Merry Christmas" gave the impression that Indonesia is a borderline extremist country, which it is not.

In fact, when I say that I live in Jakarta, the first question people ask me is often: "Is it Muslim there?". I think the fact that Indonesia is a majority-Muslim country turns off some potential visitors who are afraid there will be too many restrictions. It is not surprising that the most popular destination in Indonesia is a majority-Hindu island.

Finally, I remember talking to a Malaysian friend a few years ago who told me that for many Chinese, Indonesia was not considered a safe country following the 1998 riots in which hundreds lost their lives. The recent beating of a young Indonesian Chinese will certainly not improve the situation.

5) Protectionism
Like most country on earth, Indonesia and Thailand are both suspicious of foreigners. Thailand seems more pragmatic though, and its laws are more relaxed when it comes to visa requirements, imports, ease of doing business, and property rights.

Even though things I've changed in Thailand in the past few years, it is still less of a hassle for a foreigner to work, to retire, or to start a business there. As expats open cafés, restaurants, hotels, travel agencies or attractions, they also contribute to the development of tourism.

Last year, a crew of foreign photographers and models were arrested and deported for doing a photoshoot in Bali. Even though they didn't have working permit, they were actually promoting the island through their pictures so I'm wondering about the logic of spending 3 days to chase them. The crew probably regretted they didn't go to Thailand instead.

6) Higher Prices
According to official figures, Indonesia is supposed to be cheaper than Thailand but I find this statement to be far from the truth. In reality, I know Indonesians who fly to Bangkok just to do some shopping or to get medical treatment.

The quality of services and products you buy in Thailand is often superior, for instance for Western food, health, clothes, electronics, hotels, fruits and vegetables, alcohol and transportation. The main reasons for this, I believe, are the lack of competition and the import restrictions mentioned above.

The high price of alcohol is a deal-breaker for many tourists. A glass of the most basic wine can easily cost 15$ ; a can of beer 4$ ; a cocktail in a regular nightclub 10$. I know several people who prefer Thailand only because of this (yes my friends are drunkards).

High import taxes on gourmet food also hinder the development of tourism. Few visitors want to eat Indonesian-style during their whole trip: They want cheese, bread, steaks, deli, a variety of fruits, etc. All of these are more expensive in Indonesia than in Thailand.

7) Less Sex Tourism
Even though Indonesia has a naughty nightlife (read Sex Tourism in Bali), it is nothing compared to Thailand. In Jakarta, there are only 6-7 prostitute bars catering to foreigners (double that number if I include Little Tokyo). In Bangkok, there are probably several hundreds and just as many in Pattaya and Patong.

I don't have official data about the number of sex tourists traveling to Thailand every year, but I'm sure that it accounts for a significative portion of visitors.

Cheap Travel to Bali: A Complete Guide

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
Traveling cheap in Bali is not difficult if you are well-prepared and well-informed. The following guide is a must-read for any visitor wanting to get the most out of her/his dollars without sacrificing on quality.

I've lived 3 years in the island, enough time to know the best tricks and tips to save money on what is unnecessary. My goal is to help you make the right decisions regarding your flights, your hotels, your meals, your transportation and the attractions you visit.

If you have any questions about your trip, you can leave a comment below or contact me directly: thibaud@jakarta100bars.com.

Best Time to Visit Bali? Choose Your Season Carefully

Choosing your travel dates is the decision that will affect your budget the most. Tourism in Bali is highly cyclical, alternating between fully-booked peak seasons and budget-friendly low-seasons.

Weather in Bali
The weather in Bali is not an exact science. I observed the following:
  • 15th November to 15th March: Rainy season (almost daily rain for several hours, hot weather). During this period, the sea is also rougher and it carries a lot of garbage onto the beach.
  • 15th March to 1st June: Shoulder season (occasional rain, very hot weather)
  • 1st June to 15th September: Dry season (No rain, hot weather)
  • 15th September to 15th November: Shoulder season (occasional rain, very hot weather)

Most Expensive Periods to Visit Bali
The peak seasons in Bali, when the prices are the most expensive, are the following:

- Christmas and New Year: This is the busiest period of the year, when all prices go crazy. Few people realize that it is actually a terrible time to visit as it is raining almost daily. I strongly recommend to avoid traveling to Bali during this time unless you are looking for noise and traffic.

- Lebaran: This is the most important holiday in Indonesia for Muslims. It starts after the end of ramadhan and last for approximately 10 days. Thousands of Jakartans flock to Bali for the occasion, particularly in the South (Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Nusa Dua). The date of the Lebaran is not the same every year: In 2016, it will start on July 6th. In 2017 on June 24th. In 2018 on June 14th.

- 1st of July to 5th of September: This is the holiday season in Europe. The whole island gets busy during that time, especially around August 17th when you also have the Indonesian Independence day.

- Around 20th of September to 10th of October: This is a school holiday in Australia and you still have a fair number of tourists from Europe.

- Chinese New Year: Usually happening in early February, this is a busy period as both local and international tourists (from Singapore, Malaysia and China) come for a few days, usually in the South (Kuta, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran).

- Japanese Golden Week: It is the longest holiday in Japan from April 29th to May 5th. Since Japanese tourists are not as numerous as before, the impact on prices is now limited.

- Chinese Golden Week: Second longest holiday in China, it happens early October.


Best Periods to Visit Bali
Based on the information above, I would advise you to visit Bali from March 15th to the end of June and from the October 10th to the end of November. This is when you will get the best prices, the best weather and the less tourists.

Bali is also a weekend destination for residents of Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. It is particularly true when you have long weekends due to a public holiday falling on a Friday/Monday. Naturally, prices go up during those times.

Finding the Cheapest Flights to Bali

Domestic Flights within Indonesia
Onward flight prices are higher from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning and outward prices are higher from Sunday night to Monday morning.

If you are on a budget, you probably won't choose to fly with the national airline Garuda. I've noticed though that if you check directly on their website, you can sometimes get excellent bargains. The advantage of booking with Garuda is that you get a 20 kilograms luggage allowance, a free meal and more flexibility for cancelling your flight.

AirAsia is usually considered as one of the best local low-cost airlines. Their pricing is not always interesting however, particularly if you have extra luggage and if you want to pick your seat.

I usually fly with Lion Air. Not only it is the cheapest, it currently allows passengers to check-in up to 20 kilograms of luggage for free. If you come early enough, they can also give you seats near the emergency exit so you'll get more space for your legs. Citilink, the low-cost carrier from Garuda is an alternative but slightly more expensive.

The easiest way to save money on low-cost flight is to bring a carry-on luggage only with you (usually under 10 kilograms is tolerated). Consider that unless you trek Mount Agung or Mount Batur, you do not need any warm clothes in Bali, nor shoes, nor pants. There are very few things you cannot buy in Bali. Don't hesitate to leave sunscreen or shower gel at home if it allows you to bring one less bag.


Saving Money on International Flights
I use 3 websites when searching for good deals on international flights: Skyscanner.net, Google Flight and Kayak Explore. Those websites are unique because they allow for flexible search, meaning you do not need to input a particular destination or a precise date.

For instance, on Skyscanner you can find the best prices for a whole month or find the cheapest month within a year. If your travel dates are flexible, it is an incredible tool to use and it can save a lot of money.
Skyscanner allows you to find the best prices during a particular month
Another great feature is that you can input a country as a destination and then see how much it costs to fly to each of the airports within that country.

This feature can help you get great deals to go to Bali if you don't mind making a stop-over somewhere else in Indonesia.

For example, international flights to Surabaya and Jakarta are usually cheaper so you can go there first, and then take a local flight to Bali (Surabaya- Denpasar can be as low as 20$ and Jakarta-Denpasar is not more than 50$).

On the example below, I am looking for flights from Singapore to Indonesia in general, not particularly Bali.
As you can see, Singapore- Jakarta costs only 40$ while Singapore-Denpasar is 150$. In this case, if you do a stop-over in Jakarta you can save at least 60$. It is also usually faster to do your visa in Jakarta.

Kayak Explore and Google Flights offer a similar alternative, except that the results are displayed on a map.

Avoid Frequent Flyer Programs
Almost each airline has its own frequent flyer program. In general, you get a certain number of Miles for each purchases you make with that airlines and its partners. With some companies, you can also get more Miles if you own a partner credit card and use it for daily payments.

Once you've collected enough Miles, you can trade them for a free ticket or an upgrade. If you are a frequent flyer, you can get benefits such as the use of the lounge, priority checking or a more flexible reimbursement policy.

Unless your tickets are paid by your company, I would advise against joining these programs. The companies are usually playing with your ego to make you feel like you are a "special" customer with small attentions and small benefits. On your side, this makes you book exclusively with them, ignoring cheaper prices from competitors. In the end, you pay for your "free" ticket or upgrade much more than they are worth.

Finding Smart Hotel Deals

Hotel developments have gone crazy in Bali. Investors start building hotels without having the necessary permits and license. This absence of regulation has led to a serious over-supply of rooms and a price war.

This is particularly true with the newest hotels that are not centrally-located or far from the attractions. If you don't mind behind a few hundred meters away from the action, you can easily save 50% of your hotel bill. Some of the best value hotels in Bali are on Jalan Sunset Road. Read carefully my advices about transportation below to make sure you don't spend the money you've saved in taxis though.

Apart from the typical booking engines like Agoda or Booking.com, I recommend you to try ZenRooms.com.

They have rooms all over Bali with prices starting only $15 per night, including AC, hot water and sometimes a swimming pool.

Best cities in Bali for cheap travel
The most expensive cities in Bali are Jimbaran, Nusa Dua and Seminyak. For intermediate prices, you have Sanur, Kuta and Legian. The cheapest are Denpasar, Ubud, Amed and Lovina.

Beachfront locations in the South are pricey unless you go to Bingin beach or Balangan beach. If your dream is to stay in a beach bungalow and you don't have a lot of money, it's better going to Lombok or even Thailand.

Getting Around in Bali for Cheap

Can You Go Around Bali With Public Transport?
Semi-public transport options in Bali are limited, but they are good enough to take you to the most famous cities like Kuta, Ubud, Sanur, Lovina or Amed.

Bemos and Angkot
Both bemos and angkots used to be everywhere, but it is much harder to find them as almost every Balinese family now owns a motorbike. Bemos and angkots are minivans with a capacity of about 10 people. They usually follow a straight line from one point to another (the route is written on the front of the car). The price depends on how far you go, usually between Rp3,000 and Rp5,000. It's a cheap and authentic way to travel, but it is not convenient at all because there are not enough lines in touristic locations.

Komotra
Komotra are open-air colourful buses that operate between Seminyak and Kuta on Jalan Legian. You can wave at them if they pass buy and hop on for Rp10,000.

Perama
Perama minibuses are interesting for tourists as they connect some major points of the island like Ubud, Kuta, Sanur, Lovina or Candidasa. They can also arrange transfer to Lombok. You can check the lines available, the fares and the schedule on Perama's website. To get the best prices, you can book directly in their offices or you can also book on line with a credit card or PayPal. Otherwise, the tickets can be bought through your hotel or through one of the numerous "travel agents" you will find on the streets, but the prices may be higher.

If you plan on traveling around Bali with Perama, I would recommend choosing a hotel not too far from their offices/stops (you can see them on their website).

Prices with Perama are about a third of what you would pay for a private taxi. It saves you money but it isn't that cheap either.

Sarbagita
Sarbagita is the latest attempt by the provincial government to develop public transportation in Bali. Unfortunately, due to the pressure of taxi lobbies, the buses stop in very inconvenient locations far away from tourist spots. As a consequence, you may spend more money going to bus stops than on the bus ride itself (currently only Rp3,500/ride).

It is also very difficult to find information on the routes. The most interesting line for tourists is the one going from the domestic terminal in the airport (near Solaria restaurant) to Mengwi in the north of Denpasar. Using this route, you can stop on Sunset Road, and from there take a taxi to Kuta/Seminyak/Legian.

Technically, you can go to Sanur, Kuta, Ubud or Uluwatu with Sarbagita but you'll need some patience finding the stops and waiting for the buses. If you have time, it can be worth it though as the price is hard to beat. The only map I could find is this one. Don't hesitate to ask the driver for assistance.

Kura Kura
Kura Kura was developed by the Japanese travel company JTB because their customers were complaining about the difficulties to get around in Bali.

They have several lines in each major tourist cities of South Bali and one in Ubud. You pay a flat rate for each line wherever you decide to go. The price is interesting but only about half of what you would pay with a taxi.

In spite of a huge demand for their services, they had some difficulties as well at the start of their operation because of the complaints from taxi drivers.

More information on their website: Kura-Kura Bali.

Should You Rent A Scooter?
I was using a scooter the whole time I lived in Bali. It is very easy to rent, cheap, and it gives you much more flexibility. You are supposed to possess an international driving license but it's no big deal if you get caught without (a Rp50,000 bill will make the problem disappear).

Balinese pay around Rp30,000 per day to rent a scooter. The tourist price is between Rp50,000/day and Rp100,000/day. If you rent the scooter weekly or monthly, you can get much cheaper.

The downside of driving a scooter is that it is dangerous. Most of the deaths of foreigners in Bali are scooter-related accidents. Traffic in the Kuta area is crazy and few rules apply: Don't expect cars to warn you if they make a turn. Don't be surprised either to see everybody running a red-light when the police is not around.

In spite of the danger, I still think that scooters are the best way to get around in Bali.

Best Transportation Apps to Save Money in Bali
Transportation apps are a great way to travel for cheap in Bali. As elsewhere in the world, they face protests from traditional taxis and the government has called for their ban several times. They are still working until now.

I use the the following apps:

Grab
Grab is the umbrella app for services like GrabCar, GrabTaxi and GrabBike. GrabCar allows you to call a private car, GrabTaxi calls you a taxi, and GrabBike a motorbike. The prices are very reasonable (30-50% lower at least for GrabCar compared to regular taxis) and you don't have to negotiate anything.

Uber
Similar to Grab, but a bit cheaper. You need a credit card to order a car. They have two services in Bali: UberX and Uber Black (nicer cars, professional drivers).

Go-Jek
Similar to GrabBike, this popular local app allows you to book a motorbike (and a driver) for a cheap price. They have other services as well like Go-Eat to order delivery food.

Airport Transport
The airport is one of the most difficult places in Bali to find cheap transportation. Still, unless your hotel provides a free pick-up, it is better to do everything on your own.

There is not a lot of room for negotiation within the airport: Prices are fixed at about twice the normal rate. If you really want to save money, you have only a few options:

- Exiting the airport by foot and getting a taxi outside: If you have a small luggage, it is very easy to do and it takes just 5 minutes to get out.

- Take public transports: As I wrote above, you can now take a public bus from Bali airport. The lines goes to Sunset Road in particular, from where you can take a taxi.

- You can try your luck with Uber or GrabCar, but in that case, make sure your driver is waiting on the parking lot, discreetly. Taxis may get angry at your driver if they see he is picking you up.

Changing money and ATMs

Best Money Changers in Bali
Money changers are one of the most famous scams in Bali. Small ones on the famous tourist streets will advertise very interesting rates, then try to short-change you.

I actually used that trick several time to my own benefit by changing small amounts at a time and monitoring strictly the number of bills I was handled. This allowed me to benefit from quite higher rates. The owner of the shop may change his mind and ask for the money back though...

If you prefer safety, the most recommended money changers in Bali are BMC and Central Kuta Money Exchange. Both have several branches in key locations on the island.

They may refuse dollar bills that look a bit old or folded. Make sure you travel with new ones. You'll get more money out of them too.

If you are not changing dollars or euros, the rate might not be so interesting. For this reason, if you have rare currencies, you may want to change them first in dollars in your home country.

ATM
There are ATMs almost everywhere in Bali. The withdrawal limit is usually just over $100 (Rp1,500,000), but it can be as low as Rp500,000. Some foreign banks like CitiBank or HSBC allow up to Rp3,000,000.

The withdrawal limit is important as you normally have to pay a flat fee each time you take money. Ask your bank how you can waive such fees while you are on holiday.

Shit happens even in Bali, and in particular having your card blocked in an ATM. I would advise you to bring two cards or to keep enough cash to get by for a few days just in case.

Using the proper visa and proper agent

If you are in Bali or Indonesia for less than a month, most likely you won't need a visa. Just check the list of countries eligible for a visa waiver on the website of any Indonesian embassies).

Written on March 5th 2016: This information may not be valid in a few months. Please leave a comment below if you have any question about the current regulation.

If you stay more than a month, you have several strategies:

Visa runs (if your country is eligible for free 30-day pass)
You get a free 30-day pass upon arrival, book a return flight to KL or Singapore, and get a new 30-day pass. If you are lucky, you can get a return flight for less than $100. It's the most expensive and least convenient way to stay longer in Indonesia, but it saves you from the hassle of actually getting a visa.

Note that the free 30-day pass cannot be extended in Indonesia.

30-day paid visa + 30-day extension
Even if you can benefit from a free 30-day pass, you still have the option of paying for a 30-day visa in the airport (currently $35). A 30-day extension is allowed with this visa, for a price varying from $25 to $40. For agents recommendation see below.

60-day visa
The 60-day visa can be made in any Indonesian consulate abroad. At the time of writing, it costs $50 and it takes 3 days to proceed. You do not need an agent. Some embassies allow the process to be done by mail/courier. This solution is good if you stay less than 2 months and if you live in a city near a consulate. If not, even though it is sometimes possible to do it by courier, it becomes more complex and costly.

Socio-cultural visa (SOSBUD - sosial budaya in Indonesian)
This visa can also be obtained from any Indonesian consulate. You need a letter of invitation/sponsorship that can be written by an Indonesian friend, an agent, an organization or a company. The visa allows you to stay in Indonesia for 2 months and it can be extended 4 times for a month each.

In general, agents charge between $100 and $200 for a SOSBUD + $25-$50 per extension.

You can normally do all this by yourself, but it is not recommended. The staff in the consulates and the immigration offices want you to use an agent because they can get money from it. If you don't use an agent, they will make the process slower and more complicated.

Recommended Visa Agents in Bali
Prices can normally be negotiated. Don't hesitate to call several ones to get the cheapest prices.

Bayu Santero Visa Services: http://indonesiaimmigrationvisa.com/
Channel 1 Visa Bali: http://www.channel1.biz/
CCI (expat-owned): http://www.cciindonesia.com/
Okusi Associates: https://okusiassociates.com/balioffice
Lamansa Indonesian Visa: http://www.lamansalink.com/
Visa For Bali: http://visaforbali.com/
Expatrust Bali: http://expatrustbali.com/

6 More Useful Tips For Cheap Travel in Bali

Eating out
If you are alone, it is often cheaper to eat local food on the street rather than cooking by yourself. Indonesia restricts imports to protect its farmers, but it does not provide significant help for them either. In the end, you have few products, with lower quality and for a higher price than in other Asian countries like Thailand or Vietnam.

In spite of that, Indonesian cuisine is varied and delicious. Don't limit yourself to nasi goreng!

You can eat Indonesian street food for approximately $1 for a simple meal without meat, and $2 with meat. In casual restaurants, you can expect prices to be slightly lower than in Western country: About $5 for Indonesian food and between $5 and $12$ for Western food. Most restaurants add a tax and service charge to the final bill.

In the most touristic areas, cheap food stalls may be hidden in smaller streets. Ask Indonesians around for advice. Another possibility is to download the application GoJek: It has a food delivery option for just Rp15,000 that includes some cheap restaurants.

You can also read my guide for affordable restaurants: Cheap Eats Bali.

You have thousands of convenience stores in Bali. On some busy streets, you can find one every 100 meters. Unfortunately, they do not have a lot of choice apart from snacks, candies, sugar drinks and chips. If you need to do some serious grocery shopping, you can visit local supermarkets such as Nirmala (in the Bukit Peninsula) or Hardy's for the best prices.

If you need imported products, you can go to Carrefour, Lotte Mart or Bintang instead.

Finally, for expensive and gourmet shopping, try Papaya (Japanese food) or Bali Deli.

Alcohol and Party
What may cost you more money than food is alcohol and wine. The cheapest bottles of alcohol in Indonesia cost almost $25 in supermarkets, and even more in restaurants. If you plan on drinking wine, a good idea is to buy a bottle in the airport of your home country, and then bring it to the restaurant you want to go to (if they allow corkage).

For heavy drinkers and party-goers, the most affordable bars and clubs are located in Kuta. SkyGarden in particular offers interesting promotion before midnight. Start your night on their rooftop: They have an all-you-can-eat BBQ every night that costs only $5!

For a detailed review of the best places to party in Bali: Bali Nightlife and Best Nightclubs in Bali.

Buying souvenirs and bargaining
In all major tourist streets, it has become harder to bargain when buying souvenirs. Shop owners are agreeing on minimum prices that are often way above the real value of the objects.

If you plan on buying cheap souvenirs, I advise you to visit huge stores like Krisna or Hawaii Bali, both of which have branches near the airport. Most of their customers are Indonesians on bus tours looking for "oleh-oleh", cheap souvenirs, before heading back to their respective islands. You can find anything there including clothes, snacks, painting, bags and accessories. All prices are fixed.

If you buy more expensive products, I advise you to find out who the supplier is. Chic shops in Seminyak can charge you 10 times the price you could get directly from the reseller (some of which are located just 5 minutes away on Jalan Tangkuban Perahu in Kerobokan!).

Resellers do not have fixed prices so it may be difficult to know if you are being ripped-off or not. My method is to evaluate the cost of manufacturing and then add a 30% margin. For that you need to ask questions about the materials used and the number of working hours spent.

The cost of materials can be checked on www.alibaba.com. For the salaries, you can consider that a skilled worker is paid about Rp100,000 per day.

Smiling and being friendly is very important when negotiating a price. Being charming works much better than being threatening.

Laundry
Most hotels provide laundry services, but you can save money easily by taking your laundry outside. Typically, the price is Rp10,000 to Rp15,000 for 1 kilo, including ironing and folding.

You can find such laundries everywhere. Just ask around for the nearest locations.

Staying healthy and safe
It is not compulsory to be insured when visiting Indonesia but it should be. You should understand that the decent hospitals in Bali are all privately-run and they will not treat you if you cannot pay.

Prices are often outrageous and it's not rare to see bills over $10,000 for a broken leg.

A holiday in Bali means you will be taking more risks than you would back home: Thing about road accidents, tropical diseases, sports-related injuries, animal bites, food poisoning, etc. Do not visit the island if you cannot afford a travel insurance. You can read Choosing A Travel Insurance in Indonesia for a complete review of your available options.

Avoid scams, taxi "mafias", tour guides and ... the police
Compared to other destinations in Asia, Bali is relatively preserved from aggressive scammers. For sure they exist, but in general the only problem you will face is being over-charged by taxis, sellers, tour guides and hotel employees.

A little-known fact is that the whole tourism economy in Bali is driven by commissions. Most spas, restaurants, tourist spots, transportation companies and shops give commissions to anyone who sends them a client. The amount can be fixed, or it can be a percentage of the sales. In some extreme cases, the amount of commission can represent up to 50% of the total price. This is the case for some seafood restaurants in Jimbaran, for some fastboat companies between Bali and Lombok, and for most watersport activities in Tanjung Benoa.

For this reason, take recommendations from taxis drivers or hotel staff with precaution. Always double check on internet for reviews from real tourists. If you can, book directly.

Taxis in Bali are sometimes considered a mafia. Some companies will get the exclusive rights (sometimes through intimidation) to pick up passengers in a specific location (for instance in Bali Collection in Nusa Dua). They will then refuse to use the meter and charge you several times the normal rate.

If this happen to you, no need to try to bargain or get angry: Just walk outside of the area for a few minutes, and when there are no more taxis, order a Blue Bird (by phone or through their app), a Uber or a Grabcar.

Finally, the Police in Bali is not as bad as you would think. First, they will not stop you or arrest you for no reasons. If you are driving a scooter and all your papers are in order, they will let you go.

They may try to make problems if you don't have your passport with you. You can carry a copy of it to avoid this issue.

If you get caught for a minor offense, it is your call whether you prefer giving a small amount of money or not. Rp100,000 is more than enough. If you don't pay but act lost, there is a big chance the policemen will let you go after a few minutes.

These are my tips for traveling cheap in Bali. Did I forget something? Please leave a comment below if you think so!