Java, Indonesia, is one of the largest islands of the Indonesian Archipelago, which consists of roughly 17000 islands and is home to some of the most beautiful sights Indonesia has to offer. From the capital of Jakarta to the natural sights of Bromo, Java has something for everyone. If you are planning on going keep reading because here are 15 things you should know before going to Java!
1. It is not Bali
Well, okay, yes I know that is quite obvious, I mean it is a different island after all… Nonetheless, it is good to know in advance. Bali is known for its pristine beaches, stunning waterfalls and rice fields. And while you will find these also on Java, these should not be your reason to go to Java, you might be disappointed. Java is filled with adventure, delicious food, loads of culture and much much more and is definitely worth a visit. Just don’t expect nightclubs on every corner!
2. They drive on the left hand side
If you are planning on driving a car, riding a motorbike or even simply to just cross the street, don’t forget that in Indonesia they drive on the left hand side. Oh well, sometimes they will be driving on the left and right hand side of the road, so it is better to check left and right of you at all times, but it might be good to know before stepping foot in the streets of Java!
3. Medication is expensive
Be sure to leave home, or the previous country you are traveling from, with your medicine bag packed to the rim. When we went to restock our medicine bag we were blown away by the expensive prices of some of the medicine prices in the pharmacy, especially compared to prices of medicine in the rest of Southeast Asia. A strip of 10 immodium tablets went for 92000 IDR (6.20 USD), something that will cost 1 or 2 USD in most other countries in the area. Other examples: Small tube of betamethasone topical (steroid cream for eczema) 115000 IDR, whilst ibuprofen 400mg, 6 tablets, costed 15000 IDR.
4. Take the train
One of the easiest ways to transport yourself from city to city within Java is to take the train. The train is a reliable, cheap and fast way to get yourself across the island. We have bought tickets as cheap as 2USD for 6 hour train rides. Be sure to pick a window seat and to travel during the day as the views from the train are simply stunning! Check out our complete guide to train travel in Java here!
5. Book your train in advance
That said, the train was by far our favorite form of transportation in Java but be sure to book your train a couple of days in advance. Especially in the high season, weekend days and public holidays train tickets, especially the cheap ones for us budget travelers, can sell out fast. So if you know when you are heading to your next destination, just simply book your train ticket to have a seat reserved for you! You can easily book your train tickets with either tiket.com or Traveloka, this will save you a trip to the train station.
6. Wake up early
This might be the last thing you want to hear from me, especially since you probably will be on a holiday, but we would strongly recommend you to get up early! Getting up early means beating the crowds, enjoying the sunrise and avoiding the heat of the afternoon sun. Java is filled with stunning viewpoints, temples and mountains to go and admire the sun rise, so get up early and be sure to see them all. We would especially recommend the sunrise at Bromo and the sunrise at the Borobudur Temple.
7. The majority is Muslim
To add to point 1, contrary to the island of Bali, the majority of the people in Java are actually Muslim. Which means you will see less temples and more mosques. In Jakarta you will even find the largest mosque of the Indonesia, even Southeast Asia, called the Istiqlal Mosque. Another interesting fact, something you might not knew yet, Indonesia actually has the largest Muslim population fact in the world wit approximately 225 Million Muslims in Indonesia. Which brings me to number 8…
8. Dress appropriately
With a larger parter of the country being Muslim it also means that in Java you will see many people dress more conservatively. Walking around in your bikini in the touristic streets of Bali might have been okay, but in Java we would strongly advise you to respect local culture and to cover your knees and shoulders. That said, this especially applies to visiting religious sites such as mosques, temples or churches, in addition you might also be asked to take your shoes off.
9. More culture and adventure, less party
To add to the previous two points above, with the majority of Java being a Muslim population it means alcohol is a lot less common. You will find bars and you will be able to buy your beer at restaurants, but the party scene is not as wild as it is in Bali. You won’t find people drinking their Bintangs in public, but in the larger touristic areas such as Yogyakarta it still seemed to be widely available at restaurants. So perhaps leave the party for Bali and get up early to chase those sunrises over Mount Bromo!
10. Google Maps is (almost) never correct
If you are planning on renting a scooter and riding around yourself, just know that Google Maps is never correct. If it says it will take you 5 min, expect more like 15 min. While it takes traffic into account, no app can predict Java traffic. From trucks on small road blocking the way, hundreds of motorbikes and scooters on the road to bumpy roads needing you to pace yourself, just be sure to calculate in some extra time to get there!
11. Bring toilet paper
Perhaps my number one tip for the whole of Southeast Asia, always have toiletpaper with you. In Southeast Asia it is much more common to use the “bum gun”, a bucket of water or to have toilet paper outside of the bathroom stall. Just to be sure that you are not sitting there regretting stepping into this toilet, be sure to have a pack of tissues, a role of toilet paper or a pack of wet wipes with you! Oh, and don’t forget that you can almost never flush it down the toilet, instead there will most likely be a bin for your toilet paper instead.
12. No Netflix
This might not be a must know, but it might be good to know if you are planning on staying here for a couple of weeks or months, Netflix does not work in Indonesia. We are not sure of the exact reason why, but the website is completely blocked. You can however still download full seasons of series and movies beforehand to your phone for offline watching though, good for those long train rides across the island.
Traveling Java, Indonesia, you can make it as cheap or as expensive as you like. If you take economy class trains, local transport, sleep in hostels and eat local food (and don’t drink too much alcohol) you can easily getaway with 20 – 25 USD a day per person. Curious how much it will cost you roughly to backpack Java, and what you can get for that kind of money, check out exactly how much it costs to travel Java!
Depending on your nationality, and your planned duration of stay you might need a visa. You can find more information on visa on arrival and visas that need to be arranged in advance here. or find more information on the 168 jurisdictions that can visit Indonesia visa free for 30 days on Wikipedia! Be sure to check the visa regulations before you leave as they are subject to change.
15. Download Grab
Grab is like the Uber of Southeast Asia, but instead of using creditcards you can simply pay cash on arrival. As long as you have internet you can easily book a Grab from the airport, your hotel, or even various touristic sights such as Borobudur. In the larger cities of Java Grab is well regulated, and even has assigned pickup points, making it an easy, cheap and convenient way of getting around! Download the Grab app here!
Pin it for later!
And there you have it, 15 things you should know before going to Java! Have I forgotten anything? Be sure to tell me in the comment section down below. Oh, and don’t forget to pin it for later…