From backpackers paying just a few dollars per night to honeymooners ready to blow their bank accounts on the ultimate vacation villa, every type of accommodation budget can find a match in Indonesia. The islands of Bali and Lombok are where you’ll find the most diverse lodging options, including everything from five-star private villas that come with their own chefs and security guards to bare-bones homestays where you share bathroom facilities with your host family.
Guidebooks and online listings can give you a good start on where to stay, but in nearly any town you’ll soon enough meet an enterprising local or two ready to lead you to the hotel or guesthouse of their choice (including a commission, of course).
Below are the main lodging categories to look for as you decide where to stay in Indonesia.
Luxury international chains such as the Four Seasons, St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton front the beautiful beaches of Bali and pamper visitors looking to escape Jakarta’s urban fray. There are also a number of quality Indonesian hotel chains you may not have heard of like Santika Indonesia, Mulia and Harris Hotels.
Bali and major urban areas like Jakarta are where you’ll find hotels that best understand the moneyed Western market and have all the conveniences luxury travelers want in the way of concierge services, air conditioning, in-house dry cleaning and the like.
A basic breakfast is included in the cost of most hotel stays. At luxury chains the breakfast spread will cover many international tastes, from Asian favorites like congee to English beans and toast and American-style bacon and eggs.
Mid-range hotels abound in Indonesia and can be fairly basic, but almost always have private ensuite bathrooms with a shower and toilet as well as a ceiling fan or perhaps air conditioning. Once you get to the lower-end of the hotel spectrum you can expect just a mattress to sleep on and a mandi-style bathroom (with squat toilets and bucket showers) shared with other guests.
Major chains accept credit cards for payment, but at smaller hotels you’ll be expected to pay in rupiah.
International hotel reservation websites such as Booking.com, Expedia, Orbitz and Agoda all have many, many options for hotels in Indonesia, but you can sometimes find better deals by booking through niche hotel sites that cater to the Indonesian or Asian market (such as KlikHotel.com or even Indonesia’s official tourism website, Wonderful Indonesia). The latter two sites are especially good for finding Indonesian hotels in off-the-beaten-path cities.
Indonesia Hotel Resources:
Indonesia Private Villas
Depending on how many people you’re traveling with — and especially if you’re with a family or a group of friends — renting a private villa during your stay in Indonesia can actually end up costing quite a bit less than a luxury hotel.
Villas range from simple homes with a few rooms and an on-duty gardener to decadent spreads with lavish master bedrooms, swimming pools, oceanfront access and all manner of staff to cater to your every whim. When you throw in all the personal service bells and whistles in the forms of a personal chef, private driver, water sports concierge (yes, they exist) and the like you can easily spend more on a villa than you would for the equivalent stay at a luxury hotel. But the privacy and personal service of a villa are second to none.
The villa rental scene is most developed in Bali, where there are hundreds if not thousands of villas available to rent everywhere from lost spots in the rice paddies around Ubud to steps from the ocean in Canggu, Seminyak or Sanur. Sites like Airbnb and Home Away have many foreign- and Indonesian-owned rentals listed in Bali, Lombok and elsewhere; it’s also worth checking out locally run sites that often have less expensive options.
Many villas have their own websites that detail all of their offerings, but aggregator sites to visit include BaliVillas.com and Bali Luxury Villas for fully staffed villas. Bali Je t’aime is a great site with online specials and villas available to rent in Komodo and the Gili Islands in addition to Bali.
On the cheapest end of Indonesia’s accommodations scale are homestays, also called penginapan, where the nightly rate rarely exceeds $10 for a very basic room in the home of a local family. A good central booking website for reserving these budget accommodations is Homestay.com, but you’ll find that the least expensive options listed on that site are pricier than what you can find on your own at homestays that have no Web presence.
When you arrive in a new destination, just look for signs that say “homestay” and approach the house; someone will no doubt come out to greet you and give an offer for a room.
Rooms in homestays can vary wildly, but most have simple box mattresses on the floor in a private room and access to a mandi (squat toilet with a small plastic bucket for flushing that you also dip into a basin of water for bucket showers) that’s shared with the family living there.
If you’re someone who requires amenities like air conditioning and flat-screen TVs, there’s almost no chance you’ll find them at a homestay. But if you like the feeling of staying with locals and getting to know them face to face, the homestay experience can be very rewarding. You’ll need to let the owners know if you’d like them to cook for you, and you should take advantage of the opportunity to try authentic local foods if they’re offered.
When staying with families and interacting with locals in general, be aware of any potential etiquette powder kegs by doing a little cultural research before your trip. Dressing modestly is the least you should do to show your respect when staying in someone else’s home, and this is especially important when visiting temples and other religious sites (keep a scarf handy to tie around your waist or cover your head). In both Muslim and Hindu culture, using the left hand to eat, touch people and shake hands is considered taboo since it’s often used in the bathroom and is considered somewhat befouled. In Bali, be careful not to step on the many offerings placed on the street (particularly new ones that have just been presented to the gods).
Indonesia Homestay Resources:
Indonesia Surf Bungalows
Indonesia is home to some of the most perfectly formed waves in the world. Surfers come from all over the planet to test their skills everywhere from Bali and West Java to Sumbawa and Northern Sumatra. Wherever there’s a surf break, you’ll find inexpensive bungalow camps set up to cater to the wave-riding set.
The bungalows are usually individual structures with two twin beds clad with mosquito nets. Simple wooden houses on stilts, they usually have a small deck and a roof that might be challenged by downpours during rainy season. Surf camps in some famous spots like G-Land Joyos on Java can feel quite luxe by comparison. Overall, surf bungalows are a cheap and somewhat cheerful place to stay — and when the waves are breaking, at least, you can guarantee a good mood all around. For a look at Bali’s world-famous surf scene, a night or two here is a fun experience, even for a non-surfer.
Indonesia Surf Bungalow Resources:
Traditional wooden Indonesian fishing boats called phinisis make for an intrepid stay where the joy is also most likely to be in the journey. These boats ply the waters of famed places like Komodo National Park, offering accommodations that range from quite basic to luxurious. Audley Travel can help arrange a phinisi stay in an air-conditioned cabin on a boat in the Komodo area.
Scuba diving trips in Indonesia are another great opportunity to experience staying aboard a phinisi. Diving “liveaboards” like the luxurious Damai II have all-teak, air-conditioned cabins outfitted with fine linens and beautiful handmade furnishings. Phinisi stays range from a night or two to several weeks, depending on the remoteness of the destinations you’re looking to visit.
Indonesia Phinisi Resources:
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–written by Terry Ward
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