Indonesia’s cultural and biological diversity spreads out across 17,000 equatorial islands. The world’s largest island country thrives because of a massive abundance of natural resources and a burgeoning tourism industry. Glistening white-sand beaches give way to turquoise oceans that support flourishing marine life. Lush rainforests surround an active chain of volcanoes. Quiet fishing villages have transformed into bustling destinations on a seemingly endless archipelago. Neighboring islands Bali and Lombok have earned reputations as tropical paradises and, justly, attract the most visitors.
Indonesia shares land borders with Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and East Timor. It has marine borders with Australia to the south; Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Palau, and the Philippines to the north. It spans a stretch of sea from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean.
It’s the seventh largest country in the world with its combined square miles of land and sea, and the 14th largest for land area alone. Popular destinations in Bali and Lombok are part of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Bali covers 2,231 square miles (5,780 square kilometers). Just across the Lombok Strait, Lombok connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean. It covers 1,742 square miles (4,514 sq km).
Indonesia is a country of islands, 6,000 of which are inhabited. The population is estimated at 261 million, making it the fourth most populous nation in the world. Over half the population lives on the island of Java (the fifth largest island), which is home to the capital city of Jakarta. New Guinea is one of the largest islands in Indonesia, along with Papua New Guinea — a popular diving destination. Bali and Lombok are 11th and 12th in size, respectively. The exact number of islands remains disputed, but is somewhere between 13,000 and 17,000, depending on who’s counting and how they define an island. It’s safe to say there are more than enough to explore in a lifetime, which is part of the beauty of a visit to Indonesia.
The climate in Indonesia is decidedly tropical, with around 70 to 90 percent humidity. The weather doesn’t change much throughout the year — the temperature depends largely on what area you visit. Temperatures average 82.4 °F (28 ºC) in coastal areas and 78.8 °F (26 ºC) inland. If you climb into the mountains, the average temperature cools considerably, to 73.4 °F (23 ºC). The equatorial location produces two main seasons — dry, from April to October, and rainy, from November to March — but even during the ‘green season,’ the rain doesn’t typically last all day. Tropical savannas are found in isolated locations in Java and on some smaller islands east of Lombok. There is little danger of typhoons.
The mountainous regions are predominantly volcanic and found throughout the country. Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is home to 400 volcanoes, 150 of which are active. Occasional eruptions and earthquakes are a fact of life in this tectonically unstable region. Islands are ringed with beaches, tall cliffs, or mangrove forests. Inland rainforests are common but many areas in the north, such as Sumatra, are struggling with man-made deforestation.
Indonesia’s unique island ecosystem supports the world’s third-highest level of biodiversity, including rare animals like komodo dragons and orangutans. It is part of the Coral Triangle, which has the world’s largest swath of marine biodiversity. Unfortunately, many native species such as the Balinese Tiger went extinct in the 20th century.
A population of rice farmers and traders flourished in Indonesia by the 1st century AD. As a result of the trading influence, several Hindu and Buddhist empires rose and fell as the century progressed. Islamic culture arrived on its shores in the 13th century.
Beginning in the 1500s, Western colonialism began in earnest, stemming from the spice trade. The Portuguese were first and soon followed by the Dutch and the British. The establishment of the Dutch East India Company led to Dutch supremacy throughout the 1800s. When the trading company was dissolved, Indonesia was declared a colony of the Netherlands. This lasted until World War II, when the Japanese invaded the archipelago and took control until the end of the war.
Two days after the Japanese surrender in 1945, Indonesia declared independence from the Dutch and entered the Indonesian War of Independence. This military and diplomatic conflict lasted until 1949 and ended with Dutch recognition of Indonesian independence. Early leaders moved the country towards authoritarianism and away from democracy. After attempted coups and predictable growing pains, the country has moved toward regional independence. Strengthening democratic processes have meant that Indonesia can finally take advantage of its position in Southeast Asia.
In Bali, early civilizations were ruled by a series of kings or rajas, in a culture heavily influenced by Indian and Chinese cultures. The Majapahit Empire from Java held sway from the late 1200s through the 1500s, and when it fell, there was a nearly 400-year period of regional Hindu rule until the Dutch arrived in 1906. Bali put up a bloody fight against both the Dutch and the Japanese, earning it a reputation for being harder to govern than other islands. It was officially recognized as its own province in 1958.
Little is known about the history of Lombok pre-17th century. The Balinese established colonies and eventually ruled over Lombok by 1750. The Dutch occupation overran the island by co-opting the Balinese rulers, and are thus remembered as liberators in Lombok. Post-World War II, the Balinese and Sasak elite shared control of the island until 1958 when Lombok was incorporated into West Nusa Tenggara province, and the city of Mataram became the provincial capital.
Indonesia is a republic with a president and a representative body with two houses. It has a multiparty system that often results in coalition governments. The country consists of 34 provinces, each with its own governor and legislature. These are further subdivided into regencies, cities, districts, and administrative villages — each with its own leaders and legislature. Indonesia’s current president is Joko Widodo, former governor of Jakarta. His administration has focused internally on improvements in infrastructure and externally on protecting Indonesia’s sovereignty.
Indonesia’s economy is the largest in Southeast Asia and 7th largest in the world. Its GDP as of 2017 is $3.257 trillion USD. The economy has shifted away from its traditional base of agriculture towards industrialization and tourism. It is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and the 17th largest producer of automobiles. Among its abundant natural resources are crude oil, natural gas, coal, tin, copper, and gold. Food products such as palm oil, coconut products, rice, coffee, and seafood are valued commodities.
Indonesia is the second-largest producer of instant noodles in the world behind China. Tourism generates $10.1 billion USD annually, and a recent government initiative to expand tourism seeks to create additional Bali-like destinations.
As recently as the 1970s, Bali’s economy was almost entirely agricultural. Today, 80 percent of its GDP comes from tourism, which has made it one of Indonesia’s wealthiest regions. Lombok is often marketed as an “unspoiled Bali,” and is far less developed — but that will probably change soon. Economic engines on Lombok are tourism, agriculture, traditional crafts, and fishing.
Indonesia has 300 distinct ethnic groups, 742 different languages, and 6 officially recognized religions (although there are closer to 16 in practice). The official common language is Bahasa Indonesian, based on a Malay dialect popular with traders. Most Indonesians speak their own dialect first, Bahasa second, and often English third. 40.2 percent of the population is Javanese, while the rest of the population is made up of smaller ethnic groups. Indonesians have a strong sense of national identity along with pride for their regional cultures.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim majority country, with over 200 million adherents that are 99 percent Sunni. There are small numbers of Christian, Confucianists, Buddhists, and more than a few ancient belief systems. Hinduism’s stronghold in Indonesia is in Bali, where 83.5 percent of the population identifies as Hindu.
Lombok is 85 percent Sasak ethnicity and 10-15 percent Balinese. The Sasak are largely Muslim, with the Balinese population observing Hinduism and a minority population of Sasak practicing Wektu Telu — a unique strain of Islam with Hindu and Animist features.
You’re just starting to get to know Bali and Lombok — don’t stop here! Learn more about places to stay in the rainforests and along the beaches, from Bali’s luxury getaways to Lombok’s quiet retreats. Indonesia is an accommodating place to travel, with exciting landscapes for adventure tours and peaceful shores for family vacations. No matter what you’re looking for on your tropical vacation, we’re here to help you find it.
Yes, it is very easy to get a sunburn in Bali. Due to Bali’s location near the equator, the sun’s rays are very strong and the UV index is consistently high. In the dry season, it is often very sunny, and you’ll find little natural shade on the beaches. It’s recommended to wear sunscreen with an SPF of no less than 40, minimize time spent in the sun during the heat of the day between 10 am to 3 pm, and to cover up as much as possible without overheating. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and UV treated clothing will help prevent painful sunburns.
Bring high-quality sunscreen from home, as sunscreen in Bali is expensive because it is imported from Australia. Aloe is available in pharmacies for sunburn first aid, and drinking fresh green coconuts is a cheap and healthy way to stay hydrated.
Bali has an area of 2,230 square miles (5,780 sq km). Its circumference is approximately 230 miles (370 km). Bali is 95 miles (153 km) from east to west and 69 miles (112 km) north to south. Of the roughly 17,000 islands of the country of Indonesia, Bali is the 11th largest. For comparison, Bali has a similar size to the country of Brunei. It’s about the size of Prince Edward Island in Canada, and half the size of the size of the Big Island of Hawaii.
You won’t have to pay a separate departure tax when leaving Bali — it’s included in the cost of your airfare. As of February 9, 2015, all airlines departing from Indonesia were required to include the airport departure tax in the airfare price. This regulation includes both domestic flights, and international flights departing from Indonesia.
Bali is in Indonesia Central Time Zone (WITA) and is at UTC +8:00 (Coordinated Universal Time). Bali has only one time zone. It shares the same time zone with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Perth, Australia. Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital on the nearby island of Java, is one hour behind Bali. Indonesia does not observe daylight savings time.
Bali is an island province in Indonesia, a country composed of over 17,000 islands in its archipelago. It is located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands group, between the islands of Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the north and east, and the Indian Ocean to the south and west. Bali is 600 miles (965 km) east of Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta on the island of Java. It is 1032 miles (1,660 km) southeast of Singapore, and 767 miles (1,234 km) north of Australia. It is 2,890 miles (4,651) northwest of Sydney, Australia.
If you're a tourist, you can stay in Bali for up to 30 days without a visa. If you want to stay longer, you should apply for a visa upon arrival. These types of visas can be extended for another 30 days for a small charge.
Bali is a very family friendly holiday destination. Locals consider children part of the community and look out for them. There is no shortage of family-friendly accommodations around the island. There are many family-friendly restaurants, beaches, and attractions - including water parks, animal parks, and adventure parks. Interesting and educational sites like temples and museums, fun cultural immersions like traditional markets or Hindu ceremonies, and natural wonders like waterfalls and monkey forests are fun for the whole family. Children will gain invaluable international experience in a local culture where children are valued and appreciated.
Weather-wise, the best time to go to Bali is during the dry season, from April-October. However, prices are cheaper and the island is less crowded during November-March. If you’re looking for lots of quality beach time, dry season is best. Ubud in ideal during the rainy season - when you will enjoy shopping in the many boutiques or staying inside doing yoga.
High tourist seasons are June-August, and over the Christmas and Easter holidays. The end of November finds the Australian school holidays taking over the Kuta area.
Bali has a diverse and beautiful landscape with inland volcanic mountains, rainforests, and sandy beaches. You can see examples of each of these types of landscape within West Bali National Park. The island center features a prominent mountainous region with several peaks above 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) in elevation, and two well-known active volcanoes, Mount Batur and Mount Agung. Mount Agung is considered a holy mountain and is the highest peak at 3,031 meters (9,944 ft). Tropical rainforests and rivers surround the volcanoes.
The inland regions to the south of the mountains are cultivated plains filled with rice terraces, fruit orchards, vegetable plantations, coffee, cocoa, and other crops. The northern plains are dry and grassy with palm tree clusters. The coastline is a mix of mangrove forests, tall cliffs; white, yellow, and black sand beaches;
A ring of coral reefs surrounds the island hidden beneath the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. There are three small islands to the south: Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan. In the northwest corner of West Bali National Park is another small island, Menjangan.
You need to have a passport that isn't due to expire for at least 6 months from the day of your arrival. Most tourists who plan on being in the country 30 days or fewer don't need visas, but should be able to provide proof of onward travel (such as a return plane ticket).