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Indonesia forum

12 weeks in Indonesia - focus or go broad?

Posted by flijten on 19/12/2016 at 06:37

I'll be in Indonesia this summer for about twelve weeks. Probably june, july and august. As always with prolonging a stay somewhere, it doesn't get easier but harder to choose an itenerary. One of the first things I need to solve is wether to really focus on a few islands or go for a broader sweep of a lot more. I will be a first time Indonesia visitor (though I've seen most of the rest of SE Asia) So I will do Java, Sumatra and Bali, probably in a 3 - 2 - 1 week ratio (perhaps 2-2-1?) Which will leave about half the time for less frequented places.

I feel that a 2-2-2 split between Lombok - Sumbawa and Flores would be a nice idea. I'm also digging the idea of Sumba, but that would be stretching it even more. Is this a manageable schedule? Or would people advise a different setup altogether?

Just curious how you would spend your twelve weeks as experienced backpacker but Indonesia first timer. I am not averse to touristed places, they are touristed for a reason, but I do like balance and Stuarts look at Sumbawa last (?) year is what got me looking at Indonesia to start with. Any remarks/advice with that frame in mind?

#1 flijten has been a member since 19/12/2016. Location: Netherlands. Posts: 80

Posted by somtam2000 on 19/12/2016 at 16:30 admin


Glad you enjoyed my Sumba wa stuff - I love it out there.

A few thoughts:

Your 2,2,1 spread sounds like a solid approach, if you were to restrict yourself to just one part of Sumatra. With two weeks you could do something like Medan (briefly) Bukit Lawang Lake Toba and maybe Pulau Weh - but anything more would be stretching two weeks there. Sumatra is big—real big.

Two weeks in Java however, goes a fair way. We have a sample itinerary for two weeks in Java that you could build on, but that is a pretty action packed two weeks—with an extra week you could see and do more, or just cover the ground at a more relaxed pace. Also domestic flights can be very useful in saving time.

I live in Bali, so am biased, but one week is a very short period to spend there. Yes it is heavily touristed, but there are parts of it that are just lovely. But, if you stick with a week, you could get a bit of a beach and mountain fix, but my advice would be to skip the south and Ubud and get around elsewhere. This one week itinerary might be useful in getting a hold on where is what etc.

For Lombok , the main question would be are you planning to climb Rinjani. If so, that's four days (minimum, not counting recovery time ha ha) gone there. I'm not a great fan of the Gili Islands, they're too busy for my liking, but if you like that, they're good for a few days. Lombok has some quieter spots, but if you're going to Sumbawa, that is much quieter still. We have a one month itinerary for Lombok, which you could pick and choose from that to make a two week trip out of.

Sumbawa—I love it, but I should emphasise, that tourism wise, aside from surfers, there is almost nobody there, so if meeting other travellers is an important part of the experience for you, then prepare yourself! This two week trip takes you right across taking in most of the "highlights". I spent around 3.5 weeks on Sumbawa when I did the research trip, which was about right, though I could have done with a couple more days to sit on my ass. I returned middle of the year with the kids to camp on one of the islands (Gili Paserang near Poto Tano ) which was also fab.

Flores , two weeks is good. As with Sumbawa once you are east of Labuan Bajo expect very few tourists. If you dive (or plan to learn) allow longer in LBJ, but if not, just two nights for a liveaboard around Komodo is pretty magical. A note on liveaboards, if you decide to skip Sumbawa, consider one of the backpacker boats from Lombok to Flores - they go along the north coast of Sumbawa, stop for snorkelling and so on along the way and weather will be fab. This Flores 18 day itinerary is a bit dated, but still of for broad strokes travel there.

Sumba: I've not been to Sumba, but Sally (who did the research) absolutely loved it. You'd need to rustle up a week somewhere though to be able to fit it in. Perhaps just one week in Sumbawa (stick to the west) or just diving in Komodo and skip the rest - hard call. One word of warning, accommodation on the island is quite pricey for the standards. Take a look at some of our coverage for there and you'll see what I mean. Four days in Sumba itinerary is here though there is also a two week one here if you can rustle up more time.

All this said, you could do option B and just spend 12 weeks in Sumatra ;-)

Hope that helps - more questions, ask away.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,093

Posted by flijten on 20/12/2016 at 03:05

First of all thanks, it is great to know that having this kind of schedule is not insane from the get go :)

I might resort to doing the first three in a 2-2-1 fashion so I have a spare week left to sprinkle in here and there. I realise Bali offers more than tourist towns, but I figured it would be heavily touristed and I'd rather treat it as a mini-holiday halfway and then go off and tsee less frequented spots. Having said that, I will be back at a later time to visit the Moluccas, Sulawesi, Timor and Papua, so I might squeeze in more Bali then as well :)

Concerning Lombok , I will definitely not go up Rinjani, that looked way to busy. I'm aiming at Tambora though. The same for the gili's, I'm expecting more pristine places (with less infrastructure in place) to be found. That will leave us with two weeks for Lombok proper which should be easy to fill up on their own already :)

Thanks a ton, there is so much joy in even thinking of planning this trip :)

#3 flijten has been a member since 19/12/2016. Location: Netherlands. Posts: 80

Posted by somtam2000 on 20/12/2016 at 04:58 admin

Tambora is an a great climb - and yes, way less busy than Rinjani. The crater is just amazing. Just bear in mind that in all likelihood you'll be the only climber starting on the day you want to go so little scope for sharing costs with porters and guides— a guide is essential—porter, not so much. I was lucky that a group of Indonesian climbers showed up and invited me to join them, otherwise would have been just be and the guide.

For less developed gilis, check out particularly Gili Layar and to a lesser degree, Gili Gede— both are in the south of Lombok and far lower key than the party gilis—Gili Layar's house reef is pretty solid.


#4 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,093

Posted by flijten on 21/12/2016 at 01:46


#5 flijten has been a member since 19/12/2016. Location: Netherlands. Posts: 80

Posted by mooball on 26/12/2016 at 21:02 TF writer

I know everyone says that xx number of weeks is too short in Asia, but in the case of Sumatra and Java, I think you need to know that you're going to be missing a lot if you're there for just 2 weeks.

2 weeks in Sumatra pretty much means you'll miss Pulau Weh which I think is awesome. 2 weeks in Sumatra will generally be Medan, Bukit Lawang, Berastagi, Lake Toba, Bukittinggi, Padang. That's a great trip, but an extra week gets you to some lesser visited areas, the odd volcano climb or jungle trek.

2 weeks in Java is a tough one. I really like Java and there is a lot to see and do, but again, most of it is off the tourist trail. The mandatory things to do are Yogya, Bromo and Ijen. That's about a week. In 2 weeks you add a bit of this and that around the edges, but not much. And you have to move fast. This means you probably have to skip places like Dieng and Karimunjawa which are also awesome. I think they're worth a visit in you're in Indo for 3 months.

Just a note on visa, you can only stay for 2 months on a tourist visa. You'll either need to do a visa run to KL or Singapore or convert the visa to a social budaya visa. Converting the visa to a social budaya visa is best done with an agent, but some immigration offices have been known to do that.

#6 mooball has been a member since 19/6/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 439

Posted by flijten on 27/12/2016 at 04:32

No you're right. Every amount of time is too short :/ It is all about choices. The problem is that I would not really want to take away Sumbawa, Lombok or Flores. We're not making a set trip anyway but I like to have an idea of a schedule. It wouldn't be the first time I ended up tossing it all around though. Thanks for the extra input.

This tourist -> social budaya visum endeavour, is it possible to do this right away? Or do you have to wait for the visum to expire and then convert?

#7 flijten has been a member since 19/12/2016. Location: Netherlands. Posts: 80

Posted by mooball on 27/12/2016 at 05:52 TF writer

You have to wait until the 2 months is almost up. And you'll have to be in a place with an immigration office. If you're off the beaten track, it's easy to be a couple of days away from an immigration office.

The easiest way to handle the visa is to get a 2 month tourist visa before you leave home from the embassy and then simply fly out to KL or Singapore after that expires. It's much quicker to do this, not massively more expensive and you won't have to deal with the immigration office who I think are some of the worst bureaucrats I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with.

#8 mooball has been a member since 19/6/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 439

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