Me, the Solo Female Traveler in Indonesia

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As a female traveler, I know that it normally scares my friends and family out about travelling around the world, what more travelling solo around. But another thing about life is that sometimes you need to do things that defy the norms and practicalities, one just has to do it sensibly. So when I told them that I plan to travel to Indonesia alone, the immediate responses were it is not safe, or it is dangerous, I heard about this case in the media or newspaper, I heard a friend mentioned about dangerous activities there or hearsay about those who prey on solo travelers.

Now that I have been there and back again, I can safely tell you it is not true. Though I can only vouch for Java island, which I had travelled from east to west through trains and buses and on foot, I must say so far I have never really felt threatened in any way.

But safety assured, there is only one gripe in my travels in Indonesia. There are almost always some touts out there who is trying to earn some extra money from you, regardless of whether they deserve it or not. This is especially so in tourist-packed places like bus or train terminals, tourist attractions, and popular tourist hang out places.

Do not worry though as they are not out to bring you harm, so if you ever fall prey to any of them, the most are you lose some money but gain some life lessons. Like my case which I ended up paying a premium air-conditioned price to a guy who promised me that the bus is going directly to Surabaya to end up being packed into a nonair-conditioned bus which takes thousands of stops and detours before reaching Surabaya doubled the time later. At that time yes I lose the worth of money paid, but I gained a valuable lesson to be smarter next time and I have strengthened my patience and positivity muscle somewhat from this exercise!

Solo female traveler in indonesia - meeting locals
Solo Female Traveler in Indonesia – Meeting Locals

Of course don’t let all this gripe of mine bring you down, these are the things that only happened 10% of my time in my entire one month backpacking trip in Indonesia. The rest of the time I have met some tremendously good people and generally nice people.

I met a wonderful host in Purwokerto, who took me in at last minute, introduced me to another friend, brought me to many adventures, drove me to the bus station and even make sure I enjoy the rest of my trip in Java.

Then I have also met another big-hearted host in Wonosobo who took me and few other couch surfers in, fed us and made sure we have a good time, and I was even taken to the bus stop by a fellow local who is genuinely very concerned with me going off alone.

At Borobudur, I get to know a nice lady who runs a little shop while also take care of her two children. She fed me, checked me in the guesthouse across from her at a cheaper price, search information for me and even ask the daughter of the guesthouse owner to send me to the bus station. I am sensing a pattern here that somehow I almost always have someone sending me off, isn’t that nice?

So is it safe to travel solo in Indonesia? Yes. Is it safe to travel as a solo female traveler in Indonesia? Yes still. Though my experience is limited to Java, my encounters with the Indonesian people have reinforced my view in their kindness and hospitality, just beware of the small number of touts and you will find yourself having a good and safe time in Indonesia. In the end, it is the travel experiences that counts, whether you’re traveling solo or not.

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40 Comments

  1. what a wonderful journey fellas :)

  2. Hi Rachel!

    Thanks for all the great information, its been really helpful for me in deciding to go travelling in Indonesia. Just one question though. As a solo backpacker in Indonesia, how is it to meet other travellers? I’d love to go, it looks like a beautiful country, however, I’m worried I’d have no one to share my experiences with for an entire month! Forgive me if my comment is naive, I’m too accustomed to travelling in Europe.

    1. Hi Mikey,
      First of all just connect with the locals, try to talk to them or at least in some ways communicate with them. Other than that, you can mostly meet up with other travelers by staying in backpackers place where people hang out in the common area. Also, you can try couchsurfing.org if you are interested to meet the locals. Have fun, traveling in Indonesia is not as different from Europe.

  3. Hi!
    I was wondering, did you get any kind of vaccinations before going to Indonesia?
    I don’t generally support vaccinations. I spent 2 weeks in Thailand in February and it went very fine. But all countries are, of course, different.
    So do you think vaccinations are necessary for Indonesia?

    1. I did not take any vaccinations when I went there, but generally it would be wise to do so especially when traveling in Asia

  4. It was really awesome to find your blog, quite interesting, salute to know you dare drive around alone..

  5. Avatar ega putri says:

    halo rachel!
    if you want to goback to indonesia, especially java/yogyakarta. You can contact me! :)

    1. thanks for the offer! :)

  6. Wonderful Rachel . Nice to read ur blog and its an encouragement to the female solo travel like me. I am travelling to indonesia for the first time. Itz about 12 days. Can u recommend me places to see in Indonesia during my stay there . Thank u so much .

    1. Itz in the coming january ‘2014

    2. Java and Bali should be relatively easy and safe as there are many travelers as well.

  7. Hi Rachel, I would like to check if it is possible to do free and easy cycling tour around Borobudur area and is there somewhere I can find a map to follow and any recommended place to cycle and stop by? Thanks!

    1. I did a free cycling without a map, mainly asking locals for tips and directions.

      1. Hi, Which place did you rent cycle and was it worth it? Sure its gonna be so much cost effective , what the other places there where you can go via cycling.

        1. you may sometimes rent bicycle from the place you are staying in or if not ask them for nearby shops and tips for prices. Where you can cycle really depends on what you want to do and the surrounding feel of the place, trust your instincts…

  8. Hi Rachel,
    I did a road trip with my travel mate in a scooter from Yogyakarta to Flores (LabuhanBajo). It’s also generally safe, just avoid driving at night.

    1. thanks for the information. Good to know it is safe to do a road trip in a scooter in Indonesia!

  9. Hi Rachel,

    I want to thank you for the great articles I have been reading a lot of what you have written about Indonesia; I am trying to organize a trip to Java finishing in Bali for this upcoming summer, and all your writing has been very helpful.

    Unfortunately one of the only issues I am having right now in planning my trip is finding a travel buddy (not many people I know want to travel west of Bali), and I am a little apprehensive to do Java alone as a female traveler. I have been reading your article about traveling Java alone and have a couple questions, if you don’t mind; I could really use your advice.

    1. How did you manage safety concerns when you were away did you check in with people a lot? Have some sort of system? Other than the usual precautions.
    2. Are there places you can recommend to go and places to stay in there that are friendly to female solo travelers?
    3. Really I guess the last would be any advice you have for traveling Java solo? I don’t want to miss out on this great chance, but I really want to make sure I am not getting myself into a bad situation if I go it on my own.

    Thank you so much for taking the time I super appreciate any help,

    Kind regards,

    Heather

    1. Hi Heather, Java is relatively safe to travel in, the usual safety precautions apply like not walking around alone late night and try to reach a new destination early. There are many touts out to try to cheat your money but I have no experience being harrass just because I am a solo female. I stayed in both couchsurfing (which is good as my host bring me around and also gave me tips), and I have also stayed in a budget room in Yogyakarta. Basically just ensure surrounding has lots of other tourists as well you will be fine. Stay alert, be safe and have fun! Cheers,Rachel

    2. Avatar Lee Jia Ling says:

      Hello Heather, I am also interested in travelling in Indonesia. Do drop me an email if you are interested in travelling together(:

  10. Hi Rachel, I’m so fascinated reading your articles and blogs, and I am Indonesian. Haha to that! :)
    You know Indonesia much better than I do…amazing! I’m so glad that I found your web, so now I can refer it to my foreign friends whenever they want to visit Indonesia.

    Thanks a lot! Terima Kasih :)

  11. happy to know that the trip went well!
    next time, which island to explore in Indonesia? ;)

  12. How about stay do you get dom s or hostel to make them more cost effective?

    1. In Indonesia you can easily find a budget room with shared bathroom that is affordable.

  13. going to book my flight to Java now…thanks, very much excited!

    1. Hi Caterina! When will you be in Java ?Denise

      1. Hi,
        anyone going to Indonesia soon?

  14. HI Rachel!

    Is it still good for travelling in January? I heard that the weather is not good, but really wanna know how bad it could be to consider about the trip.

    Thanks so much Rachel

  15. hi! thanks for the post. (solo female traveler here) looking to get insights into getting around Indonesia. generally, how did you get around? just by asking and hailing a car to a new place/bus station/train station? I lived in Cambodia, but spoke the language, and haven’t traveled in awhile. any tips appreciated. thanks.

    1. normally from a city to another I would take the bus as it is the cheapest and most convenient option. In Java, I took advantage of the train once. Within the city, I normally choose to walk if I can and once I took the motor taxi, definitely an experience but be careful and discuss the price upfront. I also succumb to one of the tuk-tuk with a friend in Malang and it was fun, albeit a little too pricey as it is normally aimed at tourists. Have fun traveling and stay safe!

  16. wow ^^ I love to travel in Indonesia, maybe we can meet somewhere in the future to explore Indonesia together

    1. sounds good, I would love to explore Indonesia more too

  17. Wow it’s really inspiring. I’m a female solo traveler also and i live in Indonesia. Even for Indonesian people itself, some people thought that to solo travel in Indonesia is not safe. But i believe that it’s and i also do solo travel to Sulawesi by myself and also Sumatra. Actually some people thought that to be a female solo traveler is not safe but i always encourage my self to do it and i can visit Western Australia by myself. Thank you for the article, it makes me inspired to travel more.xoxo

    1. glad to hear it :) yes, we should just practice the usual safety measures everywhere, and we are good to go anywhere in this world! Happy travels!

  18. Great experience. Any suggestion where can I go this 22 Dec for 4 days? My original plan is to go to Abang, Bali and take diving class since I’ll travel solo and got nothing plan. However, it seems like the weather is not suitable for diving. Plus Mt. Agung is not in good condition too.

  19. Hi there! I am travelling to Indonesia in april for a month by myself. when you travel through Indonesia do you book accommodations in advance? or is it easy to find places to sleep last minute. thanks!!

    1. I did a mixture of booking ahead and also showing up to look for places. When I have the time to do slow traveling and I am traveling solo (which makes on the spot decisions easy), I usually book a place ahead for the first few nights upon arrival, and then I may stay on or look for alternatives there. It is not difficult to get a place, but popular ones may be fully booked, especially during high season.

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