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Essential packing list for remote Indonesia

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I hate packing!   I’m not someone who thinks that packing is fun.  Nor can I find any way whatsoever to make a positive connection between this onerous task and the freedom and excitement of travelling.  I know the two go together, and there cannot be one without the other, but I fight it every step of the way.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it really focused on clothing or mainstream items to pack.

But, having just returned from some of the more remote islands of Indonesia, I found all of these things came in very handy.  There’s plenty of advice out there in cyberspace on what to pack for Bali, but the remote islands are a different place entirely.

I also needed to take these items with me as most of the locations I went to had very limited shopping opportunities and I simply wouldn’t have been able to find most of these items, even if I tried.

Insect repellent

This is an absolute must, and it’s really important to get a brand that actually works.  The mosquitoes, in particular, are fierce and many of them have built up an immunity to weaker sprays.  Whether you are near the water in a resort or hiking through forests, mosquitoes and other insects abound.

I use and recommend  Bushman Insect Repellent. It is Australian made, highly resistant with 80% DEET, long lasting and now even contains sunscreen.

I used this in Indonesia and in the Amazon and never got a single bite.  If you can’t  locate Bushman’s then 3M repellent is also a good option.

Tip:  Mosquitoes love dark clothing so do yourself a favour and wear pale coloured clothes if you are going into a known mosquito habitat (in the jungle for eg)

Sunscreen

If the mosquitoes are fierce in Indonesia, the sun is even more fierce.  It’s also unrelenting, even on cloudy days.  It doesn’t take long to get burnt, and a nasty burn can ruin your holiday.

Make sure you take good sunscreen with you and apply it regularly.

Whatever the brand, make sure it has a high SPF.  I use Banana Boat sunscreen.  It’s great sunscreen and it supports a not-for-profit charity as well.

Wet Wipes and Tissues

It’s always good to have a selection of these on hand for different situations.  On the islands, the toilets are traditional squat toilets and rarely have toilet paper.  In these instances, I found flushable toilet wipes came in very handy.  For general hand cleaning I used Wet Ones and hand sanitiser.

 

Hat

Whatever your style, just make sure you wear a hat with a borad brim.  Growing up in the Australian heat makes me extra prepared, but I always have a cap and then one with a wider brim.  You’ll be thankful later in life that your face was protected.

Makeup

I took a little bit of makeup but you could honestly leave most of it at home.  The high heat and humidity meant that when I did wear it, it just came straight off.  For some coverage (and a little more sunscreen) I used Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser.

Scarf

Lightweight scarvesare universal and can be used to protect you from the sun and used to transform day wear into something more suitable for the evening.  In remote Indonesia however, it can also have another very important role.

These islands are generally Muslim, and in the islands far, far away from Bali, the locals follow strict Muslim traditions and are not used to the regular clothing that is acceptable around the resorts.

As such, you might find yourself at dinner in a Muslim restaurant, or near religious sites, that require you to cover up your shoulders.  A scarf comes in very handy for this.

TIP: For the same reason as above, it is also a good idea to have at least one pair of long, lightweight pants and a long-sleeved shirt.  There are just some areas where it is uncomfortable for you and for the locals if you are in short shorts and small tops.  Leave the jeans at home though.  The high humidity makes wearing these in the outdoors rather horrible.

Sarong

Indonesia is full of great beaches and outdoor areas.  I found that I was happy to be in the sun for a little while, but then would quickly retreat to the umbrellas for some shade. A sarong helps you cover up and protect yourself a little more when sitting in the sun for longer periods of time.  They are also light, compact, and easy to pack.

Hiking shoes

It’s easy to think that you can go everywhere in Indonesia in flip-flops.  And maybe you can?  Personally, I think it’s much easier having the right shoes when you want to climb such things as the 2,435 steps to the top of the Hill of Love, or go walking through the Tangkoko Nature Reserve to see the monkeys.

I swear by my Keen shoes but there is a never-ending range of hiking shoes that can be found online.

Luggage locks

I’d say this for anywhere, not just Indonesia. Make sure you have luggage that can lock.  I use TSA approved luggage locks.

Luggage Straps

I also use  luggage straps, for two main reasons.  I don’t like bright luggage, so my silver and black cases blend in all too easily with everyone else.  I also like to make it look just that little bit harder to get into my luggage (and not allow anyone to easily open my zippers with a pen).  Using the luggage straps covers both bases.

Quick dry towel

It’s not always possible to take the towel from your hotel, and it’s a cumbersome thing to pack and bring from home.  I take a compact quick dry towel with me.  I can use this for the beach or for wiping my face when I’m hiking.

First Aid Kit

Prepare for the unexpected.  You don’t need to take your entire medicine cabinet, but there are a few key items that could make your life easier, in an environment where they might not be easy to locate.

  • Anti-diarrhoea and stomach settling medication – brands such as Imodium are a great place to start.  I always take some natural ginger tablets  as well to assist with motion sickness.
  • Antiseptic cream – useful for the scratches and scrapes that usually follow adventure activities such as snorkelling and hiking.
  • Band-aids, bandages
  • Electrolyte replacement tablets   I use Hydralytes that are dissolvable in water.  Due to the humidity and activity that I undertake, I take these as a preventative measure and don’t wait to become dehydrated.

Here’s a compact travel first aid kit that might be worth a look, if you don’t have one already.

 

 

Soft bottles for liquids

I love Go Toobs and use them all the time when I travel for short trips.  Why take the whole bottle when you know you won’t use it.

Rash Vests

In Australia, we call these Rashies (we like to change the name of everything!) and they are a very common sight on any of our beaches.  Made for men, women and kids,  they keep our bodies protected from the harsh sun.

When snorkelling or surfing, I use these to save my back from serious sunburn.

If you are interested in one, I can definitely recommend using Amazon as they are so inexpensive compared to what I have to pay at home.

Travel Adapters

Indonesia uses the European plug, with two round pins.  You can use the earthed version (with three round pins) or the unearthed.

If you are a multi country/continent traveller, it makes sense to go with something like the Worldwide Travel Adapter.  Not only does it have all international pins, but you can charge smartphones and tablets of almost any brand.  It’s also ultra compact.

TIP: I always like to travel with a powerboard as well.  Sometimes hotel rooms have limited numbers of power outlets.  It also keeps all my gadgets in one location and not scattered all over the place where I might forget them.

Portable battery charger for smartphones and tablets

The single most issue and “worry point” that I saw people have related to batteries getting perilously close to the end of life on smartphones.  With a portable charger you are able to charge up to six devices or two tablets at once and never have to worry about running out of power again.

GoPro

I didn’t have a GoPro when I went to Indonesia and I regretted it every minute.  I would have loved to have been able to capture all the images of my underwater adventure on Bunaken Island.  Guess what is now on my list of “must buys” before my next trip.

Sim cards

Wifi is intermittent at best in many of the more remote locations, so it makes sense to have your own sim.  Global roaming charges remain outrageous so the best option is to get yourself a specially developed travel sim, or a local sim.

Snorkelling gear

If you are a keen snorkeller, it’s probably best to take your own (if weight isn’t an issue for you).  Whilst you can hire it, it’s fairly old and rugged equipment that you’ll find yourself with.  And I can’t speak for the hygiene of it either.  To avoid ill fitting masks and flippers, bring your own.

Wet weather gear

Indonesia is prone to thunderstorms and general rain.  So it pays to pack a good umbrella and a rain jacket.

TIP: If you are carrying equipment, make sure you have suitable cover for it also.

Essential packing tips for Indonesia

So there is my packing list for Indonesia.  There will be so many more items that you can (and will) take, but these are the things that I could not have done without on those far-flung islands.  I hope you find this list useful in some way.

Wanting to buy online in Australia?  Check out these travel packing products here.  Travel Packing products

packing tips for indonesia

 

53 thoughts on “Essential packing list for remote Indonesia”

  1. I would say that you prepared for every situation. I would not pack nearly as much but I think the activities you have planned constitute the need to pack extra items. Thanks for sharing your list; great job.

  2. We use a lot of these items you listed on all of our travels, and swear by them. This is a helpful list should we ever make our way to Indonesia!

  3. You have got it all, I cannot agree with you more on the, “bring your own snorkelling gear”, point. I think this is advisable in terms of hygiene.

  4. Wet wipes and tissues can be such a life saver when traveling. They keep you clean and freshen you up. Especially in hot and humid climates, this can make you feel so much more comfortable.

  5. Great list 🙂 Just wanted to share that insect repellent better to buy in Indonesia like they have adapted to Indonesian condition 🙂 And I have several suggestions about sarong – how possible to wear it

  6. Actually Ria I disagree with the insect repellent comment. Bushmans is the number 1 insect repellent in Australia and as I said, it is also being taken to Brazil to protect against the Zika mozzies. I wore Bushmans (80% DEET) in the Amazon where there were incredible plaques of them. I didn’t get bitten once, but others around me, who had lesser protection certainly did.

  7. I’m not a big fan of packing either – I’m impatient and I just want to get there. But I know I’ll kick myself if I leave something important at home too! You’ve come up with a great list. I love the Go Toobs – fabulous idea! 🙂

  8. Lots of tips here that I might not have thought about such as snorkels and luggage straps. Very useful. #AllAboutFrance is now on, have you run out of French posts or do you still have any you could link up. I so enjoyed your previous ones. However I found you this time through #weekendwanderlust !!

  9. I’m in Indonesia right now and think you have a pretty comprehensive list! I agree that makeup is a bit tricky here because of the humidity. I think I’ve only put some on once or twice in two weeks…

  10. We’ve just this weekend bought some GoToobs, why haven’t we seen these before, so great that you can actually squeeze out the contents rather than getting frustrated with rigid bottles! Never heard of Bushman’s Insect Repellent, have yet to find one that really works, so will have to try this out on our trip to the Amazon next year!!! Thanks!

  11. Thanks a lot for your tips, I think you covered everything. I hadn’t thought about the rash vests for snorkeling, but I can really see its importance! Once I did snorkeling in Malaysia and got sunburn even though I used sunscreen, because it went away with the water.

  12. You mention two of my obsessions: quick drying towels and a scarf! I am a super light packer but they always come with me – they are super versatile and save loads of space!

  13. This is quite a comprehensive list for those who want to visit Indonesia. True, some items are useful regardless of the country – if there is summer and a beach – but some are specific indeed. A great guide for easy packing for Indonesia!

  14. Thanks for the extensive list and advice. I had no idea mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothing. Also great to have a reminder of what style of dress and modesty are accepted in Indonesia, being aware of the local culture is essential to showing you have respect.

  15. Thanks for this list – we were just looking at itineraries and cruise options for Indonesia last night! Love that you included the snorkelling gear – I always try to take my own mainly because it’s just more hygienic 🙂

  16. Kerri, I absolutely detest packing myself (Infact, even unpacking – such a chore). Sigh! The list is bang on though – I totally agree with the travel adapters and dry towels – sooo important.

  17. I just got myself a GoPro, haven’t used it but I’m really excited to capture videos and photos on my next adventures. I also really need to fine a good pair of hiking shoes that will protect my feet.

  18. Great round-up of items! I agree with you, packing is not a fun part of traveling. We are heading to Costa Rica and we are in search of high DEET bug spray. I’ll see if I can find that bug spray in the states. I had no idea that light color clothes also helped, thanks for the tip! #weekendwanderlust

  19. Agree that a sarong is a must pack item, it’s so versatile, especially in warm climates! Also, I always go with tiger balm. It’s a great remedy if those pesky mosquitos resist your insect repellent and get your blood.

  20. No matter where I’m going, I always take some kind of hiking shoes. You never know when you stumble upon a really nice hike that can’t be done with a pair of regular shoes …

  21. Thanks for the detailed list. So interesting to know about the mosquitos. Will be in that region later this year, so the timing is perfect. Can’t wait.

  22. I know they are awesome, right !Bushman’s is Australian, but available on Amazon (sometimes – there’s usually a rush on it) or there is a link on my post where you can get it direct from Australia.

  23. A friend of mine just returned from Costa Rica and said the mosquitoes were terrible. Amanda, if you are interested, there is a link on this post to get some from Australia. I did have a link to Amazon but they’ve just sold out and not sure if they are restocking.

  24. I’ve been to Indonesia and I would agree this is a great packing list! The mosquitoes there can be pretty harsh.

  25. Great list Kerri! I’m gonna use this as a checklist for every overseas trip that isn’t going to a western country! I really need to invest in a portable battery charger before we set off on our next trip – and we just got a version of the go pro (for about $80) off ebay!

  26. Indonesia is one of the places I want to visit most so I will definitely be utilizing this packing list in the future! I’m loving all of your Indonesia posts!

  27. great tips! i’m headed to indonesia in the fall and will definitely try out that repellent. interesting to know the aussie team is using it in rio! i always get bites so if this will keep them at bay, i’m all in!

    also thanks for the snorkel gear tip. i had heard that the gear is a bit old, thanks for confirming 🙂

    this was a super helpful post all around!

    Sher

  28. Hi Kerri,

    We’re headed to Indonesia this coming January. Good to have a packing list from someone who has been there. Badger makes a good waterproof sunscreen that is also non-harmful to coral reefs. Sunscreen has many chemicals in it that harm coral and other reef creatures.
    Would you recommend waterproof hiking shoes for Indonesia? I took a pair of hiking shoes to New Zealand and they got soaked. Took days to dry out.

  29. Hi Phil. Thanks for the tip on the Badger sunscreen, shall check it out. I would most definitely recommend waterproof hiking boots. Indonesia is prone to thunderstorms and plenty of rain, especially at the time of year you will be going there. Because of the humidity, the water also doesn’t dry up too quickly in some parts, meaning water and mud can lie around for a while. I needed my waterproof boots on a number of occasions. Like you said, if the boots can wet then it takes ages to dry out. It will be the same in Indonesia if they aren’t waterproof.

  30. Great tips and very timely, we have just booked for our 2nd visit to Bali in 3 months. Our winter here is just too cold this year so need to escape. Your packing list will make exiting quickly much more easy as I hate packing and always leave it until the last moment, so thank you.

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