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Last updated 2 January 2020
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’d say this for anywhere, not just Indonesia. Make sure you have luggage that can lock. I use TSA approved luggage locks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.