Want a great way to improve your Indonesia trip? Bring the kids! Parents say that they see more because children are so quickly whisked into everyday life across this child-loving archipelago. Natural barriers break right down as locals open their arms – and lives – to children.
Best Regions for Kids
The island at the heart of Indonesian tourism is ideal for kids. There are beautiful beaches, many with gentle surf, plus great spots for first-time snorkellers and surfers. Cool temples of Indiana Jones ilk dot the island and there are dozens of child-friendly hotels and resorts.
Lombok is a slightly more adventurous version of Bali but is still easy for families and has gorgeous beaches in the south. Of the Gilis (where no one ever got lost), Air combines a relaxed vibe with activities, hotels and restaurants that are great for kids. Flores offers amazing wildlife at Komodo National Park.
Batu Karas is a wonderful and safe beach. The easy hiking around Gunung Bromo is a good choice for families. More remote, the beaches and offshore islands in Karimunjawa delight families while kids lap up the mysteries of Borobudur and Prambanan.
Indonesia for Kids
Travel outside cities requires patience, hardiness and experience – for both parents and kids. Most Indonesians adore children, especially ones touring their country; however, children may find the constant attention overwhelming. One ex-pat mum who has travelled with her family across Indonesia told us that it's easier with kids. 'People are more helpful than when you're alone as an adult. They want to make things easier for you.'
You will need to learn your child’s age and sex in Bahasa Indonesia – bulau (month), tahun (year), laki-laki (boy) and perempuan (girl). You should also make polite enquiries about the other person’s children, present or absent.
- Temkessi, West Timor Children can make friends with their peers in the ancient villages of this area.
- Putussibau, Kalimantan The communal living in the longhouses of the Kapuas Hulu region helps kids quickly make friends with their Dayak counterparts.
- Yogyakarta, Java A classic destination for Indonesian school kids and yours will enjoy its myriad cultural attractions as well.
The sorts of facilities, safeguards and services that Western parents regard as basic may not be present. Places with great views likely have nothing to stop your kids falling over the edge, that gorgeous beach may have perilous surf, swimming pools are never fenced etc. Health standards are low in Indonesia compared to the developed world, but with proper precautions, children can travel safely.
- A major danger to kids – and adults for that matter – is traffic and bad pavement and footpaths in busy areas.
- Check conditions carefully for any activity. Just because that rafting company sells tickets to families doesn’t mean they accommodate the safety needs of children.
- Consider the health situation carefully, especially with regards to malaria and dengue fever.
- Rabies is a major problem, especially on Bali. Keep children away from stray animals, including cats, dogs and monkeys.
- As with adults, contaminated food and water present the most risks; children are more at risk from sunstroke and dehydration.
- Pharmaceutical supplies can usually be purchased in larger cities.
Planning & Practicalities
Kid-friendly facilities are generally limited to Bali, which caters well to holidaying families. Elsewhere you will find Indonesia very hit or miss in terms of specifically catering to children, even as it warmly welcomes them.
What you bring from home and what you source in Indonesia largely depends on where you're going and what you'll need. As always, you can get most things you might need on Bali (or to a certain extent Lombok, Jakarta and Yogyakarta) but there is the trade-off of tracking down what you need and simply adding it to your luggage.
For very young children, the dilemma is to bring either a backpack carrier or a pram/stroller. If you can, bring both. Prams are tough going on uneven or nonexistent footpaths, but are worthwhile in south Bali and other developed areas.
- Children's seats for cars are rare or where they exist, may be of low quality.
- Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are difficult to find on Bali and nonexistent elsewhere.
- Baby wipes, disposable nappies (diapers) and baby formula are all readily available in cities and big towns but seldom elsewhere.
- Bali has a ready supply of babysitters (and lots of nightlife to divert parents). Elsewhere you will be providing the childcare.
- Nappy-changing facilities usually consist of the nearest discreet, flat surface.
- Breastfeeding in public is acceptable in areas such as Bali, Papua and Sumatra away from Aceh but virtually unseen in Maluku, Sulawesi and Kalimantan. In parts of west Java and the conservative islands of Nusa Tengarra it's inappropriate. Take your cue from local mothers.
- Hotels and guesthouses often have triple and family rooms, plus extra beds can be supplied on demand. Baby beds and highchairs, however, are uncommon.
- Hotel staff are usually very willing to help and improvise, so always ask if you need something for your children.
- Larger resorts often have special programs and facilities for kids that include lots of activities during the day and evening.
- Bring binoculars so young explorers can zoom in on wildlife, rice terraces, temples, world-class surfers and so on.
- With widespread 3G data and wi-fi, a smartphone or tablet is handy so children can tell those at home about everything they’re missing and have an easy escape from the trip itself.