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.
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.
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. In the experience of some visitors, travelling in Indonesia is, in fact, easier with kids because locals are more helpful than they would be if you were travelling alone as an adult.
You will need to learn your child’s age and sex in Bahasa Indonesia – bulau (month), tahun (year), laki-laki (boy) and perempuan (girl). In conversations with locals, you should 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.
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.
The sorts of facilities, safeguards and services that Western parents regard as basic may not be present. Places with great views probably 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.