We always knew our trip to Yogyakarta (aka Jogjakarta or just Jogja) would be something different. That’s exactly why we went. While we were there, we made notes about some things we wished we had known before we arrived – and here it is for you. Reading it back, it comes off a little ranty and I’m sorry about that. It wasn’t supposed to be – read this from the perspective of two people experiencing a place very different to their own. Liveblogging culture shock, if you will.
1. When entering the country, bring proof you are leaving again.
2. Check your entry requirements carefully and don’t get siphoned off into the wrong visa lane. An attendant took us to the wrong arrival queue and tried to make us pay for a visa on arrival, which we didn’t need with British passports. Sub-lesson: don’t automatically trust people just because they’re wearing a uniform.
3. The airport is small, and very busy. Expect a hectic baggage reclaim experience, and have your baggage ticket ready for inspection (this is to make sure you’re taking bags which are rightfully yours). On departure, all gates leave from one big room which does have a few places to buy snacks and drinks at, although not enough places to sit.
4. Don’t fall for the art exhibition scam. This is where a local on the street will try to strike up conversation with you, asking where you’re from. No matter where you say, they will miraculously have a relative who lives there too. After attempting small talk, and possibly passing on some genuine tourist information, they will tell you about an art exhibition happening nearby. Would you like to go? At this point we smelled a rat and left, but were informed by a tour guide later that at said exhibition you’ll be essentially prevented from leaving until you’ve bought some ‘art’ (usually very basic batik) at vastly inflated prices.
5. The traffic is quite bad. There’s not much that can be done about this, but factor it into your plans. For example, the airport is very near the town centre but make sure you allow plenty of time to get there all the same.
6. Becaks are neither cheap nor fun. They are uncomfortable, slow, and your driver may try and pull the art exhibition scam on you. Don’t be fooled into taking one. Get a taxi instead. And if you absolutely must get one, agree the price clearly upfront.
7. Taxis are cheap and efficient. Book one using your hotel or an official stand, often found in malls, or hail one on the street. Always use the meter.
8. Uber exists, but only for motorbike taxis. If you are in a hurry and brave, that’s probably the quickest way to get around. We didn’t feel it was worth risking it. The local equivalent to Uber is Grab, which is widely used. However be aware your use of the app will be a much better experience if you can speak Bahasa Indonesia.
9. Don’t plan on buying swimwear here. The strict Muslim culture means you may find a burkini… but you won’t find anything else. The locals don’t really swim here, and they certainly don’t approve of showing so much flesh.
10. You can’t drink the tap water and I wouldn’t brush my teeth with it, either.
11. The pavements are rubbish: that is the only consistent thing about them. I wouldn’t recommend walking unless you have to, given the heat, and given that…
12. If you are white you will very likely be accosted by multiple (well meaning) people who will want a photo with you, to talk about how white you are, to touch your skin, to talk some more about how white you are, and maybe to practice their English. This was embarrassing and slightly overwhelming when it happened with a group of about twenty tiny Indonesian ladies in headscarves, but downright scary when a man grabbed my arm as he cycled past me. Hence, I would not recommend walking along pavements.
13. Catching the sunrise at Borobudur is definitely worth it (vs Angkor Wat, which I was not 100% convinced about, and vs the sunset in Oia which I was 0% convinced about).
Have you been to Jogja? What would you tell someone who had never been to the city before?
Images taken from the alleyways behind Taman Sari.
The welcome oasis we stayed in.
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