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Indonesian – Travel Phrases and More … Posted by on Aug 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

You might have checked the traveling preparation checklist; momentarily, you sit back and wait for the time to leave for the country and enjoy your vacation. So, what do you have left?  If it is your first time to visit the country, you might be curious about how you were going to communicate with the Indonesians, learn about the culture (budaya) and people, and see life in the country through the eye of locals.


To Address Someone with a Suitable Title

Even though you only learned survival for Indonesians, it does not hurt to learn about the customs (adat-kebiasaan or kebiasaan) of the country. In Indonesian culture, like most Asian countries, respect to elders has always been an important tradition; respect comes with age. Therefore, it is important to address someone with a proper title, which, of course, depends on which region you travel. In most parts of Indonesia, you may address someone ‘Dik or Adik’ ‘younger sibling’ if he or she is someone younger than you or a child. ‘Ibu/Bu’ and ‘Ma’am,’ or Bapak/Pak’ and ‘Sir’ can also mean ‘mother’ or ‘father’ to someone older for you to express your respect or when you are in a formal situation. While in Java Island, you may greet someone with “Mbak” (big sister or Ma’am) or “Mas” (big brother or Sir) to anyone the same age or older than you.  If you know the person’s name, use a suitable title followed by a person’s first name, such as Ibu Aminah, Bapak Joko.

They want to know you

As you interact with locals on your trip, do not be surprised when locals ask personal questions such as age, marital status, children, family, or income; for example, “Apa Anda/Pak John sudah menikah?”, “Are you married?”, “Bapak/Pak John kerja di mana?”, “Where do you work?” It is the culture; you can either answer the question or you can say, “Maaf, itu terlalu pribadi” “Sorry it is too personal,” if you don’t want to answer them.  Indonesians are friendly people; they will understand.


The Indonesian way of saying, “hello” or “hi” is by greeting each other based on which time of the day, e.g., “Selamat pagi” for “Good morning,” “Selamat siang” for “Good day,” “Selamat sore” for “Good afternoon,” and “Selamat malam” for “Good evening.”  Often times, they also use “Apa kabar?” for “How are you?” and the response of the greeting will be “Baik, terima kasih; apa kabar, Pak/Bu?” If you are not feeling well, they will respond to you, “Apa Bapak/Ibu sudah pergi ke dokter?” “Did you see a doctor?” or “Apa sudah minum obat” “Did you get any medicine for it?”.   Learn the difference with your own culture in the same situation.

Necessary Phrases for Different Situations

There is a list of questions, statements, and phrases that might help you when traveling to Indonesia.


–     Maaf. Sorry, or excuse me

–     Jam berapa sekarang? What time is it (now)?

–     Di mana lokasi . . .? Where is the location of . . .?

–     Terima kasih. Thank you.

–      Maaf, saya tidak bisa bicara bahasa Indonsia.  Sorry, I don’t speak Indonesian.

–     Saya tidak mengerti. I don’t understand.

Bank and Currency Exchange

–     Di mana tempat penukaran uang? Where is a money changer located?

–     Berapa kurs/nilai tukar dolar hari ini? How much is today’s exchange rates?

–     Saya mau tukar (uang) dolar ke rupiah. I want to exchange dollar for rupiah.

–     Berapa biaya menguangkan cek perjalanan? How much are fees to cash a traveler’s checks?

–     Apa ada ATM di sekitar sini? Is there an ATM around here?

–     Apa saya bisa pakai kartu kredit di ATM? Can I use a credit card in your ATM?

At a Restaurant

–     Tolong menunya! The menu, please!

–     Mau pesan apa? What do you want to order?

–     Apa menu spesial hari ini? What is today’s special?

–     Saya mau pesan …  I want to order …

–     Saya mau minum bir/air putih/teh. Literally, “I want to drink,” etc., but you use it to say, “I want to order beer/


–     Tolong bonnya! The bill, please!


–     Berapa harganya? How much is it?

–     Harga pas berapa? What is your fixed price?

–     Apa bisa kurang? Can you reduce the price?

–     Ini terlalu mahal! It is too expensive!

–     Ini uangnya. Literally, “this is the money,” but you use it when offering payment for a purchase.

–     Mana kembaliannya? Where is the change? (Use it to remind the seller that you haven’t received change).

–     Apa saya harus bayar dengan uang tunai? Should I pay it with cash?

–     Apa (saya) bisa bayar dengan kartu credit? Can I pay it with a credit card?

At a Hotel

–     Apa ada kamar kosong? Is there any room available?

–     Saya mau pesan kamar untuk saya sendiri (satu orang). I want to reserve a room for myself (one person).

–     Apa sarapan sudah termasuk dalam tarif kamar? Is the breakfast included in the room rate?

Transportation (taking a taxi)

–     Naik apa ke sana? How do you get there?

–     Tolong pakai argo, ya! Please use the meter!

–     Bisa antar saya ke … ? Can you take me to …?

–     Apa taksi ini kosong? Is the taxi available?

–     Berapa lama sampai ke tempat tujuan? How long will it take to the destination?

–     Tolong berhenti di sini! Please stop here!

Asking for help

–     Bisa bantu saya? Could you help/assist me?

–     Saya perlu pertolongan. I need help (if you have an accident).

–     Saya dapat kecelakaan. I had an accident.

–     Tolong bawa saya ke rumah sakit. Please take me to the hospital.

–     Di mana kantor polisi? Where is the police station?

–     Terima kasih (atas) pertolongannya/bantuannya. Thanks for your assistance/help.

*You can drop the word in the bracket.


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About the Author: asimonoff

I’m an Indonesian language instructor, instructional material developer, reading test developer, and interpreter. I have been teaching Indonesian to adult students for 15 years, and have been teaching students from many backgrounds, such as private, military and diplomatic service employees. I’m Indonesian, but am living in the US now; my exposure to different cultures in my home country and in the US has enriched my knowledge in teaching Indonesian as a second language. I approach the teaching of the Indonesian language by developing students’ critical cultural awareness and competence. This method of teaching has been proven to be a key to the success of my students. Students become conscious of the essential role culture plays in the language.