I have made a list of eighteen essential apps for travelling Indonesia. I think it’s really useful to know which apps are helpful and which are hopeless to save you time and money. Obviously, I’ve left out de-facto apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Indonesia has a lot of smartphone users, especially among the young, so you will see many people using these apps.
- GoJEK (Android, IOS) / Uber (Android, IOS) / Grab-Car (Android, IOS) – Alright, so this is technically three different apps, but they all do more or less the same thing. Get you from A to B without the kinds of hazards that can be encountered when hailing a taxi on the street. GoJek was the market entrant and is best for local trips on the back of a motorbike. Uber is the global player which everyone knows, and Grab-Car sits in the middle. Most people compare the prices of rides on all three services and then choose the cheapest. These apps have transformed transportation in places like Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Bali. If you are going by motorbike, you’ll be offered a helmet, and you should wear it. Advantages – quick, cheap and ubiquitous in major cities. Disadvantages – drivers cancel bookings at short notice, especially in busy periods, or take your fare and then immediately go to the local coffee shop for 20 minutes before collecting you. GoJek offers extra services like food delivery, massages and even haircuts. Remember that you might need an local to help guide the driver to your location.
- Waze (Android, IOS) – Waze is a navigation and route planning app that uses open source community maps. There is an active and competent mapping community in Indonesia, and they have worked hard to remove or flag impassable roads, and stay up to date with the numerous infrastructure projects that impact road availability. With Waze, you have the comfort of knowing where you are going, and can let Waze route your trip to avoid traffic. The main snags are roads that close after dark, and to watch out for Jalan Hanya Motor (Motorbike access only) and Jalan Rusak (Broken Road).
- Google Translate (Android, IOS) – great for so many things. You can scan pages of text to get a sense of what the meaning is so it’s good for museums, restaurant menus and travel documents. I wouldn’t be using it for police statements, contracts, or any other situation where an accurate translation might be vital. The main drawback with Google translate is that it doesn’t deal well with some of the informal/slang speech that you here, so you can forget about using it for speech. Don’t forget to download Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese so you can use them offline.
- Booking.com (Android, IOS) /Agoda (Android, IOS) / Traveloka (Android, IOS) – Get discount hotel rooms and last minute bookings which can save a whole lot of money, even when you are stood in the lobby of the hotel! Most are fairly simple to use, and a quick comparison of prices between apps can save a surprising amount of money. Some of them do require a credit card to complete transactions. Traveloka is an Indonesian company.
- Trip Advisor (Android, IOS) – The most useful popular hotel and destination guide. If you combine Trip Advisor comments and the forums with Google translate, you’ll suddenly get a real insight into what the locals think of the places that you are thinking of visiting.
- Culture Trip (Android, IOS) – Written by bloggers for other travellers, Culture Trip has some really nice articles about life and travel in Indonesia and other countries. The Indonesia part of this app is really just getting going, but the material is interesting and well curated. Culture Trip also pays for articles if you are a “digital nomad” looking to sell some content.
- Fave (Android, IOS) – The evolution of GroupOn is popular in Indonesia for getting discounted events and entry. Although this is usually targeted at large organisations, there are also new businesses and events that are aiming to increase their exposure. Make sure you read the small print carefully, and be prepared to receive a high volume of spammy emails if you set it up wrong!
- GoldenHour (Android) – The hour just around sunset and sunrise is called the golden hour, because the low angle of the sun helps to soften the light and create shadows. Goldenhour app helps you be in place to take photos in the best natural light conditions. As a tropical country, dawn and dusk in Indonesia don’t vary by much, but the light can be very harsh during the daytime. Identifying the best time to be at viewpoints or photo locations can make a dramatic difference to the quality of your photos. Don’t forget to work out which way the sun will set and rise from to get silhouettes and great sunrise and sunset pictures.
- Snapseed (Android, IOS) – Edit those pics for social media. Now it’s pretty much fully featured and amazing. Snapseed can do many professional level editing tasks including white balance, levels and masking. It has many undo levels, and you can even remove intermediate level edits.
- Jakarta Post (Android, IOS) – The best app for daily Indonesian news – not necessarily the best news source. There are other apps from Jakarta Post, like the e-paper, but this is the best. The paper is divided in the normal sections, and also offers news and opinion on international events, but with an Indonesian perspective. Jakarta Post claims to have high editorial standards, but in my view, it doesn’t really press the other three estates for answers.
- Coconuts.co (Android, IOS) – A more irreverent Asian news app with sections devoted to Jakarta and Bali. Many of the latest stories about politics are covered with a refreshing perspective. Coconuts.co is one of the few media sources that operates outside the Indonesian media oligarchy, or relies on Reuters/AP sources.
- Lindu Earthquke App (Android, IOS) – Grabs earthquake updates from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). If you spend time in Indonesia you will surely feel the earth move. Knowing how strong and where it is can be useful for reporting to the folks back home, or for getting a sense of what a major earth movement may feel like.
- Tinder (Android, IOS) – I’ve never used Tinder, but lots of people I talk to report travelling with Tinder as a great way to meet people. It’s a cliche, but many people find love in the tropics, and a lot of the problems of first contact have disappeared with on line dating services. Remember, that hook-up style dating like in the West can be risky in many ways in Indonesia!
Finally, if you are going to keep in touch with ALL Western media, you will need some sort of VPN. You can do your own research, but the free ones are heavily oversubscribed, and a few dollars is good value.
I made this list of eighteen essential apps for travelling Indonesia in November 2017, and I will refresh it periodically. Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Is there something I missed? Comments below please.