Leisure activities in Indonesia

Updated 2022-09-20 22:18

As an expatriate, your life in Indonesia will undoubtedly be very different from the one you led in your home country. However, if you are willing to adapt and tackle all situations with an open mind and a lot of patience, you will probably enjoy your new lifestyle and leisure time in the archipelago.

From the food to the climate to the languages to the religious practices, living in Indonesia is an unforgettable experience for many, especially those who already appreciate the local beauty and culture.

Being aware of the procedures and bureaucracy is the first step toward adapting to the Indonesian culture. If you are unsure about anything, ask a local contact or another expatriate who has been living in Indonesia for a while, for example, on our Indonesia forum. You will getclear and precise information, which will facilitate your integration and your immersion. 

Religion in Indonesia

Officially, Indonesia is a secular country that enjoys relative freedom of religion. However, 90% of its citizens follow Islam, making it the largest Muslim population in the world. These Indonesians live alongside Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities. As a result, many businesses close early on Friday afternoons for prayers (jumu'ah). In addition, various Islamic observances, such as Ramadan, are respected, while holidays, such as Eid, are widely celebrated.

The practice of Islam also implies that Indonesian authorities do not have the same tolerance for alcohol as some of their Southeast Asian neighbors. For example, while Bali is known for its nightlife, most Indonesians are rather reserved.


Whereas Indonesia is rapidly becoming a more modern country, traditional beliefs are still observed. Accordingly, foreigners are strongly urged to respect the culture by dressing modestly and avoiding public displays of physical affection.

Languages in Indonesia

Beyond major cities and tourist hotspots, English is hardly spoken in Indonesia. For the sake of immersion and integration, however, one should start picking up and learning some basic phrases!

Bahasa Indonesia is one of the easiest languages to learn, as it consists of simple verb conjugations and the Roman alphabet. A few words and phrases will be appreciated, both in the city and outside.

Everyday life in Indonesia

Keep in mind that the tap water quality is not guaranteed in Indonesia. Buy reusable water bottles and boil the water before drinking it. If you are planning a long-term stay, invest in a water dispenser and subscribe to a delivery company that will replace your empty cylinders. These are usually 19-liter bottles, which are quite cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

On a different note, you must always carry some form of ID. In fact, many foreigners choose to apply for a local driver's license in Indonesia, which serves as proof of identity. If you are ever pulled over by the Indonesian police, you must present your proof of identity. If you fail to do so, you will be subject to a penalty.

Leisure in Indonesia

There are plenty of leisure activities in Indonesia. Disconnect from work and the hustle and bustle of the city at a beach or experience the country's culture in museums and historical sites. Clear your mind by walking through national parks. Otherwise, Indonesia has more than 150 volcanoes (more than 125 of which are still active!), called gunungs. So, hiking can be a fun pastime if you have the spirit of an explorer!

On the other hand, if you are a shopping addict, big cities like Jakarta will satisfy your desires with their huge shopping malls that get very crowded during the weekends. And if you are a foodie type of person, you will be happy to know that Indonesia has no shortage of restaurants for all tastes and budgets.

Even though Indonesia is already very successful in badminton, soccer is no less popular. In fact, it was the first Asian country to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in 1938! Traditional sports such as sepak takraw, a mixture of soccer and volleyball, played on the badminton court, are also popular throughout the country. So, are you going to switch from spectator to competitor?

Should you prefer to get away from the mainland, then Indonesia is a top destination for divers and surfers. Bukit, Bali, is undoubtedly the surfing capital of Indonesia, with numerous world-class spots such as Uluwatu and Padang Padang. Popular dive spots include Ambon Bay, Banda Sea, Bali and the Derawan Islands. You can also rent a charter boat and explore the Mentawai Islands, which are also full of fantastic spots for surfing, diving, or fishing. This small Indonesian archipelago is also home to the Mentawai people, an indigenous population with very friendly and welcoming ancestral customs. Do not miss visiting them, you will be welcomed with open arms!

Useful links:

Asian Olympic Council (Indonesia)

Badminton Indonesia

Government page on Indonesian culture

PSSI, the Indonesian football federation

Surf Indonesia - a guide to surfing in Indonesia

Dive Magazine - the best dive sites in Indonesia

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.