Indonesian customs, traditions and etiquette Travel

Indonesia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. With pristine seas, lush sandy beaches, temples and volcanoes to explore, we just skim the surface of the things you can do and see in this vast country made up of thousands of islands. Whether you are a fan of being off the beaten path and visiting some of the most distant places, or if you like something a little more tried and tested like Bali or the Gili Islands, there is something for everyone in Indonesia. But what can you expect in terms of customs and etiquette as you cross this unique and welcoming nation?

Etiquette while traveling is an extremely important concept and helps you have a great time without insulting the locals or looking like another stupid, uneducated foreigner – things that can have consequences if you travel in some countries. While the consequences are not serious or serious, they can affect the speed with which you are served in restaurants or the willingness of local people to interact with you. If you’re wondering how to travel around Indonesia respectfully, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this useful guide to Indonesian etiquette, customs, and traditions to prepare you for the next trip you plan on one of Explorient’s amazing Indonesian tours. So grab a cup of tea and read this useful guide on Indonesian customs.

Indonesia – understand

Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world. As a result, many customs and etiquette follow Islamic teachings, but you will find some of the rules and what is far more relaxed than in the Middle East or parts of Africa. Here are just a few of the customs and etiquette tips to keep in mind when traveling through Indonesia on Explorient’s Balorient and Java Highlights Tour.

Pride and prestige

This is a popular topic across Southeast Asia – the concept of pride and prestige, or in other words, “save face”. Many of the countries in the region follow a certain code of conduct that prescribes how you act in public. This includes not shouting or getting upset in public, and treating others kindly and with respect. Complaints should always be sorted out privately to protect the face for yourself and others. Acting humbly and kindly takes you to Indonesia with the locals. You will experience the concept of saving and building faces when you visit Southeast Asia on the Explorient Far Orient Explorient tour.


As mentioned earlier, the majority of Indonesians consider themselves Muslims, but you’ll find that this is far more relaxed and is mostly treated as a guide. Compared to the Islamic practices of the Middle East, Indonesia is pretty casual. However, this does not mean that you should occasionally interact with Muslim women if you are a man. When it comes to shaking hands, wait for a woman to stretch out her first one just in case. You may see less clothing in many parts of the country where tourists flock, but in some stricter places, such as Aceh, where the Grand Mosque is located, clothing should be conservative and cover shoulders, knees, and the like. Fair warning that women wearing short shorts, mini-skirts, and low-cut or revealing tops are often mistaken for prostitutes in cities like Jakarta, Aceh, and even Bali.

Body language and facial expressions

In Indonesia it is important to remember body language. The way you stand can give off a calm and casual atmosphere or an aggressive tone. Try not to stand with your hands on your hips, bloated chest, or crossed arms – all of these can be seen as aggressive or degrading by Indonesians. Not only that, but try not to look at anyone wrong – even casually, as this can give the locals the wrong impression and cause discomfort. In general, if you always have a smile on your face, you can not only win over the locals, but also get a case of happiness yourself, even if you only pretend!

Hands and feet

As in most other parts of this region, certain rules apply to hands and feet. The soles of the feet are considered dirty and should not be aimed at people or religious objects such as pictures, buildings or statues. When it comes to hands, the left side is considered dirty because it is the hand you use to clean yourself in the bathroom. Therefore, doing left-handed things should be avoided, including handing things over, picking them up, eating, and shaking hands. When it comes to shoes, you should always take your shoes off when entering a house. If there is a stack of shoes outside a building, it is a good general suggestion to take your shoes off as well. You will likely experience this across Indonesia, as well as on Explorient’s Hong Kong and Bali Impressions tour.


Interestingly, where many places prefer the flat, open palm with flat fingers to point to something, it is best in Indonesia to point to things with the right thumb. Using your left thumb is considered very rude, as is using fingers other than your thumb to show.


A relaxed sitting position may be acceptable in some cultures in the region, but in Indonesia it is considered a sign of respect if you sit rigidly on the floor with your food. This is due to the belief that the soles of the feet are dirty. So keep that in mind when you’re sitting on the floor. If you need to stretch your legs, you should cover your feet with a scarf, scarf, or sarong.


Indonesians love photos – both take them and be in them! You may be asked to take a photo with a group – sometimes with children or the elderly. Sending a copy to your photos is considered polite, as Indonesians often don’t have pictures of themselves or their families. This is considered an incredibly friendly gesture to remember. Have your camera ready for unique photo opportunities during your Tana Toraja tour with Explorient, where you can visit some of the more rural and rustic parts of the country for a while off the beaten path.

There you only have a few interesting points about etiquette and customs in Indonesia. There are so many unique experiences that you will experience with Explorient on their Ultimate Bali Adventure Tour that you will probably want to keep coming back to see this beautiful, friendly and welcoming country.

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