Indonesia is a beautiful country with ancient temples, beautiful beaches, hundreds of volcanoes, endangered wildlife, and abundant natural resources. This book will help you get the most from your trip by guiding you to sites and towns to visit, activities to enjoy, and places to stay. It also will help you find the right Indonesian words to use at the right time.
Indonesia includes some of the largest and most exotic islands in the world, including Bali, Borneo, Java, Komodo, New Guinea, and Sumatra. There are more than 17,500 islands in all. Indonesia shares two of its largest islands with other countries. The Indonesian state of Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, occupies the western half of New Guinea—the world’s second largest island. Indonesia also controls part of the island of Borneo, which is the third-largest island in the world. Indonesia shares the island of Borneo with Brunei and Malaysia. Indonesia’s share of Borneo is called Kalimantan.
In addition to these large islands, Indonesia controls all of Sumatra, which is the sixth-largest island in the world. Meanwhile, Sulawesi and Java rank as the 11th and 13th largest islands on the planet. Java is the most populous of the Indonesian islands—more than 60 percent of all Indonesians live here—and it is the most populated island in the world. Java is home to the capital city of Jakarta, where about 25 million people live. Despite the population density on Java, hundreds of other islands in the country are uninhabited.
The real beauty of Indonesia is found in the eyes and smiles of its people. Taking the time to learn some simple Indonesian words and phrases will help you unveil more of this country’s wonderful treasures. Most Indonesians are happy, friendly, and curious people. They often will speak to you as you cross paths. They typically will ask where you are from and where you are going. When you have the opportunity, try to converse with locals. It can be educational, informative, and rewarding. Most Indonesian people know at least a few English words and are eager to learn more. Many Indonesians are very articulate in English, especially those involved in tourism, retail, and international business.
Watch our Indonesian tutorial on YouTube.
Indonesian Words and Phrases
Greetings & Small Talk
Hello. Halo. (HAH‑loh)
How are you? Apa kabar? (AH‑pah KAH‑bahr)
(I’m) fine/good. Baik/bagus. (BYE‑eek, BAH‑goos)
Good morning. Selamat pagi. (SEH‑lah‑maht PAH‑gee)
Good day. (use this from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.) Selamat siang. (SEH-lah-MAHT SEE-ahng)
Good afternoon. (use from 3 p.m. until dark) Selamat sore. (SEH-lah-MAHT SOHR-reh)
Good evening. (after dark) Selamat malam (SEH-lah-MAHT MAH-lahm)
Good night.(use when going to bed) Selamat tidur. (SEH-lah-MAHT TEE-door)
Good bye/good trip. Selamat jalan. (SEH‑lah‑maht JAH-lahn)
Enjoy your meal. Selamat makan. (SEH-lah-MAHT MAH-kahn)
Enjoy your drink Selamat minum (SEH-lah-MAHT MEE-noom)
What is your name? Siapa nama anda? (SEE‑ah‑pah NAH‑mah AHN‑dah)
My name is ______. Nama saya ______. (NAH‑mah SYE‑ah ______)
Where are you from? Dari mana? (DAH‑ree MAH‑nah)
(I’m) from ________. Dari ______. (DAH‑ree _____)
Where (are you) going? Ke mana? (keh MAH‑nah)
(I’m going) to ________. Ke _____. (keh ______)
Appreciation, Courtesies and Respect
Excuse me, I need help. Tolong tanya. (TOH‑lohng TAHN‑yah)
Excuse me. Permisi. (PEHR-mee-SEE)
I’m sorry ma’af/sori (MAH‑ahf, SOHR-ree)
please (help me) minta (MEEN-tah)
please (help yourself) silahkan (SEE-lah-KHAN)
thank you terima kasih (TEH‑ree‑mah KAH‑see)
thank you (in Balinese) matur suksma (MAH-toor SOOK-smah)
you are welcome sama sama (SAH‑mah SAH‑mah)
you are welcome terimah kasih kembali (TEHR‑ree‑mah KAH‑see KEHM‑bah‑lee)
you may boleh (BOH-lay)
welcome selamat datang (SEH-lah-MAHT DAH-tahng)
welcome (in Balinese) om swasti astu (OHM SWAH-stee AH-stoo)
Until we meet again. Sampei jumpa lagi. (SAHM-pye JOOM-pah LAH-gee)
baby bayi (BAH‑yee)
child anak (AH‑nahk)
family/relatives famili (FAH‑mee‑lee)
father/Mr. bapak (BAH-pahk)
friend teman/kawan (TEH‑mahn, KAH‑wahn)
him/her dia (DEE-ah)
husband suami (SOO-ah-mee)
me saya (SYE-ah)
man pria (PREE‑ah)
mother/Mrs. Ibu/bu (EE-boo). It is often shortened to bu BOO)
Ms. nona (NO-nah)
sir tuan (TOO-ahn)
we kita (KEE-tah)
wife isteri (EES-tehr-ree)
woman wanita (WAH‑nee‑tah)
you anda/aku (AHN-dah, AH-koo)
Below are some of the key words and phrases that you will need frequently. Start a list of the words and questions that will meet your needs. The language is structured so simply that a single word can often be a sentence, question or a response.
Asking questions is fun and challenging. First of all, you will need to structure questions differently in Indonesian than in English (refer back to the grammar chapter). Secondly, be braced for answers that you may not understand. However, here are the key words you need to start forming some questions:
who siapa (SEE‑ah‑PAH)
where mana (MAH‑nah)
when kapan (KAH‑pahn)
why kenapa (KEH‑nah‑pah)
what apa (AH‑pah)
how bagaimana (BAH‑gay‑MAH‑nah)
I only speak a little Indonesian. Saya bisa bahasa Indonesia sedikit. (SYE-ah BEE-sah BAH-hah-sah EEN-doh-NEES-ee-ah SEH-dee-keet)
I don’t know. Tidak tahu. (TEE-dahk TAH-hoo)
I don’t want it. Tidak mau. (TEE-dahk MAH-oo)
later nanti (NAHN-tee)
no tidak (TEE‑dahk)
not yet belum (BEH-loom)
OK OK (OH‑kay)
yes ya (yah)
Other Helpful Words
address alamat (AH‑lah‑MAHT)
age umur (OO‑moor)
attention perhatian (PEHR-hah-TEE-ahn)
book buku (BOO‑koo)
careful hati‑hati/awas (HAH‑tee HAH‑tee, AH-wahs)
closed tutup (TOO‑toop)
country negara (NEH‑gahr‑RAH)
map peta (PEH‑tah)
marital status kawin (KAH‑ween)
name nama (NAH-mah)
occupation pekerjaan (PEHK‑ehr‑jahn)
open buka (BOO‑kah)
place of birth tempat lahir (TEHM‑paht LAH‑eer)
religion agama (AH‑gah‑MAH)
restroom/toilet kamar kecil/toilet/W.C. (KAH‑mahr KEH‑cheel)
signature tanda tangan (TAHN‑dah TAHN‑gahn)
word kata (KAH-tah)
Food and Drink
I’m thirsty. Saya haus.
I want/need a drink. Saya mau minum.
I’m hungry. Saya lapar.
I want/need some food. Saya mau makan.
May I have one? Boleh saya minta satu?
That’s all. Ini saja.
Where is a place to eat? Rumah makan dimana?
What is this? Apa ini?
I don’t want ice. Tidak mau es.
Without ice! Tanpa es!
One more. Satu lagi.
Two more. Dua lagi.
I’ve had enough. Thank you. Sudah cukup. Terima kasih.
Where is a bank? Bank di mana?
I want to exchange some American dollars. Saya mau tukar uang dolar Amerika.
How much does this cost? Berapa harga ini?
I need a hotel. Where is one? Saya mau hotel. Di mana?
Where is my room? Kamar saya di mana?
May I have my room key? Minta kunci kamar?
Room number. Nomar kamar.
I’m from America. Saya dari Amerika.
I don’t speak Indonesian, yet. Belum bisa bahasa Indonesia.
I only speak a little Indonesian. Saya bisa bahasa Indonesia sedikit.
I’m just walking around. Jalan‑jalan.
Are you married? Anda kawin?
Do you have children? Berapa anak anda?
Not yet. Belum.
Is there a person here who speaks English? Ada orang di sini yang bicara bahasa Inggris?
Do you speak English? Saudara bisa berbicara bahasa Inggris?
I do not understand. Saya tidak mengerti.
Thank you. Terima kasih.
No (as in no way). Tidak.
I can (am able). Bisa.
Can’t do (it). Tidak Bisa.
Do not do _______. Tidak jangan ______.
Do not do that. Angan begitu.
Time & Travel
What time is it now? Jam berapa sekarang?
When will it/they be ready? Kapan selesai?
How many hours from Ubud to Kuta? Dari Ubud ke Kuta berapa jam?
How many hours to Jakarta? Berapa jam ke Jakarta?
I want to go to the hotel. Saya mau pergi ke hotel.
I want to go to the airport. Saya mau ke airport.
I want to go to the beach. Saya mow ke pantai.
I want to go to _______. Saya mau ke _______.
Where is the road to the beach? Jalan ke pantai di mana?
Where is the road to the hotel? Jalan ke hotel di mana?
Where is the road to ______? Jalan ke ______ di mana?
Let’s go. Ayo.
Where is a pharmacy? Apotik di mana?
I want ______. Saya mau _____.
I want to buy _______. Saya mau beli _____.
(I) already have (that, one). Sudah punya.
What time do they open? Buka jam berapa?
I don’t want. Tidak mau.
I’m just looking. Lihat‑lihat saja.
Please wait a moment. Tunggu sebentar.
May I see (it)? Bisa lihat?
Can we bargain? Bisa tawar?
Excuse me. Get in line. (Don’t cut in front of me.) Ma’af, antrean!
How much does this cost? Harga?
How much (is it)? Berapa harganya?
Experience more of Indonesia than the average traveler by speaking Indonesian. Simple courtesies and greetings will make your trip more productive and rewarding. Our phonetic style makes it impossible to mispronounce important words. Order your hard copy. Indonesians will sparkle with delight when you speak just a few words in bahasa Indonesia.
About the author
Author, Consultant. CEO of Crossbow Communications. Founder of Sacred Seedlings. @Gary_Chandler