Basic Words You Should Learn Before Traveling to Indonesia

It’s always a good idea to learn a little lingo before you go away, and while Asia may be a bit more difficult (as each country has its own unique language) compared to Latin America, it’s still worth having a few words up your sleeve. The smile you’ll receive when you greet someone with a hello or say thank you in the local language will make both your day and theirs – win-win! Plus, you’re more likely to receive a discount or be able to barter a little harder when you can enjoy a joke in Balinese.

Each island in Indonesia will have slightly different dialects and phrases, but the basics will translate across the whole country. Spend time brushing up on the following words and phrases before you travel and get ready to reap the rewards…


Even if all you learn is “good morning” and “thank you” you’ll be on to a winner so here goes with some top Indonesian greetings…

  • Good morning – Selamat pagi (s’lah-mawt pag-jee)
  • Good day – Selamat siang (s’lah-mawt see-ung)
  • Good afternoon – Selamat sore (s’lah-mawt sore-eh)
  • Good night – Selamat sore (s’lah-mawt maw-lahm)
  • Good bye (to a person leaving) –  Selamat Jalan (s’lah-mawt jah-lahn)
  • Good bye (if you are the person leaving)  – Selamat tinggal (s’lah-mawt ting-gahl)
  • How are you? – Apa Kabar (up-ah kah-barr)
  • I’m great – baik baik (bike-bike)

Basic Words and Phrases

Once you’ve got the greetings down you can move on to some more useful words such as yes/no and excuse me. Once you start using these you’ll feel like a professional linguist and your confidence will grow and grow!

  • Yes – Ya (ya)
  • No – Tidak (tee-dak)
  • Please (can I have?) – Minta (min-tah)
  • Thank you – Terima kasih (te-ree-ma ka-seeh)
  • You’re Welcome – Sama-sama (saa-maa saa-maa)
  • Excuse Me – Permisi (per-mee-see)
  • I’m Sorry – Saya minta ma’af (sigh-ah min-tah mah-uff)


These are a handful of the main questions that will be most useful while backpacking through Indonesia…

  • Where is the bathroom?  – Di mana toilet? (dee maa-naa toilet?
  • How much is this? – Berapa ini? (burr-ah-pah in-ee)
  • How long? (time) – Berapa lama? (burr-ah-pah lah-mah)
  • How far? – Berapa jauh? (burr-ah-pah jow-ooh)


With crazy Indonesian money (think: $1 = 14,000 IND) you’ll need to know a whole host of numbers to get by. Once you’ve learnt the rules to formulate the hundreds and thousands you’ll be alright!

  • One – Satu (saa-too)
  • Two – Dua (doo-wa)
  • Three- Tiga (tee-ga)
  • Four – Empat (em-paat)
  • Five – Lima (lee-ma)
  • Six – Enam (é-num)
  • Seven – Tujuh (too-jooh)
  • Eight – Delapan (dhe-laa-paan)
  • Nine – Sembilan (sem-bee-lan)
  • Ten- Sepuluh (se-poo-looh)
  • 20 – Dua puluh (doo-ah poo-looh)
  • 21 – Dua puluh satu (doo-ah poo-looh)
  • 22 – Dua puluh dua (doo-ah poo-look doo-ah)
  • 23…
  • 24…
  • 30 – Tiga puluh
  • 40 – Empat puluh
  • 50…
  • 60…
  • 100 – Seratus (s’rahtoos)
  • 1,000 – Seribu (s’ree-boo)
  • 1,000,000 – Se juta (sir joota)

Balinese Slang

Finally, if you really want to score some brownie points in Bali, use this fun local phrase that you’ll hear all over the place and will be sure to draw a smile from locals when they hear you say it!

  • No worries, mate! – Sing Ken Ken (sin ken ken blee)

Now you’ve got these key words under your belt you’ll feel confident enough to give the local language a go. Once you start a conversation with a friendly hello, locals will be more than happy to help you along and may even give you more language lessons to continue your journey!

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