Basic Indonesian Phrases for Backpackers: A Crash Course

Basic Indonesian Phrases: Sama Sama

Take 15 minutes to learn these basic Indonesian phrases and chat like the locals.

So you’re heading to the islands and want to be armed with some basic Indonesian phrases so that you can try and blend in with the locals, look respectful and generally get more out of your trip. Whether you’re doing a yoga retreat in Bali or are just visiting to party on the cheap, learning some local lingo will help a ton.

Indonesian Greetings and Politeness 

They say that manners cost nothing and when you’re a tourist in someone else’s country they couldn’t be more true. So that makes it a great place to get started:

Permisi (per-mee-see) – Excuse Me

If you need something from someone or you need to grab their attention this will work wonders. Saying if with a smile will work even better.

Terima kasih (Te-ree-ma ka-seeh) – Thank you

This should be ubiquitous with your trip. Drop a quick terima kasih after almost every interaction and you’ll be absolutely fine. 

Ya / Tidak – Yes / No 

Same use as in English, no more explanation needed!

Sama Sama – You’re Welcome

You’ll hear locals using this regularly but not many tourists. You’ll get a smile of surprise if you bring this out after they say Terima Kasih. 

Saya Tidak Mengerti (saa-yha tee-dah me-nger-tee) – I don’t understand

No matter how awesome this guide is, there’ll be times when your basic phrases aren’t enough and this is your back up. Drop this whenever you’re completely confused and people will do their best to help you out.

Asking for Directions in Indonesian

Important for those times when Google Maps lets you down or you’re sat on a moped halfway up a Balinese volcano with no idea where to go…

Di mana toilet? (dee maa-naa toilet?) – Where is the bathroom?

Self explanatory in use but a life saver. For those times when there aren’t any signs in English or you find yourself in a more rural community.

Belok kiri, belok kanan (bae-lok kee-ree, be-lok kaa-naan) – Turn left, Turn right

Handy to be able to hear this one, keep an ear out for kiri and kanan in particular. Be sure to request them again if you get lost after the first set of directions.

Basic Indonesian Phrases for Ordering Food

Jangan terlalu pedas (jaa-ngan ter-laa-luw pe-dash) – Don’t make it too spicy

This is one which can save both your mouth and embarrassment, the Indonesian (whilst not as much as Thailand) do like their food hot and spicy. So if you’re not a fan of the heat, get this phrase committed to memory as fast as possible.

Enak (e-nak) – Delicious

Get used to saying this morning, eve and night. The food in Indonesia is superb. Satay and Rendang are personal favorites with incredible spices and tender meat. Satay is incredibly cheap street food whereas Rendang is a slow cooked curry.

basic indonesian phrases for ordering food

Counting in Indonesian

Worth knowing, because a beer that’s a Ribu might be worth a second thought…

  • Satu (saa-too) / 1
  • Dua (doo-wa) / 2
  • Tiga (tee-ga) / 3
  • Empat (em-paat) / 4
  • Lima (lee-ma) / 5
  • Enam (é-num) / 6
  • Tujuh (too-jooh) / 7
  • Delapan (dhe-laa-paan) / 8
  • Sembilan (sem-bee-lan) / 9
  • Sepuluh (se-poo-looh) / 10
  • Ratus (raa-toos) / hundred
  • Ribu (ree-boo) / thousand

Basic phrases in Indonesian, a start

This isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the phrases that you’ll need when you’re exploring Indonesia but it’s a start. Indonesian language dates back to the 7th century so it has plenty of nuance. Expect to pick up more along the way, but the key thing is to make an effort. Locals will massively appreciate it, even if you just look confused!

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