One of the most frequently asked questions about Indonesia is “When’s the best time to visit?”
The short answer to this question is: pretty much any time. Indonesia straddles the equator, and as such, tends to have a fairly even climate year-round (averaging 25C-30C all year round). There are really only two distinct seasons in Indonesia – wet and dry – and you won’t experience any extremes of winter and summer.
That being said, there are a few other factors that come into play when trying to decide the best time to visit Indonesia.
Where are you going?
First, its good to remember that Indonesia is huge. In most parts, the wet season is between October and April (low season) and the dry season is between May and September (high season) but this means different things for different regions.
Best time to travel to Kalimantan and Bali
For some areas, like Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) and Bali – the difference between dry and wet season is minimal, with the ‘dry season’ (April to September) being just a tad hotter and a tad drier than the ‘wet season’ (October to March). May, June, and July are the coolest months in these parts, with temperatures dropping to around 28C. The hottest months are February and March, with temperatures steady around 30C. Monsoon season begins around October and continues to March, but rains come fast and leave just as quickly so you can expect clear blue skies and plenty of sun during this time. Because of this, even the wet season is a great time to travel to these parts.
In fact, December and January are particularly fine times to visit Kalimantan and Bali since the higher water levels during this time of the year improves the accessibility of rivers and creeks. Not to mention that you’ll be able to avoid the typical swarms of tourists that flock in during the high season months of summer – and get the lower prices thanks to that.
Best time to travel to Nusa Tenggara (Lombok, Flores, Gili Islands)
But for other parts, such as the Nusa Tenggara islands, the difference is more significant with droughts being experienced during the dry season and floods in the wet season. Despite being just a little more east from Bali, these areas experience more pronounced seasons and during the wet season, the rain tends to come in sudden tropical downpours but it can also rain non-stop for days.
The driest months for these islands are August and September and the wettest months are November through February.
It’s a good idea to avoid areas like Nusa Tenggara, Flores, Papua, and Sumatra particularly during the wet season months of December to February. In these areas, wet seasons are wet and can result in a variety of not-so-fun traveling situations: closed ferries and blocked roads can prevent you from visiting areas you want to see and famous sights like volcanoes can be closed for climbing.Some national parks, like the Mount Rinjani National Park on Lombok Island, are closed during parts of the wet season so please make sure to check in advance before planning a trip around national parks. These islands are situated closely to each other, but the duration of the dry and wet seasons vary per island – a good rule of thumb to remember is that the closer the island is to Australia, the longer the dry season.
Best time to travel to Sumatra and Java
The best time to travel to Sumatra and Java is between May and September. The rainy season on Sumatra and Java begins from November and lasts until March. The rains tend to come around the late afternoon, so you’ll still have pretty mornings in most cases.
The ‘shoulder’ months of April and October are decent times to visit as well, but keep in mind that monsoons in these regions can be very heavy and make roads inaccessible. Temperature average around 22C-29C year round.
Best time to travel to Sulawesi
Sulawesi has two opposite climates – which isn’t much of a surprise when you take into consideration its funky shape and the fact that it’s on a geographical borderline. The South-West part of Sulawesi has a monsoon season that begins in October and typically lasts until March.
The North of Sulawesi, around Manado, sees most of its rain fall in June and July and has a dry season from August to October.Temperature also vary significantly on this island – it can be extremely hot along the coast with temperature around 34C but the hills are rather cool with a maximum temperature around 24C.
What’s your budget?
If your schedule is more flexible than your budget, you’re in luck. Many parts of Indonesia get an influx of tourists around the high season months of summer. If you’re not on the typical working person’s holiday schedule, you can visit Indonesia on the “shoulder” months and get beautiful weather as well as avoid the hyped-up prices of high season.
Remember that the Bali and Kalimantan areas are pretty great to visit at any time – even during the low season winter months, when you can avoid throngs of tourists and get low season prices. For other parts of Indonesia, it’s great to take advantage of “shoulder season” – those transitional periods between wet and dry season.
The “shoulder season” is typically between March to May and from October to November. The weather tends to be nice during these months and there is a significantly less number of tourists. For some attractions, such as trekking on Mount Rinjani, the shoulder season is the best time to visit.
Other considerations when deciding when to visit Indonesia
Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and as such, Ramadan is a big deal. The main Indonesian holiday period falls at the end of Ramadan and you can expect most resorts to be full of domestic tourists and a consequent price rise during this time.
It is also a good idea to avoid visiting Indonesia during Eid al-fitr, or Idul Fitri. It is a major Indonesian holiday and especially during the final days of Eid al-fitr, public transportation can become chaotic and many businesses might be closed.
The two events above are periods in which travel is congested and difficult yet they can be memorable times to visit Indonesia and experience a part of the culture that is not typically visible to the usual tourist circuit. If cultural events are your thing, Indonesia has a lot more to offer you!
Click here for a list of Indonesia’s best festivals!
Last but not least, travel insurance is a must wherever you roam. We highly recommend World Nomads. They cover travelers from over 150 countries around the world, offer great rates, and cover a range of travel-related costs from the more commonplace – lost baggage and cancellation costs – to the more severe – emergency medical and evacuation assistance as well as coverage for a wide range of adventure sports and activities. Click here for rates!