By Fiona Bettesworth | 13 November 2017

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Speaking even a little Indonesian can go a long way. Indonesians are generally very impressed when foreigners can speak even a tiny bit of Indonesian and they are very forgiving if you make a mistake with the language.

Being able to use basic Indonesian words and phrases will open endless possibilities of communication with local people and will enrich your travel experience.

Being able to speak even basic Indonesian in a situation such this can enhance your experience

While there are over 700 languages spoken in Indonesia, almost all Indonesians can speak the national language; Bahasa Indonesia. It is the language of education, communication, transaction and trade documentation, the development of national culture, science, technology and mass media in Indonesia. The story of how Indonesian became the national language of Indonesia is a beautiful one. When Indonesia declared its independence in 1945, although Javanese was the widest spoken language (by almost 50% of Indonesians) it was agreed that Bahasa Indonesia would become the national language, in an effort to unite the diverse population of Indonesia.

Indonesian is an easy language to learn at a basic level. There are no tenses (past or future), everything is in the present tense. There’s no distinction between masculine and feminine nouns – just one word (dia) means his and her. And it’s written in the Latin script (using the same letters as English).

Below are some basic Indonesian words and phrases to help you prepare for your next travel experience!


Selamat Pagi: Good morning

Selamat Siang: Good afternoon/Good day (from about 10am until about 2pm)

Selamat Sore: Good afternoon/Good day (from about 2pm until sunset which is about 6.30pm)

Selamat Malam: Good night/Good evening (from when the sun is already down, which is about 6.30pm)

Apa kabar?: How are you?

Baik: Good (can be used as a simple response to ‘Apa kabar?’)

Selamat Jalan: Goodbye, have a safe journey (said to the person leaving)

Sampai Jumpa: Goodbye/See you later

Anda berasal dari mana? (or just ‘darimana?’): Where are you from?

Saya dari Australia: I’m from Australia

Terima kasih: Thank you

Sama sama: You’re welcome


Saya: I/me/my (formal)

Aku: I/me/my (informal)

Anda: You (formal)

Kamu: You (informal)

Dia: He/She

Kita: Us (including the person spoken to)

Kami: Us (not including the person spoken to)

Kalian: You (plural)

Mereka: They

Ibu: Literally translates to mother, an appropriate/formal way to address a woman

Bapak/Pak: Literally translates to father, an appropriate/formal way to address a man

Mas: An appropriate way to address a young man (less formal then Pak, often used towards service staff)

Mbak: An appropriate way to address a young woman (less formal then Ibu, often used towards service staff)


1 - Satu [sah-too]

2 - Dua [doo-ah)

3- Tiga [ti-gah]

4- Empat [em-putt)

5- Lima [lee-ma)]

6- Enam [e-num]

7- Tujuh [too-joo]

8- Delapan [del ah-pahn]

9- Sembilan [sem-bi-lahn]

10 - Sepuluh [se poo-loo]

100 – Seratus

1,000 – Seribu

1,000,000 (one million) – Sejuta

Getting around

Mau ke mana?: Where do you want to go?

Saya mau ke pantai: I want to go to the beach

Kiri: Left

Kanan: Right

Lurus: Straight

Belakang: Behind

Putar balik: Turn around

Naik apa?: Literally translates to ‘By what’, a common question to ask when you are going somewhere

Bis: Bus

Mobil: Car

Motor: Motorbike

Sepeda: Bicycle

Jalan kaki or Jalan-jalan: Walk

Eating and drinking

Makan: Eat / Meal

Makanan: Food

Pedas: Spicy

Minyak: Oil

Gula: Sugar

Minum: To drink

Minuman: A drink

Nasi: Rice

Mie: Noodle

Sayur: Vegetables (if you are vegetarian you might want to ask for “Sayur saja” (Vegetables only))

Enak: Delicious


Berapa harganya?: How much?

Harga: Price

Harga pas: Fixed price (no bargaining)

Mahal: Expensive

Murah: Cheap

Saya mau membeli ini: I want to buy this

Other useful words/phrases

Ya: Yes

Tidak (informally can be pronounced ‘gak’ or ‘nggak’): No

Jangan: Don’t

Maaf: Sorry

Permisi: Excuse me (polite to use at the start of a question)

Ada: Is there…? / Do you have…? / There is… / I have….

Bisa: Is it possible…? / Can you…? / Can I…? It’s possible…. / I can…. / You can…

Habis: Sold out / Finished / There is no more / Have you finished?

Jam berapa?: What time

Selamat: Safe

Kamar: Room

Orang: People

Ke: To (a place)

Di mana?: Where?

Sudah: Already / Finished / Have you yet?

Belum: No yet

Apotek: Pharmacy/Chemist

Panas: Hot (temperature)

Dingin: Cold

If you would like to continue learning Indonesian, we have listed some suggestions of where to learn Indonesian in person in Australia and Bali below:

In Perth: Balai Bahasa Indonesia Perth (BBIP) offer courses in line with school terms at two locations in Perth.

In Melbourne: Australian Indonesian Association of Victoria offer weekly classes across 8 levels from beginners to advanced.

In Sydney: Sydney Community College runs evening Indonesian classes for adults.

In Ubud: Cinta Bahasa offer a variety of Indonesian languages courses – at different levels and for different durations. They are available in Ubud, Bali and online.

Other useful resources

There are many apps and books available for you to learn Indonesian, just google “learn Bahasa Indonesia”

Download the Google Translate App (and download English and Indonesian languages on the app). You can instantly visually translate printed text from Indonesian to English (great for menus!) and you can instantly translate the spoken word. Also if translate a word the App can speak it aloud for you, great for learning pronunciation.

Download the free Indonesian Phrasebook by Wikitravel to learn some basic Indonesian phrases.


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