What to Wear in Indonesia
Packing List, Outfit Advice and Tips
Wow, I’m definitely overdue for a fashion post. Sometimes I get back from a trip and immediately want to share everything about it… but maybe 4 posts on the same destination in a row is a bit much? Let me know your thoughts!
In an effort to break it up, today I’m sharing all my outfits from Indonesia! I’ve gotten lots of requests for what to pack for a trip to Southeast Asia, so more generally this post will cover that as well.
How Conservatively Should You Dress in Indonesia?
I didn’t think much about packing until the night before (I hate packing) but I did have a moment of panic as I wasn’t sure if Indonesia, as the world’s largest Muslim country, might have more conservative standards of dress so I only brought one pair of shorts and stuck to mostly dresses.
In general, I think Indonesia can be pretty similar to America in terms of what the women wear (jeans, sundresses, etc) so you don’t need to cover head to toe. Still, they are more accustomed to the heat than we are so I saw lots of midi skirts and longer dresses and few short dresses.
I wore tank tops a couple times around Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta and never felt uncomfortable or stared at. On the more touristy islands like Lombok and Gili, the islands are completely overrun with Westerners wearing whatever the heck the want.
Indonesia runs on a pretty broad clothing spectrum. For instance, there were lots of women in the hijab and layers when we went outlet mall shopping in Bandung but there were also girls dressed in tank tops and shorts. So, feel free to bring and wear what you want (within reason)!
For temples like Borobudur and Prambanan, there are no overt clothing restrictions but be respectful as they are ancient religious sites. I packed scarves and maxi dresses as I thought the temples would have knee and shoulder covering requirements like in Bangkok (the King’s Palace is especially strict and also Ayutthaya and Sukhothai temples) but they did not. I’m sure if you visit Muslim temples in Indonesia they will have strict clothing requirements.
Here’s what I would most recommend to pack for Indonesia:
Lulus Maxi Dress // Old Navy Flip Flops
This is the first time I’ve gotten something from Lulus! I’ve been eyeing their site for a while now. Seriously all of their summer clothing is amazing and it’s all affordable which makes me want everything. I was a little unsure of how Lulus sizing would work but I got this maxi in a size small and it fit well. The arm holes were slightly big but I tightened the front laces, which was a handy touch. The skirt length fit but probably could use a 1″ hem just to look a little tidier (or I should just wear it with a slight heel) and I liked the long side zipper – it made getting in and out of it super easy.
One thing about the temples. We visited Borobudur and Prambanan which are Buddhist and Hindu respectively and did not have clothing constraints. I remember in Thailand the Buddhist temples all required covered shoulders and covered knees – nothing like that here. Still, I recommend wearing a dress that covers to the knees and ideally covers the shoulders. Or, just bring a scarf in case you need to cover either end.
Free People Shift Dress (now on sale!) // Everlane Sandals
I got this Free People dress just for the trip from online site, Boutique To You. It’s actually currently on sale and such a good deal (under $90!). I love Boutique to You – they have a great selection of current hits from all my favorite brands (L Space, For Love & Lemons, Jen’s Pirate Booty, Rails etc).
I was SO thrilled with the dress, it’s got a lighter shift underneath with adjustable straps so that nothing (read: underwear) shows through. The fabric itself is a beautifully soft, light weight cotton that was comfortable even in 90 degree weather. Also I loved the pink embroidery detailing and was really happy that the embroidery continues from the front to the back of the dress as well. Free People tends to be more expensive but they really get all the details right! Overall, I got tons of compliments on it and would recommend.
I’m wearing an XS and I think it fits a bit over sized, which I like. The sleeves are a bell shape and the bottom skirt is incredibly flowy.
The sandals are an old pair from Everlane. I was drawn to them as they’re genuine leather but C calls them Jesus sandals and is not a fan. I thought they were a little difficult to break in as they took about 3 days to wear in. I guess I was thinking leather would be immediately soft. Ever since then though they’ve been super comfortable. I’ve had them for about two years now and finally had to chuck them at the end of this trip as the leather on one shoe completely stretched out and slips off my foot at each step. I don’t think I’ll be repurchasing, as they were about $100 if I remember correctly.
Revolve Backless Lace Up Dress // Nike Sneakers
I wore this backless dress the day that we hiked Piaynemo. It wasn’t the most practical since that day felt like 110 degrees and there is zero shade up high on Piaynemo. But, the back is slightly open so it wasn’t too bad!
I love the bell sleeves on this dress and of course the lace up back. The dress has a longer hem length, it comes about 1″ almost to the knees so even though there is skin exposed on the back I think it still look relatively covered up and I packed a scarf to wear as a shawl just in case. Piaynemo is remote so you likely won’t encounter anyone else there except other tourists.
Another great site for summer clothing (rompers, dresses, tops) is Revolve. I always have to resist browsing because I just end up wanting everything. The nice thing is they have sales pretty often so I try to wait for those!
Swim & Coverups
I’ve been quietly shopping at Abercrombie for about two years now. It’s one of those places I don’t really mention since they went through such a decline but I love browsing every so often because they’ve really made a comeback and have a couple standout items every season or so at amazing deals simply because no one thinks to shop there!
I now get a bunch of new swimsuits from them each year. I love their one pieces, they tend to have strategic cut outs in all the right places and are also really affordable.
The one bad thing about one pieces is how annoying it is to go to the bathroom. I may switch back to bikinis next year – that was a big problem on this trip ha!
When we stayed at Raja Ampat, we stayed on our own private island at Raja Ampat Dive Lodge. Each day for activities we would zip over by speedboat to a different island. Some were surprisingly far away (almost 2 hours for the dive day) so I wore this handy beach cover up dress by Tolani many, many times.
I love how lightweight the fabric is so even when it got wet, the dress dried very quickly. The print I think is quite fun for a beach-y environment. It’s also a three quarters sleeve dress. I try to cover up as much as possible with sunscreen, hats etc when I’m out without shade so I liked that this wasn’t sleeveless. The only downside is that after I machine washed it, the fabric got insanely wrinkled. Nothing a little steam dryer won’t fix though! I use this small one from Conair that easily steams out any fabric in under 5 minutes.
One thing to mention – it’s socially acceptable to wear your swimsuit (two piece, bikini, one piece, whatever) in the water but when walking around on the islands you should wear a cover up or real clothing. Many of the Raja Ampat islands are Christian, not Muslim, but still feel uncomfortable and disrespected if you strut around in a bathing suit. I recommend a cover up with long sleeves to the knees that’s lightweight (similar to the above) or just a sarong and t shirt at the very least.
Other Important Essentials to Pack
1 | Wet Wipes
Indonesians are big fans of the bidet, as I learned the hard way. On my first day in Jakarta I was in a glitzy shopping mall and a pit stop in the restroom resulted in me getting very wet. Be ware of what “handles” you’re pressing!
A lot of Indonesian restrooms will have a small communal dispenser in the main area for tissues so check first for that before going in a stall. Of course, Jakarta, Bali and the more touristy areas will have your standard restrooms. When we got to more remote locations and in smaller airports, I saw a lot more squat toilets and usually one western style toilet. Even local women carry tissues around so try to pack a pair. I like to buy these wet wipes in bulk – they come in handy pre-packed sizes so I just chuck in a couple for each trip.
Regular tissues can be found in convenience stores pretty readily though!
2 | Tampons
For the ladies, as Indonesian women prefer feminine napkins. If you’re headed to any of the islands, like Lombok, Gili or Raja Ampat definitely pack these in advance so you can enjoy the beach.
3 | Small umbrella
as a tropical country, sometimes there are small showers throughout the day and a small poncho or umbrella will really come in handy. I particularly like this mini option since it doesn’t take up much room in my suitcase.
4 | Mosquito spray
I got EATEN ALIVE in Indonesia. I literally came back looking like I had chicken pox, I had so many bites. Granted, I am particularly attractive / allergic to mosquitoes in general but I would definitely recommend some strong deet-based mosquito spray (I like this one with 40% deet). Bug spray is one item I will never go “organic” or “natural”.
I also recommend cortizone or benadryl tablets. I itched like crazy and couldn’t keep myself from scratching, this stuff really helps. A girl on my tour had these really cool mosquito repellent bracelets – I want to see if I can find some of those for my next trip. They create a small repellent aura around your body.
Indonesia doesn’t carry a Zika warning but nearby Southeast Asian country mosquitoes can carry dengue so definitely pack the strong stuff. Some parts of Indonesia also have a warning for malaria so you should check with your doctor if you need malaria pills before you visit.
When we were in Raja Ampat the mosquitoes were especially bad. Each night there would be a torrential down pour while we slept and even though I made sure to wear long sleeves, long pants and cocoon myself in a mosquito net bed I woke up to bites on my face, my stomach, all over. Not fun!
Read more: How to Get to Raja Ampat
And that’s a wrap! My most photogenic outfits from the trip and some suggestions for what to pack for Indonesia. Hope you enjoyed. Do you have any favorite go to clothing sites for vacation items?
Planning a trip to Indonesia? Save this post by pinning it for later or read the full series:
2 Week Itinerary Bandung, Yogyakarta, Lombok & Raja Ampat
What to Wear in Indonesia: A Packing Guide
Paradise on Earth: A Raja Ampat Travel Guide
The Farthest Place I’ve Ever Been: How to Get to Raja Ampat
Yogyakarta / Jogja
Yogyakarta’s 10 Most Stunning Attractions
Is the Borobudur Sunrise Ticket Worth It? Here’s My Experience
You Can’t Leave Bandung Without Seeing These 7 Sights
Follow Sher She Goes on