25 Indonesian travel words and phrases to learn

Are you about to fly to Indonesia? Here are 25 Indonesian phrases to help you familiarize yourself with the language before you leave.

Are you about to take a trip to Indonesia to enjoy the islands of paradise, the surf spots and the local atmosphere? You’re sure to have an unforgettable time. However, if you don’t learn a few Indonesian expressions before you leave, you may find yourself at a loss for words with the locals. After all, not all locals in Indonesia speak English.

We’ve thought of you, of course, with this guide to help you make the most of your trip. From basic expressions to novel phrases, Indonesian will hold no secrets for you.

Indonesian and Balinese: understanding the difference

The island of Bali is located in the heart of Indonesia, but some expressions vary locally. Bali has its own dialect, so make sure you know the difference and prepare accordingly. Don’t worry, most Balinese speak English. The island has become one of the world’s trendiest destinations in recent years.


Although Indonesian is based on the Latin alphabet, some letters are pronounced differently.

– C is pronounced TCH: coklat = chocolate, pronounced TCHOKLATT

– J pronounced DJ: jalan = to go, to walk, pronounced DJALANN

– U pronounced OU: rumah = house, pronounced ROUMAHH

– S is always pronounced SS, never Z: nasi = rice, pronounced NASSI

– R is pronounced roulé

– NG is pronounced like the ‘NG’ in German singen (to sing)

– H at the beginning or end of a word is marked: darah = blood and different from dara = girl

– The final K is not pronounced: tidak = no, pronounced TIDA

– AI is pronounced EILLE as in English say

– AU is pronounced OW as in cow

– SY is pronounced SH as in sheep

– OI is pronounced OY

Source: Edelo

1. Basic expressions

Apprendre l'indonésien : phrases et expressions

Crédit photo : Unsplah – Dikaseva

« Good morning! « : Bonjour!

« Hello! Hi! « : Salute!

« Good afternoon « : Bonsoir

« See you! « : Au revoir!

« Please. » S’il vous plait

« Thank you / Back « : Merci / De rien

« Yes/No « : Oui / Non

« Excuse me,... »: Excusez-moi,…

« My name is... »: Je m’appelle…

« I don’t speak Indonesian. « : Je ne parle pas Indonésien.

« Can you speak…? « : Parlez-vous… ?

« I don’t understand. « : Je ne comprends pas

« English/French « : Anglais / Français

« May I know how much it costs?  » : Quel est le prix s’il vous plait ?

« Where is there a bus station? « : Où y a-t-il une station de bus?

2. saya sakit

This expression literally translates as « I don’t feel very well ».

Example: you want to explain to a friend that you’re not feeling well. You say « saya sakit » to define your discomfort, which can be both physical and psychological. Set the tone so that the person you’re talking to understands how you feel.

3. tolong tunggu sebentar

This is one of the most practical Indonesian phrases for saying « Please wait a moment ». If you want the other person to wait while you finish something, you can use this expression. Be sure to use intonation at the end of the words to support your point.

4. oh gitu

The literal translation of this Indonesian expression is « Ahhhhh, I see ». You’ll often hear it in conversation with the locals. They accentuate the end of the word to show that they’re really surprised to hear what you’ve just told them. This expression is also used to mean « ok » and to sustain an effect of surprise.

5. aduh

It’s the word we use in French when we’re not happy, a slightly more colloquial « zut ». You’ll usually hear it coming out of the mouths of tuk tuk drivers in traffic jams. After a few days, you’ll see that Indonesians love to accentuate the « u » (pronounced « ou ») of the words they use.

6. kepo

It’s the little Indonesian expression that’ll put a smile on your interviewer’s face. It literally means « curious », but it’s often used to describe curiosity that’s more misplaced, or even considered gossip.

7. semangat

Literally, this phrase translates as « May strength be with you ». Say « semangat » to those you feel like encouraging and motivating. Indonesians are very close-knit and like to help their loved ones in all circumstances, and especially in difficult times.

Example: you know that one of your friends has a long day’s work ahead of him, so you say « semangat ».

8. itu terlalu

It’s one of the most basic of Indonesian expressions, because as you know, Asians love to haggle and negotiate prices. Here, it translates as « it’s too expensive ». You’ll associate it with « boleh kurang » to ask for a lower price. You’ve probably read it in many guidebooks. In Asia, prices are often inflated, but you can easily divide them by two or even three.

9. senang berkenalan denganmu

This long phrase simply means « delighted » when you meet someone. In Indonesia, locals are respectful of each other and regularly use polite expressions at the end of sentences. This is a common one, used on a daily basis.

10. itu baik

It means « it’s good ». Both words can be used at a restaurant lunch or when sharing a meal with locals. Don’t hesitate to say « Itu baik » when you like something. Indonesians are very grateful.

11. asik

Indonesians use it to describe something as « cool » or « top ». This little word can be used to express your positive opinion of an object, a play, a beach or a milkshake, for example. As usual, put the intonation on the last vowel to share your enthusiasm with your interlocutor.

Example: you’ve just tasted a matcha latte in one of Indonesia’s most famous bars. You say to the person accompanying you, « Asiiiiiiik », to let them know how good you think it is.

How can I learn more Indonesian expressions and vocabulary?

Before you leave on your trip, it might be worthwhile for you to learn some other Indonesian phrases that come up regularly in conversation with locals. Take a look at the following books:

Indonesian conversation guide

Let’s learn, learn Indonesian