106 Essential Bahasa Phrases for Travellers to Indonesia (2023)

While Bahasa Indonesia is officially the national language of Indonesia, it is spoken as a first language by only 7% of the population. Did you know that the region has more than 300 native languages?

Due to the need to communicate across a large population (270 million people), Bahasa is commonly used for business purposes, by education institutions and the media. It is a second language for over 200 million Indonesians.

Bahasa Indonesia, which is actually a version of Malay, is the sixth most spoken language on the planet (after Mandarin, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic). It is said to be a relatively easy language to learn – though you can give us the verdict once you’ve given it a go!

I have lived in different parts of Indonesia for the last two years and have managed to pick up some of the language during my time in the country. The absolute best thing about learning and speaking Bahasa Indonesian here is the reaction that you will get from the local people. Indonesians will applaud you for trying to learn their language – it’s something that so few bule (foreigners) make the effort to do when they travel here, especially when they set off to some of the more touristy places such as Bali or the Gili Islands.

If you do plan to visit Bali, thanks to the tourism industry, many Balinese can communicate easily in English with you. However, if you plan to travel outside of the island of Bali, you’ll find English is less spoken. Without any Bahasa Indonesian phrases under your belt, you may find it difficult when ordering food, finding your way around, or asking for help.

To make your travels in Indonesia easier and more pleasurable, here are 106 of the most useful Indonesian words and phrases (plus numbers 1 – 10). They can be used in basic conversation with local people and will help you develop your confidence and ability to adapt to life outside of the tourist areas in the country.

Read more: (opens in new tab)

  • 30 Day Indonesia Itinerary
  • Places to Visit in Indonesia
  • Indonesian Food: Must-Try Dishes

Handy Bahasa Indonesia Phrases for Travellers

General greetings in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • Hello: Halo
  • Goodbye: Sampai jumpa
  • How are you?: Apa kabar?
  • Very good, thanks!: Sangat baik / bagus, terima kasih!
  • Not good: Tidak baik / bagus
  • I’m not well: Saya kurang sehat
  • Have you eaten yet?: Kamu sudah makan?
  • It’s nice to meet you: Senang bertemu dengan kamu / anda
  • Thank you: Terima kasih
  • Thank you very much: Terima kasih banyak
  • Excuse me: Permisi
  • Yes: Iya
  • No: Tidak

Bahasa Indonesian Language Tip:

I = Saya (formal) Aku (informal) If you don’t know someone or they are not a close friend you should use the word Saya. Aku is kept for close friends or family.

You = Kamu

Being understood in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • I don’t understand: Saya tidak mengerti
  • I don’t know: Saya tidak tahu
  • I don’t speak Bahasa: Saya tidak bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia
  • I speak a little: Saya bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia sedikit
  • Do you speak English?: Apakah kamu bisa bicara Bahasa Inggris?
  • Do you speak Bahasa Indonesia?: Apakah kamu bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia?
  • You’re very good!: Kamu sangat bagus!
  • Sure!: Bisa / Baik! (Baik typically means okay!)

Note: There are two words spelt like tahu. One means “to know” and the other means “tofu.” The difference is clear when spoken aloud but they are written the same. To say “to know” you say it without the h sound – t a u. For Tofu, you say it as written – T a h u.

Indonesian food and restaurant phrases:

  • Do you have a menu?: Apakah kamu punya menu?
  • Can I have the bill?: Bolehkah saya minta bill?
  • I don’t want it spicy: Saya tidak mau pedas
  • I don’t want sugar: Saya tidak mau gula
  • No MSG (monosodium glutamate) please: Tidak pakai MSG / Micin (michin)
  • Can I have water?: Boleh saya minta air?
  • Can I have ice?: Boleh saya minta es?
  • I’m a vegetarian: Saya vegetarian / tidak bisa makan daging (I can’t eat meat)
  • I’m a vegan: Saya vegan
  • I cannot eat nuts: Saya tidak bisa makan kacang
  • I don’t eat pork/chicken/beef: Saya tidak makan babi / ayam / sapi
  • I don’t eat seafood/fish: Saya tidak makan seafood / ikan
  • Two beers please: Minta dua beer boleh?
  • Can I order two hot coffees please?: Bisa saya order dua kopi panas?
  • I would like to order one iced coffee please: Saya mau pesan satu es kopi
  • Do you have tea?: Kamu ada teh?
  • Where is the toilet?: Toilet di mana?
  • I like Indonesian food: Saya suka makanan Indonesian
  • I like spicy food: Saya suka makan pedas
  • I don’t like spicy food: Saya tidak suka makan pedas
  • I don’t like chilli: Saya tidak suka cabe
  • I’m really hungry: Saya lapar sekali
  • I’m really thirsty: Saya haus sekali
  • I want more: Saya mau lagi
  • One more: Satu lagi
  • I am very full: Saya sudah kenyang
  • Delicious: Enak
  • Not tasty: Tidak enak
  • I don’t like it: Saya tidak suka ini
  • Do you have an ashtray?: Apakah kamu punya asbak?
  • It smells (bad): Ini bau
  • It smells (good): Ini wangi
106 Essential Bahasa Phrases for Travellers to Indonesia (1)

Note: The letter c is always pronounced as ch as in change or chase. The word for peanut ‘kacang’ will be ka-chang when spoken with the ch sound.

Shopping / Market phrases in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • How much?: Berapa?
  • Too expensive: Mahal sekali
  • I don’t want it: Saya tidak mau itu
  • Can you do a discount?: Apakah kamu bisa kasih discount?
  • More discount?: Discount lagi?

Getting to know Indonesian people:

  • What is your name?: Siapa nama kamu?
  • My name is John: Nama saya John
  • My name is Suzy: Nama saya Suzy
  • How old are you?: Berapa umur kamu?
  • I like Indonesia: Saya suka Indonesia
  • What country are you from?: Kamu dari negara mana?
  • I am from Australia: Saya dari Australia

Directions and transport in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • Can you put the taxi meter on?: Bisa kah kamu nyalakan taxi meternya?
  • To the train station please: Ke stasiun kereta
  • To the airport please: Ke Bandara
  • Where are you going?: Kamu mau ke mana?
  • Where is the market?: Di mana pasar?
  • Where is the train station?: Di mana stasiun kereta?
  • I am staying close by: Saya tinggal dekat sini
  • Not far: Tidak jauh
  • Turn left: Belok kiri
  • Turn right: Belok kanan
  • Straight: Lurus
  • Short cut: Jalan pintas
  • Traffic jam: Macet
  • Rush hour: Jam sibuk
106 Essential Bahasa Phrases for Travellers to Indonesia (2)

Random Bahasa Indonesian sayings:

  • Very beautiful: Cantik sekali
  • It’s very hot: Ini panas sekali
  • It’s very cold: Ini dingin sekali
  • No worries: Tidak apa apa
  • Don’t worry: Jangan khawatir
  • Good luck: Semoga berhasil
  • Cheers!: Bersulang!
  • Calm down: Santai
  • Be careful: Hati hati
  • Drunk: Mabuk
  • Hangover: Pusing / Sakit Kepala (Headache)

Getting a massage in Indonesia:

  • I would like a foot massage: Saya mau pijat kaki
  • I would like an oil massage: Saya mau pijat pakai minyak
  • I’d like it harder (massage): Saya mau lebih kencang
  • I’d like it softer (massage): Saya mau lebih halus
  • It hurts here: Sakit di sini

Time and special days in Indonesia:

  • Today: Hari ini
  • Tomorrow: Besok
  • Yesterday: Kemarin
  • Next week: Minggu depan
  • Next month: Bulan depan
  • Happy Birthday: Selamat ulang tahun
  • Happy New Year: Selamat tahu baru
  • What time is it?: Jam berapa sekarang?
  • What time does it open?: Jam berapa buka nya?
  • What time does it close?: Jam berapa tutup nya?
  • Do you have a room? (hotel): Kamu ada kamar kosong?
106 Essential Bahasa Phrases for Travellers to Indonesia (3)

Numbers 1 – 10 in Bahasa Indonesian:

1 – Satu

2 – Dua

3 – Tiga

4 – Empat

5 – Lima

6 – Enam

7 – Tujuh

8 – Delapan

9 – Sembilan

10 – Sepuluh

Quick Guide To Bahasa Indonesia Pronunciation:

In Bahasa Indonesian, there are some letters, namely c, j, r, and v, that make sounds that you might find unusual. , On the other hand, p, t, and k, are almost the same as they are in English. To find out more about Bahasa Indonesia pronunciation, check out this handy guide.

C – C always makes the ch sound. For example, in the English word change.

J – J always makes the ‘j’ sound. For example, in the English word judge.

R – The R sound is always rolled, similar to in the Spanish language.

V – V is always pronounced like the f in the English word fair. However, this letter isn’t that common in Bahasa Indonesian.

P, T and K in English are often pronounced with a slight puff of air (aspirated). For example, like in the English words, pit, tick and kit. However, aspiration is never used with these letters in Indonesian. Instead, the sound is more subtle, like the p in the English word spit.

In order to properly pronounce your words in the Indonesian language, you will need to learn the following combinations:

Ng – If you see ng on its own, you need to pronounce it like the ng in sing.

Ngg – If you see it with an extra g, it is pronounced like the ng sound in finger. Essentially, it’s just ng plus g (Ngg).

Ny – Ny should be pronounced like the ny in the English word canyon.

Sy – Sy is the same sh sound found in the word English.

106 Essential Bahasa Phrases for Travellers to Indonesia (4)
Cherie Julie | Travel For Change Collective

Cherie founded a responsible tourism blog, Travel For Change, in 2016 with the desire to encourage other travellers to wander with purpose. Today the blog has transformed into a copywriting business for mindful brands where Cherie writes on a variety of topics such as the environment, human rights, animal welfare and sustainable travel.

Find her on: Instagram

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How do you say common phrases in Indonesian? ›

Indonesian Expressions and How to Use Them
  1. Makasih (mu-cu-seeh) Shortened from the word “terima kasih” which means thank you, just like how we say thanks in English. ...
  2. Aduh! ( u-dooh) ...
  3. Jalan-jalan (juh-lun juh-lun) ...
  4. Lihat-lihat (lee-hut lee-hut) ...
  5. Gemas (guh-mus)
Apr 15, 2020

What is the Indonesian proverb? ›

Rumput tetangga selalu lebih hijau. Literal translation: The neighbor's grass is always greener than ours. English equivalent: The grass is always greener on the other side. Meaning: This proverb is a classic, and it exists in many different languages and cultures.

How do you respond to thank you in Indonesian? ›

This has become a common and polite way to respond to someone thanking you. So when someone says makasih to you, simply reply with: kembali.

How many Indonesian words do you need to know? ›

It's usually around 2000 for most language, but I've subtracted a couple hundred because of the unique simplicity of Bahasa Indonesia. To have a cordial non-business conversation and survive in the country with ease - I recommend around 1200. More or less depending on the subjects you want to be versed on.

How do you address a lady in Indonesia? ›

Indonesians normally address a lady as Ibu and a man as Pak or Bapak. It doesn't mean you look old. It is not uncommon for a lady in her 20s to be called Ibu especially if she has some social standing. Kamu means 'you'.

What is a respectful greeting in Indonesia? ›

Greetings in local Indonesian includes selamat pagi (good morning), selamat siang (good afternoon), or selamat malam (good evening), and apa kabar? (how are you?). Saying terima kasih (thank you) after receiving services or favours demonstrate good manner.

What are the 5 Indonesian values? ›

Universal Principles and Shared Values in Indonesia: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, Unity in Diversity
  • Belief in the One and Only God.
  • A Just and Civilized Humanity.
  • The Unity of Indonesia.
  • Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives.
Sep 13, 2017

How to remember Indonesian words? ›

Use flashcards with Indonesian words to memorize, and use the flashcards with pictures only to test your memory. It's always good to test yourself after your memorize your words. Don't forget to also test yourself from time to time.

How do you address respect in Indonesia? ›

The rule is pretty simple, just call yourselves with 'saya' when talking to elderly people, at work/school, business, in public, when talking to strangers, and some other formal situations. Call yourselves with 'aku' when talking to your friends, younger persons, and some other informal situations.

How do you address someone with respect in Indonesia? ›

Adult men are addressed by Bapak (short Pak) and adult women by Ibu (short Bu). This can be translated to Mr. and Mrs. but can also mean Father/Mother.

How long does it take to be fluent in Indonesian? ›

As we mentioned above, according to the FSI, Indonesian is a Level II language and thus requires 900-950 hours of study time if you want to reach total proficiency. This means that if you dedicate 15 hours a week to studying, you'll be fluent in just over a year!

What is the easiest language Indonesia? ›

Bahasa Indonesia increasingly has gained popularity as one of the easiest foreign languages to learn, especially for English speakers.

How hard is it to learn Bahasa Indonesia? ›

Native speakers of English will be relieved to learn that Indonesian is considered one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn because of Indonesian's relatively simple grammar and vocabulary and its use of the Latin alphabet, unlike many other Asian languages.

What is the word Boo in Indonesian? ›

olokan {noun} boo (also: gibe) ejekan {noun}

What is the Indonesian word for cute girl? ›

Manis can mean both “cute” and “sweet.”

What do couples call each other in Indonesia? ›

Sayangku – “my dear” A common term of endearment you'll hear in Indonesian is sayangku. It translates as “my dear”.

What are signs of respect in Indonesia? ›

Sitting with good posture (rigid) and both feet on the floor is a sign of respect. Don't allow the bottom of your feet to face or point at another person. Looking someone straight in the eyes is considered staring. Avoid prolonged eye contact, which may be viewed as a challenge and may cause anger.

Do you have to dress conservatively in Indonesia? ›

Conservative rather than bright colors are advisable. Despite the heat and humidity, men and women should avoid wearing shorts outside of resort areas. And take care not to offend local sensibilities. Wear plenty of sunscreen (we love the Riemann P20 range for 10 hour protection), sunglasses and a sunhat.

What is Indonesia motto? ›

The motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ("Unity in Diversity") is enshrined on a banner held in the eagle's talons, signifying the unity of the Indonesian people despite their diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

What is the main faith in Indonesia? ›

Almost 90% of the population of Indonesia is Muslim, gaining the archipelago the title of largest Muslim population in a country. However, Sharia law, the Islamic law, isn't implemented in all of Indonesia where there are 6 official religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism.

What are Indonesia spiritual beliefs? ›

Religion in Indonesia

The Indonesian government recognises six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Muslims are a large majority (85%), with almost all practicing the Sunni branch of Islam. Protestants make up about 6.5% of the population and are well established in Papua.

What are 5 famous quotes? ›

Famous quotes in English
That's one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.Neil ArmstrongEnglish
The love of money is the root of all evil.the BibleGreek
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.Franklin D. RooseveltEnglish
The truth will set you free.the BibleGreek
54 more rows

What is considered the most famous quote? ›

A jury consisting of 1,500 film artists, critics, and historians selected "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn", spoken by Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in the 1939 American Civil War epic Gone with the Wind, as the most memorable American movie quotation of all time.

What are the 10 proverbs? ›

10 English Proverbs for Students With Their Meanings
  • A Bad Workman Always Blames His Tools. ...
  • A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush. ...
  • Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. ...
  • A Cat Has Nine Lives. ...
  • A Chain is Only as Strong as Its Weakest Link. ...
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words. ...
  • A Drowning Man Will Clutch at a Straw.

What is Indonesian language closest to? ›

Indonesian (in its standard form) has essentially the same material basis as the Malaysian standard of Malay and is therefore considered to be a variety of the pluricentric Malay language. However, it does differ from Malaysian Malay in several respects, with differences in pronunciation and vocabulary.

What is the most common letter in the Indonesian language? ›

Accordingly, the letters A, N and E are the most frequent letters in the Indonesian language.
Letter Frequencies of the language Indonesian.
A20.39 %
N9.33 %
E8.28 %
I7.98 %
23 more rows

What are the cultural taboos in Indonesia? ›

With the exception of handshakes, there is no public contact between the sexes in Indonesia. Hugging and kissing, even between husbands and wives, are forbidden in public. Moreover, if a woman touches a Muslim man, he must ritually cleanse himself before praying again.

What do Indonesians say before they eat? ›

And that's the glorious moment when I learnt, that in Indonesian culture, if you want to start eating something, and there are others in your presence, you seek permission from them to start eating by saying “Makan, iya” (I eat, yes). To which they should reply: “Silahkan!” (Go ahead!)

How do you say thank you in Indonesian? ›

1- Terima kasih.

In Indonesian “Thank you.” is Terima kasih. The first word of the phrase, terima, means “to accept.” This is followed by kasih, which in Indonesian means “love.” And the entire expression again is terima kasih.

What does Pak mean in Indonesian? ›

Pak means Mr. or Sir and mbak means Miss. or Madame. I encourage you to use these words when you're talking to the locals as it's what the locals do.

What is the name rule in Indonesia? ›

Indonesian naming traditions. Most Indonesians do not have family names. Both men and women usually have a given name and then take the name of their father as a last name. Some, but not all, married Indonesian women take the last name of their husband.

How do you express love in Indonesia? ›

  1. Aku sayang kamu = I love you (also for friends, family)
  2. Aku cinta kamu = I love you.
  3. Kamu mau jadi pacar aku? ...
  4. Aku mencintai kamu apa adanya = I love you just the way you are.
  5. Aku sangat merindukanmu = I miss you (so badly)
  6. Aku kangen = I miss you.
  7. Aku tidak bisa hidup tanpa kamu = I can't live without you.
Jun 9, 2020

What is the hardest language to learn? ›

Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.

How common is English in Indonesia? ›

Indonesians speak Indonesian, but some Indonesians do speak English. How many Indonesians speak English is difficult to say however, perhaps 10% of Indonesians can speak English reasonably well, in fact some can speak fluently.

What country speaks the most Indonesian? ›

If you count both native and non-native speakers, the Indonesian language is one of the most-spoken languages in the world. And yet, almost every single one of those speakers comes from a single country: Indonesia.

Is Indonesian or Thai easier? ›

1. Indonesian (or Malay) are the easiest Asian languages to learn.

Which is the sweetest language in the world? ›

According to a UNESCO survey, Bengali has been classified as the sweetest language in the world. As a language, Bengali is widely spoken all over India, including Assam and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The sweetest language in the world is also recognized in the Constitution of India.

Is Indonesian pronunciation hard? ›

Indonesian is Pretty Easy

In the example above, there's nothing wrong with learning membaca as “to read” and membacakan as “to read for.” Another advantage that Indonesian-learners have is that the pronunciation is quite easy in general.

Why is Indonesian grammar so simple? ›

The language is highly phonetic, meaning the words are pretty much pronounced exactly as they're spelled. It also contains fewer words than most languages. The grammar rules are also very relaxed, and there are no grammatical genders or verb conjugations to memorize.

Is Duolingo good to learn Indonesian? ›

Learn Indonesian for Free

Whether you're a beginner starting with the basics or looking to practice your reading, writing, and speaking, Duolingo is scientifically proven to work.

Is Babbel Indonesian good? ›

Babbel Overview

Babbel is the best overall app to learn Indonesian because it has a complete Indonesian course. It also helps you improve all of your communication skills, like reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

What does mas mas mean in indonesia? ›

Javanese. In Javanese and broadly speaking in Java, Mbak is used for "older sister" and Mas is used for "older brother". "Mas" and "Mbak" are also used as formal honorifics for men and women in Java generally.

What does Pak in Indonesia mean? ›

Pak means Mr. or Sir and mbak means Miss. or Madame. I encourage you to use these words when you're talking to the locals as it's what the locals do.

What is Indonesian slang for foreigners? ›

Bule (Indonesian: [ˈbule]) is an Indonesian word for foreigners and/or non-Indonesian national, specifically people of European descent ('white', 'Caucasian').

What are abusive words in Indonesia? ›

The word “Keparat” is equivalent to swear word “Bangsat” “Anjing” and “Monyet”. In English, it is equivalent to an expression “SOB” and “sc*mbag.” It is used to direct your hatred or despise towards someone.

What is considered disrespectful in Indonesia? ›

Don't show the soles of your feet.

This also includes touching someone with your foot or pointing to something with your foot. It's considered disrespectful.

What is the hardest Indonesian word? ›

  • perpustakaan. (n) library. ruang perpustakaan dengan meja tulis. library room with desks.
  • trotoar. (n) sidewalk. Berjalan di trotoar itu aman. ...
  • khatulistiwa. (n) Equator.
  • introspeksi. (n) introspection.
  • musyawarah. (n) deliberation.
  • kewarganegaraan. (n) citizenship.
  • pemberdayaan. (n) empowerment.
  • penyelenggaraan. (n) implementation.
Mar 22, 2015

What does Nana mean in Indonesia? ›

( used by or to children grandmother.

What is lola in Indonesia? ›

Lola is an Austronesian language spoken on the Aru Islands of eastern Indonesia.

What does Kang mean in Indonesian? ›

Older sister. Kakang/Kang. Older brother. Sunda (West Java)

What is susu mean in Indonesia? ›

"Milk" in bahasa Indonesia is called "susu."

What is Selamat Siang? ›

selamat siang - good middle of the day (10 to 2) selamat sore - good afternoon.

What does Kaba mean in Indonesia? ›

to end, to finish, to come to an end.

What does Goblok Anjing mean? ›

List of Common Indonesian swear words: Goblok! – stupid! Anjing! – dog!

What does beb mean in Indonesian? ›

Beb - “babe” Indonesian borrowed the English term of endearment “babe”, but it has its own spelling--beb.

What does OI mean in Indonesia? ›

In the Scandinavian languages, Oi! or the Swedish variant, Oj!, is commonly used as an exclamation of surprise, like "Oh" or "Whoops". In Indonesian hoi, oi, and woi (from Cantonese 喂 (wai2) and Hokkien 喂 (oeh)) are used to call someone.


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