As an avid surfer and traveler, Indonesia is personally my favorite destination in Asia. Indonesia is blessed with thousands of beautiful islands that will leave you spoil for choice, and also has some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. Additionally, if you’re thinking of picking up some basic Bahasa Indonesia words for your trip, you’d be glad to know that the language is pretty easy to master! Here’s why:
The language has no need for past or future tense, which means that verbs only exist in present tense. Also, Bahasa Indonesia makes no distinction for masculine and feminine nouns. To make the language even less complicating, the words have no plural; singular and plural terms are all the same.
Overall, the national language is spoken throughout the country with a population of more than 200 million citizens. It is also good to note that Bahasa Indonesia is similar to Bahasa Melayu (Malaysia’s national language), which is why the language is also understood in Malaysia.
Here are some basic Indonesian words to help you preparing your next holiday to Indonesia!
- Selamat Pagi: Good morning
- Selamat Siang: Good afternoon
- Selamat sore: Good evening
- Selamat malam: Good night
- Apa kabar?: How are you? – Kabar baik: I’m good
- Terima kasih: Thank you
- Sama Sama: You are welcome
- Yes/No: Ia/ Tidak
- Saya: I
- Kamu: You (familiar) often shortened to “Kau”
- Anda: You (formal or respectful)
- Dia: He/She
- Kita: Us (including the person spoken to)
- Kami: Us (not including the person spoken to)
- Kalian: You (plural)
- Mereka: They
When asking for something, always start your question with ‘Permisi’ (Excuse me) :
- Permisi Mas (to young males)
- Permisi Adek (to young females)
- Permisi Pak (to older men)
- Permisi Ibu (to older women)
- Saya mau tanya: I would like to ask
Ex : Permisi Pak, pantai ada di mana ? (Excuse me Sir, where is the beach?)
Where are you from and where do you want to go?
As people are very friendly and communicative, you will pick up the language quickly. During your travelaround Indonesia, the most common questions you’ll hear will be: “Dari mana?” and “Mau ke mana?”.
“Dari mana” means where (are you) from and “ke mana” means where (are you) going. So familiarize yourself with these two short and simple phrases, they’ll definitely come in handy!
Here are some more useful phrases to help you:
- Saya mau ke Bali: I want to go to Bali
- Saya dari: I am from… Perancis (French) – Ingrris (English) – Spanyol (Spanish) – America – Australia – Singapura
- Kiri: Left
- Kanan: Right
- Lurus: Straight
- Belakang: Behind
Ordering food in Indonesia
Most people love Indonesian food.
From my personal experience, my Bahasa has improved significantly from ordering food in the Indonesian warungs. Going to the warungs will definitely invite opportunities to mix and converse with the locals. Do bring a pocket dictionary if you want to make your conversations more interesting!
- Permisi Pak, ada tempat makan di dekat sinin?: Excuse me Sir, is there a restaurant near here?
- Makan: To eat
- Pedas: Spicy (if you cant handle spicy, remember to say Tidak pedas!)
- Saya suka pedas: I like spicy
- Minyak: Oil
- Gula: Sugar
- Minum: Drink
- Nasi: rice
- Mie: noodle
- Sayur saja: if you are vegetarian you might want to ask for “Sayur saja” (Vegetables only)
- Enak : Delicious!
Bargaining and Numbers
Knowing a few words of the language will always help you to get better deals in Indonesia.
As an advice, try to bargain around 40% off the initial price offered when you negotiate, especially in touristic areas:
- 1 – Satu ; 2 – Dua ; 3 – Tiga ; 4 – Empat ; 5 -Lima ; 6 -Enam ; 7 – Tujuh ; 8 – Delapan ; 9 – Sembilan ; 10 – Sepuluh.
- 11 Seblas
- 12 Dua belas
- 13 Tiga belas
- 14 Empat belas
- 20 – Dua puluh ; 30 – Tiga puluh, etc …
- 100 – Seratus ; 200 – Dua ratus etc…
- 1, 000 : Seribu – 10,000 Sepuluh Ribu
- 1 million : Satu juta
- Harga: Price
- Berapa harganya?: How much does it cost?
- Harga nya mahal: Price is expensive
- Lebih murah bisa?: “Cheaper possible?”
- Saya tidak ada cukup: I don’t have enough
- Mahal sakali: Very expensive!
Police in Indonesia
I hope you won’t get arrested by the Police while travelling in Indonesia, but this happens sometimes, don’t be afraid of them. Here are a few sentences to deal with the police, and it will make a big difference for them if you talk to them in Bahasa Indonesia:
Travel tips meeting with Indonesian policemen:
- My wallet was stolen: Dompet saya di curi
- I am very sorry I won’t do it again: Maaf sakali, saya tidak akan ulangi lagi
- Saya tinggal disini, saya tidak bule: I live here, I am not a tourist (Bule is actually the term to describe a white foreigner).
- Saya jujur: I am honest
Other easy words in Indonesia that you will use often :
- Tidak Apa Apa!: No worries!
- Bagus!: Great!
- Hati-hati: Be careful
- Boleh or Bisa: Can.
- Ada/Tidak ada : There is/There is not
- Buka/Tutup: Open/Close
- Selamat jalan: Have a safe journey
- Ini apa?: What is this?
- Sampai jumpa lagi : See you again
- Tolong!: Help
- Maaf: I am sorry
- Jam berapa?: What time is it?
Bonus for the surfers:
- Ombak bagus: Good waves!
- Banyak angin: Lot of wind
- Air dingin: Cold water
- Banyak arus: Lots of current
- Bahaya: Dangerous
- Ikan Hiu: Shark (but normally there are no sharks in Indonesia!)
Lastly, remember that there are another 200 dialects spoken in Indonesia. Traditional Balinese people speak Balinese between them, but all of them speak Bahasa Indonesia and many speak English too. Bali is a good place to start your trip to Indonesia if you want to reduce language barrier.
And, on presenting a landlady with her key, I announced, “I’m so sorry! Here’s your cat!”. So I’ve had my adventures in learning Indonesian.
I once ordered “fried p*ss” instead of “fried potatoes” in a restaurant.
And, my Bahasa still isn’t pretty.
All the same, if you’re thinking of getting off the beaten track in Indonesia, you’ll need a basic vocabulary. These 20 words of Indonesian will give you pretty much what you need to know.
Welcome to learning Indonesian 101.
Is there…? Do you have…? There is… I have….
Use this word to request things. Just stick the name of what you’re after onto it. “Ada kamar?” “Do you have a room?” “Ada.” “I do.”
Is it possible…? Can you…? Can I…? It’s
possible…. I can…. You can…
Use this when you want to do something, or find out whether someone can do something for you. “Bisa ke Ubud?” “Can you [go] to Ubud?”
Also used as an interrogative on the end of questions, like the London “innit?” or “yeah?” or West Coast “y’know?”
There are two negatives in Indonesian, but this one is always understood. You can use it to mean “no” or a “not”. “Tidak bisa.” “It’s not possible.” “Habis?” “Have you finished?” “Tidak.” “No.”
Finished. There is no more. Have you finished?
When being turned away from a petrol station, “Habis” means “We are out of petrol.” At a guesthouse, “habis” means their rooms are full.
Food. Eat. Meal.
One of the nice things about learning Indonesian is that many words can be used both as nouns and verbs. “Ada makan?” “Do you have food?” Just add times of day to make meals: “Makan pagi” (breakfast) “Makan siang” (lunch) “Makan malam” (dinner).
Add the times of day to make formal greetings: “Selamat pagi”: “Good morning.” “Selamat siang“: “Good day.” “Selamat malam“: “Good evening”. “Selamat jalan“: “Safe journey!” (Goodbye). You can also use it to ask if, for example, it’s safe to leave your bags somewhere.
Morning. Morning! In the morning.
As in “Selamat pagi” (good morning), “makan pagi” (breakfast). “Ada bis ke Ubud?” “Is there a bus to Ubud?” “Pagi.” “In the morning.”
Midday, in the middle of the day.
“Selamat siang” (good day). “Makan siang” (lunch). (There’s a fourth Indonesian time word, “sore“, which covers the afternoon, but you don’t necessarily need to know that.)
Evening, night, in the evening.
“Selamat malam“: good evening. “Makan malam“: dinner. “Ada kamar?” “Do you have a room? “Ada! Berapa malam?” “I have one. For how many nights?”
Used when booking hotels, for example. The word for toilet is “kamar kecil” (literally: the little room).
“Ada kamar?” “Ada. Berapa orang?” “Do you have a room?” “I do. For how many people?” Also as in “orang utan” – “man of the woods”.
How many…? How much…? What number…?
In a shop: “Berapa?” “How much?” It’s worth learning your Indonesian numbers, but most Indonesians will write the price down for you on paper or a calculator, or hold up fingers or notes. “Jam berapa?” “What time….?”
“Jam berapa?” “What time is it?” “Berapa jam ke Ubud?” “How many hours to Ubud?”
“Dari mana?” “Where are you from?”
“Ke mana?” “Where are you [going] to?”
17. (Di) Mana
“Di mana kamar kecil?” “Where is the toilet?” “Ke mana?” “Where are you [going] to? “Ke Kuta.” “I am going to Kuta.”
“Jam berapa bis ke Ubud?” “What time is the bus to Ubud?”
There are many, many different words for different types of boat. “Kapal” means big boats, or ferries, but will be understood for most other types of boats.
Already. Finished. Have you yet?
In a restaurant: “Sudah?” “Have you finished?” “Sudah.” “I have.” In conversation: “Sudah ke Bali?” “Have you [been] to Bali yet?”
Learning Indonesian pronunciation is pretty intuitive. Three oddities? K is silent – or, rather glottal — at the end of a word, c is pronounced as a “ch” sound, and the “ng” sound is like the “ng” in the middle of “singing”.
Do you have any language shortcuts you can share? I’d love to hear them. Drop me a comment and let me know.
Need more? Read my post on the best books for learning Indonesian.
Or head on over to BookDepository.com, the Amazon-owned bookshop which ships free to almost everywhere in the world, including Indonesia, the US, Europe, Australia, India, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, and pick up a copy of the wonderful Instant Indonesian. I didn’t know it existed when I wrote this post.
While travelling in Indonesia, it is so useful to access your Windows Desktop from CloudDesktopOnline and your online SharePoint with CloudAppsPortal.