Viktorija Panovaite
Indonesian money

How to save money in Indonesia

In Indonesia, many foreigners feel like millionaires like here everything counted in thousands and millions. On one hand (comparing with European countries or others) in Indonesia you can say that everything is cheap but in another hand – when you live here longer and only from scholarship amount – you need to start to count and make some savings. So here are my recommendations on how to save money during the stay in Indonesia. It’s just advice, nothing is mandatory. Even if I mentioned a lot about the Darmasiswa scholarship, still everyone can save some money – foreign students, travelers, or employees. Also, you will figure out something for yourself as well, after you spend some time in Indonesia.

Notice: all the prices written according 05 2015 information and from Yogyakarta south area.


  • Renting: try to agree to rent the place for the first 6 months and then extend renting 3 months more, like in summer you most probably will travel more than staying at home. The stuff you can ask to keep in other Darmasiswa student’s house. If an owner wants to rent for 12 months, try to negotiate to rent only 9 months then you can save some money for travels or other things.
  • Empty place or not enough things that you need:

    • First, asks the owner of the place, maybe she/he has and not use things that you need.
    • Check “Facebook” groups of Darmasiswa students, maybe somebody sells things that you need or put ad what you are searching for.
    • Check second-hand shops (for furniture, electrical devices and etc.). You can find there cheaper stuff, but before compare similar stuff prices in regular shops. Maybe the difference in the price between the new and second hand won’t be so big and in the shop, you will get a guarantee, second-hand shops don’t give it.
    • Some of the things you can make by yourself, for example, bamboo shelter, you just need an idea, measurements, bamboo, and ropes. All tools you can borrow from the house owner or neighbors.
    • Sometimes Indonesian people, if don’t use things, leaves in front of their house – if you will see something that you need, before taking just ask if you can take it for free.
    • If you need just one piece of something (bamboo, rock or whatever else) just ask to take it for free, therefore can bring some cookies.
    • If you would like sometimes to cook but at home don’t have a stove, buy a small travel stove. You can use it at home and will be useful for camping or longer trips. If you won’t use it frequently – can rent it for other student’s trips.
  • Drinking water: check in different places the prices of new gallons and refills. Like in some places you can find cheaper than in others. Different brands have distinctively different tastes, so try different and choose that you like best.
  • Electricity:
    • Turn off all equipment that you don’t use for a night (for example water dispenser) or during you are leaving, traveling.
    • If the owner will ask to pay the monthly agreed sum with the old electricity counter, ask to show the counter numbers and pay only for the amount that you use (but ask this in a polite way, like such request can be understood like you do not trust the owner, calling them a thief).
    • For the new counter – you can buy at once a bigger amount of prepaid card (“pulsa”) of electricity.
  • Gas: check in different places the prices of new gallons and refills. Like in some places you can find cheaper than in others. Depends on the size of the gallon will be a different price.
  • Internet: if near around your place is any free Wi-Fi spot (in coffee places with Wi-Fi enough to order a drink) – go there to use the internet instead of buying an internet modem (if you are not internet addicted). Before deciding to buy a modem ask local students which operator they are using. Like some operators have a better connection in one area than in another. So don’t take an operator that has the worst connection in your area. You can ask local students maybe somebody has an internet modem that they don’t use. So they can sell you cheaper or give you for free. For example, I bought an internet modem from a local student for 150 000 Rp and the same one, new in the shop costs 270 000 Rp. In providers, client service office managers put “pulsa” without a fee.
  • Textile: if you want to cover something or to buy curtains and etc. you can make it by yourself – there are places where you can buy textile by kilos or buy material in shops. There are many places that can sew for you what you want. It will cheaper than buying already sewed stuff in the shop and you will have exactly what you want and need.


  • Cook at home: if you calculate that cheaper to cook at home than eat in “warungs” – do it. The main thing, if you don’t have a fridge the food won’t be a fresh couple of days. The fruits are fresh in Indonesia, so you need to eat for a maximum of a couple of days, otherwise, ants and other insects will make their job :D
  • Markets/ small shops: buy food and small stuff in the nearest market (better to visit in the early morning till ~8:00 am) or in small shops near your place. I was surprised that the same stuff in big supermarkets is more expensive than in small ones. As well as check a couple of different small shops, sometimes even in the same street different shops sells cheaper the same stuff.
  • Neighbors: if it’s possible to buy fruits, vegetables, or other stuff from neighbors. It will make a stronger relationship with neighbors as well you can get a better price.
  • “Warungs”: eat-in “warungs” in small streets. Check some streets around your place. Sometimes “warungs” in front of busy streets are more expensive than in small streets. For example “soto” (rice soup) in small street “warung” cost ~ 6 000 Rp, in bigger street ~ 10 000 Rp.
  • Imported food: everywhere imported food will be expensive. If you need some spices for your cooking (like oregano and etc.) ask to send your family from your home country – probably in your country it’s cheaper than here.


  • Misfit: if you have some clothes that not fit you anymore, damage some parts and etc. instead of buying new, you can try to make from it something else. For example from pans – shorts, a T-shirt with sleeves – without sleeves and etc.
  • Dislike: if you dislike some of your clothes, you can organize a clothes exchange between other students. They will have as well things that they don’t wear anymore – so you can just change, instead of buying new ones.


  • KITAS (“Kartu Izin Tinggal Terbatas” – temporary stay permit card): to most of the visiting places you will get a bigger discount with KITAS than with a student card. So be patient and visit for example Borobudur after you will get KITAS.
  • during the travels stay in “couchsurfing” members’ places.
  • Local friends: ask your Indonesian friends maybe they have relatives or friends in a place where you are planning to go, so maybe you could stay in their place, rent cheaper a motorbike and etc.
  • Time: go on trips during the rainy season – the prices will be cheaper and in different islands the rainy season is different. For example in January, when in Java was raining a lot, on Lombok island 3 weeks during my trip – wasn’t any rain.


    • Ask local students which operator they are using, like most they are using the cheapest one and that has a good connection in the exact area. But the cheapest one – sometimes means not the best quality of connection and sometimes can’t be reachable in some areas.
    • Before choosing an operator answer yourself what you need mostly – write SMS, use the internet on mobile, and something else? Compare some operators prices by your requirements and then choose,
    • Instead of writing SMS, you can use “Watsapp”, “Viber” like Indonesians use these programs more often than write SMS and also it will be cheaper.
    • Put at the once a bigger amount of prepaid sum “pulsa” – like every time to put “pulsa” (for service) will cost.
    • Talk with local peoples/neighbors: usually, they know someone who can help you, knows someone who has something and etc. – so you can get things a bit cheaper.
  • Fuel for motorbikes: put the fuel in petrol stations it will be cheaper around ~500 – 1 500 Rp per liter than buy in the streets from bottles. In the evening the petrol stations can be closed, so take care to put fuel before, because at night people who are selling fuel in bottles asks more money than during the day time.
  • Natural products: instead of buying some chemicals products you can try to use naturals ones.
    • For example, if your home floor is made from cement and it dusty, use coconut cutting – it will make your floor darker and the dust won’t be stuck.
    • From coconut milk, you can make some products for your skin, hair (in the internet there are many recipes).
    • To clean oily hands you can use the plant (in Bahasa Indonesian) “kemangi”.
    • Instead of buying air fresher for the bathroom – use coffee, it will observe all the bad smells in the bathroom.
    • Talk with elder neighbors – they will give you advice on what to use natural products.
  • Before buying anything: spend some time to check some different places and compare the prices of the same stuff. It can help you to save some money especially when you will just arrive and will need to buy some stuff as well for things that you are planning to buy quite often.
  • Laundry: if you don’t want to pay for laundry service – clean your stuff by yourself. To dry it during the rainy season will be a bit more difficult but possible.
  • Parking: usually the motorbike parking costs 1 000 – 2 000 Rp (other places and 3 000). If you are going somewhere with a friend with 1 motorbike (for example shopping in the supermarket) the friend can stay on a motorbike and you take all stuff that needed – in such case the parking guys won’t charge you for the parking fee.


The main tip – negotiate the price anywhere, anytime.

  • If you know that some things you will buy all the time, try to buy in the same seller to show your locality and ask to get those things cheaper.
  • Barge the price in second-hand shops, markets. Like the first price will be given like for foreigner, better even go with a local friend, ask him to barge the price.
  • Ask for a discount on transport and any other places – like you are a student can show your student card.
  • If in the shop there are no price tags – you can negotiate the price.

Do you know other tips? Share your advice and help others! :)

Useful? Great! :) You might also like these:

Other useful information
What you can do with 1 EUR in Indonesia
Cost of living in Indonesia