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Vacation Cheat Sheet: Indonesian Phrases You Need To Know

Knowing just a few phrases can make a huge difference on your trip.
Vacation Cheat Sheet: Indonesian Phrases You Need To Know

When booking a trip to a country that predominantly speaks another language like Indonesia, you might decide to spend the months leading up to your travel by studying up. The best-laid plans, however, don’t always work out, and you could find yourself a week from your plane ride without having learned so much as “hello.” That’s no reason to give up on the idea entirely, though. Learning just a few dozen Indonesian phrases can make a huge difference on your experience. It can also be a great starting point for acquainting yourself with the rest of the language.

Indonesian Phrases Cheat Sheet

The Most Basic Basics

You’ll probably use the words “yes” and “no” more than any other, so here are the translations for those and a few other basic words that you’ll run into constantly.

  • ya — yes
  • tidak — no
  • tolong — please
  • terima kasih — thank you
  • maaf — sorry, excuse me

How To Introduce Yourself

Saying hello and introducing yourself is one of the first things you’ll do in conversation, so it makes sense it would also be one of the first things you’ll learn. Starting with “hello,” there are actually four different greetings you should learn, which are used at different times of the day.

  • Selamat pagi! — Good morning! (until 11 a.m.)
  • Selamat siang! — Hello! (from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
  • Selamat sore! — Good afternoon! (from 3 p.m. until sunset)
  • Selamat malam! — Good evening! (after sunset)

Next, you’ll want to say who you are. Things are also a little complicated here, because there are two “I”s in Indonesian. There’s saya, a formal “I” you’d use with people you don’t know, and aku, an informal “I” used with family and friends.

  • Nama saya Dewi. — My name is Dewi. (formal)
  • Aku Dewi. — I’m Dewi. (informal)
  • Saya dari Jerman. — I’m from Germany. (formal)
  • Aku dari Inggris. — I’m from England. (informal)
  • Siapa nama kamu? — What is your name?

How To Order Food And Drinks

If you’re planning to go out to eat regularly, these basic Indonesian phrases to use in a restaurant might just be the most important thing to know. You’ll need to brush up on what the menu items actually mean, but here are the phrases you’ll want to use to be clear and polite when ordering.

  • Bisa kami pesan sekarang? — Can we order, please?
  • Saya mau satu botol air. — I would like a bottle of water.
  • Mau minum apa? — What would you like to drink?
  • Tolong bonnya. — The bill, please.

How To Ask For And Give Directions

Navigating a new place can be difficult. When your map fails you, you might want to know a few Indonesian phrases to ask for directions. These, plus some emphatic hand gestures and pointing, should come in handy.

  • Di mana pusat kota? — Where is the city center?
  • Apakah jauh dari sini? — Is it far from here?
  • ke kiri — to the left
  • ke kanan — to the right
  • lurus — straight ahead

How To Book A Hotel

While most hotel booking these days is done online, you still might need to learn some of the hotel vocabulary basics. That way, checking in and out will be a little easier.

  • Apakah ini kunci kamar saya? — Is this my room key?
  • Ada kamar untuk satu orang? — Is there a single room?
  • Atas nama siapa Anda reservasi? — What name did you reserve under?
  • Saya menginap dua malam. — I’m staying two nights.
  • Ada yang bisa saya bantu? — How can I help you?

How To Take Public Transportation

Lastly, you’re probably going to need to take some form of public transportation to get around. Here’s a few Indonesian phrases to get you going, literally.

  • Berapa harga karcis bis? — How much does the bus ticket cost?
  • Jam berapa ada kereta api ke sana? — What time is the train going there?
  • Ini bis ke Bandung. — This is the bus to Bandung.
  • Jam berapa kamu ke sana? — At what time are you going there?
Want to learn more Indonesian?
Thomas Moore Devlin
Thomas grew up in suburban Massachusetts, and moved to New York City for college. He studied English literature and linguistics at New York University, but spent most of his time in college working for the student paper. Because of this, he has really hard opinions about AP Style. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and getting angry about things on Twitter. He's spent a lot of time trying to learn Spanish, and has learned a little German.
Thomas grew up in suburban Massachusetts, and moved to New York City for college. He studied English literature and linguistics at New York University, but spent most of his time in college working for the student paper. Because of this, he has really hard opinions about AP Style. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and getting angry about things on Twitter. He's spent a lot of time trying to learn Spanish, and has learned a little German.

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