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 travel around 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.