Weather wise, Indonesia has a tropical monsoonal climate characterised by two distinct seasons – a wet and dry. During the dry season from May to September, the skies are clear with daytime temperatures averaging a balmy 28˚C along the coast, 26˚C in highland areas and 23˚C in mountainous regions like West Papua. On average, nighttime temperatures are about 5-6 ˚C cooler than in the daytime but higher elevations generally experience bigger drops and can be downright chilly.
Most people assume that the wet season temperatures from October to April are somewhat higher than the dry season but surprisingly, this isn’t quite so. The hottest months of the year are actually the shoulder months of March to May and September to November. The bigger issue during the wet season is the humidity which can reach as high as a sticky 90%.
Rainfall levels vary quite dramatically across the archipelago. From Bali eastwards to West Timor, Sulawesi and Maluku most rainfall occurs during the wet season and most often in the form of brief heavy showers in the early morning or late afternoon. The rain itself doesn’t inconvenience travellers too much but it can turn unmade roads muddy and make some impassable altogether.
The western slopes of Sumatra, western highlands of Java, almost all of Kalimantan (Borneo) and most of West Papua experience abundant rainfall all year round. Again, showers tend to be quite brief but in the highland areas, misty rain clouds can hang around most of the day. The mornings are generally clearer so if you’re planning on climbing a volcano, start early for the best views.
Peak season in Indonesia coincides with the coolest months of June and July and prices increase in line with demand. The shoulder seasons of March to May and September to November are noticeably cheaper and less crowded. Many airlines and hotels offer significant discounts during the low season from December to February, with prices as much as 50% lower than high season rates. Price fluctuations in the more out of the way places aren’t nearly as significant so accessibility rather than cost becomes the greater consideration.
Ramadan is the Islam holy month of religious observance. Most people know that it’s a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk every day. But as well as abstaining from food, Muslims are also expected to refrain from drinking, smoking, marital relations and curb poor behaviour such as lying, getting angry or using bad language. They’re also expected to be more diligent in prayer. It is believed that this fasting develops self-control, encourages introspection and reinforces the bond between Almighty and the faithful.
So what does Ramadan mean for travellers in Indonesia? If you’re in Hindu dominated Bali. not much changes. Elsewhere, you may find some restaurants and warungs close earlier than usual. The Call to Prayer, which normally only rings out for a few minutes prior to prayer time can go on for much longer, even up to an hour. So when you’re booking you accommodation you may want to check that the establishment is not too close a mosque. Packing ear plugs is also a good idea.
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Ramadan culminates with the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, a jubilant celebration marked with feasting, friendship and family and thanksgiving. It’s a very special time for millions of Muslims across the world, comparable to Christmas for Christians. It’s also a time when millions of Muslim’s will be on the move across Indonesia, returning to their home villages and visiting family and friends. This means you’ll need to book hotels and flights early, peak rates will apply and the roads will be busy. Seriously busy – twelve people died in a 13 mile, 3 day traffic jam in Java at the end of Eid in 2016.
Ramadan falls in the ninth month of the lunar based Muslim calendar (Hijrah). As a result, dates vary from year to year. In 2017, Ramadan begins on Friday 26th May and ends on Saturday 24th June.
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