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. It’s a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk every day and are more diligent with their prayers. It is believed that this fasting and prayer 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. But elsewhere, most of Indonesia’s 200 million Muslim’s will be somewhat pre-occupied, and towards the end of Ramadan, many will be on the move across the archipelago. Although things generally will be busier, you may find some restaurants and businesses 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 up to an hour. In practical terms, this means you’ll need to book flights and accommodation well in advance and should expect to pay more. Also, check you’re not booking accommodation too close to a mosque.
Ramadan falls in the ninth month of the lunar based Muslim calendar (Hijrah), so the dates vary from year to year.
Ramadan 2017 begins on Friday 26th May and ends on Saturday 24th June.
Ramadan 2018 begins on Tuesday 15th May and ends on Thursday 14th June.
For further details on what you can and can’t expect, check out our full article on Travelling during Ramadan in Indonesia.