Useful Indonesian (Bahasa) Phrases for Travellers

Useful Indonesian (Bahasa) Phrases for Travellers

While Bahasa Indonesia is officially the national language of Indonesia, it is spoken as a first language by only 7% of the population. Did you know that the region has more than 300 native languages? 

Due to the need to communicate across a large population (270 million people), Bahasa is commonly used for business purposes, by education institutions and the media. It is a second language for over 200 million Indonesians.

Bahasa Indonesia, which is actually a version of Malay, is the sixth most spoken language on the planet (after Mandarin, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic). It is said to be a relatively easy language to learn – though you can give us the verdict once you’ve given it a go!

I have lived in different parts of Indonesia for the last two years and have managed to pick up some of the language during my time in the country. The absolute best thing about learning and speaking Bahasa Indonesian here is the reaction that you will get from the local people. Indonesians will applaud you for trying to learn their language – it’s something that so few bule (foreigners) make the effort to do when they travel here, especially when they set off to some of the more touristy places such as Bali or the Gili Islands. 

If you do plan to visit Bali, thanks to the tourism industry, many Balinese can communicate easily in English with you. However, if you plan to travel outside of the island of Bali, you’ll find English is less spoken. Without any Bahasa Indonesian phrases under your belt, you may find it difficult when ordering food, finding your way around, or asking for help. 

To make your travels in Indonesia easier and more pleasurable, here are 106 of the most useful Indonesian words and phrases (plus numbers 1 – 10). They can be used in basic conversation with local people and will help you develop your confidence and ability to adapt to life outside of the tourist areas in the country. 


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Handy Bahasa Indonesia Phrases for Travellers

General greetings in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • Hello: Halo 
  • Goodbye: Sampai jumpa
  • How are you?: Apa kabar?
  • Very good, thanks!: Sangat baik / bagus, terima kasih!
  • Not good: Tidak baik / bagus
  • I’m not well: Saya kurang sehat 
  • Have you eaten yet?: Kamu sudah makan?
  • It’s nice to meet you: Senang bertemu dengan kamu / anda
  • Thank you: Terima kasih
  • Thank you very much: Terima kasih banyak
  • Excuse me: Permisi 
  • Yes: Iya 
  • No: Tidak 

Bahasa Indonesian Language Tip: 

I = Saya (formal) Aku (informal) If you don’t know someone or they are not a close friend you should use the word Saya. Aku is kept for close friends or family. 

You = Kamu 

Being understood in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • I don’t understand: Saya tidak mengerti
  • I don’t know: Saya tidak tahu  
  • I don’t speak Bahasa: Saya tidak bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia
  • I speak a little: Saya bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia sedikit 
  • Do you speak English?: Apakah kamu bisa bicara Bahasa Inggris?
  • Do you speak Bahasa Indonesia?: Apakah kamu bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia?
  • You’re very good!: Kamu sangat bagus!
  • Sure!: Bisa / Baik! (Baik typically means okay!)

Note: There are two words spelt like tahu. One means “to know” and the other means “tofu.” The difference is clear when spoken aloud but they are written the same. To say “to know” you say it without the h sound – t a u. For Tofu, you say it as written – T a h u.

Indonesian food and restaurant phrases:

  • Do you have a menu?: Apakah kamu punya menu?
  • Can I have the bill?: Bolehkah saya minta bill?
  • I don’t want it spicy: Saya tidak mau pedas 
  • I don’t want sugar: Saya tidak mau gula
  • No MSG (monosodium glutamate) please: Tidak pakai MSG / Micin (michin)
  • Can I have water?: Boleh saya minta air?
  • Can I have ice?: Boleh saya minta es?
  • I’m a vegetarian: Saya vegetarian / tidak bisa makan daging (I can’t eat meat)
  • I’m a vegan: Saya vegan 
  • I cannot eat nuts: Saya tidak bisa makan kacang 
  • I don’t eat pork/chicken/beef: Saya tidak makan babi / ayam / sapi
  • I don’t eat seafood/fish: Saya tidak makan seafood / ikan 
  • Two beers please: Minta dua beer boleh?
  • Can I order two hot coffees please?: Bisa saya order dua kopi panas?
  • I would like to order one iced coffee please: Saya mau pesan satu es kopi
  • Do you have tea?: Kamu ada teh? 
  • Where is the toilet?: Toilet di mana?
  • I like Indonesian food: Saya suka makanan Indonesian 
  • I like spicy food: Saya suka makan pedas
  • I don’t like spicy food: Saya tidak suka makan pedas
  • I don’t like chilli: Saya tidak suka cabe
  • I’m really hungry: Saya lapar sekali 
  • I’m really thirsty: Saya haus sekali  
  • I want more: Saya mau lagi  
  • One more: Satu lagi 
  • I am very full: Saya sudah kenyang 
  • Delicious: Enak
  • Not tasty: Tidak enak
  • I don’t like it: Saya tidak suka ini
  • Do you have an ashtray?: Apakah kamu punya asbak?
  • It smells (bad): Ini bau 
  • It smells (good): Ini wangi 
Rendang dish
Practice your Bahasa Indonesia phrases when you’re out for food.

Note: The letter c is always pronounced as ch as in change or chase. The word for peanut ‘kacang’ will be ka-chang when spoken with the ch sound. 

Shopping / Market phrases in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • How much?: Berapa? 
  • Too expensive: Mahal sekali 
  • I don’t want it: Saya tidak mau itu 
  • Can you do a discount?: Apakah kamu bisa kasih discount?
  • More discount?: Discount lagi?

Getting to know Indonesian people:

  • What is your name?: Siapa nama kamu?
  • My name is John: Nama saya John 
  • My name is Suzy: Nama saya Suzy
  • How old are you?: Berapa umur kamu?
  • I like Indonesia: Saya suka Indonesia 
  • What country are you from?: Kamu dari negara mana?
  • I am from Australia: Saya dari Australia

Directions and transport in Bahasa Indonesian:

  • Can you put the taxi meter on?: Bisa kah kamu nyalakan taxi meternya?
  • To the train station please: Ke stasiun kereta   
  • To the airport please: Ke Bandara  
  • Where are you going?: Kamu mau ke mana?
  • Where is the market?: Di mana pasar?
  • Where is the train station?: Di mana stasiun kereta?
  • I am staying close by: Saya tinggal dekat sini 
  • Not far: Tidak jauh 
  • Turn left: Belok kiri
  • Turn right: Belok kanan
  • Straight: Lurus 
  • Short cut: Jalan pintas 
  • Traffic jam: Macet
  • Rush hour: Jam sibuk
Rickshaws lined up in Jakarta, Indonesia
Being able to give directions in Indonesian will help you get around!

Random Bahasa Indonesian sayings:

  • Very beautiful: Cantik sekali 
  • It’s very hot: Ini panas sekali 
  • It’s very cold: Ini dingin sekali 
  • No worries: Tidak apa apa 
  • Don’t worry: Jangan khawatir 
  • Good luck: Semoga berhasil  
  • Cheers!: Bersulang!
  • Calm down: Santai 
  • Be careful: Hati hati
  • Drunk: Mabuk
  • Hangover: Pusing / Sakit Kepala (Headache)

Getting a massage in Indonesia:

  • I would like a foot massage: Saya mau pijat kaki 
  • I would like an oil massage: Saya mau pijat pakai minyak 
  • I’d like it harder (massage): Saya mau lebih kencang
  • I’d like it softer (massage): Saya mau lebih halus
  • It hurts here: Sakit di sini 

Time and special days in Indonesia:

  • Today: Hari ini
  • Tomorrow: Besok 
  • Yesterday: Kemarin 
  • Next week: Minggu depan
  • Next month: Bulan depan 
  • Happy Birthday: Selamat ulang tahun  
  • Happy New Year: Selamat tahu baru 
  • What time is it?: Jam berapa sekarang?
  • What time does it open?: Jam berapa buka nya?
  • What time does it close?: Jam berapa tutup nya?
  • Do you have a room? (hotel): Kamu ada kamar kosong? 
Jakarta Indonesia Skyline
Make sure you know how to reserve a room in Bahasa Indonesian.

Numbers 1 – 10 in Bahasa Indonesian:

1 – Satu 

2 – Dua

3 – Tiga

4 – Empat

5 – Lima

6 – Enam

7 – Tujuh

8 – Delapan

9 – Sembilan

10 – Sepuluh 

Quick Guide To Bahasa Indonesia Pronunciation:

In Bahasa Indonesian, there are some letters, namely c, j, r, and v, that make  sounds that you might find unusual. , On the other hand, p, t, and k, are almost the same as they are in English. To find out more about Bahasa Indonesia pronunciation, check out this handy guide

C – C always makes the ch sound. For example, in the English word change.

J – J always makes the ‘j’ sound. For example, in the English word judge.

R – The R sound is always rolled, similar to in the Spanish language.  

V –  V is always pronounced like the f in the English word fair. However, this letter isn’t that common in Bahasa Indonesian. 

P, T and K in English are often pronounced with a slight puff of air (aspirated). For example, like in the English words, pit, tick and kit. However, aspiration  is never used with these letters in Indonesian. Instead, the sound is more subtle, like the p in the English word spit

In order to properly pronounce your words in the Indonesian language, you will need to learn the following combinations: 

Ng – If  you see ng on its own, you need to  pronounce it like the ng in sing. 

Ngg – If you see it with an extra g, it is pronounced like the ng sound in finger. Essentially, it’s just ng plus g (Ngg).

Ny – Ny should be pronounced like the ny in the English word canyon.

Sy – Sy is the same sh sound found in the word English.

Cherie Julie | Travel For Change

Cherie founded a responsible tourism blog, Travel For Change, in 2016 with the desire to encourage other travellers to wander with purpose. Today the blog has transformed into a copywriting business for mindful brands where Cherie writes on a wide variety of topics such as the environment, human rights, animal welfare and sustainable travel.

Find her on: Facebook | Instagram

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