Discover 25 Indonesian words and phrases to learn for traveling

Are you about to fly to Indonesia? Here are 25 Indonesian phrases to help you familiarize yourself with the language before you leave.


  • Indonesian and Balinese: understanding the difference
  • The pronunciation
  • 1. Basic Expressions
  • 2. I’m sick
  • 3. please wait a moment
  • 4. oh I see
  • 5. ouch
  • 6. kepo
  • 7. spirit
  • 8. it’s too
  • 9. nice to meet you
  • 10. it’s good
  • 11. cool

Are you going soon to stay in Indonesia to enjoy the paradise islands, surf spots and the atmosphere of the country? What is certain is that you will have an unforgettable time. However, if you don’t learn a few Indonesian phrases before you go, you may be stuck speaking with locals. Indeed, in Indonesia, not all locals speak English.

We have of course thought of you with this guide so that everything goes well during your trip. From basic expressions to new phrases, Indonesian will no longer hold any secrets for you.

Indonesian and Balinese: understanding the difference

If the island of Bali is located in the heart of Indonesia but some expressions vary locally. Bali has its own dialect so be aware of the difference and prepare accordingly. Don’t worry, the Balinese mostly all speak English. The island has become one of the trendiest destinations in the world in recent years.

The pronunciation

If Indonesian is built on the basis of a Latin alphabet, some letters are however pronounced differently.

– C is pronounced TCH: coklat = chocolate, is pronounced TCHOKLATT
– J is pronounced DJ: jalan = to go, to walk, is pronounced DJALANN
– U which is pronounced OU: rumah = house, is pronounced ROUMAHH
– S is always pronounced SS, never Z: nasi = rice is pronounced NASSI
– R is pronounced rolled
– NG is pronounced like the ‘NG’ of the German singen (to sing)
– H at the beginning or end of the word is marked: darah = blood and different from dara = young girl
– The final K is not pronounced: tidak = no, is pronounced TIDA
– AI is pronounced EILLE as in English say (say)
– AU is pronounced OW as in English cow (cow)
– SY is pronounced SH as in English sheep
– OI is pronounced OY

Source : Edelo

1. Basic Expressions

Learn Indonesian: phrases and expressions

Photo credit: Unsplah – Dikaseva

– “Selamat pagi!” » : Hello!
– “Hallo! / Hai! » : Hi!
– “Selamat sore” : Good evening
– “Sampai jumpa! » : Goodbye!
– “Tolong” : Please
– “Terima kasih / Kembali” : Thank you / You are welcome
– “Ya / Tidak” : Yes / No
– “Maaf, …” : Excuse me,…
– “Nama saya …” : My name is…
– “Saya tidak bisa bahasa Indonesia. » : I do not speak Indonesian
– « Bisakah Anda bahasa…? » : Do you speak…?
“Saya tidak mengerti. » : I don’t understand
– « Inggris / Perancis » : English / French
– « Boleh saya tahu berapa harganya? » : What is the price please?
– “Di mana ada terminal bis? » : Where is there a bus station?

2. I’m sick

This expression literally translates to “I don’t feel very well”.

Example : you want to explain to a friend that you are not in good shape. You will say “saya sakit” to him to define your discomfort, which can be both physical and psychological. Set the tone so that your interlocutor understands how you feel.

3. please wait a moment

This is one of the handiest Indonesian phrases to remember when saying “One moment please”. If you want your interlocutor to wait while you finish something, you will be able to use this expression. Use proper intonation at the end of words to support your point.

4. oh I see

The translation of this Indonesian expression in the literal sense is “Ahhhhh, I see”. you will very often hear it during your conversations with the locals. They accentuate the end of the word to show that they are really surprised to learn what you have just said to them. This expression is also used to mean “ok” and to support a surprise effect.

See also  Discover the 15 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Indonesia

5. ouch

It’s the word we use in French when we’re not happy, a slightly more familiar “zut”. You will usually hear it coming out of the mouths of tuk tuk drivers in traffic jams. You will see after a few days that Indonesians love to accentuate the “u” (pronounced “ou”) of the words they use.

6. kepo

It’s the little Indonesian expression that will make your interlocutor smile. It literally means “curious” but it is rather used to qualify a more misplaced curiosity, even considered as gossip.

7. spirit

In the literal sense, this phrase translates to “May the force be with you”. Say “semangat” to those you want to encourage and motivate. Indonesians are very close-knit and like to help their loved ones in all circumstances and especially during difficult times.

Example : you know that one of your friends has a long day of work ahead of him, you are going to say “semangat” to him.

8. it’s too

It is one of the most basic Indonesian expressions since as you know, Asians love to haggle and negotiate prices. Here, it translates to “it’s too expensive”. You will associate it with “boleh kurang” to ask to lower the price. You must have read it in many guides. In Asia, the prices are often inflated but you can very easily divide them by two or not three.

9. nice to meet you

This long phrase simply means “delighted” when you meet a person. In Indonesia, the locals are respectful towards each other and regularly mark polite formulas at the end of sentences. This is common and is used daily.

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10. it’s good

It means “it’s good”. These two words will be used during a lunch at the restaurant or during a meal shared with locals. Don’t hesitate to say “Itu baik” when you like something. Indonesians are very grateful.

11. cool

Indonesians use it to describe something as “cool”, “top”. This little word will allow you to give your positive opinion on an object, a play, a beach or a milkshake for example. As usual, put the intonation on the last vowel to share your enthusiasm with your interlocutor.

Example : you have just tasted a matcha latte in one of the most famous bars in Indonesia. You will say to the person who accompanies you, “Asiiiiiiik”, to make him understand that you find it very good.

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Mohamed SAKHRI
Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of this blog, 'Discover the World – The Blog for Curious Travelers.' Join me as we embark on a journey around the world, uncovering beautiful places, diverse cultures, and captivating stories. Additionally, we will delve into mysterious and, at times, even bizarre destinations.

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