Yogyakarta Travel Guide- First Timers Guide
Indonesia is one of the most touristed countries in the world, with destinations like Bali, Komodo Islands, Flores Islands and Lombok getting most of the attention. Indonesia is known for its gorgeous beaches, world class snorkeling, scenic views and amazing villas for a very affordable price. Yogyakarta is different from the typical tourist attraction which is why I personally love it and would recommend it to anyone who is looking to do something different. Understand Jogja and what to expect with this complete Yogyakarta Travel Guide for first timers.
Specifically, Yogyakarta or Yogja, ‘Jogja,’ as it is known locally, is considered to be the cultural capital of Indonesia, and for good reason. It is home to the world’s largest Buddhists temple and other UNESCO world heritage sites, there are countless beaches, mountains for hiking, food stalls and shopping to indulge yourself in.
When to travel to Java (Yogyakarta)?
The weather in Southeast Asia differs a-lot when it comes to what time of the year you should be going to each place. The best time to visit Indonesia in general and specifically Yogyakarta is May-September which is their dry season. We spent almost a month in Indonesia in July with barely any rainfall. If you go during November or December you will encounter their rainy reason which is not fun at all! If you wish to travel during those months I recommend going to the Philippines instead as that is during their dry season.
Yogyakarta Travel Guide (Day Driver v. Grab v. Scooter)
If you have ever been to an Asian country you probably already know how congested the roads are, the organized chaos and the “rules” are when it comes to driving. Unless you have experience driving on the left side of road and have seen firsthand how people in Yogja or other countries drive, I recommend getting a Grab driver or renting a taxi driver for the day. You will defiantly want a taxi driver for long trips, as Scooters are not safest nor the most comfortable.
Taxi Driver in Yogyakarta – Full Day Driver Service
There are a lot of tour companies that offer half day and full day drivers for tourist to visit local temples and waterfalls. We found it more financially sustainable to hire a driver outside of those tour companies. We did our research ahead of time of where we wanted to visit each day, and then booked our driver and asked him to take us to those places. Our Taxi driver cost anywhere from $35-$45 USD for 10-12 hours depending on how far away we were going (click on the link above and ask for Ardi). Ardi was a local who spoke good English, would stay with us at each location, and wait at the car while we explored. We enjoyed the company of Ardi, who also helped brush us up on the local language, history and cultural norms of Yogyakarta. We wish we would have used Ardi to pick us up from the airport because our driver did not speak any English.
GRAB APP – Travel Guide for Yogyakarta
I highly recommend downloading the GRAB app which is similar to Uber in the United States. If you’re planning on traveling to Indonesia and not paying for international cellular service, is important to download this app before you leave for your trip. You will need cellular service to download it (it requires a text message security code). We personally found Grab to be the best way to travel around the city.
It is essentially a taxi and food delivery service. You can either grab a car or a motorbike if you are traveling alone to save money. You can also have food delivered right to your location for a cheap price. We often used Grab if we needed to go to the city center for shopping and to go to and from the Yogyakarta airport.
Renting Scooters in Yogyakarta – Is it worth it?
After a couple of days in Yogja you should then see if you want to rent scooters, after you become more comfortable with how everyone drives. Scooters do tend to take over the roads, and therefore are a quicker mode of transportation when driving within the city.
Most scooters (Honda, Scoopy, Yamaha have storage underneath the seat for small things like a camera, food, and wallet. The scooters are also automatic so you don’t have to worry about shifting or using a clutch. I don’t recommend renting scooters in the city which is why the GRAB app is so useful.
Travel & Transportation Apps: Yogyakarta Travel Guide
A wonderful thing about Yogja is that you are fully submersed within the culture and the language. With little tourist in this city, you could find it difficult to find those who speak English. I suggest downloading the English (or desired language) to Indonesian Dictionary before your trip. This allows you to use the translate without internet access.
This app allows you to use a map offline. This map acts as Google Maps; showing your location, restaurants, hotels, beaches and more.
Best Street Food in Yogyakarta – Yogja Food Itinerary
While in Yogyakarta you will encounter street food venders and warung’s on every street you walk on (warung means shop or restaurant). Don’t be intimidated by the way they look on the outside (most of them), as they have great food and it truly is what the locals eat. Don’t go out of your way looking for fancy places to eat as the best food will be found in the warung down the road. I highly recommend doing the BackStreetAcademy Evening Food Tour during your first few nights here. The tour offers a local to walk you through city center to some of the best street food venders, they walk you through the history of the food and culture as well as explain the food you are eating.
- Gudeg (made from young unripe jack fruit stewed with palm sugar and coconut milk, with traditional spices) – traditional Javanese cuisine
- Bakmi (means ‘meat noodles’ originally from China and Japan it was pork with noodles, but in Java they cook the noodles traditionally with chicken)
- Nasi Goreng (Fried rice – often with eggs and chicken) – Our Favorite
- Mei Goreng (Fried noodle – often with chicken and vegetables)
- Nasi Campur (Rice with small portions of meat, vegetables, peanuts, eggs or shrimp)
- Chicken Satay (Meat Skewers)
- Nasi Pecel (Indonesian Salad)
- Gorengan (fried bananas, cawke and onde-indie)
- Pempek (fried fish)
- Kopi Joss (Javanese coffee infused with hot coal – a must try)
I know this part of the blog will cause people to go up in flames because some of the coffee listed below is not “real” coffee. Indonesians typically drink instant coffee which is when hot water is poured into a cup filled with the ground up coffee. Mix the grounds with the water and then bam… instant coffee. It’s a lot better than it sounds, and our entire group of 5 became obsessed with Indonesian cappuccino. I highly recommend you go to KuPiKu coffee, it instantly became our go to place every morning and night for coffee.
Luwak Coffee (Most expensive and famous Indonesian coffee)
Bali Coffee (Lots of grounds)
Arabica Coffee (Most popular Indonesian coffee)
Good Day Cappuccino (super cheap instant coffee)
Kopi Joss(Javanese coffee infused with coal for a smoky flavor)
What to expect:
If you have been to popular tourist destinations such as Bali or El Nido in the Philippines it is completely different. You will most likely not see any westerners depending on where you stay in Yogyakarta. I recommend staying outside of the city center because it is so busy and loud even late into the night.
- Great coffee shops
- Few locals speak english
- Can only drink bottled water
- Mix of Western & Indonesian food
- Busy roads and traffic jams
- Rough unpaved roads outside of city
- Friendly locals who are willing to help you (We have found Indonesians in general are very nice)
- A unpopular tourist destination where you get to explore
Top 5 things to do in Yogyakarta
- Borobudur Temple (Image at top of blog)
- Prambanan Temple (Image directly above)
- Day trip to Mount Bromo (Pinterest Image Below)
- Mount Merapi (Hike or Jeep Tour)
- Jalan Malioboro (Shopping, food tours)
For a complete Itinerary on Yogyakarta check out our comprehensive Yogyakarta Travel Itinerary
Save It To Pinterest For Future Reference!