If you visit Indonesia either for a short or a long time, you might be thinking about how to stay connected with your loved ones while you're in Indonesia, or simply how to stay updated on your social media or blog. Here are some tips on the Wi-Fi, internet, and phone SIM cards in Indonesia.
Having the internet in your smartphone is always practical; it is safe and convenient to use. You can buy a prepaid local Indonesia SIM card in the airport (some providers have the booth near the arrival gate) or in either major or minor mobile phone stores across the country; it is very easy to get nearly everywhere with the similar prices among sellers, but make sure you prepare some cash as most of them do not accept card payments. If you cannot find it, you can ask your driver, guide, or any staff in your accommodations, which will be happy to let you know the nearby places to buy a SIM card. A local Indonesian SIM card can be used as long as you have an unlocked phone.
To use the SIM card, you will need to do some online registration first; you can ask the seller to help you, and they might need your passport to do this for you. It usually only takes a few minutes to get it registered before you can use it.
If you buy the SIM card with data, you can go online directly after registration. But if you want to make some calls or send the SMS, you will usually need the credits (locally called as "pulsa"); to do that, you can top the credits up before you leave the store, or in any mobile phone stores or stalls, including in some 24h convenience stores (but they do not sell SIM cards). Before you leave the store, also make sure to check if you can successfully use the SIM card, and ask the seller on how to check the remaining credits and data quota – as the SIM card language is in Indonesian.
There are three major SIM cards provider recommended to buy, which are:
- Telkomsel (simPATI) - red color
This is the most recommended provider because it has the widest network coverage, so it is the best option if you plan to go around Indonesia, including to the remote areas where usually only have Telkomsel network – some of them are Flores, Sulawesi, and Papua islands. But price-wise, it is usually the most expensive one among other options.
- XL Axiata - blue color
XL is the best option to go if you visit the major islands and cities in Indonesia, including Bali, Lombok, Java, Sumatera, and Kalimantan. It usually has the cheapest options for data compared to other brands.
- Indosat - yellow color
Indosat occasionally launches the promotion data package SIM cards. The network coverage and quality are similar to XL but usually at a higher price. Generally, it is the middle option between Telkomsel and XL.
Before deciding on buying a particular SIM card, make sure to check a few things:
- Validity – varies for 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, and 30 days.
- Data – varies for 500MB, 1GB, up to 35GB. It is important to ask the seller whether the data quota covers for the 24h or only certain times in a day. For example, the provider might write 20GB on the packaging, but it actually only consists of 5GB for the whole day and the rest of 10GB valid from 1-6 A.M.
- Credits – to make phone calls and send SMS.
- Extras – such as a few minutes for free local calls, a few free local SMS, some free quota on particular social media.
If you plan to go in a group and willing to share the connection, you can get the portable/mobile/pocket Wi-Fi device allowing a connection of up to 10 devices simultaneously. If you don't have one, you can rent one in some online channels and choose the pick-up and drop-off points. The downside of this device is the more limited battery life compared to the individual mobile phones.
Free Wi-Fi is usually available in some public places. But since it is shared with other customers, the connection is super-fast but usually stable enough to keep your relatives updated. Here are some places where usually offer free Wi-Fi:
- Private villas – usually fast with a private connection.
- Luxury hotels – usually fast connection with a private password for each room or each floor.
- Basic accommodations and restaurants – usually not too stable and a few do not require a password, making it quite slow as it is shared with many customers.
- High-end restaurants and café – usually quite fast with the password you can get from the waiters or cashier.
- Malls – usually not fast but acceptable.
- Airport – usually not fast but acceptable.
If you need to work online and are not satisfied with the free Wi-Fi in your accommodations, restaurants, café, or other public spaces, you can opt for co-working spaces providing the place to work with (usually) the best internet connection and infrastructure. You can pay for a day pass or a fixed amount of hours.