I’m sure most people have had their own experiences with over-packing (or mis-packing) for trips – now imagine that you’re packing for 6 months, or in my case, over a year, in a country with a very different climate and culture.

I left Australia with a suitcase full of unwearable clothes and now untouched items. Here’s what I wished I’d known to pack before coming to Yogyakarta for exchange.

  1. Conservative clothing
    Before coming to Indonesia, I knew that I would have to be conscious of covering up in some circumstances, as Indonesia is a majority Muslim country that tends towards conservative fashion, but I don’t think I’d realised quite how much of my wardrobe I needed to change.
  • For University/Internship:
    • In Indonesia, it is considered an honour to be able to attend university, so students must dress up for classes.
    • The same dress code normally goes for internships, placements and any professional environments.
    • This means wearing long pants/skirt, collared shirts (for women too) and enclosed shoes (but can also be nice sneakers or Birkenstock style).
    • This is particularly important for special occasions and exam periods at university.
    • If you’re attending a strict workplace or an Islamic university, collared shirts may need to cover your elbows too.
    • Similar dress codes go for events such as weddings and graduations – although you can also buy batik once you’re here.
  • For Everyday:
    • Even though weather is sweltering and humid a lot of the time regardless of season, it’s generally more appropriate (for all genders) to wear long pants/skirts and cover your shoulders and midriff.
    • Invest in good fabrics like some light cotton or linen to help beat the heat.
    • Definitely buy some breathable and open-toed shoes like Tevas or Birkenstocks for everyday wear – these are very common!
  • Swimsuit
    • For women, there is an expectation to wear more conservative swimsuits.
    • I would 100% recommend buying a full piece swimsuit, as well as a shirt and shorts to wear over the top.
    • For most places in Indonesia, it is deemed offensive to bare a lot of skin – and this may attract a lot of criticism and unwanted attention.
Usual swimwear at a local waterhole

2. Medicine
Stock up on all medicines that you might even potentially need – e.g. ibuprofen, paracetamol, anti-histamines, cold and flu, prescription medications, and anything you need for an upset stomach.

Most times, sickness will hit when you’re somewhere remote or rural and trust me – you really don’t want to be caught out then.

This being said, the hospitals and doctors in Indonesia can be really great, and you can normally get any medicines you’d need in enough time (it’s just better to be prepared).

3. Raincoat
In rainy season, which runs from around October – June, it will rain like clockwork everyday around 3pm.

Bring a sturdy raincoat.

Needed the raincoats that morning – Mt. Merapi was supposedly behind us

4. Menstrual products
It can be extremely hard in Indonesia to find a variety of menstrual hygiene products that are safe to use, particularly tampons.

Stock up before you come to avoid running out – using a reusable product like a menstrual cup or period underwear can help this issue.

5. Toiletries
Bring plentiful supply of any specific toiletries you like– finding facial products without whitening in them can be a trial and anything made for curly hair is also very rare, so know what you need.

6. Mosquito repellent and Sunscreen
Pack lots! Most Indonesians don’t tend to use mosquito repellent or sunscreen so again, it’s very hard to find quality products and they can be very expensive when you do.

7. Adaptor/Powerboard
Bring an Australian powerboard and adaptors to make sure you’re set for all of your Australian chargers and electronics. It’s much cheaper to have one powerboard than to have to buy an adaptor for each new item.

8. Weekend Bag
Bring a weekend sized backpack/duffel bag for any shorter trips. A lot of travel on the island of Java is done by bus and train, so it’s much easier to have a soft bag to carry everything in.

A hiking style backpack is also very useful if you’re keen on any trekking, camping or hiking in general.

9. One set of warm clothes (for mountains/hiking)
While it seems counter-intuitive for a country as perpetually hot, I’d recommend packing a set of warm clothing and a good jumper for activities like mountain climbing. Indonesia has countless great mountains to climb and it can be around 10 degrees or below at the peak – you don’t want to find yourself at top before sunrise in shorts and a t-shirt.

So, pack well and be mindful that much of what we wear in Australia isn’t always suitable! Try to pack on the lighter end as you’ll accumulate things as you go.

You can buy most things once you’re here – most clothing and items will be cheaper anyway, and things like phone sims you’ll sort out during your orientation week.

Happy packing!