Almost one month ago, Dahcia and I got rid of our car, our apartment, and 85% of our clothes, and ventured off to explore Southeast Asia. Our first stop? Jakarta, Indonesia. Although we’ve been traveling for a few years now, this was the first time we were going to be traveling for longer than two weeks. This was also our first time traveling, not for vacation, but to relocate. This meant going food shopping in the local areas, working at coffee shops, and basically living like an expat.

From the moment we landed at the Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, it was clear to us that we were going to need to learn a few words in Indonesian Bahasa to communicate with the locals and make our experience a little easier.

We spent approximately three weeks in Jakarta and these are 10 phrases that have helped us get around like a local (I’ll also include their Bahasa translations).

1. Greetings (morning, afternoon, night) 👋🏾

Whether you’re entering an elevator, a cab, or a place of business, greetings are the most important phrases you can learn.

Morning: Selamat Pagi (Sunrise – 11 AM)
Afternoon #1: Selamat Siang (11 AM – 2 PM)
Afternoon #2: Selamat Sore (2 PM – Sunset)
Evening: Selamat Malam (Night)
Night: Selamat Tidur (Sleep)

2. My name is… 🙋🏾‍♂️

When you need to introduce yourself or just want to ask someone a question.

My name is Jacques: Nama Saya Jacques

3. Thank you 🙏🏾

This will probably be the second most used phrase in your language toolkit.

Thank you: Terima Kasih (I love saying this)

4. I’m sorry 😕

Maybe you stepped on someone’s toes by accident or gave your cab driver the wrong amount, the word sorry can be used in many scenarios. You can also use it in place of “excuse me.”

Sorry: Maaf

5. How much? 💵

This is pretty self-explanatory. I like asking “how much?” up front when I’m making a purchase so I can determine the actual cost in USD after the currency conversion. At the time of writing this, the value of $1 (USD) is 14,200 Rupiah (IDR). So $72 US is 1,000,000 Rupiah.

How much: Berapa?

6. Do you speak English 🇺🇸

Another very popular phrase, because sometimes it’s easier to communicate in your own native language. A simpler alternative is learning the word ‘English’ in the local language and then just say “English?” as if you’re asking a question.

Speak English?: Berbicara Bahasa Inggris?

7. Numbers 1-10 👆🏾✌🏾

In Jakarta, I found a group of parkour enthusiasts to hang out with every Sunday morning. We took turns training and going through various obstacles. Learning the basic #s we’re helpful especially when they would countdown to begin.

1. Satu
2. Dua
3. Tiga
4. Empat
5. Lima
6. Enam
7. Tujuh
8. Delapan
9. Sembilan
10. Sepuluh

8. Your address (or where you’re staying) 🏡

It’s important to not only know the name of the place you’re staying, but also how to say the street address in the local language. You don’t want to get lost out there.

9. Yes 👍🏾 & No 👎🏾

Whether you’re ordering food, asking for directions, grabbing a cab, or doing anything really…

Yes: Ya
No: Tidak

10. Wait (hold on) ✋🏾

This last one may seem like the least important one here but it’s equally important as the others. For example, if you’re trying to ask someone for directions or you’re paying for your food but there’s a clear language barrier. It could become very frustrating for both parties. When all else fails, you’ll probably reach for your phone to use Google Translate and while your translation loads, you can say, “Wait, hold on a second…”

Wait (hold on): Tunggu

These phrases were helpful for us in Indonesia, but they will also be useful in every new country we visit. Did I miss anything that you found helpful during your travels? Let me know in a comment below.


Hi, I'm Jacques. Entrepreneur, writer, college professor and 1/2 of @onewayfortwo.

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1 Comment

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    February 16, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    Fantastic blog article. Really looking forward to read more. Linet Norman Weingartner