Five must-visit budget-friendly cities

A great vacation doesn't mean that you have to splurge all your cash. The Jakarta Post Travel asked five travel bloggers to share their suggestions for budget cities in Indonesia. Semarang Having grown up in Java, Harinda Bama chooses Semarang as his budget-friendly city. “My father said that Semarang is squeezed into the middle. That is why it lags behind Bandung and Surabaya,” said Bama, who documents his travels periodically on his website Indeed, international brands and fancy coffee shops have only recently come to this Central Javan capital with the construction of new malls. Fortunately, said Bama, Semarang would surprise any first-time visitors to the city because of how little you have to pay for food. A bowl of soto Semarang (Indonesian traditional soup with rice and shredded chicken) with satay (chicken, offal and quail eggs skewers), fried tempeh and perkedel (croquettes) sold at street vendors would normally cost as little as Rp 15,000, while other meals such as noodles, chicken with rice and chicken congee would rarely cost more than Rp 10,000 -- very cheap indeed compared with Jakarta prices. Semarang also offers a host of tourist attractions, from its old-town area providing a glimpse of how the harbor town used to look during the Dutch colonial period and the Grand Mosque of Central Java to the Watu Gong pagoda and the Lawang Sewu -- a beautiful and ornate Dutch building in the heart of the city. Yogyakarta Situated on the southern coast of Central Java, this arty city is chosen as a budget-friendly city by Teddy Wijaya and Maesy Angelina, the duo behind According to Teddy, the city offers an abundance of cheap food and accommodations. “You can find a variety of youth hostels in Yogyakarta for as low as Rp 100,000 [US$8.56] per night and the angkringan stalls there make it easy to find cheap and tasty street food,” he explained. There are also a number of public spaces in which to hang out and exchange ideas through creative activities. Known for its cultural and artistic communities, Yogyakarta is home to a comprehensive range of art spaces such as Lir Space, Kedai Kebun Forum and Cemeti Art House. Other popular hotspots include Klinik Kopi in Sanata Dharma University and Lifepatch, a group that periodically hosts public workshops on art, science and technology. The best part is, interesting as they are, they don’t cost much. “You can get a personalized coffee experience in Klinik Kopi that costs only a fraction of what fancier coffee shops will charge you,” said Maesy. As an added bonus, Yogyakarta is also home to awesome street musicians. Tanjung Pandan Belitung, off the east coast of Sumatra is gradually becoming a famous tourist destination, thanks in part to its dramatic coastal scenery studded with gigantic rocks. Tanjung Pandan is the biggest city in the island. Belitung is also a budget-friendly destination, according to Andre Tri Nugraha Handoyo, who frequently blogs at; especially when compared with the more famous Bali. And for beach enthusiasts, said Andre, Belitung is heaven on earth. “We can visit Belitung for a weekend of island hopping, visiting the breathtakingly beautiful beaches and enjoying the magnificent ocean scenery from the top of an old lighthouse on Lengkuas Island,” Andre explained. Visitors to Belitung can also visit a turtle conservation area and admire the stunning turquoise water of the Kaolin mining lake. Andre said that it costs around $40 to rent a motored wooden boat for a one-day island-hopping trip. Fresh seafood can be enjoyed cheaply and, if you are planning a city tour, renting a car with a driver will cost you around $60 per day. Malang Malang is chosen as a budget-friendly city by Firsta Yunida who manages travel website In her opinion, East Java’s second largest city offers good food, accommodations, transportation and plenty of activities that won't dent your budget. Finding budget accommodations in the region is indeed easy. As a student-friendly city, Malang has a range of places to stay, from dormitories and guest houses to budget hotels. To get around, you can rent a scooter for Rp 50,000 for the whole day, explore on public buses or simply wander around on foot. You can visit the Museum Angkut -- a unique museum that displays various kinds of vehicles from around the world. Don't forget to stop by at Toko Oen, a Dutch-style coffee shop with vintage furniture, delicious Western food and ice cream, as well as a laid-back atmosphere. Slightly outside the city, you can explore the breathtaking Madakaripura waterfall or chill out at beaches such as Kondang Merak and Balekambang. Visitors of Malang should also not miss out witnessing an incredibly beautiful sunrise with the sculpted Mount Bromo as the backdrop, or a hike up Mount Semeru for the more adventurous. Cirebon Cirebon is known as the “city of shrimp” due to its large shrimp industry. It is also on the list of budget-friendly cities, nominated by Awan Yulianto, an avid traveler behind Only a three-hour journey from Jakarta, you will be entranced by the beautiful view of green paddy fields as well as the sight of Mount Ciremai standing not far from Cirebon. Cirebon has a unique culture thanks to its location on the border between West and Central Java, as well as on the north coast of the island. “Much of its old architecture was influenced by Sundanese and Javanese styles, as well as Chinese and Islamic styles,” Awan said. Cirebon’s must-visit spots include the Kasepuhan Palace, the oldest palace in Cirebon, built in 1447. If you have more time, you could also visit the Kanoman Palace and the Kacirebonan Palace. For food lovers, delicious traditional food is available across the city. Empal Gentong (spicy currylike beef soup), Nasi Jamblang (white rice with various side dishes like beef stew, boiled egg and tofu served on teak leaves), Nasi Lengko (white rice mixed with fried tofu, fried tempeh, bean sprouts and cut chive leaves. all drenched in peanut sauce) and Tahu Gejrot (small cut fried tofu covered in spicy marinated sauce) are just some of the popular traditional dishes that you can try in Cirebon. Before heading home, don't forget to stop by the Batik Trusmi village for a cheap batik shopping spree. “Cirebon's batik is different from that you would find in Yogyakarta and Surakarta because of its bright color and different patterns,” Awan explained. What’s more, all the batik fabrics displayed at Trusmi village are usually sold directly from the batik artisans, which means you can happily shop there and bring home batik at a reasonable price.

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