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Learn to Dive at Murex

Useful Indonesian Phrases for Travelers


If you are planning overseas travel, it’s always useful to know a few key words and phrases in the local language before you leave home. In most countries, the locals appreciate it when visitors try to use local greetings and they are often more than happy to help supply some extra words to use too. 


In this article, we take a look at the relatively modern language (Bahasa) of Indonesian, where it came from, and some useful phrases to know before you visit.

Languages in Indonesia

Indonesia is a vast archipelago made up of more than 17,500 islands. Historically, these islands had their own languages (often several) that were quite unique and specific to certain areas. As Indonesia began to unite and transport and trade between areas improved, it became clear that a single language spoken throughout the country would help to unite Indonesia’s diverse population and ethnic groups. Although Bahasa Indonesia (which literally means ‘Indonesian language’), is spoken throughout Indonesia, many people are bilingual and speak both Indonesian as well as their local dialect.


The most common languages spoken today in Indonesia are:

Bahasa Indonesia – 270 million speakers.

Javanese – 68.2 million speakers.

Sundanese – 32.4 million speakers.

Maduranese – 7.7 million speakers.

Bahasa Bugis – 4.3 million speakers.

Minangkabau – 4.2 million speakers.

Facts about Indonesian

  • Indonesian is the official language of Indonesia.
  • Indonesian utilizes a simple and phonetic writing system and borrows words from various other languages including Dutch, Arabic, Sanskrit, Portuguese, Chinese, and English.
  • Indonesian began as a standardized form of Malay and although it still shares many similarities with Malay it has evolved into a distinct language with its own vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.
  • The Indonesian alphabet, known as “Ejaan Yang Disempurnakan,” consists of 26 letters and follows a consistent pronunciation pattern, making it relatively easy to learn and read.
  • In contrast to many other languages (particularly European languages), Indonesian does not differentiate nouns, pronouns, or adjectives based on gender. This feature makes it more inclusive and straightforward to use.
  • Indonesian words can be modified through the addition of prefixes, suffixes, or infixes to convey different nuances of meaning, create verb forms, or to indicate past, present or future tenses.
  • Indonesian follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) sentence structure, making it less complex compared to languages with more intricate grammar rules.
  • Although Indonesian is the official language, variations of the language (local dialects) can be found across different regions of Indonesia.
  • Similar to other Southeast Asian languages, Indonesian has different levels of politeness in speech, allowing speakers to adjust their language based on the social context and relationship with the listener.
  • Due to migration and increasingly easy access to travel around South East Asia, Indonesian is spoken by communities in neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei.
  • As Indonesian interacts with other languages and cultures, new words and expressions continue to be incorporated into the language – Indonesian is still evolving to this day.

Bahasa Indonesia and English in the Tourism Industry

hanging out in boat


Depending on where you travel in Indonesia, you may find that the local people have varying levels of proficiency in English. Generally speaking, the more ‘off the beaten track’ you venture, the stronger the possibility of locals with extremely limited English.


That being said, when staying in hotels, in resorts, or when communicating with dive operators, English is usually spoken to some extent. As the recognized international language in travel and tourism, most staff speak English to some degree. Many operators, including Murex Resorts, provide staff with English lessons and encourage them to develop their English skills – be patient, speak slowly, and try out some of your Indonesian skills too!

Basic Indonesian Words and Phrases

In this next section, we take a look at some basic Indonesian words and phrases that you may find useful when traveling around Indonesia and trying to communicate with the locals.

Personal Pronouns

I – Saya

We – Kita (inclusive), Kami (exclusive)

You – Anda (formal) (Kamu – for friends and children only)

He/she – Dia 

They – Mereka 

Forms of Address

When addressing Indonesians always aim to be as polite and respectful as possible. The words for Mother and Father are used in the same way as Mrs. and Mr. and should be used when addressing new people or elders – and to show respect.

Father or Mr. –  Bapak (“Pak”)

Mother or Mrs. – Ibu (“Bu”)

Basic Questions

How? – Bagaimana?

How much/many? – Berapa?

What? – Apa? 

What’s this? – Apa ini?

Who? – Siapa?  

Who’s that? – Siapa itu?

What is your name? –  Siapa namanya?

When? – Kapan?

Where? – Di mana?

Why? – Kenapa? (or) Mengapa?

Which? – Yang mana?


Welcome – Selamat datang

Good morning (7-11am) – Selamat pagi

Good midday (11am-3pm)  Selamat siang

Good afternoon  (3-7pm)  Selamat sore

Good night (after dark) –  Selamat malam

Goodbye – Selamat jalan

How are you? –  Apa kabar?

I am fine – Kabar baik.

Thank you – Terima kasih.

You’re welcome – Kembali.

Same to you – Sama sama.

Pardon me – Ma’af

Excuse me – Permisi


1 – Satu

20 – Dua puluh

2 – Dua

23 – Dua puluh tiga

5 – Lima

73 – Tujuh puluh tiga

4 – Empat

100 – Seratus

5 – Lima

600 – Enam ratus

6 – Enam

1,000 – Seribu

7 – Tujuh

3,000 – Tiga ribu

8 – Delapan

10,000 – Sepuluh ribu

9 – Sembilan

100,000 – Seratus ribu

10 – Sepuluh

1,000,000 – Satu juta

Half – Setengah

First – Pertama

Second – Kedua


Minute – Menit

Hour – Jam (also clock/watch)

Day – Hari

Week – Minggu

Month – Bulan

Year – Tahun

Today – Hari ini

Tomorrow – Besok

What time is it? – Jam berapa?

(it is) eight thirty – Jam setengah sembilan

How many hours? – Berapa jam?

When did you arrive? – Kapan datang?

Four days ago. – Empat hari yang lalu.

When are you leaving? –  Kapan berangkat?

In a short while – Sebentar lagi.

Days of the Week

Sunday – Hari Minggu

Monday – Hari Senin

Tuesday – Hari Selasa

Wednesday – Hari Rabu

Thursday – Hari Kamis

Friday – Hari Jum’at

Saturday – Hari Sabtu

Useful Words

Yes – Ya

Not – Tidak, Bukan 

And – Dan

With – Dengan

For – Untuk

From – Dari

Good – Baik

Very- Good – Bagus

More – Lebih

Less – Kurang

To Be – Ada

To buy – Membeli

To know – Tahu

Big – Besar

To need – Perlu

To go – Pergi

Slow – Pelan

To wait – Tunggu

To – Ke

Tld – Tua, lama

Full – Penuh

Quiet – Sepi

Few – Sedikit

Cold – Dingin

Clean – Bersih

Entrance – Masuk

Better – Lebih baik

Worse – Kurang baik

This/These –  Ini

That/Those – Itu

Same – Sama

Different – Lain

Here – Di sini

There – Di sana

To be able to – Bisa

Correct – Betul

Wrong – Salah

Small –  Kecil

To Want – Ingin

To Stop –  Berhenti

Fast –  Cepat

To Continue  – Terus

At – Di

New – Baru

Empty –  Kosong

Crowded, Noisy –  Ramai

Many – Banyak

Hot –  Panas

Dirty – Kotor

Exit –  Keluar

Small Talk

Where are you from? –  Dari mana?

I’m from the US. – Saya dari Amerika.

How old are you? – Berapa usiamu?

I’m 31 years old. – Umur saya tiga pulu satu tahun.

Are you married? – Sudah menikah belum?

Yes, I am. – Yah, sudah.

Not yet. –  Belum.

Do you have children? – Sudah punya anak?

What is your religion? – Agamamu apa?

Where are you going? – Mau ke mana?

I’m just taking a walk. – Jalan-jalan saja.

Please come in. – Silahkan masuk.

Please sit down. – Silahkan duduk.


Room – Kamar

Bathe – Mandi

Towel – Handuk

Hot Water – Air panas

Good – Hotel Hotel yang baik

Please take me to…  – Tolong antar saya ke…

Are there any empty rooms? – Ada kamar kosong?

Sorry there aren’t any… –  Ma’af, tida

Diving  Vocabulary

Dive – Selam

Beach – Pantai

Diving –  Menyelam

Rock – Batu

Diver –  Orang menyelam/penyelam

Sea/ocean – Laut

Night dive – Selam malam

Fish – Ikan

Cave dive – Selam goa

Big fish – Ikan besar

Nitrox – Nitrox

Lots of fish – Banyak ikan

Coral –  Karang

Wind – Angin

Wave – Ombak

Sunset – Matahari terbenam

Big wave –  Ombak besar

Moon – Bulan

Current – Arus

Full moon  –  Bulan purnama

Shallow –  Dangkal

Cold water  – Air Dingin

Deep –  Dalam

Warm water  – Air Hangat

Good conditions – Kondisi bagus

Bad conditions – Kondisi tidak bagus

Useful Questions and Statements for Divers

How deep? – Berapa dalam?

When do we get there? – Kapan datang?

Are you ready? –  Siap?

I feel seasick – Saya mabuk laut

Ready –  Sudah

I forgot……. – Saya lupa……

Wait –  tunggu

Be careful – Hati-hati

Is the tank already changed? – Sudah ganti tangki?

Do you have a smaller BCD? – Ada BCD lebih kecil?

This tank is empty – Tangki ini sudah kosong

Do you have bigger fins? – Ada fin lebih besar?

Please can you help me? – Bisakah kamu tolong saya?

I am nervous/afraid/scared –  Saya takut

How long? – Berapa panjang?

I only want to dive for 40 minutes –Saya mau menyelam untuk empat puluh menit saja

Do you have an extra tank? –  Ada satu tangki lagi?

Diving, Snorkeling and Freediving Equipment

Most equipment terms are the same in Bahasa as in English and guides understand most that are different. Here a few that you may find helpful:

Mask – Masker

Ladder – Tangga

Tank – Tangki / Tabung / botol

Rope – Tali

Float or Buoy –  Pelampung

Anchor – Jangkar

Weight  – Berat

Boat – Kapal or the type of boat ie speedboat, jukung, phinisi

Torch –  Lampu

Engine – Mesin


Items that are described using English words include: BCD, regulator, octopus, fin, booties, snorkel, weight belt, and wetsuit and in Indonesia SMB’s are known as safety sausages, the Indonesian for which is sosis!

Diving Certification Levels

In Indonesian the levels of diver certification are referred to in English: Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, Divemaster and Instructor.

Time to Try Out Your Indonesian?


Three distinct destinations brought together by Passport to Paradise


Are you ready to book your next trip to Indonesia? Why not join us for a Passport to Paradise? Discover three distinct destinations here in North Sulawesi: Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh, in one phenomenal trip. Dive with turtles and explore the staggering walls of the Bunaken Marine Park, dive into Bangka Islands’ kaleidoscopic soft coral reefs, and experience the world’s best muck diving in the Lembeh Strait.


Our Passport to Paradise resorts (Murex Manado, Murex Bangka and Lembeh Resort) are connected by boat diving transfers which means no wasted travel time and even more time underwater as you simply dive your way from resort to resort!

Get in Touch

Contact us may also want to check outMurex Resorts’ ratesandreserveyour spot now.


We look forward to welcoming you to North Sulawesi!

Further Reading

If you enjoyed reading this article, you may also be interested in some of our other recent posts about diving, staying, and exploring North Sulawesi:


Dive, Snorkel and Explore More with us in beautiful North Sulawesi.

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