Indonesia is a vast archipelago of over 17,500 islands which should be at the top of every travelers list of places to visit. Good food, some of the nicest people on the planet, and landscapes that feel prehistoric. For Digital Nomads, the island of Bali has been a long time destination with the cities of Ubud and Canggu regularly sitting atop the rankings of the popular Nomad List. Besides Jakarta, which seems better suited for expats than digital nomads and often gets a bad rap due to it’s endlessly sprawling urban jungle and insane traffic, the rest of Indonesia is often overlooked by remote workers.
Yogyakarta checks all the boxes when it comes to a digital nomad destination. It had a vibe like Chiang Mai used to have before it become the mecca of remote workers in Southeast Asia. While the digital nomad scene is still in it’s infancy, I believe this place will be a hotspot for remote workers in the coming years.
I was able to spend some time in Yogyakarta during an overland journey across the island of Java. Like most remote workers, my plan was to head to Bali to do the digital nomad thing for a few weeks, but I wanted to have a better understanding of the country beforehand so I decided to fly into Jakarta and take trains, buses, and a ferry across Java on my way to get to Bali. I can’t recommend this journey enough and while it’s become somewhat of a tourist trail it’s worth the trip.
Yogyakarta for Digital Nomads
I’m not knocking Simon’s NomadList in any way shape or form. What he’s done is fantastic and I love the resource that he’s created for us to help make decisions where we want to go. That being said, when I considered the idea of doing the digital nomad thing in Yogyakarta, this website discouraged me a bit. Here’s the scores for Yogyakarta:
At the time, Yogyakarta was not even listed in the top 10 destinations within Indonesia and not only was the Internet ranking poor, but the fun rating was also not great. My experience in Yogya was much different than I had expected and I was very pleased with my time in this special region of Java. I ended staying longer than planned and here’s my breakdown of what it’s like to live and work remotely from there.
Internet in Yogyakarta
Before I go into the Internet in Yogya, I recommend this to everyone:
Unlock your phone for international use and get a local SIM card for Indonesia. There is 4G and 3G literally everywhere in this country and it’s a crucial backup for when WIFI speeds are slow or nonexistant.
For obvious reasons, when considering Southeast Asia for a digital nomad destination, the quality of Internet is at the top of every remote workers list. Overall WIFI in Yogya is very easy to find. Any restaurant, bar, or coffeeshop that has an English menu and somewhat caters to tourists has WIFI. Also, most guesthouses within the city offer WIFI. While speed varies from place to place, in general I had no problem doing everything from working on websites, emails, Google chatting with my team, and even Skyping with clients overseas. The only frustrating thing I found was the Internet tended to slow down in the evenings. Even at the remote working cafe I spent a lot of my time, the evenings were just not a good time to work. I had a local SIM card so I would just switch to 4G if I needed to work evenings, but in general the Internet should not inhibit you from spending time in Yogyakarta.
Places to Work and Stay in Yogyakarta
I wish I could create a guide with all the good places to work in Yogya, but honestly I worked almost everyday in the same cafe. This was from the Move On Cafe on the Jl. Prawirotaman strip. As long as I came here before 6pm I never really had an issue with the Internet. Brief disconnects here and there, but in general I got a lot of work done at this place. They have excellent coffee, decent local and international food, and a very hipster environment. The Jl. Prawirotaman strip is a little touristy street filled with bars, coffeeshops and restaurants. Almost every place has WIFI and when I wanted to work with a beer in hand rather than a coffee, bars like Spark were a great place to do that. I also, really enjoyed this little strip in general. Instead of places like Ubud where the whole city is just a tourist trap down every street, this was a little tourist island surrounded by more raw, authentic Indonesia with street food, motorbikes going down the sidewalk, horse carts and tuk tuks. It’s a good area to stay as you have a balance of tourist amenities and local culture.
Homestays are more popular than AirBnB and a private room with a bathroom will cost you around $15-20 per night depending on the area you are staying if you don’t really plan things ahead and just book right before you arrive. For the better or worse it seems that booking.com is the easiest website to use to find a place, every homestay, hotel, and hostel uses that as their primary listing website (AirBnB’s were way overpriced and limited). I’m sure you could find much cheaper for a whole month too, as I didn’t plan on staying for awhile I bounced around homestays a bit. In general, the city is very cheap a motorbike will cost you around $5 per day, for local food $2-5 will get you a good meal, and beers are around $2-3.
Things to do in Yogyakarta
I could wax lyrical about Yogyakarta and it’s surroundings for quite some time, but my advice is just to rent a motorbike and explore. The Borobudur and Prambanan temples are the main reason why people visit the city and while they are big tourist spots for foreigners and Indonesians, they are worth the price and effort to check out. What’s great about Yogyakarta is the variety of things to do around the city. From high mountains with pine tree forests, to waterfalls and swimming holes, to a raw and powerful coastline, depending on which direction you go you could find something completely different. It’s not the kind of place where Tripadvisor or Google are even that helpful as there are so many different things you could do. Be prepared to have locals wanting to take their photo with you wherever you go whether it’s the temples or lesser known destinations outside the city. People are incredibly nice in and around Yogya it’s one of my favorite aspects of the area.
Here’s a few things to do:
- Take a motorbike the back way to Borobudur, don’t take the highway, the scenery is gorgeous
- Watch a sunset from Becici Peak and bring or rent a hammock
- Try Javanese Sitting Archery outside the Prambanan Temple
- Head down to Parangtritis Beach. Park on the beach and walk towards the cliffs and up to Queen of the South Resort. Have a beer in the infinity pool looking over the beach and watch the sunset. If you come up from the beach they don’t charge you anything to hangout there
- Eat Gado-Gado for lunch
If you have questions about being a digital nomad in Yogyakarta feel free to inquire below.