Speak Like a Local: 20 Indonesian Phrases You Need to Know

Bahasa Indonesia is the national language of the Republic of Indonesia. It is a standardized variety of Malay, and it unites all the people of Indonesia. Most Indonesians, aside from speaking the national language, are fluent in at least one out of more than 700 indigenous local languages. That is why it is really important to learn some simple Indonesian phrases if you’re planning to reside here.

Most Indonesian who lives in a big city such as Jakarta, Bandung, Medan, Bali, and Surabaya may speak English. On the other hand, many Indonesians are keen on learning and using the English language. Besides, they are also generally proud nationalists. Indonesian really appreciates foreigners for respecting the local language. 

Plus, if you could speak Bahasa, you will have a lot of advantages – and potentially better/ lower prices at the local market. So, here are some essential Indonesian phrases you need to know!


indonesian phrases greetings

Selamat pagi– “Good morning”

Whether you’re entering your office, meeting someone, or standing next to a stranger while waiting for your MRT to arrive, this phrase will always come in handy. It’s not a bad idea to start a conversation with someone, right? Indonesians are known for their kindness and warm hospitality.

Terima kasih– “Thank you”

And of course, don’t forget to thank the waiter, the taxi driver– or anyone else who deserves it, for that matter. Indonesians are big on gratitude, don’t forget to say ‘terima kasih with a smile, and you will get a smile in return.

Read also: Social Etiquette in Indonesia

Permisi– “Excuse me”

You can say this word to get someone’s attention, whether they’re a waiter in a restaurant or a stranger on the street. Permisi also works when you get in someone’s way in a crowded tourist destination or if you’re trying to exit a crowded bus.

Apa Kabar?– “How are you?”

As your introduction or starting line to get to know people, start asking how they are doing/feeling at the moment.

Siapa nama kamu?– “What is your name?” 

As part of the introduction stage or when getting to know someone’s name is a common way in Indonesia. 

Sama- sama– “You’re welcome”

If people thank you and say ‘terima kasih’, tell them ‘sama-sama’ in return.

Sampai jumpa– “Good bye”

Whenever you or someone else is leaving a place or after letting them know that you’re heading home, you can bid farewell by saying this phrase, even though ‘sampai jumpa’ literally means “see you later”, this word sounds more friendly. It’s also common to use the more informal expression by saying ‘dada’ which means bye-bye


Indonesia phrases directions

Di mana?– “Where?”

Even if you’re already using the GPS to help you navigate through the city, mostly Indonesian’s city is a mosaic of broad, tree-lined streets and one can still find thousands of tiny lanes or known as ‘gang’ crisscrossing the neighborhoods where the people live.

Just get a stranger’s attention (remember, what phrase would you use to do this?) and ask ‘permisi, di mana toilet?‘ – “where is the bathroom?” They’d be happy to answer your question.

Belok kiri, Belok Kanan– “Turn left, turn right”

Consider yourself lucky if you find a local who’s very familiar with the place you’re heading to, keep your ears pricked for either phrase. This also helps you to communicate with drivers.

Pelan- pelan– “Slow-down”

This Indonesian phrase is particularly handy if your taxi driver is pushing the speed limit and you would like them to slow down. This phrase also can be used if the locals speak too fast and you don’t understand anything.

Lurus terus– “Go straight”

If you hear this phrase, you don’t need to turn left or right, you just need to keep your eyes and feet along the current path.



Berapa?– “How much?”

Some Filipinos take advantage of foreigners by selling them items or services at a higher rate, so make sure to ask the price before agreeing to purchase anything. And don’t forget to double-check the change before you leave.

Murah, mahal– “Cheap, Expensive”

Just say mahal to tell your sellers that something is too expensive. If you’re at the traditional market, you always have the chance to make a bargain.

Boleh kurang?– “Can you lower the price?”

It is very common to bargain in Indonesia, bargaining is a way of life here. So, just say ‘boleh kurang?’ and the seller probably will answer either it’s yes/ no.

At The Restaurant

at the restaurant

Jangan pedas– “Don’t make it spicy”

Indonesians love spicy food. A lot. Indonesian have a higher tolerance for spicy food. So, if the waitress tells you that the food is not that spicy or just a little bit, probably you can’t handle the heat. To reduce your chances of having your mouth and belly burning, learn these simple Indonesian phrases.

Saya tidak bisa makan..– “I can’t eat..”

This doesn’t apply to everybody, but for those to whom it does, it’s very important to inform the waiter about your dietary restrictions. Here are some common words:

Peanuts: Kacang

Dairy products: Produk susu

Meats: Daging

Eggs: Telur

Onion: Bawang

Enak- “Delicious”

To let them know how satisfied you are with the dish and how much you appreciate the chef, simply say ‘enak’, and you will be sure to receive a smile in return.

Air– “Water”

If you can’t stand the heat and need some water, ask for ‘air’ and you can have it cold (dingin) or hot (panas).

Common Words

Maaf– “Sorry”

If you’re in a crowded train station, be careful you don’t bump into anyone. But if a collision does occur, it’s fine. Just say ‘maaf’ and all will be forgiven. ‘Maaf’ is also how you’d ask someone to repeat themselves if you didn’t hear or understand what they said.

Tidak apa- apa/ “No problem”

This is the answer you probably get if you say ‘maaf’ in Indonesia. Indonesians are more likely to avoid any conflict, so they will say ‘tidak apa-apa’ instead of starting a fight.

Those are essential Indonesian phrases you need to know for interacting with local people. Don’t worry! Small mistakes won’t matter and Indonesian people really appreciate your effort. Are you ready to try it?

Interested in learning Bahasa Indonesia? Click here for more information about Indonesian Language Courses in Jakarta.

Learning Bahasa Indonesia is fun, especially doing it while living in cozy apartments in Jakarta, the best city in the country! Flokq offers a new living experience with the concept of co-living, definitely worth the try!

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