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Culture seekers on a budget in Yogyakarta

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A Sultan’s palace, picture-perfect temples and a thriving cafe culture, Yogyakarta has it all. Located on the Indonesian Island of Java, it may be just a two and a half hour flight from Singapore, but the ancient city of Yogyakarta feels a million miles away.

Yogya means suitable, fit, proper and karta means prosperous, flourishing – in other words a city that is fit to prosper. Yogyakarta is pronounced Jogjakarta and called Yogya, Jogja, for short.

Read on as the Travel Team from Budget Direct Insurance explores cheap things to do in Yogyakarta for culture vultures.

Easy guide to Yogyakarta

1. Temple culture

Borobudur temple of course is a must-see - a UNESCO Heritage Site and considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and best seen at sunrise. Sit and contemplate the view of Yogyakarta and Merapi, the mysterious volcanic mountain, or take in the detail of the beautiful carvings on the walls of the temple.

Many tourists head here for sunrise and it can get busy. If you miss the best shot of the sun peaking over the horizon, don’t worry. Stick around until after the crowds have moved on. Many say the most beautiful light is around 45 minutes after sunrise, when the massive structure is bathed in a beautiful golden light and the morning mist has settled over the forest.

Getting there You can take a public bus, although these are very crowded and can take around 2 hours. But it’s by far the cheaper option. Otherwise you can treat yourself to a private car and driver costing around US$30-35 for the day. Split between a few of you, this is not too expensive..

Prambanan Temple is a Hindu temple also known as the Rara Jonggrang temple and is dedicated to the God, Shiva Mahadeva. It has a 47-metre high central structure inside a large complex of smaller temples. Although partly destroyed by an earthquake in 2006, the main temples are still standing. Don’t miss the Buddhist Temple Sewu which is situated in the same complex

Entrance fees for both temples have recently gone up. It’s around US $25 per temple, US $40 for both. This is certainly not cheap but it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you don’t want to miss if possible. Prices may vary for sunrise/sunset. Discounts with student cards.

2. Coffee culture 

Stop by at the hip Sellie Coffee, just in front of the Adhisthana Hotel. Good cheap coffee, popular with locals too.

3. Royal culture

Yogyakarta is a Sultanate, although the Sultan doesn’t wield as much power as he used to. Take a couple of hours to check out his palace or Kraton, where he allows tourists to wander around in the mornings. There’s also a daily cultural performance. Entrance fee is around US$1. 

4. Street culture 

The cheapest place to shop is along the streets of Malioboro. Bags, shirts, souvenirs, batik boutiques and street food abound. Later, the place turns into a massive night market.

The best way to explore the streets is by foot as it can get very congested, especially at night. This is a safe area, unless you’re trying to cross the road! Watch out for fake and replica goods.

Lots of prices are fixed and don’t vary much between stalls. Look out for heritage buildings in this area that were constructed in the Dutch era. There are also some quirky malls and trade centres in this area, like Malioboro Mall.

Getting and staying there 

Hotels in Yogyakarta are very reasonable. We found rooms at the Jambuluwuk Malioboro for around S$50 per night per room. It’s rated 29 out of 211 on Tripadvisor and is very near the main street in Jogya. Search around for deals and take note of what people say about a hotel before you book.

Transport Flights are reasonable too, starting at around S$200-250 return with AirAsia, SilkAir and Singapore Airlines. Flight time is 2.5 hours and the airport is only 6km from the centre of the city. The airport is efficient and user-friendly, making Yogyakarta a perfect weekend getaway.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, remember it’s vital to have good travel cover.
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