Is Surabaya Worth Visiting? Here are 17 Interesting and Fun Things To Do

This list takes you to the 17 interesting and fun things to do in Surabaya that I discovered during my trip there. Enjoy!

The first few places that would definitely come to your mind when talking about a travel to Indonesia would be Bali, Yogyakarta, or maybe the capital city Jakarta. However, this archipelago nation has definitely more to offer, and most of them are not really known to international tourists. One of these places I am talking about, which is apparently popular to domestic tourists but not to people who travel internationally is the city of Surabaya, the second largest city of Indonesia. Now, the question: Is Surabaya worth visiting?

Aside from being a big populous city in Indonesia, Surabaya has a lot to offer to tourist in terms of culture and history, since a lot of historical events leading to the independence of the modern day sovereign Indonesia happened in Surabaya. Moreover, Surabaya is a port city, meaning it is a typically busy area like any other major city in the world. Also, Surabaya is very well know because of its blazing humidity — even more humid than Jakarta!

I had the chance to travel to Surabaya because I attended an academic conference, and I should say this city exceeded my expectations. I was able to get to know amazing people, it has so many museums, and its hustle and bustle is not as frustrating as other cities. I don’t know about you, but lately I would rather travel to places which are not frequented by tourists, like Surabaya.

ALSO READ:
SURABAYA, INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE 2020: Things To Do, Where To Stay, etc.

So without further ado, here are some spots I visited during my travel to Surabaya, Indonesia:

Arab Village

fun Things to do in Surabaya
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Arab Village. Photo by whiteboardjournal.com

Surabaya, being one of the multi-ethnic cities in Indonesia, has an Arab District which resembles a typical medina in an Arab country. It is a very busy area where a lot of commercial activities are taking place everyday.

Sanggar Agung Temple

fun Things to do in Surabaya
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Sanggar Agung Temple. Photo from sewabussurabaya.com

Also known as Hong San Tang, this Chinese temple has become a popular tourist spot in Surabaya, Indonesia. It is located in Pantai Ria Amusement Park.

House of Sampoerna

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: The beautiful lobby of House of Sampoerna
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: An exhibit at House of Sampoerna featuring Heroes Month celebration photos

It is apparently one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia which features everything about Sampoerna, the biggest cigarette brand in Indonesia. They showcase the history of the cigarette industry in the country, how the business started, and the legacies it gave to the people of Indonesia. Aside from the museum, it also has exhibit rooms which everyone could use for free. When I went there, I was able to witness a photo exhibit for the Heroes Day, which was, by the way, super awesome!

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Heroes Monument

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Statue of Soekarno and Hatta at Heroes Monument Surabaya

Heroes Monument is the national symbol of the Indonesian struggle for independence, and this monument is dedicated to those who dedicated their lives during the Battle of Surabaya on 10 November 1945. The area has a very peaceful vibe and you could really feel how people value the independence that they got from the colonizers. There is a huge statue of Soekarno and Hatta at the memorial.

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10th November Museum

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: 10th November Museum, Surabaya

Surabaya was where the Indonesian struggle for independence happened on 10 November 1945, hence the 10th November Museum. The museum was very modern and interactive, and there’s too much emotion as I was wandering around the museum. It will indeed make you feel what was happening during their struggle for independence.

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Hotel Majapahit Surabaya

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Our afternoon tea meal at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: The beautiful corridor of Hotel Majapahit Surabaya

I would not miss having a fancy afternoon tea session in this very historical hotel that was built in 1910. It is old but you can still appreciate its beauty because it’s definitely well-preserved. It has a lot of green spaces all over and everything is well-maintained. Their afternoon tea is very localized. This is where I was able to taste Lapis Surabaya for the first time. Yum!

ALSO READ:
AN AFTERNOON TEA IN HOTEL MAJAPAHIT, SURABAYA WITH AN EX-FRIEND

Mirota Batik and Handicraft Surabaya

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: The overwhelming selection of batik at Mirota Batik Shop
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Beautiful artworks at Mirota Batik Shop

I have been fascinated by the batik culture of Indonesia, but to my surprise I found out that every part of Indonesia has a different batik pattern! I was glad a friend brought me to this place because I want to buy a batik outfit (I am a Southeast Asian Studies Lecturer and I might be needing some batik outfit in formal events like conferences and such). It was hard to pick designs because I love a lot of them and batik is so beautiful! I was also able to buy souvenirs in this shop like ref magnets and wayang kulit bookmarks.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mirotabatik.sby
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mirotabatiksurabaya

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DID YOU KNOW?

You can book a SURABAYA HERITAGE TOUR to see all the sites I just enumerated?

Klook.com

Bank Indonesia Museum Surabaya

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Bank Indonesia Museum

This museum occupies the former De Javasche Bank which was the central bank of the Dutch East Indies or the Dutch colonial government in Indonesia. Aside from the history of banking and finance of Indonesia, Bank Indonesia Museum will also tell you about how the Dutch colonial government operated in Indonesia and how it managed the resources in Indonesia. They also house a lot of memorabilia from the old bank.

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Cheng Hoo Mosque

FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Cheng Hoo Mosque, Surabaya

Like any other major city, Surabaya has a significant number of Chinese settlers, and most of them have converted to Islam. As a way of preserving their Chinese roots, this mosque has incorporated both Islam and Chinese elements.

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BLOCKBUSTER MUSEUM

fun Things to do in Surabaya
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Blockbuster Museum. Photo by idntimes.com

Blockbuster Museum houses thousands of memorabiliaand figurines from popular film characters such as the Avengers, Harry Potter and Star Wars characters.

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book a BLOCKBUSTER MUSEUM TICKET through Klook?

Klook.com

MORE DAY TOURS FROM SURABAYA

The following activities are already outside Surabaya, but they could serve as interesting day tours from Surabaya. I also provided links of the tours for easier booking.

MOUNT BROMO SUNRISE AND MADAKARIPURA WATERFALL

fun Things to do in Surabaya
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Mount Bromo National Park

A mandatory side trip from Surabaya would be a sunrise trip to Mount Bromo, an active volcano located at Bromo Tengger National Park. For some reason, there were so many people when we went there for the sunrise trek, and it was difficult to enjoy the view. However, there are parts of the National Park that are worth visiting which will give you a breathtaking view.

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book a Mount Bromo Sunrise and Madakaripura Waterfall Tour through Klook?

Klook.com

We stayed at Bromo Terrace Hotel the night before we went to Mount Bromo and it was a very, very nice hotel, I swear.

You can book your stay at Bromo Terrace Hotel through Agoda.com or Booking.com

fun Things to do in Surabaya
BROMO TERRACE HOTEL

IJEN CRATER HIKING EXPERIENCE

fun Things to do in Surabaya
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Ijen Crater Hiking Experience. Photo by sarahbeekmans.com

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book your Ijen Crater Hiking Experience through Klook?

Klook.com

MADURA ISLAND

fun Things to do in Surabaya
FUN THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA: Madura Island. Photo by okezone.com

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book your Madura Private Day Tour through Klook?

Klook.com

TUMPAK SEWU WATERFALL AND RAINBOW VILLAGE

fun Things to do in Surabaya
Tumpak Sewu Waterfall. Photo by triptins.com
fun Things to do in Surabaya
Malang Rainbow Village. Photo by findingbeyond.com

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book your Tumpak Sewu Waterfall and Rainbow Village Private Tour through Klook?

Klook.com

GILI KETAPANG SNORKELING

fun Things to do in Surabaya
Gili Ketapang Snorkeling. Photo by bromoijentourism.com

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book your Gili Ketapang Private Snorkeling Tour through Klook?

Klook.com

MOJOKERTO TEMPLES AND STONE CARVING TOUR

fun Things to do in Surabaya
Reclining Buddha Statue. Photo by indonesia-tourism.com

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book your Mojokerto Temples and Stone Carving Private Day Tour through Klook?

Klook.com

TAMAN SAFARI PRIGEN

fun Things to do in Surabaya
Taman Safari Prigen. Photo by tripzilla.com

DID YOU KNOW?

You can book your Taman Safari Prigen Day Trip through Klook?

Klook.com

There you have it! I wish I could stay longer when I went to travel to Surabaya Indonesia to visit more spots there and in the nearby towns, but I could always go back next time. We will never run out of places to visit in this world, but just in case you will have a chance to detour in Surabaya, I can assure that you will never regret it. Next time I want to visit more museums, cafes, Mount Ijen, and the neighboring town of Malang. So, I’ll ask you again? Is Surabaya worth visiting?

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For more travel articles about Indonesia, click on the banner below:

Where's Sherlyn Travel and Food Blog Indonesia

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For accommodation options in Surabaya, Indonesia, check the banner below:

Photo Essay: HOUSE OF SAMPOERNA in Surabaya, Indonesia

Not gonna lie, but I’ve been telling everyone that prior to visiting Surabaya, I don’t know much about the place and the fact that most historical events in Indonesian politics actually took place here. After attending a conference at Universitas Airlangga, I had the chance to explore the city, more particularly, its museums. The first museum I was able to see is House of Sampoerna, a tobacco museum.

House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
THE LOVELY FACADE OF HOUSE OF SAMPOERNA.
House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
INDICATIONS THAT HOUSE OF SAMPOERNA WAS DESIGNED IN ACCORDANCE TO THE CHINESE FENG SHUI.
House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
MAP OF INDONESIA AT HOUSE OF SAMPOERNA.
House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
SOME ARTWORKS TO TOBACCO PLANT AT HOUSE OF SAMPOERNA.
House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
THE HOUSE OF SAMPOERNA MUSEUM EXHIBITS DIFFERENT TYPES OF TOBACCO COMING FROM VARIOUS INDONESIAN PROVINCES.
 House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
THE SITE OF THE FORMER FACTORY WHICH IS NOW AN EVENTS HALL.
House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
SEJARAH CITA RASA TINGGI. This is an Indonesian counterpart to the Philippines’ “Sari-Sari Store”. It’s funny to know that the word “tingi” is part of the sari-sari store culture of the Philippines. It means “retail”, while the Indonesian word “tinggi” means something else.
House of Sampoerna Surabaya Indonesia
SEPULUH NOPEMBER OR INDONESIAN NATIONAL HEROES’ DAY.

HOUSE OF SAMPOERNA CONTACT INFORMATION

Website: https://www.houseofsampoerna.museum/about-hos
Facebook: House of Sampoerna

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SNAPSHOTS: Asia Photo Essay #2: BERJALAN SURABAYA

For some reason, I have seriously YOLO-ed myself over traveling a lot in 2019, as if I know something will happen that will literally bar me and everyone else in this planet from traveling in 2020. I have been out and about on every school break there is (presenting researches, sneaking in quick vacations, and doing projects, among others). The freshest overseas travel memory I have is with Surabaya, Indonesia, where I went to attend and academic event, visit museums, take advantage of my layover in Jakarta, and get to know the a side of Indonesia I, if I’m being honest, actually almost never knew existed.

Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia located in East Java. Unheard of by so many people, Surabaya does not even consider itself a tourist destination, unlike Bali or Yogyakarta. I seriously don’t know why some cities could steal my heart just like that. Surabaya is definitely not the best city I have visited, that’s for sure, but there’s some kind of magic it projects that made me fall in love. For one, it’s a more relaxed version of Jakarta (which could be as crazy as Manila, my home city). And more importantly, it being a less popular tourist destination means that, chances are, it has other awesome things to offer.

BTW, SOME TRIVIA!

In case I will forget to mention sometime later in this post…

“Berjalan” is an Indonesian word which means “to walk”, and I used the term to signify that this photo essay is a result of my photowalk around the streets of Surabaya.

Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
SELAMAT PAGI, SURABAYA! It’s a bright and beautiful day to explore the city! During the course of the academic event I attended in Universitas Airlangga, I was housed at Novotel Samator East Surabaya Hotel (which is a super duper awesome hotel!) but it is located in another neighborhood. Since I am exploring museums and doing some food trip, I transferred to another hotel close to my destinations: Swiss Belinn Tunjungan. This was my lovely view. At nighttime, some kind of a light traffic is evident, but I would trade the crazy Manila traffic for this. I just love staring at the vehicles and the lights from buildings turning off one by one slowly as the night goes deeper. Man, I just love staring at hotel windows with views! But I came here to explore the city, so I’m going out!
Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
JALAN ELANG. The surroundings of Surabaya reminded me so much of my hometown (Batangas, Philippines). Life is so simple, and the city life in urban areas like Tanauan, Lipa, and Batangas City are so chill and they don’t try so hard to become like Manila. And I like it that way. There’s just so much provincial vibes here. This man sitting by the street next to some mechanical equipment is also common in the Philippines.
Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
MERDEKA. Prior to my visit to Surabaya, I only have a superficial academic knowledge about its history, and it has come to my attention later that a lot of historical events happened here. The nerd in me Googled like crazy and made sure I will not miss out all the important historical sites. My journey led me to visit the Museum Sepuluh Nopember next to Kota Balai (where the super cool City Mayor hosted a welcome dinner for us during the event a few days ago). Unlike the Philippines, Indonesia had a bloody struggle for independence against the Dutch, so imagine the nationalism they have until today.
Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
BECAK. The different modes of local transportation in the places I visit always fascinate me. In the Philippines alone, you will find a lot of varieties of bicycle/sidecar/pedicab rides which reflects the resourcefulness of the Filipinos. In Surabaya (and in Indonesia as a whole), I admire their Bluebird taxi system, and other modes to get from point A to point B, such as becak or the bicycle rickshaw.
Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
SURO DAN BOYO. I had to stop and take a photo of this embossed Surabaya Coat of Arms in a bench at Tugu Pahlawan because it reminded me of the manhole covers in Yokohama, Japan. I want to have memories of the identity of the places I visited. Suro (shark) and boyo (crocodile) were the two words of origin of the name of the city of Surabaya.
Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
ANOTHER BECAK. Oooh, so that’s what it looks like if it’s occupied by a passenger. Amazing! I don’t know about you, but my heart really jumps whenever I am being mindful about setting foot in another land and just looking around the streets and try to feel how far from your home city the place will make you feel.
Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
PROUD AND LOUD. Seriously, my visit to Surabaya has made me want more of Indonesian History. Indonesian food is one thing I will always love about this country, but its history is something else. I was very excited to learn more and share a lot of things about it to my students. This is how academic nerds roll, if you know what I mean.
Surabaya Street Photography Indonesia
OH, HELLO THERE, CUTE ONE. This girl right here has a super soft spot for cats and will always stop to take photos or admire them as they walk around ignoring all them hoomans. Cats are a very important part of the streets. They bring life to streets. Don’t debate me on this. My day lights up everytime I see cats. Thank you, Surabaya, for letting me see some cats in your streets. Your blazing humidity is something untolerable, btw.

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AFTERNOON TEA AT HOTEL MAJAPAHIT SURABAYA With An Ex-Friend

In this write-up, I will introduce you to an ‘ex-friend’, and for censorship’s sake, let’s name him Alex (not his real name, of course). I was binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy before writing this, and the character of Alex Karev was on top of my mind. Anyway, what really happened to the afternoon tea at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya?

Afternoon tea at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya
AFTERNOON TEA AT HOTEL MAJAPAHIT SURABAYA

“Alex, what’s Lapis Surabaya?” I asked, as I was browsing through the afternoon tea menu of Hotel Majapahit in Surabaya, Indonesia.

Alex has been one of my greatest career friends. Like me, he is also a young Professor from his country of origin. One day, he gave me an extended invitation to join an academic summit that was held in several parts of East Java.

The whole conference was fun in some aspects. I was able to meet an amazing group of esteemed academics in their own respective disciplines who, I could say, are also humans. It was weird meeting a set of Professors whom I got to know their human side first then their professional side. But that does not diminish the respect they deserve from me, of course.

However, I could say that the whole academic summit was a failure logistically. We experienced a lot of inconveniences along the way. Schedules and timetables are one, then the activities keep changing along the way, and in the end, if you were to go back to what happened, I will not even get the point of everything we did. But hey, it’s just me. I also criticize a lot of things I don’t believe much in. Including my government. Including other people. All people, rather. Trust issues. *black heart emoji*

But I am glad Alex and I, being the youngest ones among the whole delegation, have each other going through all those academic summit troubles together.

“It’s like a layered cake and it’s delicious. You should get that set. There’s also a shop at Juanda Airport selling some good lapis. We could get some before our flight back.”

I did not hesitate to order the set with Lapis Surabaya. After all, what’s the point of having the chance to travel to Surabaya without trying some local food? This is what Alex had promised me. Since he has part of his ethnic roots in Surabaya, he frequently travels there to see his relatives. He promised to take me to museums and tourist spots around the city and take me to his favorite restaurants in order to have a taste of some local food.

Before the academic summit in Surabaya, Alex and I were very good friends. Even if we don’t see each other, we would communicate through WhatsApp. He has been very nice to me. I was able to express my real self and I never felt a single instance when he judged me. He was there when I went through a rough breakup with my ex, and all the times when this teaching career gets to my nerves, he has always been there to calm me down.

He seemed to be a very friendly person. I honestly don’t know much about other aspects of his life until we had the chance to talk a lot during and after the conference, but he just naturally projects a very amiable and like-able aura. I want to hate the fact that just everyone from the academic summit likes him, and he just lights up every room he’s present. Can I also be like that? How to be you, Alex?

An afternoon tea experience in Surabaya is one for the books for me. First, it’s because Hotel Majapahit Surabaya and the whole of Surabaya City played an important role in the independence of Indonesia against the Dutch colonizers. If you are a history buff visiting Indonesia, then Surabaya should be the first place on your list.

Second, I had a very meaningful conversation with Alex during that time — we’ve been talking a lot since before the academic summit started, and yet we haven’t ran out of things to talk about. We talked about our own hobbies, our pets, the situation of the local politics of our own respective countries, on whether should I sell my GoPro to buy a dji gimbal, and a lot more.

Most importantly, we had a lot of funny memories from the academic summit which whenever one of us brings it up, we would laugh really hard. Those memories have become our inside jokes.

I would always go for a jasmine tea, and since the afternoon tea menu of Hotel Majapahit did not indicate the tea choices (which is pretty normal), I just opted for my usual jasmine tea. The hotel staff informed me that their jasmine tea is loose leaf, but I did not expect that they will serve the tea with the loose leaves swimming in my drink, unsifted. I had to use my mouth to filter the tea to avoid eating those damn dried tea leaves. But it was a nice tea. Tastes expensive.

Hotel Majapahit was built in 1910, and the hotel management was able to preserve its natural beauty. The lobby is very vintage and rustic, but it does not give the usual creepy antique vibe. It was small, but when we tried going around the hotel, it was beautiful. Walls are painted in clean white, and baby blue outlines are present in some details. We took some photos around. Alex was one of the people in my life I’m afraid of being judged by. But he knew from the start I’m a hardcore travel Instagrammer, and he even took me to places where I could snap photos to add to my Instagram feed.

Afternoon tea at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya
A mandatory Instagram shot at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya

After the Hotel Majapahit afternoon tea, we will fly back to our respective countries the next day. Us parting ways in Jakarta Airport also signified the end of our friendship.

We have a 5AM flight to Jakarta and we arrived at a very quiet Juanda Airport. There were a few people, but we were talking as if we weren’t talking for almost a week straight, and would laugh hard to our inside jokes which could echo in the airport’s departure area. We shopped for some Lapis Surabaya, as promised, and waited for our flight at the Garuda Indonesia lounge.

Sherlyn, The Ultimate Travel ‘Crybaby’

Like any other touching and memorable moment in my life, I don’t want it to end, yet. There were a lot of times I would find myself crying on my way home from a travel.

I was crying on the bus on my way home from my solo travel to Dingalan, Aurora. I was crying at Mactan Cebu Airport before my flight back to Manila and wished the flight will be even more delayed, even if it was already delayed for 4 hours already. I would always cry in front of the immigration officer before I take my flight from Brunei to Manila. I cried my eyes off when I sat next to an old Japanese man on my flight from Vientiane to Bangkok.

Yes, I will always be a travel crybaby. I’ve always never wanted to go home and go back to my normal routines. I always want to be elsewhere. But the sadness I felt with parting ways with Alex was not wanting to leave Indonesia just yet.

Parting ways with Alex was like exposing a sad, fucked up aspect of my life. For a week, I had someone I was able to talk to constantly, someone I could laugh myself to death with, someone I could cry on and express all my frustrations with life and the world, someone who saved my ass when my whole year was falling apart.

But aren’t you already long distance friends before the academic summit? Yes, but we’re just gonna go back to chatting over WhatsApp, opening messages and only replying at our own comfortable times, and whenever we would need each other, we could create the most valid excuse not to be there, because we’re far from each other, and simply because we can.

But I realized I don’t want that kind of friendship. Not with Alex, not with anybody else. I have always been that person who will not rely on technology for affection and validation and anything any human might ask for. More importantly, another realization has hit me: That I will never be good at long distance relationships, not because of my trust issues, but because my love language is not for a long distance setup.

This is why I was never good at replying. To be honest, if you will have the chance to check my SMS and social media messaging apps, you would see tons of unread and unreplied messages. I mean, come on, people. If you want to vent about your boy issues and dating failures, let’s meet for a pizza and tell me everything. If you want to pitch a collaboration with me, discuss it to me face to face over a cup of coffee. I’m not gonna do it over text in the middle of the night.

This was why, after the Surabaya trip, I want to get rid of Alex. Based on the turn of our conversations and the foreseeable aspects of future, we might not be meeting again. So, what’s the point of remaining friends? Worse, what if through the course of time, it went up to the next level? How am I supposed to handle it? This is why I asked a friend to meet me in Jakarta and I vented all my issues with Alex to her. Being the strong woman as she is, she told me I could do it easily.

But it wasn’t easy losing a kind of people like Alex, of course. But for a better quality of life’s sake, I have to lose him.

He would sometimes ask me why I wasn’t responding to his messages. And one day, I just said everything. Like everything. Unsurprisingly, he was shocked and he had no idea that I’ve been feeling that way, at all (why do men just don’t get hints? I mean, why?). He sent me a looooong reply, which I never read, until now. It’s still sitting on my inbox, but I’ve never read a single word.

When you travel a lot, you will develop a “people come and go” mentality

You see, everyone have their own versions of trust issues. In my case, it comes from how I highly value myself, that’s why I cherry-pick people I will allow to be part of my life. But more importantly, traveling (specifically staying in hostels) has taught me to keep in mind that people come and go so don’t get emotionally attached to anyone.

You will be having the best conversation of your life with your dormmates at a hostel, and next thing you know when you wake up, you already have a different set of roommates. The same principle applies to life. It’s not that confusing to equate them.

Don’t get attached to any place either. No single place on this earth will love you back. *insert black heart emoji again*

You see, Alex was not the only amazing person I lost along the way. I don’t know about you, but whatever extraordinary shit technology has promised the human race, it’s still never gonna be the same with anything organic.

I was born in a year when the World Wide Web was already invented, so don’t get me wrong when I say I miss the old times when you will never know what will you bee seeing upon stepping into a new place, and who you will bee meeting along the way. And when I became a “travel influencer” (in the eyes of my Mom haha), social media and technology has been ruining all the experience and thrill for me.

During the afternoon tea in Hotel Majapahit Surabaya with Alex, we were talking about technology, cameras, and photography (stuff we both love), and it was technology which made our friendship possible. But I’m not a fan of technology. In fact, I’ve always want to go back to traveling the old-fashioned way. And I’ve been struggling to know whether such thing is possible in the age of Instagram, but let’s see.

Afternoon Tea at Hotel majapahit Surabaya
What an afternoon tea at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya would look like in a dino world

And oh, I’m sorry to disappoint you. This is NOT a love story.

AFTERNOON TEA IN HOTEL MAJAPAHIT SURABAYA with an Ex-Friend: Your thoughts?

I see you reached this far. After all, what’s travel without some drama, anyway?

SURABAYA, INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE 2020 | Things To Do, Where To Stay, and more!

Are you traveling to Surabaya soon? Then check this article out as I share my SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE BLOG with a sample itinerary, hotel and hostel recommendations, things to do, and other useful tips coming from my very own previous Surabaya travel experience! This article contains affiliate links which are legit and you are welcome to use, with no additional cost on your part.

To be honest, visiting Surabaya, Indonesia is something I never really planned for. In fact, it is not even on my top list of places to go in Indonesia. Some friends who have been there are telling me there is really almost nothing to see there. In fact, I only hear about Surabaya as a city no different than Jakarta (read: traffic jam), and only as a popular transit destinations to different cities in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

However, having heard of so many stories of how Surabaya played a key role in the independence of Southeast Asia from the Dutch, it became a primary place of interest to me as an International Relations Professor and a history enthusiast. To relate to this context, I suggest you watch the movie Soekarno on Netflix. I placed the trailer below for your reference.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to visit Surabaya for a couple of days for the World Universities Association for Community Development (WUACD) Summit hosted by Universitas Airlangga. More especially, I had the honor and privilege to meet the internationally-renowned Mayor of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini (I will write about my story of meeting her on a separate blog post).

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6DTC7inxaS/

But before anything else, here are other travel articles about Indonesia I have written that you might also be interested in:

TELL ME MORE ABOUT SURABAYA, SHERLYN!

Surabaya is the capital city of East Java, Indonesia (Jawa Timur) which is the least populated province in the island of Java. Surabaya is also considered as the second largest city in Indonesia, but it is not really close to Jakarta in terms of numbers, with only around 2 million people living here. Apparently, Surabaya used to be a place where one would see a lot of remnants from the Dutch colonial era, but it eventually became just like any other city in Southeast Asia, given the presence of adjacent big malls, traffic jams, and the like.

Other Important Information About Surabaya

  • TIMEZONE: GMT+7 (Western Indonesian Time) Surabaya is one hour behind the Philippines
  • LANGUAGE: Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia). You will rarely see signs with English translation, and English is not a primary language in Indonesia, hence bring with you some common Indonesian phrases to communicate with restaurant/hotel staff, taxi drivers, and other people you will encounter. It also helps to have translating apps handy.
  • CURRENCY: Indonesian Rupiah

USEFUL LONELY PLANET GUIDE ABOUT INDONESIAN LANGUAGE (BAHASA INDONESIA)

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LONELY PLANET INDONESIAN PHRASEBOOK AND DICTIONARY
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WHERE TO STAY IN SURABAYA

Top Hotels in Surabaya

HOTEL MAJAPAHIT SURABAYA

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Hotel Majapahit Surabaya

Hotel Majapahit boasts a lot of contribution to the history of Indonesian Independence, hence it must be on everyone’s Surabaya travel bucket list. Their afternoon tea set is also unique and localized, for instance they included the famous lapis Surabaya.

Click on the agoda button below to check availability and rates at Hotel Majapahit Surabaya:

surabaya indonesia travel guide

Other Hotels in Surabaya

Or you can check these other hotels in Surabaya (click to check availability and rates):

Top Hostels in Surabaya

Budget travelers would mostly opt to stay in hostels. Don’t worry, Surabaya has a lot of cool and hipster hostels to choose from!

MY STUDIO HOTEL CITY CENTER

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE : My Studio Hotel City Center
surabaya indonesia travel guide

Other Hostels in Surabaya

Or you can check these other hostels in Surabaya (click to check availability and rates):

WI-FI ACCESS IN SURABAYA

While in other countries I could survive without a tourist/local SIM card, I chose to but a tourist SIM card in Indonesia since I will be moving around a lot, and wi-fi is not accessible everywhere (just like Manila).

I bought a simPATI Tourist SIM when I arrived at Jakarta Airport for 100,000 Rupiah. It has 10GB data and 300 minutes local and international calls valid for 14 days. The data connection was pretty good, especially when I went to Mount Bromo and other nearby provinces.

HOW TO GET TO SURABAYA

Via Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta is the most popular transit destination going to Surabaya. Garuda Indonesia operate several flights on this route the whole day. I took my flight from Jakarta to Surabaya via Garuda Indonesia and it was indeed a 5-star airline!

Via Bali, Indonesia

Several flights operate from Bali to Surabaya, including flights by budget airlines, such as AirAsia Indonesia, Lion, Citilink, Indonesia, Batik Air, and Nam Air, among others.

Via Singapore

Airlines such as Scoot, Garuda Indonesia, and Jetstar have Singapore-Surabaya (vice versa) direct flights.

Via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

AirAsia Indonesia directly flies from Kuala Lumpur to Surabaya and back.

GETTING AROUND SURABAYA

Getting around Surabaya is a little hard using public transportation, hence you can choose either to hail taxi (Bluebird) or download and use your Grab app. Bluebird taxis are reliable and they are not gonna scam you (unlike in other cities like Manila). They have a huge screen inside that serves as a meter, containing the identity and photo of the driver, kilometers elapsed, and the rate. Taxi fares in Indonesia are relatively cheap compared to other Southeast Asian cities.

THINGS TO DO IN SURABAYA

Don’t believe anyone who would say that there is nothing to see or do in Surabaya! In fact, listed below are just few of the many things you could do in this quaint nice city:

House of Sampoerna

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: House of Sampoerna

Bank Indonesia Museum Surabaya

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Bank Indonesia Museum Surabaya

Heroes Monument

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Heroes Monument

10th November Museum

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: 10th November Museum

Cheng Hoo Mosque

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Cheng Hoo Mosque

Other Places to Visit in Surabaya

  • Mesjid Ampel
  • Pasar Pabean
  • Kong Co Kong Tik Cun Ong Temple
  • Jembatan Merah
  • Gedung PTP XXII
  • Masjid Al Akbar
  • Monumen Kapal Seram

ALSO READ:
8 SPOTS TO VISIT IN SURABAYA, INDONESIA

WHERE TO SHOP IN SURABAYA

Mirota Batik and Handicraft Surabaya

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Mirota Batik and Handicraft Surabaya

Mirota Batik and Handicraft Surabaya is a huge place that sells batik clothing (I was able to buy two beautiful batik dresses there!) and souvenir items, such as wayang kulit puppets, fridge magnets, and the like.

Here are Mirota Batik’s social media accounts:
Facebook:Β https://www.facebook.com/mirotabatik.sby
Instagram:Β https://www.instagram.com/mirotabatiksurabaya

Periplus

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6NVq_5HZsF/

Periplus is a popular Indonesian bookstore which sells a lot of English books. They mostly have them at airports. If you missed shopping at Periplus in Surabaya Airport, you can consider shopping at Jakarta Airport instead (of course, only if you are transiting via Jakarta).

WHERE TO EAT IN SURABAYA

Surabaya is a very vibrant and it’s becoming diverse, hence the presence of many Western and International restaurants in the city. But if you are traveling to Surabaya, chances are, you would want to check out Indonesian restaurants, right? So here are my recommendations:

  • House of Sampoerna Cafe (Jalan Taman Sampoerna)
  • Soto Ambengan Pak Sadi Asli (Jalan Ambengan 3A)

NIGHTLIFE IN SURABAYA

Indonesia is the largest Islamic country in the world, and Surabaya is predominantly Muslim (but there are a significant number of Chinese settlers and expats in the city), hence nightlife is not really that popular here. But you can check these establishments if you are looking for a place to have some drink after the day:

  • Java Lounge (Jalan Sumatra 40)
  • Colors (Jalan Sumatra 81)

FIRST-HAND TIPS (AND STORIES) FROM SHERLYN!

  • As a common Islamic tradition, shaking hands might not be a common gesture among Muslim Indonesians, so don’t get offended if someone did not shake your hand or did not return your handshake. In business settings, on the other hand, it is practiced, but Indonesian women shake hands on a very soft manner (not the typical grip type).
  • It is very humid in Surabaya, but please don’t make it a reason to dress provocatively. Remember, you are in the largest Islamic country in the world. Let’s pay some respect.
  • If you are taking an early morning flight at Juanda International Airport, some shops are closed until around 5AM, so make sure you have some packed food in case you get hungry.
  • Please bring some common Indonesian worlds, since some taxi drivers and restaurant staff get intimidated when spoken to in English (you will sometimes get blank stares or you will be passed on to someone else). Otherwise, showing translated English words in Google translate on your smartphones will work.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SURABAYA

Do Filipinos need a visa to go to Surabaya?

No. Because Filipinos with valid Philippine Passport can enter any ASEAN member states, including Indonesia, without a visa.

The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed anΒ ASEAN Framework Agreement on Visa ExemptionΒ in order to achieve a lasting friendship and cooperation among ASEAN countries, hence as ASEAN Citizens, we Filipinos can travel around ASEAN region without a visa.

ALSO READ:
VISA-FREE SOUTHEAST ASIAN COUNTRIES FOR PHILIPPINE PASSPORT HOLDERS

When is the best time to visit Surabaya?

To be honest, Surabaya is a very humid city (it is in fact even more humid than Jakarta or Manila), but the best time to go to Surabaya would be the dry season (May-September) because this is the time when Surabaya has minimum rainfall. Wet season (October-April) is when Surabaya is usually experiencing heavy rainfalls, making it hard to go around.

How many days should you explore Surabaya?

Based on my experience traveling around Surabaya, contrary to my friends’ opinions that there is almost nothing to see in Surabaya, I must say you shouldn’t treat Surabaya as a mere layover destination but give it a chance by exploring it for 2-3 days. To begin with, a lot of events in Indonesian history happened in Surabaya, hence it is nice to visit museums and historical sites there. On other days, you can either do street photography, have a food trip, or go shopping.

Surabaya Travel Plug Adapter

Indonesia uses Types C and F travel plug adapters, so make sure you are prepared to have these, because not all hotels in Surabaya have universal travel plug adapters.

SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Travel Plug Adapter Indonesia
SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Travel Plug Adapter Indonesia

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SURABAYA INDONESIA TRAVEL GUIDE: Your recommendations are welcome! πŸ™‚

There you have it! I hope this Surabaya Indonesia travel guide was able to help you with your upcoming trip to Surabaya. If ever you want to ask more questions, please just slide a DM on my Instagram account (https://instagram.com/wheressherlyn). Also, if ever you think more important details need to be included in this post, so let me know! In the meantime, happy travels to Surabaya and please tell me about your experiences there!

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