One of Indonesia’s largest and most important seaports, Surabaya serves as a gateway to tourist spots like the magnificent Mt Bromo. 

Surabaya has long been one of Indonesia’s largest and most important seaports, and is known as a city of heroes because of the momentous first battle of the revolution against colonial rulers in November 1945. Although the local rebels were driven out by the better-equipped British troops, they inflicted heavy casualties and proved that independence could be fought for.Dutch descriptions of the city in 1620 paint it as a formidable adversary surrounded by a canal, with heavily-fortified bastions measuring some 40km (25 miles) in circumference. Its army is said to have numbered 30,000 warriors. In the end, Surabaya succumbed to the powerful Mataram rulers of Central Java in 1625, but only after Sultan Agung’s armies had devastated its rice lands and diverted its mighty river.

In the mid-18th century, Surabaya was ceded to the Dutch and developed into the greatest commercial city of the Indies – the chief sugar port and rail head on Java. Immortalised in many of Joseph Conrad’s novels, this era was characterised by square-riggers in full sail, wealthy Chinese and Arab traders, eccentric German hoteliers, and lusty seamen brawling over the likes of Surabaya Sue, a foreigner who fought alongside Indonesians for freedom.

Today Surabaya is East Java’s provincial capital and Indonesia’s second-largest city, with 3.2 million people. Travellers passing through its gates are largely there on business, but others transit through Surabaya en route to tourist destinations such as the magnificent Mt. Bromo.


When to go

Surabaya is a year-round destination. 

Visa requirements

Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. Visitors from many other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival for US$25.


Indonesian rupiah, IDR, locally denoted as Rp.


Take a taxi from the airport to your first destination. Taxis are plentiful, and Blue Bird taxis are highly recommended. Full-sized buses and minivans (bemo) are good budget options, but they are usually crowded. Ask a fellow passenger about routes and fares before boarding.

Health and safety tips

As with any major city, watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas, thieves in cheap hotels, and the occasional scam artist. As everywhere in Indonesia, don't drink the tap water. While there is very little danger of contracting malaria in Surabaya there is a potential risk of dengue fever, particularly towards the end of the rainy season, so do your best to avoid mosquito bites.

Emergency details

Singapore Embassy:

The nearest embassy is in Jakarta at Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said, Kav. X-4, No. 2, Kuningan (tel: (62) 21 2995 0400,


In an emergency dial 110.

Basic greetings
English Indonesian
Hello Halo!
How are you? Apa kabar?
Fine, thanks Baik, terima kasih
Goodbye Selamat tinggal
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Permisi!
Thank you Terima kasih
Yes Ya
No Tidak
What's your name? Siapa nama anda?
My name is… Nama saya…
Nice to know you Senang berkenalan dengan anda
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Anda ada di Facebook/Twitter?
Where’s an internet café? Warnet [warung internet] di mana?
Where can I get a taxi? Di mana saya bisa mendapatkan taksi?
Where is the bus/train station? Stasiun bis/kereta di mana?
A one-way/return ticket to… Tiket sekali jalan/pulang-pergi ke…
Do you have a room for one/two? Ada kamar untuk satu/dua orang?
When's check out? Kapan waktu check-out?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Bisakah anda menyarankan restoran/bar yang bagus?
A table for two, please Tolong meja untuk dua orang
A menu, please Tolong minta menunya
The bill, please Tolong minta bonnya
Where's the toilet? Kamar kecil di mana?
Help! Tolong!

  Destination content brought to you by Insight Guides

Suramadu National Bridge

Reminiscent of San Francisco’s famous Golden Gate Bridge, the Suramadu National Bridge spans the Madura Strait connecting mainland Java and Madura island. It took six years to build as work was halted and restarted several times due to lack of financing. It is Indonesia’s longest span and its only toll bridge. It looks particularly spectacular at night with its lights reflecting off the water.

Balai Pemuda

Jl. Pemuda, No. 15

Housed in a Dutch heritage building, the Balai Pemuda arts centre has excellent tourist information, including details of reog performance schedules. Often called the 'lion peacock dance', reog is a traditional dance from East Java. Performers sport enormous headdresses weighing up to 55kg (121lbs) supported by the strength of their teeth and arms. Made from tiger or leopard fur adorned with peacock feathers, they represent a magical lion-like creature.

House of Sampoerna

Jl. Taman Sampoerna, No. 6

House of Sampoerna is one of Indonesia’s largest clove cigarette (kretek) manufacturers. Visitors may watch the hand-rolling, cutting, packing and wrapping process in a restored Dutch building that also houses a museum, gift shop and a café. The museum also offers free Heritage Bus tours of the city’s historic sights. See website for schedules.

Submarine Monument

Jl. Pemuda, No. 39

Navy enthusiasts rave about the educational value of the Submarine Monument (Monumen Kapel Selam or Monkasel), a decommissioned SS-type, whiskey-class Russian-built submarine sat incongruously on the Kalimas River in the centre of the city. At 76.6 metres (251ft) long and 6.3 metres (21ft) wide, it served the Indonesian navy until 1995. Visitors may tour the torpedo room, combat information centre, engine room and other areas.


Pusat Grosir Surabaya

Jl. Dupak, No. 1

Not for the faint of heart, the four-storey Pusat Grosir Surabaya shopping centre has 2,300 kiosks selling everything from jeans to clothing, home accessories to kids’ toys, and hats to handbags. Many are produced in Surabaya and other cities and towns across Indonesia. Beware of pickpockets in crowded areas.

Budget $

Surabaya Town Square

Jl. Adityawarman, No. 55

Surabaya Town Square is a user-friendly mall with all the usual shops, pharmacy, supermarket and food outlets. It has a performance stage where concerts are held, a jazz club and a gym and is open until late. A great place to meet friends and hang out.

Budget $$$

Tanjung Plaza

Jl. Basuki Rahmat

Shopping in air-conditioned comfort is a major pastime in Surabaya, and Tanjung Plaza is its largest mall. Anchored at one end by the Sheraton Surabaya Hotel & Towers, it has a Stingers game zone, Timezone arcade, restaurants and of course plenty of shops. In May, it participates in the annual Surabaya Shopping Festival when all stores offer discounted prices.

Budget $$$

Toko Bali

Jl. Jend. Basuki Rahmat

Located across the street from Hotel Bumi Surabaya, Toko Bali is the place to shop for textiles from across Indonesia, antiques and carvings. Jl. Baurum is the goldsmith district and is lined with shops selling jewellery of all sorts. Head for Jl. Kyai Mas Mansur in the Arab Quarter for shops selling carpets and many other unique items.

Budget $$


Layar Seafood Restaurant

Jl. Raya Bukit Mas, No. 109

Layar Seafood Restaurant serves really fresh and delicious chilli crabs, local fish cooked to order, oysters, clams and lobsters. Select your main course first and specify how it is to be cooked, then be seated and wait to be delighted. There’s another branch at Jl. Manyar Kertoarjo, No. 62. Both can be crowded during peak meal times.

Budget $$

Madame Chang

Jl. Raya Darmo Permai, No. 1/15

The order of the day at Madame Chang is fresh, natural and healthy foods. Try the lemon grass chicken, yummy chicken rice, or Vietnamese spring rolls, and top off your selection with a yummy fruit ice. A super-clean restaurant offering a refreshing concept and large portions.

Budget $


Hotel Majapahit, Jl. Tunjungan, No. 65

Located in the beautifully restored historic Hotel Majapahit, Sarkies is well worth the splurge. Its decor is, appropriately, reminiscent of days gone by and the restaurant's signature dish, Peking Duck, is only one of the many Asian dishes found on its menu. Its best to make a reservation here, particularly on weekends and during holiday periods, as it can be crowded.

Budget $$$

Tempo Doeloe

Jl. Raya Juanda Waru

Only 10 minutes from the Surabaya airport, Tempo Doeloe hasn’t done much to keep up with modern times in the way of decor, but its food has remained delicious over time. The focus here is on traditional Indonesian dishes. Try the fried or grilled guarmi local fish, sayur asem (clear vegetable soup), satay or fried tofu. It get crowded during peak mealtimes, so allow plenty of time if en route to catch a flight.

Budget $

The Café, House of Sampoerna

Jl. Taman Sampoerna, No. 6

House of Sampoerna is a leader is promoting historic tourism in Surabaya and The Café is the obvious choice for breakfast or lunch when visiting the museum or taking its free city bus tours. But it also serves dinner and has live music on some nights. The Café is decorated in a funky combination of old meets new and serves Asian and Western cuisine.

Budget $$


Artotel Surabaya

Jl. Dr. Soetomo, No. 79–81

The focus of Artotel Surabaya is hip art created by some of Indonesia’s best young contemporary artists. Ideal for young-at-heart business travellers or for those just passing through, be sure to stop in its art gallery and its souvenir shop selling what else but collectible art.

Budget $

Grand Darmo Suite

Jl. Progo, No. 1–3

Each room at Grand Darmo Suite is equipped with a kitchenette and a microwave, making it particularly handy for those who – either for budget or convenience reasons – prefer not to eat every meal in restaurants. This four-star hotel has 200 rooms, along with a swimming pool, spa and fitness centre.

Budget $$

Hotel Majapahit Surabaya

Jl. Tunjungan, No. 65

Built in 1910 by one of the Sarkies brothers – architects of Singapore’s famed Raffles Hotel and other luxury hotels throughout Asia – Hotel Majapahit Surabaya exudes charm and elegance not only in its decor but also in hospitality and service. The building is also of historic value due to its role in Indonesia's independence from Dutch rule, the magnificent colonial buildings are enhanced by delightful gardens.

Budget $$$

Shangri-La Hotel

Jl. May. Jend. Sungkono, No. 120

The ultimate in luxury in terms of amenities, Surabaya's Shangri-La Hotel lives up to the reputation of its sister hotels elsewhere in Asia. The outdoor swimming pool; tennis courts; spa with Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room; health club and tennis courts are just the beginning. Add an aerobics and dance studio and what else could any traveller wish for?

Budget $$$

TS Suites

Town Square, Jl. Hayam Wuruk, No. 6

One of the many modernist, minimalist hotels popping up all across Indonesia, TS Suites is a HIP Hotel property with stylish, spacious rooms. Its location in the popular Town Square means that countless shops and eateries, as well as night-time entertainment, are just steps away from your room.

Budget $$

Independence Day

17 August

Throughout Indonesia, games, competitions, food and good-spirited fun are held in neighbourhoods and villages to celebrate Hari Merdeka, Indonesia’s Independence Day.  Enquire upon arrival where festivities are being held.

Surabaya Arts Festival

Date Varies in June

Held at the Balai Pemuda Arts Centre each June, the Surabaya Arts Festival (Festival Seni Surabaya) celebrates creativity with exhibitions, performances and workshops.

Surabaya Culture Parade

Date Varies in April

This festival commemorates Surabaya’s founding, over 700 years ago. It begins with a spectacular parade with elaborate costumes and continues for several days with performing art and other exhibitions.

Surabaya Kite Festival

Date Varies in September

A popular pastime that is enjoyed far and wide, kite-flyers from throughout the world arrive for the Surabaya Kite Festival determined to show off their creations and prowess. Always a colourful event that’s fun for the whole family.

Yosakai Dance Festival

Date Varies in July

Unique for an Indonesian city, this festival originated in Kochi, Japan, which is Surabaya’s sister city. Events are held to strengthen the bond between the two towns. Often held in conjunction with the Surabaya Cross Culture Festival.


The most interesting areas of Surabaya are the old Arab and Chinese quarters at the northern end of the city, not far from the harbour. Visit the Tomb of Sunan Ampel, one of the nine legendary wali saints who propagated Islam on the island. There is a bazaar that leads up to the mosque, with scores of stalls selling perfumes and handmade textiles from throughout Java. Surabaya’s oldest Chinese shrine, the 18th-century Hok An Kiong temple, was built entirely of wood by native Chinese craftsmen. From the Chinese quarter, the famous Red Bridge (Jembatan Merah) is to the west, straddling Kali Mas canal.

The Heroes Monument commemorates those who fell in the struggle for independence in 1945, and on Jl. Tunjungan is the old-world Majapahit Hotel, built in 1910 and wonderfully refurbished. From Jl. Tunjungan, a large street with several shopping centres, turn left down Jl. Pemuda to the former Dutch Governor’s Mansion. Constructed after the turn of the 20th century, this stood at what was then the new centre of colonial Surabaya, and which now is a major hotel district. Joko Dolog, a centuries-old statue of King Kertanegara, the last king of the Singasari dynasty (who died in 1292), is enshrined in a small, hidden park directly opposite.

Places to visit:
Tomb of Sunan Ampel, Hok An Kiong temple, Red Bridge, The Heroes Monument, Majapahit Hotel, Dutch Governor’s Mansion, Joko Dolog.


South of Surabaya is one of Java’s most visited volcanoes. Mt. Bromo (Gunung Bromo) lies within an ancient caldera 10km (6 miles) across, with four smaller peaks rising in the centre that range in height from 300 to 400 metres (1,000 to 1,300ft). Surrounding these peaks on the crater floor is sand and lush vegetation, and every few years cinder and ash pour forth in eruptions to carpet the countryside with nutrient-rich deposits, making it some of Java’s most fertile farmland.

To reach the summit before sunrise for spectacular views, visitors rise in the pre-dawn hours to cross the dark, eerie sand-sea floor on foot or by pony in silent, sleepy processions. At the base of the crater are 250 steps leading up, and at the top is a narrow lip from where thrill-seekers huddle together for warmth waiting for the first glimpses of the sun. When it appears, you find yourself precariously perched on a narrow lip from where you can you can look into the belly of the belching sulphurous centre of the crater. When brave enough to look up, there is a magnificent 360-degree panorama of the ancient caldera and majestic Mt. Semeru (Gunung Semeru), Java’s highest peak at 3,676 metres (12,060ft).

Temperatures can drop to freezing before dawn, so be sure to dress warmly and bring a flashlight. Once every year the local Tenggerese people, descendants of the last Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit kingdom, pay their respects to the gods by throwing offerings into Mt. Bromo’s crater.

Places to visit:
Mt. Bromo.