The prevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection in Indonesia is controversial. We examined the H. pylori infection rate in 78 patients in a hospital in Surabaya using five different tests, including culture, histology, immunohistochemistry, rapid urease test, and urine antibody test. Furthermore, we analysed virulence factors in H. pylori strains from Indonesia. The H. pylori infection rate was only 11·5% in all patients studied, and 2·3% of Javanese patients and 18·0% of Chinese patients were infected (P = 0·01). Although severe gastritis was not observed, activity and inflammation were significantly higher in patients positive for H. pylori than in patients negative for H. pylori. Among genotypes identified from five isolated strains, cagA was found in four; two were vacA s1m1. All cagA-positive strains were oipA ‘on’ and iceA1 positive. We confirmed both a low H. pylori infection rate and a low prevalence of precancerous lesions in dyspeptic patients in a Surabaya hospital, which may contribute to the low incidence of gastric cancer in Indonesia.