Traveling like a local: From Bali to Lombok by Public Ferry
Cranking our way through Thailand and Malaysia into Indonesia we had covered quite a few miles slow traveling by bus. After having to fly into Bali we were faced three options swinging our way to our next two-month home-base Lombok. Fly, fast boat, or public ferry. We decided to take the public ferry and travel like a local.Truth has to be said, never before was I so happy to be dragging along a surfboard bag with two boards. After doing a bit of research on the public ferry I was ready to board the ferry with my leash strapped to my ankle, board in hand. Prepared for disaster. Luckily, I was traveling with my teenage daughter who values her image, and my two little ones who are always up for any type of adventure.
For $3.50 the ferry takes you across the Lombok Strait
However, if you book well ahead you will find Lion Air flights for as cheap as 25 USD one way. Fast boat will coast around 45 USD online, but cheaper when you buy your tickets at the harbor. Prices are up for negotiation.
Culture over Comfort
Besides the ferry being very inexpensive, there are more reasons why you should consider the ferry. To us, traveling the world is not a holiday, but a lifestyle. Traveling can either be a scratch on the surface, or an in-depth experience to really get to know a country. If we consistently choose luxury over culture, we miss out on that local experience. Unlike the fastboat, the ferry isn’t targeted on the tourist customer but on the local Indonesian. From the moment you arrive at the harbor you’ll most likely be one of few tourists. Just outside the premises there are small food stalls that sell some delicous Nasi Campur for 0,60 cents. Sit down, eat, and practice your basic Bahasa Indonesian skills and the locals will soon be your new best friends. When you walk inside the building, in search for the service desk, you’ll notice people sleeping on benches, families waiting, baskets with fruits and veggies. Fishermen and market vendors. The harbor area may not be pretty, but it’s daily life in Indonesia. This is what you came here for.
How to get to Padang Bai Harbor in Bali?
The public ferry from Bali to Lombok leaves from Padang bai (Bali) to Lembar (Lombok). Both Padan Bai and Lembar are not centrally located. There are no public buses covering that route, so in both cases you’d need a taxi to get there. For example, Bali airport to Padang Bai harbor will cost around 300.000 Rupiah.
Ferries leave every hour (day and night)
One ferry disembarks and is then replaced with another ferry. Boats slightly differ in size, safety, and services. In general, I would say the ferry is relatively safe and quite comfortable. Like I said, after doing my research I was a bit anxious and skeptical. However, both times we took the ferry there were life-vests, inflatable life rafts, and instructions on board. I’m not a boating expert, but these boats don’t seem too rickety and the harbor and boating staff have strict rules that they seem to respect. The difference on safety we noticed were the amount of (visible) life-vests and clear instructions.
All boats have more than enough seats, both inside and outside on the deck. There are sleeping facilities. Don’t get your hopes up though. Indonesians are tough and used to sleep on bamboo floors. See picture below. There’s also some food, snacks, and tv screens on board. Bathrooms are very basic, and again not targeted on tourists. This means standing toilets with a mandi (bucket with water to flush and rinse your behind).
Suffer from motion sickness?
Make sure you check weather conditions before taking the trip. Generally speaking, the ocean is smooth and glassy in the morning when the wind hasn’t picked up yet. If you can, aim for the 7 or 8 am ferry. During the day the ocean can get rough, this goes for both the public ferry and fast boat.
Bali to Lombok Public Ferry Facts
- Ferry leaves hourly
- Tickets 46.000 Rupiah adults/29.000 Kids
- Cash Only (ATM just outside the premises)
- Takes four hours (in normal weather conditions)