The Gili Islands are situated to the North East of Lombok and in fact from where I sit now, at a Happy Hour bar on the beach, I can see the boats across the water on Lombok. I will spend my time in the Gilis based out of Gili Air, the closest of the three islands to Lombok and the ‘middle road’ in a sense because of what each island has to offer.
I had a lot of luck getting to Gili Air today as it was something I had been building up courage for all week. Reading comments and blogs online that describe the journey as absolute torture, with harassment at every turn, I was prepared for anything. However, a smile on my face and the mental preparation to take whatever people wanted to throw at me, I navigated the journey rather seamlessly. Though…. I may have purchased a ticket to a shuttle I will never end up seeing…
First things first I guess. I flew from UPG to LOM, Lombok’s airport, now located in Priya. The ticket cost 346,000 IDR and I had the luxury of Garuda being the cheapest airline when I moved forward with my booking so the flight had both a snack and beverage.
Here are some views from the airplane over Lombok.
My driver ended up being a really great guy….and talented driver. He got me to the harbor in an hour and a half and we had some good conversation on the way. I was also lucky that the security guard didn’t see me in the back seat of the car and therefore only charged my driver 5,000 IDR to drive right to the harbor as opposed to making him drop me at the entrance and have me walk in blindly.
Now, to the infamous harbour...
All my online research and my guidebook…. Yes, I am well prepared… told me to be careful. Hundreds of touts I was warned were ready to swarm me.
From Wikitravel I got this warning:
“…They can become intimidating when they are unsuccessful or their advances are rebuffed. Only a very small minority of them have anything other than malevolent deception in mind. Any arrangement or even paying them attention may lead to vigourous and coercive demands to assist them with imaginary expenses. Avoid any such engagement, do not buy anything from them and do not enter into any arrangements that may later lead to a claim of obligation promise or commitment.”
I was prepared to head into a war zone.
What I was actually met with was a rather relaxed, though poorly labeled, easy to navigate small port. My taxi driver knew a guy who worked for the public ferry and so immediately I was welcomed and shown to the ticket window.
The public ferry ticket office was not a blue and white building, nor was it a building with orange pillars (as I had read online from very detailed blogs). It was in fact a tiny white kiosk with a paper sign in the window that says ‘TICKET OFFICE.’ It’s the last building to the right at the harbor. The prices listed on the window were for fast boats that charge 100,000 IDR, but by simply asking I got the right price list and paid 12,000 IDR for the public ferry.
Be aware that the price of fuel just went up in Indonesia in November and therefore, public transport prices have been raised slightly too.
While waiting I chatted more with my taxi drivers’ friend and his business associate. This is when I think I may have been swindled. Though not my first time on the road, I did do something I probably shouldn’t have. I bought a ticket for a return ferry ride and shuttle to the airport for the morning of my flight out of Lombok. Yes, it is true I didn’t see the shuttle (it leaves in the morning), and true the ticket has a different name than the public ferry. BUT I did ask and ask if the guy was in fact genuine and if this was in fact a real ticket. The guy liked my skepticism and gave me his business card. He offered me to call him anytime and with that I trusted a stranger.
[Rest easy, I have updated this post since that day and I am happy to say that my ticket was real and actually a great deal for a trip back to the airport! See details below to get this shuttle]
The reasoning behind booking the shuttle and ferry now was that once I was on Gili if I tried to book the shuttle it would cost an extra 100,000 at least. AND the prices for a private car to the airport were around 350,000 (120,000 more than I paid to get there).
[Again, this was confirmed as I spoke with other travellers trying to book boats off the Gili Islands. Prices skyrocket because you have no other options. Make sure you have a return ticket before you go.]
The wait to fill the ferry was 45 minutes, not long considering I was number 2 on the list and we needed 30 to go. I arrived at the harbor at 1:45 in the afternoon. I waited under the palm trees on the beach with a random assortment of people and then we all piled onto the small wooden boat. It was a comfortable and beautiful ride over.
1. Don't be afraid to talk to people at the harbour to find information out, they are not all scam artists.
2. If you think a price is too much, it is, ask for other options.
3. Book your return tickets before you get to the island, no matter how to are arriving. Many companies will give you an open ticket so you don't need to decide your return date right away.
4. For a shuttle to and from the airport, Sengigi, and other ports OR boats to destinations like Bali or Flores contact:
P.Y. Lombok Wisata
5. Don't be shy of the boats. I heard many foreigners complain that they were not up to their standards because for example you need to get your feet wet to get into them. Live a little! Get your feet wet!
- 346,000 UPG to LOM
- 230,000 taxi to Bangsal Harbour
- 12,000 Public Ferry to Gili Air
- 220,000 Ferry back to Bangsal and shuttle bus to the airport
Highlight of the Day: Coming from an almost dry city of Makassar and arriving at an island with a Happy Hour every night at every restaurant/bar