Getting To Lombok By Public Ferry
The public ferry departs from Padang Bai on the northeast coast of Bali. Without heavy traffic this drive can take less than one and a half hours. Getting to Padang Bai is relatively easy. Once you are on the bypass heading north, you simply follow the signs. Drive cautiously as this road is currently under construction and often times northbound and southbound traffic will converge to the same side of the median, sharing available lanes. After approximately one hour, the bypass returns to a two-lane road at which point you should keep a lookout for a sign directing you to the right turn towards the harbor. After a brief drive down this twisty road, you will see the ticketing gate at the end. Only purchase your tickets at the harbor ticketing windows.
Ferries are scheduled to leave every hour, but with unloading and loading times, the ferry will seldom leave on time. A ferry departing at 4am might actually leave at 5am or later, and as a result it will delay those ferries behind it. Further delays are unlikely but possible, and a backup plan may help minimize any inconveniences and frustrations. As a general safety precaution, it is recommended to avoid taking the ferry when there are poor weather conditions.
Another word of caution: There is a police checkpoint upon entering the harbor and you will be asked for both the registration of your vehicle and a driver’s license. Plan accordingly to make sure you have a valid International Driver’s License for operating a car, a motorcycle, or both. For rental vehicles, only the original registration will guarantee a smooth passage, as photocopies are not always tolerated. If traveling via scooter or motorcycle, make sure are wearing your helmet(s) at all times.
Following the checkpoint you will arrive at several ticketing lanes clearly marked with pictures for scooters, cars, or trucks. The signs, however, are written in Indonesian only. Prices (IDR) as of April 23rd, 2012 are as follows…
Motorcycle (including 1 OR 2 people) 101,000
Motorcycle >500cc (including 1 OR 2 people) 232,000
Freight Vehicle up to 5 meters (Kendaraan Barang) 617,000
Passenger Vehicle up to 5 meters (Kendaraan Penumpang) 659,000
Freight Vehicle up to 7 meters (Kendaraan Barang) 1,040,000
Passenger Vehicle up to 7 meters (Kendaraan Penumpang) 1,279,000
Truck or Bus up to 12 meters 2,200,000
Truck or Bus more than 12 meters 3,268,000
Following the purchase of your ticket, you will be given 2 identical paper receipts and a plastic card. You will wait, hopefully not long, as mostly trucks and scooters exit the ferry first. Queue up normally and just prior to boarding the ferry you will pass the plastic card and receipt to the staff. You should retain one of the receipts as proof of purchase. Ferry staff will direct you where to park. Scooters and motorcycles should be put on their center stands and steering left unlocked. Remove all valuables from the scooter; helmets can be locked to the scooter, but it is recommended to take them with you into the cabin.
Every ferry is different but they all have comparable layouts. The lower deck is for vehicles. Above that is usually the passenger deck. Some have rooftop access, such as the Iron Miracle, which actually has some wooden lounge chairs on the roof that is suitable for sunbathing. There is almost always an “Executive Room” that is air-conditioned. The boats are not new, for example, the Iron Miracle is a Japanese ferry built in 1974. There have, however, been modern additions and renovations throughout. The bridge boasts newer electronic safety devices such as radar, GPS, and radios. The “Executive Room” can be either one area, or several partitioned rooms. One ship may have airport-like rows of seating while another ship may have larger captains chairs. There is usually at least one area to rent a bed for around 20,000-30,000 IDR. Some have an additional open area that you can lay down in for free but without a sleeping pad. Rooms are also sometimes available with a varying number of beds for around 50,000 IDR but may or may not be air-conditioned and the price before entering the ferry might be less than when you actually walk onto the deck.
In addition to the different layouts, each ship has a varying number of locals attempting to sell you overpriced goods and services. This can range from a casual sales attempt to telling 5 people within 3 minutes that you don’t want a cup of instant noodles or a sarong. It is best to politely decline their offer to avoid any confrontations. Some ferries will have a food “bar” with an ample selection of snack food. Although prices on the ferry aren’t ridiculously expensive, they are significantly marked up from normal prices. A bottle of water that is normally one thousand rupiah may be five thousand or more, Pop Mie Instant Noodles are normally two thousand but on the ferry they cost ten thousand, and charging your phone could run you five thousand rupiah as well. Unfortunately, there is not usually freshly cooked food. Plan accordingly and purchase whatever you will need for the journey before entering the harbor altogether. As a worst-case scenario, buy some nasi campur (rice with mixed vegetables/meat wrapped in banana leaves or wax paper) from those selling it in the harbor as you queue before boarding the ferry; this will be a less expensive and more satisfying option. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and tissues and have your phone and other electronics fully charged.
Taking the ferry after midnight can be a good way to get some rest and save on one night’s accommodation. Most boats will have at least one tv, but sometimes many more. The movies that are playing may or may not be in English, and may or may not have subtitles. Overall, the staff is very friendly and it wouldn’t hurt to journey to the anjungan, or command room, to give a knock and say hello to the captain.
Upon arrival to the port in Lembar, a loud chime will sound and staff will go around to make sure everyone is awake and prepared to exit. Gather your things and wait inside of the Executive Room or on the passenger deck, as the idling trucks below cause it to get quite polluted with exhaust fumes. It won’t hurt to be one of the last people to exit the ferry, so just relax and enjoy the harbor view.
When exiting the ferry, be cautious of the declined ramp and grating, it can sometimes be slippery for those on a scooter or motorcycle. From Lembar you can easily travel north and south to the various offerings of Lombok. All roads are in good condition with easily spotted signs most of the time. The process is the same for the return journey to Bali, with the police checkpoint at the exit of Padang Bai Harbor.
- Low cost
- You already have means of transportation if you travel via car/scooter
- Save on one night’s accommodation if leaving after midnight
- Air conditioned lounges
- Scenic views when taking a daytime ferry
- Ferries leaving approximately every hour or so
- There is most likely onboard entertainment such as movies or music
- A unique experience
- With a commute to Padang Bai, the waiting for loading and unloading and the ferry ride itself, this option takes a long time and can be quite fatiguing
- No guarantee on how good or bad your ferry will be
- Pushy locals selling overpriced goods and services
- No freshly prepared food, only instant noodles etc.
- The possibility of rain while driving to Padang Bai on a scooter
Private Boat Charter – Lombok Bali