It is said that Lombok resembles Bali from thirty years ago before it became so popular. After spending a week here, we couldn’t recommend it more. Here are some useful tips!
Getting to Lombok can be done in two ways. You can fly from Bali for relatively cheap (or possible your destination outside of Bali) to Lombok International airport and then take a taxi for there. Or you can take a boat, either private or public. We chose to take the boat as we went to the west of the island first. Depending where you depart from in Bali will determine the cost. We took a private boat from Sanur with Scoot Cruises, costing us 1.2 million IDR for both of us. These private boats are what are referred to as fast boats. Despite this, the trip across the channel still took about 3 hours and had a stop in Lembongan Island to drop off and collect passengers. The operation is efficient and there are a multitude of companies to chose from. Tickets can be pre-booked online (although paying online in Bali can be difficult) or simply bought at an office or through a tour operator.
The immediate difference with Lombok was noticed when we arrived in the Sengiggi port which is on the West of the island. From a boat of roughly 40 to 50 people only 6 of us climbed off here. Others were either on a day trip mission or off to the popular Gili Island (all islands are called Gili but the three most popular are off the North West of Lombok). We were both surprised and happy to see so few alighting as it reaffirmed what we had read about Lombok. The boat company included a taxi to our hotel so in true Indonesian style, a friendly chap was waiting for us on the pier.
Lombok isn’t a desert island, there is plenty of options and things to do it’s just that it’s far more mellow and less touristy than its neighbour, Bali. There are plenty ATM’s and convenience stores in more busy areas and your Indo rupees will get you far.
Accommodation in Senggigi, and most parts of Lombok is easy to come by (we used booking.com). There are a multitude of homestays, something you will become very familiar with, as well as resorts and hotels, all depending on where you are on the island. A homestay doesn’t mean you are going to be sharing a room within someone’s house but rather will get your own private room on a local’s property. These are the most popular means of accommodation and they vary in facilities and comfort. Generally a room, huge bed and a bathroom will all be yours for average 150 000 IDR a night (10 EUR). Wifi is standard everywhere, air con isn’t but some have. Most also include breakfast, pancakes or omelettes with fresh fruit. You’ll see. Oh, and local coffee – strong, dark and probably sweet. Ask for no sugar as it will come with plenty.
In Senggigi we were lucky enough to be hosted by Holiday Resort Lombok. Situated on the beach front just north of the harbour this resort offers all the comforts of a big resort (pools, gym, spa and restaurants) without that ‘Club Med’ feeling. It was a great way to start our time in Indonesia and gave us a chance to recover and properly relax from our loooong journey getting there. If you want to relax and comfort without breaking the bank, we highly recommend it. The beachfront is quite yet has a host of activities and we can recommend stopping at Nuf Said, a rustic beach restaurant will a small menu and a lot of taste!
Organising activities on Lombok (and Bali) is easy enough to do. Either through your homestay or hotel. The hotel option might cost a slight bit more but just ask around to compare prices. You’ll very quickly get a gage on what things should cost. You can also ask just about any local and they’ll help you. As we soon found out everybody knows everybody and will be able to arrange or point you in the right direction. Tours to other parts of the island can be done from Sengiggi – day trips to the Gilis, surf missions or shuttles to anywhere can be arranged for you.
As for us we wanted to explore the island by ourselves so we found some scooters to rent and planned to drive the island. This we can’t recommend more!!! Even locals gave us a funny look when we told them of our plan but this again only reaffirmed that we were going to experience something unique and ‘ non-touristy’.
Not much information exists about this journey. We read a few blogs on people that had attempted to ride the island in a day. Don’t try this, please! You can read about our journey around the coast of Lombok here and what we saw and did. This will give you a good insight into what Lombok is like and has to offer. The trip took five days and we were able to see a whole lot. Just to add that bikes/scooters cost us 65000 IDR each per day.
When driving your scooter take it easy. Most of the main roads are in a very good condition, on few occasions you’ll encounter gravel roads or some road works. The road system works well and there is no driving rage. Everyone pushes in and overtakes but they will let you too so just go with the flow.
As for the food, there are not too many surprises in the Indonesian food in this area. Everything revolves around rice or noodles in about ten dishes that repeat everywhere you go (some of the dishes to google – nasi goreng, mie goring, cap cay, gado gado, soto ayam… ). The only difference is the hindu Bali doesn’t do beef and the rest of muslim Indo doesn’t do pork. The food is very cheap and usually tastier off the street stands than the hotels. Interesting fact is that alcohol ( in this muslim country ), especially the local Bintang beer, is consumed everywhere.
People are very open and relaxed in Lombok. Everyone was curious about us, especially the children. More than once we were asked to take a photo with an absolute stranger. We’ve never seen more sincere smiles than the smiles of Lombok people. Kids would often would line up down the road to high five them as we drove by. We were surprised how children would approach us and start a conversation in English so casually. In fact, everyone we met tried to talk to us even if they knew just few words or they would simply gesture. Seems that because Lombok is still underdeveloped for tourism every foreigner is welcomed and is a bit of an ‘attraction’.
Beware the sun, it’s hot and strong! Cover up and wear sunscreen. Too many burnt and peeling people.