How to get there: Fair Nomad campsite in Sumbawa
By AIR –
One can easily fly to West Sumbawa from anywhere in the world. If you are in Bali however, there is no direct flight and you will need to catch a flight from Denpasar to Lombok, and then grab a connecting flight to Sumbawa Besar.
Oh, and make sure that you fly to the right airport though, Sultan Muhammad Kaharuddin III Airport, IATA code SWQ…not the other one, which is a little bit of a mission away, all the way on the far East of the island!
Once you land, you have two options; you can either grab a taxi to Whales and Waves, a resort in Kertasari where our guides will meet you and take you to our campsite, or we can have one of the guides pick you up in a car that he would need to rent for the day. The taxis cost between 700K and 800K IDR, and the pick-up from our guide costs 550K. This is because it is a 2.5 hour drive from the airport to us, and to rent the car costs the guide 350K (it is more expensive than in Bali). Add to that fuel costs (100K) and a payment for our driver of 100K for the 5-6 hour ride and some waiting time at the airport, the total comes to 550K.
Once you arrive, you can rent a scooter if need be at Whales and Waves for 80K per day, so you don’t need to rely on the guides to drive you around if you don’t want to.
However, if you feel a bit adventurous and want to see the country on your trip, you can do what I do whenever I go. Do it by road!
By DRIVING A SCOOTER/CAR –
This option is only advisable if you are already in Bali or Lombok and want to go from there. The cheapest way to get around and to get to us is, by far, to drive a bike. You should rent a scooter in Bali for your whole time in Indonesia and use it to cross the islands. You can get very good prices if you go to Kuta, on Jalan Kartika (Kartika street), and rent a scooter from one of the wheeler dealers on that street. You should be able to negotiate your way to something in between 600k and 1 Million IDR for a whole month. The easiest way to find these guys is to google “Green Garden Hotel”, and just walk north up the street from there, there will be about 8 to 10 different “companies” you can rent them from. Make sure you get one with a rack if you are carrying your own surfboards!
It is not hard at all to find a scooter to rent in Bali, even with a rack. Most homestays and hotels have their own rental service and can lease you out one of their scooters as well, with varying monthly rates, just bear in mind that EVERYTHING is negotiable over there. The rental prices go down the longer you want to keep the vehicle for, and standard daily rates are 50k IDR. What is hard to find however, is someone that is willing to rent you a scooter to take off the island. Having said this, never, EVER tell anybody that you are going to go to Sumbawa with their scooter, as they will simply turn you down on the spot. This is because, even in Bali itself, it is common for tourists to rent a scooter and just ditch it anywhere on the day they need to catch their flight. Because of idiots like this, the rental guys are all scared shitless that someone will rent their scooter, take it off the island, and just leave it abandoned there when they need to fly back out. So if you consider getting a bike from Bali, you MUST, MUST bring it back to whoever you rented it from, otherwise they will be likely to put other measures in place to make sure that nobody can take their bikes off the island.
Another thing to bear in mind is that when you do rent a scooter, you need to ask for the original papers of the bike. These are the registration papers of the bike, and you will be stopped at the harbor by police who check all vehicles ridden by tourists. If you only have copies of the papers, you will not be let through, as it against the law to ride without the original papers. If you get stopped anywhere else in Bali as well, you will need to pay a “fine” for not having the original papers, so use this as an excuse as to why you want the original papers.
The rental guys will always give the originals to you when asked, and ask you to be very careful not to lose them – heed their warning as to replace these papers is a huge hassle and costs a lot of money, so make sure you keep them somewhere safe and not just in your seat compartment, which can be opened by anyone with half a brain and a screw driver. And last thing – when they hand them over to you, check that they are the right papers, as they sometimes get swapped around by mistake by the rental guys for the papers of other scooters. They should have the right registration of the bike as well as the right chassis number which is found under the seat. I once got all the way to Padang Bai from Kuta, which took me a couple of hours in heavy traffic, only to be told by the ferry police that I had to turn back because I did not have the right papers for my scooter…not a good start of the day for anybody!
Finally, if you do not have an international driver’s license, be prepared to pay a lot of “fines” when routinely stopped by the police anywhere on any island, and especially at the harbor. My advice to you is to get one sorted before you head out to Indo, as it is very easy and cheap to get in most countries, and you will never be on the wrong side of the law, as long as you are wearing your helmet of course.
These are the three most important things to know in Indonesia if you want to avoid trouble with traffic cops: 1- International driver’s license 2- Original papers and 3- Helmet at all times.
If you would rather rent a car instead, you can find very decent cars for around 4 Mil IDR per month in the same area. Daily rates start at 200k IDR for a car, and it’s the same deal as for a scooter, paperwork must be original, and make sure you have your international license. The big plus with a car is the comfort, the AC, and the ability to take more stuff with you. The biggest drawback however is that it will take you on average 1.5 times longer to get to wherever you want to get to, because of the traffic. Oh and remember that in Indo, people drive on the left-hand side of the road, like in the UK!
Once you have your ride sorted, you will need to head to Padang Bai, the East harbor of Bali, and embark on one of the large ferries that carry people and goods across the channel. If you are in a scooter, you should get onto the next available ferry relatively fast. If you are in a car, you will be put in a queue of vehicles, and the wait can be up to 3 hours at that point. Just follow the directions of the parking staff on the ground, they have a very efficient system in place and know what they are doing.
This is the deepest channel in the world, where currents and swells can be HUGE, but rest assured, the ferry captains are VERY good and experienced at what they do. The crossing can take anywhere between 4 and 7 hours, with an average of 5.5 hours. This is by far the longest part of the trip out to Sumbawa, and costs about 140k IDR per scooter, with one or two people on it, and 900K IDR per car. The worst part however is that these ferries are usually completely full, and spaces to sit or lie down are hard to find and are rarely comfortable for that duration of time.
My advice for this leg of the journey is to buy a hammock somewhere in Bali, the cheap nylon type (don’t pay more than 110K or 120K for it), as it can prove to be very handy once you’re on the boat! Just hang it up outside somewhere on the railings or from any pipes you see hanging from the roof, which will change the whole journey.
I would not advise staying inside on any fabric seats. On one of my crossings, my girlfriend and I decided to sleep inside on the seats, and a day later we were covered in what seemed like bed bug bites!! Another option is to rent plastic covered mattresses from the crew who serve coffee and snacks on the inside. These usually go for 50K per crossing, and it makes a huge difference when all the available space has been taken out by everybody else on board. All ferries rent these, and not many people know about it. I have never once been on two identical ferries on my 10 crossings so far; some have hidden upper decks that the crew will allow you to use if you ask nicely, and in others if you ask the crew they can actually rent you out cabins on the upper decks, their own sleeping cabins, for between 100k and 200k per crossing. There are many, many ways to make this crossing more manageable, so make sure that before you get on the ferry, you are aware that you can ask the crew for more options, and that you are actually better off if you have your own nylon hammock.
This part is very important. If you are riding a scooter, do everything you can to avoid ridding between 9PM and 6AM in Lombok, as it is dangerous for tourists especially with scooters rented from Bali, which can be identified by the DK letters on the number plate. DR is Lombok, and the locals there do not like tourists who rent their bikes from Bali as it does not bring any money to their island. I have met people who have been kicked off their bikes and mugged while riding in the middle of the night. During the day it is fine, and if you are in a car it is fine as well. To avoid this, you need to either leave Bali in the early hours of the morning, or catch a night ferry and leave Bali at around 1AM. Ferries in Indo run every hour on the hour 24 hours a day, so it is easy to get one at whatever time you need to.
Once in Lembar, roads are much wider and there is much less traffic than in Bali. You can drive straight to the East harbor, Labuhan Lombok, which takes between 2 and 3 hours with a car or a scooter. If you are riding a scooter and you are a woman, you will need to cover up moderately as it is a Muslim island with a history of conflict between religions. So make sure to wear long pants and at least a t-shirt if you want to avoid any trouble. Enjoy the ride though! The scenery is beautiful in Lombok, and the people are generally very nice and welcoming. There are shops, warungs and petrol stations all along the way to Labuhan, so don’t worry about needing to resupply at Lembar.
Once you get to Labuhan, first thing to make sure of is that you do not stop and try to go to the commercial port, about 6 minutes drive before the ferry port. They are very close by, so if you get to a big sign showing a port and you need to take a hard left to get into it while driving on a hill, that is not the right harbor. You need to keep driving straight down the road, the road ends at the right harbor. From there, it’s the same deal with the ferry, by scooter it will cost about 50K and by car about 400K. The wait is nothing as long as it is in Padang Bai, there are no police checks, and the ferry ride itself is max 2 hours long.
When you get to Poto Tano in Sumbawa, you are on the last straight line! Take the road to Taliwang, and from there go to Kertasari. The whole journey will take you less than 1.5 hours.
Our guides will meet you at a resort called Whales and Waves, and take you right to our campsite, at an undisclosed location, which may be or may not be far away… ;-)
If you do not feel like driving or flying to us, you can also take a bus all the way to Taliwang. You will need to head to one of the main Bus Terminals in Bali, like the one in Denpasar, called “Terminal Bus Ubung”.
From there, you can buy a ticket all the way to Taliwang for 400K which will include both ferry crossings, and all you will need to do is sit on the bus, get off once the bus gets on the ferries, chill on the ferries, get back on the bus when you reach the harbors, and finally get off at your final destination. Once in Taliwang, our guides can come and fetch you and take you to our site. You can then proceed as normal and rent a scooter from Whales and Waves, or rely on the guides to drive you around. Up to you!
There are, as always, alternative ways to get to us out in Sumbawa, by using this website: www.rome2rio.com
But the routes outlined here are the most commonly used ones and the easiest to use. Google maps will be your best friend for the duration of the journey, unless you fly of course, so remember to sort out a local sim card with lots of data before you head off.
Whatever way you choose to get to us, the guides will escort you to our campsite from either Whales and Waves or from Taliwang. We will not disclose the exact location of the campsite publicly, I am sure that you can understand why.
This is where your adventure begins…