Saturday, 6 August 2016

Lombok Travel Part 1: Overview

Getting To Know Lombok
The mention of Bali would probably receive nods of acknowledgement as Bali is undoubtedly Indonesia's most iconic and popular tourist destination. Only a few people I talk to however, know where Lombok is. Ironically the 'relatively obscured Lombok' is just about 40km east of the 'super famous' Bali'. See map below.

I personally learned  about Lombok just a couple of years ago. I was initially attracted to the fact that horse carts are still used as a public transport in this part of the world and in some islands around Lombok, it is the only means of public transport. That sounds like an interesting place to explore and one reminiscent of a cowboy era that I only get to watch on TV. Before I realised it, I was soon in Lombok travelling around more than half the island and even hopping on to a couple of its surrounding small islands.
I will be writing a series of posts about my Lombok travel, highlighting things that I see and experience and sharing a few travel tips for would be visitors. Do follow all my Lombok stories.

Best Time To Visit Lombok
Lombok experiences a tropical climate which means it is hot the whole year round. There is however a distinct wet and dry season. Like me, I believe most would not like their vacation spoilt by heavy rain and thunderstorm so a better time to visit Lombok would be the dry season which last from May to September. I visited Lombok in July which was just fine. 
Other than weather, one should consider a few other things when planning a vacation there. Try to avoid arriving or departing Lombok on a local public holiday as taxi rates are mercilessly exorbitant on such occasions.  Also try to avoid visiting Lombok during the Muslim fasting month as many eateries may be closed and some activities may just come to a standstill. That's because Lombok is a predominantly Muslim region.

Best Place To Stay In Lombok
The answer to this question depends very much on the itinerary planned. Those keen in hiking Lombok's highest mountain, Mount Rinjani, would probably be camping or lodging near this volcano in the interior Sembalun area. 
(Note: Mount Rinjani last erupted on 1 August 2016, 10 days after I left Lombok)

Other popular areas include Kuta, Senggigi, Mangsit and the surrounding small islands (called Gili) that offer a plethora of island activities.
Staying in more popular tourist destination has its advantage in that public transport are more easily available and probably cheaper too.

As for me, I spent 3 nights in Senggigi and 4 nights in Gili Trawangan and explored other places from these bases. 

Currency To Bring
Indonesia is made up of more than 17500 islands and Lombok is one of them. Naturally the currency to bring would be the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Even though there are money changers at Lombok Airport and Lombok's major tourist destinations, the exchange rate may not be as good as back home. You may lose out as much as 7% to 10% so it is wise to get the IDR from your home country. Changing your money into IDR may be a happy experience as you will become and instant millionaire. (IDR1,000,000 is approx. RM310)

Getting From Lombok International Airport To Your Destination In Lombok
The main option for most travelers would be to use the metered taxis. There is also a bus company, Damri that operates shuttle airport services but this is confined to 3 location: Mataram, Senggigi and Selong. 
A Damri Counter is set up at the arrival hall where bus tickets can be purchased. The Damri Bus is parked at the car park just across the road.
Staying in Senggigi is a good option as Damri Bus commutes from the Airport to Senggigi every one and a half hours. It only costs IND 35,000 per pax (which is less then RM 11) for the 1hr 10 minutes ride to Senggigi. 
Taxi rate to Senggigi should be around IND 150,000 to IND 200,000/taxi.

Things don't always work out as planned though. I was not aware that the day I arrive would be a public holiday. 'Lebaran Ketupat' which falls on the 7th day of the Muslim's Hari Raya Aidil Fitri is a much celebrated day in Lombok. The Damri Bus has cancelled all trips into Senggigi claiming massive jam in this town as the locals have flocked there to celebrate. Taking advantage of this festivity, taxi drivers have also raised their rates to IND1 million for a ride into Senggigi. The cheapest available taxi rate was IND 700,000 that day.
We had to try out another option which is to take the Damri Bus to Mataram and then a metred taxi from Mataram to Senggigi. For this option, we paid a total of IND 50,000 + IND70,000= IND120,000 for two persons which though more expensive was better than being ripped off. To avoid this hassle, just avoid public holidays.
Seen here are the locals celebrating the 7th day of Hari Raya at Senggigi. Tens of thousands of motorcyclists flocked to this coastal town to enjoy their public holiday causing massive jam along the narrow Jalan Raya Senggigi leading into Senggigi.

Related Posts:
Lombok Travel Part 2: Mama Bella's Retreat, Senggigi
Lombok Travel Part 3: Senggigi
Lombok Travel Part 4: Leaving Senggigi For Gili Trawangan
Lombok Travel Part 5: Gili Trawangan, A Land Of Bicycles And Cidomos
Lombok Travel Part 6: The Charms Of Gili Trawangan
Lombok Travel Part 7: Gili Trawangan's Iconic Swings
Lombok Travel Part 8: Trawangan Lifestyle
Lombok Travel Part 9: Pearl Of Trawangan
Lombok Travel Part 10: Staying In Les Villas Ottalia
Lombok Travel Part 11: Gili Meno
Lombok Travel Part 12: The Land Cruise Tour
Lombok Travel Part 13: Kebun Villas And Resort, Senggigi

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