I guess by now you’ve realised that if there’s a cheap option, we’ll take it. Desperate to get over to see the Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island or Rinca we needed to get from Bali to Labuan Bajo on Flores by cheapest means possible. In my head that could only be a ferry ride.
The Pelni ferry is your first option, and the one we took. Pelni is the main large company to transport people around Indonesia. Bear in mind that most ferries are not regular, the ferry from Benoa (Bali) to Labuan Bajo (Flores) only leaves once every two weeks and takes somewhere between 32 and 40 hours (we were told various stories). To check the timetables visit http://www.pelni.co.id/scheduleresult.php
You can’t book online I’m afraid, the two options you have are to call up, but if you don’t have a grasp of Indonesian this could be trouble, or visit the office itself. That’s the option we’d suggest really and so we wandered around Denpasar until we found the office, and were shepherded to a back room to buy our tickets. You can find branch office addresses here: http://www.pelni.co.id/agencabang.php
Now, the most important bit. What class should you go for?
If you are aiming to get to Flores as cheaply as possible then Economy (Ekonomi) might be the one for you. It costs 184,000IDR (about £12.50!).
Our French friend Alex had a crack at this and if we’re all honest, regretted every second of it. Imagine a room full of uncomfortable beds, smoke and people chatting noisily and you’re about half way there. Here’s a picture that doesn’t do it justice! Also prepare for some legs of the trip to be overcrowded. On one part a guy told me that for a boat built for 950 people there were over 2000 on board. Worrying.
Next you have second class (Kelas 2) and then first class (Kelas Satu). The only difference between these is that in second class 4 people share, in first only 2 share. All rooms have “en-suite” if you can call it that. I’m not going to lie, they’re grimy. The room and bed is not so bad but the bathroom isn’t the best, bearable though. Stupidly, we didn’t take any photos so you’ll have to just imagine it, sorry.
Prices: 1st class 707,000IDR (£48 per person) – This is what Ruth and I went for and somehow snagged a 30% discount.
2nd class 578,000IDR (£39 per person)
So you can see it’s not quite as cheap as you’d expect. Another option is to take the bus ferry bus ferry combo which, at around 300,000IDR is pretty reasonable, and the way we decided to come back from Labuan Bajo to Lombok. Don’t expect to sleep much on the overnight buses though. Alternatively you could go with Perama Tour which is more expensive still but you get to stop off on the way at various places (possibly including Komodo Island).
Overall the Pelni ferry is cheaper than flying, even in 1st class, but truthfully we wouldn’t use them again, for one reason. Imagine standing on deck looking out over the beautiful Indonesian islands at sunrise, you look down, a hatch opens and a head appears, followed nonchalantly by a huge stack of rubbish which floats off into the distance. Kind of gets you down. But then you could say that about every ferry we’ve travelled on in Indonesia.
A Holiday to Bali is perfect for people wanting a cheap and relaxing getaway, but there is plenty to do and see on the other islands of Indonesia and they shouldn’t be forgotten. I hope this article helps you to decide how to get there!