They say only the foolish or the hardcore traveler choose to take the local public transport to get from Bali to Gili Air. How adventurous is this? We decided to take that path and see how it goes.
Kuta to Padang Bai: 1h30 to 2h
Its amazing how small distances in Bali can take you long hours to complete. A simple 40km route can take you up to 2 hours which means that you have to be driving at 20km/h. Crazy right? But it won’t look that crazy once you see how locals get around there and how the roads snake the land of this beautiful island. You’ll have to be extremely aware and attentive not to run someone over since scooters are the predominant means of transportation. And an extra hassle if you are not used to driving on the left side of the road.
Padang Bai harbor to Lembar harbor: 4h to 5h
As soon as we got to Padang Bai harbour, a group of local touts dropped on us, following us like ants would on a moving sugar cube.
“Where you go? Lombok? Gili Air?”
The important thing here is to remain calm, you don’t have to neglect them in an insulting way cause this might get them to start harassing you. I instantly started talking to one of them, making the others think that he’s the one that I chose to do business with. So they backed off. Now the hard part is to let go of the chosen one as politely as possible. I looked straight into his bright blue eyes, aiming to talk to a brother’s soul and get my point straight and strict: “listen Mi, I need to do this my way! I wan’t to try getting there on my own terms!”
Although he offered quite an attractive price for a roundtrip ticket, I declined respectfully taking his number and promising to take him on his offer for the way back, if the one way price turns out to be the same as he suggested. A good and honest strategy that made him cut me loose.
The cheapest way from Padang Bai to Lombok is the public ferry (41,000IRP – 3USD). You can always pamper yourself and take the a fast boat but we preferred travelling slow. Plus, you’ll get to witness amazing views along the way and be amazed by the tropical sun’s bright reflection on the infinite ocean waters. Or you can just relax and enjoy an old action movie where Chuck Norris never fails to kill all the bad guys in a slow motion shooting scene. Balinese sleep, airing their naked feet with the fresh salty ocean breeze. I chose to do the same.
Lembar harbor to bangsal harbor 1h30 to 2h
Once at Lembar harbour a strike of thunder brought a non-stop shower of pouring rain. What a mess, we went on land with zero clue on what to do next. I have read previously that the bus station should be somewhere on the left side, right outside the harbour. I have read as well that we will be welcomed by another group of touts that will try to bargain our transportation to Bangsal harbour. We tried to avoid them but they were everywhere, on every street corner. Not finding the bus station anywhere, I soon came to realise that there was no other way: We had to bargain our way. Some would say 500,000 IDR some would say 250,000 IDR. An obvious scam that hits you right in the face.
I completly understand, locals here hardly make more than 3$/day and tourists are a big source for extra income. But the idea of being scammed is just nasty. I wouldn’t mind paying an extra tip for the guy if I knew i was getting a fair price. We bargained and got a deal of 75,000 IDR – 6USD per person (which I strongly believe it could have been much less) taking the bemo (shuttle bus) to Bangsal harbour.
The ride is very rewarding though. You’ll get to pass through tropical jungle forests where monkeys would be relaxing on the pavements or bunjee jumping from one tree to another. You’ll get to feel the poverty yet the complete serenity and gratitude of the people there…
Bangsal to Gili air island 10min
As soon as you get to Bangsal harbour, another group of touts will be waiting for you. By now, you would have developed what I call “tout immunity”.
“500,000 IDR my friend! I don’t lie to you! Why so serious?”
“500,000? Are you crazy man? The island is at my sight! I can get there swimming!”
I completely ignored the guy and tried to find anyone in uniform to get a straight answer. Eventually we found a small desk almost hidden from public view and where the real price tickets are being sold. 12,000 IDR – 1USD was the cost to pay. Gili here we are!
The challenge was not to exceed 10$/person for the whole trip which we managed to successfully accomplish. Knowing how to bargain, and researching before hand is a must. You’ll thank me later. So to recapitulate briefly:
- Bali to Padang Bai – Duration: 1h30 to 2h00 – Transportation: By car – Cost: 0$ (since we had already rented a car).
- Padang Bai to Lembar harbor – Duration: 4h00 to 5h00 – Transportation: By Public ferry – Cost: 3$ (legal price)
- Lembar harbour to Bangsal harbour – Duration: 1h30 to 2h00 – Transportation: By Bemo (shuttle bus) – Cost: 6$(bargained price)
- Bangsal harbour to Gili Air Island – Duration: 10min – Transportation: By public boat – Cost: 1$ (legal price)