Boat Travel in Indonesia: Research, Patience, and Courage

I have read more than a few horror stories of traveling in Indonesia by boat. After reading them and talking to friends who have traveled through Indonesia before, I decided it was time to do my research and find out what I was getting into. Also, I decided to try not to worry. It would come when it was time. It would be an experience. It would be fine. most likely. I didn’t have to worry because I had done my research! right!?! right?

One of my friends recommended we always book our boat travel through our hotel we were staying in since we could get a discounted rate, our hotel was on the pricier side and knew reputable companies, and the boat company would know where to pick us up from. We decided to follow this advice and not to book boats until we arrived in Indonesia. This worked out really well for us even during the peak season of Christmas and New Years.

The first boat we took was from Bali to Senggigi Lombok. Our hotel booked us our tickets and told us to be downstairs at 7:30 am to meet the shuttle bus that would take us to the boat. We made sure to let our hotel know we were ok spending a little extra money for a safe boat and went to bed praying for the best.


Waiting for a few hours watching boats come and go hoping we hadn’t missed ours.


In the morning, the shuttle bus picked us and other tourists staying in Ubud up and drove us to the port. At the port, they told us to wait here for the boat. We waited a few hours. Tons of boat companies were coming and going during that time and we didn’t see any of the men that we bought our tickets from. Alyssa was getting anxious about not getting on the correct boat and went off looking to find out exactly when we would be leaving. After trying a few times to get a departure time, we realized we weren’t getting anywhere so we sat and tried to keep our eyes peeled for when the men in green shirts, our company, started looking busy. Patience. Patience. Patience.

Finally, it was time to board to the boat. Courage. All I could think about was this story from a travel blogger I read before leaving. Courage. Today was clear and we would only be on the boat for a few hours at most. I could see the life jackets. Courage. I didn’t mention my fears to my travel mates afraid it might jinx us.


The sky was totally clear from Bali to Lombok but started to look like this on our ride from Gili T to Lombok. Get me off this boattttttt


On the boat, it was stuffy and hot. All the windows were closed and there were children running wildly throughout the isles. Yikes. When can I get off this thing!?! Luckily I had charged my kindle and let myself get lost in Kvothe’s adventures in the Four Corners (Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, great book!).

When I looked up more than half the boat was getting off. I looked around for any sign of where we were but couldn’t find anything. Where were we? Senggigi? Gili? after about 10 minutes of people piling off I realized a few travelers were still sitting. Then a man called into the cabin from outside, “Gili T! Gili T!” Had we gotten on the wrong boat?


In hindsight, I should have known where we were by the giant sign that read TRAWANGAN. Whatever.


The other people staying put assured me that we would probably be making another stop and to not worry. I looked out the window to confirm the weather was still clear and settled back into my book. When we arrived in Lombok we took a shuttle van to Senggigi. Lombok was significantly more rural than Bali. It was a completely different feeling and atmosphere.

In the end, nothing dramatic befell us on our boat rides between Lombok, Gili, and Bali. My advice to you is to do your research. Then have patience. It’s a long day of traveling. Plan to spend the entire day in transit. If it ends up being shorter, good for you! Lastly, have courage. The only way to access some islands is by boat. It might be unavoidable for you.

I am a worrier by nature and not a huge risk taker. I had done everything I could to make sure that I would be safe going to and from the different islands and it was a clear day. There was nothing left to do but relax and enjoy the journey and that’s what I tried to do.


Alyssa relaxed and calm on the boat.


If you have done your research, then you have read the horror stories and you know what boats to trust. If you have made the decision to travel by boat in Indonesia, have confidence in your decision and be courageous. Every time you travel there are some risks. It is an unavoidable part of travel. Here are some quick tips for boat travel in Indonesia that I found online.

  • Ask to see the boat before you boo a cruise.
  • Never do an overnight boat cruise on a boat if you haven’t seen the life raft, seen the navigation equipment, and the life jackets.
  • Don’t do an overnight boat cruise during the rainy season. period. (November-March)
  • In fact, if you are doing an overnight boat cruise just fork over the big bucks and do something “luxury.”
  • Even the fast boats to Gili sometimes sink (twice in 2013!) so don’t travel on a day with bad weather. It is better to stay where you are and get a boat a different day.
  • Take a domestic flight if possible. Flights in Indonesia can be super cheap. It’s worth looking into!

Doing your research, having patience, and being courageous is the way to successful boat travel in Indonesia.

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