The past 2 weeks have been problematic for travelers trying to get to Gili Trawangan. Huge waves and swells have prevented fast boats from crossing the straight between Lombok and Bali.
Fast boats are a convenient way to get from Bali to Gili. The crossing takes about 2 hours and the boats are getting safer and more comfortable. This new mode of transport has made the Gilis and Lombok more accessible to travelers who otherwise would not have made the long slog on a slow ferry or bothered with a flight.
This is a friendly reminder that Indonesia is still very much a developing country with little or no infrastructure. And because we are an island nation smack in the middle of the ring of fire, there is always the risk that travel will be hampered by erupting volcanoes or big waves: Mother nature is a fickle mistress.
Intrepid souls, who can be flexible and tolerant, will be rewarded with clear blue water, white sand and one of the prettiest places in Asia.
I’ve travelled extensively throughout Indonesia and SEA and I have learned a lot. Here’s 10 tips to make your travel in Indonesia a bit easier.
- Pack light. Seriously. PACK.LIGHT. If you cannot comfortably lift and or carry your bag for at least 100 meters, you have too much crap.
- Do not bring your expensive and/or favorite clothing. Harsh chemicals in laundries ruin clothes and things may get misplaced and lost.
- Leave your wheelie bags at home and save them for urban environments. Indonesia, in general and Gili in particular, have no suitable roads to pull a wheelie bag.
- Know that you will lose a day of your holiday every time you move locations. Do not try to see it all.
- On long travel days make sure your devices are well charged, that you have plenty of water and also snacks. You never know when food may come your way.
- Download Skype onto your phone and add some credit. You can use Skype to call landlines, and cell phones. You may get caught in a situation where you need to call home, call an airline or bank. Don’t depend on your roaming service.
- Have a contingency plan if things go pear shaped. Don’t overschedule or tightly schedule transport.
- Be patient with local people. It’s very common for local people to give misinformation or no information regarding timetables or schedules. This is because they do not want to disappoint you. So in their mind it’s better to tell you things like, “soon” “yes, very near” and “no problem” even when they know its not soon, it is far and its a problem! Time is fluid. In Indonesia we call it “jam karet” it is literally translated to “rubber time”. Go with the flow and whatever you do, don’t raise your voice or get angry. You will only make the situation worse.
- Do a bit of research on your intended destination before you arrive. Learn a bit about the areas’ religion, customs and culture. Many people are surprised that the Gilis are actually Muslim and not part of Hindu Bali.
- And most importantly, bring a headlamp or torch. Electricity is unstable in most of SEA, and in smaller places like the Gilis, there are no street lights. We straddle the equator so it gets dark quite early. Don’t get caught in the dark!