One Week in Lombok: Getting there

Lombok, an island east of Bali, in Indonesia, is one of my favorite surfing destinations. I had first traveled there in 2011 and have been aching to go back ever since. So when we were invited to join friends in Lombok, at just about the time that we were planning on leaving Hong Kong, we jumped at the opportunity.

Despite the late 2011 opening of an international airport in Lombok, flying there isn’t exactly the most convenient. When we were looking for flights, it seemed that our only option was to go via Denpasar in Bali. Lombok has yet to become a major tourist attraction, so international flights aren’t high in demand, with routes already being cancelled or cut down.

The new airport in Denpasar is a vast improvement on the old one though. Cleaner, and much better organized. When I first landed in Bali in 2011 it was a nightmare to get through. Citizens of several nations have the option of getting a visa on arrival for US$25 a person. Knowing this I traveled into the country sans visa and waited on line for nearly two hours to get my entry visa. As well, I found out later that there was an unofficial “fast lane” whereupon you could bribe an official with about 200,000 Rupiah to take you to the front of the line. Completely corrupt.

This time though, as I sprinted off the plane, dodging people left and right to try to get to the front of the queue, to my surprise there was absolutely no wait. When they built the new airport, a way was found to better organize passengers and we got through in about 5 minutes. A huge relief, because it meant there was little chance of us missing our next flight, and I wouldn’t end up bashing my head into a wall from boredom.

However, to complicate things, Indonesian airports don’t charge you upfront for airport taxes, instead choosing to charge you as you prepare to go through security. So if you don’t have Rupiah on hand, you’ll have to go search for an ATM. Domestic flights tend to cost 45,000 Rupiah and international flights between 150,000 and 200,000 Rupiah depending on what airport you’re traveling from.

As well, if you’re going surfing there, and not flying with Garuda, you need to be prepared for hefty surfboard charges. We were flying from Denpasar to Lombok with Wings Air, and they wanted 200,000 Rupiah per board! Rich and I were carrying 3 boards with us, so we ended up having to pay 600,000 Rupiah for our boards to fly all of 30 minutes. That was about 80% of our actual ticket fare. And of course, they only took cash. Seems the lesson here is to always carry an abundance of cash.

Something that we learned while flying domestically in Vietnam back in February seemed to be true in Indonesia as well. Don’t trust the flight information boards. They don’t change or update their information. Just because it says that a flight will be boarding at a certain gate at a certain time, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will. Our flight was meant to leave Denpasar at 10:55 in the morning. There were no announcements regarding boarding times or delays, but after asking several times at our assigned gate when we’d leave, we discovered that we weren’t likely to board until 10:45, then 11:05, then 11:20, then 11:45. No announcement was ever made, and the flight board never changed. It was mostly just assumed that we’d know that there was a delay and to make ourselves comfortable.

When we finally did board the flight, it was at 11:45, 20 minutes after we were expected to arrive in Lombok, and it was at a different gate than what we were told. Good thing we asked…

I have to say though, that the 30-minute flight was lovely. We had seats at the very front of the little propeller plane (though there was an obvious segregation of locals and foreigners: locals at the back, foreigners as the front), and the view was stunning.

We arrived in a lush, green paradise. Flat with the occasional protruding hill, and coconut trees sprouting in full force. It felt a bit like landing in Jurassic Park.

Hello Lombok!

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