Arriving at BANGSAL
There are 2 ways to go to Gili islands
1. The cheaper option and most hassle is to go from Bangsal.
If possible, buy your boat ticket from the boat office. The price is set. A public boat over is now at a rate of 4,500 rupiah per person and goes when it is full. Don't count on catching a public boat upon arrival. The shuttle boat is 10,000 rupiah. A private charter was around 90,000 rupiah, but now the rates have increased slightly. The boat association has now imposed some sort of tax on these rates, ask to see the published rate before agreeing to pay the price. If you purchase a private charter don't expect to be alone, all the local people waiting for a public boat will hop on your boat. That is the system. If you don't want them, tell them at the ticket office when you purchase your ticket that you wish to be alone on the boat. That should take care of the problem.
Bangsal is a transit point and once you leave they have no chance of making money. In their frenzy they have forgotten the niceties of tourism. Keep cool. You will be surrounded with people trying to sell you everything from tours to transport to souvenirs. Little kids will try to dump water on your feet for money. You will be told all kinds of falsehoods from " You can't buy anything on the island from return tickets back to mosquito coils. NOT TRUE. They are scam artists. Gili Trawangan has everything except -NO BANK-NO ATM MACHINE. You can cash traveller's checks, change currency, and even obtain cash advance on your visa for a fee of 8-10%.
2. Go to Senggigi and charter a private boat - this is the expensive option obviously
- Budget Travel
Mataram - a mess of a place!
Don't even think of venturing into Mataram, unless you find chaotic traffic, dusty roads and the sheer hordes of people converging at one point adventurous.
Me & my mate went in one gorgeous morning and we left wondering what we were thinking of when we went in. Like most regional administrative city, Mataram is exactly that. Roads jammed with traffic that did not really obey traffic rules. Dirty and dusty roads, piled up with garbage. People stared at you as you walked past. Houses looking simply tired and worn out for just being in the city. It's hot and humid as well, making exploring tiresome and tedious.
We were so glad when we finally returned to the sanctity of quiet Senggigi!
To read more about Mataram, please read my travelogue: WHERE EVIL RESIDES
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Be aware of the porters that will flood your boat when arriving from f.ex. the Gilis.
We were "attacked" by 5 really scruffy men fighting over our suitcases. We tried to get them away as we could handle our luggage ourselves. They wouldn't listen. When we got to our taxi they demanded 100000 IDR (US$12) for carrying 2 suitcases 10 meters. I told them to bugger off and they got really aggressive. One tried to rip off my T-shirt. We managed to get away without paying anything as I did not want to risk taking out my money as it would most definitely been stolen.
This is somenthing the tourist autorities should get rid off. Really scary first 'welcome' to Lombok.
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While the blissfully clear, turquoise water may seem as safe as a bathtub, be warned that there are very strong currents flowing between the islands and underestimating their power can be and have been fatal. The relatively short distance between the islands can make it tempting to try to swim across the channels but this disillusioning swim has led to several drowning over the years and locals will warn you of the inherent dangers of any attempt to swim between the islands. The currents are especially strong around the north-eastern corners of each island. Also worth bearing in mind is that many of the dive sites have strong currents which results in a drift style dive at many of the sites...a strange and sometimes alarming experience if you are not used to drift dives although the Gilis are a good place to try your first drift due to calm, shallow and clear waters.
With no permanent police force on the islands, the Gilis have developed a bit of a reputation as an island where you can get away with more than normal in conservative and strict Indonesia. Drugs are readily available on the island and you will more than likely be approached to buy some of the local ‘produce’ especially the magic mushrooms which are blatantly advertised in many of the bars and restaurants on Gili Trawangan. This may be something to consider if you plan to bring young children to the island...there is a high risk that they may be exposed to drug culture through advertising signs or people under the ‘infuence’.
Be warned that there have recently been several high profile drug stings by the mainland police and getting caught with any type of drug can carry heavy fines, imprisonment and even the death penalty.
Again because of the lack of police on the island, you should take care with your belongings. The islands are very safe but there are incidents of petty crime on all islands but especially Gili Trawangan. It has to be said that most of the petty crimes committed on the island are carried out by people from the mainland and indeed other travellers rather than the islanders themselves. Make sure that all your valuables are locked safely away at your accommodation. Ask at your lodgings for a safety deposit box but don’t be surprised if they don’t have any, especially at the cheaper accommodation. When you are out ensure your bags are locked and chained if possible and that the doors and windows are secure. Most theft is opportunistic and taking sensible precautions will eliminate the risk of petty crime. Also avoid walking alone at night around isolated parts of the islands including the western coasts and interior.
There is lots of small and annoying Jellyfish around the Gili Islands. We were told they only come out certain moon cycles. They not harmful but the stings is painful and the bumps normally go away after and hour or so but my wife had it quiet badly as the bumps lasted a week. So best to wear a full length wetsuit to avoid being stung by these Jellyfish incase they around in the waters when you snorkeling.
Drugs freely available.
When in Gili Trawangan , people seem to be offering all sorts of drugs in public. We even got asked by a waiter who took our order at a restaurant if we wanted some magic mushrooms. I think this is mainly due to no police on the island.
Please remember this is still Indonesia and there is very strict laws against drugs.
Lombok, persistent peddlers
I went to Sengigi Beach for a good sunset but too bad when i have been surrounded by peddlers selling their wares all the time there... sometime it is so irritating to say a NO to them for upteenth times. Even after the polite NO, they will keep following you and bugging you to buy their product.
I always say NO and be firm about it. Their antics made me rather buy the souveniers at the shop. Once to ask about price, they will go all out (sometime quiet aggrasive) to make you buy their wares..becareful
It also the same thing happend at Kuta and Tanjung Aan in Lombok and also to other Indonesian tourist spot. To cut short, they will be there where the tourist are. Very annoying!
Get to the Gilis: Harassment at Bangsal
To get to the Gilis (Trawangan, Meno & Air), you have to make your way to Bangsal, the access port to the Gilis.
Brace yourself: I have been informed by friends who took this route that they were harassed aggressively & rudely by touts for the boat services and almost came to blows.
I took the highroad. I arranged for a day tour and left for the islands from Senggigi itself (from the beach behind my resort) on a day trip. Yes, I paid much more but I think it was worth it (except I wish I could have stayed a night or two). My call.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
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I don't want to worry you.....but...
There are snakes in them there seas!
I also posted this pic in another section but I thought it deserved a mention in the warnings area. we spotted this snake on Tanjung Ann beach - it's some kind of krait (sea snake) and they're more venomous than cobras apparently.
A guy we got to know who was doing a diving course said that they saw one while diving and the instructor gave it a very wide berth, so not something to be trifled with.
But don't worry, I looked on the internet and it said that they're mainly nocturnal and bites on humans are rare - perhaps the one they saw while diving had been disturbed by something. This one seemed quite dozy but I certainly didn't want to get any closer - I took this photo and moved swiftly on!
Overcharging by Locals
This is very common in Lombok as everyone will try to ask you to pay more than the locals for the same service.
I don't think they see it as 'cheating' or 'swindling' you of your money. Rather, I think they see it as their opportunity to earn more since you are a tourist and are thus assumed to be wealthy and can 'afford' to be overcharged.
It is very difficult to get the 'local' price unless you are a local or have lived there for years and know your way around. It seems practically everyone will attempt to charge you more.
I suppose they reason since tourists can drop 20,000R or more for a meal per person whereas a local would eat a meal for around 3000R, they reason you have plenty of money to burn.
I experienced this 3 times during my stay there and only tried twice to reduce the price. The third time I did not as I considered it a 'tip' to my tour guide by buying coffee from him.
The incidences occured when a guide at Mayura attempted to charge me 50,000R for a tour there which is obviously an outright outrageous payment. I convinced him I had only 10,000R to pay. It was a pity because until that moment he asked for the outrageous amount--> I did liked the guy.
Second was when I ate nasi campor like the locals. The lady attempted to get 20,000R from me for what was a very simple meal. Knowing that it wasn't worth that much (since I saw how much others pay), I convinced her that I had 12,000R to spare only. Surprisingly she didn't seem angry at being paid lower.
Thus here's the lesson--> There will always be a local who will attempt to overcharge you for their services. It is up to you to use good judgment on what to do. For me, I choose to fight when necessary and let certain things go when called for.
Of course, if the asking price is too outrageous (because you can always sense when you are being cheated), you can choose to bargain it down trying to bargain to a more reasonable sum. They certainly cannot do anything to you if you find the asking price too high.
Seasnakes and jellyfish!
While most of the sea life in the waters around the island is of the friendly variety, you should be aware that there are sizeable populations of venomous sea snakes in the water. At certain times of the year stinging jelly fish can also make their presence felt in the water although stings from these jellyfish are not fatal but can be painful. The local clinic can help with stings and snake bites but these clinics are not well equipped and often under-stocked. Just keep your distance if you spot these snakes in the water. Also be careful on boats, as sea snakes often find their way onto boats and love to coil up in rope giving you a nasty surprise when you go to drop or lift anchor as we found when out on a dive trip one day ;)
This won't affect everyone, but when we were snorkelling off the Gilis we all got stung by tiny jellyfish. It wasn't too bad for most of us - just like nettle stings really which went away about 30 mintues after getting out of the sea, but our daughter reacted quite badly and spent the rest of the holiday looking like she had measles all over her legs and stomach. I'm not sure what can be done about this kind of thing - she even got stings under her swimming costume, so I don't know if a wetsuit would help.
I guess that if you've got sensitive skin and you are up that way, get someone else to swim first and see if they can feel the stings - if they can, then don't go in (because everyone gets stung, they just don't all react so badly).
The guys on the snorkelling boat said that it's all to do with the wind and time of year, so maybe the locals would be able to tell you what the jelly situation is.
I find the touts in Lombok to be less aggressive than in Bali and thank goodness because it can get rather tiresome after some time.
With the exception of touts in Kuta and Tanjung A'an, generally the touts in Lombok are less bold and aggressive and a quick shake of a head and walking away to show disinterest is enough to stop them from hassling you.
The touts in Kuta wouldn't leave us and it took almost 10 mins and a lot of hints and head shaking before they got the message that we were just not interested. It helped that 2 busloads full of Indonesian tourists arrived in the nick of time to save us from more hassling.
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