We took the Pelni vessel LABOBAR from Jayapura with our intended destination being Surabaya. We booked a first class cabin (on account of the trip being 5 days long) at Rp. 6,000,000 for the whole trip which comes to app. USD 200 per night, twin share. Included were all the meals.
A few warnings:
Our cabin was absolutely filthy when we got in. In no way are we pretentious westerners (we both live in PNG and are comfortable with basic living) but the fact that the sheets were stained, floors scummy, and bathroom utterly disgraceful was off putting from the very beginning. So we cleaned the room ourselves. There were no towels, no soap, no toilet paper..nothing really. This would not have been a problem except for the fact that at 6 million rp. we expected a little more. 5 star hotels in Indonesia cost substantially less and provide exceptionally higher standards of service. Had we known this previously, we would have either flown direct from Jayapura or booked a second class shared room (about 8 pax per room and about one third of the price).
We suspect that the vessel is cleaned properly in Jakarta at the beginning of its journey, and then not cleaned again until it returns. But again, this is speculation. Once you have some distance between you and the island of Papua, they will clean up a fair amount of the Betelnut and general deck rubbish. This is achieved, however, by discarding MASSIVE(!!!!!!) amounts of non-biodegradable trash into the ocean. If you stand of the stern for longer than 5 minutes you can see the trail of plastic debris left behind in the wake. It is really really sad to see. So if you're a greenie, close your eyes...
If you don't speak Bahasa, you won't get far at all. All service announcements are in Bahasa ONLY, so double and triple check the stops etc. If your English is basic, some wild arm flailing will have to do because about 2 staff spoke a little English. However, we will say that the staff in general are very friendly and as helpful as they can be. Also note that the ship is probably not going to be on time - or even close- so leave plenty of space (a couple of days) between any connections you plan to book.
You get your 3 meals a day.. they're not great, they're not bad either.. it's all food in the end. If you're specific, byo. Also BYO ALL OF YOUR ALCOHOL!!!!!! The boat does not stock any alcohol, however you are allowed to carry it. Which brings us to our next point..
If you're taking this trip with the hope of exploring Indonesia while the ship is docked, then forget it. 2 hours in each port is all you will get. The line to get out of the ship takes about 1/2 hour as does the line to get back on, so that leaves you with 1 hour, if you're lucky (which is no where near enough time to source alcohol..our only mission).
Ladies, I wouldn't recommend taking this trip alone at all. Take your man, a man, any man, or travel in a group. Just don't go alone. In typical Papuan fashion you will be stared at, hissed at and grabbed at any opportunity. It is extraordinarily uncomfortable and tiring, and I was with my man.
We do want to say that you should not be put off this trip, just have clear and realistic expectations. Papua is definitely worth seeing by sea.
There is not a bus service to the border with Papua New Guinea. I went there thanks to motorcycles (several).
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