Tips for safe travel in Lombok island

Lombok is very beautiful island with variety things which you can see and do there. As well, it’s not too big one, so most destinations you can reach by driving couple of hours. Most travelers come to Lombok during dry season and to most popular destinations, like Senggigi, Kuta beaches, 3 Gili islands and etc. But during rainy season, in some places you feel like spending time in small part of paradise – no people and surrounding just breathe taking.

In other hand, sometimes in paradise as well can be some danger. I think, the main thing – if you hear that people warn you, take it seriously. You are just guest, no matter from which country, how strong you are and etc. Don’t over value yourself in other country, where people live, think, and act differently than in your surroundings.

When people talk about bad experiences, others, sometimes start to think, that this can’t happen to them. That’s why, long time I didn’t want to share this post, but after some happenings with foreigners in Lombok, made me change my mind. I don’t say that “don’t go to Lombok, it’s dangerous” (like bad things can happen in any place around the world). I just want to share about what you need to be careful. Then you will have safe travel in Lombok and I believe you will fully enjoy the trip.

When we were planning a trip to Lombok (for 3 weeks in rainy season) I read some stories about not nice experiences there. But at that time I thought “Ok, people was just unlucky, maybe some things happen because of their own behavior, nothing bad can happen with us”. When we arrived and met with Indonesian friends, showed our route map – we got the same warnings from them, saying in which parts of Lombok we should be more careful. Then I started worry a bit more. So we followed their suggestions and advice. I’m happy that nothing happened with us, but we saw and heard stories from locals, foreigners who had incidents at that time there.

So here are tips for safe travel in Lombok

When is more safe to travel?
You know that crimes never choose time or place, anything can happen anytime. But there are some common things that happen recently in Lombok.

In Indonesia there are only 2 seasons – dry and rainy. In Lombok even during rainy season can be more dry than in other islands. For example, during our 3 weeks trip, was raining only couple times and at night.

On dry season in Lombok will be more travelers. In any destination you will go, you will meet people on the way, in beaches, visiting other places. Less chance to happen something bad. Like more people will be around who could help you in emergency case and more witness if somebody would want to robber you. But more people around as well has bad side – hard to see who, when and how made a crime.

On rainy season – everywhere is less people, on the roads as well. And around some roads don’t live anyone, so more chances for crimes. But if you will follow advice about timing, how take care of your things, which roads not to choose – everything will be fine.

You should know as well that low season in Lombok counted from January to June; September to December. Low season is a great time to negotiate deals on accommodations and find cheap hotel packages.
High season is on July; September; Chinese New Year and Easter week. Accommodation is harder to find and almost as expensive as in peak season. Roads aren’t as congested as at peak, but it is still difficult to get around with ease.
Peak time is on August; from end of December to beginning of January. The roads become heavily congested. Expect to pay almost double for accommodations, will be harder to barge with sellers. As well the same condition will be during Indonesian holidays.

How to choose safer place to stay?
Don’t search only for cheapest accommodation. Like it’s most probably will be a bit further from peoples living area, center. Choose places where some other hostels/hotels/home-stays are, around lives local people. Important as well, to check if that place have secured parking area. Like there are people who steal motorbikes just in front of hotels – if there is no security.

In Sekotong we stayed in Krisna Bungalows and restaurant, in Kuta Lombok – Seger Reef. Both places were with security parking, fence around territory.

Which time of the day is not safe?
Our local friends suggested us come back to a place where we stay till 8 pm. This advice they gave us for Mataram city and South part of Lombok.
After last praying in mosques, roads are quite empty and you, like foreigner, can be more interesting for criminals.
Which crimes happen more often?
Stealing. Thief takes belongings in beaches. As well steal motorbikes and belongings while you are driving or in parking areas. Motorbikes they steal not only from foreigners but from local people as well.

How motorbikes are stolen on the way? First of all, thieves making situations when you need to slow down while you are driving. Usually it’s 2 motorbikes, one comes in front and makes situation you to slow down (like they know you are foreigner, will try drive by rules and won’t go in front of them), and another driver comes beside you, tries to take the keys from your motorbike. Motorbike finally stops or you stop it and they take it from you threaten by knifes.
Really pay attention to what’s ahead of you, if you see anything blocking your way, quickly turn around and go to the nearest village.

Scammers – you can meet them everywhere (read below about them).

On the hills
Beautiful rice paddies view on the way through the hills
Which roads are more safe?
If you are planning to drive by yourself – choose main roads. Yes, the trip time can be longer, but there you will be safer (better road condition, more people drives through it).

If you will drive from North or Central Lombok to South part, you probably will pass some roads through the hills. There won’t be many villages or people. As well you can get lost (no signs on the way). So if you will need to ask directions – don’t stop to ask it in younger men groups (just not to give them a “sign” that you are “easy spoil”). Stop to ask the way to women, elder people. Probably they won’t speak English but show them final destination spot and use body language. Of course better if you would learn couple of Bahasa Indonesian expression for asking the way. But don’t trust first met people fully – Indonesian people are very polite, even if they don’t know the answer, they want to help you and will try to figure out it. Maybe will say not right direction. So to be sure, ask more people in the same area. Kids can be very helpful as well.

Our experience: we had situation when we a bit lost in the hills on the way to South part. We stopped in motorbike service, there were guys hanging around. My friend was Indonesian, so he asked the directions. They told the way but as well asked him strange question “This girl is a virgin? If yes, leave her here, we will know what to do with her”. Even if it was a joke, it’s not nice at all, especially knowing that in Lombok there are some crimes happening.

You should know that people who live in hills area don’t meet foreigners so often. Don’t feel strange if they will stare at you. Just in other islands people wondering and smiling when looking at you, in Lombok, I didn’t feel comfortable when people were looking at me – it was very straight, deep look with flat face.

Which destinations are not safe?
Ask administrator in place you are staying, which roads to choose and go through them, even if it will be longer ones. Listen what locals will say and don’t ignore their advice, they live there most of their life’s, so they know more.

Be extra careful and never to stop for anything at these area:

  • Awang
  • Tanjung Aan
  • All the way towards Selong Belanak
  • All the way towards Pink beach
  • Are Guling

Our experience: from Kuta Lombok we wanted go to Pink beach by route which was more close, administrator in hotel was laughing and asking “From where you came, that you are so brave to go through this way?”. He recommended to choose longer way but more safer – we listen him. Like we were in Lombok during rainy season when less people around, so we didn’t want to give opportunities to be robbed.

As well on the way from Sekotong to Bangko Bangko guys who were collecting money on the road adviced us be careful and park motorbike near our staying, keep eye on it. We did that, like if your motorbike left alone in parking place without any other people, it’s very easy to steal.

We met on the way one surfer who was going to Gerupuk bay and we saw stones in his motorbike pockets. We asked why he has them. He told that day before some robbers tried to steal motorbike from him while he was driving. So he decided to have some stones with him in a case if somebody would try do it again. Like if he will take a knife it can be worst and stones you can just through to a driver, injure him and he will slow down his motorbike.

In Kuta home-stay as well we saw one girl who was injured in the same road day before. Thief stole her motorbike and all her belongings when she was driving. So better drive a motorbike with someone, don’t drive alone.

After taking with people we met who were attacked, we didn’t take with us any bags or purse. Just some amount money (not all) and phone that we kept under the seat, so visually we looked like not carrying anything. As well after meeting that surfer, we collect some stones and put to the plastic bag in front. Maybe it’s sounds funny, but we just wanted to be safe in any case.

So if you go somewhere try to keep as less as possible things with you, not much money, documents (better have copies with you, original leave in safe place).

What you should know about trekking in Mt. Rinjani?
If you want trekking in Mt. Rinjani you need to take a guide. No matter how high you want to climb. You think you are amateur in trekking and nothing hard just go by the path? It’s not right thinking. Like after rainy season some paths are ruin, guides searching for new ones, they know surroundings and know what to do if something happen. As well trekking in Mt. Rinjani not so easy – you need somebody to lead you.

Don’t enter Mt. Rinjani national park in places that is not “official” entrances. In official entrance – you will be registered like traveler and if something will happen people will know that you are missing and will try to find you. There are many case when overconfident travelers where trying find “illegal” ways to enter national park and not pay entrance fee, wanted trekking without guide and what happen? They lost.  Some of them broke body parts and couldn’t take care of themselves. They were staying couples of days without food, water, camping equipment and nobody knew that in national park there are such person. Only in hotel, after couple days people started to ask where is the guest and informed police that the guest didn’t come back couple of days. Somebody heard that he planned trekking and then rescue team was searching for him in Mt Rinjani. Luckily they found him. Probably you don’t want to be in such situation? You can read more stories even which ended with death.

As well, during rainy season trekking in Mt. Rinjani is forbidden. It’s quite dangerous; the water from mountain can come with very strong and high stream. There will be “guides” who will still suggest their service to lead you (of course not to the top) even during the rainy season. Just because they want to get extra money without thinking that it can be dangerous. Especially for people who climb there first time or trekking is not the main activity in their life’s.

So if you want trekking in Mt. Rinjani be wise choosing right time, guides and legal entrance – then you will avoid bad incidents.

What you should know about scammers?
You can meet them in any place and most probably each time they can be more creative. Here are our experiences.

Public ferry port

We were traveling to Lombok with public ferry from Padang Bai port in Bali. Ferry itself was safe. Yes, you are going with many other people ~4-5 hours. Of course you need keep eye on your stuff – but it’s the same in any journey in any country.
But in Mataram port there are “local” rules that you should know. After you will get out from ferry many mans will suggest you their transport to bring you to any destination in Lombok: straight to Gilis, Kuta Lombok or other places. There are no public transports, so you need to use their service, even if you want just go to Mataram center.

Yes, they have taxis, that you could use, BUT no taxi will go to port. Why? Because locals won’t allow them to enter that area, they want to earn money suggesting their cars/buses.
We thought it’s a joke. But when we called the taxi and asked to pick up us (like those man’s transport prices was too crazy, we knew that trip cost less), the taxi refused to come straight to port. They asked us come to a “meeting point” in one of the shops. Till that place it’s walking distance ~20 min. But even we went there, taxi didn’t show up. One guy was following us from port and all the time suggesting his car, we told that “We are waiting taxi, we are fine”. He was just laughing and said – “Taxi won’t come here, they are afraid and we don’t allow them to enter”. So at late evening, waiting more than 30 min. for taxi finally agree take that man service (for 80 000 Rp till Mataram center). His price was much cheaper than those who were in front of the port.

My advice:

  • In ferry find other travelers and agree to share the transport costs (like it will be quite high, they know that you don’t have any other option to get out from port)
  • Negotiate. If the price that they offer still too high, just start walk away and somebody for sure will suggest better price. But don’t be rude, negotiate in polite way :).

Entering temples

Many temples entrance are based on donations (but not all), but nobody regulates it. So local people living around already have “donation amount” that can ask from you before entering. They present themselves like workers, responsible people and collects money (where it goes nobody knows). In some places amount is quite normal 10 000 Rp per person, but in some temples they ask hundreds of Rupiahs just for entering, then additional money for parking. You won‘t get any tickets for sure – like it‘s donation.

If you want to enter without donation – people won‘t allow you. Most of the time in such places gathering 5-10 local men, so trying to negotiate with them or say that it’s donation based and it’s not must to pay, it’s impossible. We had situation when “workers” asked from each of us ~60 000 Rp for entrance and separately for motorbike parking. For us it was too big amount and we told like it’s donation based we will leave how much we can. They didn’t agree with that, became angry and told that we need to pay how much they said. Other guys saw that we try to negotiate and don’t pay at once, started to gathering around – trying to frighten us. We could just go inside but we started to think that they can damage our motorbike like revenge after we will come back. So we decided just leave that place and continue our trip to other place. Even if they saw that we won’t pay and leaving they didn’t suggest us lower price.

Entering beaches

As well to enter many beaches you will need to pay plus pay for parking – situation the same like with temples. It’s not legal, but local people try to earn money like this. They gathering together around and won’t let you go inside till you won’t pay – so just don’t be too brave. If you want to come back to the same place you will need to pay again, no matter if they will say that you need to pay just once.

Also, remember that nothing is free. You can see some bunks in the beach and nobody will be around to inform you that if you want to use them, you will need to pay. People will come to you when you will decide to leave and ask quite big amount of money. Will start to explain you about more hours you was using it than it was.

About how works motorbikes scammers you can read here.

Extra tip for safe travel in Lombok

Beware buying local alcohol from your “new friendly friends” (it’s common in all Indonesia). They can suggest you cocktail, try local drink and etc. Seems adventurous to drink something that it’s forbidden BUT there cases when people died after drinking alcohol in Indonesia. People are mixing or make the alcohol be diluted with methanol. You know that it’s very dangerous? You can google some news about it. Some insights here.

All trips will be safe if you won’t over value yourself and will hear, follow advice and warnings. Don’t be brave – be smart and wise before deciding to do something and your journey will be just amazing!

P.S. If you need a guide in Lombok island, I can recommend Hendra.


Travel tips for traveling in Lombok
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What to do during rainy season

Rainy season in Indonesia (that usually takes ~6 months) can influence your health condition and damage your belongings. If you are not used to such weather condition you should be prepared to it. What to do during rainy season? Here are my recommendations how to “survive” during rainy season.

What to do before rainy season or when the first rain comes

Place of stay

  • Liking parts: check if there is any liking parts through the roof, wall. Repair/cover it immediately (can ask your owner for help)
  • Gutter: check if the place gutter is clean because if the water during the rain won’t be able to go properly, it will start goes inside your place through walls, windows, and roof.
  • Windows, doors: when you are leaving the place, check your windows and doors. Be sure they close properly. During a tropical rain storm the wind blows the rain sideways and water can come in these cracks.
  • Bamboo roof: if you have such – cover properly the roof from inside.

Humidity and mushrooms

Because of big humid the mushrooms can damage your clothes, electrical devices, can affect your health condition.

  • Sun: if will be any sun, take out all your stuff to get dry in sun as often as possible (mattress, blankets, pillows, other textile and etc.)
  • Clothes: keep the shoes that you don’t wear in the plastic bags, but often ventilate them in the sun. As well ventilate your clothes often.
  • Electric device: turn on them daily. During the trip, if you will leave anything at home, keep it in plastic boxes.
  • Spaces: ventilate it daily; clean once per week the floor and others places where mushrooms can start to grove because of humid.
  • Furniture: buy special liquid and cover with it your furniture. That prevents wooden furniture from mushrooms and insects that eat wood. Also as often as possible take the furniture outside for a sun.
  • Cleaning equipment: keep it all the time clean, don’t leave in the bathroom.
  • Humidity collector: use special humid collector that possible to buy in bigger supermarkets and often take out collected water from there. As well them are very good for dry season – like humidity level in Indonesia is very high.
  • Fan: if you have it – use daily, to dry your sleeping place or other spaces.

Mosquitoes

  • Body treatment: during rainy season usually there are more mosquitoes and those who can give you Dengue fever (every 5 years in Indonesia exist outbreak of Dengue fever, this year (2015) was the 5th year, so many people got it). So use more often the spry from mosquitoes or other products on your skin.
  • Home implements: use implements at home to prevent the mosquitoes. For example mosquitoes net, electrical devices with lavender smell.
  • Clothes: don’t leave too many clothes hanging in the room, like mosquitoes will hide there. As well somehow black color clothes attract them more.
  • Food: drink more guava fruits. It helps your immunity system be stronger against Dengue fever.

Health

  • Vitamins: drink more vitamin C (you can buy it in the shops, pharmacy). If you have – vitamins that makes your immunity system stronger.
  • Food: drink more warm drinks, if it’s possible with lemon. Eat more soups and warm dishes. Eat properly food and “normal” dose.
  • Clothes: wear clothes that makes you stay warm, cover your neck with scarf. If in the place of staying the floor is from ceramic – wear socks or slippers. If you will get wet, try as soon as possible to change the clothes.
  • During the night: make sure that you will sleep warm (wear warm clothes, cover yourself with warm blanket and etc.)
  • Places: don’t stay in places where windy, drought is.

Usual day during rainy season :)

 

Be patient waiting for the dry season and take care of yourself, your place and stuff during rainy season :).

If you will be unlucky and will get sick, you can read where to get help –  health institutions in Yogyakarta.

 

Have more tips what to do during rainy season? Please share :)