Lombok is a very beautiful island with various things which you can see and do there. As well, it’s not too big, so most destinations you can reach by driving a couple of hours. Most travelers come to Lombok during the dry season and to the most popular destinations, like Senggigi, Kuta beaches, 3 Gili islands and etc. But during the rainy season, in some places, you feel like spending time in a small part of paradise – no people and surrounding just breath-taking.
On another 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 a guest, no matter from which country, how strong you are and etc. Don’t overvalue yourself in other countries, 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, a long time I didn’t want to share this post, but 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 what you need to be careful about. 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 the rainy season) I read some stories about not nice experiences there. But at that time I thought “Ok, people were 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 to worry a bit more. So we followed their suggestions and advice. I’m happy that nothing happened to 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 safer 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 the rainy season can be drier than in other islands. For example, during our 3 weeks trip, was raining only a couple of times and at night.
In the dry season in Lombok will be more travelers. In any destination you will go to, you will meet people on the way, on the 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 as bad side – hard to see who, when and how made a crime.
In the rainy season – everywhere is fewer 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 to take care of your things, which roads not to choose – everything will be fine.
You should know as well that the 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. The high season is in 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 their peak, but it is still difficult to get around with ease. Peak time is in August; from the end of December to the 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 the Indonesian holidays.
How to choose safer place to stay?
Don’t search only for the 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 has a secured parking area. Like there are people who steal motorbikes just in front of hotels – if there is no security.
Our local friends suggested we 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 a foreigner, can be more interesting for criminals.
Which crimes happen more often?
Stealing. Thief takes belongings in beaches. As well as 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 the 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 knives.
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).
Which roads are safer?
If you are planning to drive by yourself – choose the main roads. Yes, the trip time can be longer, but there you will be safer (better road condition, more people drive through it).
If you will drive from North or Central Lombok to the 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 the final destination spot and use body language. Of course better if you would learn a couple of Bahasa Indonesian expressions 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 the right direction. So to be sure, ask more people in the same area. Kids can be very helpful as well.
Our experience: we had a situation when we a bit lost in the hills on the way to the South part. We stopped in motorbike service, there were guys hanging around. My friend was Indonesian, so he asked for the directions. They told them the way but as well asked him a 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 the 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 a very straight, deep look with a flat face.
Which destinations are not safe?
Ask the administrator in place you are staying, which roads to choose, and go through them, even if it will be long ones. Listen to what locals will say and don’t ignore their advice, they live there most of their lives, so they know more.
Be extra careful and never to stop for anything in these areas:
All the way towards Selong Belanak
All the way towards Pink beach
Our experience: from Kuta Lombok, we wanted to go to Pink beach by a route which was more close, an administrator in the hotel was laughing and asking “From where you came, that you are so brave to go through this way?”. He recommended choosing a longer way but safer – we listen to him. Like we were in Lombok during the rainy season when fewer 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 advised us to 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 to 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 a motorbike from him while he was driving. So he decided to have some stones with him in case if somebody would try to do it again. Like if he will take a knife it can be the 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. The 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 of 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 them in the plastic bag in front. Maybe it sounds funny, but we just wanted to be safe in any case.
So if you go somewhere try to keep as few as possible things with you, not much money, documents (better have copies with you, original leave in a safe place).
Who could thought that in this beautiful beach parking area people are stealing motorbikes?
Our “equipment” if somebody would attact us :)
Some hotels “fence” with glass peaces
What you should know about trekking in Mt. Rinjani?
If you want trekking on Mt. Rinjani you need to take a guide. No matter how high you want to climb. Do you think you are an 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 happens. 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 are not “official” entrances. At the official entrance – you will be registered as a traveler and if something will happen people will know that you are missing and will try to find you. There are many cases when overconfident travelers were trying to find “illegal” ways to enter the national park and not pay the entrance fees, wanted trekking without a guide, and what happens? They lost. Some of them broke body parts and couldn’t take care of themselves. They were staying a couple of days without food, water, camping equipment, and nobody knew that in the national park there is such a person. Only in the hotel, after couple of days people started to ask where is the guest and informed police that the guest didn’t come back a couple of days. Somebody heard that he planned trekking and then the rescue team was searching for him in Mt Rinjani. Luckily they found him. Probably you don’t want to be in such a situation? You can read more stories even which ended with death.
As well, during the rainy season trekking in Mt. Rinjani is forbidden. It’s quite dangerous; the water from the mountain can come with the 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 the 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 by public ferry from Padang Bai port in Bali. The ferry itself was safe. Yes, you are going with many other people ~4-5 hours. Of course, you need to 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 the ferry many men will suggest 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 won’t just go to Mataram center.
Yes, they have taxis, that you could use, BUT no taxi will go to the 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 were too crazy, we knew that trip cost less), the taxi refused to come straight to port. They asked us to come to a “meeting point” in one of the shops. Till that place, it’s walking distance ~20 min. But even we went there, the taxi didn’t show up. One guy was following us from the port and all the time suggesting his car, we told that “We are waiting for a 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 in the late evening, waiting more than 30 min. for taxi finally agree to 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.
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 a better price. But don’t be rude, negotiate in a polite way :).
Many temple’s entrances is based on donations (but not all), but nobody regulates it. So local people living around already have a “donation amount” that can ask from you before entering. They present themselves as workers, responsible people, and collects money (where it goes nobody knows). In some places, the 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 a donation.
If you want to enter without a 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 impossible. We had a situation when “workers” asked from each of us ~60 000 Rp for entrance and separately for motorbike parking. For us, it was too big an amount and we told us like it’s donation-based we will leave how much we can. They didn’t agree with that, became angry and told us that we need to pay how much they said. Other guys saw that we try to negotiate and don’t pay at once, started 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 to leave that place and continue our trip to another place. Even if they saw that we won’t pay and leaving they didn’t suggest a lower price.
As well to enter many beaches you will need to pay plus pay for parking – situation the same as with temples. It’s not legal, but local people try to earn money like this. The 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 on 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 a big amount of money. Will start to explain to you about more hours you were using it than it was.
About how works motorbikes scammers you can read here.
Extra tip for safe travel in Lombok
Beware of buying local alcohol from your “new friendly friends” (it’s common in all of Indonesia). They can suggest you a cocktail, try a local drink and etc. Seems adventurous to drink something that it’s forbidden BUT their cases when people died after drinking alcohol in Indonesia. People are mixing or make alcohol be diluted with methanol. Do 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 overvalue 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!
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
Have you been to Lombok island? Did you feel safe there?
Do you have any other travel tips on how to stay safe during trips?
Have you faced any scammers while you were traveling in Asia?