The few Pelni ships that link towns within Sulawesi are a comfortable alternative to long and rough bus trips. Every two weeks the following boats sail from Makassar: the Kambuna and Kerinci go to Pantoloan (for Palu); the Bukit Siguntang, Lambelu and Rinjani go to Bau Bau; the Ciremai goes to Bau Bau, the Banggai Islands and Bitung (for Manado); the Lambelu goes to Bitung; and the Sirimau goes to the remote islands of Bone Rate.
The most useful service is the Tilongkabila, which sails every two weeks from Makassar to Bau Bau, Raha and Kendari; up to Kolonedale, Luwuk, Gorontalo and Bitung; across to Tahuna and Lirung in the Sangir-Talaud Islands; and returns the same way to Makassar.
Elsewhere along the coast, and to remote islands such as the Togean and Banggai, creaky old passenger ships, or kapal kayu (wooden boats), are the normal mode of transport, although speedboats are also occasionally available for charter. Around the southeastern peninsula, the kapal cepat (fast boat) or ‘super-jet’ is the way to go.
Regions around Makassar and the southwest peninsula, and around Manado and the northeast peninsula, have good roads and frequent, comfortable buses (and less comfortable bemo, known in Sulawesi as mikrolet or pete-pete). Elsewhere, roads are often rough, distances are long, and public transport can be crowded and uncomfortable. Allow plenty of time to travel overland in Central Sulawesi, especially in the wet season. On the southeast and southwest peninsulas, sharing a Kijang (a type of 4WD taxi) is a quick, but not necessarily more comfortable, way of getting around.
The recent growth of domestic air carriers has made internal flights cheaper and more frequent. Merpati and Lion Air are the main carriers within Sulawesi, but Batavia Air, Bouraq and DAS also operate selected routes.