Bali or Sumatra?
Replies: 18 - Last Post: Sep 7, 2012 10:18 PM Last Post By: smirky1
Aug 23, 2012 2:04 PM
Currently planning a 3 week trip in Indonesia and unsure whether to spend it around Bali or Sumatra. We're a 30 year old couple who have travelled quite extensively and are looking for something at least partly 'off the beaten track' including some trekking, beach time and soaking up a whole lot of culture. We'll be arriving from Singapore and i think we could get the ferry to Sumatra?
We've ordered the LP guide but don't have too long to prepare as leaving in a couple of weeks, also the LP guide is probably partly out of date as was last published in 2010. I've read a few posts stating that Bali was getting more touristy and expensive, has this changed a lot in the last few years (since the LP guide was published?) and would it be better to explore Sumatra?
OR is Bali area touristy because it is the most beautiful part of indonesia and the sites there really are not to be missed?
We would really like to stay with local families where possible and would be very keen to spend at least a couple of days doing cookery courses.
Any arguments for or against Bali / Sumatra would be useful.
Aug 23, 2012 2:38 PM
Indonesia is a very huge country.
From Sabang to Merauke (Papua), you can find the variety of cultures, customs, and landscapes
all over the inch of this country..
Now, if the question is: Are there any others nice spots outside Bali?
The answer is many.
Neverthelss, Bali is the most proper touristic spot / island in terms of infrastructure and services.
I'm not staying in vain, but perhaps you can withdraw the conclusion from
my brief explanation above...
Aug 23, 2012 3:31 PM
2In the same boat as you. Coming from Singapore and realizing its hard to see it all. I guess what I've concluded is that it will be hard to be disappointed one way or another. Sure we'll miss some amazing things but that will only motivate one to return.
Personally I'm leaning to Bali because of the beach time.
When are you going?
Aug 23, 2012 6:18 PM
Aug 23, 2012 6:48 PM
4Hi fozzy13 and micwilson84,
I am a great lover of Sumatra, but arriving in Eastern Sumatra by boat from Singapore via Batam is honestly the worst way to start a Sumatran adventure.
I think this time stick to Bali and maybe do a flight over to the beautiful Lombok - new airport is very close to Kuta south Lombok and check out those Amazing Beaches down there.
You may even have time to explore the north as well and get over to the Gilis.
Great forum for information is Lombok Lovers
Edited by: pPamela
Aug 23, 2012 11:26 PM
Aug 24, 2012 12:09 AM
7Why does the choice have to be between Bali and Sumatra?
There are many, many other places in Indonesia, and you are comparing two that are radically different - one a very small place with a very well-developed tourist industry and good (if very over-crowded) travel infrastructure that you could easily get round most of in three weeks, the other a vast, vast place, bigger than many European countries, visited by very few foreigners, and rather tough to travel around...
For a first visit - and of only three weeks at that - I would consider other places besides Sumatra. Java or Sulawesi would be obvious choices. Both far, far less "touristy" than Bali, but smaller and easier to get around than Sumatra, with an awful lot to see.
In fact, you could quite easily see a bit of both Java and Bali (or Sulawesi and Bali) during your trip. In fact, thinking about it, that's exactly what I would suggest you do - split your time between Bali and one of those two places (Java would be easiest as you wouldn't need to take any internal flight - just fly in to Jakarta from Singapore, then make your way eastwards across the island to Bali).
BTW, ferries to Sumatra from Singapore are not really an option these days. There are still ferries from there to the neighbouring Riau archipelago, but onwards connections to the Sumatran mainland from there are few and far between now, and take a long time, and deliver you to some of the grottiest bits of Sumatra, a long way from anywhere good. Flights are cheap and frequent these days.
Aug 24, 2012 12:59 AM
8Thank you for all the replies so far.
MicWilson - we're arriving around 16th September.
One thing is sorted - No ferries, thanks.
I had narrowed it down to Sumatra and Bali mainly because of the flights / travel options to the two regions from Singa. If we were to do the Bali area then the plan would probably be to fly to Yogyakarta and head East, everything i'd read about Jakarta was pretty negative and we're not after a busy city coming from London, so didn't see the benefit of flying into there?
As we only have 3 weeks we are looking to avoid too much travel but happy to do overland trips as have always enjoyed the local buses and trains while backpacking. Is Sumatra a much harder place to travel around? If we were to do a trip starting and ending in Medan and looping out to Pedang would we lose lots of days to travel?
To use Thailand as an example it is obviously very touristy but this is for a very good reason, the scenery etc is absolutely stunning and this along with the ease of travel perhaps make up for the number of other travellers and associated negatives attached.
If we were to travel the Yogyakarta to Bali route the flights would be quite a bit more expensive and if everything else costs a lot more too then we could save ourselves a large amount by concentrating on Sumatra.
So less £ and lack of tourists vs ease of travel and potential scenic highlights (Mt Bromo, Borobudur and Prambanan Temple, Ubud etc)
Also any tips on cheap flights to Java/Bali area from Singa would be appreciated.
Aug 24, 2012 2:43 AM
9Sumatra is vast.
Consider this: the journey between Medan and Padang by bus takes around 20 hours - and not a very comfortable 20 hours either. So yes, you would lose a lot of time to travel.
Jakarta is indeed a big and busy city, but it has very cheap flights from Singapore, and there is actually no need to stay there for even one night. You can get a bus straight from the airport to Bogor (a much smaller, cooler, more pleasant town on the edge of the mountains). From there a three-week journey eastwards to Bali would take you through a variety of places, touristy and otherwise (in Java you have the option of places totally "off the beaten track", but very much worth visiting, and well-trodden spots like Yogya and Borobudur, just a few hours apart, unlike Sumatra).
Personally I think you would fit a lot more - and a lot more variety - into your three weeks if you took this option. And no 20 hour bus rides either.
Aug 24, 2012 3:18 AM
10ah the choice of Bali or Sumatra - Sumatra every time for me... but as previous posters have said, Sumatra is harder to get around - and is around 1,800km in length as opposed to Bali which is 150km wide by 110km top to bottom....... it has much better toursit infrastructure for one reason, the island is the toursit hotspot for Indonesia... and with the mass of tourism comes the even more mass of touts as well as high cost of accommodation.... and higher costs of everyday items compared to many parts of Indonesia.
So the cost is going to be higher, the transport is definately higher too. Even the airport tax for Denpasar is twice the amount for Medan (international outgoing flights).
Sorry Bali lovers, but for me Sumatra beats Bali every time - reminds me too much of the tourism in Thailand. On saying that, the island is beautiful; it's just unfortunate it's not off the coast of Sumatra and hard to get to ;-)
Aug 24, 2012 3:28 AM
11as well as high cost of accommodation
While I agree with most of dc1's sentiments, I have to call out the above common misconception. It's just not true that accommodation - at either budget or mid-range - is more expensive in Bali. In fact, it's very often cheaper, and it is virtually always much better value.
Across Indonesia there have been major hikes in accommodation costs in the last few years, and these days a budget backpacker will generally be looking at at least the Rp100K mark most nights (there are cheaper options, but they are few and far between.
But here's the difference - for that price in, say, Ubud or Padangbai, you'll likely get a neat little room with a nice terrace, and perhaps a few token dashes of "Bali style", situated in a pleasant garden, and with a half-decent banana pancake breakfast thrown in.
In some "off the beaten track" corner of Sumatra, Java, or just about anywhere else, you'll likely get a grim concrete box, a damp and sagging bed, mildewed walls, and maybe a grainy coffee and a stale bun for breakfast.
Accommodation in Bali is not more expensive than elsewhere, and is much better value - and that, obviously, is down to the cut-throat competition. It's a buyers' market when it comes to rooms there...
Aug 24, 2012 3:50 AM
12sorry timdog but...
where I've spent the last 3 plus months in areas of Indonesia, Bali definately has high priced accommodation in comparison. I agree, nice touches here and there - breakfast included.....although i do prefer rice or noodles if i eat breakfast at all.
I'm in Padang Bai at the moment, 85,000 for a 4 bed dorm (per bed)..... the next step up nis 100,000 above the chinese shop and directly opposite the dock gates (no nice touches there though) and then there's another 100,000 place around the alley (nice family but no exceptional touches either) It then jumps up to 150,000 around the alleys and then escalates to what I believe is priced purely for short term holiday makers who have the money at hand to spend for short term travels.
I've been traveling for 9 months now - I have no income and there's no way I could sustain accommodation in Bali (or Lonbok for that matter) over a lengthy period of time - whether there are nice touches or not, i need to sleep somewhere and I'll take anything I can - all I ask is safety and security for myself and my gear.
My daily budget is 15 GBP per day!!!! I managed that easily in Maluku (Ambon; Kei and Bandas), as well as islands east of Flores and Flores itself (even Moni and Ende was easy to live on my daily budget). This includes room; food; smokes and local travel; internet when required and the much needed water (and a coca cola now and again - sugar fix).
The less I spend on accommodation, the more bakso and es campur or sop buah i get to throw down my throat in local warungs - addicted to those three.
Anyway, I still feel Sumatra is way cheaper for accommodation (budget).
Having a great time in Bali though ;-)
Aug 24, 2012 4:22 AM
13dc1, sure, I could tell you where to find a Rp50K room in a few small towns in Java. Not many of them are listed in the guidebook, and I bet not too many self-proclaimed "backpackers", except perhaps you and me, would want to stay in them.
If you look at the "budget" places listed in the Lonely Planet - and let's be honest, the majority of allegedly "independent" travellers stick pretty firmly to these once they're beyond a place with multiple options like Padangbai - you won't find things much cheaper out in the sticks, and indeed you'll often find things more expensive.
And what's more, for Rp150K - which, hardy folk like you notwithstanding, is probably getting pretty close to the average nightly spend for a guidebook-using "budget traveller" these days - you will get far better value for money in Bali than just about anywhere else in Indonesia.
I have no doubt that the value-for-money dichotomy between Bali and everywhere else gets even wider as you start to move into mid-range.
Funny, wasn't so long ago that I thought of Rp50K a night as being a bit steep, and 10 years ago you could get a decent room with breakfast for Rp25K in downtown Kuta...
Aug 24, 2012 5:15 AM
14I hear you timdog,
150k a night has never been paid by me - in fact, I left UK Oct last year and up until I hit Moni in Flores only last month is the first time i hit the 100k mark...down from 150k with some good bargaining skills.
Until then the most i paid was 85k but that was for a bungalow on the beach in Kei islands - didnt mind that as the setting was spot on obviously I've not spent the whole time away from UK in Indonesia, but I've given it a good go, third visit to my favourite country in nine months, interupted by an unexpected 5 week visit to UK and then 7 weeks in Cambodia, then straight back into Indonesia.
I mentioned my budget is 15GBP in my previous post, it not; my budget is 10GBP a day (around 150k). Getting the 15 denominations mixed up me thinks ;-) maybe time for my nightly bakso followed by Sop Buah.. tough life for me at the moment!!
Like I said, Padang Bai has a certain charm about it - i see people stay at my accommodation en-route to Gili T etc... one night in Padang Bai and they're on the move again - short term holiday makers with backpacks on and no care about the cost of rooms or transport - i think i'll open a thread up asking users what their definition of "backpacker" is...
Edited by: dc1
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