Batam

Batam is a small but busy island in Indonesia of 45 km x 25 km and nearly a million people, hundreds of multinational owned factories, towns, shopping centres and gateway to the Riau Islands.

Districts

Other destinations

Understand

Located only 20 km from Singapore and 25 km from Johor in Malaysia, Batam is Indonesia's equivalent to China's SEZ's (Special Economic Zones) - a place where the nation's economic planners test new economic policies and ideas. The island is an industrial hub with electronics factories, a large and growing ship repair industry and an even larger oil service sector. Quite a few expats head there for work, and pubs and golf courses have sprung up to serve them.

Most tourists, on the other hand, come from nearby Singapore. While there is a smattering of family resorts, Bintan is more popular for this; instead, the main lure on Batam is the naughty nightlife. However, the new governor of the province has shut down the casinos and taken steps to curb prostitution, and the goings-on aren't quite as in your face as they used to be.

Talk

Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is modeled on the version of Malay which originates from Riau on the Sumatra mainland and the Riau Islands. In fact, Riau Malay is regarded as quite similar to the Malay language and visitors from Malaysia will find the Indonesian spoken here very similar to Bahasa Malaysia, which is the version of Malay spoken back home.

Batam also has a large population of ethnic Chinese Indonesians, who also can speak Hokkien (Fujian), Teochew and Mandarin. There are also many migrants from various parts of Indonesia who speak many different Indonesian languages.

Get in

All Batam ports, namely Harbour Bay (Jodoh), Batam Centre, Nongsapura, Sekupang and Waterfront City (Teluk Senimba) are visa-free and visa-on-arrival ports of entry. For detailed information on visas, please refer to the Indonesia page.

By plane

Batam's airport is Hang Nadim International Airport (BTH). Nearly all flights are domestic where you can get direct connections to Jakarta and a wide range of other large cities on the islands of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Bali. Indonesian carriers Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, Lion Air and a host of others provide the links. Smaller regional and local airlines provide connections to the remote Natuna Islands, and smaller towns in Northeastern Sumatra.

In addition to the domestic flights, Malindo Air operates international flights from Subang Airport near Kuala Lumpur.

For most foreign visitors though, the most practical way of getting to Batam will be to fly into Singapore and catch a ferry from there. If you want to catch flights from Singapore's Changi Airport, you must be on a ferry to Singapore at least three hours before departure time. See "By boat" section below for details.

By boat

Remain silent

In August 2014, signs showing a picture of a raised finger over a pair of lips have been installed at the Batam Centre International Ferry Terminal. This indicates you should be silent while queing for immigration so as to clearly hear the immigration officers. Some visitors have been sent back to Singapore for not complying. The signs are also displayed at other ferry terminals, but the rule is not strictly enforced.

The main ports on Batam are Batam Centre, Sekupang, Waterfront City, Nongsapura and Telaga Punggur. The main city of Nagoya is now served by Harbour Bay (Jodoh), replacing the old Batu Ampar ferry terminal.

Batam Centre Ferry Terminal has the most frequent ferry connections to/from Singapore and Johor Bahru. Sekupang, with ferries from Singapore is best used for those catching domestic connections to the Sumatra mainland and the Karimun Islands. Waterfront City and Nongsapura mostly serve adjacent resorts while Telaga Punggur is the main ferry terminal for boats to and from Bintan. Harbour Bay is monopolized by Berlian/Wavemaster.

Get around

By taxi

A legal yellow-plated taxi, illegally parked on a pedestrian crossing

There are plenty of taxis in Batam, but there are no standard color schemes: however, licensed taxis have yellow license plates, while unlicensed ones do not (and are best avoided). As there are no meters, you will need to bargain with the drivers; the first price quoted is often silly, but if there are other taxis around, you can easily bargain them down. Sample fares for reference:

If you feel more comfortable with metered taxis, there are a few of these taxis attached with it, but please ensure that you asked the driver to operate the meter before getting into the taxi, otherwise they will not operate it and may charge you more than the amount that you are supposed to pay.

By Minibus (Metro Trans)

Fixed route plies between Jodoh and Telaga Punggur (Rp. 3.000 - Rp. 4.000). Sample fares for other destinations are as follows:

By bus

Recently, Batam local government (known as pemerintah) started a bus service known as "Bus Pilot Project". The blue colour bus plies between Batam Center and Batu Aji for Rp. 4.000 and Batam Center to Sekupang Rp. 4.000. Buy your ticket from the personnel before boarding.

Most hotels run shuttle buses during the day to the ferry ports and to the main shopping mall. It seems that none run a shuttle to airport.

You can hop into a free shuttle bus (yellow in colour) from Megamall Batam Center to the major hotels in Nagoya or Jodoh.

By car

The Kijang, which is generally everywhere in Indonesia, is strangely absent in Batam. Your hotel may be able to arrange a car and driver for you, but be prepared to pay Rp 100.000 or more, which is almost double the rate in Jakarta.

Do

The Waterfront City area of Batam is on the western side of the island. There are several attractions & activities available in this area, such as water & sea sports activities, a fishing pond, go-kart racing track, a football field, as well as a beach for swimming or playing with the kids. There is also a cable ski park, Jet Ski, para sailing and banana boats for the adventurous. Down at the Barelang Islands, connected to Batam by a series of 6 bridges, there are many good beaches, as well as an old Vietnamese refugee camp, that was occupied for 20 years by Vietnamese boat people, and has now been restored as a tourist attraction. The site is quite overgrown in places by the jungle and takes around 1hour to drive to from Batam Centre. However, on entering the site there are several colonies of macaque monkeys by the road side. This is also a favorite route for cyclists.

Buy

The Indonesian rupiah may be legal tender, but the Singapore dollar (S$) is Batam's unofficial second currency. Tourist-oriented hotels, restaurants and shops usually quote prices in S$, and they will be accepted by nearly anybody in a pinch. However, if you decide to pay by credit card, by law your bill must be converted to rupiah first—and the exchange rate is unlikely to be in your favor.

There are many malls in Batam offering a variety of stores and restaurants. Nagoya Hill Mall, in Nagoya, has a Matahari department store, Hypermart supermarket, ACE Hardware, and a Cinema 21. Restaurants include J.Co, KFC, A&W, BFC, Pizza Hut, Ayam Goreng Fatmawati, Solaria, Grandduck Chinese restaurant & newtown coffee at the top of the mall.

BCS Mall in Baloi has a Golden Truly department store, a Gramedia and a bowling alley.

If you would like to bring Indonesian delicacy back for your family, opt for the LAYERS Batam Layer Cake, which is available in most of the shopping malls and ferry terminals. They are handmade and have become the iconic takeaway delicacy from Batam.

Eat

Batam has plenty of eating out choices, including great Chinese seafood in the outdoor food courts, such as the Windsor and Nagoya Food Courts and A1 Pujasera.

Drink

City authorities claim that Batam's tap water is drinkable, but the rusty color puts some people off. Most people choose to stick with bottled water anyway, about Rp. 10,000 for a 5-gallon jug.

Carlsberg and Guinness are produced locally, as well as Bintang and Tiger beer. Most places have Heineken on tap. Imported beers, such as Corona are available, but prices are high. A normal draft beer should be no more than Rp.25,000.

Wine and liquor is available from the duty-free stores in nearly all of the larger malls, most bars and hotels.

Batam Fresh Beer is the only microbrewery on the island, headquartered in Batam Center near the large mosque (behind Pondok Gurih restaurant). Price is Rp.15,000 a glass for any of their beers (dark and light at 5 or 7% alc or green at 5%).

Sleep

Much of Batam's accommodation is in Nagoya.

Upon arrival in the ferry terminal (Batam Centre) you may chose to go to the Hotel Reservation Counter, they will have numerous options for the 3+ star hotels in on the island. These may give you a slightly better value than booking directly with the hotel itself so it is not a scam. In addition, however, there are budget options available such as family apartments.

Stay safe

Batam is generally safe during the daytime hours, but at night if you are in the entertainment areas of Nagoya you should exercise caution. Do not walk alone at night, if you want to leave somewhere and it is late, find someone else who is leaving or about to leave, or stay until it closes and then all go together. If you really have to get back to your hotel call the hotel and have them send a car to pick you up. As the taxis are not regulated or owned by a central group (like Bluebird in Jakarta) you may not be safe hiring a taxi off the street either. Walking in groups or two or three is probably okay but do not get into discussions with the locals as you may be asking to have your wallet or purse taken from you. If this happens, don't chase, just walk back to where you were or to the hotel and report to the police later.

Traveling safe is another matter. The roads around Batam are OK, but not maintained to the highest standard. The taxi drivers in particular delight in driving as fast as they can and they really like to overtake on a curve or bend. If you feel at all uncomfortable ask the driver to slow down, tell him you are not in a hurry, usually they are OK, although we did have to yell at one in Indonesian a few times to get him to drive safely.

If you have to drink it is always better to do it in your own hotel or a family restaurant-cum-bar. If you have to go to an ordinary bar, you must opt for a VIP room or you might land up in "ecstasy" which is nothing but drugs. There have been instances where drugs were put in one's bag unknowingly and then trap the visitor in the cop net where it will be really tough to "free" oneself unless you are a localite.

Go next

Batam, with its good ferry connections, is an excellent springboard to the other Riau Islands such as the Tanjung Uban and Kijang Bintan Island and the Sumatra mainland. Good air connections also make Batam a good place to get cheap air tickets to Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia.

Connect

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 17, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.