When I first discovered I could get to Jakarta by boat from Singapore, I was quite excited. But after my stress, panick attacks and tiredness got worse and worse, I wasn’t really looking forward anymore to this journey. I really wanted to finish my travels without taking a plane until Bali but I had the feeling I couldn’t do it anymore… even the thought of getting from A to B made me anxious. Luckily I found a Dutch fellow traveller who wanted to make the same journey and the idea of not having to go alone helped a lot. I will continue with giving an accurate description of how to get from Singapore to Jakarta. This because the blogs I used/found to find information on this journey were pretty outdated because some things have changed in the mean time.
From Singapore, we took a ferry from the Harbourfront to Batam Island, Indonesia. The ferry pier looked pretty similar to the one in Hong Kong, for getting the ferry to Macao. Also here there is a security check before getting on the boat, since you leave Singapore, so after buying our ticket we actually had to board immediately, because the gate closes 15 minutes before the ferry leaves. I think there are 2 main ferry companies who are running the services to Batam. Batamfast and Sindoferry. They both go to the different ports on Batam Island. You have to get the ferry that goes to Sekupang harbour, since the Pelni office (the place where you can buy the tickets for the boat to Jakarta) is only 1km from there. We chose Batamfast just because the time schedule fitted best for us. You can preorder tickets online, but if there is no holiday going on it shouldn’t be a problem to buy it on the spot, like we did. The tickets cost 25 Singaporean Dollars each. The journey only takes about 40 minutes and it includes a nice view on the skyline of Singapore. The customs on Batam Island was fairly easy and quick, especially since most countries don’t need a visa anymore if you’re just visiting Indonesia for 30 days. If you want to spend more time in Indonesia, there is a counter where you can pay a Visa On Arrival (VOA) for 35 US$, it lasts for 30 days as well, but you can extend it, which is not possible with the free visa.
The arrival hall in Sekupang Harbour is modern and you can change money, get food and just around the corner is an ATM. We wanted to walk to the Pelni office but immediately got followed by all kind of taxi drivers who wanted to take us there and to the port, while lowering their prices as we continued walking. Of course we chose the most crappy driver ever and his car broke down a couple of times while we were on the way to the harbour, after getting our tickets. The Pelni office is easy to find, since it is correctly indicated on google maps or Maps.me. Pelni is the company that runs ferry services connecting almost all islands of Indonesia. The tickets for this journey normally (I believe prices are different during holiday period) cost:
– 994.000 Rupiah for class 1a
– 813.000 Rupiah for class 1b
– 556.000 Rupiah for class 2a
– 513.000 Rupiah for class 2b
– 313.000 Rupiah for ‘Ekonomy’ Class
Since the photos of the huge and crowded Ekonomy class decks on the blogs I read made me a little anxious in my current state, I decided to buy a first class ticket. Not expecting too much.
The (direct) boat for Jakarta now leaves every Wednesday at 13PM and will arrive (if on schedule) in Jakarta at 18PM the next day. You can check the dates and the prices on the website of Pelni. It’s not possible to buy tickets online if you don’t have an Indonesian bank account. The blogs I read told us it should not be a problem to get the tickets on the spot, since the ferries are big and no public holiday was going on. And Batam is not much more than an ugly island with some golf cords and water parks for rich Singaporeans who want to go on an ‘exotic’ weekend trip, so no need to go there days before.
IMPORTANT 1: What has changed here is the place the ferry leaves! It used to leave from Sekupang harbour, the same place as where we arrived and we bought the ticket. But it is now leaving from Batu Ampur, a harbour about 15km from Sekupang. So that’s where our driver with the creaky car brought us to for about 80.000 rupiah, which is probably way too much, especially for a car that was about to fall apart.
IMPORTANT 2: Coming from Singapore, you change timezone, in your favor! So you win one hour. It means that if you take the ferry from 9h20, which we did, you will arrive at 9AM in Indonesia. Which gives you plenty of time to buy your ticket and get to the right harbour!
Getting out of the car at he harbour area, a bunch of locals wearing orange jackets wanted to take our backpacks out of the car to carry them for us and earn some money. I thought they must have been really desperate for work, since I couldn’t imagine a lot of people would pay for that. Until I saw all the Indonesians who were already waiting to enter the huge departure hall with a crazy amount of boxes, bags and other stuff. I guess, apart from the fact that the third class tickets are cheaper than a flight to Jakarta, the ferry is also the only way to (cheaply) take A LOT of stuff.
The lady at the ticket office told us we would start boarding two hours before, at 11AM. We still had half an hour and decided to get some food at small restaurant next to the departure hall. My first Nasi Ayam with Sambal! We met a German couple who were also waiting and had been travelling Asia with their bikes for 2 years already! It turned out there were more ‘tourists’ on the boat than I expected, apart from the Germans, two Turkish guys, a French couple, a Malaysian cyclist and some other guy I don’t know where he was from. Since finding information on this trip online wasn’t too easy, I didn’t expect to see that many foreigners making this trip!
Buying a lot of food before getting on the ferry turned out to be a waste of money. Not only it turned out there was a small supermarket on the boat, which was of course not as cheap as usual Indonesian prices, but definitely cheaper than the snacks I had bought from the shops in Singapore. But also because we got offered our first meal right when we settled in our pretty nice first class room! (photos). And although the Economy class had to get the food from the pantry in a take-away box, they got offered as many meals as we did. Which meant: 2 times lunch, 1 time dinner and 1 time breakfast in total during the trip. The blogs told me to stock up on food, but this was not necessary at all. The quality of the food was obviously not that great, but fine. The most funny thing for me was, the way they wanted to give the 2nd and 1st class people a little more of an ‘exclusive dinner experience’. With a pretty large but empty buffet table, only with a pot of rice, a plate with chicken, a plate with fish, some sambal, a giant pot with croquette cakes and glasses with water or juice in it. They even had a band playing for the meager 5 tables in the huge restaurant area. A band with a not very well playing bass guitarist and an Indonesian lady singing Spanish love songs, dressed in something that looked like pyjama’s.
After our second lunch we decided to check out the ship and made a tour. The ferry was not booked out at all, so there was a lot of space and the Ekonomy looked a lot calmer and nicer than I had expected. Instead of one level of beds I’d seen on pictures online, the whole deck was full of bunk beds, all next to each other, but all equipped with their own plugs. I felt a little bad that I had been so afraid to travel 3th class and was being this rich tourist going first class… but in the end I was pretty happy with our 2-bed room where I could just chill for 31 hours with a little more privacy. The 2nd class rooms looked pretty nice as well and were 4 bed-dorms, but man and woman were separated, so this was no option for us. Although I think, if you are a group of 4 travellers together, they wouldn’t mind too much if you book this with the four of you. During our tour we found the supermarket on top of the deck, a mosque in the back, our fellow travellers in Ekonomy and even a hidden gym area with some old-fashioned fitness machines in it!
Before the trip I was worrying so much about getting on the boat, that I forgot how nice it was going to be if I were finally on it! 31 hours I didn’t have to do ANYthing. A nice time to chill out and wait for the 3 times a day they knocked on our door to invite us to eat (and the 5 times a day we were ‘called’ to pray by the Mosque on the ship). Listen to some music, read a book, edit some photos and write some stories. Every now and then I walked outside to get some ‘fresh’ air and watch over the sea. The water was super calm and it felt so smooth as if we were sliding over the surface of the water.
The second day, the water was still very calm so we arrived even before schedule in Jakarta (which was, according to a local, more of an exception). Where I had been feeling super calm and relaxed on the ship, I was panicking as soon as we got out of the boat and had to find the train station to the city centre. The harbour where we arrived (Tanjung Priok) is in a deserted industrial area and although it seems easy to get to the train station, it’s a really long way around and you rather catch a cab than walking around there, in the dark, between huge trucks and staring locals. In the end we found some nice Indonesian people who helped us ordering a Grab Car (it’s like Uber, but better: highly recommended to use in Indonesia!). Finally arriving in our nice hostel: Time for Nasi Goreng Ayam and a beer.