Lombok's people are 85% Sasak, culturally and linguistically closely related to the Balinese, but unlike Bali's Hindu they are Muslims. A notable non-orthodox Islamic group found only on Lombok are the Wektu Telu ("Three Prayers"), who as the name suggests pray only three times daily, instead of the five times required in the Quran.
While tropical, hot and humid, Lombok is drier than neighboring Bali, which makes it a particularly attractive option during the October-December rainy season (it rains on Lombok too, but rarely for more than an hour). The peak of the tourist season, though, is May through August.
The main local language is Sasak. Bahasa Indonesia is universally spoken and English is common in the resort areas.
Lombok's only airport is Mataram's Selaparang Airport (AMI), which occasionally also shows up in flight schedules as "Ampenan" (hence the seemingly odd airport code). There are frequent connections to Denpasar on Bali (30 min) and Surabaya (1 hour) on Garuda, Merpati and Germania Trisakti ("GT Air"), but only a single flight per day to Jakarta or Yogyakarta (both on Garuda). International flights are limited to Kuala Lumpur daily on Merpati and Singapore thrice weekly on Silk Air, with visas available on arrival. Lombok Network maintains a useful, mostly-updated flight schedule listing all flights to the island.
Slow boats from Padang Bai on Bali leave about every hour for the four- to five-hour trip to Lembar (Rp 25,000). The slow ferries are a bit rusty and dusty, with minimal restroom facilities, and are used mostly by locals, with few tourists on board. Access to the passenger deck is usually from the vehicle deck via steep and narrow stairs, so maneuvering heavy luggage is a challenge. Would-be porters wait by the docks, and will happily carry your stuff for Rp 10,000 per item. Sometimes they insist on doing so even when you don't ask. They can be a bit intimidating, and sometimes try to overcharge. Lots of Kuta travel agents offer end-to-end transport, including a van ride from your Bali hotel to Padang Bai, the ferry ticket, and a ride from the dock on Lombok to your ultimate destination, for Rp 130,000 and up depending on where you are going in Lombok.
Fast ferries run from Benoa on Bali to Lembar on Lombok twice daily in season, one daily in the off season. The trip takes just 2 hours but costs US$25/30 depending on class. Perama Tour also runs daily cruises from Padang Bai directly to Senggigi for Rp120,000.
Bemos (converted passenger-carrying minivans) are the main means of long-distance transport on Lombok. They can be hailed down on all larger streets, and will happily take you even short hops around Senggigi. Fares are cheap: for example, as of November 2005 the official fare from Mataram to Senggigi is Rp. 1500/person, but tourists tend to get charged a bit extra and empty bemos will expect you to charter them for a higher price yet. Travel agents can also get you on semi-regular shuttle services, which connect Senggigi, the airport, and the harbors of Lembar (for Bali) and Bangsal (for the Gilis).
Metered taxis are a fairly new development on Lombok, but they have become quite common in Mataram and Senggigi. The largest operator is Blue Bird, although there are a few other companies competing for your custom. As of November 2005, flag fall is Rp3,850 and the meter ticks up a few hundred rupiah for every hundred meters past 2 km. Figure on Rp10,000 for hops around town and around Rp30,000 from Senggigi to Mataram.
By horse cart
Horse-pulled carts known as cidomo are very common on Lombok, and while a bit touristy in Senggigi and the Gilis, they're still a serious method of transportation elsewhere.
Traditional fishing boats known as perahu ply the waters around Lombok, and are instantly recognizable due to their rather unusual feature of having two logs attached by bars on both sides like a catamaran, for greater stability in heavy swells. They can also be chartered, either directly from owners (in which case some knowledge of Bahasa will come in handy) or via any travel agent, who will of course take their cut. Some prices to aim for are Rp.100,000 from Bangsal to the Gilis or Rp.400,000 for a full day.
Traffic is relatively light throughout the island so travel by bicycle is quite possible, and provides a very different cultural experience to other means of transport. You should bring your own touring bike, as local bikes are of a very basic quality. For a full “Fact Sheet” on cycle touring in Lombok see : http://users.chariot.net.au/~gloria/indonesia.htm
- Tanjung Aan, a beautiful area near the Kuta Beach. The sand is very unique that it looks like pepper. Come early as the beach guards will be there by then. Otherwise you may get bugged by lots of hawkers (mainly children) trying to sell everything.
- See the local handicraft and weaving process in Desa (village) Sukarare. The price should be cheaper than in Sengigi shops.
- Narmada Park (Taman Narmada). Located 10 km east of Mataram, this park was the relaxation place for king during feodalism time. This park has a Hindu temple and swimming pool. Also it has a fountain which called "Youth Fountain" which is believed to give long life to a person that drink water from the fountain. Entry fee for this park is cheap. It will cost around Rp 5000.
- Traditional massage. There will be a lot of women offering the massage service. For more professional service, ask the hotel staffs.
- Snorkelling. There are several good sites between the Gili Islands. If lucky, you can spot and swim with turtles.
Given that the very word lombok means "chili pepper" in Bahasa Indonesia, the local cuisine isn't quite as spicy as you might expect. Probably the best known local dish is is ayam taliwang, chicken stewed in a rich sauce of galangal, turmeric and (of course) chili.
A meal in a tourist-oriented restaurant will be around Rp. 15-20k per person. In a local restoran the same meal might be about Rp. 12k or less. On the road, simple warungs sell "nasi bunkus", a pyramid shaped parcel of about 400gm of rice with several tasty extras for as little as Rp. 2k. One very reliable option is nasi campur ( rice with several options, chosen by the purchaser) for about Rp. 5k or so. Note that rice is often served at ambient temperature.
Indonesia's national beer, Bintang, is a pilsner that can be found in the larger centres, but usually not in Muslim areas. Note that beer is relatively expensive : a small bottle costs at least the same as a full meal in a "local" eatery.
Nearly all of Lombok's better-quality accommodation can be found in Senggigi, while backpackers tend to make a beeline for the Gili Islands. See those articles for details; the following covers only accommodation elsewhere in Lombok.
- Nusa Bunga, Klui, Central Lombok, tel: +62 0370 693035 fax: +62 370 693036 web: www.nusabunga.com . Very friendly staff and superb photo gallery on the website. As described in Lonely Planet: "A well-run place, is one of the better ones. It has a splendid, idyllic beachfront position, a pool and thatched bungalows in a pretty garden". The hotel is located 4 kilometers north of Senggigi. Rates:US$35-45/night including generous breakfast.
- Novotel Lombok, Mandalika Resort Pantai Putri Nyale Pujut, Central Lombok, tel. +62-370-653333, Fax +62-370-653555, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Might be a good choice If travelling with children, as the resort was apparently built with children's needs in mind - with interesting swimming pool design, good playing and sport areas for kids. The resort is located approx. 1h drive from Mataram. Rates: US$66-77/night.
- Qunci Villa, Mangsit Beach, Tel. +62-370-693800, Fax +62-370-693802, email: email@example.com. A small resort where the staffs know and greet you by your first name. A nice medium size swimming pool which looks as if it is part of the sea. The room does not have TV, in order to 'detach' the guests from the outside world. The restaurant serve very good food at reasonable price, and dinner can be enjoyed directly on the beach. Rates: US$70-90.
- The Oberoi Lombok, Medana Beach, Tanjung West Lombok, Tel. +62-370-638444, Fax +62-370-632496, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, . The most expensive hotel in Lombok. An ideal hideaway due to its 'secluded' area. Rates: US$270-952/night (discounts available).
Although Lombok is a safe and stable place, these tips may help you along the way:
- There is no written curfew, but when travelling in villages or non-tourist areas you are best to stay indoors after dark.
- Always have locks on the zips of your bags. Not only do they keep thieving hands out they also prevent people slipping prohibited substances in.
- Dress modestly in villages and religious sites; long pants or sarongs are suggested and a blouse that covers the woman's bust and shoulders should do the trick. This is not so much a safety measure, but it does save you and onlookers from embarrassment.