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The last time that I was in Padang Bai, it was a whirlwind visit – I was on my way to Gili Air by fastboat.
It felt a bit weird being back again after all this time (December 2014); I admit it, I was tempted to jump on a fastboat to Gili Air to say ‘hi’ to everyone. But, I resisted.
It is a compact seaside backpacker hub set in a crescent harbour that offers cheap places to stay and some fun cafes / bars. There are little ‘nooks and crannies’ for GRANDPAckers to enjoy too…
There’s good snorkelling and SCUBA diving – plus some easy walks and a couple of nice beaches within walking distance.
I bought my minivan ticket in Kuta the day before. The price was IDR85k including pickup from my Hotel. That was only IDR10k more than having the hassle of making my way to the Perama Bus Company Kiosk on Jalan Legian.
The pick up time was agreed to be 10:00-10:30 with the minivan scheduled to depart at 11:00. The journey is meant to take 2 hours.
They picked me up at 10:15. By 10:45 we had picked up everyone else and we were on the road out of Kuta.
It was an old van but good enough for such a short journey. We arrived in Padang Bai at 12:30.
ACCOMMODATION / WHERE TO STAY:
Padang Bai is small and not all places that you can stay in are listed on the internet.
Serangan Inn II:
After searching the internet, I decided to start at the Serangan Inn II which had good reviews. Without any real directions, I wandered around for a bit but found it eventually. As can be the case with places that are well reviewed on the internet, it was full.
The owner was kind enough to let me leave my bags at his reception so that I could find another hotel.
I asked him where he would go. He said ‘along the harbourfront’, so that was where I went.
Padang Bai Beach Inn:
Do not confuse it with the Padang Bai Beach RESORT which is about 20m further down.
It looked OK so I checked out the rooms.
They showed me a nice double with aircon, hot water ensuite, iffy in-room wifi, balcony (with table and chairs), and a view out over the harbour.
Naturally, I said that it was too much, and that I didn’t need aircon (only a fan)… so they showed me a similar room without the balcony and without the view.
I offered them IDR200k / night for the one with the balcony and fan… There was a constant breeze coming in from the sea anyway…
Note: Aircon typically adds up to IDR100k / night to the price, so a reduction from IDR275k to IDR200k was very possible.
We went down stairs to talk to the owner / manageress. Within 2 minutes the deal was done. IDR800k for 4 nights – cash up front. Cash up front was the ‘clincher’. I paid that much because of the balcony but feel that I could have gotten the price down even more.
As seems normal in Indonesia, breakfast was included in that price.
This room was good value for money. The photos don’t really do the room justice.
Where The Expats Go:
Many of the Expats around town are paying as little at IDR100k / night. But, this is for a Single room with Fan and cold water ensuite in somewhere like the Marco Inn – which is below GRANDPAcker standard.
If you try hard and stay a number of weeks (rather than days), I think that you could get a decent Double for as little as IDR150k.
Padang Bai is easily discovered on foot.
I told the receptionist at my Hotel that I wanted to rent a scooter. As is normally the case, she had a ‘friend’ who rented out scooters (this usually means that they know someone who will pay them commission for taking me there).
She said the going rate in Padang Bai was IDR60k / day. We agreed to meet at 17:00 so that she could take me to her ‘friend’.
We finally met up at about 17:30. She got her scooter and I jumped on the back. We drove 20 metres down the road and stopped. She talked to a guy behind a counter. She then said that this was her ‘friend’.
I told him that I was paying IDR50k / day for 3 days. He declined and tried to negotiate. I insisted. He agreed. We arranged for me to pick it up at 10:00 the following morning.
The normal conditions applied:
- I had to take my passport as security; He will hold on to my passport for the duration of the rental
- He has no insurance; If I have an accident, it is my responsibility (hence the passport)
I felt lazy, so I decided to eat at my own hotel on my first night (for a change). I am usually scouring the streets looking for the ‘best buys’.
What arrived was enough for 2 people. I couldn’t eat it all.
I made sure that I finished off the snapper and left most of the rest.
The next day, I was back on the streets… There are some local cafes / warungs around the side streets. One is next to the Alola Inn on the road up to Serangan Inn II. Here you can get a meal (like Nasi Goreng with a fried egg on top or a Soup with rice for IDR15k).
The cheapest place(s) to eat are the warungs inside the Ferry Terminal itself. Enter the Ferry Terminal (passing through the arch and past the security guards) and you will find them 20-30 metres down to your right. These places are ‘pay by the scoop’ buffets… you have, say, a scoop of chicken curry (one piece of chicken per ‘scoop’), a scoop of potato curry, and a scoop of vegetables with rice… all for less than IDR15k.
There are several places around Padang Bai where you can get a fruit juice or Lassi for IDR12-15k. Coupled with the cheaper eateries (above), if you eat ‘local’ you can have a good meal with fruit juice for under IDR30k.
Otherwise, you are eating in the hotels and restaurants that are catering for the tourist traffic out to the Gili Islands (or the local divers). As usual, these places are twice the price and sell local cuisine in the IDR30-40k range and westernised cuisine in the IDR55-100k range – inclusive of the 10% government tax. For example a small Spaghetti Carbonara will put you back about IDR55-60k.
If you get out of town to the main road, you don’t have to go far before you find local cafes / warungs selling very good and well sized local meals for about IDR20-25k.
Up in the hills, you can get a light lunch like a noodle soup with egg dumplings for as little as IDR10k.
The ‘going rate’ for a large Bintang is IDR35k including tax (the same as out on Gili Air). These are the hotel prices but they will also try and charge you this same amount when you buy from the local shops. Say no and pay IDR30k.
There are a couple of places that do a large for IDR30k: one is the Topi Inn which is at the furthest north end of the harbour – but they add the 10% tax on top.
The cheapest place in town is the Marco Inn on the waterfront on the way to the Ferry Terminal south of the market square. Here it is IDR30k including tax.
Bias Tugal / White Sand Beach:
Bias Tugal is a beautiful white sandy beach and the best beach in Padang Bai. There are several average restaurants.
Directly after Bamboo Paradise you have 2 options:
- Continue by road over the hill; They charge for parking (IDR2k for a scooter and IDR4k for a car).
- Turn left under the barrier at the sign that says Bias Tegul; and cut across country up then down the hillside track
While descending, weather permitting, you should be able to see the largest mountain on Bali, Mount Agung on your left – a powerful sight.
Be careful in the water; as it is subject to strong currents.
Blue (or Bloo) Lagoon Beach:
On the other side of Padang Bai’s northeastern headland is the small, light-sand Blue Lagoon Beach, an idyllic place with a couple of cafes and gentle, family-friendly surf.
It is a pleasant, small covey beach, great for snorkelling. To reach it from the main strip walk to the left end of the main harbourfront and take the road that climbs upwards to the left at the end of the strip, follow it up and around for about 2-3 minutes and you will see the small car park with a couple of stalls and a sign down beach. They charge for parking (IDR2k for a scooter and IDR5k for a car).
The coral reef is right up to the shore and is very pretty. The best way to enter is on the far left side, where there is a coral-less canal that leads to the snorkelling site. There are two restaurants with reasonable food, showers (possibly), chairs and snorkelling gear.
Amu Bai / Other Beaches:
About 2-3kms north of Padang Bai is Amu Bai.
On a scooter you can get to some more remote beaches.
Most are very pictureque with their traditional fishing boats and black sand.
I have written up the day trip up the coastal road to Amed in a separate Post.
I wanted to do a ‘big loop’ through the hills and back to Padang Bai.
Google Maps showed several roads to choose from and the ‘big loop’ looked possible (on paper).
However, I had to abandon my quest 3 times as the ‘road’ became a dangerous dirt track only suitable for a 4-wheel drive or a goat.
From Sideman I went over the hills and dropped down to Manggis.
Although the countryside was very pleasant, I did not see anything that looked like Retirement Location material.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There are ATMs around town especially around the Ferry Terminal at the south side of the harbour on the main road.
Petrol / Gas: IDR7,500/L = Service Station; IDR13,000/L or IDR10,000/750ml = side-of-the-road bottles
Water: Large 1.5L Bottle = IDR5k; Large 1.5L Bottle Refill at Topi Inn = IDR2k; Small 750ml Bottle = IDR3k; Small 750ml Bottle Refill at Topi Inn= IDR1k
Other: 10x Panadol Extra = IDR10k; 10x Amoxiciilin = IDR15k
Padang Bai is a relaxed harbour village.
This day-time peace is broken by hoards of backpackers blocking the waterfront as they arrive in minivans on their way to the Gili Islands. This happens mainly between 08:00 and 10:30.
As with Gili Air, Padang Bai is not really a longer term Retirement Location.
However, Padang Bai is a surprisingly pleasant place to stay for a while. It would double up very nicely with Gili Air.
Get a 3-6 month ‘visa in advance’ and come and spend a few weeks on each as part of a Retirement Location ‘Suite’.
There are a small number of Expats already doing this. When you come, seek them out and become part of what is bound to be a growing Expat community. The Marco Inn is a good place to start.
Unless you are prepared to live in Indonesian standard accommodation, don’t expect to rent a house here. Although such accommodation can be very reasonable, clean, and comfortable… expect to be renting a waterfront hotel room at a long term rate.
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