A Guide to Boat Travel in Indonesia

As you would expect from the largest archipelago in the world, boats are ubiquitous in Indonesia and are a great and inexpensive way to explore the country if you have time to spare.

Pelni : cross-provinces ferries

Pelni (PT Pelni) is a public company providing cross-province transportation services. It’s the most well-known boat company in Indonesia but far from being the only one.

Pelni only take passengers on board (and a little bit of cargo), no vehicle.

As of 2018, Pelni have 25 ships which focus on the eastern part of the country. In Sumatra, besides a couple of ships visiting islands of Riau and the outer Riau islands (up to Natuna) there are not much options.

The same goes for Java, which serves mostly as a starting point for many lines (from the main harbors along the north coast : Jakarta, Surabaya and Semarang). Travelling by land on Java is much faster than by boat anyway.

To see the map in HD, right-click then choose “display image” in your browser or click here.

How to get Pelni schedules ?

Pelni has a great website providing accurate information about the schedule in the coming weeks (usually no more than a month ahead, sometimes less). From my experience, the schedules are reliable.

It means that Pelni doesn’t publish any schedule earlier than 1 month before departure.

If you want to plan let’s say 2 or 3 month ahead you will need to do some math. At the end of this article I listed all the Pelni lines as of September 2018 and indicated their frequency. The frequency is the time to wait until the boat comes back to the same harbor to do the same leg of one route.

So you could check online what is the next trip you are interested in, write down the ship concerned and the date. Then you can estimate the next rotation of the ship using a calendar and the frequency I gave you.

Even by doing so, please allow yourself for some flexibility in your planning. Pelni ships can be affected by bad weather or unscheduled maintenance, hence the schedule is not always exactly the same from one month to another.

How to buy Pelni tickets ?

There is an option to buy tickets online on the official website but the payment works only with Indonesian credit cards.

It’s pretty useless to do it anyway because ticket are not numbered, it’s up to you to find a spot onboard. Get to Pelni office before departure and buy your ticket directly.

Important thing to know : the Pelni office that sells tickets is not always located at the harbor. For instance on Banda island, the selling booth is about 10 minutes away.

Ferries often stop during the night (like 2AM, 5AM…) and Pelni office will likely be closed (this goes also for the weekend). Sometimes you can buy the ticket on the spot, sometimes not, so anticipate a bit. Besides Pelni official office, there are always plenty of 3rd party sellers near the harbour in travel agency who can issue a ticket for a small fee (they are open during weekends and later at night than the official office).

Traveling by Pelni

3 (very simple) meals a day as well as drinking water are included. You usually got rice, a tiny bit of fish and a spoon of boiled vegetables. There is an announcement in Indonesian and then you will see everyone getting up. You need to show your ticket every time you pick up your meal.

Noodles, fried chicken and other stuffs can be bought on the upper deck. Sellers climb up the ship at every harbor and sell packaged meals (nasi bungkus), cigarettes …

On most ship, you have many power sockets available.

The cleanliness of the toilets and bathroom is variable but it’s never very neat.

There is usually 2 or 3 passengers decks, the lower you get, the hotter it gets. Decks are normally non-smoking but the rules is not enforced very strictly. There is no numbers on tickets so you have to find your own spot. Ferries can be overloaded as well as half empty depending on the period of the year and the harbor you get in.

ASDP : inter-provinces ferries

ASDP (PT ASDP Indonesia Ferry, ASDP stands for ‘Angkutan Sungai Danau dan Penyeberangan‘ or ‘lake, river and crossing vehicle’) is another public company providing transportation from one island to another but usually across straits or within one province.

The ferries from Gilimanuk (Bali) to Ketapang (East Java) or from Padangbai (Bali) to Lembar (Lombok) are operated by ASDP for instance

The main difference with Pelni is that ASDP ferries do accept cars, trucks and motorbikes on board.

ASDP has a website which is quite good to know which destinations are available from a given harbor. Sometimes the website displays a price and a schedule. From my experience, the schedule given online is not reliable. It doesn’t mean that everything is false but cross-check or you might have some surprises.

Every office have usually a Whatsapp number that you can contact and they will send you a PDF file with the last updated schedule. Otherwise you check directly at the harbor if you’re nearby.

In almost every ASDP ferry you can upgrade your ticket once onboard to access a VIP room. This room usually has AC and some matress available so you can sleep. Just walk in the room and take a spot, the crew will come during the journey to collect the additional fee (usually 20-30,000Rp). Sometimes it is not collected.

Private lines and Perintis

Besides Pelni and ASDP ferries, the third main sea transportation company in Indonesia is Perintis which operates cargo ships. It’s possible to bargain a spot onboard but I only recommend it to the most hardcore backpackers with skills in Indonesian.

Many ships are also operated by private companies, whether they are classic ferries or speedboats. For instance Surabaya – Labuan Bajo, Surabaya – Pontianak or Kupang – Sabu are also served by privates ships.

I don’t know any centralized place to get information about them, you need to ask around. But you have many, many options.

Pelni ferries detailed routes

In case you want to plan a trip in advance, you need to check the current schedule online and extrapolate the dates in the future. I did this a couple of times and I ended up listing all relevant informations for every ships. Again, I’m not working for Pelni so don’t take it for granted but it should help (use your browser search function to find the destination or the ship you’re looking for).

Usually Pelni ferries go from point A to point D (and stopping at B, C on the way) then go back to A the same way (so the route usually look like A – B – C – D – C – B – A). If the route is like that, I note it A – B – C – D. Sometimes the ferry doesn’t follow the exact same way on its way back, in that case I detail the full route.

Some ferries do follow different routes alternativaly (they do the round-trip as per route 1, then as per route 2, then …, and back to route 1)

Don’t get confused by harbor names

Many harbors bear a specific name especially the following :

  • Tanjung Priok is Jakarta
  • Tanjung Perak is Surabaya
  • Tanjung Emas is Semarang
  • Tenau is Kupang
  • Batu Ampar is Batam
  • Benoa is in Bali
  • Ampenan is in Lombok

Pelni routes

Ship : KM Sangiang
Route description : Bitung – Central Maluku – Papua / Bitung – Central Maluku / Bitung – North Sulawesi islands / Bitung – Tomini Gulf

Frequency (time to wait for the boat to repeat one leg of its route) : Once a month (28 days)

Starts from : Bitung

Route 1 : Bitung > Ternate > Badang > Sanana > Namlea > Ambon > Geser > Fak-Fak > Sorong

Route 2 : Bitung > Ternate > Badang > Sanana > Namlea > Ambon

Route 3 : Bitung > Kahikitang > Tahuna > Lirung > Karatung > Miangas

Route 4 : Bitung > Gorontalo > Togian island > Poso

*****

Ship : KM Awu
Route description : Surabaya – East Nusa Tengara / Surabaya – Central Kalimantan

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Surabaya

Route 1 : Surabaya > Benoa > Sape > Waingapu > Ende > Sabu > Rote > Kupang > Larantuka > Kalabahi > Kupang > Rote > Sabu > Ende > Waingapu > Sape > Benoa > Surabaya

Route 2 : Surabaya > Kumai

*****

Ship : KM Leuser
Route description : Surabaya – Sunda islands – South Sulawesi – South Maluku – South Papua

Frequency : Once a month (27 days)

Starts from : Surabaya

Route :  Surabaya > Benoa > Sape > Labuan Bajo > Makassar > Bau-Bau > Wanci > Namrole > Ambon > Banda Naira > Saumlaki > Larat > Tual > Dobo > Timika > Agats > Merauke

*****

Ship : KM Dobonsolo
Route description : North Java – South Sulawesi – Ambon – North Papua

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Jakarta

Route : Jakarta > Surabaya > Makassar > Bau-Bau > Ambon > Sorong > Serui > Jayapura

*****

Ship : KM Sinabung
Route description : Surabaya – South and North Sulawesi (by the East) – Halmahera – North Papua
Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Surabaya

Route : Surabaya > Makassar > Bau-Bau > Banggai > Bitung > Ternate > Babang > Sorong > Manokwari > Biak > Jayapura

*****

Ship : KM Nggapulu
Route description : North Java – South Sulawesi – South Maluku – South Papua
Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Jakarta

Route : Jakarta > Surabaya > Makassar > Bau-Bau > Ambon > Banda Naira > Tual > Dobo > Kaimana > Fak-Fak

*****

Ship : KM Ciremai
Route description : North Java – South Sulawesi – North Papua
Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Jakarta

Route : Jakarta > Surabaya > Makassar > Bau-Bau > Sorong > Manokwari > Biak > Jayapura

*****

Ship : KM Pangrango
Route description : Ambon – Seram / Ambon – Banda / Ambon – Buru / Ambon – South West Maluku islands
Frequency : Every two weeks

Starts from : Ambon

Route 1 : Ambon > Amahai > Geser

Route 2 : Ambon > Banda Naira

Route 3 : Ambon > Namrole

Route 4 : Ambon > Banda Naira > Saumlaki > Tepa > Moa > Kisar

*****

Ship : KM Binaiya
Route description : Makassar – Bali – Flores / Makassar – East Kalimanta
Frequency : Every two weeks (13 or 15 days, the ship stops 2 days in LBJ once a month)

Starts from : Makassar

Route 1 : Makassar > Labuan Bajo > Bima > Benoa > Labuan Bajo

Route 2 : Makassar > Awerange > Bontang > Tarakan

*****

Ship : KM Sirimau
Route description : Maumere – South Sulawesi – Central Maluku – North Papua / Maumere – South Maluku – South Papua
Frequency : Once a month (28 days)

Starts from : Maumere

Route 1 : Maumere > Bau-Bau > Wanci > Ambon > Sorong > Manokwari > Nabire

Route 2 : Maumere > Lewoleba > Kupang > Kalabahi > Saumlaki > Tual > Dobo > Timika > Agats > Merauke

*****

Ship : KM Tatamailau
Route description : North Sulawesi – North Maluku – South Papua
Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Bitung

Route : Bitung > Tidore > Babang > Sorong > Fak-Fak > Kaimana > Tual > Timika > Agats > Merauke

*****

Ship : KM Tidar
Route description : B

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : South Sulawesi – Central and South Maluku – South and North Papua

Route : Makassar > Bau-Bau > Namrole > Ambon > Tual > Dobo > Kaimana > Fak-Fak > Sorong > Manokwari > Nabire

*****

Ship : KM Tilongkabila
Route description : North and South Sulawesi – Flores – Bali

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Bitung

Route : Bitung > Gorontalo > Luwuk > Kolonedale > Kendari > Raha > Bau-Bau > Makassar > Labuan Bajo > Bima > Lembar > Benoa

*****

Ship : KM Egon
Route description : Surabaya – Lombok – Sumba / Surabaya – West Sulawesi – East Kalimantan

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days) for the 2 routes from Surabaya + some irregular round trip to Kumai and Sampit from Semarang

Starts from : Surabaya

Route 1 : Surabaya > Lembar > Waingapua

Route 2 : Surabaya > Batulicin > Pare-Pare > Bontang > Nunukan

Route 3 : Semarang > Kumai

Route 4 : Semarang > Sampit

*****

Ship : KM Dorondola
Route description : North Sulawesi – North Maluku – South Sulawesi – Java – Bintan

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Bitung

Route : Bitung > Ternate > Ambon > Namlea > Bau-Bau > Makassar > Surabaya > Jakarta > Kijang

*****

Ship : KM Labobar
Route description : Surabaya – East Kalimantan – North Sulawesi – North Maluku – North Papua

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Surabaya

Route : Surabaya > Balikpapan > Pantoloan > Amurang > Bitung > Ternate > Sorong > Manokwari > Nabire > Serui > Jayapura

*****

Ship : KM Gunung Dempo
Route description : Java – Makassar – North Papua

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Jakarta

Route : Jakarta > Surabaya > Makassar > Sorong > Manokwari > Nabire > Jayapura

*****

Ship : KM Willis
Route description : South Kalimantan – Makassar – Sumbawa to Alor by the north coast – Kupang / South Kalimantan – Makassar – Flores – Sumbawa – Sumba – Kupang

Frequency : Once a month (28 days)

Starts from : Batulicin

Route 1 : Batulicin > Makassar > Sape > Labuan Bajo > Marapokot > Larantuka > Kalabahi > Kupang

Route 2 : Batulicin > Makassar > Reo > Labuan Bajo > Sape > Waingapu > Ende > Kupang

*****

Ship : KM Kelimutu
Route description : Java – South Kalimantan

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Surabaya

Route 1 : Surabaya > Kumai

Route 2 : Surabaya > Sampit > Semarang > Kumai > Semarang > Karimun Jawa > Semarang > Sampit > Surabaya

*****

Ship : KM Lambelu
Route description : Makassar – Bau-Bau / West Sulawesi – East Kalimantan – East Flores

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Makassar

Route 1 : Makassar > Bau-Bau

Route 2 : Makassar > Pare-Pare > Balikpapan > Tarakan > Nunukan > Pantoloan > Balikpapan > Pare-Pare > Makassar > Maumere > Larantuka

*****

Ship : KM Umsini
Route description : Java – Makassar – Flores – Kupang / Jakarta – Bintan

Frequency : Once a month (25 days)

Starts from : Jakarta

Route 1 : Jakarta > Surabaya > Makassar > Maumere > Larantuka > Lewoleba > Kupang > Ende

Route 2 : Jakarta > Bintan

*****

Ship : KM Bukit Raya
Route description : Jakarta – Riau islands – Pontianak

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Jakarta

Route : Jakarta > Belinyu > Kijang > Letung > Tarempa > Natuna > Midan > Serasan > Pontianak

*****

Ship : KM Kelud
Route description : Jakarta – Batam – Karimun – Medan

Frequency : Every week (7 days)

Starts from : Jakarta

Route : Jakarta > Batam > Karimun > Belawan

*****

Ship : KM Bukit Siguntang
Route description : Makassar – Flores – Kupang / West Sulawesi – East Kalimantan

Frequency : Every two weeks (14 days)

Starts from : Makassar

Route 1 : Makassar > Maumere > Lewoleba > Kupang

Route 2 : Makassar > Pare-Pare > Balikpapan > Toli-Toli > Tarakan > Nunukan > Balikpapan > Pare-Pare

*****

Ship : KM Lawit
Route description : Java – Pontianak – Belitung

Frequency : Every two weeks (15 days)

Starts from : Semarang

Route 1 : Semarang > Karimun Jawa

Route 2 : Semarang > Pontianak > Belitung > Jakarta  > Belitung > Pontianak > Surabaya > Pontianak > Semarang

4 Comments

  1. This is a wonderful resource. I have been piecing together this information, but now you’ve done it. Great job.

    • Thank you Tim ! If I have some time to spare in the future, I will try to prepare another map with the different lines operated by ASDP.

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