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.

All Pelni lines 2018
Pelni network as of September 2018 – This is not an official map (I made it myself) so I advise you to cross-check the information with Pelni official website before taking any decision

How to get Pelni schedules ?

Update 2023 : when I wrote this article, you could fairly reliably get the ferry schedules on Pelni’s website. I don’t know exactly what they did but their website seems to be useless nowadays.

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.

Inside Pelni
Passenger deck of a Pelni ship

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.

Boat ASDP Indonesia
ASDP ferry from Padang to Siberut island

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

This articles was written in 2018 so 5 years ago and hasn’t been updated since then. Most of these ships are still running but I advise you to cross check info starting from Pelni website.

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
  • Kijang is in Bintan island, in the Riau Archipelago

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


  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.

  2. Really useful information here, thanks so much. Especially the map, which is much better than anything official on offer. I used it for 4 trips on Pelni ships in the last few months. But to complete the excellent information in this article, I feel that some important clarifications are in order! These days only one Pelni ship, the MV Kelud, has a choice of accommodation class. I traveled on it in 1st class between Jakarta and Batam, near Singopore. It was clean, on time, altogether a pleasant and indeed inexpensive experience. But all the other ships only have Ekonomi class, which is pretty much as you describe it. (One correction: the tickets are definitely now numbered.) To put it euphemistically, this is *not* the kind of traveling experience that most Westerner tourists will be familiar with. Conditions are very rudimentary indeed. Dirty, uncomfortable, crowded. In 4 journeys, on ships ranging from 1000 to 3000 passengers, I did not see a single other foreign tourist. The passengers were without exception poor Indonesians. They were invariably friendly, but many were obviously surprised to see a foreigner, so there was much staring and calling out. I was always polite had some basic conversations, in both bad Indonesian and bad English. But whether one enjoys such an experience will depend strongly on personality. As a single not-very-extroverted traveler, I will not lie: I did not enjoy it. Indeed I cut short my trip because of it. Couples may find it easier. As will extroverts and passionate anthropologists like you seem to be! In any case, I suppose I am glad to have made the effort. As you say, it is the cheapest way to see Indonesia, and definitely best for the environment too. So thanks again for the excellent resource on this site. You need to put all this into a guidebook one day.

  3. Wow, what a great work! Thank you Elliot. Your effort to sistematization of Pelni’s routes is realy empressive, appreciate it.

  4. Goodmorning from Larantuka. I will be looking to transport a small marine diesel engine from Larantuka to Ambon to get rebuilt .I will build a small box to accommodate it and take it with me on a ferry or cargo ship can you advise the best way to go about this exercise.

  5. This is really helpful! Thanks for pulling this together. I’m planning to do some Pelning in February and appreciate this. Pleased they are still running. My first Pelni experience was in 1998 from Davao, Philippines to Bitung. Sadly this is no longer an option. Don’t think there are any boats to the Philippines anymore. Would be great if there were!

  6. Thank you for the very useful info. I’m an Indonesian and I myself have problems putting info together. Thanks.

  7. I’ve been trying to get information about travelling to Pontianak,Indonesia from Kijang & is struggling for 2-3 days just to information of the Ship’s once a week trip between these 2 destination. Tried their email (Message returned,tried their whatsapp,no reply & tried even filling up form on the webpage is achallenge.
    Wonder any clue to get the actual once a week ship going this way ?

    • Hi,

      If you type jadwal KM [for Kapal Motor] Bukit Raya October 2023 in Google you get info from various newspaper so it seems to be running. I couldn’t get any info on Pelni website. So your best bet is to scrap Google searching for the Whatsapp contact of someone working either in Kijang harbour or Pontianak harbour and then ask them directly the schedule.

      Good luck !

    • I don’t know if you have a direct ferry but just cross from Bima to wherever to NTT and then any harbor is visited at least twice a month with a vehicle ferry heading to Kupang (the regional capital).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.