The winter of 2014 brought many adventures my way. I bought a plane ticket to the farthest place on the planet from my home. Indonesia held me in a state of allure, mystery, disdain and wonder.
Our first months in Bali did not prepare me for what Lombok held. The next larger island to the East, it was as if I had left one country and arrived in another. Lombok was entirely different. The culture, the religion, the people, the landscape. It was just as drastic as my first arrival in Indonesia.
Over the course of forty days, I fell in love with a family, a town and the ocean all over again. But that story is for another time.
For now, the logistics reign.
The Budget Breakdown
For reference, at the time of writing, the current exchange rate is 12,000 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) to 1 U.S. dollar. I use the exact exchange rate for the big numbers, but round down to about 10,000 IDR/1$ when talking about smaller purchases (like toothpaste).
I tend to round down my exchange rates in my head. When I do look at my bank account, I will be pleasantly surprised with the number on the screen, for the number in my head is an overestimation of what I’ve spent.
These totals come from my daily records of money spent over the course of exactly forty days on the island of Lombok.
Food: 3,604,000 Rupiah = $300
Oftentimes the best money spent abroad is on the local cuisine. Local food is tastier, cheaper, and fresher. On the island of Lombok, there are few typical Western dishes made with indigenous ingredients, therefore the result is disappointing and stale.
I tend to seek out where locals frequent, watch what they order and follow suit. The only exception to this “locals only” rule is a small café on a hillside of Kuta, called Ashtari.
This number may have been much smaller, but since everything was so cheap, we splurged a few times for birthday dinners and an exorbitant amount of daily ice creams.
An average meal at our favorite local warung cost around 10,000 IDR, which was less than a dollar. A fresh coconut cost 15,000 IDR, just over a dollar. The meal was usually more than I could ever finish, nasi campur is something every traveler must experience at least once. Just make sure to go to a place that does a lot of business, it means they will be making new food all day long.
Travel: 328,000 Rupiah = $27
Our motor bike rental and petrol were the main travel costs. The rental was 50,000 Rupiah/day. For five dollars a day (more for shorter term rentals) you gain access to parts of the island usually unseen by foot-bound travelers. Petrol for the bike costs amounted to a dollar each time we filled up.
A word of caution: the roads in Lombok are hilly, unkempt and filled with tractor trailers who drive recklessly. Always, always, always be confident with your driving skills before attempting larger trips, especially through cities.
Accommodation: 4,400,000 Rupiah = $366
A nice place to hang your hat, sleep soundly and keep your belongings safe is a tough find, regardless of the destination. However, in Kuta, Lombok, accommodation standards are slowly meeting Western expectations.
Quite a few backpackers, homestays and bungalow rentals were rumored to have serious issues with safety and sanitation, so I turned to TripAdvisor for help. We booked our first nights with a place that had the highest ratings, stayed those first nights with them, but decided to strike out on our own.
When you are staying somewhere long-term, it pays to shop around. Asking owners what their deals are for longer rentals and assessing a location with your own two eyes are incredibly important to your comfort and satisfaction. Research, research, and research.
Ultimately we ended up staying at Kuta Bay Homestay with Susi. It was a lovely place to “live”, with a small pool, varying breakfast options and smiling staff. Susi was the most helpful person we encountered over the past year. She is honest and generous, two of the most important and hard to find qualities. I’ve never been closer to tears leaving a place behind as I was when I got in the taxi to leave.
Misc: 2,617,000 Rupiah = $217
My most common “miscellaneous” expense was hiring boats to drop us off at surf breaks. Depending on the break, its popularity, the time of year, the driver’s mood and your ability to speak Bahasa Indonesian all affect the price. You can expect to pay anywhere from 30,000 Rupiah ($3) to 100,000 Rupiah ($10) per person, per trip.
Between birthday gifts, once-in-a-while indulgences and the halfway point in my trip in which I promptly needed a cappuccino every day, this number was a bit higher than necessary.
On average, I spent about 273,750 Rupiah = $22 per day.
This number will obviously vary according to what type of traveler you are, what you can put up with in terms of food and accommodation, and whether you engage in surf trips.
I could have easily made that number $15/day. I could have easily made it $45/day. You control your experience. You control your life. You can travel on less than what you spend in a bar in a month.
A few things to take into consideration before traveling to Lombok:
1. Are you an adventurous eater? If not, you will expect to pay more to eat like you do at home and have a difficult time finding something comparative.
2. Are you dead set on air conditioning? Many places we looked at didn’t have it, and those that did were 5x the price of any other accommodation in the area. Give it up. It’s hot. Move slow.
3. Budget at LEAST $25 a day. This all depends on you, but I would say on average, $25 is more than enough to get a room, a motorbike, daily meals and adventures.
4. Do you know local customs? Do you know the local religion? Lombok is a conservative Muslim community. Be mindful. Cover up.
Travel with respect, earn respect.