Balikpapan is a city of 850,000 people (2019) in East Kalimantan. It serves as headquarters for international oil companies, mining companies and related support industries operating in (and out of) eastern Kalimantan. It is a relatively clean city, with clear blue skies, but not much by way of nightlife. The population is a mix, with lots of Javanese due to transmigration, lots of people from Sulawesi, and of course, the locals. The people are quiet and polite, and the pace is slow and relaxed.
The city is the financial centre of Kalimantan and the main gateway to the new capital of Indonesia that is being built.
Balikpapan began as a fishing village built by Buginese people in the 19th century. The first oil drilling began in Balikpapan in 1897. Many multi-national companies came to Balikpapan to invest in the oil industry. This resulted in the economic boom of Balikpapan and attracted many migrants and expatriates.
Balikpapan oil refinery is on the shore of Balikpapan Bay and covers an area of 2.5 km2 (0.97 sq mi).
Balikpapan has a tropical rainforest climate as there is no real dry season in Balikpapan. The city sees an average of 2,400 mm (94 in) of rain per year. Balikpapan generally shows little variation in weather throughout the course of the year. The city does not have significantly wetter and drier periods of the year and average temperatures are nearly identical throughout the course of the year, averaging about 26 to 27 °C throughout the year.
Most people arrive by air.
- 1 Sultan Aji Muhammad Sulaiman International Airport (BPN IATA formally Sepinggan Airport). It has frequent flights from Jakarta, and commercial services from Surabaya, Banjarmasin, Tarakan, Palu, Makassar, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Denpasar, and numerous smaller airports in Kalimantan. There are also international flights from Singapore operated by SilkAir 6 times a week and from Kuala Lumpur operated by Air Asia 3 times a week. The airport is on the coast just outside of the city, around 8 km away from the city centre. Airport taxis operate from the terminal; there is a fixed fare depending on the destination (starting from Rp 70,000, as of March 2016). You may be offered an unofficial fare outside the main exit if you walk to the left past the official taxi ranks; while some of these drivers may offer a slightly cheaper fare, many will quote an inflated price when they see a foreigner, so make sure you've asked the official fare to your destination in the taxi booth if you intend to bargain with them.
- Susi Air, ☏ . Service from local destinations across Kalimantan.
Despite the numerous signs which you'll see after leaving the baggage claim area, as of March 2016 there's no airport bus service to Balikpapan; the buses mentioned on these signs are going to Samarinda.
Balikpapan can be reached from Samarinda, Bontang and Banjarmasin by land through 2 bus terminals. From Samarinda and Bontang by Terminal Batu Ampar, and from Banjarmasin at the other terminal in the Batu Ampar District.
Semayang's seaport that serves cruises from Makassar, Pare Pare, Tarakan, Surabaya, and other eastern parts of Indonesia. This port is one of the busiest in Indonesia and the main gateway to Borneo, serving passenger Pelni ferries and cargo ships not only from Indonesia but from the rest of South East Asia and beyond.
Get to the terminal with minibus #6 (dark blue) which plies the coastal road. The No 3 (light Blue) will also take you to and from. Cost Rp 5000 (September 2019).
Traffic does not yet inhibit travel within the city but is increasing by the day as relatively high living standards help to support a sea of small motorcycles.
Some taxi companies operates in Balikpapan. It is advisable to call for their call centre, tell your location and wait the call centre arrange their unit to pick you up. It is uncommon to wait for empty taxis on the street because they usually stop and wait for orders from their call centre.
List of taxi companies and their call centre number:
- City Taxi (☏ or ☏ )
- Mawar (☏ )
- Kalung Mas (☏ )
- Globalindo Taxi (☏ )
Public transportation in Balikpapan consists of small minibus named angkutan kota or angkot for short. Locals often call angkot as taxi and metered taxi as taxi argo. There's no public bus inside the city. Minibuses serves public transport between points. Although there are dedicated routes, they often deroute due to passenger's request. They also sometimes don't serve the whole route.
The color of the minibuses determines their routes. Common routes are as follows:
- White top/Orange bottom (Route 1): between Kampung Baru Ujung and Terminal Batu Ampar
- White top/Light Green bottom (Route 2A): between Terminal Damai and Terminal Batu Ampar through Ring Road (possible deroute to Balikpapan Baru housing and or Damai III area)
- White top/Gray bottom (Route 2B): between Balikpapan Baru and Jalan A Yani through Jalan AMD
- White top/Light Blue bottom (Route 3): between Terminal Batu Ampar and Pelabuhan Semayang through Klandasan. This No 3 bus will take you to and from the Pelabuhan Semayang Ferry Terminal (from outside the terminal) to Balikpapan Plaza via Jalan Jenderal Sudirman Road (along the waterfront). This same No 3 Bus will also go from the Balikpapan Plaza to the Bus Terminal Angkutan Kota Batu Ampar along Jalan (Jenderal) Almad Yani and Jalan Soekarno Hatta going pass the Rapak Plaza and the Bus Terminal Palau Indah Jaya. Cost 5000 Rp (September 2019).
- White top/Yellow bottom (Route 5): between Kampung Baru Ujung and Terminal Damai through A. Yani
- White top/Dark Blue bottom (Route 6): between Kampung Baru Ujung and Terminal Damai through Pelabuhan Semayang
- White top/Green bottom (Route 7): between Terminal Damai and Gunung Tembak
- White top/Light Yellow bottom (Route 9): between Terminal Batu Ampar and KM 24 to Samarinda
- The No 5 white top, orange bottom will take you from Balikpapan Plaza to Baru Tengah (Maps me, the village on the water) at Jalan Letjan Suprapto. Cost is Rp 5000 (September 2019).
- (BOS) Orangutan Sancuary and Eco lodge. See rescued orangutans and sun bears in their natural habitat. Just roaming around for the day or stay at the eco lodge for a few nights and experience the wildlife in the jungle. You can also do a 2-week or 4-week volunteering course, where you can help out with the animals. It is about a 1-hour journey by car from the city centre and if you stay the night or volunteer you will need outdoor equipment such as walking boots, spare clothes, and insect repellent.
- Crocodile Farm (30 km from Balikpapan near Manggar Beach).
- 1 Pantai Menpora.
- Bukit Bangkirai (58 km north-west of Balikpapan), ☏ . The main attraction is the Canopy Bridge, which is famous in East Borneo. It was built for biological study of the ecosystem in the canopy of the tropical rainforest. It is now popular for the public to view the beauty of the rainforest from 30 m (90 ft) above the ground. It's also a very nice place to enjoy nature or to camp and watch the stars.
- 2 Taman Bekapai, Jl. Jenderal Sudirman, Klandasan Ulu. City plaza with busy fountain at night.
- 3 Pantai Melawai. This may be a beach where you're bobbing around in the water and a plastic bag floats by. But anyway, it's a good one from which to watch sunsets and harbor traffic.
- 4 Kawasan Kampung Atas Air, Jl. Sepaku No.Kelurahan, Baru Tengah. One of those floating villages along with a bunch of interconnected docks from which you can watch the refinery belch a fireball into the sky. Also here is a fish market.
- 5 Jembatan Ulin Panjang. Boardwalk thru a mangrove habitat and out into the bay. Watch out for slippery surfaces on rainy days.
- On Merdeka (Independence) Square you can play soccer and other sports.
- Local tour operators arrange river safaris on the Mahakam River and orangutan tours.
- There are beautiful beaches, such as Manggar and Lamaru located just outside the city, and Kemala Beach further off Klandasan with nice views of the sunset.
- 1 Carribean Island Water Park, Ring Road II, Jalan Ruhui Rahayu, ☏ . 08ː30-17ː30 M-F, 08ː30-18ː00 Sa-Su.
- 2 Mangrove Margo Mulyo, Jl. AMD Gg. 4 No.RT 42. An urban mangrove reserve where you can soak in the sultry habitat with some boardwalk excursions and nature study.
Visit one of the nice local markets.
- Plaza Balikpapan. This is the most popular shopping mall. Located at the centre of the city and it is a must visit for visitors. A good western supermarket can be found on the ground floor.
- Kebun Sayur Traditional Market Center. Stones, gems, jewellery and diamonds of various types and price. Borneo is acknowledged as a rich island, not just with oil and coal, but with beautiful gems.
A local delicacy is Amplang/Kuku Macan, a kind of chips made from fish. Pacifica Food Court in Balikpapan Plaza Mall has good food and a lot of choice.
- Bondy Restaurant. A big restaurant on the main drag with a very nice selection of seafood.
- Kepiting Kenari, Jalan Iswahyudi (10 minutes from Sepinggan Airport). A very giant fresh crab cooked with some option of sauce (black pepper, sweet and sour, oyster sauce, boiled, etc.)
- Dandito, Jln Jend. Sudirman (above airport). Crab specialist restaurant.
- Kepiting Tambora, Jalan Jendral Sudirman. Crab specialist restaurant.
- Pondok Nelayan Seafood Restaurant (Balikpapan Branch), Jend. Sudirman Street No. 561 (Stal Kuda), ☏ . Su–F 10:00-22:00, Sa 10:00-23:00. Originates from Pontianak's (West Kalimantan) well-known seafood restaurant.
- To eat local. These food stalls are situated right on the water front. Found on the beach side of Pasar Klandasan. About 200 m west of the Masjid At Taqwa and 800 m east of Plaza Balikpapan. There is also a couple of simple food stalls on the old wooden jetty. Its has a close to "local" with a good vibe feel about it.
- Color Beat Pub (Blue Sky Hotel)
- Borneo Bar (Le Grandeur Hotel)
- Borneo Sports Fishing Club (prev. Sid's Bar) at Jl Sudirman 24, Gunung Bahagia. Bar with sea views.
- Rende Vu (Novotel Hotel)
- Red Square (Sagita Hotel)
- Lamaru Pub (Hotel Grand Senyiur)
- SQ (Adhika Bahtera Hotel)
- Nakhoda (Adikha Bahtera Hotel)
- Suzannas Liquor Store- you can buy alcohol by the case to drink at home.
There are a number of star-rated hotels poised on the hills and at the beach that are perfectly adequate.
- Bahana Surya / Blue Sky Hotel. One of the better places in town. With a nice swimming pool (external entry Rp 30,000 per person).
- Hotel Bahtera. From Rp 400,000.
- Hotel Benakutai
- City hotel
- Dusit Hotel/ Le Grandeur
- Gran Senyiur Hotel. The first 5-star hotel in town, owned by local people. ☏
- Hotel Haai, Sepinggan by pass, ☏ . The only "back to nature" hotel in Balikpapan, cottage/bungalow style rooms with private garages, room rate from Rp280,000, 3 min from airport (10 min to city).
- Hotel Murni. A cheap option.
- Hotel Nuansa Indah
- Town House Bukit Damai Indah, ☏
- Aiqo Hotel, Jl. Apt Pranoto No.9, ☏ , , . Within 5 minutes walk of Balikpapan Plaza, 15 minutes drive from the Sepinggan airport. Clean and comfy. From Rp228,000.
- Sentosa76 Guest House, Jalan Ataka Raya no 60, Pasir Ridke, ☏ . Rp100,000 single.
- Hotel Citra Nusantara. Jalan Gajahmada 76. ☏ . From the pedestrian overpass at the Balikpapan Plaza (Junction of Jalan Jenderal Ahmad Yani and Jalan Jenderal Sudirman), walk one block north, turn left, walk about 50 m, the hotel is on your right. Price (September 2019) starts at Rp150,000, (very basic), then Rp175,000 (basic) and Rp200,000 for a double bed with aircon. There are also more expensive options. Simple breakfast included. Free tea and coffee. Wifi is good if you are in a good location.
- 1 Le Grandeur Balikpapan, Jalan Jenderal Sudirman, ☏ . 185 rooms and suites, the hotel sits in its own extensive gardens, adjoining a beautiful sandy beach, and overlooking the Makassar Straits. It is Kalimantan's only beachfront hotel. Rooms start at Rp500,000.
- 2 Novotel Balikpapan, JL Brigjen Ery Suparjan No 2, ☏ .
- France Consular Agency, c/o Total Final Elf E&P, Jl. Gunung Bugis, ☏ .
- Philippines Honorary Consulate, Jl. Projakal 157, Klandasan Ulu, ☏ .