Batam is a small but busy island in the Riau Islands in Indonesia that is 45 km by 25 km, and has nearly a million people, hundreds of factories owned by multinationals, towns, shopping centres. Only 30 minutes by ferry from Singapore, it is a gateway to the other Riau Islands.
Towns and districts
- Batam Island
- Barelang Islands — an acronym of Batam, Rempang, and Galang Islands, this is a group of islands which are administrated as part of the city of Batam. For the purposes of this guide the Barelang Islands article only covers the rest of the islands other than Batam.
Located only 20 km from Singapore and 25 km from Johor in Malaysia, Batam is Indonesia's equivalent to China's SEZs (Special Economic Zones) - a place where the nation's economic planners test new economic policies and ideas. The island is an industrial hub with electronics factories, a large and growing ship repair industry and an even larger oil service sector. Quite a few expats head there for work, and pubs and golf courses have sprung up to serve them.
Most tourists, on the other hand, come from nearby Singapore. While there is a smattering of family resorts, Bintan is more popular for this; instead, the main lure on Batam is the naughty nightlife. However, the new governor of the province has shut down the casinos and taken steps to curb prostitution, and the goings-on aren't quite as in your face as they used to be.
Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is modeled on the version of Malay which originates from Riau on the Sumatra mainland and the Riau Islands. In fact, Riau Malay is regarded as quite similar to the Malay language and visitors from Malaysia will find the Indonesian spoken here very similar to the historical Bahasa Malaysia, which is the version of Malay spoken back home.
Batam also has a large population of ethnic Chinese Indonesians, who also can speak Hokkien (Fujian), Teochew and Mandarin. There are also many migrants from various parts of Indonesia who speak many different Indonesian languages.
All Batam ports, namely Harbour Bay (Jodoh), Batam Centre, Nongsapura, Sekupang and Waterfront City (Teluk Senimba) are visa-free and visa-on-arrival ports of entry. For detailed information on visas, please refer to the Indonesia page.
- 1 Hang Nadim International Airport (BTH IATA). It is served mainly by domestic flights, and direct connections are available from Jakarta and a wide range of other large cities on the islands of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Bali. Indonesian carriers Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, Lion Air and a host of others provide the links. Smaller regional and local airlines provide flights from the remote Natuna Islands, and smaller towns in Northeastern Sumatra.
As often in Indonesia there is a first security check for entering the terminal, which implies some queuing. Batam airport has only toilets, ATM, money exchange and a few overpriced souvenir shops.
For most foreign visitors though, the most practical way of getting to Batam will be to fly into Singapore (SIN IATA) and catch a ferry from there. If you want to catch flights from Singapore's Changi Airport, you must be on a ferry to Singapore's Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal at least three hours before departure time. Batam is one hour behind Singapore, so keep that in mind when planning your schedule. See "By boat" section below for details.
In August 2014, signs showing a picture of a raised finger over a pair of lips have been installed at the Batam Centre International Ferry Terminal. This indicates you should be silent while queueing for immigration so as to clearly hear the immigration officers. Some visitors have been sent back to Singapore for not complying. The signs are also displayed at other ferry terminals, but the rule is not strictly enforced.
The main ports on Batam are Harbour Bay, Batam Center, Sekupang, Waterfront City, Nongsapura and Telaga Punggur. The main city of Nagoya is now served by Harbour Bay (Jodoh), replacing the old Batu Ampar ferry terminal.
Harbour Bay terminal has the fastest voyage time, 45 minutes away from Singapore HarbourFront Centre and Nagoya City Center is 10 minutes drive away. It also serves domestic ferry service to Riau island and Stulang Laut and Puteri Harbour Malaysia Johor.
Batam Centre Ferry Terminal has ferry connections from Singapore and Johor Bahru. Sekupang, with ferries from Singapore is best used for those catching domestic connections to the Sumatra mainland and the Karimun Islands. Waterfront City and Nongsapura mostly serve adjacent resorts while Telaga Punggur is the main ferry terminal for boats to and from Bintan.
- From Singapore: Ferries departing from the Harbourfront Ferry Terminal go to Harbour Bay Terminal, Sekupang, Batam Centre and Waterfront City (Teluk Senimba) while ferries from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal serve Batam Centre and Nongsapura. Batam's time zone is one hour behind Singapore's, so be sure to factor that in when looking at schedules, particularly if you need to connect to a flight out of Singapore. While Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal is located very close to Changi Airport, HarbourFront is some distance away; give yourself at least 30 min (1 hour in peak hour traffic) to make any transfers by taxi.
- From Harbourfront: Ferry operators include:
- Horizon Fast Ferry (☏ in HarbourFront Centre, ☏ in Harbour Bay Terminal) to Harbour Bay Terminal.
- Batam Fast (☏ in Batam Centre; ☏ in Sekupang; ☏ in Harbour Bay Terminal; ☏ in Harbourfront). Also hourly ferries to Batam Centre, fewer ferries to Sekupang and Harbour Bay Terminal.
- Sindo Ferry (☏ in Harbourfront; ☏ in Batam Centre; ☏ in Sekupang; ☏ in Waterfront City) to Batam Centre, Sekupang and Waterfront City.
- Majestic Fast Ferry (☏ /☏ in Batam Centre; ☏ /☏ in Sekupang; ☏ in HarbourFront Centre) to Batam Centre and Sekupang.
- From Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal: Ferries operated by:
- From Harbourfront: Ferry operators include:
- To/From Malaysia: Ferries link Johor Bahru with Harbour Bay Terminal and Batam Centre. There are virtually hourly departures between 07:50 and 18:40 from JB to Batam, and between 07:50 and 1:720 from Batam to JB.
- From Bintan:
- The main port for ferries between the capital city of Riau Islands Tanjung Pinang at the island Bintan and Batam is Telaga Punggur at the southeastern end of Batam:
- Baruna (☏ Bintan's main town Tanjung Pinang virtually every 15 minutes during daylight hours. Tickets cost Rp25,000 - 40,000 excluding port taxes (Rp5,000). in Telaga Punggur; ☏ in Tanjung Pinang) and Sentosa operate speedboats between Telaga Punggur and
- Frequent speedboats also run between Telaga Punggur and Tanjung Uban on the western part of Bintan.
- Getting there/away: Official taxis from Batam Centre to Telaga Punggur cost Rp65,000. On the reverse way, it's Rp60,000. You can try and bargain for a lower rate with taxis outside the port area (Batam centre to Telaga Punggur may cost Rp50,000). Passenger vans or mikrolet (known as Metro Trans by the locals) run between Telaga Punggur and Jodoh/Nagoya. They will go back & forth to wait until their van is full before they really depart.
- Boats from Tanjung Pinang also call at Sekupang at the northeastern part of Batam when going to or coming from the Sumatra mainland such as to Dumai and Pekanbaru, as well as Karimun Island. These are however not as frequent as those leaving from Telaga Punggur. To get to Sekupang, please see following section.
- From Sumatra mainland, other Riau Islands: Batam's main domestic port is Sekupang, where you can ferries to/from the Sumatra mainland and other Riau Islands west of Batam. You can also use Sekupang for ferries from Bintan but the bulk of ferries to that island leave from Telaga Punggur (see "From Bintan" section above). Getting there/away: Numerous taxis make the run between Sekupang and Nagoya. There is also a public minibus service between Sekupang and Batam Center as well as Nagoya.
- From Karimun Island: Regular ferries operate between Tanjung Balai on Karimun and Sekupang. Some of the ferries originate from the Sumatra mainland or Kundur Island. Boats also stop at Tanjung Balai when going from Sekupang to Sumatra or Kundur.
- From Dumai: Several companies, including Dumai Express operates several ferries daily to/from Sekupang. Most of these ferries originate from Tanjung Pinang, the main town on Bintan, and also make a stop at Tanjung Balai on Karimun Island after making a stop at Sekupang.
- From Kundur Island: Several ferry companies run daily between Sekupang and Tanjung Batu on Kundur. These ferries also make a stop at Tanjung Balai on Karimun en route.
- Other ferry destinations include Pekanbaru, Selat Panjang, Bengkalis and Tanjung Buton in Riau, and Kuala Tungkal in Jambi province.
- From other parts of Indonesia: Pelni ships which serve various ports throughout Indonesia call at Sekupang.
There are plenty of taxis in Batam, but there are no standard color schemes: however, licensed taxis have yellow license plates, while unlicensed ones do not (and are best avoided). As there are no meters, you will need to bargain with the drivers; the first price quoted is often silly, but if there are other taxis around, you can easily bargain them down. Sample fares for reference:
- Telaga Punggur to Batam Centre (Rp112,000, 25 min). As of July 2015, this was a fixed fare. No haggling was undertaken
- Nagoya to Harbour Bay ferry terminal at Batu Ampar (Rp30,000 fixed price, 8 min)
- Sekupang to Batam Centre (Rp50,000)
- Hang Nadim airport to Nagoya/Jodoh (Rp75,000 - fixed price)
- Batam Centre ferry terminal to Hang Nadim airport: Rp90,000 (fixed price as of 2017)
- Full-day hire of a taxi Rp500,000 (around S$70)
If you feel more comfortable with metered taxis, there are a few of these taxis attached with it, but please ensure that you asked the driver to operate the meter before getting into the taxi, otherwise they will not operate it and may charge you more than the amount that you are supposed to pay.
By minibus (Metro Trans)
Fixed route plies between Jodoh and Telaga Punggur (Rp3,000-4,000). Sample fares for other destinations are as follows:
- Jodoh to Sembulang via Sukajadi Rp9,500
- Jodoh to Galang Baru via Sukajadi Rp12,000
- Dapur 12 to Mukakuning Rp3,000
- Dapur 12 to Jodoh via Sukajadi Rp4,000
The Batam local government (known as pemerintah) operates a bus service known as "Bus Pilot Project". The blue colour bus plies between Batam Center and Batu Aji for Rp4,000 and Batam Center to Sekupang Rp4,000. Buy your ticket from the personnel before boarding.
Most hotels run shuttle buses during the day to the ferry ports and to the main shopping mall. It seems that none run a shuttle to airport.
The Kijang, which is generally everywhere in Indonesia, is strangely absent in Batam. Your hotel may be able to arrange a car and driver for you, but be prepared to pay Rp100,000 or more, which is almost double the rate in Jakarta.
The Waterfront City area of Batam is on the western side of the island. There are several attractions & activities available in this area, such as water & sea sports activities, a fishing pond, go-kart racing track, a football field, as well as a beach for swimming or playing with the kids. There is also a cable ski park, Jet Ski, para sailing and banana boats for the adventurous.
Down at the Barelang Islands, connected to Batam by a series of 6 bridges, there are many good beaches, as well as an old Vietnamese refugee camp, that was occupied for 20 years by Vietnamese boat people, and has now been restored as a tourist attraction. The site is quite overgrown in places by the jungle and takes around 1hour to drive to from Batam Centre. However, on entering the site there are several colonies of macaque monkeys by the road side. This is also a favourite route for cyclists.
Mega Wisata Ocarina Batam is a newly developed theme park in Batam Centre. The large ferris wheel and other carnival attractions are fun, there is a water park and 3D movie theater inside, along with several food-court style restaurants. This whole complex has an unfinished air to it and is a work in progress.
- 1 Batam Golf (Golf stay and play packages), Batam Island (Via Batam Ferry Terminals), ☏ . 24/7. Batam is a golfers paradise. Batam Island is blessed with 7 great golf courses providing top class championship golf and great hospitality. From $85.
Batam is not generally considered to be good for snorkeling, due to its position in the murky waters of the world's busiest shipping channel, but the small island of Abang to the south gets good reviews - you may need a tour to get there.
The Indonesian rupiah may be legal tender, but the Singapore dollar (S$) is Batam's unofficial second currency. Tourist-oriented hotels, restaurants and shops usually quote prices in S$, and they will be accepted by nearly anybody in a pinch. However, if you decide to pay by credit card, by law your bill must be converted to rupiah first—and the exchange rate is unlikely to be in your favor.
There are many malls in Batam offering a variety of stores and restaurants. Nagoya Hill Mall, in Nagoya, has a Matahari department store, Hypermart supermarket, ACE Hardware, and a Cinema 21. Restaurants include J.Co, KFC, A&W, BFC, Pizza Hut, Ayam Goreng Fatmawati, Solaria, Grandduck Chinese restaurant & newtown coffee at the top of the mall.
BCS Mall in Baloi has a Golden Truly department store, a Gramedia and a bowling alley.
If you would like to bring Indonesian delicacy back for your family, opt for the layer cake (kek lapis), which is available in most of the shopping malls and ferry terminals. They are handmade and have become the iconic takeaway delicacy from Batam.
Batam has plenty of eating out choices, including great Chinese seafood in the outdoor food courts, such as the Windsor and Nagoya Food Courts and A1 Pujasera.
Local best valued Indonesian food are Daun Pisang Resto, where travellers can taste mixed of archipelagos food. Another option is Nasi Padang Sederhana; both are widely loved by local and international travellers.
- In Harbour Bay Terminal area, there is a stretch of seafood restaurants overlooking the ocean.
- For seafood over the water, try Golden Prawn Seafood Restaurant in Bengkong. They are famous for their seafood. This large restaurant which resembles several open air marquees is cheap and cheerful in the furnishings. The chairs and the plates are plastic but the staff are warm and welcoming.
- Grand Duck Restaurant in Nagoya Hill Mall is a must try.
- In the Nagoya area behind Harmoni Hotel, there are dozens of bars that serve Western pub food; try the pizza at Wallabie's, about Rp. 80,000 for a large.
- For authentic Balinese roasted pork, visit Warung Bali in Batam Center. They have fresh babi guling every Saturday after 11:00.
- All of the major hotels have restaurants, some better than others. If you come during Ramadan (In August–September), you have your choice of all-you-can-eat buffets of traditional Indonesian fare from every major hotel; prices range from about Rp45,000-75,000.
City authorities claim that Batam's tap water is drinkable, but the rusty color puts some people off. It is wise to stick with bottled water anyway, about Rp10,000 for a 5-gallon jug.
Carlsberg and Guinness are produced locally, as well as Bintang and Tiger beer. Most places have Heineken on tap. Imported beers, such as Corona are available, but prices are high. A normal draft beer should be no more than Rp25,000.
Wine and liquor is available from the duty-free stores in nearly all of the larger malls, most bars and hotels.
Batam Fresh Beer is the only microbrewery on the island, headquartered in Batam Center near the large mosque (behind Pondok Gurih restaurant). Price is Rp15,000 a glass for any of their beers (dark and light at 5 or 7% alc or green at 5%).
Upon arrival in the ferry terminal (Harbour Bay or Batam Centre) you can go to the Hotel Reservation Counter, they will have numerous options for the 3+ star hotels in on the island. These may give you a slightly better value than booking directly with the hotel, so it is not a scam. In addition, however, there are budget options available such as family apartments.
Batam is generally safe during the daytime hours, but at night if you are in the entertainment areas of Nagoya you should exercise caution. Do not walk alone at night, if you want to leave somewhere and it is late, find someone else who is leaving or about to leave, or stay until it closes and then all go together. If you really have to get back to your hotel call the hotel and have them send a car to pick you up. As the taxis are not regulated or owned by a central group (like Bluebird in Jakarta) you may not be safe hiring a taxi off the street either. Walking in groups or two or three is probably okay but do not get into discussions with the locals as you may be asking to have your wallet or purse taken from you. If this happens, don't chase, just walk back to where you were or to the hotel and report to the police later.
Traveling safe is another matter. The roads around Batam are OK, but not maintained to the highest standard. The taxi drivers in particular delight in driving as fast as they can and they really like to overtake on a curve or bend. If you feel at all uncomfortable ask the driver to slow down, tell him you are not in a hurry, usually they are OK, although you might have to yell at them in Indonesian a few times to get them to drive safely.
If you have to drink it is always better to do it in your own hotel or a family restaurant-cum-bar. If you go to an ordinary bar, there have been instances where drugs were put in one's bag unknowingly and then locals threaten to call the police unless you pay them.
- The country code for Indonesia is 62. The area code for Batam is 778. To call Singapore from Wartel phone shop, please dial 007-65 follow by the phone no.
- The General Post office (known as kantor pos in Bahasa Indonesia) is at Batam Center, not far from the ferry terminal
Batam, with its good ferry connections, is an excellent springboard to the other Riau Islands such as the Tanjung Uban and Kijang Bintan Island and the Sumatra mainland. Good air connections also make Batam a good place to get cheap air tickets to Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia.