The gorgeous island of Lombok is busy Bali’s more laid back neighbour. Take a look at our video and then start planning your own tropical island escape in Indonesia!
When to go
Just south of the equator, Lombok has a tropical climate and is hot year round. The dry season runs from May through to September, the wet between October through to April. We visited Lombok in April, the weather forecast predicted thunderstorms and rain every day, but we were lucky to have only one wet day. April was a lovely time to visit, the island was still lush and green from the wet season, it was the rice harvest season and visitor numbers were few. The temperature ranged from around 24°C (75°F) overnight to the early 30’s (90°F) during the day. It was much cooler in Senaru, on the slopes of Mt Rinjani, overnight. Your family will be MUCH more comfortable with air conditioned accommodation. A cool room can be a great respite for hot and fractious children. And, where possible, a pool is a great place to cool off and play after a day sightseeing!
Where to go
Lombok is a tropical island set in the clear beautiful water of the Indian Ocean – you’ll want to spend most of your time in, on or under the sea! Away from the coast, inland Lombok is lush with rainforest, waterfalls and endless stepped rice fields all dominated by the 3727m (12,224ft) high active volcano, Mt Rinjani. We began our adventure in Selong Belanak, a gorgeous beach on Lombok’s south coast. We then headed through central Lombok, climbing into the highlands of the slopes of Mt Rinjani, stopping at Senaru. Then we headed back for the coast and spent a few days in Tanjung before catching a boat to the atoll Gili Meno. We had a day in Lombok’s capital, Mataram, before flying back to Bali.
Entry and visas
Indonesian tourist visas are issued on arrival for the citizens of these 52 countries – they cost US$25 and are valid for 30 days. Nationalities not on the list will need to apply for their visa before leaving home. Your passport must be valid for a miminum of six months from the date of entry into Indonesia. Signs at airports will welcome you to Indonesia and warn you of the death penalty for drug trafficking. Take this warning very seriously.
Indonesia is a Muslim country (Hindu Bali being the exception in the archipelago) and the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer will become infused in your memories of your Lombok adventure. It may also wake you up very early in the morning! There are some stunning mosques on Lombok. Away from the beaches, the locals will very much appreciate your efforts (if you are a woman) to cover your shoulders and legs. The number of thumbs up and nods of approval I received from the local women for wearing a scarf made it an easy choice. You’ll find traveling as a family very rewarding – Lombok is indeed a friendly isle.
Lombok has a wide variety of accommodation options available – from resorts around Senggigi to small bunglows on the beach on the Gili Islands. We were after an intimate experience so chose smaller places with a mix of beach and inland locations. You can see all the places we stayed here.
Most visitors travel to Lombok via Bali by sea or air and the travel options are a popular topic on the Lombok Tripadvisor forum! By sea, public ferries (Rp36 000/€2.5/US$2.6 return) plow the Lombok Strait in about 4-5 hours. There are also numerous fast boat services which can do the distance in 1-2 hours. Fast ferry options include Gili Cat (Rp1,200,000/€80/US$90 return including hotel transfers, children cheaper), Bluewater Express (Rp1,500,000/€100/US$112 return including hotel transfers, children cheaper) and Gili Getaway (Rp1,250,000/€84/US$93 return with hotel transfers, children cheaper). There is much forum chatter about the level of safety, reliability and comfort of the fast boat services on offer – do your research before booking.
We decided to skip the ferry and fly – a quick 30 minute flight between Bali International Airport and the new Lombok International airport in Praya. The route is serviced by Wings Air/Lion Air (Rp800,000/€55/US$60 return, children cheaper) and Indonesia’s national airline, Garuda Indonesia (Rp1,840,000/€125/US$138 return, children cheaper).
We flew with Garuda and had one of our favourite flights ever! It’s the quickest 737 flight you’ll ever have and it’s done with style – there is only just enough time for the flight attendants to give out (tasty!) snack trays (and cute soft toys of Indonesian animals for the kids!) and it’s time to prepare for landing.
We got around both Bali and Lombok by private car – your accommodation will be able to organise a driver for both transfers and day trips. Renting a driver and car is an economical (working out to be about Rp100,000/€7/US$8 per hour) and flexible option – your driver will have good local knowledge and you have the advantage of being able to stop wherever and whenever you like. Good when the kids are getting hot and scratchy and are needing a swim and a run around on a (idyllic, tropical) beach! The roads around Lombok are good but not necessarily fast. All our drivers had good cars with seat belts front and back and we felt very safe.
Pony carts are the traditional mode of transport on Lombok and are the only option on the Gili Islands where cars and motorbikes are banned (ah the quiet!). They are a fun way to get around for shorter distances – kids will love them! Bargain hard but you will usually pay a couple of $US for a trip of a few kilometres.
Walking is not popular in Lombok – the heat and humidity make scooters and motorbikes a much breezier and cooler option for the locals to get around. Visitors not used to the tropical heat will find walking even more tiring – especially with children. Take a car or pony cart where you can to keep energy from flagging and when you do go for a stroll, remember to take wide brimmed hats and a water bottle.
Food and snacks
Supermarkets and (especially) 7-11 type stores are common throughout Lombok and are well stocked with snacks and drinks that will be familiar to children (including, to Meg’s delight, these Taylor Swift branded ice creams). Bottled water is available everywhere as are bottles and cartons of fruit juice.
Most of your accommodation will include breakfast with both Indonesian and western choices. Away from your accommodation dining options you’ll find plenty of street food and local warungs (restaurants) to try. Remember the basics: stick to freshly cooked food (a good deep fry will pretty much kill any germs!) and stay away from foods that may have been sitting for some time. Peel fruits and vegetables and avoid pre-cut pieces. Ensure your kids give their hands a really good wash (with sanitiser) before touching anything they are going to eat.
Lombok is tropical fruit HEAVEN – be sure to try as much as you can! Rumbutan and mangosteens were our favourite. If your children aren’t adventurous fruit eaters, there are plenty of bananas (and mangos if in season) available at markets. If your children ARE adventurous, challenge them to try durian. With an offensive stench reminiscent of *ahem* vomit, these large prickly fruits are a firm favourite with locals. The taste? Better than it smells. Slightly.
Safety around animals
Lombok is home to many dogs and cats. Interestingly, few cats on Lombok have tails! – a congenital deformity. If your child is an animal lover, stress to them the importance of not approaching, feeding or touching animals. Most dogs will pay you little attention if you do the same. If you have a persistent doggy follower, a stone or two (or a handful of sand if at the beach) lobbed near (not at) them will get them scampering away. Lombok is rabies free but it’s proximity to rabies-infected Bali means any animal bite or scratch should be taken seriously. We did not vaccinate against rabies as we assessed the risk as being very low.
Monkeys! You’ll spot monkeys in trees and along road sides. They are usually timid (as locals consider them a pest and defend their crops from poaching with a pocket of stones and a slingshot) but it can be fun monkey watching from a distance – especially the very cute and playful young.
Coping with a minor celebratory status
Whilst neighbouring Bali is well used to international visitors, your children will have lots of novelty value off the beaten track in Lombok where the locals are super friendly and eager to stop and chat. They were very interested in Meg and, at aged seven, she took the attention in her stride (different from 2 years ago in India where she found it a little intimidating) and even learnt to say hello and thank you in Indonesian which people LOVED. There were a few photo calls and one young teenage girl unexpectedly kissed Meg on the cheek before running away giggling but none of the attention felt overwhelming for her. She might have even enjoyed it a little.
Providing your child with a small digital camera lets them record their own experiences of their trip. What they choose to photograph maybe quite different from your own subjects and their photos can be quite insightful.
An older child could be easily encouraged to keep a travel dairy. We have a FREE travel journal printable you can download and print. Our journal has journaling prompts for inspiration and lots of room for drawing. Include pens, scissors, tape or glue and small envelopes for saving ticket stubs and found objects.