Choosing the means of transportation is one of the keys to define your trip. We, as budget backpackers, try to avoid any airplane because 1) it’s expensive, 2) you don’t see the gradual changes of the landscapes, the people, the cultures and so on. Therefore, in order to appreciate your trip more, the other possibilities such as a bus, a car, or a boat if you are crossing the sea, would be better. How ever, you need to be careful that long hours travels in those vehicles or vessels probably make you sick in big time. So here is a piece of advice from us: If you are going to take a boat or a car to/from/within Indonesia for long hours, include several stopovers and give it a break. By doing so, not only you can avoid getting sick, but also you are able to find out more of Indonesian culture and whatsoever.
This is how we entered Kalimantan and Sulawesi, Indonesia from Borneo, Malaysia.
<Tawau – Tarakan>
There is a ferry from Tawau, Malaysia for Tarakan, Indonesia. You need to have your Indonesian visa ready by its departure because Tarakan port does not offer an arrival visa. You can get it at Indonesian Consulate in Tawau. The ferry is about 5 hours duration and costs 130RM.
This is how we stopped by at a few towns before Manado, our and many others’ final distention in Sulawesi.
<Tarakan – Toli-Toli>
After arriving at Tarakan, we got on a ferry for Toli-Toli on the same day. Here you need to be careful that there is only one ferry every two weeks since it takes two weeks for this massive Indonesian ferry called Pelni to circle around Sulawesi. It is about 18 hours duration and costs around 150,000Rp for economy class, which you will probably in the same room as many chickens!
<Activities in Toli-Toli>
I will write our activities in Toli-Toli because there is no info Lonely Planet guide book.
There is a beautiful beach from Kota Toli-Toli after half an hour scooter drive. You can ask the locals to give you a ride and pay the agreed price. In our case though, the friends we and the other German backpackers with us took us there, so it did not cost.
There is an island near Toli-Toli port. Again, you can ask the locals to give you a ride for the agreed price. Once you get there, see the head of the village for security reasons and to be polite. You might need to know some Indonesian friends to ask.
There are decent hotels and internet cafes in Kota Toli-Toli. Ask around.
<Toli-Toli – Gorontalo>
Take a taxi. The price all depends on which seat you take. Always the seat beside the driver is the most expensive, the middle seats and the very back seats respectively. It takes about 12hours and costs about 300,000Rp. We stopped by for a few nights at a town called Boul before making it to Gorontalo because I got food affecttion. From Boul to Gorontalo, it should be around 8 hours. It’s got nothing to do in Boul, but it was a necessary stopover for us.
<Gorontalo – Kotamobagu>
Take a taxi. It costs around 150,000Rp for the middle seats and takes about 1hour and half. There is Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park nearby.
<Kotamobagu – Manado>
Take a blue public(?)car or a taxi. We took a taxi and costed around 65,000 for the back seats and took 6 hours.
Long hours travels made us decide finally that we are going to buy motorbikes in South East Asia. It is not so cool to be in a situation where you always need to rely on someone else to take you to places. Also one thing we did not like about Indonesian taxi is that they play disco music super loud! We never complained about it to the driver because I was afraid that it could be the only way for the driver to keep awake for the night drive…
Enjoy your trip!