Batam Travel Guide: Though I don’t live in the Batam Riau islands anymore, I’ve lived there for almost 8 years and I still visit the place from time to time. To those of you who don’t know, Batam Riau is a city about twenty kilometers from Singapore.
While it’s considered a city, I would still like to call it an island as that’s what makes it all the sweeter for a summer vacation. And I assure you, it’s perfect for a summer vacation!
Table of Content
Help yourself with this table to navigate quicker:
- Getting to Batam
- Know this before visiting
- Things to pack to Batam
- Visit Barelang Bridge and Corn
- Try out Nasi Padang
- Golden Prawn for Seafood
- Beach accommodation
- Water sport activities
- Malls, pubs, and live music
Batam Travel Guide: Getting there
Batam Riau does have an airport but it isn’t for international flights. Get there from Jakarta- Indonesia’s capital, or come from Singapore. The best way and the route that I always use is taking the ferry from Harbourfront, Singapore. It takes an hour ferry ride from Singapore to make it to Batam Centre. When you are outside Singapore, just so you know- it takes around an hour taxi ride from Singapore’s Changi Airport to make it to HarbourFront.
Say you’re looking forward to visiting a lot of places in a short span of time, then this trip to Batam must be the one for you. The best thing to do is to visit Singapore and Batam Riau in one go. And visiting Batam for 3 days would be sufficient to taste crisp salt in the air by the beaches.
Travel guide: Things to know before you visit Batam
Before you pack your bags and this Batam travel guide begins, there are some things that I better tell you beforehand. For one, Batam works out best for people who wish to chill out on their holiday. For people who wish to stay away from the hustle and bustle for a couple of days. Singaporeans come here to take a break from their busy lives. And if this is what you’re looking for, this is the right place for you.
Learn a bit of basic of the Indonesian language when going out to restaurants all by yourself. Most people do not speak English in any part of Indonesia. Don’t worry, it isn’t that difficult.
Oh, and you better be a non-vegetarian. It is very difficult to get vegetarian food in any Indonesian Cuisine. At least the curry that you eat along with the white rice would be of chicken flavor. My mom still finds it difficult to eat outside so we get a lot of groceries from Singapore so that she can make her favorite dishes at home.
Last but not least, bring your summer clothes and nothing else- be it any time of the year. There is no cold or hot season here, it’s warm all year around. Warm- even when it rains cats and dogs!
Things to Pack While Visiting Batam
Indonesia, being a tropical country, there aren’t many essentials to carry around. Keep your clothing light based on the length of your stay. Keep lesser clothes in case you’re planning on shopping in Batam. A good pair of shoes and sunglasses should do – however they aren’t compulsory.
But wear a head cap when you go out, the heat can be unbearable sometimes. To those with skin issues, bring sunscreen lotion. Here are some I use from Amazon:
Visiting the Barelang Bridge
The first place that anyone would visit in Batam as a tourist would be the Barelang Bridge. There’s no way this Batam travel guide is complete without it. What makes it so unique is that the bridge is laid across two land bodies with the help of cables. The enormous, thick metal cables holding up the bridge in perfection makes it all the more alluring.
It is considered to be a mark of Batam. In fact, look up for Batam Riau on Google images, it would be one of the first things that you would see. However, before you visit, I would strongly advise you not to visit it on a weekend. Visit it on an evening on a weekday. Because on the weekends, it isn’t just about the heavy traffic. It’s about the bike races.
Every Sunday, a whole lot of youngsters gather up on the bridge to race along with their friends or just sit around with their friends. It sounds nice, but with a whole lot of traffic and people, it isn’t.
In fact, these bike races are illegal. So along with the traffic, there are cops hanging along too, making the place even more chaotic. So, I think it’d be better to visit on a weekday.
Corn by the Barelang Bridge
I almost forgot to tell you this: when you’re out there on the bridge, just go up a little ahead to the next island. You’ll find rows of street corn stalls on both sides (more on the right though). For those into corn, then this is one of the best you’d taste. Well, it’s grilled corn to be particular.
What makes it so special is the local flavors that they offer. They come in chilly, sweet, plain, and cheese/butter flavors. They use different sorts of spice sauces for flavoring these. When I was a kid back then, I didn’t like it a bit. But when my lips touched it for the first time, it became an addiction. The stalls are open for most of the day.
But I prefer to have it in the evening right after I breathe in the sunset by the bridge. They call corn, ‘Jagung’. A quick tip: So you want the corn there and have no idea what to say to actually get it. Just say ‘Mau Jagung!’ which means ‘I want corn!’ and they shall smash up a delicious one for you!
Indonesian Food: The Nasi Padang
No nasi padang? No Batam travel guide. I like to think that everyone knows Nasi Padang when it comes to Indonesian cuisine. A little about myself here- I’m an Indian origin and I love Dosas and Idlis. But Nasi Padang is incomparable to any of the non-vegetarian dishes that I’ve tried so far. It’s just too good!
Now Nasi Padang isn’t a very specific dish with a very specific flavor here. It is steamed rice that is served to you with pre-cooked sides of your choice. By tradition, they’re stacked up in a pretty arrangement of plates with the variety of choices that they offer. The word says it all. ‘Nasi’ in Indonesian means rice. And Padang is the place that the cuisine originated from. Now the question is- where do you get it?
The good news is you get it in a lot of places in any part of Indonesia, be it Bali or Jakarta, you’ll get it. The bad news is you need to know which Nasi Padang restaurant serves the best. Don’t worry, I’m right here. And when you’re on your way to getting yourself Nasi Padang, then I’d say get it from Sederhana in Batam.
Golden Prawn Restaurant
Considering the quality food they serve, they now have plenty of branches in Batam. All of them serve great. So look up for it and then find the nearest one. Other than Sederhana, the other restaurant that is totally worth spending on would be Golden Prawn. Golden Prawn is much more expensive than Sederhana as they specialize in Seafood. But the Seafood they serve is mindblowing.
In the restaurant, we can pick crabs, fish, prawns of our choice from the live fish tanks and they get out those chosen ones and prepare them for us. Thus there isn’t a doubt about its freshness and quality. Unlike the Sederhana, it doesn’t have branches- well at least not that I’m aware of.
The one that everyone has ever known there is Golden Prawn 933. When you find Golden Prawn 933 laid out on a seashore, you’re in the right spot. Because that’s the one and only my friend.
Stay by the beach
I almost forgot the most important of a vacation, didn’t I? – a place to sleep! If you’re finding a place to crash here, let me tell you something. Indonesia is popular for its shores and beaches and holiday-ish type of climate. So when finding a stay for yourself, I’d say get one by a beach.
Harris Hotel is one great hotel by the beach (I’ve visited it several times). Check out its accommodation pricing on Booking.com here.
Other accommodations in Batam Riau at great prices:
Which beach do you ask? Believe it or not, Batam is such a small island and yet it has about a dozen beaches. Just drive straight ahead when you’re there and you’ll find yourself in one. And speaking of services, Batam has been getting a lot of attention from tourists for the past couple of years.
There are resorts, hotels, and chalets by the beaches that provide some of the best services. New ones are still emerging out (That one links to one called Nuvasa Bay).
However, everyone’s got their favorites. My personal favorite one in Batam would be the resort – Nongsa Point. I’ve been living on the island for 8 years and my dad’s been there for 15 and we still prefer to go to the same resort whenever there’s a long holiday coming up. The resort is pretty large in terms of area. What I like most about it is its accommodation. For the stay, they have huge chalet houses all over the hill that they built on.
Most of these chalet houses have a floor-to-ceiling window and balcony on one side that overlooks the sea on one side. A pretty dreamy view not to mention. Remember I told you about Singaporeans coming to Batam to take a break at the very beginning? Well, they usually end up here at Nongsa Point. Some of the foreigners also harbor their private yachts at the resort during their stay.
Batam travel guide: Water Sport Activities
When you’re in Indonesia for a trip, be it Jakarta, Bali, or Batam, you just can’t leave without some water sports. Just like Nasi Padang, water sports stands out as a highlight. ‘Why’ you ask? For one, it’s the obvious- the climate and the humidity, you need to plunge in for a dip. Two, they have got a wide range of activities- from banana boat rides to scuba diving and even yacht chartering!
And since there is so much of it all over, the prices are pretty reasonable. I’m not sure about the yacht chartering part though, I’ve never been on one yet.
Another water activity you shouldn’t miss out on here would be snorkeling. Indonesia is known to have some of the best marine life spots. But there’s a hitch to it. Sure, many resorts and beaches do offer snorkeling, but not all of them are that great. There are particular spots that give the best snorkeling experience.
One of them would be a spot near Abang Island.
It takes about an hour and a half drive from Batam Riau Islands to make it to Abang Island. Though they don’t have plush relaxing accommodation available yet, it’s worth staying a night if you’re looking forward to seeing some fabulous life underwater. Since it is isolated at a far-end, the spot remains untouched by many and can bring us as close as possible to nature.
Malls, pubs, and live music
Now, if you’ve come to a point where you are bored with the resort, the water activities, and snorkeling, what’s left out is the shopping. Another reason why people from Singapore come here a lot is that products and services are much cheaper. Some of my dad’s colleagues from Singapore come to Batam with suitcases filled with clothes- just to get their laundry done!
Back to what we were discussing, malls are a thing you can spend a lot of time in. And Batam has definitely got some pretty big malls and they aren’t just a few. Just in Batam Centre, there are almost a dozen bulky ones. And some of these malls have pubs and live music (or pubs with live music.
Many people here don’t speak English, I know I said it. But believe it or not, they can sing English songs on the live music avenues! It’s fascinating because sometimes it so happens that when you ask them what the song means, they’ll tell ‘No, not at all. It just sounds great.’ Now that’s simply amazing.
Well, coming towards the end of the Batam travel guide now, that would be all the places that you can visit in Batam. The island isn’t that big so feel free to take a walk on the street. Hope you have a great vacation!
Other articles on Batam that I wrote on other travel blogs:
- Things to do in Indonesia, Batam Riau – Travelista Club
- Travel Guide to Batam Riau, Indonesia – The Revolving Compass
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