This article breaks down the Bali versus Lombok debate. Keep reading if you’re struggling to decide where to go next.
Every Australian knows Bali. It’s become a kind of holiday mecca for the average Aussie, an island oasis where the complications of work and everyday life take a backseat to Bintang-soaked escapades.
And it’s exactly that kind of popularity which has turned Bali into an oversaturated tourist hub. Forget the thrilling exoticism of Indonesia. Forget the blissful tranquillity of the tropics. They’re gone, submerged beneath badly-behaved bachelor parties and commercialised culture.
There’s still life in Bali, but you can’t find it in the tourist zones. So we’d like to present an alternative. If you’re still dreaming of the ‘old Bali’, of a tropical holiday you’ll remember for years to come, there’s a solution, and its name is Lombok.
Located halfway between Bali and Sumbawa, this stunning island is slowly making its way on to the international stage, but it’s still quiet enough that you can enjoy a relaxing holiday without hordes of fellow Aussies.
But we get it: you don’t know much about Lombok, and you’re not quite sure whether you want to spend your holiday money on an unknown destination. That’s why we’ve put together this list of most-asked questions about Lombok. If you’re tossing up between Bali and Lombok, keeping reading – by the time you’re finished, we’re pretty sure you’ll love Lombok as much as we do.
Does Lombok have enough activities for me?
One of Bali’s big draws is the sheer volume of activities and attractions. It’s basically a tourist playground, so every interest is catered for: ancient temples, surfing, laser tag, cooking classes, hikes and everything in between.
We’d be lying if we said Lombok has as many activities, but those that it does have are more exciting. Why? Because you’re not competing with hundreds of other foreigners. The mountain tracks are less damaged, the tranquil waterfalls really are tranquil, and the vast stretches of near-deserted coastline are perfect for budding photographers.
We actually wrote an article breaking down Lombok’s top 8 activities here, but, if you don’t have the time to read it, here they are:
- Swim with sea turtles near the Gili Islands
- Climb Mount Rinjani
- Visit the Sindang Gila and Tiu Kelep waterfalls
- Visit Pura Agung Narmada
- Explore beaches like Pantai Aan, Mawun Beach, Tanjung Aan and Pink Beach
- Visit Batu Bolong
- Climb Pergasingan Hill
- Watch (or participate in) the Bau Nyale festival
Isn’t Bali better for tourists?
‘Better’ is pretty subjective, and depends what you want out of your holiday. If you like having all your activities right at your doorstep and enjoy the tourist-friendly attitude of the Balinese holiday zones, then maybe Bali’s the place for you.
If you’re looking for an authentic, exciting holiday that pairs incredible adventures with unique culture, book tickets to Lombok.
That said, we understand that sometimes you don’t want a stressful holiday where you struggle to find the basics, so it’s worth mentioning the 10 New Balis project. It’s a government plan implemented by Indonesian president Joko Widodo in 2016, which aims to replicate the economic effects of Bali’s tourism industry across Indonesia.
Still with us? Good, because Lombok is currently at the top of the government’s list as part of a sub-plan called the Mandalika Project. This means the Indonesian government is currently investing money into better infrastructure, better transport, increased flight routes, better environmental sustainability and increased security and hygiene.
The proposed Mandalika zone will be a specially-designated tourist zone along the south coast of Lombok. It’s set to include an international airport, luxury resorts and a Moto GP track.
So if you’re worried about Lombok not being ‘tourist-friendly’, don’t be. It already caters to all classes of international visitors, and that’s only going to improve as time goes on.
Which is easier to navigate – Bali or Lombok?
Lombok is definitely easier to navigate than Bali. Why? One word: traffic.
If you’ve ever seen those terrifying videos of bumper-to-bumper jams being bypassed by fleets of speeding scooters, you know exactly what we’re talking about. If you’re staying in a tourist zone, getting around is going to be deeply unpleasant.
Lombok’s roads are generally in a driveable condition, and are a lot less crowded than Bali’s (although you will still encounter those overloaded motorbikes). For those wanting to explore at their own pace, you’ll need an International Driving Permit. Otherwise, hire a local driver – it’s not expensive, and is normally a lot easier than going through the hassle of insurance, car hire and licensing.
Is Lombok more family-friendly than Bali?
Children have more activities available to them in Bali, but ‘family-friendliness’ is debatable. Certain parts of Bali’s tourist zones are unsafe, especially at night, and health conditions often aren’t good. There’s also lots of litter, traffic and rowdy tourists – all hazards Lombok doesn’t have.
Ultimately, it’s our opinion that Lombok is ‘safer’ for families, but Bali (at this point in time) has more activities catering to children. If you’re intent on taking your kids to Bali, reading our guide to having family holidays there.
While you’re here, it’s also worth mentioning a few health risks associated with both Bali and Lombok.
- Don’t drink tap water. Only drink water out of sealed bottles.
- Don’t drink locally-brewed alcohol. Your kids shouldn’t be anywhere bars anyway, but nobody (adults included) should drink arak, a type of home-brewed spirit which often results in fatal methanol poisoning.
- Bring insect repellent. Mosquitoes are prevalent in both Bali and Lombok, and can pass on a variety of diseases like dengue fever and malaria.
- Don’t eat raw street food (including fruit). Pre-sliced fruit hawked by vendors may seem tempting, but it can be contaminated, so avoid it.
Is Lombok more expensive to reach than Bali?
There’s no way to sugar-coat this: Lombok is currently more expensive to reach than Bali. Bali’s international airport and huge popularity means virtually all Australian airlines have cheap flights there (including regular discounts and specials).
Lombok, on the other hand, is only serviced by a handful of airlines, like Garuda Indonesia, Singapore Airlines, AirAsia and SilkAir. Flights to Lombok International Airport generally have stopovers in Singapore, Jakarta or Denpasar.
We checked airline prices for the start of March, and, on average, you can pick up return flights to Bali for about AU$600. Lombok return flights average out at about AU$900, and don’t have the same frequency of specials that flights to Bali do.
Will I struggle to find accommodation in Lombok?
If you’re concerned about finding accommodation in Lombok, don’t be. There’s no shortage of hotels, resorts and local-style motels, particularly in tourist hotspots like the Gili Islands.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about our own resort here (we’re not biased, we swear!). Wyndham Sundancer Resort Lombok is arguably one of the island’s top choices for accommodation, offering the kind of personalised service and exceptional amenities that make it stand out from the crowd. It’s a 5-star resort, which means there’s none of the cheap food or poor-quality furnishings you’ll find in other Lombok hotels – just take a look at some of these photos to see what we’re talking about.
With a sprawling 900m2 swimming pool, a pool bar, a dive centre, a private beach club, direct beach access, two on-site restaurants and a luxury spa with saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, massages, a juice bar plus a gym, Wyndham Sundancer Lombok is wellness holidaying done right.
You’re also within easy reach of the Southern Gilis, the smaller, less-frequented siblings of the Gili Islands. Is it just us, or does that sound like the perfect tropical holiday destination?
Is Bali more culturally interesting than Lombok?
Our answer: they’re both as interesting as each other. Balinese culture is entirely unique, as is Lombok’s diverse Sasak culture. Although there’s definitely some overlap, Bali natives mostly adhere to Balinese Hinduism, while roughly 80% of Lombok’s population are Muslim. There are other religions on both islands, including traditional Hinduism and Buddhism.
If you’re just looking to temple-hop, both Bali and Lombok have a line-up of spectacular Hindu temples built in stunning locations, known as pura. It’s possible that Lombok’s culture might be viewed as more accessible than Bali’s; the heavy commercialisation of religious iconography in Bali’s tourist zones has made finding ‘authentic’ Balinese traditions slightly more difficult.
If you’re interested in learning more about Bali, check out these 5 fascinating facts you didn’t know about Balinese culture.
There isn’t a winner in the ‘Lombok versus Bali’ debate – it all depends on personal preference – but we hope we’ve given you enough reasons to give Lombok a chance on your next holiday. This hidden Indonesian gem really is worth a visit. If you’ve still got questions, please contact our dedicated Customer Service team and we’ll help you out.
We can’t wait to see you over there – happy travelling!