A Comprehensive Guide to Batam, Indonesia

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Editor’s Note: It has been awhile since we last blogged and for that, we do apologise for being away for too long. After all, we do deserve a break especially after the hectic year that we had! With so many media events, food tastings, and things to do, the month of December has certainly been a very busy month for us. Thankfully, we managed to take some time off and embark on a 3 days 2 nights adventure in Batam, Indonesia.

I have to admit that when I first went to Batam, I was very apprehensive about going there as I didn’t have a positive impression of the place. Any information that I had about Batam were pretty negative but after my virgin trip there, I decided that Batam isn’t too bad a place for a good relaxing vacation and so, we decided to make a second trip.

Although prostitution in Batam is illegal, the island has always been a place that is associated with sex tourism; even till now. This would probably explain why people would occasionally give me a weird look when I tell them that I'm going to Batam for a holiday.

In this blog post, we will be mainly sharing about our virgin trip to Batam, the spas that we visited, the cafes that we dined at, the hotels that we stayed at, and the activities that we did.

Virgin Experience to Batam

When we first went to Batam, we booked for a half-day tour around the city and because we were newbies to Batam, we went to places where tour guides can earn commissions from us.

The hotel that we stayed at was Gideon Hotel Batam and the half-day tour included a lunch at Golden Prawn 933 Restaurant.

The Superior Room at Gideon Hotel Batam is really quite crammed and small. Location wise, it is near Nagoya Hill but a distance to Batam Center Ferry Terminal. The level of service met our expectations but if you were to ask whether we would stay at Gideon Hotel Batam for future visits, we would definitely not as there are way better properties than this!

City View from Gideon Hotel Batam

The food at Golden Prawn 933 Restaurant is nothing to shout about and so, if you are planning to dine there, save the trip and money for something else. Golden Prawn 933 Restaurant is way too touristy for our liking.

In our most honest opinions, our first virgin trip to Batam was such a waste of time and money because of visits to places that were unnecessary. As such, we highly recommend travellers to go free-and-easy if they choose to visit Batam. After all, information is readily available on the Internet and when we planned for our second trip to Batam; Tripadvisor, Agoda, and Blogs, were really our best tools.

For our second trip to Batam, all we wanted to do was eat good food, do some shopping, and unwind. It wasn’t so much of a cultural or sight-seeing trip although we might plan for that in future. Hence, we hereby present to your our comprehensive free-and-easy travel guide to Batam.

Currency Exchange

The rupiah [Rp] is the official currency of Indonesia and the current exchange rate [updated as of 12 December 2014] is approximately SGD$1 to 9216 Rp. There are talks that the existing rupiah would be phased out by the end of 2018 but during the transition period, the old and new currency notes will stay valid.

Ferry To Batam

There are a number of ferry operators available but the more popular ones are WaveMaster, Batam Fast, and Sindo Ferry. For our second trip to Batam, we took the WaveMaster and ticket prices for a return trip cost SGD$38 per person. There really isn't much to compare between the three ferry operators as the level of service is decent enough to bring you from Singapore to Batam and vice-versa. However, the ticket prices will differ so do check out the three and choose the cheapest one.

Web check-in is available for WaveMaster, Batam Fast, and Sindo Ferry so you don’t have to go collect your boarding passes if you have booked your ferry tickets online. However, do ask your ferry operator for the disembarkation / embarkation card as we had to rush and collect ours at the Batam Center Ferry Terminal.

A typical journey from Singapore Harbourfront Centre to Batam Center Ferry Terminal will take about 45 minutes. We recommend visitors to travel to Batam during the weekdays instead of the weekends as it may get too crowded.

When returning back to Singapore during the weekends, make sure you arrive early at Batam Centre as the queue at the immigration counters can get quite long.

Batam Ferry Terminal

Upon arrival at the Ferry Terminal, do observe the rules and regulations. The immigration officers at the Ferry Terminal are especially strict and they expect visitors to be silent while waiting in line to get their passports chopped. We have observed instances where visitors were sent back to Singapore for not adhering to the rules and regulations.

Indonesia’s Prepaid SIM Card

After you have cleared immigrations, you would be at the arrival area and that is where you can purchase a prepaid SIM card to get you connected. We purchased the Indosat Mentari 3GB SIM Card and it comes with 3GB Internet and 25 minutes local talktime. All that for only 75000 Rp [equivalent to about SGD$9]. To be on the safe side, we purchased an additional top-up card that cost 50000 Rp and we still had some leftover balance upon returning to Singapore.

Our Preferred Accommodation In Batam- Harris Hotel Batam Center

It was our first time staying at Harris Hotel Batam Center and we will definitely be considering to stay there for future visits to Batam.

Harris Hotel Batam Center is conveniently located beside Batam Center Ferry Terminal and it is very safe as checks are routinely done for every vehicle that enters the hotel’s compound. The level of guest service has over exceeded our expectations and we were very impressed with the facilities that are available at the hotel.

The Harris Hotel branding advocates a healthy and active lifestyle and we really like its Simple-Unique-Friendly concept. Upon checking-in, we were even served with welcome drinks. Hotel facilities such as the gym and swimming pool are also available for hotel guests to utilise.

There is only one room type at Harris Hotel Batam Center and the views from the hotel room are either city view or sea view. We opted for the room that offers sea view and when we entered our room, we were greeted by the pleasant aroma that was coming from the scented oil.

Sea View From The Harris Hotel Batam Center Room

City View From The Harris Hotel Batam Center Room

Breakfast at Harris Hotel Batam Center was also a hearty affair. Freshly squeezed fruit juices are available upon request at no charge and the sumptuous food fare left hotel guests spoilt for choices.

Address: Jl. Engku Putri, Batam Center, Kepulauan Riau 29641, IndonesiaPhone: +62 778 7498888

Our Preferred Mode of Transportation Around Batam- Silver Cab

Learning from our virgin trip to Batam, we decided that Silver Cab was going to be our only mode of transportation around Batam because they charge by the meter. The flag-down rate for Silver Cab is 7000 Rp and every 110 metres will see the fare jump by 500 Rp. From Batam Center Ferry Terminal to Nagoya Hill, the cab fare will cost around 50000 Rp [inclusive of parking fees that cost 2000 Rp]. Our most expensive cab fare was the trip from Harris Hotel Batam Center to Turi Beach Resort as it costs us about 130000 Rp [equivalent to about SGD$15].

Do note that there are a couple of Silver Cab lookalikes in Batam so instead of flagging down cabs as and when you like, always call and book. The cab will usually take about 20 minutes to arrive.

We are sure many of you might be puzzled as to why we didn’t rent a car with a personal driver but it is only because after calculating the approximate cab fares that we would be spending on, taking a cab is way cheaper than having a driver at our disposal.

To calculate approximate cab fares, what you can do is to measure the distance from one place to another using Google Maps and then for every 110 metres, add 500 Rp. After which, you add another 7000 Rp for the flag-down rate and top it up with 30,000 Rp for contingency planning. The flag-down rate of 7000 Rp is correct as of December 2014.

For example, to travel from Harris Hotel Batam Center to Turi Beach Resort, the distance calculated on Google Maps is about 21.2 KM.

Step 1: 21.2 KM X 1000 = 21200 Metres

Step 2: 21200 / 110 = 193 [rounded up]

Step 3: 193 X 500 Rp = 96500 Rp

Step 4: 96500 Rp + 7000 Rp + 30000 Rp = 133500 Rp

Silver Cab Booking Hotline: +62 778 461000

Shopping In Batam

There are a few malls where you can do some shopping in Batam. However, if you are shopping for the latest trendy and fashionable apparels, Batam is not the place for it. Most of the branded goods in Batam are either outdated or of poor quality. Some branded goods may even not be authentic so do be wary before purchasing any branded goods. However, grocery shopping is at the top of our priority list whenever we visit Batam because the prices are really affordable.

Nagoya Hill

Nagoya Hill is Batam’s largest shopping mall and there are many retail stores that sell branded goods. However, do be aware that some of the branded goods at Nagoya Hill are not authentic. If you are looking for places to dine at, Nagoya Hill would be the best place as they offer more dining options as compared to Mega Mall Batam Centre. Nagoya Hill also has a Cinema where you can catch some movies too. Personally, we feel that Nagoya Hill would be a better place for shopping, dining, and entertainment.

Mega Mall Batam Centre

Located just opposite Batam Center Ferry Terminal, Mega Mall Batam Centre offers a couple of dining and shopping options. Though not as big as Nagoya Hill, Mega Mall Batam still has a fairly decent number of retailers for visitors to do some last minute shopping before departure. One of the places that we will always shop at Mega Mall Batam Centre is the Hypermart because that is where we could stock up on our daily amenities such as facial cleansers, shampoos, shower gels, and many more. If you have too much time to kill while waiting for your ferry, Mega Mall Batam Centre has a cinema where you can watch some movies.

Batam Factory Outlets

Most tours will include shopping at the various factory outlets and some of the brands include Polo Ralph, Burberry, Chanel, Gucci and etc. Personally, we are not a fan of branded goods and if you’re like us, you can give a visit to the factory outlets a miss. Furthermore, most of the designs are either outdated or not authentic.

Dining

In Batam, there are many places you can dine at. Whether it is Italian, Thai, Japanese, or Indonesian cuisines, Batam has them and you can be spoilt for choices as the prices can be very affordable. We generally don’t recommend visitors to patronise roadside food stores as hygiene may not be so ideal.

Bella Italia Pizzeria Ristorante Batam

Bella Italia Pizzeria Ristorante Batam has been rated as the number 1 restaurant in Batam on Tripadvisor and truly, it really is! We have always enjoyed dining there ever since we first came to Batam and the food there is top notch.

Our favourites at Bella Italia Pizzeria Ristorante Batam include the freshly shucked oysters, the piping hot wild mushroom soup, the Hawaiian pizza, the linguine marinara pasta, and the flaming chocolate lava cake with liqueur. The serving portions are also quite big!

Although Bella Italia Pizzeria Ristorante Batam is a fine dining restaurant, it is ok to dress down and be casual. If you call in advance to make a table reservation, the waiters will specially lay the table with table cloth and place a table centrepiece.

A dinner at Bella Italia Pizzeria Ristorante Batam with all of our favourite dishes will cost less than SGD$40. We know it sounds pretty pricey but for a high quality meal like this in Singapore, it will cost about SGD$100+.

Rezeki Seafood Restaurant Batam

Seafood restaurants in Batam is aplenty and so far, we have been to Golden Prawn 933 Seafood Restaurant and Wey Wey Live Seafood Restaurant. Rezeki Seafood Restaurant Batam is the third seafood restaurant that we have visited in Batam and so far, it is the best as compared to the other two that we have visited. Just a note, hygiene at Wey Wey Live Seafood Restaurant isn’t so ideal and coupled with the pungent smell of sulphur lingering in the air, dining at Wey Wey Live Seafood Restaurant is a total turn-off.

Although Rezeki Seafood Restaurant Batam is located a distance away from Batam Center, the quality of the seafood there is relatively good.

When we were dining there, there were many locals and not so much foreigners. The price is also rather reasonable. Although the prawns and crabs are quite small in size, they are extremely fresh!

Scenic View From Rezeki Seafood Restaurant

For a lunch which consist of 4 grilled scallops, 1 crab, prawns, sambal kang kong, seafood fried rice, hot plate tofu, and some beverages, it cost us less than SGD$50.

Address: Batu Besar, RT.01/RW.02, Nongsa, BatamPhone: +62 778 761 180 or +62 812 7023 942

Caffein Café

Caffein Café is one of the cafes that we visited in Batam and there, we had their breaded chicken, fish & chips, a slice of red velvet cake, a slice of dark chocolate cakes, and some hot beverages.

The quality of food there is pretty decent and it is one of the better cafes in Batam that visitors could add to their café hopping adventure. In total, lunch at Caffein Café cost us less than SGD$25.

Address: Komp. Ruko Nagoya Hill blok R3-A3A, Batam, Riau, IndonesiaTelephone and Reservation No: +62 778 7493712

Black Canyon Coffee @ Mega Mall Batam

Black Canyon Coffee is a semi-café restaurant in Mega Mall Batam that serves Thai fusion food. We had their Thai mango salad, chicken wings, fried rice with salted fish, and the dinner in total cost less than SGD$18.

Visitors can consider dining at Black Canyon Coffee if they would like to have some Thai food.

Coffee Story Co.

Coffee Story Co. is located near Nagoya Hill and no offence but it is one of the worst cafes that we have visited in Batam. The quality of the food is really bad and the level of hygiene didn’t quite meet our expectations as we saw ants crawling around most of the tables on the second level.

We were quite disappointed with the food that we didn’t even finish half of it. To be fair, we have to comment that their hot beverages isn’t too bad.

Out of the 3 dishes that we ordered, the fries is the only palatable food.

The food was too much for us to take that we gave up eating altogether!

In total, we spend less than SGD$18 but it wouldn’t be a café that we would recommend to visitors.

Massage & Spa

Massage & Spa Parlours in Batam can be quite sleazy and if you are looking for a genuine and authentic massage & spa experience, you need to go to the right places. Just make sure you do your research before visiting any of the Massage & Spa Parlours in Batam to prevent yourself from being ripped off.

The Spa Secret Batam

The Spa Secret Batam is one of the highest rated Massage & Spa Parlours in Batam with close to 190 reviews on Tripadvisor. The level of service and spa treatment is truly commendable and the place is extremely clean. The therapists are very professional and a variety of body spa treatments are available.

Jacqueline did The Coffee Body Spa Treatment which consist of a sea salt foot bath, body cleansing, relaxing body massage, coffee body lulur, body steam, body yogurt polish, soaking in bath foam Jacuzzi pool, and V-Ratus treatment while I did The Balinese Aromatic Body Spa Treatment which included a sea salt foot bath, body cleansing, aromatic body massage, aromatic body scrub, body steam, body yogurt polish, soaking in bath foam Jacuzzi pool, and a back & shoulder massage.

In total, we spent about SGD$160 for 2 persons and it was really worth the money. In Singapore, such body spa treatments can cost about SGD$400+!

Address: Komp. Nagoya Garden Phase I Blok D No. 1-2-3, Riau 29432, IndonesiaPhone: +62 778 423123

Spa Central Batam (Updated)

Spa Central Batam is also one of the highest rated Massage & Spa Parlours in Batam on Tripadvisor. There, we did the Vitamin-C Facial, a 1-hour Foot Reflexology for me, and a 1-hour Hair Cream Bath for Jacqueline.

The level of service and treatment exceeded our expectations and we were quite pleased with the experience. The place was also very clean and we had an enjoyable time over there.

In total, we spent about SGD$71 for all these treatments that we just mentioned and the prices are very reasonable because in Singapore, such treatments will cost two to three times more!

Address: 2nd Floor Clubhouse @ Central Sukajadi, The Central Sukajadi, Batam - 29444 Phone: +62 [778] 736 7512 or +62 821 69900341 (WhatsApp)

Water Activities @ Turi Beach Resort

There used to be two location for water activities in Batam; one at Harris Resort Waterfront and the other at Turi Beach Resort. However, Harris Resort Waterfront no longer carry out any water activities and the only place that is available to do water activities in Batam would be Turi Beach Resort.

Turi Beach Resort is quite a distance away from Batam Center and the cab fare cost us about SGD$15. If you’re planning a visit to Turi Beach Resort, we recommend that you drop by Rezeki Restaurant as they are both located around the same vicinity.

Turi Beach Resort is a really nice place to relax and unwind, away from the urban civilisation.

Water activities such as Para Sailing, Jet Skiing, and Banana Boat are available at Turi Beach Resort and they can be pretty pricey. When I did the Para Sailing and Jet Skiing, it cost me about SGD$108 but I personally felt that it was worth the money for satisfying the adrenaline junkie me.

If you are planning to do the water activities at Turi Beach Resort, do call and make a reservation beforehand and also enquire on the weather status. If it is low tide or when there’s an impending storm, there will be no water activities carried out for guests’ safety. From the information that we have gathered from the staffs at Turi Beach Resort, the best time for Para Sailing or Jet Skiing would be in the morning before 12pm but it is subjected to weather conditions.

Address: Jalan Hang Lekiu, Nongsa, Kepulauan Riau 29465, Indonesia Phone: +62 778 761080

Batam Specialty Products

There are two Batam specialty products that visitors should get as souvenirs for family members and friends and they are the Kueh Lapis [Layer Cake] and Bika Ambon [Honeycomb Cake]. Although Singapore do have Kueh Lapis and Bika Ambon, the prices are almost twice of those in Batam.

Kueh Lapis / Layer Cake

Kueh Lapis also known as Layer Cakes are pretty popular with tourists visiting Batam. In Singapore, Kueh Lapis is extremely costly but in Batam, it is almost half the price. Hence, it is no surprise that visitors will horde boxes of Kueh Lapis to bring back to Singapore.

There are many retailers selling Kueh Lapis but we will always buy from Diana Layer Cake Batam as we personally feel that their homemade layer cakes is the best in Batam. Diana Layer Cake Batam only offers two types of traditional layer cakes; original and prunes. A kilogram of the original layer cake will cost 250000 Rp [equivalent to about SGD$28] and a kilogram of the prunes layer cake will cost 300000 Rp [equivalent to about SGD$33].

If you would like to order layer cakes from Diana Layer Cake Batam, do give them a call at least one day in advance. As we were staying at Harris Hotel Batam Center, we had our layer cakes personally delivered to us at the hotel.

Address: Taman Seruni Indah Blok G No. 10, Batam Centre Telephone: +62 778 466906

Honeycomb Cake / Bika Ambon

The Honeycomb Cake also known as Bika Ambon is also another popular specialty product of Batam. My mum personally likes it a lot and she is pretty satisfied with the Honeycomb Cake that we purchased at Nagoya Hill. Prior to the purchase, we did a few comparisons and sample tastings and found that the retailer, The Master, offers the best Honeycomb Cake in our opinion.

The Honeycomb Cake cost 70000 Rp [equivalent to about SGD$8] for half a kilogram and 130000 Rp [equivalent to about SGD$15] for a kilogram.

Name of Retailer: The MasterAddress: Food Street Nagoya Hill [beside the Hypermart Escalator] The Master Telephone: +62 085271388585 or +62 085272099109

In Summary

Batam isn’t so bad a place for a good relaxing vacation. In our future trips to Batam, we will be looking to explore more on the cultural side of the city. Should you have any questions about our comprehensive guide to Batam, do not hesitate to drop us an email! We hope that this comprehensive guide by us has been helpful!