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Bali’s neighbour, Lombok, is the perfect uni break: cheap, beautiful, relaxing and the best part? The hordes of tourists are an island away!
Do you ever get itchy feet? You know, that feeling where you want to just drop everything and board the next flight to anywhere?
That urge to break free of the whole ‘work-eat-study-sleep ‘routine?
It’s a serious condition curable only by travel. At this time of year, our Facebook walls are filling up with friends off on their trip-of-a-lifetime adventures around Europe, South America or the States.
What those cheesey check-ins don’t say is the work that went into that trip. So how do you cure the itchy feet without a year of endless hospitality shifts and ramen noodles for every meal?
Enter our neighbours. Despite being an isolated place surrounded by water, sharks, and apparently, asylum seekers, we have world-class travel destinations just next door.
One of our most diverse and intriguing neighbours is Indonesia.
You’re probably thinking, “Really, Bali? Sorry but Shapelle Corby and thousands of drunken Aussies don’t really do it for me.”
Fair enough, but how do you feel about Bali’s wilder, un-touristy sister, Lombok?
Lombok may not be in every travel agent’s window just yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
There’s pristine, wild jungles, a towering active volcano, a patchwork of different cultures and beaches that laugh at Bali’s best. And, aside from the locals, you’ll just about have it all to yourself.
Tourism hasn’t managed to taint this fiercely unique island.The locals say if you come to Lombok you’ll see Bali, but you’ll never see Lombok in Bali.
Many different tribes made their home in the shadow of Gunung Rinjani, the towering volcano. A daytrip to a traditional Sasak village is an absolute must if you’re staying in the capital, Mataram, or on your way to Kuta Lombok.
Adding to the cultural mix, the Balinese actually inhabited Lombok for some time and the remnants of this occupation can be seen in the Hindu temples that dot the country side.
If it’s a beach break you’re after, look no further than Kuta. It’s confusing, but Kuta Lombok is everything Kuta Bali isn’t.
There are no trashy nightclubs. In fact, you’re lucky to get electricity 24 hours a day.
Your reward is truly spectacular scenery, some of the best beaches in Indonesia and some world-class surf breaks.
Accommodation ranges from the five-star Novotel just out of town to bargain hostels.
Beautiful beaches extend either side of Kuta and offer a buffet of breaks from heavy right handers to soft reef breaks for beginners.
For those who prefer things a little more relaxed, Café Ashtari at the top of the hill serves up organic food, Scrabble and the best view of the breaks.
No trip to Lombok is complete without indulging in the backpacker paradise of the Gili Islands.
The Gilis are three islands off the north-west tip of Lombok, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan.
Picture white sandy beaches, warm blue oceans, no cars or motorbikes allowed. Nothing to do but snorkel with turtles on the coral reefs, catch some waves and, if you’re on Gili T, maybe even party a little.
Gili T is where most of the action happens: the sandy streets are lined with bars, dive schools and guest houses.
It only takes about two hours to walk around the whole island and once you get away from the main strip, you’ll find deserted beaches and an incredible view of Bali.
Gili Meno and Air are smaller and less-inhabited than Gili T, but the trade-offs are no bars, no ATMs and fewer accommodation options.
Accommodation on Gili T ranges in cost and quality. There are beautiful resorts for those with a few more rupiah and your typical shared-bathroom backpackers’ places for those on a budget.
Because of the high-volume of tourists that head there, Gili T is slightly more expensive than the rest of Lombok, but if you stay slightly back from the beach, the prices become are much more reasonable.
Boats head to the Gilis from Lombok and Bali. If you’re there in the wet season, keep a couple of days up your sleeves because the boats are subject to weather.
As a uni break, it doesn’t get much better than Lombok. It’s close, it’s cheap, it’s beautiful, there’s lots to do and it’s just off the tourist trail enough to maintain some serious “traveller” cred.
Something to think about when you’re wondering how to spend your mid-year break…
The cheapest way to get to Lombok is to get a flight to Bali. Flights will set you back around $300 return from Perth, and around $600 return from the eastern capitals.
Keep your eyes peeled though: Jetstar and AirAsia have some fantastic sales. Australian passport holders with return tickets can get 30 day visas on arrival: $25.
As for getting from Bali to Lombok, your options are boat or plane. The plane takes 30 minutes, and is around $30 depending on season and demand.
If you have the time, or don’t have the cash, there are a few different boats and ferries that go between Bali and Lombok.
General rule: the cheaper the ticket, the slower the boat.
Accommodation truly caters for every whim and wallet. Hostelworld.com is a start for the bigger towns but your best bet is taking a walk, asking around and seeing what you like.