Travelling by private car is the most convenient way to get around Sumbawa. In our experience, the local drivers aren’t inclined to haggle and you should expect to pay more than you would in say Bali or Lombok. Work on around US$100 (Rp. 1.000.000) per day, maybe a little less if you’re negotiating a multi-day rate. For transfers to/from the popular surf locations – as at April 2017, transfers for up to 4 people between Bima airport and Lakey Peak cost Rp 800.000, and Sumbawa Besar to Maluk cost Rp 1.000.000.
Cars and transfers can generally be arranged through your accommodation provider. Most private cars are actually small minivans than can comfortably seat up to 7 people so if you can split the cost with travelling companions, they become much more affordable. You can ask, but don’t count on getting an English speaking driver.
For excursions to Sumbawa’s offshore islands such as Moyo, Satonda, the small group of islands off Poto Tano, Sangeang Api and elsewhere, local boats can be chartered quite readily by asking around at the waterfront or nearest village. Click on the links provided for each of these attractions for specific details. We’ve also chartered a local boat to travel across the top of Sumbawa’s massive Saleh Bay between Calabai, near Mt Tambora, and Sumbawa Besar, stopping in at Moyo Island along the way.
More often than not, your choices will be limited to small wooden boats. They can be uncomfortable, noisy, lacking in shade and devoid of any safety equipment such as life jackets so you need to make your own assessment about whether this style of travel is for you. At the very least, we recommend wearing a hat and sunscreen, and packing some ear plugs just in case.
For travel between Sumbawa Besar and Moyo Island, there is a daily passenger boat (the slow wooden variety) and speed boats available for charter. Faster but more expensive.
There are no domestic flights within Sumbawa. If you want to fly east or west between the islands only two airports in Sumbawa Besar and Bima, you would have to go via Bali.
Although most of Sumbawa is serviced by public buses, there’s no single long distance bus running across the island. It means you’re going to have to connect with local buses servicing short routes which fortunately cover most of the main centres and attractions. The places they miss are picked up by minibuses and bemos. Trucks (biskaju) cover the routes where the roads are bad. Seating is in the form of wooden benches installed in the back of the tray. They’re open, often crowded and rough but it can be a lot of fun bumping around the countryside with the locals, especially if you can manage a few words or Bahasa Indonesia.
If it sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. At the bus terminals and market places where buses and bemo’s usually stop, the locals and drivers will see you onto the right bus. If you can, try to find out what fares the locals are paying before you approach the bus driver as there have been reports of rampant overcharging.
Compared to many other parts of Indonesia, the roads in Sumbawa are relatively quiet and the drivers aren’t too maniacal. So hiring a scooter and taking yourself around is a pretty good option – with some caveats. Scooters can be hired easily and cheaply through your guesthouse around the popular surf locations such as Lakey Peak and those around the west coast of Sumbawa (Maluk, Jelenga, Sekongkang and Tropicals). Great for using locally.
Elsewhere in Sumbawa, hire scooters are difficult to come by – you’ll need to ask around to try to rent one privately. Be aware that there have been reports of robberies of both locals and tourists along some remote roads and at night, particularly in east Sumbawa. So the message here is to exercise due caution – avoid travelling alone and at night.
If you prefer not to handle a scooter yourself, ojeks (motorbike taxi’s) can be found just about anywhere. But ideally, ask your guesthouse or hotel to recommend someone they trust rather than simply approaching someone on the street.
The only taxi’s we saw operating in Sumbawa are the airport taxi’s. There’s generally a guy seated at a desk just inside the arrivals lounge from whom you can organise a prepaid taxi voucher. Expect to get ripped-off as the taxi drivers have organised themselves into a cartel and fixed prices. Unless you have organised for someone to meet you, you really don’t have a choice as there is no public transport to or from the airports.