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I am in Indonesia and been told it's possible to go from Lombok to Labuan Bajo (Flores) by bus and ferry.

I am NOT interested in doing this by any other mean (ie. plane or sailing trip).

How does this actually work?

Map of Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa & Flores

© OpenStreetMap contributors

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Answering this myself as this information is very hard to find online & offline. After doing this rather epic journey, I gathered some quality information that can help you save time & optimize it to your likings.


You have 2 options:

  1. Pay for transportation for each leg of the journey.
  2. Buy a ticket for the whole journey.

Pay for transportation for each leg of the journey

  1. Go to Mataram: wherever you are on the island, go to Mataram Mandalika bus terminal (Terminal Bis Mandalika). If coming from the Gili's Gili islands to Mataram
  2. Mataram to Bima: take the big bus going to Bima. The price is 225'000 IDR (all prices current as of August 2017), but there is likely some room to haggle. It leaves every day at 15:00 only, it takes around 12-15h (you arrive in Bima between 3:00-6:00-am). This bus from Mataram to Bima actually goes to Labuan Lombok and then on the ferry to go from Lombok to Sumbawa, and finally takes you all the way to Bima.
  3. Bima to Sape: take a bemo (sort of minibus). The price is 30'000 IDR, although locals seem to pay 5K-10K Rp. They leave starting at 4am (there was quite a few leaving, all for people aiming at catching a morning ferry I suppose). The journey takes about 1.5h (2.5h max).
  4. Sape to Labuan Bajo: take the ferry. The listed price is 60'000 IDR. see Sape to Labuan Bajo, how to?

Total price: 315'000 IDR + cost to come to Mataram Mandalika bus terminal

Regarding point 2, you notice that this leg is rather huge. I advise to do this as there is no regular bus from Poto Tano to Bima, see How to get from Poto Tano to Sape (Indonesia)? . So you can reach Poto Tano by bus & ferry but you will then most probably be stuck in Poto Tano hoping for a "good" bus passing by.


Buy a ticket for the whole journey

This is usually bought at a local tourism agency.

  1. The agency will "ship" you to Mataram Mandalika bus terminal at the lowest possible cost. So it might be a very long time before the next transportation leaves as sending you later might cost them much more.
  2. Mataram to Bima: arrived at the terminal they'll explain to you that the bus leaves at 15:00. Your agency made you come at 10am? too bad, you'll wait 5h.
  3. Bima to Sape: you'll be thrown into a Bemo after waiting a few hours.
  4. Sape to Labuan Bajo: you will take the morning ferry with the ticket the agency provided

Total price: price for bus ticket from Mataram Mandalika bus terminal to Labuan Bajo is 340'000 IDR. This is if you buy it at the Mataram Mandalika bus terminal.


Pay for transportation for each leg of the journey

Pros:

You have maximum flexibility: optimize your departure time, take extra breaks if you want (i.e. go to Lakey Peak in Sumbawa), & choose the least crowded buses. Another nice thing: you save a bit of cash.

Cons:

A bit more work & more stressful (negotiate & buy a ticket at each connection).


Buy a ticket for the whole journey

Cons:

You just hope for the best. This ticket (in theory) will include all transports from start to end, however, you will still have to hop from one transport to another without having been explained this in advance, & they don't care how much waiting time you will have, how packed a bus/bemo can be, & you will have no-one to turn to if something goes wrong.

Price: I heard some people paying this ticket much more than the "real" price because agencies often inflate it. I heard people paying up to double the real price. Make sure you get a price that's fair.

Timing: agencies often send you very early to the Mataram bus terminal, so you'll be waiting & getting bored for hours when you could have come by yourself at 14:00 to catch the bus of 15:00.

Pros:

It provides a sense of security because you would think that there is a seat guaranteed for you on every part of the journey. But I will argue 2 things: firstly this is not garanteed (I bought one of those tickets & had to seat on the roof of a bemo), secondly this journey only fully packed during the end of the Ramadan (Lebaran timeframe) otherwise it's fine (even in high season) so there is no need to have this "fake" garantee.

Note that the margin of the agency is very small if you get the "real" price.


Suggestion

You might consider coming to Senggigi first, & organize the journey from there.

Senggigi is an ok beach town (not smelly, not dirty) that is well linked to Bali (read: come with one of the many fast boats or with the slow boat). It has 2 nice long beaches, a few bars & restaurants, & cheap accommodation (double rooms from 100'000 IDR). From Senggigi, you can either buy the ticket to an agency or simply get it at Mataram's Mandalika bus terminal (only 20min drive away).


Other transportation options

You can also go by plane, or sailing.

Read more about those options on What is the safest and cheapest way to see Komodo island, leaving from and returning to Bali?


Resources


Bemos from Bima to Sape

Bemos from Bima to Sape


Buses from Mataram to Labuan Bajo

Buses from Mataram to Labuan Bajo

  • Thanks man, I appreciate the bounty! Hope this answer will help many people! – Adrien Be Aug 7 '15 at 4:39

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