This week we look at one of our members venturing off the beaten track to take in the sights of Batam. If you have never heard of Batam, you will find it’s an island just 20km south of Singapore and forms part of Indonesia. While it may be the same size as Singapore, that’s where many comparisons end, with Batam in many ways giving a glimpse of what Singapore could have been like with different leadership.

Anyone who has been to Indonesia before would know things are not always as they seem. With many of the population living below the poverty line, graft and corruption can prevail. And with an economy still recovering from massive currency devaluations many years ago, cash is still king

Entry to Indonesia is in the form of a Visa on arrival for Australian passport holders, 7 days and under costs USD$10. I would recommend you get some rupiah or greenbacks at Changi to cover this, while the government site says they take credit card, I found out this was not the case in all places.

In order to help boost the economy of Batam, the government had previously envisaged tourism could be a major boost for the island. So a lot of money was poured into building some international standard hotels and attractions near Waterfront City. One of those attractions was an indoor ski field complete with Snow. Sadly the money stopped, while the attractions are now gone or burnt out in the case of the indoor skiing shed, at least the hotels remain.

One of those hotels is the Holiday Inn resort. Managed by an international chain has seen investment continue, as a result the facility is very much on par with hotels anywhere else in the world, including quite a few in house restaurants. With room rates as low as SGD $70 for a suite, it can be a cheap and comfortable stay. However, to truly experience a place, sometimes it’s worthwhile to look beyond the hotels front door

Now anybody going to Batam the outdoor eateries known as PUJASERA’s are an absolute must – fabulous range and variations of all types of food – and CHEAP – you sit outside in a big courtyard type arrangement with all the various little food vendors / stands surrounding entire square. Wander from stand to stand to inspect – indicate to vendor you want to order – go back to table – order some beers from the beer girls wandering between tables trying to sell their beers – be ready for the Asian experience of large glasses of ice with warm beer poured on top – ah the experience.

With Batam now part of the Singapore Malaysia free trade zone, industry continues to grow at the expense of tourism. But that does not mean there is not a lot to see and do on Batam. With an easy and cheap 1 hour ferry ride from Singapore, Batam could well save you some serious dollars in accommodation costs. Have you been to Batam and would like to add your experience on what to do and where to stay, please join in the conversation HERE.

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