Indonesia to Singapore: Boat Trip from Hell, Part 2

Edging closer to Singapore from Indonesia but ever so slowly on this boat trip from hell, part 2…

Indonesia to Singapore, Se Asia

Still trying to escape Indonesia and you may remember that the fast jetfoil boat from Jakarta to Singapore should only take 20 hours.

Jakarta, Indonesia to Singapore, Se Asia
Jakarta to Singapore

Boat trip from hell background

In part 1 of the boat trip from hell, the dangerously laden jetfoil leaves Jakarta on the scheduled 20-hour journey. Although, after 18 long hours, the ferry makes an unscheduled stop to Bangka Island for the night, which is only the halfway mark, before leaving again the following morning.

Overnighting in Tanjung Pinang, the ceaseless journey to Singapore is dragging out to an endless third day. Tensions are running high and tempers flaring…

Day 3 – Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island to Batam Island

ferry from Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island to Telaga Pinggur, Batam Island, Indonesia, SE Asia

On the third morning since leaving Jakarta with visas expiring a couple of days ago, we are at the mercy of officials and bribes. The other worry is about incurring fines.

Locals think this is hilariously funny and I cannot understand why. Maybe they laugh from nervousness…

Complete frustration and confusion await as no one knows the right ferry to take for the next part of this perpetual awful journey. A ferry trip that should have only taken 20 hours to arrive at the ever-elusive Singapore and it is 3 days late.

Traipsing around ticket booths, a smart boat advertises a quick journey of only 1.5 hours to Singapore. Could this be? Joy at last?

The joy is short-lived as buying tickets become another disaster.

Waving goodbye…

Needing a boarding pass before immigration would stamp our passports to exit Indonesia, the ticket agent demands $25 Singapore dollars each for the short ride (a lot of money back in 1998). Regardless of the price, the problem is that we only have Indonesian currency.

Of course, he then tries to rip us off by feigning ignorance of exchange rates and instead wants to charge double the amount each in Indonesian Rupiah.

Arguing for half an hour, finally, we lead him to a Money Changer window and point out the correct rate.

With precious minutes ticking by, our ferry slowly pulls away from the wharf, leaving us behind – we wave goodbye!

The following scene is bedlam with screaming, shouting, and chaos. Exhausted after 3 days of eating Pop Mie (2-minute noodles) and the saga of the Telaga Express ferry, furious and depressed, we almost give up but still have to get off this island. Even the immigration officer stormed off in a huff with his stamp pad!

Telaga Punggur, Batam Island

ferry from Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island to Telaga Pinggur, Batam Island, Indonesia, SE Asia

Bumping into a local we met a couple of months ago when first arriving on the island, he advises taking the half-hour ferry to Batam Island. The ticket price is minuscule. From there, it’s a piece of cake to get to Singapore.

Such a short trip, well organised, and not over-crowded like our last ferry trip. Everything is a blur as exhaustion overcomes clarity but finally, Singapore is now in sight.

Sekupang, Batam Island

Telaga Pinggur to Sekupang, Batam Island, Indonesia, SE Asia

Two taxi rides and around 27 kilometres later crossing Batam Island, we arrive at bustling Sekupang for the next and hopefully, the final leg of this never-ending journey.

Indulge first in a face splash with cold water and sit down to some Pop Mie, just for a change.

Very civilised for this final chapter – hopefully. Another ferry ride to go and edging ever so close to Singapore, on this painfully slow journey.

Singapore, finally

ferry from Sekupang, Batam Island, Indonesia to Singapore, SE Asia

Mentally preparing for the final segment of this 3-day saga, search for another ferry. Finding yet another ferry, this one is definitely bound directly for Singapore – no detours or days at sea.

This uneventful trip skimming across the becalmed Singapore Strait, only takes 45-minutes and tickets are not expensive.

Not believing the drama and stress of the past 3 awful and exhausting days, settle into our seats and head for Singapore. (The above map also displays Marina Bay Sands but this only opened in 2010 not there in 1998.)

Zombie-like from lack of sleep for several days and smelling rancid, we wait another couple of hours. The joys of hooking up with other travellers along the way, which is not the norm as I much prefer traveller solo or as a couple.

Singapore ferry terminal to Bencoolen House, SE Asia

Finally arriving, we share a minibus with the other travellers from the ferry trip, to Bencoolen House to collapse in a real bed.

Surprisingly, this accommodation is still open in 2021 – a sign of a good business? Basic, clean, and not over-priced, which is all that is needed right now.

Singapore is only a brief stop-over to renew visas, gather our thoughts, and prepare our minds for the next month of travelling but more importantly, for a little respite, especially away from haggling street hawkers.

Briefly in Singapore

Visiting Singapore several times since this 1998 trip, I am always pleasantly surprised at how clean and orderly the majority of the island is – especially after travelling through Indonesia for a couple of months. There is no comparison. For a start, things run on time in Singapore and after experiencing the last 3 days of trauma on the ferry, Singapore is much more civilised – almost like stepping out of the Stone Age.

Delicious food abounds and I don’t fall ill from what I eat either as with food in Indonesia. Sadly, exorbitant prices in Singapore burn any traveller’s pocket, so stay only a brief couple of days to plan the next brave escape.

Where to, you ask? Back to Indonesia!

Kalimantan this time. I hear this island of the Indonesian archipelago is not a popular destination in 1998. Could this be an omen? Will travelling through this island be as slow and painful as the past several days?

Comb the streets of Singapore for over a day, trying to find out information on Kalimantan and how to reach this island. Remember this is 1998, with only limited or no information, no internet or mobile phone at your fingertips but still, we persist in this quest.

Discover that Sempati Airlines ceased operations earlier this year in May and Merpati Airlines is closed – not sure whether Merpati’s closure is temporary or permanent. Without other flight options, contemplation of another ferry trip looms…

Can reaching Kalimantan by ferry be worse than the past several days travelling from Jakarta to Singapore?

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

Related posts




, ,


16 responses to “Indonesia to Singapore: Boat Trip from Hell, Part 2”

  1.  Avatar

    The whole SEA is very corrupted and scams everywhere. But these are less worry compared to kidnappings which is very common nowadays. The only safer country is Singapore. In fact SEA problems is the same as whole Asia and East Europe. But Latin America is far worse. HK is also safer since 2 decades ago.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Thank you for your feedback. Where in SEA do you live? Apart from the Philippines, I haven’t heard about kidnappings in SEA.

  2. gillmorris Avatar

    Oh my, I feel your pain. Journeys in SE Asia are long and stressful! Also, when you check into Laos, I remember paying in dollars and getting change back in Kip! After a 12 hour bus ride from Bangkok, youre not quite with it !

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, I can just imagine and totally understand how that can happen after a 12-hour bus trip.
      There’s always a scam around the corner it seems…especially in SE Asia.

      1. gillmorris Avatar

        Indeed there is!

  3. LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia Avatar

    Hahaha a whole new meaning for “to hell and back”….only you would decide to throw yourself back into Indonesia after going through all that drama to get out of it! 🙂 Love it!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      It really was!
      Ha, ha, a stubborn Calabrese (decent) – but always up for a new adventure. 🙂

  4. Yetismith Avatar

    Kalimantan….I shall always think of it as Borneo. One of those mysterious places I longed to see. Our little ship took us there maybe 1985 and we shall very small bits, including Kota Kinabalu and Sepilok where we encountered orangutans, one of which gave me the softest kiss on my exposed leg. Would love to have seen very much more. I was very taken with that part of the world and fascinated by the peoples. Look forward to more of your story.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar


      Orangutans are the loveliest creatures! I saw them in Sumatra on the same trip to Indonesia.
      Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. How long did you stay? You’ll have to check back here for the month in Kalimantan/Borneo – it wasn’t easy travelling the wrong way to the (minimal) tourists on the island in 1998.
      I much prefer the name Borneo but locals even called their home Kalimantan, so who am I to disagree with locals? 😉
      Thank you for your feedback!


  5. wetanddustyroads Avatar

    You want to try another ferry trip (and BACK to Indonesia)?? You were very brave!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Ha, ha, you’ll have to see what eventuates returning to Indonesia, but yes very brave… 😉

  6. thetravelvine Avatar

    Wow what a horrible journey 😯 thanks for the tips, I’ll definitely keep this in mind when travelling through here 😊

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Yeah, but that’s travel in 1998 although you can still have horrible journeys these days…
      Appreciate your comment and am happy you enjoyed the tips! 😉

      1. thetravelvine Avatar

        That’s true. Let’s hope things have vastly improved since then 🙂

      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        Would love to return to see if they have, but wouldn’t like to endure a trip like that again…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Own one of my Limited Edition photographs or prints. Click this #saatchiart icon for my page.

Saatchi Art


Follow my blog by email!
Never miss out on a fabulous photo deal or travel update.

Join 7,896 other subscribers

I'm currently in Ukraine

Global visitors since February 2017 - thank you!


Visitors since May 2016 - thank you!

Flag Counter

©2015-2023 Image Earth Travel

This website's content cannot be copied and/or published in any way without written permission from Image Earth Travel.

Feel free to use excerpts and links, provided that you give full and clear credit to Image Earth Travel, with appropriate and specific direction/links to the original content.

Follow me on...

pinterest logo circle P in Red png