How NOT to Get from Banyuwangi to Bali

How NOT to Get from Banyuwangi to Bali

You haven’t truly experienced Southeast Asia until you’re caught in the middle of some elaborate transportation scheme.

After spending a lovely morning in Ijen with Leo, we figured the guy was genuinely nice and had our backs. So we asked him to help us find the best way to Kuta Bali.

“There’s a 12:30 bus to Mengwi,” he said.

“Does it have aircon?” the more responsible Israeli asked.

“Of course!” Leo replied. “I’ll drive you to your homestay, let you pack and rest up, then drive you to the bus station! I’ll be back at 12:15.”

We had some lunch, took showers, and by 12:15, Leo was nowhere to be found.

“I don’t want to miss the bus,” Tall Israeli said.

“Can’t we just walk?” asked Responsible Israeli.

“No,” the homestay staffperson said firmly. “The bus station is too far. Leo will come.”

Leo showed up a few minutes later to find two stressed out Israelis and me. We packed our bags into the van and headed off…right across the street. The bus station was definitely walkable.

Leo instructed us to buy our bus tickets at the information center. I went into the office and purchased three tickets to Kuta Mengwi. “Kuta is near Mengwi?” I asked. “And the bus is air-conditioned?”

“Yes,” the boy at the counter confirmed.

“Where will the bus stop?” I asked.

“Just wait here, and we’ll call you when it comes.”

12:30 came and went, as did 1:00.

“Where is the bus?” Tall Israeli asked again.

“It’s running late,” Leo replied. “Just wait, we’ll call you when it comes.”

“But all of the people are waiting outside,” Tall Israeli said.

“The bus will be here at 1:30,” said the Bus Station Boy.

“So why can’t we wait outside???”

After some scuffling around, the Bus Station Boy reluctantly produced three ferry tickets. We carried our stuff outside and waited for the bus to come. By 1:45, there was still no bus, so I went up to one of the security guards and asked if we were in the right place. As he was telling me that we had to get onto the ferry and then catch the bus, Bus Station Boy came back outside and started speaking to him in Javanese, then turned to me and said, “The bus is stuck in traffic. Just wait here. Don’t go on the ferry.”

“So we’re catching the bus BEFORE the ferry, right? We don’t have to board the ferry first?”

“Correct.”

And then Bus Station Boy sat outside with us until a bus finally pulled up with a sign reading “To Denpasar.”

Denpasar. But I thought we were going to Mengwi? Or really, we were going to Kuta, but via Mengwi?

“Yes, the bus is stopping in Mengwi, on the way to Denpasar,” the bus driver confirmed. He loaded our bags onto the bus aboard the ferry as we peered into its open windows.

“There’s definitely not aircon on this bus,” Responsible Israeli turned to Bus Station Boy. “We paid for business class. I expected aircon on this bus.”

Bus Station Boy suddenly forgot how to speak English.

We made our way onto the ferry and sat in silence at what just happened. After a few minutes, Bus Station Boy appeared, handed me a 100000 IDR bill, and then disappeared again as the ferry began to depart.

After an hour of dancing it out on the ferry deck, we boarded the bus. It was definitely a local bus, and it was full to capacity. A group of guys sat on buckets at the back, and several people hung out in the aisle. The Indonesian man across from me winked at me.

“Where are you from?”

“Philippines.”

Then he lit a cigarette as the kid behind me poked her feet through the seat and under my butt. It was going to be a long four hours.

As the bus disembarked the ferry into Bali, I checked my phone. Reception was finally working. I googled how to get to Bali from Banyuwangi, and this article came up. After reading point #10 in the post, I turned to Responsible Israeli and showed him the article.

“I think Leo fucked us.”

The two Israelis conferred with each other (“Where are they from?” my aisle companion asked. “Hungary,” I replied), and we determined that this bus was NOT stopping at Denpasar (which is actually closer to Kuta than Mengwi, which is 40 minutes away) and that we’d just suck it up and order a Grab once we got to Mengwi, which we did.

Also, spoiler alert, the bus never went to Denpasar.

A Small Rant

So all things considered, we came out alright in the end. We spent a little more money than we needed to on a four hour bus ride, but considering how much we saved on the trip to Ijen, everything comes out even.

I actually don’t usually mind riding the local bus most of the time. What bothered me was that Leo gained our trust and then blatantly lied to us. Looking back, he and Bus Station Boy were doing everything in their power to make sure we didn’t talk to anyone who actually worked at the ferry station. Haggling is clearly a way of life in Indonesia, and an understandable one at that. I can’t get too mad at being overcharged when the hourly minimum wage in my country costs the same as a day’s worth of hard labor in their’s, but straight up lying? Gah.

The TOURIST Way to Get From Banyuwangi to Kuta Bali

  1. Buy a ferry ticket from the ferry counter. Ferries leave every hour.
  2. Board the ferry.
  3. Buy a bus ticket after you get to Bali from the terminal.
  4. Board the bus in Bali.
  5. Get off at your destination.


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