Being just a one hour boat ride away, Batam is extremely convenient and easy to get to. There are just so many departure timings and ferry providers to choose from, you can even get a ticket on the day you want to embark on your getaway. Tickets can also cost as low as $40 return! We visited Batam last weekend and compiled a a short list of random things to do there. Here are 7 cheap thrills that should get you sailing to Batam this weekend 😉
1) Cafe Hop to your Heart’s Content
Probably one of the perfect ways to spend the lazy afternoon, cafes in Batam are so affordably priced, you just have to drop by for a cuppa.
We’ve enjoyed our cat-puccino and salted egg crabs in One Dozen Cafe, eggs benedict and latte in Anchor Cafe and Roastery, chocolate lava cake and flying indomee in Lee’s Cafe and Bar, and not forgetting the refreshing juice from Habit Cafe.
Update: If you’re a fan of avocados, don’t miss out their Avocado coffee! I discovered this in 2019 (not sure if it was already available before that) and was so hooked! My favourite places to get them: Janji Jiwa at BCS and Kedai Kopi Kulo. Enjoy!
2) Hunt Down All Evils in the Arcade
Back to the times where the only thing stopping me from completing the Time Crisis game machine was the price of each game. (Actually it’s probably because I’m so lousy at it, I kept losing lives and had to re-swipe my Timezone card.) I was extremely delighted when I set foot into the arcades in Batam – each game was made a lot more affordable.
We realised that the Timezone arcade at the basement of Nagoya Shopping mall was priced more affordably than a few malls, but that being said, their game machines were older and less sensitive. Comparing, the Club 21 arcade in Batam City Square Mall had really new machines. They cost about 2,000 IDR ($0.20) more per game, but I felt it was well worth it. I mean, you wouldn’t want to fire 5 shots at the bad guy but only 2 shots were registered and both shots eventually missing due to badly calibrated guns right?
Jeremy also tried his skills (and luck) at the claw machines. The claw machines range from ultimate cheap thrills of 3,900 IDR ($0.39) to 11,900 IDR ($1.10). We took so many chances and managed to grab 2 toys!!
Be warned though that smoking is allowed in some arcades.
3) Catch a Movie
Priced at just 35,000 IDR (slightly less than 3.50 SGD) per ticket, I really don’t see why a movie marathon is not possible 😉 The cinema we visited is called “Club 21”, you can expect clean toilets, spacious and comfortable seats, and great sound systems. There’s even a staff opening doors for you like a hotel haha truly #cheapthrill. Movies screened are also in English, you would understand every word.
4) Indulge in Craft Beers
If you’re into craft bears and microbreweries, these beers may catch your attention. But be warned, we did not finish our glasses. The flavours were way too unique for our liking… The Green beer (Seaweed) tastes like weird jelly, the Weizen bear tastes like some medical ointment and their Lager Regular was a little too smokey, like cigarette. It’s undeniably true that they are affordable but the tastes were so odd that I didn’t want to try the other 2 remaining flavours. Perhaps beer is just not my thing… Nonetheless, if you’re looking for somewhere to chill, Fresh Beer Batam has a rooftop sitting area! Do give them a go and let me know!
5) Grocery shop in Hypermarkets
Magnum costs around a dollar and everything screams affordable in the hypermarket (it’s like literally better than supermarkets, because hyper #geddit?) We snagged a packet of 5 tiny yakults for less than $0.90?! Also, if you’re looking for ready-to-eat foods, some hypermarkets have small cooking stations to help you grill your food!
6) Binge on Seafood
Thinking of what to have for dinner? Seafood! Seienam seafood restaurant caught our eye and stomachs with their fragrant well-cooked seafood. We had crabs that cost only 350,000 IDR per kilogran and slipper lobsters (aka crayfish) that cost 300,000 IDR per kilogram! Pretty worth the money and a lot cheaper than if you feast in Singapore 😋
Update: Prices in SeiEnam Seafood Restaurant has since increased a little – but still more affordable than our local restaurants. We’ve also visited Wei Wei Seafood Restaurant in 2019, and the view from their restaurant was amazing. Clear water bodies with traditional stilt houses afar!
If you’re a fan of Dancing Crab or Cajun On Wheels, do drop by One Dozen Cafe to try their crab combos. They serve seafood in the same style – cooked in sauce and poured directly on the table. We went for the salted egg flavour and were pretty intrigued by the addition of salted egg white pieces into our seafood. Crabs served were meaty too!
7) Fulfil all your Shopping Needs
While it was more of a window shopping for me, Batam has a few malls for all your shopaholic-needs. Local products were priced competitively and there’s kueh lapis pretty much everywhere. I guess the difference is only the price and quality. There weren’t discounts for international brands like Nike and Adidas, probably just the exchange rates gains. Some malls also boasts brands that have left our local market, such as A&W and Llaollao.
I’m not sure if anyone remembers the not-so-legal CD sales in Singapore a long time ago where people would sell CDs wrapped in thin plastic pockets and a poorly printed image to show what movie the CD had. While these are long gone in Singapore (for obvious reasons), we’ve came across a couple of shops in Batam shopping malls with racks full of them. Latest movies can cost from 7,000 IDR to 15,000 IDR. It was quite an experience searching for titles among these racks!
Transport within Batam
While I would recommend using Grab in Batam for its great upfront pricings, using Grab may be a hassle at times due to their local regulations. There is an invisible line cordoning off the “touristy places” and being labelled as the “Red Zone”. Grab and private car hires are not allowed to pick passengers from these areas – the regulation that protects regular taxi drivers, so they can sill earn their living by jacking up transport fares.
So where is the “Red Zone”? I don’t know, and thats probably worst part. The cordoned off area is not known to tourists so it can get a little annoying when your Grab driver either asks you to cancel the booking or walk down two streets (out of the zone) to pick you up. Grab cancel penalty still applies in Batam, so once you strike 3, you’re out. And walking 2 streets down to get picked up… kinda makes it less convenient?
From our short getaway, we’ve gathered the following “Red Zone”s
– Batam Ferry Terminal
– most malls
– some cafés (one dozen cafe and Chemistree cafe lies is red zones, you will have to walk to Prodia, which is down the street)
– some hotels (Harris Hotel)
The others will be up to you guys to discover! 🙂
Where to stay in Batam
During my visit, we were just deciding between two hotels because we want to stay near the Batam Center ferry terminal. Our options were either Harris Hotel of Harmoni One Hotel. In the end, we picked Harmoni One Hotel, mainly due to the rooms available and the price – Harris was slightly more expensive and we had to top up for breakfast.
Of course, we overestimated ourselves as we trudged 15 minutes under the mocking Sun. However, it was probably a blessing in disguise when we realised that Grab drivers were unable to pick passengers from Harris (Red Zone). This means that you will need to take a taxi at the hotel lobby. Taxi prices, although affordable, are actually around 2 to 3 times more than prices on Grab. On the other hand, we were able to Grab from our hotel lobby. *inserts mini dance*
Alternatively, Harmoni One Hotel offers free shuttle services to a few malls in the afternoon to night, so you may wish to check out the timings at the hotel lobby.
The room was undeniably comfortable and the amenities of the hotel was decent. There was a pool and gym on the top floor. The gym was rather stuffy in the morning. Coupled with the Sun, it really just feels like a sauna. I was intending to sweat it out anyways so it didn’t bother me too much. In-room massage and body scrubs were also available!
Do share with me in the comments below if you have any other cheap thrills to share! 😉