Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Nusa Penida is still a little off the beaten track so when travelling there do not expect all the same amenities as in Bali. Here are a few bits of advice that will make your stay easier and more fun.
Access to money - plan ahead
One of the main problems people travelling to Nusa Penida experience is the difficulty to access money, for several reasons. Firstly, there are only a handful of ATMs on the island that take foreign cards. There are two in Toyapakeh (a Mandiri next to Babar restaurant, and a BRI just a little before the market on the other side of the street). In Sampalan you’ll find a BRI and a Mandiri at the bank branches on the main road.
Secondly, once you’ve found the ATM, your worries are not necessarily over since they are often empty. When the island gets busy with tourists, the ATMs can be emptied faster than the bank employees manage to fill them up again.
The solution: plan a fair amount of cash to take with you. Nusa Penida is safe, theft is pretty unheard of, you should be ok leaving cash at the hotel in a safe or hidden or in a locked drawer. If you’re worried just take it with you…
You might also take some euros or dollars as an emergency backup. There are places to change (the rate is awful though) in Toyapakeh and Sampalan.
Card payment - ask before
You might be thinking, I’ll just pay with my card then. Well … It turns out only a handful of the more expensive hotels will accept the card and even fewer restaurants. You can often pay for activities like diving with a card but expect small extra charge (2 to 3%). Tours and local snorkelling venture will seldom take the card.
Check you can pay with a card before you book if you don’t have the cash.
How do I get there?- boats, ferries and the like
Getting to Penida can be confusing and the price of the same ticket can vary widely. Don’t get ripped off and pay 3 times the going standard price. Shop around and beware of helpful offers to get it for you, they’ll be getting a commission.
The going rate on most fast boats at time of writing is 500,000 IDR for a return ticket, but this is really the published rate and you should be able to get a better rate either by booking online if you are not able to go directly to the counters. If you’re diving ask the scuba diving centre if they can help book your ticket, they often will do it at cost price (we do).
Best option? Go to the port and buy your ticket at the desk (called loket locally). Don’t hesitate to haggle, the price often drops with a little bit of cheeky banter. You’ll want to do that the day before departure or a few hours before at least since the early morning boats often get full pretty fast in high season.
Bear in mind also that some of the info found online might not be up to date: with the pandemic, several speed boats company have suspended or stopped activities.
It usually works fine as long as you are not in a hurry. If you fancy a bit of adventure and bringing the scooter you’ve been using over, then the ferry is great. Arm yourself with patience and a big grin and a good book. You’ll eventually get to Nusa Penida with lots of new friends to boot (the locals love to socialise during the 2 to 3 hour trip).
More info on getting to Nusa Penida here.
If you’re planning on going across the island / down the steps- remember to...
I promise I’m not trying to sound like your mum here, but so many people get burnt to a crisp on their adventures on a scooter around Nusa Penida. Wear sunscreen and / or cover up. Plan water if you are going down the steps to Kelingking beach or the likes, and shoes. Plan some kind of sarong to wipe the sweat and cover up, protection for the relentless sun. Plan to go at a reasonable time of the day, not one mad dogs and English men would choose (i.e not midday, guys)
Getting around Nusa Penida
If you are not very good with a scooter, Nusa Penida may not be the best place to learn. You might want to give yourself a couple of days in another part of Bali (preferably quiet with good roads and little traffic) to hone your bike skills. Penida has one main road running along the North coast that people drive way too fast along. To make things even more entertaining, this road is slightly too narrow for two vehicles to cross each other comfortably so one vehicle has to go over onto the side off the road . Just be warned that this makes for some interesting driving techniques. Some of the other smaller roads are very very steep, sometimes damaged, occasionally covered in gravel so a skiddy. Just be warned.
Taxis are expensive but available. Ask you dive centre or hotel to book it for you from the port to your hotel, unless you excel at haggling and can do it on arrival at the port.
You’ll also probably have to haggle your scooter price down but expect a 20 percent increase in price compared to Bali so don’t go too crazy when they ask 70k or 80k per day, that’s pretty standard around here.
Rubbish: be part of the solution, not the problem
This might be obvious for most people and you should be doing it wherever you travel, but Nusa Penida has limited rubbish management solutions so it’s piling up fast and there isn’t a rubbish collection system for most of the island. So here, even more than anywhere else, bring a reusable bottle. Restaurants will be happy to provide drinking water for a small fee or even, happily, more and more places are offering a free refill service (Penida Colada, Sunny's Cafe, Warung Beach to name but a few, and our dive centre of course!)
Refuse the plastic straw.
When you order your drink say
“Tidak paket pipet “ or
“Tidak paket sedotan”
If you like drinking coconuts, buy a bamboo or metal straw to take around with you. Several places sell them on the island.
Bring a reusable bag
They will give you a plastic bag for a packet of cigarettes, do not take it!
Location in Nusa Penida - choosing a hotel smartly
Booking online is easy but it's also easy to book a hotel that is miles from everything! And potentially by the side of a busy road. Check the location of your hotel. Will you have to drive 20mn to find a restaurant? The island is BIG. Think about what you really want. If you stay far from the hustle and bustle in a secluded place, you’ll have to drive back to your hotel after dinner and outings at night. But there are amazing spots with breath-taking views that you'll have pretty much to yourself. If you stay close to restaurants and bar etc then you have to drive off on an adventure to find wilderness. Just remember to check where the hotel is and potentially ask people in the know about their experience. Don’t end up staying in the hotel with no view in the middle of nowhere that has all its rooms overlooking a busy road (it exists and I always feel sorry for the poor buggers who end up having to stay there).
Using your time well
If you’re limited in time as is often the case when you want to fit loads of stuff into too short a holiday, try and manage your time. There are fast boats all day from 7.30 ish till 5 ish. Not many in the middle of the day. Diving, island tours, snorkelling activities start around 8.30 to 9 so not so practical to do on the day of arrival. Excursions like Kelingking, Peguyangan, Tembeling, Teletubby hills take about 3 to 5 hours round trip from Toyapakeh depending on how long you hang out there so can easily be done in an afternoon.
Scuba diving activities usually end around lunchtime or a tad later so you have a full afternoon for excursions during the day after going diving. You can also easily catch an afternoon boat after diving or any of the other activities.
Nusa Penida is beautiful on many counts and we hope you have an amazing trip! Check out more info here.