How to do an independent surf trip to the Mentawais, without spending a fortune
Is it even possible to do a surf trip to the Mentawai Islands on a budget?
Well, it is possible to do it cheaply, but it’s just not easy – And not that cheap after all! Here are a few things to look out for to keep the cost as low as possible.
It’s Indonesia! Which means that if you’re an experienced traveler, and you speak Bahasa Indonesia good enough, I’m sure you’ll find ways to make it cheap. If you have any tips or tricks to do a Mentawai budget surftrip, make sure to let us know in the comment section.
For the average Indo surf traveler, the Mentawais are more expensive than other places – doesn’t matter how you do it. And keeping this in mind, it’s worth to consider to spend a couple of extra Dollars, to find the Mentawais you were dreaming of.
Maybe the Mentawais are the kind of place to go to with a couple of friends, who surf on the same level as you do. And you do it, as a once in a lifetime (or once a year) experience.
Whether you and your friends do a boat trip or staying in a resort that has speedboat transfers to different spots included, It all has its price of course, but that way you make sure you surf the waves you imagined.
But here a few tips to do it on a budget
What are the fix costs that make the Mentawais so expensive, and how to keep them at a minimum?
The number one resource the Mentawai Islands got is waves. And make wealthy tourists pay for it, is legit in some way. Because of this, they invented a “Surf-tax”! As soon as you arrive with a board bag on one of the islands, someone comes up to you to collect it. And it’s a hefty 1’000’000 RP! If you go there during the off-season, your chances are high that no one comes to collect. But from April to September, you most probably don’t make it around.
The only way to get that price down is, to stay as long as possible.
It officially allows you to stay and surf there for two weeks. But if you stay longer, no one will know or care (most probably).
Flying to Padang is cheap. You don’t have to go to Bali first, if you come from somewhere else in Asia, Europe or wherever.
The cheapest option is probably Kuala Lumpur (thanks to Air Asia), and from there straight to Padang.
A few years ago, “Mentawai Fast” ferry started to run. This made it much faster to get to the islands, but made it also more crowded.
If you travel with enough time on your hands, it makes the whole trip obviously cheaper. Not only because of the Surf-tax, but also because you can take the night ferry.
The “Mentawai Fast” costs you 295’000 RP/ person, if you travel with light hand baggage. A board bag that weighs less than 15 Kg, is an additional 230’000 RP. If your bag is more then 15 Kg, you pay double!
The ferry leaves from Padang around 6 am, and you’re on the island around 9-11am. It’s super fast, but you get there in the late morning, and you’re most probably tired, because you had to wake up early in your hotel in Padang.
If you time the weekday of your departure right, you can take the night ferry.
You’ll find more or less reliable schedules with Google. It’s much cheaper. Depending on the class you’re traveling, it’s somewhere around 90’000-150’000 RP including your baggage. But not only the price is more appealing. It’s also a great experience with the locals, and the bed is reasonably comfortable. Just make sure to bring warm clothes, if you travel in the VIP class, as the air-con is freezing cold.
You should be in Bungus (from where the ferry leaves) around 6 pm. The ferry leaves at 8 pm, and you’ll get to the island around daybreak. That way, you’ve got the whole day on the island already, you’re not tired, and you’ve got the chance to catch the “Inter Island Ferry”. The Inter Island Ferry can take you to a couple of different places on the islands, what saves you a lot of money. But for many places, such as Masokut, you have to take a canoe anyways. It’s also pretty difficult to find out when that ferry is going, as they don’t really stick to a schedule.
The taxi from Padang to Bungus is somewhere around 150’000-200’000 RP, depending on your bargaining skills. What you spend for the cab, would be your night in a Hotel in Padang, so don’t worry about that. And it’s the price for the whole cab. If you travel with other people, you can split the cost.
Most people who do it as individual travelers go to Pulau Masokut, a.k.a. Nyang Nyang. There you’ve got 5 different waves you can walk to, what saves you money for your daily boat transfer.
On Masokut are a lot of different accommodations, where you can stay for around 350’000-450’000 RP/ day, including food. That’s the price for one person. You’ll find some of those places online, just google it. If you want to lower the price, make a list with what you need to eat and drink during your stay, and do all the shopping before you go there. If you bring your food, and do your cooking, you save up quiet a bit of money.
To get to Pulau Masokut (Bang Bang, Ebay, ua.) you need a canoe that picks you up in Muara Siberut (the harbor), and of course brings you back there. This canoe is another 1’500’000 RP one way, so make sure you can share it with others. If it’s only you, you spend another 3 Million Rupees return, just for that short ride (2 hours)! With that extra money, you could almost stay in a beautiful resort!
There are a lot of different places to stay on all the different islands.
If you want to safe money, look up some of the waves online, and decide where you want to surf.
Most of the waves here are perfect, what makes them easier to surf. BUT the reef is usually near and sharp, plus the level of surfing is often really high. If you’re not ready for this, you probably get more waves and have more fun somewhere else. You can still keep the Mentawais on your bucket list for later.
But if this is your piece of cake, check where you want to go, and if there is an alternative wave close by, for the days when it gets too big or too small. A cheap place to stay won’t safe you any money, if you spend a fortune on boat transfers every day.
Probably the cheapest option would be Sipora (or Sipura), where you can drive by car from Tua Pejat (the harbor) to the North of the island. This costs you only 20’000 RP per person, and there are some cheap places to stay.
It has a beach break where you could get a wave every now and then, but all the other spots are boat access, or a far walk and paddle. How ever, make a deal with the people you’re staying with, or with some of the surfers in town who have a boat, and it will be much cheaper than in most other places.
Bring enough cash with you! There are not a lot of ATM’s on the Mentawais, and not the kind you could rely on anyway. And you’ll spend more money than you think. Believe me! Going back because you run out of money does make the whole trip much more expensive for nothing!
These are the additional costs you’ve got for your Mentawai budget surftrip.
Lets calculate it for a ten days trip:
Surf-tax 1’000’000 RP
Mentawai Fast (return with board bag) 1’040’000 RP
Canoe to Masokut (return) 3’000’000 RP
This adds an extra 500’000 RP per day to the cost for accommodation and food. What means even with all the travel hustle, you look at probably 60-80 $ per day!
If you go with a group of let’s say, 4 people, the canoe is much cheaper for you, what already makes a big difference. As you have to pay for the canoe, you could do all the shopping before, and bring it packed up in cardboard boxes.
North of Sipora
Surf-tax 1’000’000 RP
Night ferry (return with board bag) ca. 260’000 RP
Transfer to the North 20’000 RP
This way, it would be an additional 128’000 RP per day, and it’s easy to find cheap (but also really basic) places to stay. Accommodation here is, a whole lot cheaper than on Masokut. Plus you’re close to the harbor, where you can always stock up on food (and beer), where you find cheap Warungs, and where your mobile-phone has good enough reception for 3G.
If you travel alone, and if you’re happy with Iceland, Telescopes, and the waves in the North of Sipora, this is probably your cheapest option. But don’t forget the cost for boat transfers to the surf spots.
- Bring enough cash
- Travel in a group of 4 people with more or less the same level of surfing, or at least the same preferences if it comes to waves
- Stay as long as possible in one place, to keep the transport cost low
- Take the overnight ferry instead of the fast ferry
- Bring and cook your own food to safe more money
- Try to be as organized as possible, and know where you want to go, before you go
Treat yourself nice and stay in a resort.
In a lot of places in Indonesia, it’s easy to live on less than 20 $/ day, and surf as much as you want. This budget would be really hard to keep anywhere in the Mentawais. At least if you calculate it with the additional costs you’ll have.
I’m not telling you not to go, just because you’re on a budget. I’m just saying, it will most probably be much more expensive than what you had imagined! But it’s definitely an incredible place with friendly people, an interesting and old culture, with picture perfect beaches, and the waves are spectacular! Hands down!