Taking the ferry from Padangbai Bali to Lombok or Gilis Island is definitely the best and fastest way to travel, and much more convenient than flying. For me, I found DirectFerries.com to be the best as you can quickly compare the most trusted ferry companies from one single website (like Bluewater Express which is who I travelled with!). I found them via DirectFerries.co.uk at first but it looks like they have websites in 25 or 30 different languages covering Europe, USA, Asia, Africa as well as the rest of the world. And their call centres have friendly customer service agents who I was told speak 16 different languages including English, French, Italian, German, Danish, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Norwegian, Swedish, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Check, Slovak and Greek and more!
I travelled from Bali to Lombok on Bluewater Express and found the check-in insanely fast and the staff really friendly. We all had arrived early so it was cool because we actually departed early as well. There was a storm from Taiwan and Hong Kong affecting the choppiness of the water so the staff asked us to stay below deck for most of the ride to ensure our safety, something you’d really appreciate if you Google some of the other ferry companies and the number of fatalities the less reputable companies have each year. They provide cold water, a cold towel prior to disembarking, there is a very clean loo, and they even sell Bintang for 40k, which I thought was great!
BEWARE!!!!! If you travel from Padangbai, once you enter town there are very large men who are incredibly aggressive who seem like quasi-police who tried to force our driver to pull over and make us go into a building that undoubtedly sold ferry tickets, telling us we must check in there. If we hadn’t been on the phone at that exact moment with the Bluewater Express team who shared with us how to find their office and told us NOT to stop, we probably would have because they seemed so official (and extremely scary, which I don’t normally scare easily).
The total trip takes 1.5 hours with Bluewater Express and I highly recommend them, booking via DirectFerries.com though. Bluewater Express called the day before to confirm our check-in time for the ferry and ask if I had any questions, which was a nice value-added service I thought. I did communicate originally with both Bluewater Express and DirectFerries.com and Direct Ferries replied much quicker to each of my queries. For that reason and because of their multi-language service and flexibility with being able to change my ticket, I recommend them as the absolute best choice.
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