Are you planning a trip to Raja Ampat – perhaps to see the natural beauty of West Papua or to do a liveaboard diving trip? Well, there are ways to get here that are a helluva lot easier than others. Here’s how to get to Raja Ampat – and how NOT to get there. I’ve done the trip – read about it here – but what I didn’t tell you was how much of a pain in the butt it was to get there.

And it was all my own fault. Complete lack of research. If you want to know how to get to Raja Ampat, it’s quite simple – don’t do what I did!

Aerial view of the islands of Raja Ampat
Raja Ampat, with our boat, the Raja Ampat Aggressor, in the background. Photo by Rafael Novielli – used with permission.

If you don’t want to do a liveaboard

By the way, with the exception of a short visit to Sorong, my trip to Raja Ampat was completely boat-based. But you should consider Raja Ampat, even if you don’t want to do a liveaboard. Here is a fairly extensive Travel Guide to Raja Ampat that’s sure to help you!

How to get to Raja Ampat the WRONG way

Now, I like to save money. But I’m here to tell you, what I ended up doing was so stressful that I highly recommend avoiding it – especially if you have expensive diving equipment, like I do. To save a paltry $150, I decided to fly to Sorong, West Papua, on a budget airline. The route was Jakarta to Surabaya to Manado to Sorong. It turned out that this was how to get to Raja Ampat in just about the most annoying way possible.

Here’s the problem with that – they don’t tell you when you book the flight that when you get to Surabaya, you have to change planes. Hell, they don’t even tell you Surabaya is on the itinerary. You have ONE boarding pass from Jakarta to Manado and ONE from Manado to Sorong. There’s no reason for you to ever believe you were going to Surabaya – let alone that you have to get off the plane. Not only that, but the second plane takes off 15 minutes after you get there. Now, unless you speak a little Indonesian, which I do, how the hell are you supposed to even know this? It says nothing about the plane change on your ticket. You’re just supposed to magically know!

How to get to Raja Ampat - Michael standing next to a Lion Air plane
Not sure if this was when I first got on the flight, or when I realized I was screwed. Probably both.

This was all made ten times more stressful because I travel with my own dive equipment which is quite expensive. With only 15 minutes to get off a flight, run to a new gate, and get on another flight, I was honestly scared to death that I was going to lose several thousand dollars worth of gear.

I was lucky. It took all freakin’ day, but fortunately, I arrived in Sorong. My equipment did as well, but it was not a fun journey – not in the least. I think my nerve endings suffered a lot of damage that day. Oh, and that stupid $150 I was so intent on saving? Take one guess what the fee was to ship my dive equipment. You guessed it. It was 75 ******* dollars each way.

I.

Saved.

Nothing.

How to get to Raja Ampat the RIGHT way

My friend, Rafael, who was traveling separately from me, decided that how to get to Raja Ampat was the simple way – fly directly from Jakarta to Sorong. His flight was a few hours and about $150 more expensive. Luggage cost: $0. His mental health: completely intact. The lesson:

There is a time to cheap out and a time not cheap out! DO NOT fly the cheap route from Jakarta to Sorong. It’s not worth the headache – especially if you’re traveling with expensive checked luggage!

Instead of booking a cheaper flight, spend the extra $150 and book on XpressAir or Garuda Indonesia (SkyTeam partner). It’ll likely be an overnight flight (usually at 1:20 AM), but it will be worth it! And there’s less of a chance you’ll arrive sick and/or exhausted, neither of which you want, especially if you’re getting on a boat! More here.

In the end, my flight didn’t cost any more or less than Rafael’s, but his life was so much easier than mine. When I got to Sorong, he was happily relaxing in our hotel room, not a care in the world. Me? I think I pulled out most of my hair!

By the way, it was a luxury hotel – the Swiss Belhotel. And this was our amazing view!

Our view - a snantytown with the beautiful ocean off int he distance.
Our “incredible” view from the Luxurious Swiss Belhotel in Sorong

Luckily for both of us, there was a ton of delicious Indonesian food in the area and we got our fill! Indonesian food makes all the pain go away! 🙂

View aside, the Swiss Belhotel is one of the nicest hotels in the area, with comfortable suites and good food – and about $50 a night – totally OK if you’re only spending the night before you get on your liveaboard!

 

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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert and has traveled to over 40 countries to date. Currently saving all his money for a Round the World adventure.


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