I'm writing this just to share my experiences with of traveling to Batam from Singapore during the long weekend yesterday. Hari Raya Haji fell on Sunday so Monday was a public holiday.
I wasn't in the minority group when it comes to getting a quick getaway at the nearby Batam island of Indonesia. Harbourfront Centre, where all the ferries are operating from, was packed with people on the Sunday morning. I booked the 920am ferry and the good thing was it left on time.
Journey to Batam Centre Ferry Terminal took about 1 hour. Then it's queuing time to clear the customs. Remember to fill in the immigration card before you start queuing. Oh yeah, those signs saying that you should stay silent are indeed up. The immigration centre there isn't that big and the ceiling is low and if everyone's talking, it's just a huge nuisance.
After clearing the customs there, I took a cab (60,000 Rupiah) to the Ace Hotel which is near Nagoya Hill Mall. Ace hotel is from SGD$60 onwards and is really worth the price because the room is clean and interior design is modern looking.
The reason I was there in Batam was to have a quick getaway with my girlfriend. And my colleague who had just came back from Batam commented that she enjoyed her trip.
I don't particularly like to go to shopping malls when on overseas trips because we have lots of them in Singapore. But I've heard that shopping is great in Batam because things there are much cheaper and it's true. With the strong Singapore currency currently, you can get 9,300 Rupiah for SGD$100. A few years ago, it was only 6,000++ Rupiah. When I was in Bali, I got only 8,900++ at Changi Airport. I recommend changing money in Batam because they give much better rates that in Singapore.
Nagoya Hill Mall has many restaurants. Some restaurants and cafes are crowded and others are almost empty. I ate at one of the emptier restaurants because I wanted a more peaceful meal but it turned out the food wasn't that good, which is why the place wasn't packed with customers in the first place. On the second day, which was Hari Raya Haji, at lunch time, there were restaurants which have close to no customers. Locals there know where good food are and it's wise to follow them.
Movie ticket prices there are half of Singapore prices. I bought tickets to Maze Runner at just 35,000 Rupiah. The screen is big, sound is good, and seats aplenty.
Singaporeans like to go to Batam for massages and there are quite a few in the mall. I tried a half-hour foot massage and paid only 55,000 Rupiah including tips. It was fantastic. A full body massage at one of the spa shops cost around 200,000 Rupiah for an hour. That's very affordable compared to what you can get in Singapore.
Clothes there are cheap as well. Not sure about the quality but they do look good.
The most unpleasant experience for my 2-day-1-night trip is the ferry journey back to Singapore. My ferry back was supposed to be 3.20pm but there was a delay and the ferry ended up leaving only after 4.30pm. Before that, we had to queue for 2 hours because you need to get to the Batam Centre Ferry Terminal one hour earlier. To make things worst, ventilation wasn't good as there's no air-conditioning and there were only a few fans working. The security guards there were giving out small bottles of mineral water to those in queue.
There are lots of Singaporeans in the queue. One couple in front of me had the 3.40pm ticket. And the one before than had the 3.20pm ticket. I asked several people in the extremely long queue and it doesn't matter what time was on their tickets, you just join the queue. Shopkeepers there said this is normal. So to go home early, join the queue early. At 3.20pm, I was still about an hour away from the departure gate where the tickets were scanned. After the tickets were scanned, you had to queue again for a while before you clear the customs.
When I got onto the ferry, seats were almost full which is great because it means the ferry will move off soon. The bigger problem was the weak air-conditioning on the ferry that made the whole journey back quite uncomfortable.
Next time when I'm back in Batam, I'll definitely be traveling outside of tourist hours, meaning I'll take the first ferry at 7am out. And I'll avoid going there on weekends. Weekday return tickets can start from SGD$28.