Batam is an Indonesian island less than an hour away from Singapore by ferry. Other than Malaysia, Batam is probably the next easiest place for you to take a quick getaway from Singapore without flying, and is immensely popular with Singaporeans who want a cheap, easy holiday with minimal travelling required. Ask any Singaporean and they will probably tell you about its cheap seafood, or that it has an A&W (we are obsessed with curly fries and root beer floats, and no there isn’t an A&W in Singapore currently).
I’m one of those travellers who is always looking to go further, and Batam just seemed too close to home, so it was never quite on my radar as a must-visit spot, kinda like it’s larger cousin Bintan Island. So when I was invited by the DFS Singapore folk to take a quick jaunt to this little island (we spent just about 24 hours in Batam) that I visited ages ago as a child, and was pleasantly surprised that it was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be.
A large part of that is thanks to our super knowledgeable guides – Tony from WOW Getaways who told us everything we wanted to know about Batam (seriously he was a bit of a walking encyclopedia), and local Batamian foodie Chandra aka Batamliciouz who brought our group around his home town and show us some of truly local dishes.
How to get to Batam from Singapore
We took Majestic Ferry to Batam from Singapore’s Harbourfront Ferry Terminal, also known as Singapore Cruise Centre. The journey between Batam and Singapore is about 45 minutes and we disembarked at Batam Centre. From Singapore, you can head to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in the East to take the ferry to Batam Centre as well, but if you want to head to Sekupang in the south of Batam, then you only have Harbourfront as an option.
Round trip tickets for Majestic Ferry from Singapore to Batam were S$49 including terminal fees when I checked, though you can get cheaper prices from other ferry services that start from around S$25, but I have to say that the Majestic Ferry boat was pretty swanky and quite a new and nice boat – if you want something a little more luxurious, this is a good option. Easybook or busonlineticket are useful for comparing prices across companies and ports.
And DFS shoutout – they opened a new Duty-free outlet in the ferry terminal boarding area at Singapore Ferry Terminal, so if you are heading to Batam with your friends, it’s a good time to pick up your necessary choices of poison. Make sure you finish your booze overseas as you can’t carry it back into Singapore!
Eating all the local Batamian Food
As I mentioned above, all I really knew about Batam is that people came here to eat cheap good grub, and I got to meet one of the best people to tell you all about Batamian food.
Chandra is better known as Batamliciouz, a local guy who’s a one-man repository about all the food there is to eat in Batam. No matter where you decide to stay or visit in Batam, it’s likely that Chandra knows all about it. Follow him on facebook and instagram for the latest updates – this guy looks like he’s eating awesome food all the time. Batamliciouz even has its own seal of approval – look out for the Batamliciouz stickers at the stall to know if it Chandra has been there and given it his thumbs up.
What I’m saying is that this dude will be able to tell you much better than I will ever be able to about what’s good to eat in Batam, but in the meantime I’ll tell you about the places he brought us to and what I thought about them. I’m not much of a foodie but I did enjoy the local recommendations from someone who knows his territory inside-out. Also, he made us eat so much. I feel full just thinking about my time there.
Local Food Stalls
Street food is of course one of the things to eat here, and they have their own local Batam specials that you don’t really see in other parts of Indonesia or even nearby Singapore. He brought us to Acia Ikan Bakar which is a fairly easy to get to location in Nagoya that’s not too touristy. We had zi char – a whole bunch of home-styled dishes for sharing and we got to try something called Cha Kue, which is a dish you can only get here in Batam.
How to get there: Acia Ikan Bakar – Inside Batam Park Complex, Nagoya-Batam.
I’ll be frank – I never thought that Batam was a cafe sorta place, but should I really be so surprised given how many Singaporeans come here and how much we love our hipster joints? We visited a cool cafe called Chemistree with whimsical decor and lots of space, perfect to hang out in on a hot day. It’s like I fell into hipster heaven.
And ladies, watch out for the glass floor on level 2 – Super fun for your selfies and daring each other to walk on, but precarious if you are wearing a skirt.
How to get there: Chemistree Cafe – Jalan Raja H. Fisabililah No 12B – Batam Centern
Seafood at the Kelong
We couldn’t leave Batam without sinking out teeth into some amazing seafood. Chandra brought us to Kopak Jaya 007 for some good ol’ seafood on a traditional kelong, one of those wooden houses perched above the water. I really enjoyed the food here – seafood is totally my jam – the salted egg crab and the cheese crayfish were pretty awesome.
How to get there: Kopak Jaya 007 – Inside Tiangwangkang Old Settlement before Barelang bridge
What to do in between all that eating
We were only there for 2 days, and a large part of that time was spent getting to and then chowing down on all that food. We did take a little detour to go see the Barelang Bridge and enjoy a bit of a cruise on the water. The idea was to go take a closer look at the surrounding mangrove swamps, but the water was a bit too choppy for the little wooden boats that we would need to take, so we ended up just swanning about the boat and enjoying the view.
The Barelang Bridge is actually the collective name of 6 different bridges that connect the surrounding islands Batam, Rempang and Galang – which incidentally is why it’s called Ba-Re-Lang. The bridge we were closest to was the Tengku Fisabilillah bridge that connects Batam and Tonton island. The Barelang Bridge is pretty popular for avid cyclists, and kinda reminds me of a mini version of the Shimanami Kaido in Japan.
Where to stay in Batam
Most people who head to Batam like to do stay in a beach resort, but we spent a night over at the inland Radisson Golf and Convention Centre Batam. It’s a pretty swanky hotel with lovely rooms, and what I loved most was the balcony view overlooking the golf course and hills.
Do you have any tips for Batam? I only spent such a short time there, do share what other interesting things you can check out there!
This trip to Batam was sponsored by DFS Singapore.