The laid back seaside resort of Padang Bai lies on the southeast coast of Bali and is the island’s main transit point for Lombok and the Gili Islands. It is a very compact fishing village which has flourished into quite a lively traveller’s centre with lots of accommodation and dining plus good transport links. Many people pass through quickly but it really deserves a few days to soak up its refreshingly laid back atmosphere.
The village itself is hemmed in by a headland either side of its small bay, which boasts an attractive sandy beach. It continues inland for just a few hundred metres and nowhere is more than a five minute stroll from the beachfront.
The western end of town is dominated by the public ferry terminal which has departures to Lembar port on Lombok every 90 minutes day and night. These are large roll on roll off vessels which are prone to overcrowding and delays. Average journey time is around four hours.
There are much more comfortable and speedier options from Padang Bai. Gili Cat (website: www.gilicat.com) and Eka Jaya (website: www.baliekajaya.com) have daily fast boat services to Gili Trawangan and Teluk Nara in Lombok, taking just 90 minutes.
Prices are over twice as expensive as the slow ferry and cost between rp300,000 and rp650,000 one way depending on the time of year. Perama (website: www.peramatour.com) also run a daily service to the Gili islands and the resort of Senggigi in Lombok on a traditional ‘phinisi’ sail boat. The journey time is four hours and costs rp400,000 one way. You can also take a direct boat to the offshore islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida.
There are frequent minibus (bemo) services in town but no direct services to Denpasar or other towns and resorts in south Bali. You will need to change vehicles in the regional towns of Amlapura or Klungkung. Perama also operates a vast network of tourist shuttle buses from Padang Bai to Kuta, Sanur, Ubud, Candidasa and north to Lovina.
There are some metered taxis based in town but you may have to use the services of the ever present taxi touts who congregate along the beachfront and by the port. As usual always agree a price in advance and bargain hard.
Just beyond the outskirts of town is the cross island highway which connects Padang Bai with the east coast of Bali and Sanur and Kuta in the southwest. Ubud is also easily accessible by car in just 40 minutes. This also provides the benefit of very little through traffic in the village and it is generally very quiet and unpolluted.