Batam is a stone’s throw away from Singapore at just over 20 kilometers and easily accessible by regular ferry services. Batam is the largest city in the province of the Riau Islands. The Barelang area covers the three main islands of Batam, Rempang and Galang. Batam is urban and industrial and is part of a booming free-trade zone. It’s making headway into accommodating tourists who enjoy lavish hotels, activities, water sports, and languid spa treatments. Two short bridges connect Rempang and Galang Islands that still retain their local rural charm. Collectively, the islands are home to 1,196,396 people, making it the third-largest city in the region. Visitors can reach Batam, and the outlying islands from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminals run by various operators.
The first recorded inhabitants of Batam Island in AD 231 were the Orang Laut which translates into 'sea peoples.' They lived and patrolled the Singapore Straits and the adjacent areas deterring pirates and maintaining ports which earned them prestigious titles and extravagant gifts from the ruler. They would make their living from fishing and collecting products from the sea. In the 1970s, the aim was to make Batam the Indonesian version of Singapore, and in 1983, the Riau Islands were upgraded to municipality status, meaning it had duties in running the government administration and supporting the development of the area.
Batam is part of Indonesia’s rich archipelago that boasts more than 130,000 islands and 50,000 kilometers of coastline, ancient mangroves, and tropical jungle. It’s all home to some of the rarest creatures on earth, including endangered sea turtles, silver leaf monkeys, pretty sunbirds, eagles, and kites. Flora and fauna are very diverse, with the humpback red snapper and piper betel being the symbols of the islands. Dugongs live in the waters around the islands while the small primates Tarsius live on land. Various flora on the island includes the Oncosperma Tigillarium, dragon fruit, areca nut, and the rare udumbara plants. The coral reefs of the Riau Islands are all protected conservation sites and flourish with soft and hard corals and colorful fishes.
Batam’s weather is similar to Singapore's - sunny and warm all year round, with the chance of thunderstorms and rain between November and January each year. As with the rest of the region, Batam and the Riau Islands have a tropical rainforest climate dictated by the surrounding sea and prevailing winds. It has a high average temperature and high average rainfall. The South China Sea can be pretty choppy during the monsoon season, so SCUBA diving or snorkeling can be restricted due to the swell and decreased visibility. Occasionally box jellyfish like to make an appearance; heed the advice offered from your water sports team at the hotel if you should avoid the sea for any reason.
Batam has an interesting juxtaposition between urban and relaxed vibes; it’s ideal for a hop, skip, and jump trip from Singapore. Take advantage of your beautiful resort and make the most of an internationally inspired culinary journey. Many of the island's hotels and resorts have kid's clubs to keep your children occupied while you enjoy much-needed R&R. Many visitors flock to Singapore’s outlying islands for weekends which encourages higher accommodation rates. If you are looking for something more cost-effective, mid-week breaks are better on the bank balance.
Ferries connect you from Singapore's Tanah Merah port to Central Batam in about 40 minutes. Batam usually has regular ferries, but operators have reduced their services significantly during the pandemic. It's wise to check the schedule and make bookings well ahead of your planned trip. Currently, ferries run from Tanah Merah Tanjung Pinang and take you directly to the island. Ferry costs are in the region of SG$86 for a return economy experience; depending on your operator, you can upgrade to business or VIP classes that afford you comfortable seating, complimentary refreshments, baggage handling, and fast-track immigration services.
Please ensure that you check the various schedules, make advance reservations, and take the necessary COVID-19 precautions. Visit individual websites, contact their help desks, or email them directly for detailed information.
Batam Fast Ferry, http://batamfast.com
Horizon Fast Ferry, https://horizonfastferry.com.sg
Indo Falcon, http://indofalcon.com.sg
Sindo Ferry, http:// sindoferry.com.sg
Majestic Fast Ferry, http:// majesticfastferry.com.sg
Batam is a popular babymoon destination. You’ll need a doctor's note to allow you to travel. Be aware that most doctors will recommend against traveling if you are over eight months pregnant due to the limited facilities on the island.
Many Singaporeans head to Batam to get away from the hustle and bustle of their busy lives in Singapore. Batam is used to visiting tourists, so there is always a slew of transportation available at the ferry terminal to whisk you to your hotel in as little as a few minutes. Not only can your hotel arrange for transportation, but their concierge team can arrange a private driver and guide to give you and your family a comprehensive tour of this fascinating South China Sea Island. Rates start at around SG$10 per hour.
Batam has an increasingly impressive range of family-friendly hotels to offer Singaporean travelers. Accommodation offerings range from urban city center hotels to relaxed hotels in Harbour Bay, on the beach, or you might enjoy an over-water experience. Little Steps Asia has curated a gorgeous collection of hotels and resorts for you and your family to enjoy. There is truly something for every taste and budget, and the keen concierge teams within each of the hotels have infinite ideas to make your stay memorable.
Batam Marriott Hotel Harbour Bay, https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/bthmc-batam-marriott-hotel-harbour-bay/overview/
Four Points by Sheraton Batam, https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/bthfp-four-points-by-sheraton-batam/overview/
Aston Batam Hotel & Residences, https://www.astonhotelsinternational.com/en/hotel/view/52/aston-batam-hotel---residence
Montigo Resorts Nongsa, https://www.montigoresorts.com/
Turi Beach, https://turibeach.com/
Harmoni One Convention Hotel and Service Apartments, https://www.harmonigroup.biz/harmoni-one/
Swiss-Belhotel Harbour Bay, https://www.swiss-belhotel.com/en-gb/swiss-belhotel-harbour-bay/
Best Western Premier, http://www.bwpremierpanbil.com/
Woda Villa & Spa, https://wodavilla.com/
HARRIS Resort Barelang Batam, https://www.discoverasr.com/en/harris/indonesia/harris-resort-barelang-batam
Batam has an impressive array of dining options for such a tiny island. There is everything imaginable from delicious street food and food courts, local specialties, fast food, vegetarian and vegan cafés, plentiful seafood restaurants, and fine dining offerings. Most restaurants, particularly those offering international cuisine, are in the central part of town, Nagoya. Batam is surrounded by tropical waters, and seafood is the go-to offering. Gong gong is a local specialty of cooked sea snails served with various sauces, including a sweet, dark chili sauce. Send your tastebuds wild with Ikan asam pedas, a popular Peranakan fish dish that’s cooked whole with bay leaves, garlic, turmeric, galangal, tamarind, and chili and served with fluffy white rice. If you feel brave, try Tapai, a traditional fermented rice preparation accompanied by sweet coconut or dried fruits served in banana leaves. One of the most popular local dishes that can be found at any street stall is mie tarempa noodles, typical tasty Indonesian noodles cooked with fresh tuna.
Goji Kitchen & Bar, https://marriottbonvoyasia.com/restaurants-bars/batam-marriott-hotel-harbour-bay-goji-kitchen
Piccola Stella, https://piccolastella-batam.com/
Teras Café, https:// instagram.com/terascafesteakhouse/?hl=en
Seienam Seafood Batam, https://omli.club/seienamseafood
Amare Ristorante Italiano, https://facebook.com/AMARE-Ristorante-Italiano-160371894632745/
Harbour Bay Seafood Restaurant, https:// instagram.com/harbourbayseafoodrestaurant/
Lee’s Café, https:// facebook.com/leescafebar
Altitude Rooftop Bar & Lounge, Batam Marriott Hotel Harbour Bay, https:// marriott.com/en-us/hotels/bthmc-batam-marriott-hotel-harbour-bay/dining/
Tiigo Restaurant, Montigo Resort, https:// montigoresorts.com/seminyak/eats/tiigo-restaurant/
Eden Restaurant, https:// instagram.com/p/CZK9FlkI3FQ/
Singaporean residents enjoy the rustic appeal of Batam Island. There are many places to visit, and none so iconic as Barelang Bridge. Interestingly, the Barelang Bridge is a chain of six bridges that stretch 2 kilometers, and from the start of the first bridge to the end of the sixth bridge, you'll travel for almost an hour and 50 kilometers through the Batam, Rempang, and Galang Islands. Take a walk at sunset and watch the sun dip over the South China Sea to the west.
Batam has become a hotspot for golfers from all around the world. The golf courses in Batam stand out as some of the finest in Indonesia, with its lush green terrain bordered by oceans and clear skies, which add to the experience of this game. The Batam Hills Golf Resort is considered one of the most challenging courses in the region, although the 9-hole Jack Nicklaus-designed Tamarin Santana course is deemed equally as challenging with its various water hazards and bunkers. Most clubs have lessons for children, and there are various fun tournaments that they can participate in throughout the year.
History and culture lovers should pop into Tua Pek Kong Temple, otherwise known as Vihara Budhi Bhakti which is publicized as the oldest Buddhist temple in Batam. The colorful temple is influenced by the Chinese, and inside, you’ll find plentiful red lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The temple is used daily for prayer as well as Buddhist religious festivals. Beside the temple are several statues of Gods such as Maitreya Buddha and Goddess Kuan Im. Much of Batam is very modern, but you can explore the old villages if you enjoy the historic vibe. One of the best places to see the traditional stilted fishing architecture is in the sleepy fishing village of Tanjung Uma.
Batam has a thriving shopping scene. The Nagoya Hill Shopping Mall is by far the largest on the island, with a whole host of internationally branded clothes and accessories. There are also plenty of shops with traditional gifts and souvenirs like intricate wood carvings and pretty textiles. Other malls include Mega Mall Batam Center and BCS Mall.
If you want to experience the more rustic side of Batam, then book a guided tour so that you can explore the island, try your hand at river rafting and tubing or even learn how to SCUBA dive or snorkel in the warm waters of the South China Sea. The young-at-heart and families can enjoy energetic activities like banana boat rides, beach volleyball, kneeboarding, sailing, and jet skiing. There are all sorts of water sports available; check with your hotel to see which water sports centers are operating.