Getting to Nias by boat
For a long time the only way to get to Nias Island was by boat. These days the great majority of visitors arrive by air, and there is a reason for that; Indonesian ferries can be very crowded and uncomfortable! If the boat is not too full and you manage to get a cabin you may have an enjoyable crossing. If the sea is rough and the boat is crowded this trip can be a very memorable experience, but not in a good way.
Who travels by ferry? Many locals have family around Sibolga, and traders bringing lots of goods back and forth to the mainland also favour the ferry. If you are bringing a car or a motorbike to Nias, the ferry is the way to go. Adventurous budget backpackers travelling to or from Nias via Lake Toba or Aceh might also consider the ferry.
Speedboats have been running on and off over the years but this option is currently not available. It is not known when or if this service will be running again. If it does, it offers a very good alternative to the slow ferry. In good weather the trip takes only 3 hours and the seats are comfortable.
The main ferry terminal on Nias is in Gunung Sitoli, the largest city on the island. From here there are ferries to and from Sibolga in North Sumatra province and Singkil in Aceh province. Both of these ferries travel overnight and tickets are bought at the dock the same day of departure. The ferry departs around 8 pm, but is often delayed. Be at the docks several hours before departure to make sure getting a ticket. Going from Nias to the mainland is often very crowded, while travelling in the other direction less so. Try to get a cabin ticket or a reserved chair otherwise you may end up sitting on the floor all night which is usually very crowded. The boat option is only recommended for experienced and hardy travellers.
Note: there is a ferry service between Sibolga and Teluk Dalam in south Nias. It is supposedly running twice a week but is very unreliable and is often cancelled for long periods. Check at the ticket office for the latest information about this ferry.
|Sibolga – Gunung Sitoli||Ferry||Daily (except Sunday)||10 hours|
|Sinkil – Gunung Sitoli||Ferry||Twice weekly (Wed & Sun)||7 hours|
Prices from Sibolga range from IDR 80,000 (seat) to 200,000 (cabin). Motorbikes IDR 120,000.
Prices from Singkil range from IDR 48,000 (seat) to IDR 70,000 (VIP seat).
Disclaimer; this schedule can change unexpectedly and with short notice- services may be cancelled due to bad weather or mechanical problems.