Local transport on Nias Island
Binaka airport is where most people arrive to Nias, unless you are arriving by boat. From the airport or ferry port most travellers usually continue their journey straight away. Nias is not very big but it takes a couple of hours to get to the most popular destinations on the Island. Road conditions vary, the main coastal road along the east side of the island is very good but the west and the interior can be pretty bad.
Here are some estimated driving times from the airport to popular destinations on Nias:
|Asu||West||2.5 hours+30 min boat|
|Teluk Dalam||South||2.5 hours|
|Telos (flight)||Far South||50 min flight|
|Telos (car-ferry)||Far South||2.5 hours + 5 hours boat|
Taxi on Nias
Many people who know where they are staying arrange pick up at the airport with their accommodation. If you arrive with surfboards this is a highly recommended option.
You can also take a taxi directly from the airport. Taxis on Nias are often unmarked minivans or SUV’s and drivers will wait for passengers at the airport and ferry terminal. Drivers may not always speak English but they know where tourists want to go. Hotels in Gunung Sitoli can also arrange taxis for you. The private taxis are usually very comfortable modern cars equipped with air-conditioning. The price may vary; experienced English speaking drivers who are also guides usually charge 10-15 % more. It is usually cheaper going out of the airport than returning.
Getting to Sorake (South Nias)
Most travellers arriving on Nias go straight to Sorake. In the baggage collection area you will be approached by drivers offering their services. The trip usually takes around 3 hours and cost IDR 500.000 – 600.000 per car. Cars going ‘home’ to Sorake are usually cheaper. There may be share cars available.
Getting to Gunungsitoli (the main town)
Get a taxi at the airport. The trip takes 30 minutes and is often shared with other passengers. Price IDR 40.000 to 50.000 per person for a share car. To get your own car costs IDR 100.000 one way.
Getting around in Gunungsitoli
If you are staying in town for a day or two you don’t need a car. There are plenty of Becak’s (rickshaw’s) around, both motorbike and bicycle versions. Locals pay between IDR 5,000 to 20,000 for a trip within town. Since Gunungsitoli is so stretched out a trip from A to B can be anything from 500 meters to 10 kilometers. Prices will vary accordingly. Be prepared to bargain. Becak’s are usually only used within town and near surroundings.
Getting to Afulu (North Nias)
For Afulu bound travellers arriving to the airport, just negotiate a fare with one of the drivers there. Most drivers are usually going south, but they also know the way to Afulu in the north. Currently the only way to get there is to drive north from Gunung Sitoli to Lahewa, the main town in the north of the Island. After Lahewa the road turns south and eventually reaches Afulu. The trip takes 2.5-3 hours and cost around IDR 500.000 – 600.000.
Sometimes surfers staying in Sorake comes to Afulu for a few days when the surf is good. The drive from Sorake Beach to Afulu via Gunung Sitoli and Lahewa takes between 5-6 hours. It is currently not possible to drive to directly to Afulu from Sorake along the west coast, as there is a gap in the west coast road in the middle of the Island.
It is possible to charter a speedboat from Asu Island to Afulu.
Getting to Asu Island (West Nias)
Any of the three accommodation providers on Asu can arrange pick-up at the airport and speedboat transfer to the island. If you want to arrange the trip by yourself rent a car at the airport and head west across the island to Sirombu. The trip takes 2.5 – 3 hours on a very winding and potholed road and usually cost around IDR 600.000. In Sirombu you catch a boat to Asu Island. There are two options; expensive but fast speedboat or very cheap but slow local ferry. A speedboat can be pre-booked from the resort you are staying at. Expect to pay at least IDR 1.000.000 for a one way transfer to Asu. The trip takes less than 30 minutes and is the safest, fastest and most comfortable way to travel to Asu. If no speedboats are available you can try to charter a small fishing boat. The trip takes two hours and costs IDR 400.000. The budget alternative is to catch the daily (except Sundays) local ferry servicing the Hinako Islands. The local ferry leaves at 1.30 but is often delayed. This ferry is used by locals and stop at every island on the way to Asu. The trip costs IDR 50.000 and usually take 4-5 hours.
From Sorake it is possible to travel overland to Asu, via the very rough west-coast road to Sirombu. This route takes around 3 hours depending on the road conditions. During the swell season it is sometimes possible to charter a speedboat from Sorake to Asu.
Getting to Telos Islands (far South)
Most visitors to Telo Islands stay at one of the up-market surf resorts and transfer to the resort is usually included in the package. Some resorts charter their own planes directly from the mainland, others use speedboats from Padang. Individual travellers have two options; fly from Gunungsitoli or take the fast ferry from Telukdalam.
Flight: Susi Air flies to Telos three days per week (mon-wed-fri) from Gunungsitoli. The flight takes just under an hour and costs around IDR 300.000. Tickets can only be bought locally on the airport or in town; it is not possible to pre-book online or at another Susi Air office. The airport in Telo is called Lasondre and is located on Pulau Tanahmasa. From here it is necessary to hire a local boat to whatever island you want to stay on. This can be arranged at the airport by Susi Air staff or by your hotel. Surfboards are not allowed on non-chartered flights and most budget surfers end up taking the boat.
When returning from Telos it is notoriously difficult to get a ticket without local help. For this reason many travellers fly to Telos but end up taking the speedboat back.
Flights to Telos are subsidized by the government. Each year the contract with Susi Air is re-negotiated often leading to interruptions in services lasting one to three months. This flight stoppage usually starts in December an lasts until February or March. During this time the only way to go to Telos is with ferry from Teluk Dalam.
Boat: get a car to Teluk Dalam (2.5 hours) and catch the fast ferry from the harbour. The ferry leaves at 11.00 AM every day except Sundays. Tickets are IDR 60.000 and are bought on the boat. Its first come, first served so it’s good to get onto the boat early. The boat harbour in Telos is located on Telo Island. If not staying on Telo Island it is necessary to hire a local boat to wherever you are going.
Patience is a virtue when making your way around Nias on public transport as it can be slow and difficult to access. There is no organised public transport in Nias, but many private mini buses called Angkots ply the roads between the larger villages and towns. Private Angkots generally don’t have fixed departure points or times. Typically they can be seen driving around the main market and downtown Gunung Sitoli, collecting passengers until full. If you want to travel the budget option you can try to catch a share car or mini bus from town. Be aware that you may share the bus with sacks of produce, a chicken or two, and there will be many stops along the way. Travelling by Angkot is a great way to meet local people, but it requires the right mindset and lots of patience.
There is no actual bus station, rather there are three unofficial meeting places for different areas of Nias in the center of Gunungsitoli.
Teluk Dalam (South Nias – Nias Selatan)
Terminal Lama. The old bus station now used as a morning vegetable market is located on Jalan Diponegoro, the main road through Gunungsitoli. Buses to Gomo also leave from here. IDR 80.000 per person. Sometimes the bus continues to Sorake for an additional 20.000.
Sirombu (West Nias – Nias Barat)
Pasar Yahowu. The area around a shopping complex in the center of town. It is located just north of the bridge and main fish market. Look for minibuses loaded with goods and passengers. IDR 50.000 per person.
Lahewa (North Nias – Nias Utara)
Jalan Sirao. Lahewa bound vehicles can be found in the beginning of Jalan Sirao, a shopping street in the center of town. Here there are usually a few minibuses waiting for goods and passengers heading for North Nias. IDR 50.000 per person.
Disclaimer; prices are based on a 2016 survey. They may change unexpectedly and with short notice due to higher running cost such as increase in fuel prices.