Maluku Travel Information - FAQ

Maluku: Frequently Asked Questions

Isn't Maluku mostly just a beach or diving/snorkelling destination?

While Maluku does have some of the most beautiful beaches and richest coral reefs in Indonesia, and these indeed are its main attractions to many visitors, there's a lot more to the region. It has pristine rainforests home to unique wildlife, a very rich and diverse mix of ethnic cultures, and a fascinating history. There is definitely a lot to do, see and experience away from the sea!

Where are the best diving/snorkelling spots?

Diving possiblities are limited by the number of diveshops operating in Maluku. Currently you can find fairly well-established ones in Ambon, Saparua and Banda in Central Maluku, and nascent ones operated by the local tourism authorities in Tobelo and Lelei in North Maluku.
The potential for snorkelling is almost unlimited, as long as you bring your own gear.

Is a permit required to visit Maluku?

No, and it has not been required for many years, regardless of what you might have read elsewhere.

Is it really safe now?

Well, it is definitely as safe as most of Southeast Asia, or even more.
The nasty conflict of 1999-2002 is now truly seen as history locally, even if some governments' travel warnings are reluctant to reflect this fact.

Is the North or the South better to visit with limited time?

Depends on what you are after, and when you want to go.
During the rainy season of Central Maluku (May-September), the North is probably the better province to head for.
Central Maluku has the most developed visitors facilities though, including more reliable diving operators and more beachside accommodation. North Maluku has more historic interest, more interesting nature, and is more "off the beaten track".

Can I get by without speaking Indonesian?

You certainly can if you stick to places regularly visited by tourists - basically those ones described in detail in your guidebook. It is still good to bring a phrasebook even so, just in case. To get well off the beaten track, and to go to places where staying in villages is your only option, knowing at least some Indonesian would really be very useful though. And no matter where you go, speaking the language is sure to enrich your trip!

Can I get around without flying?

Certainly, in fact most islands are only accessible by sea. But to cover longer distances, you may need to wait quite a long time for the next boat to come your way, and if you want to avoid flying altogether, you will have to study Pelni schedules carefully. You should definitely plan a less ambitious itinerary if you want to go everywhere by sea.

Will I meet other travellers there?

The only islands where you are really likely to meet other travellers are Ambon, Banda, Saparua, Ternate and maybe Kei Kecil. Even there, you should not expect a lively travellers' scene akin to those in Bali or parts of Sulawesi. Friendly locals are always on hand to keep you company, but if this is not enough for you, consider places like Bunaken, the Togean Islands or the Gilis instead!

How much should I budget for Maluku?

Maluku is generally more expensive than West or Central Indonesia, though not as pricey as Papua.
Accommodation and food can both be about 50% more expensive than further west, though bargains can be found here and there, such as in Bandaneira. Transport is another important factor to consider. If you plan to travel right across Maluku from Ternate through Ambon to the Keis, taking flights every now and then, you will spend much more than those who choose to explore a smaller part of Maluku in depth, using only boats between nearby islands.
A safe minimum for a solo traveller would be US $20-30/day without flying.

Should I take malaria pills?

All of East Indonesia is an area where malaria occurs, and it is much better to take a weekly pill than to risk potentially ruining your holiday by catching the disease in a remote location. Of course if you only visit a few small islands for a short time, you could decide to trust your luck and take nothing, but it would be taking a risk.