Flores is one of those places you just have to see. It’s still relatively unknown – most people I tell have never heard of it. So it doesn’t come at a surprise that there isn’t all that much about it on the internet. During our trip to Flores, we learnt a few things along the way that would make your trip to Flores easier. Today, I’m sharing some travel tips for visiting this beautiful place in Indonesia.
1. SCHEDULE TIME BETWEEN YOUR FLIGHTS / ACTIVITIES
To get your Labuan Bajo, Flores, you will most likely need to transit in Bali Denpasar or Jakarta. If you’re able to book the entire route with the one airline, then no worries. We tried to do this initially (with Garuda) but unfortunately our flight was cancelled ahead of time.
If you are booking with multiple airlines, then make sure you put plenty of time in between your flights & also take into account delays because from what I’ve heard (and experienced), flights going in and out of Labuan Bajo can often be delayed, with morning flights being more likely to be on time and afternoon flights being more likely to be delayed. We actually had a morning flight booked and it got pushed back to afternoon, then late afternoon and it finally eventually took off at 7:30pm!
2. FLY IN THE DAY BEFORE YOUR ISLAND TOURS
Most companies require you to arrive in Labuan Bajo at least the night before the tour starts, and the tours often start early in the morning. For example, our one with Flores XP started 7am in the morning. Make sure you book a flight that takes this into account – if you need somewhere to stay the night before you head off on a tour, then somewhere like Le Pirate Hotel in Labuan Bajo is great as it’s right next to the pier – where most of the tours depart.
3. PACKING ESSENTIALS
I recommend packing hand sanitiser (we forgot!), lots of sunscreen, your own toiletries (including shampoo, conditioner, body wash and soaps) as we found some hotels do not supply them and you also will likely need to bring your own if you’re going on a live-aboard boat tour. Also, don’t forget the mosquito repellent!
4. PREPARE YOUR CASH
There was no ATM at Labuan Bajo airport (from memory, or at least that I could see), so do remember to pack some cash before hand so you can pay the taxi driver to take you to your hotel. In terms of getting cash in town, there were quite a few ATMs on the main street next to the pier, however the fee to withdraw is normally 50-100k IDR ($5-10AUD) per transaction, and you can only withdraw 1.25million IDR ($125AUD) at a time. Which actually ends up being approximately the same cost as exchanging cash in Australia first. And given the amount of ATMs that didn’t work for us / ran out of cash, I would definitely recommend exchanging some cash before you arrive in the country.
Also, we did notice that some ATMs without any notice of transaction fees, were actually fee free. haha – we had instead avoided these because we weren’t sure how much they charged til later!
5. TREAT LABUAN BAJO AS A STARTING POINT
Aside from some beautiful resorts which are about 20-30 minutes out of town, there’s not all that much to do in Labuan Bajo at all, in terms of attractions. The main town area is at the harbour/pier, however it’s only worth visiting so that you can stay in the area the night before you start your boat tour. The only attraction ‘downtown’ was the local fish market which sells fresh fish served with rice and veggies at a cheap price. However, I would say the hygiene here is extremely poor (if not the dirtiest place I’ve seen) by western standards, so definitely bring hand sanitiser! Though we did eat there and live to tell the tale!
Where the magic happens is around Labuan Bajo. Use Labuan Bajo as a starting point for your Komodo island hopping boat tours, Le Pirate’s private island and to fly in and out of to visit other areas of Flores like Kelimutu Crater Lakes. Time spent in Labuan Bajo itself is best spent relaxing at one of the numerous hillside or beachside resorts like the one we stayed at, Plataran Komodo (most are about 15-30 min out of town).
6. CHARTER A BOAT FOR YOUR OWN PRIVATE TOUR
If you are travelling in a group or looking to do a group trip, Flores is the perfect place to do it. If you have a big party of people, you can actually charter your own boat to explore Komodo Islands and craft your own itinerary. This I think, would be the perfect way to travel the islands as you’ll be able to pick and choose where to go (and there are so many places to see). Alternatively, you can book out an entire tour for you and your friends/family and follow one of the pre-made itineraries by one of the many tour companies!
But if you can’t go on a group, you can always book one of the many tours available prior to arriving like Flores XP!
7. PACK LIGHT FOR A LIVE-ABOARD EXPERIENCE
Because I didn’t know the cabins can be quite small in size. So learn from us! Definitely pack light.
8. ABOUT THE TAXIS
Most of the taxi fees were set by negotiating. I didn’t see any taxi meters in cars here. Find out how much a trip should reasonably cost and use this to negotiate your fee. For us, airport to town was about 50K IDR ($5AUD) in a car, and about 20K IDR ($2AUD) in a motorbike. Make sure to have cash handy, there are definitely no EFTPOS machines in all the taxis we caught!
9. CHECK THE SEASONS
Be sure to check when rainy season and dry season is for Flores. Here, rainy season lasts all the way til April, with the best time to visit between June to August. With most of the activities in the area being outdoor, it’s worth paying extra to visit when the weather is better.
Prior to booking our trip, I had read that island hopping tours were often cancelled during the rainy season because the seas would often be too rough to travel. We visited Flores in the last week of March (took a chance!) and got extremely lucky with the weather. The days before we had arrived, the locals told us that it was pouring every day. We were so lucky to get 3 days of sunshine during our island tour, however on the afternoon we came back, it completely bucketed down. We were so lucky.
10. GO BEFORE YOU CAN’T
It’s funny, I’ve always wanted to go to Flores/Komodo islands, however I didn’t realise until after we went, that there has been a bit of talk about tourism in the area on the news of late. I read two articles over the last few months that had suggested some interesting things 1) That the local minister wanted to raise Komodo National Park entrance fees to $500 per person to make it less accessible to visit and 2) That Komodo Island might be closing next year for one year due to a recent incident where multiple komodo dragons were stolen.
None of these things have been confirmed however if you want to go, it’s definitely a good idea to visit soon in case things change (and also before it gets too popular!)
If you’re interested in visiting Flores, check out all my Flores & Komodo travel guides and tips here!