Are you planning a trip to Raja Ampat – perhaps to see the natural beauty of West Papua or to do a liveaboard diving trip? Well, there are ways to get here that are a heck of a lot easier than others.
Here’s how to get to Raja Ampat from Jakarta or Bali – and how NOT to get there.
I’ve done the trip – read about it here – but what I didn’t tell you was how much of a pain in the butt it was to get to Raja Ampat – Sorong, Indonesia – from Jakarta.
And it was all my own fault. Complete lack of research. If you want to know how to get to Sorong from Jakarta or Bali, it’s quite simple – don’t do what I did!
It’s beautiful once you get there. Just do it right!
Note: If you’re not doing a liveaboard
With the exception of a short visit to Sorong, my trip to Raja Ampat was completely boat-based. But you should consider Raja Ampat, even if you don’t want to do a liveaboard.
Here is a fairly extensive Travel Guide to Raja Ampat that’s sure to help you!
OK, here we go:
How to get to Raja Ampat the WRONG way
Now, I like to save money. But I’m here to tell you, what I ended up doing was so stressful that I highly recommend avoiding it – especially if you have expensive diving equipment, like I do.
To save a paltry $150, I decided to fly to Sorong airport in West Papua on a budget airline. The route was Jakarta to Surabaya to Manado to Sorong.
It turned out that this is how you get to Raja Ampat in just about the most annoying way possible.
Plane changes on the way to Raja Ampat
Here’s the problem with that – they don’t tell you when you book the flight that when you get to Surabaya, you have to change planes.
Heck, they don’t even tell you Surabaya is on the itinerary.
You have ONE boarding pass from Jakarta to Manado and ONE from Manado to Sorong airport. There’s no reason for you to ever believe you are going to Surabaya – let alone that you have to get off the plane.
Not only that, but the second plane takes off 15 minutes after you get there. Now, unless you speak a little Indonesian, which I do, how the heck are you supposed to even know this?
It says nothing about the plane change on your ticket.
You’re just supposed to magically know!
This was all made ten times more stressful because I travel with my own dive equipment which is quite expensive. With only 15 minutes to get off a flight, run to a new gate, and get on a flight to Manado, I was honestly scared to death.
I thought I was going to lose several thousand dollars worth of gear.
I was lucky. It took all day, but fortunately, I arrived in Sorong. My equipment did as well, but it was not a fun journey – not in the least. I think my nerve endings suffered a lot of damage that day.
Oh, and that stupid $150 I was so intent on saving?
Take one guess what the fee was to ship my dive equipment.
You guessed it. It was 75 dollars each way.
I. Saved. Nothing.
How to get to Raja Ampat the RIGHT way
My friend, Rafael, who was traveling separately from me, decided that the simplest to get to Raja Ampat was to fly directly from Jakarta to Sorong.
His Jakarta Sorong flight was a few hours and about $150 more expensive. Luggage cost: $0.
His mental health: completely intact. The lesson:
There is a time to cheap out and a time not cheap out! DO NOT fly the cheap route from either Jakarta to Sorong or Bali to Sorong. It’s not worth the headache – especially if you’re traveling with expensive checked luggage!
Direct flights to Sorong will likely be overnight (usually at 1:20 AM), but it will be worth it! Bali to Sorong flights are the same.
And there’s less of a chance you’ll arrive sick and/or exhausted, neither of which you want, especially if you’re getting on a boat! More here.
Flying to Sorong? Lounge it while you wait!
Whether you’re flying to Sorong from Jakarta or from Bali, you can travel the right way by relaxing in one of the Priority Pass lounges at each airport.
Each of these lounges is 100% free if you have a Priority Pass.
If you travel regularly, it gives you free access to over 1,000 lounges around the world. In most cases, you can bring a guest in for free!
Beats sitting in hot airports and paying for food and drinks!
- In Jakarta, the Premier Lounge Jakarta is open from 4 AM to 1 AM daily. Perfect while waiting for your flight. Read our review at the link
- In Denpasar, Bali, the Premier Lounge is open 24 hours a day and it’s very nice. Read our review of the Premier Lounge Bali.
International Flights to Sorong
Unfortunately, there are no international flights directly to Sorong from Jakarta.
If you want to go to Raja Ampat, you have to fly via domestic flights:
Jakarta to Sorong (CGK-SOQ): Garuda, Xpress, Sriwijaya (Nam Air), Batik Air
Makassar to Sorong (UPG-SOQ): Garuda, Xpress, Sriwijaya, Batik Air
Manado to Sorong (MDC-SOQ): Garuda, Nam Air, Lion (Wings Air)
Where to stay in Sorong
I don’t have a lot to offer here. We stayed at the Swiss Belhotel, which was a nice enough place. But there are other options in the city.
You can check here by typing “Sorong” in the search box:
When I got to the Swiss Belhotel in Sorong, Rafael was happily relaxing in our hotel room, not a care in the world.
Me? I think I lost most of my hair!
By the way, it was a luxury hotel. And this was our “amazing” view!
Luckily for both of us, there was a ton of delicious Indonesian food in the area and we got our fill!
Indonesian food makes all the pain go away! 🙂
View aside, the Swiss Belhotel is one of the nicest hotels in the area, with comfortable suites and good food – and about $50 a night – totally OK if you’re only spending the night before you get on your liveaboard!
Remember: It’s not about cost. Raja Ampat is already expensive to get to.
How to get to Raja Ampat from Bali or Jakarta without incurring tons of stress is the point.
In the end, my flight didn’t cost any more or less than Rafael’s, but his life was so much easier than mine.
Pin this for later
For More on Indonesia: When we travel, we use Lonely Planet. By buying a book at one of the Amazon.com links below, we get a small referral fee at no additional cost to you.
Want more like this? Subscribe to our newsletter below (mobile) or in the sidebar (desktop) to get our posts delivered to your mailbox! And like our Facebook page and Instagram feed. We’re also on YouTube. Watch our Travel vlogs right here.
Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.