Welcome to study abroad in Lombok, Indonesia!
Lombok is a small Indonesian island located next to its more well known neighbour, Bali. Pristine white sand beaches, jungles, volcanoes, culture, and mouthwatering local food – Lombok has it all! Lombok has lately gotten increasingly popular among both domestic and international tourists but the mystical Sasak culture still remains, and the island is an exciting destination for a student looking for great experiences and getting to know a market with a rapidly growing tourism industry.
Besides the best university on the island, Mataram University, what makes Lombok very attractive to an exchange student, are the adventures that the islands has to offer. Hiking up a volcano, surfing some of the world’s best, relatively uncrowded waves, and diving with sharks, dolphins, and giant sea turtles are just some of the activities students can take part to during the weekends.
Studying in Lombok is close to as it gets to studying on a paradise island, at a renown university with teachers that have good level of English as it gets. If you are looking for an exotic study abroad destination somewhere that many haven’t been yet, look no further!
- Lombok as a study abroad destination
- Facts and history
- Bali today
- Geography and Areas
- The best of Lombok
- Climate, nature and wild life
Lombok as a study abroad destination
Lombok has been a hard-to-access destination until September 2016 when University of Mataram and Asia Exchange started the new LISP-program. Studying abroad in Lombok is one of the best ways to get to experience the life and the special culture of this tropical island.
As tourism in Lombok hasn’t developed to the levels of Bali quite yet, there are some great and affordable accommodation options available – most students decide to live in villas in one of the beach towns within a scooter ride from Mataram.
The largest and most distinguished university on the island is the Mataram University with a grand total of close to 30,000 students. Asia Exchange and Mataram University started their cooperation in 2016 and LISP-program is set to grow and increase internationalization of Lombok and Mataram University.
Asia Exchange students take part in the LISP program (Lombok International Study Program), an international and interdisciplinary study program taught in English. The program is ideal for anyone interested in combining academics with unforgettable experiences in an exotic environment. The program includes courses in business, economics, culture and languages. The courses include workshops and excursions.
Full name: The Republic of Indonesia
Government: Constitutional Republic
Population: 3,3 million in Lombok; 235 million in Indonesia
Capital: Jakarta (Mataram in Bali)
Area: 4 725 km² (Bali)
Major languages: Sasak, Indonesian, English
Major religions: Predominantly Muslim, with a 10-15% population of Balinese Hindus. A minor population of indigenous Sasak people who have their own Sasak religion.
Life expectancy: 75 years (women), 69 years (men)
Currency: Indonesian rupiah (IDR)
Main exports: Oil and gas, electrical appliances, plywood, textiles, rubber
GNI per capita: US $8,420 (World Bank, 2011)
Time Zone: GMT/UCT + 8
Very little is known about the Lombok before the seventeenth century. Sasak’s have been ruling the island for a very long time, but not much of the history has been documented. Balinese took control of western Lombok in the early seventeenth century. The Dutch first visited Lombok in 1674 and it was then that they concluded their first treaty with the Sasak Princess of Lombok. The Balinese had managed to take over the whole island by 1750, but the Balinese tribes fighting agains each-other caused the island to be split into four separate kingdoms. The Sasak and Balinese lived harmoniously in the West of Lombok but in the East the Balinese were more in control and maintained control from garrisoned forts.
Later on the island was invaded first by the Dutch and then by Japanese – just to be ruled for a short time by the Dutch again. In 1958 as an aftermath of Indonesia becoming independent, Lombok became autonomous a part of Nusa Tenggara province and Indonesia. Following years there were still military coups and protests but since the 80s the tourism industry has been growing, and the island’s has started building.
Geography and Areas
From North to South
The North coast of the Lombok island has black-sand beaches, and steep green hills that lead up to the majestic volcano of Mount Rinjani that stands 3,726 meters tall. Climbing up the roads leading up to the mountain area you are surrounded by lush tropical rain forest. The west coast is fairly populated, and the capital city of the island, Mataram, is situated pretty much in the middle of the western coast. Senggigi is a very beautiful – yet a little sleepy – tourist destination known for its beautiful nature and amazing beaches, and just off the North West coast, lie the three Gili Islands known for most Western backpackers for the laid-back island vibes, picture-prefect beaches, and world class diving. East coast of Lombok is still quite undeveloped compared to the more touristy areas of West and South, and not many tourists ever find their way to the east-coast. In the East there are many farming and fishing towns, and one can easily spend the whole day exploring the coastal area without bumping into many other fellow tourists. South of the island has the tourism area of Kuta, and is famed for its amazing white sand beaches, great views, and awesome waves for surfing.
The provincial capital, and the largest city on Lombok, Mataram, has a population of 420,000 people, and is a nice combination of older buildings, green recreation areas, brand new shopping centers, hospitals, and hotels. One of the most famous main sights of the city is Mayura Garden, a water palace built in 1744 which also was a location of some battles between Dutch and Balinese in 1894.The Mataram University campus is very centrally located, and easily accessible, thanks to the great town planning of Mataram. If you really like the city, it is possible to rent affordable apartments in Mataram, yet our recommendation would be to find a home-base somewhere closer to the nice beaches, and all the additional facilities and services the tourism industry has created.
The most popular travel destination on the North-East coast of Lombok is called Senggigi. The tourist area of Senggigi is only a 30 minute scooter ride away from Mataram campus, and for the students, choosing to stay in Senggigi may be the most convenient option. There are many monthly rental options available, varying from apartments to nice villas – and everything is within a walking distance from the beach. Beaches of Senggigi are beautiful, and there are various dining options for all budgets. Surfing beaches around Senggigi are beginner-friendly, except sometimes when the waves get so big that only advanced surfers should be in water. There are beautiful forest hikes not far from the town, and for the most daring ones, the three-night hike to the top of Mount Rinjani will be an unforgettable experience! The town itself is actually a combination of small towns, as there are many little bays with headlands in between each other. There is one main road, that follows the coast, and connects all the little beachfront villages.
The Gili Islands
Just another 30 minutes North of Senggigi, and a short boat ride away, lay the world-famous Gili Islands: Trawangan, Meno, and Air. The Gilis have been long time favorites among backpackers, and recently have started attracting the mass-tourism as well. To get to the Gilis from Lombok, you can take a more expensive fast boat, or opt for the local boat that takes 15 minutes, and cost less than 1 Euro one-way. Gili islands have world-class diving, great dining options, and especially on the busiest island, Gili Trawangan, also plenty of choices for nightlife and partying. Another great thing about “The Gilis” is that there is really no motorized traffic so the overall experience is a true island getaway with all the amenities you can ever wish for.
A hotspot among surfers and other beach lovers, Kuta has been growing steadily since the early 90s, and there are holiday accommodation options varying from local homestays (starting around $10 US per night) to luxury hotels ($200 US+++ per night). Monthly rates are available as well, although not listed. Lombok international airport of Praya is only 20 minutes away, so Kuta is very easily accessible via air travel and a short taxi ride. Kuta has a cool surfy beach town vibe to it, and there are many different options for eating out or grabbing a nice coffee or a cold drink. For surfers, the South coast around Kuta is a real paradise with surfbreaks such as Gerupuk, Seger, Are Guling, and Mawi, and many more. There are waves suitable for any skill levels from beginner friendly waves to shallow, expert-level reef breaks. Nestled in one of the many bays of South coast of Lombok, Kuta is a great choice for those willing to enjoy simple life close to beautiful beaches.
The Best of Lombok
Lombok has been a frequently visited spot for adventurous traveling surfers since 1980’s and for a reason; the whole South-Coast of the island is dotted with surf break of all sorts. Surf-season continues all through the year with wind being lighter during the wet season, and the water temperature stays around 25-30 degrees Celsius through all year.. The most famous wave on the island, Banko-Banko, also known as Desert Point is often considered to be one of the best waves in the whole world! In Southern Lombok, bay after another, there are waves of different shapes and sizes, peeling often empty, just waiting for a surfer to paddle out. Best known breaks are surfed by both friendly locals and traveling surfers, but with a bit of extra effort you can find some of the several secret breaks of the island. On bigger swells there is good surfing around Senggigi and Gili Islands too.
Eating out and nightlife
While not as busy as Bali, Lombok still has interesting dining options of all levels. Mataram, Senggigi, and Kuta all have nice little cafes and affordable restaurants to choose from. Hotspots for going out for a nicer dinner or a couple drinks are definitely Kuta in South Lombok, Senggigi and Gili Islands.
Gili Trawangan is famed as a backpacker’s party destination so there are a few places to party every night of the week. Senggigi is a little bit sleepier for nightlife, whereas Kuta in South with all the travelers and surfer crowd has a few options for going out.
For finer dining, all touristy areas have high-end resorts with nice restaurants, and it is possible to book a table and visit the resorts just for a dinner.
The road network of Lombok is surprisingly good and efficient. All the main roads are paved with nice asphalt, and the traffic levels are low when compared to the neighbouring island of Bali. One can ride a scooter from the Southern coast of the island, all the way to the North coast in just a few hours, so every part of the island can be reached within a matter of a few hours, when using a motorbike. The recently opened Praya international airport has made flying to and from a lot more convenient as well, and to fly to the busier island of Bali only takes 30 minutes, and can cost as little as 15 euros one way.
Cars and motorbikes
You can rent a scooter or a motorbike from the more touristy parts of Lombok for a day or by month. One day’s rental costs about five Euros and you can fill up a tank for one or two Euros. A monthly scooter rental is a great option for the students, as the prices can start from as low as 30 Euros per month. Make sure that the motorbike you rent is in good condition, and that they also give you a safe helmet to wear.
It is possible to rent a car as well, although most students prefer scooters as they are cheaper and easier to ride. If you would like to explore the island with a car, it is a good idea to rent a car with a local driver with knowledge of the area and the roads, and just enjoy the ride without having to worry about driving and navigating yourself.
Taxis and local mini-buses
As you arrive to the aiport, or after a longer evening at a local restaurant, taxis, and local mini buses are a great way to get safely back home. Airport taxi from Praya to Senggigi will cost you about 250,000 IDR (15-20Euros). Another fun way of local transport are the horse carts, which provide a very steady ride at a low-cost – although they may be a little slower than the motorized vehicles.
Taking a boat from Bali to Lombok is a quick and convenient way to travel. There are slow boats that go from Lembar to Padangbai, and can take up to 6 hours one way – costing less than 5 euros. If you don’t need to take your motorbike with, definitely opt for one of the fast-boat companies operating between Senggigi, Gili Islands, and Bali. The speedboat from Lombok to Bali takes less than 2 hours, and a return trip costs start from 500,000 IDR (30 Euros.)
Climate and nature
With its tropical climate and two distinct seasons, dry season and wet season, the nature in Lombok is tropically lush, and for most parts of the island, the landscape is amazingly green. Palm trees, rainforests, rice fields and volcanoes are the backdrops for the crystal clear bays with white-sand beaches. The dry season lasts approximately from April to October, and the more humid and warmer wet season goes from November through March. During the wet season, most days are still sunny, yet there is a daily rain fall of a couple of hours, typically during the night.
The weather stays tropically warm (+-30 degrees Celsius) all year around, with the wet season being slightly warmer, significantly more humid, and less windy. Water temperature is suitable for swimming all year around, although on the wet season, the ocean tends to be at least a few degrees warmer than during the dry season.
Lombok has a huge variety of cafes and restaurants serving both Indonesian and international food. Especially in Mataram, you will also find multinational chain restaurants, such as McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks (there is a big, modern shopping center called “Epicentrum” just a five minute ride from Mataram campus with international coffee and food options).
When it comes to local food, the best options can usually be found in the small stalls and warungs on the side of any street. Many local food stalls may seem unhygienic at first but they serve delicious local delicacies that have been freshly cooked on-site. A good rule of thumb is that if you see many locals eating at a stall or a warung, their food is likely to be fresh and tasty! Make sure to try Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Mie Goreng (fried noodles), Nasi Campur (rice mixed with meat/chicken/fish/tofu/tempe and vegetables) and Ayam Lalapan (fried chicken with rice and sambal, a local chilli paste). A decent local meal will cost less than 2 euros.
As Lombok is an island surrounded by some of the world’s best fishing, any restaurants in beach towns are guaranteed to serve freshly caught seafood every day. Often you even get to pick the fish you want them to cook for you!
Tourism has taken over parts of Lombok but for most parts the island is still very ethnic and the culture of the indigenous Sasak people can be seen everywhere.
The local people of Lombok are called Sasak, who make up 70% of the population, are the predominant group, with Balinese, Chinese, Arabian, and Javanese and other ethnics groups making up the rest. Bahasa Indonesia is the National Language, but English is widely spoken. Majority of Lombok people (85%) are Muslim and there is a small Balinese Hindu minority (estimated 10-15%). Many Lombok people also believe in ghosts and black magic. Respect the local traditions, and remember to be understanding towards habits and beliefs that that may seem odd to you.
Wetu Telu is a unique religion that that blends Islam with Animism, and is only found in North Lombok. Its roots stem from the village of Bayan in the North. The people who practice this religion still consider themselves Muslims but they have their own rituals in addition to the normal Muslim ones. One such ceremony is Nyiu, which takes place 1000 days after someone dies. The relatives of the deceased offer material things like clothing, toothbrushes, food, dishes, mattresses, etc. so the deceased will be pleased in heaven.
If you are planning on traveling around the island and visiting small villages it is more respectable to wear slacks or knee length shorts, a shirt with sleeves or a sarong.
You can exchange your local currency to Indonesian Rupiah (Rp.) at banks, money exchange offices and large hotels. Most often it is most expensive to exchange money at hotels and at the airport. One Euro is approximately 15,000 Rupiahs.
You can withdraw cash from the ATM’s with your credit card. ATM’s can be found in Mataram and the touristy areas such as Kuta, Senggigi, and the Gili Islands.
Paying with a credit card is safe at the larger shopping centers, restaurants and hotels but be cautious at smaller places because credit cards can sometimes be copied. Small shops and taxis only accept cash.
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and Tetanus-diphtheria should be kept up-to-date. Hepatitis A is recommended. Malaria prevention medication may be recommended to some travelers, but this can be bought after arriving in Indonesia. Some travelers may also be advised to take vaccinations for Japanese encephalitis, Hepatitis B, cholera and typhoid fever.
Generally speaking, traveling in Indonesia is safe. Beware of pick-pocketing and keep an eye on your luggage.
There have been recent cases of methanol poisoning caused by locally brewed spirits in Lombok, so please be advised to only by alcohol from a trusted brand or at a nicer restaurant.
Traffic in Lombok is quite easy and not too busy but you should always remember to be careful when riding a bike. Always wear a proper helmet and do not ever ride your bike intoxicated. It is also not recommended to ride your bike in the non-touristy areas and mountain side of the island after dark, as there have been incidents where tourists have been stopped on the road and then robbed.
Even though Indonesia is a seismically active area, Lombok is located far away from the boundaries of the tectonic plates. Still, natural disasters cannot always be predicted. Earthquakes or tsunamis caused by an earthquake are unlikely, yet in case of a prolonged earth quake, you should always leave the beach side and ride to a higher ground. When thinking about security, it is good to keep in mind that getting into a traffic accident anywhere in the world is always much more likely than being the victim of a terrorist attack or a natural disaster.
Find out more about general safety guidelines at our destinations from here.