It isn’t easy to find a normal bus in Labuanbajo, Flores, because unless you speak good Bahasa you get funnelled into aircon tourist transport. This is an account of how, in 2011, two us got from Labuanbajo to Moni by public bus and what other road-options we discovered in the process.
Firstly, be aware that there is only the one road across Labuanbajo-Ruteng-Bajawa-Ende-Moni-Maumere. If someone tells you they are driving ‘direct’ to somewhere, you aren’t taking a shorter route, you just don’t have to change buses as many times.
There aren’t night buses, so if you go by road, you will likely be taking at least 2 days to do it (timings below).
1) Finding a bus out of Labuanbajo :
Take a bemo from Labuanbajo (LBJ) main street out to the bus station 7-12km East of town (Goran bus station, apparently) and then catch a 7am-ish bus to Ruteng, then catch the 3pm bus from Ruteng (from the bus station 3km out of Ruteng) to continue on East.
You can book buses from many of the travel agents in LBJ high street. For example, the Perama office could sell you one for Rp 280 000 from LBJ to Moni (this is not a Perama ‘branded’ bus). This one had an overnight stop somewhere along the way. (?)Bajawa(?). You had to pay for the guesthouse separately.
Someone in LBJ suggested Gunung Mas buses. These 21 seat minibuses are a small step up from the classic local buses and are probably the ones you actually end up with if you book from the travel agents in town.
Booking direct at the Gunung Mas office (about 3km along the road towards the airport, the office looks like a toilet block on the left side of the road and has a small sign up outside), the price is Rp 180 000 LBJ to Ende (or Rp 60 000 for each of LBJ-Ruteng; Ruteng-Bajawa; Bajawa-Ende).
Alleged timing for the Gunung Mas buses are: Depart LBJ 0730 (they collect you from your hotel/guesthouse); Depart Ruteng 1400; Arrive Ende 2100 (hmmm!). (For the remaing part of the journey, there are regular bemos/buses from Ende to Moni the next day (Rp ~25 000). You wouldn’t make it there in time for the sunrise at Kelimuto, tho’).
You have to book the Gunang Mas the day before departure (book before 6pm). For the commission-free price, book at their Labanbajo office or on the phone (no English spoken) on 0385 41899.
This sounded a reasonable option, but it turned out to be full up (as the fortnightly Pelni boat from Makkasar had come in the night before).
A local friendly travel agent (Vigo +62 81 237 321 firstname.lastname@example.org) finally saved the day by pointing us at the 21 seat minibus ‘Gemini’ for LBJ to Bajawa. The deal was done with the bus driver at 9pm the night before travel just inside the car park for the the Sumbawa-bound ferry terminal at the West end of the main street in Labuanbajo, look for the blue and orange stripes around the roof of the ferry ticket office. The Gemini bus will pick you up at your guest house at 0530. Presumably if you just turn up at the jetty car park at 0500 on the day of travel you will be OK too. The bus has got Gemini written on the side and Lunanbajo-Bajawa written on the front. It cost Rp 100 000 from LBJ to Bajawa. (piccie).
2) The rest of the journey:
Overnighted in Bajawa.
On arrival in Bajawa, a few local people said that you could just turn up at Bajawa’s Wattaji terminal (a few km out of town) at 6-7am and get an eastward bus from there the next day. There are plenty of bemos cruising the streets at that time of day that could take you to the bus terminal. We booked via the guesthouse (Eidelweiss) and got collected from the guesthouse. The guesthoust didn’t add any commision costs to the bus price. Apparently there is only one daily bus ‘direct’ to Moni and it picks up from guesthouses ~0630, price Rp 80 000 for Bejawa to Moni. It was a 15 seat minibus called Hallelujiah (piccie).
Once out on the road, there seemed to be at least 5 similar buses doing the same route at the same time. Midway, we had some other travellers moved from another bus on to ours (as our bus was continuing through to Moni, and theirs was terminating in Ende). So presumably, that is an option if you can’t find a Moni bus and if you have started early enough in the morning.
Day 1 Labuanbajo to Bejawa
0530 collect from guesthouse in LBJ
0530-0700 drive around town and surrounding villages collecting other passengers
0700 actually depart Labuanbajo town
1300 pass thorugh Ruteng
1500 Half an hour stop for lunch in a Losman in Aemere
1730 Arrive in Bejawa
cost: 100 000 Rp, plus lunch at about Rp 12 000
Day 2 Bajawa to Moni
0630 Collect from guesthouse in Bajawa
0630-0800 drive around town and surrounding villages finding other passengers, including passing through the Wattaji terminal at about 7am.
0800 actually depart Bajawa
1115 stop in Ende for lunch
1200 continue on from Ende
1400 arrive in Moni (after a half hour wait in the fruit market en-route)
cost: 80 000 Rp, plus lunch at around 8 000
3) actual road times (ignoring food breaks and cruising for passengers):
LBJ-Ruteng 6 hrs
Ruteng-Bajawa: 4 hours
Bajawa-Ende: 3 hours
Ende-Moni: 1.5 hrs
-We didn’t take the Gunung Mas bus, but I can’t see how it could possibly arrive in Ende earlier than 10pm, and even that’s pretty optimistc.
-If you were taking the public bus East from Labuanbajo at 7am (and on to the 3pm bus in Ruteng) the earliest you could get to Ende is 10:30pm, later if there was faffing-around in Ruteng.
-the Iklas Guesthouse in Ende closes by about 9:30pm, so you’d need to make arrangements ahead if you are planning on arriving late there.
-If you are overnighting it in Ende, there are regular bemos/buses from the Ende Reworke (/aka Wolowona) Terminal (5 km SW of Ende town) for the ~2 hour trip through some nice paddy terraces to Moni the next day (about Rp 25 000). You wouldn’t make it there in time for the sunrise at Kelimuto, tho’. The Westbound terminal in Ende is out of town to the South East and called the Ndao terminal.
-Maybe with private transport and without food stops, you could get LBJ-Moni in a single day (14 ish hours driving). We talked to one driver who was doing the journey in an empty car anyway, but still wanted Rp 500 000 each for 2 people!
-Obviously, the fewer bus changes you make, the less time you waste cruising for passengers to pick up at the start of each new bus journey, so get a ‘direct’ bus if you can find one.
The final bus fare(s) (Rp 180 000) is a pretty good price for LBJ-Moni, and there are some impressive views en route. We didn’t have time to break to visit the remote villages on the way, but did see a fair bit of local life, ngadhus, bhagas, etc) on our many collecting-passengers loops.
Written: Aug 2011 Last Updated: Aug 2011