|Population||988.555 (as of December 2009)|
Batam is an island and city in Riau Islands Province of Indonesia, known for its free trade zone area as part of the Sijori Growth Triangle, is located 20 km (12.5 miles) off Singapore's south coast. The 715 km² (276 miles²) island has a population of 988.555 ( Dec 2009 )..
Major communities on Batam are Sekupang, Jodoh, Nagoya, Sungai Panas, Batam Centre, Baloi, Batu Ampar, and Bengkong.
Beginning in the 1970s, the island underwent a major transformation from a largely forested area into a major harbor and industrial zone. The population grew from a few thousand in the 1960s into hundreds of thousands. The island's economy benefits from being close to Singapore, and, with lower labour costs and special government incentives, is the site of many factories operated by Singaporean companies. Shipbuilding and electronics manufacturing are major industries on the island; there are also several resorts and tourist destinations on the island.
Under a framework signed in June 2006, Batam, along with parts of neighboring Bintan and Karimun, are a part of a Special Economic Zone with Singapore; this zone eliminates tariffs and value-added taxes for goods shipped between Batam and Singapore..
The "Barelang" bridges are a major landmark on Batam. The name is an abbreviation of Batam-Rempang-Galang, the three major islands connected by the bridges, and 3 more smaller islands. The bridges were constructed under Habibie as the Minister for Research and Technology with funding from the German government.
Batam is a small but busy island in Indonesia of 45km x 25km and nearly a million people, hundreds of multinational owned factories, towns, shopping centres and gateway to the Riau Islands.
Located only 20km from Singapore and 25km from Johor in Malaysia, Batam is Indonesia's equivalent to China's SEZ's (Special Economic Zones) - a place where the nation's economic planners test new economic policies and ideas. The island is an industrial hub with electronics factories, a large and growing ship repair industry and an even larger oil service sector. Quite a few expats head there for work, and pubs and golf courses have sprung up to serve them.
Most tourists, on the other hand, used to come from nearby Singapore and were mostly interested in illegal casinos, which have been closed for several years now.
Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is modeled on the version of Malay which originates from Riau on the Sumatra mainland and the Riau Islands. In fact, Riau Malay is regarded as quite similar to the Malay language and visitors from Malaysia will find the Indonesian spoken here very similar to Bahasa Malaysia, which is the version of Malay spoken back home.
Batam also have a large population of ethnic chinese Indonesians, who also can speak Hokkien (Fujian), Teochew and Mandarin. Besides, there are also large population of migrants from various parts of Indonesia who speak many different kinds of Indonesian dialects.
For detailed information on visas, please refer to the Indonesia page. All Batam ports, namely Harbour Bay (Jodoh), Batam Centre, Nongsapura, Sekupang and Waterfront City (Teluk Senimba) are visa-free and visa-on-arrival ports of entry. Visa-on-arrival would require you to pay a visa fee of USD 10. If you are paying in Indonesia Rupiah, you will pay less.
Batam's airport is the Hang Nadim International Airport (BTH). Nearly all flights are domestic where you can get direct connections to Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan, Pekanbaru, Jambi, Palembang, Pontianak, Yogyakarta and Bandung. Indonesian carriers Merpati, Mandala Airlines ,Indonesia Air Asia , Riau Airlines , Kartika Airlines , [  Batavia Airlines] and a host of others provide the links. One can travel to Yogyakarta from Batam.
There are also two weekly flights to Johor Bahru in Malaysia by Riau Airlines  (Batam airport office Tel: +62-778-761551; Johor Bahru airport office Tel: +60-7-599 4500 Ext 1113). Flights every Friday and Sunday, RM76 one-way from Johor Bahru before taxes. Flights depart Batam at 11AM while on return flights, they depart Johor Bahru at 1315.
If you want to catch flights from Singapore's Changi Airport, you must be on a ferry to Singapore at least three hours before departure time. See "By boat" section below for details.
The main ports on Batam are Batam Centre, Sekupang, Waterfront City, Nongsapura and Telaga Punggur. Harbor Bay is now the main international ferry port for those heading for Nagoya, replacing the old Batu Ampar ferry terminal. Batam Center Ferry Terminal has the most frequent ferry connections to/from Singapore and Johor Bahru. Sekupang, with ferries from Singapore is best used for those catching domestic connections to the Sumatra mainland and the Karimun Islands. Waterfront City and Nongsapura mostly serve adjacent resorts while Telaga Punggur is the main ferry terminal for boats to and from Bintan
There are plenty of taxis in Batam but none of them charge using the meter. Two kinds of Taxis are available in Batam - Legal & Illegal - i.e. Licensed and not licensed. Prefer the Yellow plate cabs - they are licensed. You will need to bargain with the drivers. There is no standard price for the taxis in Batam. The taxi drivers are desperate for customers so you always have the bargaining option. I simply made the price half and sometimes even less. They may ask you about Rp. 100.000 but simply say Rp. 40.000 or Rp. 50.000. and then walk on if they don't agree. they will automatically come to you. In fact I went about 5 places in Batam for about Rp. 200.000. The taxi conditions are not that good so don't expect seat belts and a smooth ride.
Coming soon, taxis will start using meters, in an effort by the mayor to make Batam more tourist-friendly.
Fixed route plies between Jodoh and Telaga Punggur (Rp. 3.000 - Rp. 4.000). Sample fares for other destinations are as follows:
Recently, Batam local government (known as pemerintah) started a bus service known as "Bus Pilot Project". The blue colour bus plies between Batam Center and Batu Aji for Rp. 4.000 and Batam Center to Sekupang Rp. 4.000. Buy your ticket from the personnel before boarding.
Most hotels run shuttle buses during the day to the ferry ports and to the main shopping mall. It seems that none run a shuttle to airport.
You can hop into a free shuttle bus (yellow in colour) from Megamall Batam Center to the major hotels in Nagoya or Jodoh.
The Kijang, which is generally everywhere in Indonesia, is strangely absent in Batam. Your hotel may be able to arrange a car and driver for you, but be prepared to pay Rp 100.000 or more, which is almost double the rate in Jakarta.
There are some places in Batam that are quite beautiful and not-to-be missed.
located at Batam Centre
The Waterfront City area of Batam is on the western side of the island. There are several attractions & activities available in this area, such as water & sea sports activities, a fishing pond, kart racing track, a football field, as well as a beach for swimming or playing with the kid’s. There is also a cable ski park for the adventerous, and just recently in 2009 a flying fox has been installed.
Down at Barelang Islands, connected to Batam by a series of 6 bridges, there are many good beaches, as well as an old Vietnamese refugee camp, that was occupied for 20 years by Vietnamese boat people, and has now been restored as a tourist attraction. This is also a favorite route for cyclists.
Batam has plenty of eating out choices, including great Chinese seafood in the outdoor food courts, such as the Windsor and Nagoya Food Courts and A1 Pujasera.
City authorities claim that Batam's tap water is drinkable, but the rusty color puts some people off. Most people choose to stick with bottled water anyway, about Rp. 10,000 for a 5-gallon jug.
Carlsberg and Guinness are produced locally, as well as Bintang and Tiger beer. Most places have Heineken on tap. Imported beers, such as Corona are available, but prices are high. A normal draft beer should be no more than Rp.23,000.
Wine is available from the duty-free store in Harbor Bay, but not at most bars.
Much of Batam's accommodation is in Nagoya.
Upon arrival in the ferry terminal (Batam Centre) you may chose to go to the Hotel Reservation Counter, they will have numerous options for the 3+ star hotels in on the island. These may give you a slightly better value than booking directly with the hotel itself so it is not a scam. In addition however there are budget options available in the town that will not be represented at this hotel counter and not found anywhere online. Heading into Nagoya Town can give you some opportunity to seek out options like this. For instance, there is a hotel available near the Nagoya Hill shopping center and also the Hotel Astro noted below located not far from that shopping center.
Batam is generally safe during the daytime hours, but at night if you are in the entertainment areas of Nagoya you should exercise caution. Do not walk alone at night, if you want to leave somewhere and it is late, find someone else who is leaving or about to leave, or stay until it closes and then all go together. If you really have to get back to your hotel call the hotel and have them send a car to pick you up. As the taxis are not regulated or owned by a central group (like Bluebird in Jakarta) you may not be safe hiring a taxi off the street either. Walking in groups or two or three is probably okay but do not get into discussions with the locals as you may be asking to have your wallet or purse taken from you. If this happens, don't chase, just walk back to where you were or to the hotel and report to the police later.
Traveling safe is another matter. The roads around Batam are OK, but not maintained to the highest standard. The taxi drivers in particular delight in driving as fast as they can and they really like to overtake on a curve or bend. If you feel at all uncomfortable ask the driver to slow down, tell him you are not in a hurry, usually they are OK, although we did have to yell at one in Indonesian a few times to get him to drive safely.
I was told by our guide, if you have to drink it is always better to do it in your own hotel or a family restaurant-cum-bar. If you have to go to an ordinary bar, you must opt for a VIP room or you might land up in "ecstasy" which is nothing but drugs. There have been instances where drugs were put in one's bag unknowingly and then trap the visitor in the cop net where it will be really tough to "free" oneself unless you are a localite.
Batam, with its good ferry connections, is an excellent springboard to the other Riau Islands such as the Tanjung Uban and Kijang Bintan Island and the Sumatra mainland. Good air connections also make Batam a good place to get cheap air tickets to Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia.
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