I am writing this post because I had to do a fair amount of digging and asking around to finally find out the cheapest way to get to Lombok from Bali. Most people are headed to the Gili islands, in which case it would prove cost effective to just catch a fast boat from Padangbai, Bali to Sengiggi, Lombok. Sengiggi is up North near the Gilis so it doesn’t make sense to catch the ferry, which goes to Lembar, which is much more South, because then you would have to catch an expensive taxi to get to Sengiggi anyway.
But if, like us, you want to go to Kuta, Lombok, then I think we have found the cheapest way. Apart from swimming across obviously.
To get to Padangbai from wherever you may be on Bali, catch a shuttle bus. You can book that at tourist information booths. I recommend buying it from someone who works for Perama, as they offer good prices. Bare in mind that there are several companies offering shuttle buses, so shop around to find a cheap one. We paid 75 000 IDR each to be fetched from our hotel in Legian and transported to Padangbai. There is an extra fee for surfboards which should be around 20 000 IDR, but the drivers sometimes take chances and demand up to 50 000 IDR.
Once you are in Padangbai kindly refuse the offers everyone will be making you. It is close to harassment, so keep your head down and walk away! There will be a ferry moored in the right of the bay. Walk towards it and buy a ticket (40 000 IDR) from the booth. Don’t let someone talk you into a ‘better’ way to get to Lombok and don’t buy a ticket from anyone but the person working in the booth. The ferries leave about every 1h20 so you can walk into it and wait for it to leave.
The ride is about 4 hours to Lombok, ours only took 3:30 (if I remember correctly) because the sea was so flat. Try and spot any other travellers on the ferry and ask them if they too are going to Kuta. If they are then offer to split a car with them. There are no meter taxis at the harbour in Lembar so you have to take a taxi without one. Bargain first, asking the price of the car, not per person. We got a car to take four of us, and 2 surfboard bags for 300 000 IDR.
And voila! You will find yourself in Kuta. There is loads of budget accommodation available, if you need advice then chat to your driver who I’m sure will know a place or 2.