Lombok is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Bali and in many ways, can be understood as the earthier and more rugged alternative for digital nomads seeking a more authentic Indonesian experience. The burgeoning digital nomad community, the presence of impeccable year-round surf, and the expansive wilderness have made it a mandatory checkpoint for thrill-seeking and nature-loving remote workers.
The island, which has endured foreign rule by the Balinese, Dutch, and Japanese has a population of almost four million. The local people are predominantly ethnic Sasaks who practice a version of Islam that contains kernels of ancient animism and Hindu influence from centuries of Balinese rule. The word “lomboq” in the local Sasak language means honest and upright, which is what you can expect from these banter-loving, straightforward, and cheery folk.
The landscape is dominated by the jagged peak of Mount Rinjani, an active volcano that last erupted in 2016. The north of Lombok has postcard-like tropical jungle while the south has the bush vegetation of drier climates. The Wallace line separates Lombok from the Indomalayan ecoregion and clubs it into Australasia, which is why the flora and fauna here starts to deviate from the rest of Indonesia. Barrelling waves break in most of the reef-bottomed bays and the aquatic life is diverse and thriving. It’s no surprise to meet a turtle whilst surfing, or see dolphins spinning out of the water during the golden hour.
Lombok is considered to be quite safe for women and solo travelers. The digital nomad community is scattered across the island and tends to convene around specific activities in nature, primarily surfing and diving. While it is not as developed as its neighboring Bali and there tends to be occasional power cuts and water issues, what you get in the bargain is direct access to an expat community that is well-integrated with the local one, where you get to observe and participate in a way of life that has stood the test of time for hundreds of years.
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Located in the middle of Lombok’s south coast, Kuta is the center of expat life on the island. This tiny village was thrust onto the map by surfers on exploration quests who discovered a coastline riddled with near-perfect waves. Fast forward to now, when the town is loaded with amenities. Coworking spaces like South Lombok Cowork and CoKreate offer full office setups with meeting rooms and monthly passes, but there are plenty of cozy cafes like Bush Radio and Milk Espresso where you can set up your office for the day alongside a delicious coffee and healthy meal. Most of the accommodation options have high speed internet so if you prefer to work from the comfort of your personal room, that’s always an option too.
Thanks to the influx of surfers from all over the world, Kuta boasts a range of cafes and restaurants that offer culinary delights from all over the world Whether it’s wood-fired pizzas at Mama Pizza, dumpling nights at Jiang Nan or scrumptious tacos at Satu Lagi, Kuta will leave you spoiled for choice.
The high street is replete with small stalls and “warungs” that sell local Indonesian food—be sure to try a nasi campur from one of them! Bara and Treehouse are classy spots for drinks any day of the week but if you want to grab sunset beers whilst looking at the rolling hills, head to Siwa Cliff or Ashtari. On Friday nights, all of Kuta convenes at the local watering hole, Surfer’s Bar, where a live band belts out banger after banger before groovy pop music takes over.
Senggigi is the original focal point of tourism in Lombok. During the travel boom of the 90s, this long coastal strip was the hot spot for resort-driven luxury tourism. While many of the younger travelers prefer the bustle of the Gili islands or the surf-centric lifestyle in Kuta, Senggigi remains a favorite amongst the older expats, many of whom made a home in Lombok decades ago. Its proximity to Mataram, the capital of Lombok, and the direct boats to the Gili Islands make it a convenient place to set down roots with your family or even retire. While there are no coworking spaces per se, the seaside town is rife with gorgeous beachfront cafes that will remind you of the pleasures of working in paradise, such as Coco Loco Cafe and La Chill Bar which transform into vibrant places in the evenings.
This beach town is known for its red-hot surf break in the bay, a dry season wave that is home to several local competitions. The expat community here is driven by conscious and calm living, and you can find several eco-initiatives such as green markets and plastic-brick makers located here, as well as frequent yoga and breathwork classes. That being said, people tend to gather at La Chill Bar most nights, where a vibrant scene with live music unfolds. Make sure to pop into Senja Restaurant to enjoy the beach views and their signature risotto.
Senggigi is a short drive from the village of Tetebatu in the foothills of Mount Rinjani, where you can go for getaways in the lush paddy fields. It’s right around the corner from Sembalun, one of the oldest villages in Lombok, known as strawberry heaven. All in all, it is suited for those who want to spend time in a slow and serene place, without having to choose between the sea and the hills and the jungle.
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Gili Trawangan, popularly known as Gili T, is a huge hit amongst those who like to scuba dive in crystalline blue waters with manta rays by day and party on land by night! This little island off the coast of West Lombok can be accessed via a twenty-minute public ferry from Senggigi. The accommodation here ranges from impossibly cheap bungalows to high-end luxury villas, making it suitable for all budgets. There is only one coworking space on the island, Salon de Nomad, but you can choose from an array of beachfront cafes with decent internet to set up shop.
This island is the mecca of diving, both scuba diving and freediving, due to the calm and clean conditions, stunning dive sites, and crystal clear waters. The most popular dive sites are Shark Point, Manta Point, and Turtle Heaven and besides the creatures mentioned in the names, you can see everything from moray eels to puffer fish to stingrays and octopuses. There are several reputable dive schools here where you can do your open water and advanced certifications and also all the levels of freediving. Blue Marlin and Gili Divers are the most highly recommended ones. The surf break here works best in the dry season and is loved by locals and tourists alike for the long and lush rides it offers.
Gili T treats its visitors to a vibrant nightlife. Whether you’re a fan of reggae nights at Sama Sama, or Rock n Roll Bingo at Lava Bar, or rumbling DJ sets at Jungle Bar, Gili T will find a way to make sure you move and groove to the rhythms of the island.
Gili Air is all about slowing down. If you’re doing a pit stop in the Gili islands to recharge and refuel, be sure to pencil in a longer stint on the smallest of the Gilis. The only way of getting around this white sand island is either on foot or on a bicycle. No motorized transport is permitted on the island so the only traffic you might chance upon is when a horse cart and a bicycle try to go down the street at the same time. Let your feet carry you to Slow Spa, a gorgeous bamboo building where their skilled therapists will knead out your sore muscles.
The northern side of the island is home to several varieties of sea turtles. If you go for a snorkeling session at mid to high tide, you’ll find yourself losing count of how many you swim past! From the west side of the island, you can see the sun setting behind Mount Agung, a volcano in Bali, and the strip is littered with bars where people gather to dance to live music with their feet in the sand. Gili Lumbung is a hot favorite, though those in search of reggae might want to hit Pura Vida.
While there are many cafes to work from, most remote workers tend to congregate at B-52 due to its many charging points and reliable high-speed internet. However, island internet can be temperamental from time to time. Local SIM cards tend to have more reliable and cheap internet so it’s easy to find a quiet warung where you can set up your own workspace.
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