The turquoise and cobalt blue waters of the bay in Raja Ampat, Papua, shimmered under the light of the morning sun. Rocky outcrops, black as ink and sharp as razor blades broke through the warm tropical waters. Small beaches of golden sand broke up the jagged coastline, abutting the thickly wooded lowlands of Wayag Islands. In a semi-circle surrounding the bay and topped with sparse vegetation were sheer cliffs that rise hundreds of feet into the air. I sat there quietly on the peak, like an eagle, taking in the panoramic view below me. Moments like this is what travelling is all about I told myself.

wayag raja ampat

Where is Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat, Papua, is like a modern El Dorado, except that this is no fabled city of gold, but an environmentalist and backpackers dream holiday destination. The region is located off the West coast of the province of West Papua in the far East of Indonesia.

The rich biodiversity, world-class diving, amazing landscapes, isolated golden beaches and awesome coral reefs are the perfect holiday destination from anyone who wants to get away from it all. The problem of course was that I had always been told that Raja Ampat in Papua, is expensive and that it is impossible to do on a backpackers budget. This is not true! My holiday in paradise cost me less than a $1,000. The truth is you can visit Raja Ampat on almost any budget. In this article I will explain the three options – budget travel, luxury holiday packages and the option in between – available to travellers who want to visit Raja Ampat.

raja ampat

The Three Travel Options

Of all the different ways to explore Raja Ampat, Papua, on a budget, there are only three options I would consider; organise everything yourself, take a cruise or join a group tour. I will talk more about these three options in a bit, but first I want to focus on how to actually get to Raja Ampat.

How to Get There

The easiest way to get to get to Raja Ampat, Papua,  is to fly to Sorong. There are no direct flights to Sorong from Bali and Jakarta. Instead all flights go via the Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi. Express Air, Merpati, Sriwijaya and Lion Air all have daily flights here from Jakarta (if you’re lucky you will see Bill Bailey at the airport like I did, but I make no guarantees). Return tickets cost between $150-$500, depending on when you book the ticket and the time of year you are flying.

camp in raja ampat

Budget Travellers

Once you arrive in Sorong you will need to get to the commercial port, which is a short 20 minute drive away by taxi. From the port you can catch a public ferry to Raja Ampat from the Papuan mainland. Tickets to Raja Ampa from Sorong cost $15 and goes to Waigeo.

Once You Arrive

Any tourist who wants to travel in Raja Ampat, Papua, needs to buy a permit from the local offices of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Raja Ampat. A tourist permit costs $60 for foreigners and $25 for Indonesians. If you are joining an organised tour or a cruise then someone should arrange this for you (make sure to check). However, if you are travelling alone then you will need to go to the Departemen Kebudayaan dan Pariwisata by yourself.

backpacker raja ampat

Getting Around

From Waigeo you will need to take a boat to explore Raja Ampat; a small vessel with crew and gas will cost $220 a day, while the larger ships used by group tours that can hold up to 20 people cost $800. Cruise ships, which normally have facilities for diving, cost a lot more if you want to rent it privately.

The only way you can explore Raja Ampat in West Papua, on a budget is by travelling in a group; $220 a day just for travel is simply not possible for backpackers. However, $45 per day, which is the price of five people sharing transport on a small boat is much more realistic. It is for this reason that you should must travel in a small group. Additional costs for independent travellers include food ($10 per day) and accommodation ($40 per night if you sleep in a bungalow, free if you decide to camp).

raja ampat trip

Group tours are the cheapest way to explore Raja Ampat, Papua. The best place to find information about group tours of Raja Ampat is on the Internet. Prices start from as low as $400, however most group tours cost between $600-$1,000. This price does not include the price of airfare.

The Middle Way

If you have a larger travel budget, there are a lot of different options available for you to consider. The two main choices are between liveaboard sailing ships and hotels. Liveaboard diving ships are the more popular of the two options.

raja ampat papua

Liveaboard

There are a lot of companies operating in and around Raja Ampat, West Papua, offering liveaboard packages for tourists. Packages normally last between one to two weeks and will cost between $1,400 (six nights seven days) – $3,000 (10 nights 11 days) per person. This is an all inclusive price and includes the cost of on average two dives per day. Make sure to check what facilities the vessel has before you make a booking with a company.

There are three main travel itineraries offered by travel companies operating around Raja Ampat in West Papua. These are:

Flores – Raja Ampat Average trip length between 7-14 days
Maluku – Raja Ampat Average trip length between 7-10 days
Raja Ampat Average trip length between 5-7 days

homestay raja ampat

Hotels and Resorts

In the past, hotels in Raja Ampat have catered more towards luxury travellers, however over the past five years a number of mid range hotels and resorts have opened around Raja Ampat, Papua.

Mid range hotels in Raja Ampat cost between $90-180 per night and include three meals a day. The price day trips are obviously not included in this price. If you are interested in diving you can normally book package holidays from the resort or pay per dive (around $90 per dive).

Raja ampat west papua

Luxury Travel

Therer are a lot of resorts and hotels in Raja Ampat that cater to luxury travellers. These resorts are normally located on private islands and have everything that you would expect from a world class five star facility. Of course, given how isolated Raja Ampat is and the poor infrastructure, costs are high and many places do not offer overnight accommodation.

A week stay at a luxury resort in Raja Ampat will costs upwards of $2,500 per person. This will include the cost of dives while you are at the resort, but excludes the cost of day trips.

There are also companies that offer luxury liveaboard package tours. These package tours start at $2,500 per person and can go all the way up to $10,000 per person for a week long personally tailored package tour.

diving raja ampat

What to Do While You are There

Raja Ampat, Papua, is one of the best diving spots in the world divers can swim with whale sharks, manta rays (incredible creatures to dive alongside), dolphins, turtles or just gaze in wonder at the pristine coral reefs. If you want to learn more about diving in Raja Ampat, then click this link.

Why to Go

Raja Ampat, Papua, is one of the few places in the world that I would recommend to anyone, because it is truely a holiday of a lifetime. If you are interested in a real adventure holiday in a tropical paradise then you should definitely visit, and I hope this information proves to you that it is possible to do Raja Ampat on a budget. As I said before, if you want to learn more about holidays in Raja Ampat, then check out my guide to diving in Raja Ampat, West Papua.

Resources

Here are some useful resources that I would recommend to anyone planning to visit Raja Ampat. Remember, I only recommend resources I find interesting or would use myself.

A great site that for cheap homestays in Raja Ampat.

Published by Nico

Originally from England, I'm slowly traveling the world on a whim. I love traveling, have an avid fear of heights and can normally be found googling location of the best coffee shop wherever I happen to be.

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37 Comments

  1. Thanks to make this blog, I plan to come here on Sept with my other 9 friends, group of 10 hopefully can make the budget lower as we planning for boat trip 3 nights for diving. Cheers

  2. how lucky you !!! read all article’s about uncover indonesia writen by you only made me envy .You success to set foot in the true paradise on earth. I’m indonesian but i never go to Raja Ampat , It just my big Dream and i wish become to reality as soon as possible.Thank you to spreed out about our country. This is not my indonesia but your indonesia too .

    -Salam lestari –

  3. amazing place, Raja Ampat is Amazing
    hope, someday i can see Beautiful place in Raja Ampat
    Meskipun saya orang Indonesia, saya ngak pernah ke Raja Ampat he he he

    Postingan Yang Bagus Mr Nico Prins
    Thank You

    1. You’re actually allowed to camp pretty much anywhere once you get out into the archipelago and leave the main islands (obviously resort owners wouldn’t be too happy to let you camp on the grounds). I’d recommend talking to people from the local communities when you are in Raja Ampat, it’s the best way to travel on a budget.

  4. Hi Nico, my sons 24 and 16 are planning to go to Raja Ampat with 3 other 24 years olds; is it safe for them being westerners ( 1 girl) to go there and what is the best accommodation for them and do you have any reliable guide you know? I am worried sick! how many days is enough? how about food ? they want to go mid December. what other activities beside diving and snorkeling ? Look forward to hearing your recommendation.

    1. Hi Fena,

      Sorry for not responding sooner. Raja Ampat is very safe and tourist friendly, so no need to be worried. Diving and snorkelling along with a tiny bit of hiking are the main activities here. In terms of guides and accommodation I’m afraid I can’t be much help, but I’d recommend visiting discoveryourindonesia.com and asking Firsta, who runs the site. She has a lot of information about travelling in Indonesia and I’m sure she would be of help.

  5. there are many more attractions besides Raja Ampat in Indonesia, such as the city of Malang and Batu town ..

  6. I’ve always wanted to go to Indonesia, these photos are absolutely stunning; I shall definitely have to put Raja Ampat Papua on my list of places to go… I’m keen to head to Papau New Guinea soon, have you been? From what I can tell, very few people get to go..

  7. I went snorkeling in Raja Ampat last year. It was a wonderful experience. I think that its coral reefs were the best in the world. Standing on top of a karst islet in the little Wayag – also called Pianemo, I felt very close to nature. I will comeback to visit Raja Ampat again next year.

  8. I am looking at going to Raja Ampat next year with a group of friends. We will be using frequent flyer miles and possible even points for a hotel. Is there a city that is worth staying at, while “taking day trips” to Raja Ampat? Is this even possible? We would be snorkeling, not diving. Thank you!

  9. Thanks for this complete and interesting article.
    Raja Ampat is so amazing and big, so i think the best way to visit the area is the liveaboard boat. I know a cruise company in Raja Ampat that organize Trip from Sorong, and its not only dive cruise, they do trekking snorkeling kayaking etc… Reasonable price with nice wooden sailing boat.
    Thanks.

  10. Those turquoise and cobalt blue waters shots of the bay in Raja Ampat, Papua are stunning! Thanks for letting us know about different options of travelling to Raja Ampat. This is definitely Indonesia’s enchanting new ultimate destination. Thanks for the post James!

  11. Hi there,

    If we’re not divers but avid snorkellers, do you have any tips for budget travel? We’re a couple (not a group) but we’re happy to share boat prices with other people if we could find any heading the same way. Should we be staying at one of the islands like Kri, Gam or Arobek and just make our way around?

    Cheers,
    Ying

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