Philippines to Indonesia by boat

mix61.jpgPhilippines to Indonesia by boat – This run was a common trip 10 years ago but now in 2008 there is very little boat traffic between the two places.

When the value of the rupiah plunged to around 15,000 to the USD it was not uncommon for merchants to haul goods between the 2 countries and cash out on the spread.

A cement hauler made the passage between Bitung in Suluwasi and General Santos on a regular basis.

For 20 USD you could hop on board and be there in 3 days. I think it made the round trip every week. Passengers slept out on the deck underneath a tarp.

scan0004.jpgThe ship was a rickety old rust bucket but it seemed to ride the waves quite well.

I was a bit concerned that a seam could rupture sending us to Davy Jones locker because our cargo was mostly cement.

It is not all that unusual for ships in this part of the world to be lost. As a precaution I kept some large empty water bottles to use as flotation devices if everything went pear shaped.

img_2292.jpg It probably wouldn’t have made a difference but at least I felt better about it. It would also be a good idea to carry a flashlight so you could see at night because there was no light except from the stars.

A friend of mine runs a tuna boat down there from time to time but there are no commercial freighters or ferries that ply that route anymore.

Flights from Davao and Manado are the easiest way to get across now. It is less romantic and more costly but at least you can say that you made the passage in a junky old plane.

img_2157 If you are dead set against using air travel you could book passage from Zamboanga in Mindanao to Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia and go overland from there but it is kind of out of the way if you are headed to Suluwasi.

That trip would run between 2,600 pesos and 3,000 pesos.

Keep in mind that there are very cheap air fares now between Manila and Jakarta if you are just trying to get to Indonesia. Going by boat is great but is time consuming and a bit of a hassle.

Philippine Government Immigration – official link

sandakan-zambo-visa-run-002Malaysia to the Philippines visa run

I did a visa run from Zamboanga to Sandakan and back last year to satisfy Philippine visa requirements. It is an easy run that costs around 5200 pesos and takes about 20 hours travel time each way.

sandakan-zambo-visa-run-001Sandakan, Malaysia

Sulawasi to Mindanao by cargo boat

Mar 15, 2008

29 responses to “Philippines to Indonesia by boat”

  1. I heard from a hostel owner in Indonesia that it’s now possible to get a boat from Manado (Sulawesi) to Mindanao. Do you perhaps know if this is true? Im in Makassar now, trying to get to the Philippines without flying.

    Alternatly, could I get passage on your pal’s Tuna boat? :-)

    Thanks, great info!

  2. Looking for cheapest no matter how “rustic way from hong kong to davao or from indonesia to davao boat of any tpye is fine

  3. Smuggling orangutans

    From the newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer read while waiting for my take out at Chow King fast food this morning. – It appears that the Bitung Sulawesi to General Santos cargo shipping route has become a major smuggling trail for those selling endangered and other exotic animals and birds.

    according to the article rare animals including leopards, orangutans,sun bears, gibbons, and birds of paradise are transported from Bitung through the Celebas Sea and up to General Santos in Mindanao Philippines where then are then shipped final destinations in Japan, Taiwan, Ameica and to collectors within the Philippines.

    Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation

    Dr Willie Smits of the Orangutan Outreach conservation group says that wildlife trafficking has grown to a one billion USD busiess and is workig with Philippine authorities to shut down the Bitung – Gen San route

    The three main wildlife trade routes are said to be
    Bitung to General Santos
    North Sumatra to Guangzhou China
    Jakarta to other places

  4. dutchpickle,

    Is there any update on the ferry from Philippines to anywhere in Manado?

  5. dutchpickle,
    I am very pleased to have found this sight. I hope a forum member may offer some advise to me. I intend to apply for a one year multi entry / exit visa to the Philippines. One of the requirements is proof of a return ticket or a ticket to your next destination. I do not plan to return to my home country so I prefer not to purchase a ticket I will never use. Could someone please suggest a cheap fare on a “rust-bucket” to anywhere that will satisfy the the PI embassy? I do understand that I must make visa runs in the future, we are trying to solve the first year. Thank you for any help, suggestions or guidance.

  6. I’m Filipino lives in US. I want to try to go Malaysia/Indonesia by boat from any Mindanao island for adventure. Any suggestions?

  7. Hello Dutch,

    I’m heading to Bitung, and I would like to give it a try to jump on a boat and get to Mindanao. I will ask around and in the philippinos communities in Manado. Otherwise Ill try to go to Tahuna and try to do it.
    When you arrived to the Phillipines, to which immigration office have you gone? was all smooth? Any other tips would be great.
    Thanks in advance,

  8. I want to go Bali to manila without flying. Is there any way to go by ship. If yes can you provide detail information of the ferry company cost and travelling time. It would be great help from your side.

  9. Hi,
    The indonesia to gen santos boat trip still available? Thanks.

  10. Hello together,

    it has been said a lot about the boat journey, but what’s about the visa? Is it possible to get a visa on arrival in Zamboanga by sea?

    Hope someone has an answer

  11. Hello dutchpickle,

    thank you for your answer. I arrived today in Bima, Indonesia. And recognized, that the ferries between, Sumbawa, Sulawesi and Kalimantan are rare as well.
    That’s why I would like to be sure if the ferry between Sabah, Malaysia and Zamboanga, Philippines are runnig at the moment.
    Do you know the company who runes the ferry on this route? Maybe a website where I can check the timetable.

    That’s the one for the ferry in Indonesia:

  12. Hello dp,

    thank you for your answer. I arrived in Bima yesterday and recognized, that the ferries between Sumbawa, Sulawesi and Kalimantan are pretty rare.
    Probably I have to fly know (here two websites for national flights in Indonesia: ,
    But I still would like to go to the Philippines by boat. But I would like to be sure if there is a ferry running. Do you know a website of a company running ferries between Malaysia or Indonesia and the Philippines?
    The website for indonesian ferries is:

    Hope for a soon answer again

  13. trying to get around immigration. Is it possible to get a boatment to bring me to the philippines from malaysia at night? Is the coast guard patroling the area?

  14. how much it cost From Zamboanga to Indonesia?

  15. is the zamboanga-sandakan route still possible? thanks.

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