Indonesia

Trans-Flores Highway – Explore Flores by motorbike

Looking for a place to fulfill your personal motorcycle diaries? The Indonesian island Flores with its Trans-Flores Highway might be just the perfect choice. Certainly was for me. Here’s all you need to know!

So here’s the thing. Two years ago, I embarked on my first two-wheeled adventure, mountainbiking through Israel for 3 days – without a plan. One year ago, I cycled a week through central Germany – without a plan. Both trips a result of some random online research.

And it happened again.

This time, I read an article about the Trans-Flores Highway, and decided to drive it with a motorbike. Here’s my tips and stories and experiences from along the way 🙂


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. Meaning that, at no additional cost for you, I will earn a commission if you click and make a booking or purchase. I only recommend places and products that I have personally tested. This website is independently owned by myself and the opinions expressed here are my own. This helps me to keep the site running – thank you!

An Introduction to Flores

Flores is an island in the very East of Indonesia, famous for being the base to visit the Komodo dragons and an infinite amount of superb dive spots. Most people arrive in the island’s most western city Labuan Bajo, but often don’t venture beyond its borders.

With almost triple the size of Bali, Flores however offers a lot of unexplored areas and is an adventurer’s paradise. From chasing waterfalls and volcanoes to savouring hidden beaches or getting to know exotic local cultures, the surprisingly diverse island attracts to escape the touristy vibes of Bali or Lombok.

General Info for the Trans-Flores Highway

The route

I chose to do a roundtrip from and back to Labuan Bajo, but there is ways to do a oneway trip – see the Scooter section below.

I planned the rough route according to my time. For 8 days, my furthest destination was going to be Moni / the base of Kelimutu, and that was tough already. If you wish to see Maumere or drive even further, you’ll have to take more time, skip some destinations, or do the trip one way. Here’s my entire route: Labuan Bajo, Wae Rebo, Ruteng, Riung, Moni, Aimere, Labuan Bajo. With some detours and extra visits, I drove a total of 1169km.

Scooter / Motorbike

I booked my scooter through Ciao Hostel in Labuan Bajo, where I stayed the first nights (best view in town!). They called the guy, he dropped the bike and I was to negotiate the price. Don’t be intimidated by him being there already, you could still walk away and find another place if you’re not fine with the deal, but for me it was perfect. I paid 65.000 IDR per day for 8 days.

riding my scooter across Flores

If you don’t want to do the rountrip, there is up to my knowledge only one guy offering to rent scooters between Labuan Bajo and Maumere one way. A friend doing this trip paid 100.000 IDR per day, a one-time 100.000 IDR fee, and a 400.000 IDR deposit that she got back once returning the scooter. Normally, renting a scooter will cost you between 60.000 and 90.000 IDR per day, so if you don’t want the hassle of driving back, this is a pretty good deal. I’m still trying to find out the contact for you guys, until then start by asking at the tourist information!

Either way, check that breaks and lights are working correctly, that you have at least some gas and oil in the tank, and that you get a proper helmet. I had to fight for the latter, seriously – they tried to give me some plastic crap first, but I insisted, successfully.

Navigation

Neither Google Maps nor maps.me can be fully relied on. Partly because you will encounter many places without any phone service. More importantly though, the streets of Flores are not at all well mapped in maps.me, and even Google often sends you the wrong way.

There’s a few streets signs to rely on, and otherwise ask locals again and again for your destination. “Di mana …?”, “Where is …?” – even if you cannot communicate with each other otherwise, pointing in one direction is all you need. Make sure to re-confirm, because they’re so eager to help that they’ll send you a way even without really knowing if it’s the right one.

But as long as you’re on the Trans-Flores Highway anyway, you can barely go wrong – there is just no other adequate street to take 😉

Gas

I usually filled up when my tank was 2/3 to 5/6 empty. Admittedly, my bike didn’t hold much fuel, so it depends on the size. There are not enough gas stations along the way, and you’ll have to buy a bottle of the street-side stands every now and then, which will cost between 12.000 and 15.000 IDR.

Food & Water

I always had some fruit and muesli bars or other snacks on me, otherwise there’s plenty Warungs along the way to find something to make your tummy happy – if your accommodation doesn’t include food anyway (I listed the places where I stayed in the respective location section).

If you plan on staying in guest houses and hotels, there’s no need to worry about water. Should you consider trying to stay with locals you meet on the way, I’d recommend bringing your own, since they mostly only have boiled tap water. However personally, I didn’t mind that and my stomach handled it without problems.

About the season

I did the trip during the last week of September / first week of October – and that was just perfect. Admittedly rather risky, as rain season is about to start, and exactly when I left it started pouring for days. But there were almost no tourists in any of the places I visited, and that was a nice change from life in Bali.

Rain season ends around March / April, that would also be a good time. Avoid to do the trip during high season when it’s especially hot and especially crowded.

Luggage, Clothes & other things

Take as few as possible, and then leave a couple more things behind. Two long pants, three t-shirts, one dress, one jumper, one jacket was really enough for me. I drove in sneakers and also had flipflops. A raincoat is a life saver. A pair of warm socks for the cold nights. A sarong served as my towel, scarf, beach blanket and cardigan.

Consider that worst case, your entire bag will get soaked. Leave the sensitive technology behind, and bring something to make your bag rainproof.

Also, definitely buy sunscreen in advance. Across the entire island, you won’t find one place to buy any, except in Labuan Bajo – and even there it’s a challenge. You’ll be exposed to the sun every single day for at least 5 hours straight, don’t underestimate that.

Finally, I put all that in one big backpack that I put between my legs, and thus didn’t have anything on my back or seat. This enabled me to switch positions while driving, which was quite a relief.

Labuan Bajo – Wae Rebo

Looking back, the first day was already one of the toughest, because of the road conditions. If you decide to do this in one day (and not stay the night somewhere to hike up the next morning) – don’t leave Labuan Bajo later than 7am! You will only follow the Trans-Flores Highway about halfway to Ruteng, and then have all those adventurous roads to master. Depending on your experience, it will take you 5,5 to 7,5 hours driving to only get to the bottom of the village, and then 2 to 3 hours of uphill hiking.

road to wae rebo traditional village

The miserable road conditions for hours on the way to Wae Rebo

However, I would strongly advise you to not do this route by motorbike at all, or at least not alone, if you’re not absolutely confident that you will master difficult roads. In fact, the term road is more than flattering. At times, it was stones and gravel and dust and mud, but no pavement for miles and miles.

And then it started raining.

Just be sure what you’re signing up for 😉

A word on tourism in Wae Rebo

Along the way I met a guy named Kasius, who showed me the way when I was a little lost. It turned out that he was from Wae Rebo, and his father one of the village leaders. He invited me in for coffee before I made my way up the mountains, and we got a chance to talk.

And just like that, it became the first time where I considered not to write about a place to not drive more touristic attention to it.

Before I went, I read a few reviews and heard from other travelers that Wae Rebo is very touristic and way overpriced with 325.000 IDR. This includes a night, coffee/tea, water, and all meals.

It turns out that the main reasons why they raised the prices so much is: They don’t want more tourists.

The majority of their visitors is Indonesian, and the biggest problem is that they barely care about trash.

And if you consider that 600 people live in Wae Rebo, but up to August this year, they already hosted 7.000 guests – one night with 300! – well, I find their actions understandable. They don’t have their “traditional” village to themselves anymore. People leave their traces. When I got up in the morning, an Indonesian couple was flying their drone at 6am and the high-pitch sound was audible in the entire village.

Beyond that, the money goes into a village fund. From this, every inhabitant is entitled to request financial help – for example to send a child to school or to receive medical treatment. Every case will be handled independently before money is being granted.

And I believe this is fair, and I support this decision. Wae Rebo is an incredible place, and I’m hesitating whether I’d recommend you to visit or not, for given reasons. But instead of not writing about it at all, I want to share my experience, so you can make a conscious decision beyond lonely planet guides.

If you do decide to go, a little present will always be appreciated – best will be toys and books for the children. On your way back, offer to take something down the mountain with you, trash or goods of some sort. They will likely be too polite and decline, but even the gesture makes a difference.

Experiencing Wae Rebo

The hike was constantly uphill over muddy paths, and it was too cloudy to see anything, so I just tried to be as quick as I could.

Upon arrival I was greeted by a young local who spoke enough English to show me around and lead me through the formalities. Every guest is firstly welcomed in the main hut, where you’ll have to leave a small donation while one of the village elders performs a welcoming ritual.

The accommodation is simple but sufficient. All visitors sleep together in one big hut on mats on the floor. There’s no showers (you can use buckets of cold water if you’d like) and electricity runs only from 6pm to 10pm every day. I was the only non-Indonesian person, and we spent the evening playing Uno – no matter where you go in the world, kids grow up with those colorful cards everywhere I guess 🙂

wae rebo traditional village

At night, nature’s cinema gives all it has to offer!

wae rebo traditional village

View-wise, I was luckier the next day!

Food was always rice and vegetables and fruit, but with a little variety. After the hike you don’t really mind what you get served anyway. And the coffee is really a revelation – they are quite famous for their locally grown and processed coffee.

Wae Rebo – Ruteng

I left Wae Rebo at 8 am, and needed only a little over an hour for the way down. I was partly running though, because I wanted to make best use of the non-present rain. Finally, I was able to enjoy some of the views along the way as well.

wae rebo traditional village

The view along the hike to Wae Rebo

Back at my scooter I discovered – someone had stolen my mirrors over night. Seriously. I was close to really losing my shit. But I pulled it back together and drove to the next shop and made them understand my misery, hoping they would not try to make me pay ridiculous money for new ones – successfully. With 60.000 less in my pocket and again convenient view of the road behind me, I finally started my ride to Ruteng.

The roads were in better shape than the day before, leading past beautiful beaches, wide views over rice fields, and eventually curving their way through the magnificent jungle in the mountains just south of Ruteng. I had kept following the street along the shore until Iteng, and then drove straight north. This part, which in fact is not part of the Trans-Flores highway at all, probably took me the most asking for directions, but it was just beautiful. After around 4 hours, I arrived in Ruteng.

I wanted to find a specific coffee shop I was recommended before, but obviously looked quite lost. A schoolgirl approached me, asking if she could help, and wanted to make conversation.

On a side note, as everyone else will. White skin will have shouts of “Bule! Bule!” (tourist, white person) coming your way from every direction. Even if you’re driving past with 60 km/h, kids will run your way trying to high five or get hold of you – be aware, they don’t really have a sense of speed it appears.

Exploring the local village life

I invited the 17 year old girl Seli to join me for coffee, and agreed to spend the day with her since I had no plan anyway. We visited her home briefly, and then drove on my bike to her village that was about 45 minutes away, called Ling. I think no tourist has set foot in this scenic valley for decades; the roads are awful, and anyone not knowing the area would get lost beyond reemergence. Children from the villages finish elementary school there, and then move to Ruteng to continue their education.

view over the ricefields around Ruteng

The magical views around Ling, Ruteng

view over the ricefields around Ruteng

Ling turned out to be a beautiful little village that authentically showed me local everyday life. Seli’s family’s house was very simple but welcoming. We all sat together on the floor and communicated with signs and gestures (the most important question remained why I had no boyfriend traveling with me…), drank tea together, walked around the village.

And then waited for the sudden downpour to pass – one of the worst ones I’ve seen in Indonesia so far. On the way back to Ruteng we had to swim the bike through knee-deep water, yay.

In the end, they offered me to stay the night with them, but I needed to do laundry and my Western soul was yearning for a hot shower. I slept at MJR Guesthouse for 280.000 IDR – again simple, but with WiFi, incredible friendly staff and the best breakfast I had on the entire trip.

Ruteng – Bajawa

The exhaustion caused by driving at least 4 hours every day is really not to be underestimated. Even if you’re not physically moving, the constant alertness on the roads, navigation, but also trying to find the best posture is demanding. The first time I felt a stinging pain in my lower back was after two hours. On the first day.

I took it easy, that morning in Ruteng. I wanted to find sunscreen because I was running out, but after rummaging through the two biggest supermarkets and a bunch of small street stores – I gave up. And surrendered to wearing my long-sleeve in the heat.

The condition of the Trans-Flores highway route to Bajawa is good, but the most hairpin turns of the entire trip. This part is also most likely to greet you with some rain or at least dense clouds, so have some warm clothes to grab. The drive took me around 4,5 hours.

I personally didn’t like Bajawa itself, it was quite touristy. I stayed in Madja Edelweis Guesthouse (not to be confused with the Edelweis hotel on the main road) and paid 150.000 IDR for a room with hot shower and breakfast. However, as I learned later, they made everyone pay different prices.

Food-wise, I tried the Lucas Authentic Restaurant (just opposite the road to Madja Edelweis). Food was cheap and simple. There is another “Lucas Restaurant” 200m down the road, which is quite popular. I’ve also eaten at Dito’s, all same same but different.

The rest of the day in Bajawa I used the free time and for once decent WiFi to make calls and catch up on some news and went to bed early that night.

Bajawa – Riung

My plan initially was to drive to Moni next, I never intended to spend more than a coffee in Riung on the way back. But plans are made to be pushed down the edge sometimes, right?

I met a German girl, Caro, during breakfast that morning, who told me about snorkeling the 17 islands in Riung. It was recommended to me twice already, and I took it as a sign. So casually changing my destination 5 minutes before departure – the beauty of not planning ahead.

Exploring around Bajawa

We began our day by visiting nearby Beja traditional village. Most people go to the further away Bena, but we were fine exploring the less popular area. This village is also close to a short hike up Mount Wariwowo. It’s quite easily accessible for the great views it offers of volcanoe Inerie!

Bena traditional village

Mount Wariwowo and the panorama of Inerie

The drive to Riung

Regarding the route to Riung, our host in Bajawa advised us to take the longer route following the Trans-Flores Highway towards Ende and then Northwest to Riung. But since there were two of us with even more adventure in spirit, we took the shorter but bumpier one.

local life on the way to Riung

Beautiful local life on the way to Riung

We made the journey in about 3,5 hours. Frankly, the roads were in better condition than those to Wae Rebo. It was as sunny as could be (#sunscreenqueen), and we enjoyed some amazing views along the way. The moment we finally laid eyes on the bay of Riung for the first time made us stop and stare for a whole minute.

Spending two nights in Riung

We stayed in Sangrila Lodges – very simple but for 200.000 IDR per room per night including breakfast, totally cool. It was the best quality-price balance we could find. Food-wise, I recommend the chill Café del Mar and Pato Resto.

Generally, you won’t find any WiFi in Riung, and our Bali simcards didn’t work either. Old-school, you’ll just walk around, ask for prices, and stay in where you feel comfortable.

The next day meant finally heading seaside! We had met a local guy and his Dutch wife before – Armando and Maxime – and they offered to take us on a trip. We were all around the same age, had a similar taste in music – and humor. The two are about to open a café called Plankton, just ask around, everyone knows them. They’re really lovely and have been super helpful!

our new friends in Riung

Maxime and Armando from Riung

We paid 325.000 IDR per person (we were a group of four travelers) including an absolutely fantastic lunch with freshly grilled fish and fruit and snorkeling masks. No need for fins really, the current is on your side.

snorkeling the 17 islands in Riung

The snorkeling crew

17 islands in Riung

our private view of paradise around Riung’s 17 islands

lunch on the beach in Riung

Our amazing lunch on the beach

We stopped at three spots to snorkel before having lunch. One was better than the other, the colors were unbelievable. All but the last one were the regular spots almost all tour went to – but ask your captain to see the last corals from the back of the island so the current is on your side and you can just float along the underwater magic. Finally, we saw the infamous flying foxes from the distance. It was fascinating as it was, seeing thousands of them in the trees, so we objected the popular demand of going closer to wake them up and see them fly.

snorkeling in Riung

After we returned, Armando and Maxime invited us to their space and got us fresh coconuts. We were incredibly tired from the day out at the sea, and ended it with just a quick dinner.

Riung – Moni

Traveling with two people will always make you leave later than planned, without any obvious reasons – have that in mind 😉

This route was one of my favorite ones of the entire trip. Well. Actually the whole thing was my favorite. Again, the road was mostly in good condition. It led along the coast, up the hills, and through some landscape reminding me of the Middle East.

Across the central island and back on the Trans-Flores Highway along the Southern coast towards Ende. And finally riding through the mountains covered in rice fields and thick jungle, the road curving its way around the Kelimutu volcano. We took 6,5 hours, but we made many stops. If driving fast, you will need 1 or even 2 hours less.

We had lunch at Servan Beach Café, 30 kilometers before Ende. Supposedly also the “Blue Stone Beach”, but almost all stones have been taken away – you’ll see a bunch of pretty blue and turquoise piles along the roads. Still makes for a pretty view though.

Moni is a sleepy little place, and consists entirely of guesthouses and restaurants. We stayed in up to my knowledge the only dormroom at Santiago Café for only 50.000 IDR per night (without breakfast). Offered all we needed, and was closest to drive up to the Kelimutu in the morning. Otherwise, Bintang Lodge is a very popular alternative.

Early morning on the Kelimutu volcano

Our hostel dorm turned out to be a bunch of cool rebels. We all, if possible, wanted to ditch the expensive park fees and got up at 2.30am to make our way up super early. We followed the recommendations of these guys, just that we drove all the way up instead of hiking. However, that was also our mistake, and our sleepy brains didn’t realize the problem until it was too late: Our noisy scooters of course woke up the guard, and we got charged after all. Luckily only half price, our Indonesian girl we had with us got us a deal.

trans flores highway roadtrip

Getting up early was super worth it though!

trans flores highway roadtrip

trans flores highway roadtrip

Moni – Aimere

All those unplanned extra adventures meant that I had two days left to drive the entire Trans-Flores Highway back to Labuan Bajo. Duh, well done Christina.

Now it was only Aca, my new Indonesian friend, and me left. Both used to driving, we went full-speed and covered the distance to Aimere in only 5 hours, that was definitely a record. Aca even considered driving further, but it had started raining heavily, so we shared a room in Gemo Beach Cottages. The grounds were beautiful, the owners super nice and showed us how they produced their own Arak (strong palm liquor). The dinner with fresh fish was just a blessing.

Aimere – Labuan Bajo

Final spurt! We embarked on the last bit of the Trans-Flores Highway at 7.30 am. Aca had a flight to catch later, and I just wanted to lie down for the rest of the day. However, things turned out differently again…

trans-flores highway

Oh how I missed this fair weather view from the first day…

Just 30 minutes after we left, we had caught up with the heavy rain again. There were small streams forming on the roads, our helmets barely kept the water out of our eyes. This led us to stop several times, trying to keep ourselves and our luggage dry.

It turned out however that the rain was taking the same route as were we – so when it became less and we started driving again, we re-entered the downpour within minutes.

Eventually we said, fuck it, let’s do it – and with a little good music in our ears, it actually became quite fun, the art of racing in the rain 😉 Despite the weather, we managed to master the rest of Trans-Flores Highway in just 6 hours.

Ironically, it stopped raining just 5 kilometers from Labuan Bajo, where we were greeted by 25 degrees and sunshine. When I put my backpack down at the hostel, someone was exclaiming “Oh no, something is leaking in your bag!”. I just laughed “Nope, that’s rain”. They shot a skeptical look out at the blue sky, back at me, and then left the lounge…

The End

Holy Shit, I did it. Not a single accident. Well, except when I left Labuan Bajo on day 1 and kind of failed at parking and fell down with my bike…

Flores ended up becoming one of my favorite places in the world, with all its diversity and secluded parts of exotic island storybook heaven. Discovering this on two wheels is an easily accessible and yet still not too touristic adventure that made me wanna get my official motorcycle license (wait, what?!)

Thanks for following along friends 🙂 Shoot any questions or further infos about Flores below!

Happy riding,

Christina autograph


Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. Meaning that, at no additional cost for you, I will earn a commission if you click and make a booking or purchase. I only recommend places and products that I have personally tested. This website is independently owned by myself and the opinions expressed here are my own. This helps me to keep the site running – thank you!

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Jokin
    March 23, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Christina!
    Nice post! it’s going to be very helpful for me! Do you have the contact of the guy that rents the scooters to leave them in Labuan bajo?

    Thanks!! 🙂

    • Reply
      Christina
      March 24, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Jokin, yay I’m happy to help!
      I’ve been asking the other people I traveled with, unfortunately I don’t have the number. But ask around a bit, there is only one guy doing so, it won’t be difficult to find him 🙂 Let me know if you need anything else!

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