How to get to the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra- transportation tips

How to get to the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra- transportation tips

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Until very recently, reaching the Mentawai Islands was a real adventure, a challenge with unclear options, with almost no information about it. But things change rapidly. Today, these islands are not too difficult to reach. If you want to plan a trip itinerary to the Mentawai Islands, one of the most important things that you have to resolve is the transportation. In this article, you can get detailed information about transportation- how to get to the Mentawai Islands and how to roam around them.

Getting to the Mentawai Islands

There are three ways to reach the Mentawai Islands- by fast ferry, by slow ferry, and by charter flight.

Fast ferry

The most popular way to reach the Mentawai Islands is by ferry from Padang, the capital of West Sumatra. Your starting point is Mentawai Fast Ferry Harbour, located at the mouth of the Batang Arau River. HERE is the exact location of the harbor.

The destinations (entry points) of the Mentawai are as follows:

  • Tuapejat– Sipora Island
  • Sikabaluan – Siberut Island
  • Siberut – Siberut Island
  • Sikakap – Pagai Utara (North Pagai) Island

You can see their exact locations on the map below:

Map of the Mentawai Islands and the main ferry and air routes
Map of the Mentawai Islands and the main ferry and air routes

Below is the current ferry schedule and the prices.

RouteDays of the WeekDepartureArrivalPrice
Padang - TuapejatMonday7:0010:30350,000 IDR
Padang - SiberutThursday7:0010:40350,000 IDR
Padang - SikabaluanTuesday7:0011:00350,000 IDR
Padang - SikakapFriday7:0012:00400,000 IDR
Tuapejat - PadangMonday15:0018:30350,000 IDR
Tuapejat - SiberutMonday7:008:45125,000 IDR
Tuapejat - SikakapTuesday7:009:45200,000 IDR
Siberut - PadangTuesday14:3018:30350,000 IDR
Siberut - TuapejatMonday13:3014:40125,000 IDR
Siberut - SikabaluanMonday9:0010:30110,000 IDR
Sikabaluan - SiberutMonday11:3012:30110,000 IDR
Sikabaluan - PadangThursday14:3018:15350,000 IDR
Sikakap - PadangFriday13:3018:30400,000 IDR
Sikakap - TuapejatTuesday11:0013:40200,000 IDR

You can also buy a combined ticket from Tuapejat to Sikabaluan (it stops in Siberut). Price: 235,000 IDR

As you can see, these tours are not every day, so you have to keep in mind both directions of the ferries.

It is better to buy tickets earlier, but not too early. For the ferries that depart early on the next day, it is better to buy tickets on the previous day afternoon. And for the afternoon ferries, buy tickets at least 2-3 hours in advance. Currently, there is no option of buying tickets online.

Keep also in mind that if you are a surfer, you have to pay additional baggage tax: for 10-15 kg: 230,000 IDR; for 15-25 kg: 460,000 IDR, and for more than 25 kg: 690,000 IDR.

Our experience

When we wanted to return from Tuapejat (Sipora Island) to Padang, we came to the harbor in Tuapejat 2 hours earlier, and all the tickets were sold out (they said it happens very seldom). We literally begged them for mercy, and finally, they gave us a ticket without a seat (for the same price).

We spent the whole trip on the deck (it was very beautiful and fresh there, btw), and many other people stayed there without seats too. We discovered that many of them hadn’t bought a ticket at all, but a ferry attendant came and sold tickets to them on board. So, as you can see, there are no perfect rules and things can be flexible, however, buying a ticket in advance is safer from trouble.

Ferry ticket from Tuapejat to Padang
Ferry ticket from Tuapejat to Padang

Slow ferry

There is still a slow ferry service. It is not only slow (10 to 12 hours), but the ships are much older and a bit dirtier. At least, it is cheaper (200,000 IDR). It is seldom used by tourists, but mostly for locals.

It often changes its schedule, but normally starts on Friday at 17:00 or 18:00 and arrives in Tuapejat or Siberut at 5:00 or 6:00 on Saturday. In other words, you have to spend the night there.

Notice that the slow ferry departs from Teluk Bayur Port in Padang! Its’ location is HERE.

Charter flights

There is only one airport on the Mentawai Islands. This is Rokot Airport, located on Sipora Island. The airport is very small, and only small planes can land on it. Due to erosion of the nearby seacoast, soon it will need a serious reconstruction.

Currently, the only company that uses the airport is Susi Air. They offer charter flights from Padang (Minangkabau Airport) to Rokot.

Mentawai Fast Harbor in Padang
Mentawai Fast Harbor in Padang

Wandering inside and between the islands

As you can see, there are fast ferries that connect the four big islands of the Mentawai. Or more precisely- they connect the two main ports on Siberut (Siberut and Sikabaluan), the main port of Sipora (Tuapejat), and the main port of both North and South Pagai Islands (Sikakap). Sikakap is located on North Pagai, but these two islands are separated only by a river-wide sea strait, and Sikakap is located on this strait.

But once you arrived at one of the ports, where would you go, and how? It depends on which island you choose. There is no public transport in the interior of the islands. The only exception is on Sipora Island- a local “angkot” (minivan) that travels between Tuapejat and Rokot.


So, for the interior of the islands, the only option you have is to use an ojek (motor taxi). Ojeks usually wait in the port (they know the ferry schedules and wait for travelers when a ferry arrives). Then, they can take you to the nearby villages or homestays for about 20,000 to 30,000 IDR.

However, if you want to go from some point to the port, it would be difficult to find an ojek. Better you ask the homestay/resort owner to arrange one for you, that’s the only option. Unless you can speak Indonesian, get the phone number of an ojek driver and call him to pick you up.

There are also some car taxis, but you can normally find them only at Rokot Airport. They usually don’t wait at the harbors. 

On a rental scooter
On a rental scooter

Rental motorbike

This is the most convenient way to roam on land. However, it is available only on the Sipora Island. And don’t expect too much- there are not too many roads where you can drive. You can drive between Tuapejat and Rokot, you can go to Mapaddegat and a few other villages, and that’s all. A good way to use it is if your accommodation is in Mapaddegat and you want to go to Jatti Beach.

Don’t try to drive on dirt roads- they are almost constantly muddy and it makes them slippery for motorbikes (scooters)!

Most homestays and resorts offer rental motorbikes (scooters). Usually, the price is around 150,000 IDR for one day (normally from the morning to the evening on the same day, not 24 hours).

How about Siberut? There are some coastal roads between Siberut and Sikabaluan, but there are almost no homestays or other places where you can rent one. Probably, you can try with some locals, but honestly, there is not much use.

North and South Pagai? There are almost no roads on these islands, and again, much fewer homestays. Yes, there are short paved roads but where can you go on them?

Private boats

This is another service offered by the surfing resorts that are normally located on the small islands. They usually offer a full transfer from Padang to their resorts. This transfer includes a local driver from Minangkabau Airport to Mentawai Fast Harbor, a ticket for the fast ferry to Tuapejat, Siberut, or Sikakap, and a private boat from one of these ports to a surfing resort.

In other words, these private boats are something like booked in advance “sea ojeks”, however, they are much more expensive. You can expect something like 2000 USD (not IDR) for a whole boat!

Island hopping with snorkeling by boat taxi
Island hopping with snorkeling by boat taxi

Boat taxi

These are private boats that guide tourists to the nearby small islands. Although they are called “taxis”, they are not like a “normal taxi but on water”- they are just private tours on fixed routes. They belong to local homestays too or just a local tour companies.

The routes of these boats take you to some nearby small islands. Usually, the boat tours are 4-5 hours long and take you to some beaches, snorkeling spots, or mangrove lagoons. The price varies between 600,000 and 800,000 for the whole boat, or 300,000 to 400,000 per person (various homestays have their own price policy).

The best one you can find on Sipora Island is Likat Mentawai, located at the Mapaddegat Beach. They offered not only boat taxis, but also local tours in the jungles. They can also share with you a lot about the local Mentawai culture.

Some of the companies offer a longer tour to more distant islands or spots on the main island. We even met a couple that booked a boat tour around the whole Sipora Island, for 2,000,000 IDR. Such service is not officially offered, but you have to discuss it with the owner privately.

Boat taxis for surfers

These are the same as the “normal” boat taxis, but instead of taking you to nearby small islands, they just take you to a surfing spot. In other words, they are surfers, or for those who are not surfers but just want to watch them. Usually, every homestay on Sipora Island offers them. The prices are similar to the “normal” boat taxis.

However, if you are in a surfing resort (surf camp), this service is regular and is usually included in the price. In other words, you book for it in advance.

Join a Mentawai surf camp!

Deep in the jungle
Deep in the jungle

Transportation for the jungle trek to the Mentawai tribes

This is on Siberut Island. Actually, it is not a “normal transportation” but an organized tour to the hidden Mentawai villages deep in the jungle. It includes river boat cruise and jungle trekking, as well as accommodation in the Uma houses of the Mentawai people. 

This is the only way to penetrate the jungle to the Mentawai villages. Yes, probably you can arrive in Siberut independently and hire a local boat (with a boatman). He can take you to a certain point “in the middle of nowhere”, and from there, you still have to walk in the jungle. Someone still have to show you the way, otherwise, you don’t know the right direction. Finally, it can still turn into an organized tour, but with random non-professional people. 

So, there it is. You have the necessary information about the transportation to, from, and around the Mentawai Islands. Also, you know what things you want to do there and what places to see. You can build your Mentawai itinerary- it can be just a trip around these islands, or it can be a part of a larger, West Sumatra itinerary.

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This article presents useful tips about how to get to the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra, and how to travel inside the archipelago. This article presents useful tips about how to get to the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra, and how to travel inside the archipelago. This article presents useful tips about how to get to the Mentawai Islands in West Sumatra, and how to travel inside the archipelago.

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