Bali vs Lombok: Which Island Should YOU Visit?

You know that there is more than Bali in Indonesia? You’re already ahead of 30% of the internet (I’ve done the research)!

Right next to Bali is Lombok. I call it Bali’s smaller sister. The two islands are very similar but different enough to have a totally different experience.

To summarize my perspective: Bali is fizz and buzz whereas Lombok is hush and lull.

Bali is the crazy sister that parties all night, goes to yoga retreats and returns “spiritually enlightened”, and is ultra popular.

Lombok is the shy sister that keeps it to herself, most don’t notice her, but she’s actually gorgeous and for the right person, she will open up and be adventurous and exciting.

Bali vs Lombok at a Glance

The comparisons below are my own opinions. I’ve been to both Bali and Lombok for at least a month on each, so I guess, I carry some credibility.

If you want:Go go:
Peace and quietLombok
Cleaner beachesLombok
Untouched, almost privately-yours beachesLombok
More AttractionsLombok
Temples and ancient architectureBali
Wonderful waterfallsBali
Malls and marketsBali
Cheaper pricesLombok
Superb, world-class restaurantsBali
More attractionsBali

Bali Overview

Bali, the Island of the Gods, is a world-renowned destination. It’s ridiculously popular. So much so, that 45% of all foreign arrivals in Indonesia are indeed to Bali.

Tourism in Bali has developed over the past couple of decades to the point where some areas feel a lot less “Bali” than they did in the 90s. At least that’s what people say, I was a baby back then.

But truth be told, when I visited Bali it felt overcrowded and gentrified. I didn’t feel like I was on a tropical island most of the time, instead having all the Western commodities at a fingernail’s distance.

A bunch of people queing to take a picture at Kanto Lampo waterfall
In Bali, you may have to QUEUE to take a picture at a waterfall!

Regardless, Bali is famous for a reason. I believe it is that it has ALL that Indonesia can offer packed inside a relatively small island. It’s a jack of all trades, master of none. In Bali, you can:

  • Surf on some of the world’s most spectacular breaks
  • Dive at fascinating sites
  • Stay at luxury hotels, cute rural villas, cozy homestays, and backpackers’ hostels
  • Refresh at countless waterfalls
  • Climb 3 volcanoes
  • Sunbathe at countless beaches
  • Watch spectacular sunsets and sunrises
  • Delve into Balinese Hindu by visiting thousands of Puras (temples)
a cliff with trees on it
Uluwatu Cliffs and Temple

Lombok Overview

Overlooked. That’s Lombok.

You’re seriously missing out if you don’t cross the Lombok Strait from Bali and experience a little bit of the laid-back, real, charming Indonesia.

An empty beach in Lombok
Whereas in Lombok, you can have the WHOLE BEACH for yourself!

Travelers are waking up to the potential that Lombok has. It’s dubbed the “New Bali”. Oh, please don’t turn it into Bali, that would only ruin it!

Lombok is for those seeking a slower living. Less traffic, fewer tourist-oriented establishments. But still all the beauty and nature of a tropical island – unspoiled beaches, challenging volcano treks, sunsets and sunrises, waterfalls and rice terraces.

a woman sitting on a tree stump in a forest

Lombok is pure tropical tranquility.

Direct Comparisons

If you’ve found my overviews vague, you have a point. But how do you describe entire islands in a way that isn’t? It will always be prejudiced and superficial. So let’s go into some detail.


Lombok is mostly Muslim, whereas the Balinese people are Hindus.

You may think that Bali is more open-minded but I found Lombok to be just as liberal when it comes to foreign visitors. Bikini on the beach and tank tops are okay. Alcohol is easily available. Nobody will bat an eye that you’re holding your partner by the hand.

There are no issues when it comes to religious freedom on either island.

Perhaps in Lombok, the chance of having a mosque nearby that wakes you up for the 4 AM Tahajjud prayer is higher but I wouldn’t pick an island over just that.

a stone gate of a Hindu Temple with a staircase leading to it
You can find these Hindu Temples only in Bali

Public Transport

Both islands lack a well-developed public transport network.

Bali has 4 unreliable public bus lines that cover only a small part of Southern Bali.

Lombok has a handful of DAMRI bus lines connecting Mataram City with other big towns.

Bali’s traffic is much, much worse than in Lombok. Sometimes you may get stuck in a traffic jam for hours to cover just a few kilometers. In Lombok, the traffic is light. Only Mataram City sometimes sees a high number of vehicles on the road.

On both Bali and Lombok, reaching attractions will require private transfers or renting a scooter.


You can find typical Indonesian food in both Bali and Lombok. There are plenty of Nasi Goreng, Mie Ayam, Ayam Penyet, Sate, Mie Goreng, and Nasi Campur vendors and warungs.

I found Bali to have more options and more night markets. Bali also has more restaurants serving foreign cuisine and more fast food places. Owing to tourism popularity, some of the best fine dining restaurants can be found in Bali.

But I also had more flavorful food in Lombok. It could’ve been the luck of the draw though.

Bali’s food includes some pork items (e.g. babi guling) which in Muslim Lombok is quite rare.


Prices in Lombok are generally lower for most things compared to Bali.

For similar quality, you will be paying:

  • ~10% less for food
  • ~20% less for transportation
  • ~20% less for accommodation
  • ~10% less for attractions


Bali has Agung, Batur, and Beratan. Trekking Mount Batur for sunrise is affordable and easy to do for everyone.

Mount Batur and its caldera
Mount Batur, Bali

Lombok has Rinjani and Samalas. Trekking Rinjani is a once-in-a-lifetime activity, both physically demanding and with rewarding views.


When it comes to waterfalls, Bali really shines. There are soooo many there, you can easily visit 10+ in a single day!

Tucked away in jungles, hidden or popular, ones you only look at or where you can swim, you can pick whichever waterfall you want in Bali. Some of the more popular ones are:

  • Taman Sari
  • Sekumpul
  • Kanto Lampo
  • Tibumana
  • Goa Rang Reng
  • Gitgit
a waterfall in a forest
One of the hundreds of hidden waterfalls in Bali

Lombok also has a few waterfalls. Can’t be any other way on an island with a 3.726-meter-high volcano.

While not as awe-inspiring as some of the ones in Bali, there are still a few gems:

  • Tetebatu
  • Sendang Gile
  • Tiu Kelep
  • Sarang Walet
  • Jeruk Manis
a waterfall in a cave
Sarang Walet Waterfall in Lombok

Culture and Temples

Bali definitely takes the award here. With thousands of Balinese temples, each exquisite and gorgeous, there is no comparison between Bali vs Lombok in terms of culture.

You can find hidden small temples around Ubud or go to popular ones like Tanah Lot, Uluwatu Temple, Besakih, and Lempuyang. The Tirta Empul water temple is outstanding too.

In Lombok, you won’t find any of that. A regular mosque here and there and that’s about it. The closest thing to an interesting temple is the Rembitan Mosque – one of the oldest in Lombok. And then again, it’s just a thatched roof, 1-story high building that’s been functioning as a mosque for hundreds of years. Cool, but definitely not outstanding.

Tanah Lot temple complex in Bali

Cities & Shopping

For malls and big shopping centers in Lombok, stick to Mataram.

Tourist hotspots like Kuta and Senggigi also have cool stores.

As for Bali, you can find many malls in Kuta, Seminyak, Denpasar, and Canggu.

Mataram and Denpasar are cities of similar population and you won’t find much difference between them. Still, I feel Bali somewhat wins on the urbanization front.


Bali has more options: Canggu, Seminyak, Kuta, Ubud, Sanur…

Lombok boasts the Gilis, especially Gili Trawangan. I’ve heard parties there are crazy. However, I feel this island is just an extension of Bali, even though it’s situated within the Lombok region.

On Lombok proper, the party is at Kuta (Lombok) and Senggigi.

But if you want to be where the action is, stick to Bali for bars and nightclubs.

Kuta (Bali) vs Kuta (Lombok)

A bit confusing, isn’t it, to have a “Kuta” on both islands?

Kuta (Bali) is overcrowded, tacky and pricy. It’s full of bars, restaurants and beach clubs. Kuta Beach is…I call it disgusting, some find it barely okay. I am baffled by all the people who call Kuta (Bali) a surfers’ paradise – never seen a single surfer there.

Kuta (Lombok) is quiet and slow. The main strip is indeed touristy but not overly so. The traffic is light and everything is within walking distance. There are a few bars to keep the party going. The beach is clean and pretty. Not a surfers’ paradise either but there are other suitable beaches around.

Simon’s pick: Kuta (Lombok) is much better and more relaxed.

A view of Kuta, Lombok from above
Kuta, my favorite place in Lombok (but not in Bali)!

How to get from Bali to Lombok and vice versa

The easiest and the priciest option is to fly. There are 2-3 daily flights which take around 30 minutes and cost around 65 USD.

The second most convenient option is to take a fast boat from Bali to Lombok including the option to get off at any of the Gili islands. The fast boats depart from Sanur or Padang Bai, take 2-3 hours to cross the strait, and cost around 25 USD.

The budget-friendly option is to take the slow boat. The ferry service runs daily between Padang Bai and Lembar Harbour. The journey takes 4-5 hours but could take up to 8 hours on a bad day. It costs just 4 USD.

Which island should YOU visit: Bali or Lombok?

Bali is more popular, easier to travel, more well-trodden, and has a much better-connected airport. If it’s your first time going to Indonesia, you will have an awesome introduction by going to Bali.

If you prefer a quieter place with way fewer tourists, more laid-back and relaxed, not so many attractions but great beaches, undiscovered countryside, and one extremely challenging volcano, then go to Lombok.

If you’re considering any other islands, why not take a look at my Bali vs Java comparison? And if you’ve made up your mind about going to Java too, here’s a 14-day Java Backpacking Itinerary!

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