Once known as the Spice Islands, an epithet also applies to the entire Maluku area, the Bandas were famous as a source of spices, especially nutmeg. First colonised by the Portuguese, the Dutch soon wrested control of the islands and fought the Spice Wars with the British. In the Treaty of Breda in 1667, the British agreed to withdraw and gave up Pulau Run to the Dutch, partly in exchange for one small island on the other side of the world: New Amsterdam, now better known as Manhattan.
The Bandas are really off the beaten track. There has been no flights from Ambon to Banda since September 2016. Flights may resume in 2017. Fast ferry leaves from Ambon to Bandaneira at 9 am on Tuesdays and Saturdays and returns the following day. Also two Pelni ships are calling at the Bandaneira port. Both seem to complete their routes in more or less biweekly cycle and both stop at Banda twice (once heading from Ambon to the south Molucas and one comming back from the south Molucas to Ambon), so an average of 4 arrivals per month can be expected. The Pelni schedules are usually not available far ahead in time so no much planning in advance is possible, but one can be almost sure to get another ship in two weeks. In all cases it's highly recommended to check the Pelni website for up-to-date information on ships and routes as this seems to change. Bear in mind that delays and pickpocketing are quite a common thing in a Pelni journey.
A couple of Perintis ships (which are rather cargo ships lacking passenger comodities but seem to take passengers anyway) are also calling at Banda, their schedules most probably have to be checked in place once at Bandaneira or Ambon.
Getting around on Bandaneira is either by foot, ojek or becak. The furthermost village in the north is a 45 minute walk. However most places of interest to tourists (airport, harbour, market, colonial houses, Pelni office) are within walking distance or located in the town of Bandaneira.
Access to other islands is provided by boat. Regular connections go to Pulau Banda Besar, Pulau Ai, and Pulau Hatta. Boats to Pulau Ai are usually leaving during morning hours. Public boat from Hatta arrives to Bandaneira on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday morning and usually returns in early afternoon. Other islands can be reached for day-trips by chartered boats (Pulau Pisang + Batu Kapal Rp 350,000/day; Half-Day tour to the Lava Stream north of Gunung Api Rp 120,000). For mountain hikes up to Gunung Api local fishermen are more than happy to carry you across for Rp 10,000 each way.
There are no bars or restaurants serving alcoholic drinks in Bandaneira. However some guesthouses have chilled beer (Rp 40,000 per big bottle Bintang) and fresh juices (Rp 15,000).
Bandaneira is generally a safe place for tourists and there are no annoyances like in other Indonesian cities. Traffic is very little and calm.
Warning: There have been frequent reports of pickpocketing at the ferry terminal. The jostle upon arrival of the big Pelni boat is an ideal place to remove the wallet out of your pocket or to cut your money belt. It is advised to pay high attention and store your valuables safely!
Keep in mind that Indonesian ferries have generally low safety standards. In particular overloaded small boats e.g. to Pulau Ai might be hazardous during rough sea.
There is an ATM machine on the Banda Islands for Mastercard and Visa, at BRI Bank, giving IDR 100,000 notes. The local BRI branch will not change any money. You might be able changing US$ to Rp at some guesthouses at an unfavorable rate of around Rp 8,000 for US$ 1. Therefore, come prepared and bring sufficient cash from Ambon or Tual.
For the time being there is only one mobile phone operators on the Banda Islands: Telkomsel. 3G coverage. SIM cards and top-up can be bought in Bandaneira. Reception on Pulau Ai is only available at the jetty.
Internet is usually available at guest houses and hotels.