Once known as the Spice Islands, an epithet that 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. FIRST, the easiest is to take the Express Bahari fast boat from Tulehu Harbor, which is an hour's drive from the center of Ambon City. When this news was revealed, the schedule of Express Bahari fast boats from Tulehu Harbor to Banda Neira was Tuesday and Saturday at 09.00 WIT. While from Banda Neira to Tulehu Harbor is Wednesday and Sunday at 09.00 WIT. The journey takes six to seven hours. The usual class ticket price is IDR 410,000 and VIP 650,000. Tickets can be directly purchased on the day of departure at the port window. This ship can accommodate around 300 passengers. Journey timetake 6-7hours
Fast ferry leaves from Ambon to Bandaneira at 9 am on Tuesdays and Saturdays and returns the following day. Flights go on Wednesday (2017) This website gets updated with the latest information every week: Getting to Banda
-The second alternative is Pelni - every 2 weeks to ride a PELNI Ship, such as the Nggapulu Ship or Leuser Ship. The ship's timetable and ship ticket reservations can be accessed at the Pelni website www.pelni.co.id or contact Pelni's official contact at 021-162. Generally the Pelni Ship's departure schedule is only circulating one month before the ship's departure. The price of an economy class from Ambon to Banda Neira by Leuser Ship is valued at Rp. 105,000 per person and the journey is within a 10-12 hour journey. Passengers get breakfast and lunch allotments. Do not expect maximum facilities if you use the Pelni Ship transportation option in economy class. Journey time take 10-12hours 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.
SusiAir flights - 2 flights per week (when running) Note: need to recheck with Locals, Since Susi Air latest we heard did not operate anymore. If you continue the journey by plane, there is only 1 airline serving the Ambon - Bandaneira route, Aviastar, a small aircraft with a capacity of <20 seats. This aircraft only flies 3 times a week: Monday, Thursday and Sunday), the time needed to banda neira is only about 45 minutes. This also need to reconfirm again, as this plane info we got in 2017 update.
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.