Travel Under $25 a Day in Derawan, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

Getting to this idyllic island of the coast of Borneo may not be easy, but once you are there you will realize that you have finally found that paradise island that you have been dreaming about since the start of your journey in South East Asia.

Stunning beach of Detawan
Stunning beach of Derawan

 

Derawan is a beautiful and quaint island that houses a tiny village, a handful of dive shops, and even fewer motorbikes. It is an incredible place that will not stay as it is much longer. There are plans to build an airport on one of the nearby islands which will in turn bring in more domestic and foreign tourists. As the word begins spreading, more and more tourists will flock to Derawan which will slowly turn it into Mabul, a dirty island that is just used as a drop off point for diving in Sipadan.

A girl is diving in Derawan
Derawan is a great place to do some diving

 

Although dive sites off Derawan are incredible, it is not the only reason to venture on a two day journey to get there. Staying and relaxing at Derawan for a week is a luxury well worth taking during your whirlwind backpacking travels through the region. Oh and yes, it is very cheap to stay on the island.

There are a number of homestays on the island, almost everyone can rent you a room for your stay on the island. A room can run you from $10 to $30 a night. I strongly recommend staying at Losmen Danakan which runs the cheapest diving on the island and has really nice rooms right on a jetty. If you stay at Losmen Danakan you can use snorkeling equipment for free and spent a few hours chasing turtles just outside your room.

Homestay with a beautiful view in Derawan
Wooden houses in the water

 

The most expensive thing that you will do on Derawan is organize a day out to snorkel in Jelly Fish lake and to dive with Manta rays. Diving around the island is quite cheap in comparison, it will run you about $25 a dive. I personally thought that snorkeling around the island was just as good as the diving and it is free!

A boy is walking in Derawan
Exploring local areas

 

Breakfast will be included in your room price and your lunch and dinner will run you at about $5 to $10, plus whatever booze you might want. Ask around for food prices, some restaurant don’t post prices so you won’t know the tab until you get the bill. There was one restaurant that charged double for no extras. Just ask ahead.

Lightning strike in Derewan
Lightning strike in Derewan

 

One of my favorite activities on Derawan was watching the lightning storm from the jetty. The storm we witnessed passed beside us and the lightning never reached the island but instead it lit up the ocean creating a great opportunity for photographs. Everything moves much slower on the island, it feels so nice to just unwind with a good book and the sounds of the water underneath you.

Watching the lightning storm in Derewan
Watching the lightning storm

 

It feels nice knowing that for tomorrow your only responsibility is to eat, relax and socialize with other divers and locals. I search for destinations that are on the verge of becoming the beaten path all the time. It feels like such an achievement when I finally find one.

What do you think of Derewan as a cheap travel destination?

NataliaSokolova1Natalia is a cyclist, travel blogger and an occasional thrill seeker. She travels and writes with her partner in crime, Jonathan. Currently they are spending a year in the belly of the beast, more commonly known as China. Read about their ridiculous adventures in her blog Always Trekking and you can also follow Natalia and Jonathan’s adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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35 Comments

  • We just finished up 2 months in Indonesia and I really wish we had been able to fit in a visit here. I really want to visit the jellyfish lake at some point and it would have been really nice to spend some time on an island in Indonesia that was legitimately cheap. Maybe it is because we were traveling during high season but we found 2 out of the 3 islands we visited to be far more expensive than we were expecting. I anticipated high prices on Bali, but even on Flores, an island that gets far fewer tourists, it was REALLY hard to stay under $30/day, and we were generally spending more like $40/day. I had ruled out Derawan this time around because I thought the cost & time involved getting there would be too high, but I think it might have wound up cheaper in the end!

    • Definitely Steph! Indonesia seems to be a little bit expensive travel destination for me, but after reading this post I’m more convinced I could do it for $25 or $30 like you. $40 sounds too much to me. Thanks for sharing!

  • Hi Natalia, thanks for sharing.

    Great place that is most often overlooked by holidaymakers where most travelers are opting for the more commercialized Bali.

    Simon Lee

  • I love your Less Than $25 series, as you are proving travelling is not that expensive. This place is nice, although I have never heard of it. i like the great variety of activities you can do there.

    • Thank you Coco for being with us :). Yes, the island offers a great variety of activities, from which I like diving the most :)

    • It’s also a new place for us, but we’ve done some more research on it and it’s one of our favourite budget travel destinations at the moment :)

  • oh my!! i LOVE Indonesia and before visiting,one of my friends told me about Derawan…i wanted to go but you know how long term plan goes when you’re on a trip like that! im seriously thinking of going there as soon as im.done with the Philippines! i definitely need to bookmark this as im.gonna need it for my budget :))

    • I know sweetie how it goes when you are on the road. Your plans keep being changed and you end up in a completely different place than you planned to go LOL (that’s my style). I really need to visit Indonesia together with the Philippines soon!!

  • It’s obviously stunningly beautiful there, Agness! And what a great deal on the alcohol being included in the price of the meal. It’s so awesome how you have such creative ideas on very affordable travel :)

    • It is, I agree. Yep, the alcohol deals are great if you enjoy having a drink with your meal. I don’t drink alcohol so I would probably swap a pint of beer with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice :).

  • What an interesting place to stay. Can just jump from the room to water and take photos of lightning :) For that price what else can you ask for? Indonesia is on my list and this seems like a great place to keep in mind for future. Thank you!

  • wow this is really surprising Travel Under $25. Basically when we go for traveling to minimum charge of trip go to around $100 but we think Travel Under $25 so this is really very biggest surprise :)

  • This place looks so gorgeous! I really like homestays, but the $30 one seems quite expensive. I did a homestay in Cambodia recently and paid $3. I guess prices are much higher if you are in really touristy places, especially if there is so much diving around. Still looks like a lovely place though. :-)

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