Air travel offers the only practical way to get to and from Manokwari from most places. Foreign participants have a choice of one of the following four gateways. (Note that in most or all of the options described below, round trip tickets are double the price of one ways, so if you wish you can choose different routings for each direction without financial penalty.)
Jakarta is the obvious gateway for foreign participants, with flights to and from Manokwari on Batik, Sriwijaya, and LionAir in conjunction with its subsidiary Wings (their logo: “Fly Is Cheap”). NB: At least until recently, Garuda Indonesia, the national airline, was selling tickets to/from Manokwari, even though they no longer fly there. Don’t be fooled!
Batik offers the only non-stop flight; all others involve stopovers and/or plane changes, usually in Makassar. (The distinction between stopovers and connecting flights isn’t always clear in Indonesia; both are referred to as “transit”. Even if you’re on a through flight from Jakarta to Manokwari, you may be asked to get off the plane at Makassar to get a new boarding card.)
From Jakarta to Manokwari, the flights are mostly red-eye, leaving late at night and getting in early the next morning. An exception is LionAir, which has an early morning departure from Jakarta via Makassar to Ambon, where a Wings plane will be waiting to take you to Manokwari, arriving late afternoon, but this combination is only available on some days. On the way back, flights leave Manokwari in the morning and get in to Jakarta in the afternoon, which in principle should provide ample time for a late-night connecting international flight out.
2. Denpasar (Bali)
Participants from Australia and East Asia often have a greater choice of flights to Denpasar than to Jakarta, but this is offset by the absence of direct flights between Denpasar and Manokwari. The easiest connection between Denpasar and Manokwari is via Jakarta, with numerous frequent flights. A somewhat shorter and perhaps cheaper connection is via Makassar, with Garuda, Sriwijaya or Lion, but there are fewer flights between Denpasar and Makassar than there are between Denpasar and Jakarta.
3. Kuala Lumpur
A daily flight on AirAsia connects Kuala Lumpur and Makassar, from which there are the usual direct flights to Manokwari. The advantages of this route are that in many cases Kuala Lumpur is a cheaper international destination than Jakarta, plus it enables you to avoid the chaos of the Jakarta airport. The disadvantages are that your layover time in Makassar may be longer, and since AirAsia is a “low-cost” carrier you’ll have to pick up your luggage in Kuala Lumpur and then check it in again, and also transfer between distant terminals (unless you’re also arriving in Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia).
The Singapore Airlines subsidiary Silkair connects Singapore and Makassar, from which, once again, there are direct flights to Manokwari. Singapore is also a cheaper and more convenient international destination than Jakarta; however, the flights from Singapore do not operate every day, so unless the schedule works out just right, this may not be a practical route.
Participants from Papua New Guinea will probably be crossing the border by land, between Vanimo and Jayapura. In recent years, this route has become more straightforward and reliable, but please take a look at the Visa Information section below. This journey involves three stages, which, going from PNG to Manokwari are as follows:
(a) Domestic flight within Papua New Guinea to Vanimo.
(b) Land travel between Vanimo and Jayapura. From Vanimo to the border crossing at Wutung/Skou, you can travel by PMV for K10, or by taxi for K100; the trip takes around one hour. From Wutung/Skou you have a choice of going either to Jayapura, or to the Jayapura airport, which is actually located in Sentani, a small town about a 60-90 minute drive from Jayapura. The road from the PNG border connects with the Sentani – Jayapura road at Abepura (Abe for short), which is about half way between Sentani and Jayapura. This means that you do not have to go into Jayapura if you do not wish to. If you are staying overnight, there are plenty of hotels in Sentani, including a few within walking distance of the airport. (I usually stay at the Rasen.) If you are lucky, and it’s market day, you may be able to find a minibus, or “taksi”, the Indonesian version of a PMV, which will take you to either Sentani or Jayapura. If your minibus is going to Jayapura but you want to go straight to Sentani, get off at Abe and take another minibus from there to Sentani. But if there is no public minibus available, you may be forced to hire a vehicle: as of August 2016, the asking price was 5-600,000 Rps. However, both times that I have done this crossing myself, I ended up chatting with people who offered me rides for a nominal fee, so this should also be taken into consideration as a possibility. Participants from PNG will be pleased to note that there are no security issues similar to those in PNG; travel is safe anywhere and anytime (day or night). Note, however, that according to latest information the border crossing itself is only open during daytime hours, from 8am to 7pm PNG time, or 7am to 6pm Indonesian time, but it would be a good idea to check on this before departing.
(c) Domestic flight between Jayapura (Sentani airport) and Manokwari. As of May 2019, only Sriwijaya seemed to be flying this route, though it’s worth also checking Xpress Air, as they have also flown this route in the past.
The trip from PNG to Manokwari should take two days, with an overnight in Sentani or Jayapura. Since the flights from Sentani to Manokwari leave in the morning, you must aim to arrive in Vanimo early enough to be able to continue straight across the border; if you spend the night in Vanimo, you won’t be able to get to Sentani in time to catch your flight the next morning. But on the way back, if there’s a flight late in the day out of Vanimo, you may just be able to get home in one long day, though two days is probably more realistic. If you’re counting costs, keep in mind that accommodation in Sentani or Jayapura is about one fifth or even one tenth the price of equivalent accommodation in Vanimo.
Of course, participants from PNG also have the option of flying from Port Moresby to Kuala Lumpur and proceeding from there to Manokwari: not good for your carbon footprint, but could end up being comparable in cost and effort to the overland trip.
Rendani Airport, Manokwari
Manokwari is a small town, and Rendani airport is not far from the center of town and most hotels. Taxis, however, ask for a rather exorbitant 100,000 – 150,000 Rps. Penny pinchers can walk out of the terminal gate and get a motorcycle taxi, or “ojek”, for 15,000 – 25,000 Rps, depending on location. Some of the more upmarket hotels provide complementary transfers to and from the airport.
Foreign participants should make sure, well in advance, that they are in possession of the appropriate documents: passport, possibly plus visa for travel to Indonesia. A summary of the current Indonesian visa policy can be found here; however, before traveling, participants should double-check the information with either their travel agent or an official Indonesian representative, as things can and do change.
Recently, though, most changes have been for the better. In particular, it is now possible for most nationalities to enter Indonesia without a visa: you just show up, present your passport, and get stamped in for 30 days. Three things should be kept in mind, however. First, that this is for tourism purposes only, though attendance at a conference should not pose a problem. Secondly, if you enter Indonesia this way, the 30-day period cannot be extended. Thirdly, you should be in possession of a return or ongoing ticket before entering Indonesia.
If the 30-day entry stamp does not meet your requirements, you can apply for a visa, either at an Indonesian consular office, or else on arrival in Indonesia. Check the sources for additional information.
Although Papua is a politically sensitive zone, foreigners may travel to the major urban centers, including Manokwari, without any special permits. (The same is true also for Jayapura and the road between there and the PNG border.) However, if you are planning to go off the beaten track in Papua, you may need to apply for a permit, called “surat keterangan jalan”, which can be obtained in Manokwari as well as other locations.
Participants planning to enter Indonesia on the overland route from Papua New Guinea should take note of the following. In the recent past, rules and regulations depended on port of entry; there was a list of designated border crossings, and the crossing from Vanimo to Jayapura at Wutung/Skou was not on this list. What this meant was that certain procedures, for example the visa-on-arrival, were not available for non-designated border crossings such as Wutung/Skou; you had to have a visa in advance to make this crossing. This is no longer the case: you can now enter Indonesia at any border crossing, including Wutung/Skou, and get stamped in for 30 days.