After we flew to Balikpapan from Makassar, we stayed one night in Balikpapan, and the following day was a big travel day.
From Balikpapan, we took buses to travel to Kotabangun via Samarinda, a city on the Mahakam River.
Getting to the bus terminal for Samarinda in Balikpapan
Samarinda is perhaps the biggest city in Kalimantan with a population of approximately 1.04 million. Located on the Mahakam River, it is also the capital of East Kalimantan Province.
We went to Samarinda by bus from Balikpapan. Buses to Samarinda leave from the Batu Ampar bus terminal.
Shared-ride minivans called ‘Angkot’ run within Balikpapan. Angkot No. 3 operates to the Batu Ampar bus terminal.
We were staying at a hotel in the centre of town and picked up the Angkot on the main street stretching northwards from the waterfront. The journey to the bus terminal took about 30 minutes and cost Rp 10,000 per person.
The bus terminal was a surprisingly modern building. The bus station and waiting room are on the lower floor. Tickets are purchased after boarding the bus.
Bus fares and journey times from Balikpapan to Samarinda
It is approximately 105 km from the Balikpapan bus terminal to Samarinda. Fares are listed on the first floor of the bus terminal, and the fare to Samarinda is Rp 45,000 per person for non-air-conditioned buses and Rp 55,000 for air-conditioned buses.
A motorway has been built from Balikpapan to Samarinda and the journey time is said to be 2 hours.
Bus journey from Balikpapan to Samarinda
When we arrived at Batu Ampar bus terminal in Angkot, the bus to Samarinda was already parked at the bus terminal. The bus was a non-air-conditioned bus with two rows of seats on one side and three rows on the other.
Within five minutes of boarding, the bus left the bus terminal. However, after leaving the bus terminal, the bus stopped at the junction with Soekarno Hatta Road for about 30 minutes. It may be slightly faster to get off the Angkot at the intersection before the bus station instead of going to the bus terminal.
The bus finally started moving at 9:38 am. We left the city and soon got on the motorway. The bus drove at a brisk pace with views of palm plantations, arriving at Samarinda Bus Terminal (Balikpapan – Samarinda) at around 11:30 am.
Bus fares and journey times from Samarinda to Kotabangun
There are several buses in Samarinda, but the bus from Balikpapan arrived at the bus terminal on the west side of town. Buses to Kotabangun could also be taken from here.
The journey from Samarinda to Kota Bangun is approximately 100 km and the bus fare is Rp 50,000 per person. The journey was said to take about 4 hours.
The signboard says there are four buses a day to Kota Bangun, but it is not clear if there are really four buses running. We were told that the next bus departs at 1pm, so after buying our tickets we went to have lunch.
There were several small restaurants in the bus terminal. We had soup noodles at one of them. It is called bakso and is noodles in a small bowl with a meatball-like things on top.
The portions were small, but as it was an early lunch after a big breakfast at the hotel, it was just right amount of food.
Bus journey from Samarinda to Kota Bangun
When we returned from lunch, the bus to Kota Bangun was already parked and cargos were being loaded.
The bus was without air-conditioning. The bus from Balikpapan to Samarinda was quite empty, so we optimistically thought that this bus might not be so crowded, but surprisingly it was almost full. The bus departed at 1:10pm, 10 minutes behind schedule.
Arrival at Kota Bangun
The road to Kota Bangun was not in good condition and took a long time for the distance. They sometimes stopped for unloading luggage and passengers along the way, and it was just before 5pm when we entered the town of Kota Bangun.
We were able to be dropped off in front of the hotel where we were planning to stay, just before the last bus terminal.