Jul 13, 2016
I first arrived in Manado in early 2001. I will remember all my life my first day in Manado. I arrived with a plane which was scheduled to arrive around 8 pm and which, Surprise! Surprise!, arrived late to land in the middle of the night. No more taxis and, once everyone left with their families and friends who came to pick them up, I remained the only one in the airport.

It was damn dark and there was only very few cars passing by. I got lucky and a mikrolet (passenger transport minivan) passed by, on his way back home after work. I flagged him down and tried to explain him that i wanted to go to the city center, a 30 mn ride from the airport. I did not negotiate and was ready to be ripped off. i just wanted to find a bed and get some sleep.

The ride was nice and the driver also. He tried to communicate with me but my bahasa Indonesia was rather poor at that time. I just understood that he was living near the airport which confirmed me that I should be prepared to pay through the nose for him saving me from having nowhere to sleep.

When we arrived I asked him how much I owed him and got a shock. Not only he didn't rip me off, but he also refused ANY payment and just left without leaving me time to give him anything, just telling me something that I understood as him having been happy to talk to a foreigner.

The past 15 years my life in Manado has been filled with similar stories. Bule are not as rare as they were at the time I first landed here, but I have always felt really part of the big Minahasan family.

I have been lucky to travel extensively prior to settle in North Sulawesi, and to have lived in several countries but I have never seen a place like my City. The people is what makes it SO special.

I will use this thread to help you discover more about my region and anyone wanting to add an input is more than welcome to do so.

If you consider to come here, don't hesitate twice. I'll try to be for you this sopir mikrolet who drove me to the city center 15 years ago. Actually I can even pick you up with a mikrolet if you want, I still own some. Years ago I started to buy and operate a few of them, perhaps in souvenir of that guy who gave me so stong of a positive image of the city and its people.

Perhaps we don't have what bigger cities have and perhaps nothing really thrilling happens but we have what so many other places have lost: humanity. And we have a LOT of it.
I will get to Manado one day. I think you owe me a margarita- from some very old promise hahaha :D
That's a really interesting story, atlantis. I think many of us have some interesting Indonesian stories to share.
If you consider to come here, don't hesitate twice. I'll try to be for you this sopir mikrolet who drove me to the city center 15 years ago. Actually I can even pick you up with a mikrolet if you want, I still own some. Years ago I started to buy and operate a few of them, perhaps in souvenir of that guy who gave me so stong of a positive image of the city and its people.

Soooo tempted to take you up on this offer!
Soooo tempted to take you up on this offer!
I'll pick you up with one of our mikrolet, full stereo on board, lights evereywhere, custom wheels et al. I can even have a flag with the colors of Expat Indo Forum made and we'll parade up and down the main Manado Boulevard. Two bule driving a Mikrolet is a sight which should tease the curiosity of my fellow manadonese. :D


  • Manado is about 6 to 7 hours by road from Gorontalo, the biggest city south of ours. However if you arrive by road it shows that you are seriously adventurous or lost. Manado is about 30 km (1 hour but it should be drastically reduced by the completion and opening of the toll road Manado Bitung some time in 2016... or 2017... or 2018) from Bitung, one of the biggest harbour for the fishing industry in the archipelago. .
  • There are plans for a railway going all the way down to Makassar but don't be in a hurry. This is a plan and after a while here you will understand that "plans" take a long time to become "reality".
  • In the recent years we have seen the start of the construction of a ring road which should help to alleviate the terrible macet we experience in the city center. Don't be in a hurry though and more importantly: BE CAUTIOUS while driving the few km of ring road.which are already completed. This is the Wild Wild Wild East here.
  • For any transportation within the city we have taxis (Blue Bird, Celebrity Taxi, Dian taxi, Kokapura taxi and a few other minor one) and an impressive armada of minivan called mikrolet. You will either love them or hate them. I own some but nevertheless I hate them due to the fact that they are responsible for most of the macet we have to deal with. At least they give me a reason to bitch and stay awake when driving. If it would only be for the traffic, you'd be sleeping, so better to thank them for their effort.
  • Airport: Manado Sam Ratulangi is an international airport with flights to Singapore, sometimes to Davao (The Philippines) and a few Charter from China during peak season. We have domestic flights several times a day to/from Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Makassar and some other cities which are even more in the bush than what we are.


  • You will find several taxi companies around the city as said earlier but I would advise you only Bluebird.
  • You will be able to travel around the city using the Mikrolet system either by going to the various terminal (Malalayang, Paal II, Karombasan, Tuminting) or by negotiating a fair with the driver to charter the Mikrolet..
  • If you just need to travel a short distance there are many Ojeks (motorcycle taxis). Basically either you go to their "pengkalan" situated at pretty much any crossroad or flag down any guy riding a bike and not having a passenger. Even though I am not an ojek you can even flag me. Usually I like to help the odd bule lost in the city.
  • If you talk about Gojek, Uber and Grab to a Manadonese, he may think that it is a culinary specialty of some sort and it may raise a vague interest. These companies or services are yet unknown in my beautiful city.

More to be added.

Manado has a rather hot climate but it takes only minutes to get away from the heat of the city center, either along the coast with the seabreeze or on the hills. I live in Winangun which is just minutes away from the city center and already feel a difference in temperature. Yet our elevation is about only 100m or so. If you want to have a glimpse of what the North Pole is, just go to the Minahasa, in Tomohon or Tondano for example. Jeez I don't even know if their thermometer has a 25 degree mark! Bring a jacket and don't say I didn't warn you.

The Minahasa is known as "gunung" which means mountain. Don't expect to have any flat, you will go up and up and up. Eventually you may reach some of the peaks of our most beautiful mountains which are Klabat, Mahawu, Lokon, Dua Saudara, Soputan...etc. I've been hiking most of them and views are just gorgeous. A special mention for the Klabat but be aware that it is not an easy climb.

Many would tell you that what makes my region so special is not the land geography but the underwater wealth. I believe that both are wonderful but also believe that the underwater world deserves its own chapter.

More to be added.
Things to Do


  • You don't come to manado for shopping. If you do, it is only because in a more remote part of the archipelago (yes, there is) and that you don't have any other choice. I pity you and this is why this paragraph exists. The most popular shopping mall are Mantos (Manado Town Square) and the Kawasan Mega Mas with Mega Mall and MTC being the two main features. Both Mantos and Mega Mas have an Hypermart for your grocery needs and they have dozens of shops (often the same) to fulfill most of your needs. Both Mantos and Kawasan Mega Mas are situated on the Boulevard, facing the sea.
  • Apart from Mantos and Kawasan Mega Mas, you have some smaller shopping Mall such as Bahu (where the main Freshmart is, on the Boulevard), Lippo Plaza (where a 3rd Hypermart and Cinemaxx are, in Kairagi on the way to the airport), ITC (for ponsel/hp and gadgets, situated on the Boulevard next to the Aryaduta and Siloam Hospital). All of them are worth a visit for different reason, but if you come from Jakarta you may well wonder yourself "but where is the shopping mall atlantis is talking about" while you are already in there! It's just that you are not used to call a cluster of 10 shops a "shopping mall". :)
  • We have an Ace Hardware (Mantos) and several other shops such as Plaza Bangunan (Two locations, Paal II and Calaca), Grand Hardware (Marina Plaza) and countless other smaller shops worth investigating in Kampung Cina. selling anything you may need for the house, tools and so many other stuff.


  • Museums - We have at least one. I visited it years ago and it depressed me. It's in Sario if you really have too much time in your hand and need to waste some. Honestly, much better if you bear with us here and post a bit more than going there. Anyway, the visit of the museum itself would take you less time than the ride to go there, so if you insist to visit it, plan to couple it with a session of frenzy shopping in our malls. Both should take you at least half of an afternoon.
  • We have clubs but none really caters for an expat or local crowd which would be used to clubs in Jakarta. The best one in the lot may be "Corner" (Bahu) and "Score" (Mantos, also and mainly a billiard lounge). However your lot is gonna be: darkness, super loud music to the point that you won't even notice that you are speaking and cigarette smoking everywhere)
  • Your best bet for a night out is by far: Cabal in Kawasan Mega Mall. It has been for long my night out headquarter. Nice crowd of patrons, nice waiters/waitress, good vibes, good bands and Kiki the owner, a friend.
  • Save for Cabal you also have another venue which should be checked: The Club. Almost in front of Cabal, facing the sea.

    More to be added
One key info is missing, in my opinion: What's the best way into town from the airport? Are there taxis? How much does it usually cost to the center of town? What are other means to get to the city?

I also have another question, on accommodation, what are the hotels like? I'm going there this Sunday-Tue for a work trip. I have a rather meager budget for a hotel, and I'm looking at: Swissbel Hotel Maleosan, Lion Hotel and Plaza, and Aston Manado. Are there any in that price / quality range? For others, what are some lower priced but great deals? And probably for a handful of others (or those with family), what are some of the higher end hotels?

Lastly, where can I get some seafood without breaking the bank? Grilled fish, shellfish, crab are things I'd love to eat on the cheap :D

Thanks a bunch!
So I took one of those cars from the airport to the hotel (swiss-belhotel) they all cost 100k. I was lucky and was the only guy in the car (small Honda mobilio) . They also have the avanza that you may have to wait to fill up before you get to go.

Bluebird had a stand in the airport but no one was at the stand. So if you feel safer taking a Bluebird, look for the Bluebird person to show up.
I have been to Manado a few times. But always for business, and a half day (or more) of fun. So they were short visits (not more than 2 or 3 nights). I think I will like Manado as a place to retire someday. Anyway, we hear a lot about what’s good in Manado, how about the bad side? As a traveler, what should we be aware of? Is there some place we should not go at night? Are there streets notorious for drunk and disorderliness?
as far I recall, I visit Manado 8x, at least for stopover or degasing before/after diving Bunaken, Bangka and lembeh.
lucky enough to meet the great atlantis
I was in Manado for the first time about 6 months ago staying mainly at the Dabirahe Dive Resort in Lembih. My impressions were of a city in the process of big changes both economy and religions as there are 3 to 4 main religions all in contention for believers along with major building on the port and city infrastructure.

I also managed to eat dog and bat for the first time there, which wasn't anything to write home about except when I posted the pictures of the dishes on FB and got death threats from all the fur baby loving ladies there.

Manado itself is a great jumping off place to Tondono Lake for great fish food and sweet water sport. The ladies of the near lying city of Tomohon are reputed to be the most beauteous in all of Indonesia but sadly I can only report to having seen 5 or 6 that struck me as only being "lovely" in so far as they were very pale skinned. Which probably hangs together with living in the cloudy mountains.

Go and check it out yourself - there's a McDonald's for the weak stomached or dog haters.
Well, I can say that swiss-belhotel is ummm.... Has nothing to brag about. Same with Aston. At least they're only $40. Food at both hotel restaurant came at the fastest 45 minutes or so after you order. And the receipt will only print 10 items. If you ordered more than that, then the only way to see every item on the receipt is to split the bill

Ate at 1 local restaurant. Called raja Oci I think. The food was good, but not great. I liked the dabu dabu (green tomato salsa), pakis with Papaya flower (pakis is fern shoots I think) . The fish was okay (grilled Oci fish with Rica Rica sauce)
I understand that it gets a bit wild and woolly up Winangun way on occasion!

If language is not a problem, I prefer to travel independently (if it is problem, I’ll join a packaged tour). But I do extensive research which includes which hotel to stay, where to go, and what to avoid. For instance, in Auckland, I found that we should avoid (at night) Queen St., Fort St., Myers Park, and Karangahape Road. In Christchurch, avoid Manchester St., and north of Armagh St. However, in Queenstown, I cannot find any information about what place to avoid at night. I told my wife that if I’m traveling alone, I don’t have to do the research. But if I’m traveling with my family, for their safety and security, I had to do it. Back to Manado, only locals know what to avoid, and it will be helpful for tourist.
as far I recall, I visit Manado 8x, at least for stopover or degasing before/after diving Bunaken, Bangka and lembeh.
lucky enough to meet the great atlantis
I hope you post more pictures here!
Hi Atlantis,

What's the best case Internet speed can I expect to get in Manado?

How frequently does the electricity go out and how long does it generally stay out at any given time?

Will it be difficult to find a house or apartment to rent and what's an estimated monthly price for a modest two bedroom?

Hi kids we just found u guys again from old group. We are a retired couple living just outside of manado in a village. We been here now a year. We came over with what we could fit into our suitcases and bought our dog. We now have a home not just a house. Its still me and my wife, our calif dog, our indo village puppy, 6 teenage kittens and their mom that comes and goes as she pleases. We also seem to have most of the village kids say hello opa steve and oma penny at our gate. We love most of our nejbors who have made us a part of the village (though i wish they would keep inviting us to all the funerals). We have motorbikes to get around because they are crazy on the roads in cars. I have eaten some strange dishs but haven had a bad meal here as long as you dont count a&w or macdonalds. We swim ,dive and explore alot. And if we need a fix from the states we stop by one of the dive resorts and have a beer or 3 at night and visit. Well i guess thats enough for right now and a big hello to you all.
Oh one more thing if you are thinking about moving here ....dont ...i like it the way it is... just kidding
Hey nyc
Internet is ify but getting better and its cheap compared to the states. But rember we live outside of manado so it might be better in town.
The electric is much better than it was last dec but still lose it once a week or so for a couple of hrs. They are doing new lines in our area so we been losing it on and off the last couple of weeks and its the rainy season. We have a small gen but harly use it any more.
As for houseing we pay alot for our place now but its 2 stories (tradition wood top) large downstairs kitchen, 2 bedrooms upstairs (well one and a scuba and cloths room) a common room upstairs with front and back balconey, two bathrooms one upstairs and one downstairs. A hugh common room down stairs that in part is our guest suite. Front patio back area for work and laundry . And best of all a big jungle yard with wall all around it. It cost us a lot but it is a home not a house. We pay 30 mill a year which works out to 200 us dollars a month. Again this is in a village not manado.
My advice is rent a place say in cirtaland for 6 months and then look for a home but thats just me.
Hope this helps

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