I arrived in Batam on Thursday morning with very little information about the city or places. It was recommended by a few friends and since I am in Singapore for a while, I thought I'd hop over to explore - I was in Nagoya the whole time.
I'd like to note that I am a student on quite a tight budget. I was previously told online to avoid taking one of the taxis waiting at Harbor Bay as they tend to overcharge. However, I wasn't familiar with anywhere in the city and still needed to find a hotel so I took my chances. Great luck for me. I was approached by a driver and we agreed on a rate of 50000 rupiah (7.30 SGD) - almost nothing. For this amount, he was my driver for the whole day. I am just one person and had only one small bag. He was a very helpful and friendly man by the name of Sofyan (+628127788414)
We drove around checking a few hotels after I explained my budget to Softan. Sentosa Hotel was ok for budget but I wanted to see what else was available - apparently they have a pool. Golden View Hotel was a little nicer and not expensive but still more than what I wanted to pay so I didn't go up to see the rooms. The third hotel was this Hotel Goloris or Gloris - whatever. The rates here were very budget friendly at 140 000 rupiah (20.40 SGD) for a superior room. The room was old but clean with a TV, double bed, two chairs, a table and a private bathroom - no bathtub. I stayed here. I'd probably stay here again just because the rate is quite good for what you get. There was no breakfast in the morning but room service was available 24/7. However, all the names on the room service menu were in Indonesian and I found it difficult to know what was what. Also, the staff's english was very limited but I didn't need them for anything more than the room. There was no safe in the room but the only valuable thing I had with me was my camera which I was allowed to leave at the front desk when I went out. No problems there. Recommended if you're on a tight budget or are just looking for a basic room at a cheap price.
After leaving my stuff at the hotel, I got back into Sofyan's taxi and asked him to recommend a place for a massage. He insisted on IndoThai Massage place. If you had a certain place in mind or don't like what he shows you, just tell him to go somewhere else. He will - no problem. Anyways, IndoThai Massage was good. I went on both days. The first time I went for the IndoThai combination massage for 1.5h for around 140000 (20.40 SGD), I can't remember the exact price but it was around that. It was good, the masseuse was strong and applied too much pressure sometimes but insisted that you told her if there was "pain". Again, it was good but nothing too special. The second day I got the Hot Stones + Chocolate oil massage for 280000 (40.80 SGD) for 2h which was a much better. I would recommend this place. It was clean and inexpensive (I think) but I'm sure there are other good places as well. Again, my driver insisted on this place saying that he tested out the massage for himself but he will show you others if you tell him to.
I would highly recommend getting a driver if you don't know your way around or will be hopping from place to place. Sofyan comes highly recommended. He knows his way around and will take you anywhere you might be looking for. He speaks good english, not fluent of course, but quite good - better than anyone else I met on the island. He agreed to 50 000 a day - I gave him 70 000 although I think he was expecting at least 100 000. He deserved it but I was confused with the exchange rate, you will be too once you arrive. He'll help you out a lot. He also took me to change money for a rate better than what I was getting in Singapore: in Singapore, $50 - 333000; in Batam, $50 - 340000. I did however buy him food when I went to eat which isn't a problem at all because food is quite cheap and he would have waited for me to finish anyways. Again, he didn't ask. I offered. If I was hungry, he probably was too.
Here is Sofyan's number again: +628127788414. He is very reasonable, friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Call him before you leave Singapore to meet you upon arrival. In addition to the 50000, he did ask me to help him out by recommending him to friends and on the internet since he doesn't know how to use a computer. I told him if his services are good, then I'd be happy to help him out. They were so here's me keeping my word. I doubt you'll be dissatisfied - just agree on a rate before he drives you all over the place. Feel free to call him anytime of the day or night.
Overall, Batam is a nice place for a weekend. It is a little poor and dirty and there is a strange unpleasant smell at the Harbor Bay when you get off the ferry. It was there both upon arrival and departure. You won't have much to do in the city for more than 2 days. I actually booked the hotel for 2 nights but only stayed for one and decided to go back to Singapore. I would have loved to try some of the water sports available on the other side of the island, especially jet-skiing at the Waterfront area but the weather wasn't too great. That'll have to wait until next time. I was told it's about 30-45 min drive away so if you ask your driver to take you from the city, pay him more. Batam is considered a "rich" part of Indonesia as I was told but it is still very poor and most people are simply trying to get by on very little. Also, there are very very few foreigners (non-asian) here in Nagoya so you will get stares everywhere you go - everywhere. They were not threatening stares or anything, simply people looking at you since they don't get very many outsiders, I'd assume. It was more funny, not really uncomfortable.
I hope this review proves useful. Unfortunately, I didn't take the number for the hotel but they should have free rooms if you just want to drive by with taxi. If not, there are plenty of other choices. Keep in mind that I went on Thurs/Fri - apparently it gets more crowded on the weekend when the Singapore crowd comes in. I still don't think it should be a problem then.
Enjoy your trip, those of you that decide to go. Definitely check it out for a weekend. Hope the post isn't too long - I tried to put in anything that might be useful to the first time traveller. Enjoy.