Flights to Manado: From Bali flight leave regularly to Manado, Sulawesi. Usually the 6:30pm flight from Bali with Lionair is the Cheapest (we paid $77 p/p one way).
Good Cheap Accommodation in Manado: Metropolitan Inn is 200,000 rupiah for a double room. Friendly staff, clean, air-con and basic breakfast is included. Everything you need for a quick stopover. Note well, try ‘sprinkles on toast’ for brekkie.
Getting to Bitung (port town) from Manado Cheaply: From Manado wave down a mikrolet and ask to go to Paal Dua (Paal 2 – the bus station to Bitung). Cost should be around 50,000 rupiah for 2 people depending on how far away you are. Once at Paal Dua you will be shuttled into an old school bus with other locals. Expect a 15 minute wait on the bus as it will not leave until it’s full. The trip in total is 10,000 per person for a 1.5hr journey to Bitung.
Getting to Lembeh from Bitung Cheaply: From the bus station grab a taxi and say you want to go to Lembeh. They will take you directly to the port for 50,000 rupiah (2 person). Hire a little boat for 200,000 rupiah which will take you to your dive centre directly. Keep a card for your boat captain so you can call him to return you back to Bitung.
Total cost from Manado airport to Lembeh Island (ex. hotel stopover) is 420,000 rupiah ($40AUD)… I guarantee this way will get you to Lembeh island cheaper than what your dive accommodation quotes you.