Getting Around Indonesia

Countries  »  Indonesia  »  Getting Around

Getting Around Indonesia 

By Plane

Airport tax (service charge) is paid in cash on check-in. Charges vary by airport, but Rp 25,000-40,000 for domestic flights is typical.

The only rapid means of long-distance travel within Indonesia is the plane. The largest domestic carriers are state-owned Garuda and private competitor Lion Air, but in recent years a host of low-cost competitors have sprung up, including Indonesia Air Asia, Batavia Air, Mandala, Garuda's low-cost subsidiary Citilink and many more. Routes for less popular destinations and routes (particularly in eastern Indonesia) are served by Garuda's little buddy Merpati, memorably summarized as "It's Merpati and I'll fly if I want to", AirFast, Sriwijaya, Jatayu and more, often flying smaller planes. If you really get off the beaten track, eg. settlements in Papua, there are no scheduled services at all and you'll need to charter a plane or hitch rides with missionaries.

Prices are low by international standards, with more or less any domestic return flight available for under US$100 even on short notice, and fares for a fraction of that if you plan ahead. Many airlines, such as Merpati, Batavia, and Lionair, tend to decrease their price on the last week before flight, if the plane is not full enough - so you may try that and get a cheaper fare, if you're not on tight schedule and do not need to go during public holidays or weekends. The hardest part (but not as hard as it was just a couple of years ago) is often finding what carriers serve what route and making a booking online - while all major airlines, as of 2012, finally feature online booking service, sometimes (always for Merpati) they do not accept foreign credit cards. Plus, many flight search engines / aggregators do not know many (often all except Garuda and AirAsia) local airlines - to check if they do, try to search for e.g. Jakarta-Denpasar (the busiest route) flight and see how many of the airlines mentioned above will be found. When travelling off the beaten track, it's imperative to reconfirm early and often, as frequencies are low and paid-up, occasionally even checked-in passengers are bumped off with depressing regularity if a VIP happens to show up. Make sure you arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the departure time.

Of late there has been considerable improvement in the safety standards and recently Garuda Indonesia has been allowed to fly into Europe. Lion Air has reportedly inducted 178 new 737 900 ER planes which now service not only domestic but also international routes. Garuda has also changed its livery and added new aircrafts. Adam Air and few other companies have been closed and their licences withdrawn. With entry of low cost carriers like Indonesia Air Asia the cost of travel has further reduced.

By ferry 

Indonesia is all islands and consequently ferries have long been the most popular means of inter-island travel. The largest company is PELNI, whose giant ferries visit practically every inhabited island in Indonesia on lengthy journeys that can take two weeks from beginning to end. PELNI uses European-built boats, which are large enough to deal with rough seas, but they can still be uncomfortably overcrowded during peak seasons: ferries built for 3,000 have been known to board 7,000. This means that there are often not enough lifeboats in the event of a sinking and could pose a potential safety hazard.

Cabin accommodation classes, all including meals and private lockers, are:
1st class, around US$40/day: two beds per cabin, private bathroom, TV, aircon
2nd class, around US$30/day: four beds per cabin, private bathroom, aircon
3rd class, around US$20/day: six beds per cabin, aircon, shared bathroom
4th class, around US$15/day: bed in a dormitory

Ekonomi class (around US$10/day), is noisy, smoky, and a cramped free-for-all scrum; buy a rattan mat and get in early to stake out your spot — it's common for people to start rushing in as soon as the ferry arrives. Pickpocketing and theft are a real concern though.

In addition to PELNI's slow boats, ASDP runs fast ferries (Kapal Ferry Cepat, rather amusingly abbreviated KFC) on a number of popular routes. Both PELNI and ASDP tickets can be booked via travel agents.

Last but not least, there are also countless services running short island-to-island hops, including Merak-Bakauheni (hourly) from Java to Sumatra, Ketapang-Gilimanuk (every 15 min) between Java and Bali and Padangbai-Lembar (near-hourly) between Bali and Lombok.

Try to check out what, if any, safety devices are on board and consider postponing your trip if the weather looks bad.

By point to point (scheduled) travel/shuttle

Scheduled travel is the 'latest/newest' moda of Indonesian transportation, but is rapidly growing inline with the new toll roads and better highways. The travel use various AC minibus with passengers from 6 to 14 persons on reclining seats and run based on 'point to point' routes. It means operators have their many own shelters (points) at every departures and destinations cities. So, we may choose so many alternatives routes and may stop before destination point. From/to airport they sometimes use also small/big luxury buses (DAMRI, Primajasa and others) and is suitable for who get a lot/moderate of belonging.

The top developing route is Jakarta to Bandung with ticket prices varying from Rp.48,000 to Rp.90,000 (USD 5.3 to 10.0) depending on convenience, leg space/room and luxuriousness. Every major city in Indonesia has travel agencies including Bali.

The scheduled travel ticket is more expensive than the Regular AC Executive Bus, but the scheduled travel is faster and we may choose the points (routes). For going no more than 2-300 kilometers inland consider it compared to using trains, regular buses or airplanes. Your belongings in the scheduled travels are more safe than using trains or regular buses, but expect to pay additional fees for surfboards and big packages on the minibus. Please contact the travel agency in advance and make a booking without any payment. Usually they are waiting to book passengers until the scheduled departure time and then they give the seats to wait listed passengers, if necessary.

By train

PT Kereta Api runs trains across most of Java and some parts of Sumatra. The network was originally built by the Dutch, and few new lines have been built since the Independence. Double-tracking of the most congested lines have been done, though, and is still ongoing. Maintenance is spotty and derailments and crashes occur occasionally.
Java by far has the best railway network, with trains connecting the capital city of Jakarta with other main cities, i.e. Surabaya both via Semarang on the north coast and via Yogyakarta and Solo through the southern main line. Bandung is connected to Jakarta by some 30 trains per day, and is itself connected to Surabaya through Yogyakarta. Bali has no railway lines, but there are trains from Surabaya to Banyuwangi, connecting with ferries to the island.

Sumatra's networks are concentrated on the northern (around Medan) and the southern (Lampung to Palembang) parts of the island. Passenger trains on the island are much less frequent than in Java.

Type of service:
1. Air-conditioned Eksekutif class
2. Bisnis
3. Ekonomi classes are also available for the more budget-conscious traveller, but comfort and safety are noticeably less (due to congestion and length of travel time).

No sleeping car service is provided in Indonesia, and the best accommodation provided is air-conditioned, adjustable reclining seats in the Argo and other eksekutif class trains.

Ticket reservations can be made one month in advance, although generally tickets will still be available almost to the last minute. An exception is the very busy Lebaran season, in which time it is not advisable to travel due to the extremely high demand for tickets. No on-line ticket reservation is available.

Generally, trains in Java travel through scenic areas, and travellers not in a hurry should consider the length of the journey and the scenery as a bonus to his travels. However, theft is common, particularly on overnight journeys, so padlock your doors if possible.

By bus

The major types of buses are air-conditioned bus (AC) and non-air-conditioned bus (non-AC or "economy class"). The air-conditioned chartered buses can be rented with a driver for a tourist group. Indonesian bus companies offer intercity and interprovince routes. The interprovince routes usually include transportation to other islands mainly between Java and Sumatra.

By car

Indonesian driving habits are generally atrocious. Lanes and traffic lights are happily ignored, passing habits are suicidal and driving on the road shoulder is common.
Renting a car in Indonesia is cheap compared to renting in many other countries, and fuel costs remain relatively low, despite recent fuel price increases: the fixed price for gasoline (benzine) or diesel (solar) is Rp 4,500/litre. To drive a car yourself, an International Driver Permit is required in addition to your home country issued drivers licence. Consider renting a car with a driver, the additional cost is quite low and having a traffic accident whilst driving in Indonesia will certainly spoil your trip.
Road conditions and road maintenance in Indonesia is poor, especially so outside the major cities. During rainy season, major roads in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi are often flooded for several weeks.

Traffic is required to move on the left in Indonesia.

By becak

Becak ("BEH-chuck") is a tricycle (pedicab) transportation mode for short distances such as residential areas in many cities. In some areas, the driver is sitting at the back of the passenger, but in some areas (like Medan) the driver is sitting on the side of the passenger. Good communication skills are integral to prevent getting overcharged on these rides. Often, sly drivers try to get some more money out of you after you've reached your destination, so be sure that you know how much it costs beforehand.

Note that there are no becak in Jakarta or Bali. Instead, the motorized bajaj (BAH-jai), somewhat similar to the Thai tuk-tuk, serves the same function. In some other provinces (eg. North Sumatra, Aceh) you can also find motorbikes with sidecars, known as bentor or bemo (short for becak bermotor).

By ojek

If you're in such a hurry that you're willing to lose a limb to get there, then ojek motorcycle taxis might be the ticket for you. Ojek services consist of guys with bikes lounging around street corners, perhaps identified with a colored, numbered jacket, who usually shuttle short distances down alleys and roads but will also do longer trips for a price. Haggle furiously.