14 Indonesian Railway Travel Ideas

To give you an understanding of traveling by train in Indonesia, have a look at its country map. Notice that it is an archipelago, a chain of islands, in fact the largest archipelago in the world. Needless to say not all of Indonesia is reachable by railway service. Therefore, we present this info, and other Indonesian train travel ideas in this article.

  1. Just like anywhere else, railway travel offers pleasant experience with passages through beautiful landscapes, giving you a view of the rural and scenic Indonesia.
  2. Java and Sumatra are the only islands that have a train service. In Java, train service spans the full length of the island, from Jakarta in the west to Banyuwangi in the east coast facing the popular island of Bali.
  3. The six major train stations in Jakarta are Gambir, Jakarta Kota, Jatinegara, Pasar Senen, Stasiun Kramat and Stasiun Sudirman.
  4. In Sumatra, there are fewer railway services and none of which cover the whole island. Cities linked by rail in Sumatra are Medan to Kisaran, Padang to Palembang, Palembang to Panjang and Panjang to Medan. Sumatra’s networks are concentrated on the northern (Medan) and the southern (Lampung to Palembang) parts of the island.
  5. Unlike buses and other public transport, railway trains are scheduled so there is more certainty to travel time when taking this option.
  6. Train stations are best source of information on schedules, bookings, fares and destinations. Bookings are computer based and can be made up to a month in advance. Tickets are available, often up to the last minute, except during the Lebaran / Idul Fitri season at the end of Ramadan. The high demand of tickets during this season makes travel by train a little problematic so avoid if possible.
  7. Instead of the common number notation, trains have names and are used to identify them. For example, executive class trains include ‘Argo’ in their names while business class trains have ‘Senja’ in their names.
  8. Eksecutif (executive) offer much more comfort than economi class such as more legroom and foot rests. Also, this class offers meals and extra blankets upon request at a nominal fee. This train class is the most expensive and requires tickets to be booked in advance.
  9. Bisnis (business) is a cheaper version of the eksecutif class, with similar spacious reclining seats but with no air conditioning and meal service. Ticket rate is about 60% that of the eksecutif class.
  10. Economi (economy) class trains require no reservations and seats are sold out during holiday seasons. Passengers are often crammed into individual coaches while others hang onto exteriors or climb on top of economy cars. To deter ‘train surfers’, railway officials have deviced methods such as hanging concrete balls above tracks.
  11. Jakarta and Bandung are connected by about 30 scheduled trains per day; Bandung is connected to Surabaya through Yogyakarta. To those heading to Bali, Surabaya then connects to Banyuwangi where train service ferries travelers from the main island of Java to Bali.
  12. From Jakarta to Bandung there is a train every hour or two, with executive & business class, taking about 3 hours for the 173 km.
  13. Theft in trains is common, especially on more crowded coaches. It is best precaution to lock the doors of the compartment if possible.
  14. Train travel is among the safest in Indonesia, considering that its airplanes have banned from the European airspace due to safety constraints and other reasons, ferries sink due to inclement weather and overcrowding while buses have relatively poor safety records.