Travelling by train from Jakarta to Bandung or Yogyakarta? I will explain you how the trains and different classes are working on Java Island in Indonesia and what my craziest experience was with the locals on a train!
Because Java is the biggest island of Indonesia, the train system is the best in whole Indonesia. In Sumatra are mostly buses or flights the best option and Bali and the other islands are too small for long train rides. To see the beautiful nature of Java it is the best way to get around because the streets are quite bad and normally the cars are only driving around 40 to 60 km/h because of the bad traffic.
You can choose between three classes: economy, business and executive. Many travel website advise to take the executive class but for my trip from Jakarta to Yogyakarta that was about 350.000 IDR (25€) and a bit too expensive for my budget, especially if you compare to the cheap flight tickets around 30€. I love train rides because you can see much more of the country, how the people live and learn about the culture on the way – additionally you do something for the environment!
The economy class is quite comfortable with air-con, double seater chairs (you don’t have your proper own seat, it’s like a bank for two or three people) and many locals – so will have an adventurous experience.
ADVISE: Make sure to book seats in the middle to avoid smells from the toilet. The toilets are a hole in the ground but have toilet paper and soap!
On other routes the economy class is even cheaper like from Yogyakarta to Probolingo (near Bromo volcano) for 85.000 IDR (6€). Depends on how long the journey takes and how exhausted you are. Maybe executive class is nicer on longer journeys, you have your own seat and the whole cabin is not that packed of bags and boxes of the other passengers. The business class is quite similar to the executive class in regard to the seats and comfort. Here is a map of all connections on Java. For more information visit seat61.com! It is so helpful!
Very innovative and practical is the check-in process on the train stations in Java: there are counter machines to print out your boarding pass in 2 minutes. So you don’t need to queue and wait -you only need to bring the confirmation of the ticket printed out or your code from online booking to type in. But still be at the train station about 30 minutes before. There are many little shops to buy some snacks for the train ride.
In the trains itself you can get food like nasi goreng or instant noodles, but not fresh and in my opinion a bit overpriced (packages for 30.000, normally for 15.000). Either the staff comes around in the wagons or you can go to the board restaurant.
My craziest train experience:
On the train from Yogyakarta to Probolingo I got to know the real local style of traveling by train. I don’t know what the Indonesians have to carry around but many of the have cartons and hundreds of bags with the. Sometimes it seems they are moving somewhere else with their paper cartons. In my wagon I met a women who has ten children. First I was a bit annoyed because her older children took secretly photos of me like an animal. But in the end we had a really fun time together and she was so friendly and just fascinated me with her story.
Anyway… another crazy thing happened to me on that journey – it already took me 8 hours, but then a baby vomited next to me in the wagon and it smelled so badly! Luckily I had my seat on the window and enjoyed the beautiful nature with palms, rice fields and small local villages to distract myself.