Getting around

1 Air
2 Boat
3 Rail
4 Road
5 Other forms of local road transport
6 Maps


The most convenient and comfortable way to travel.
,, service all the main provincial cities. Merpati tends to operate the short-hop services to smaller destinations, particularly in eastern Indonesia.

The other main domestic airlines are
Lion Air
( and
Indonesia Air Asia
( Other key players are
Batavia Air
( and
(www.sriwijayaair- All these airlines cover major destinations in Indonesia. Smallest of all are
, (, which tend to service smaller towns in the outer islands, especially Kalimantan, Sumatra and Papua. In Nusa Tenggara, travellers often have to use Merpati, or one of the local outfits such as
Trans Nusa
(www.trans and
Indonesia Air Transport

By international standards, flights in Indonesia are cheap. It is also considerably cheaper buying tickets in Indonesia than it is purchasing them abroad. Airlines such as Lion Air, Mandala, Batavia Air and Air Asia have an online booking system for use with Visa or MasterCard. Garuda flights can be reserved online. Offices in larger towns will usually accept credit card payment, although smaller branch offices in out-of-the-way places will often only take cash payment. Some airlines give student reductions. During holiday periods, flights are booked up some time ahead.


The national shipping company is
Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia
(PELNI), Many travel agents also sell PELNI tickets and, although they levy a small surcharge, may be far more convenient. PELNI operates a fleet of modern passenger ships that ply fortnightly circuits
throughout the archipelago. The ships are well run and well maintained, have an excellent safety record, and are a comfortable and leisurely way to travel. Each accommodates 500-2250 passengers in five classes, has central air conditioning, a bar, restaurant and cafeteria. The unprecedented growth in the domestic airline industry in the past few years has seen PELNI profits take a beating, with more and more routes being cut annually.


Passenger train services are limited to Java and certain areas of Sumatra. Trains are usually slow and often delayed. Single track connects many major cities. First class is air cond- itioned with a dining car. There are two main trunk routes on Java: Jakarta-Cirebon- Semarang-Surabaya and Jakarta-Bandung-Yogyakarta-Solo (Surakarta)-Surabaya. The principal services are identified by name, for example, the
is the air-conditioned night-express from Jakarta via Yogya and Solo, to Surabaya (12 hours); the
Mutiara Utara
is the northern route train to Surabaya via Semarang; the
Senja Utama Solo
is the express train to Yogya and Solo; while the
Senja Utama Semarang
is the express train to Cirebon and Semarang. There are three classes:
is first class, with air conditioning, reclining seats and breakfast included.
) is fan-cooled, with pillows provided; and
, with rather run down, well-used coaches, broken fans and windows that may or may not open - this class is subject to overcrowding. All three classes can be booked. Reservations should be made well in advance; it is often easier through a travel agent in the town where you are staying. Fares and timetables can be found at (only in Indonesian) - for schedules, train names and fares head to the Jadwal & Tarif link.



In some of the more popular tourist destinations, guesthouses and some tour companies hire out bicycles. These vary in quality - check the brakes before you set off.


Road transport in Indonesia has improved greatly in recent years, and main roads on most of the islands are generally in reasonably good condition. In many areas main roads may be impassable during the rainy season and after severe storms.

Most Indonesians get around by bus. The network is vast and although it is not always quick or comfortable, buses are the cheapest way to travel. There are a range of bus alternatives from
Bis ekonomi
(dirt cheap, cramped but a good way to mingle with Indonesians), to
(icy cold, fully reclinable seats with plenty of space). Visitors are most likely to find themselves on fairly comfy
Bis Malam
, air-conditioned buses that plough the roads of the archipelago each night and deposit red-eyed passengers at their desination just before dawn just in time for morning prayers.

Avoid the seats at the front, which are the most dangerous if there is a crash. Roads are often windy and rough, and buses are badly sprung (or totally un-sprung). Despite harrowingly fast speeds at times, do not expect to average much more than 40 kph except on the best highways. Overnight buses are usually faster and recommended for longer journeys. However, air-conditioned overnighters can be very cold and a sarong or blanket is useful.

Tickets can be obtained from bus company offices or through travel agents; shop around for the best fare - bargaining is possible. It is sensible to book a day or so ahead for longer journeys. During Ramadan and at Lebaran, all forms of public transport are packed

Shuttle buses
are found in the main tourist areas on Bali and Lombok. They operate almost exclusively for the benefit of foreigners connecting the most popular destinations, with a fixed daily timetable. They will pick up and drop off passengers at their hotels and take a great deal of the hassle out of travel, though you miss much of the local colour.

Car and motorbike hire

Cars can be hired for self-drive or with a driver. Motorbike hire is available at many beach resorts and increasingly in other towns. It is illegal to ride without a helmet, although this can just be a construction worker's hard hat. Many machines are poorly maintained: check brakes and lights before paying.


Taxis are metered in the major cities. Drivers cannot usually change large bills. All registered taxis, minibuses and rental cars have yellow number plates; black number plates are for private vehicles, and red are for government-owned vehicles.

Other forms of local road transport


Small three-wheeled motor scooters similar to the Thai tuk-tuk. They are probably the cheapest form of 'taxi' after the becak, but are only available in big cities.


Becaks or bicycle rickshaws are one of the cheapest, and most important, forms of short-distance transport in Indonesia. Literally hundreds of thousands of poor people make a living driving becaks. However, they are now illegal in central Jakarta and often officially barred from main thoroughfares in other large cities. Bargain hard and agree a fare before boarding.


These are small buses or adapted pickups operating on fixed routes. They usually run fixed routes for fixed fares (it varies between towns), but can also be chartered by the hour or day.


Motorcycle taxis. Ojek riders, often wearing coloured jackets, congregate at junctions, taking passengers pillion to their destination. Agree a price before boarding and bargain hard.


Larger versions of bemos carrying 10-12 passengers. They have a bewildering number of other names - daihatsu in Semarang, angkuta in Solo, microlets in Malang and Jakarta, while in rural areas they tend to be called colts. In larger cities, bemos/colts often follow fixed routes. They are sometimes colour coded, sometimes numbered, sometimes have their destinations marked on the front - and sometimes all three. For intra-city trips there is usually a fixed fare, although it is worth asking one of your fellow passengers what the
harga biasa
(normal price) is, or watch what is being handed to the driver or his sidekick by fellow passengers. In the countryside, routes can vary and so do fares; be prepared to bargain. Oplets can also be chartered by the hour or day (bargain hard).


Locally, maps may not be available beyond the larger cities, and often the quality is poor.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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