Mau naik Kereta Api? A great way to experience life in Java.
Argo Gede passing Stasion Maswati, January 2010.
Indonesia has an extensive railway network on the island of Java, much of it built by skilled Dutch engineers . There is also a reasonable system in Sumatra. I will focus on the possiblities for rail travel in Java.
The ticket prices are favourable compared to air travel. Over Christmas and other hoildiay periods the prices do rise a little. Here are some examples:
A/ Jakarta (Stasion Gambir) to Bandung
- 50,000 rp each way on the Argo Gede.
I can leave Gambir around 6am, arrive in Bandung a bit after 9am. Then I spend a day with friends before stocking-up at the cake shops and catching the 5:45pm return service. I am back at Gambir by a bit after 7pm and home again before the gates are locked at 10pm.
Note: this is a very scenic trip. If I can figure out how to post photos, I will insert some pics taken from the train.
Solved: see below.
B/ Jakarta (Stasion Gambir) to Yogjakarta
-I think I payed about 250,000 rp each way. I took the Taksaka.
This trip is an all day affair and another day to return. You wil need to spend a few days in Yogja to make it worth it. But then there is so much to see in Jogja that this will not be a problem. Don't forget to take the Prambanan Express day trip to Solo and ride the restored steam tramline in Solo Kota.
C/ Jakarta (Stasion Gambir again) to Bogor
- only 13,000 rp. This is a suburban KRL set.
The smoothest and easiest way to get between Jakarta and Bogor. The journey is quite short, only an hour or so. Just be quick to get your seat or someone will beat you to it. This train goes all the way into Stasion Kota on the return trip, a short walk from historic Kota Tua. The station in Bogor is a fair way from the famous Kabun Raya Bogor and a journey by taxi (or angkot, the little buses I always hit my head when getting in) is necassary.
Just a diversion on the topic of suburban trains around Jakarta: be careful where your wallet is while travelling on the cheapers services (eg: those passing through Senin station). The train to Bogor is a first class suburban train and wallets going missing does not seem to be as likely.
General notes on rail travel in Java.
1/ makanan dan minuman - food and drink.
Not always the best I'm afraid. My friends advice me to bring something along to eat. The fried rice supplied is small, bland yet still costs 15,000 rp, plus drinks. Oh, and don't leave buying food or drinks until you arrive at Gambir to catch your train. It is marked up by as much as an 3 or 4 times the cost at Indomart.
2/ the relationship between seats and tickets.
The seats are fine on the top express trains. One ticket equates to one seat. This is not always the case on the cheaper trains. One ticket means you can board but tickets will continue to be sold beyond the seat capacity of the train. Beware if you take a trip on an economy train during a holiday period. I have not yet built up the courage to take an intercity economy train. I have been told that they are quite an experience.
Umm, to be honest, the toilets aren't that clean. But they are usually functional, at least on the express trains. Whatever you do, avoid the onboard tap water. It is more disease ridden than a typical sewer in Jakarta. Bring your own anti-bacterial hand cleanser. Oh, and toliet paper too, if you think you won't be able to wait. In fairness to PT KA, I should point out that the amenities on Java's trains are far superior to the rudimentary facilities avalible on a ferry I caught between Java and Sumatra.
4/ air conditioning.
The top express trains, such as the Argo series, have airconditioning. Economy trains have open windows and fans. Some prefer to ride on the roof, however I do not recomend this and it is illegal.
5/ disembarkation warning.
Hati2 jika tak bisa sabar turun KA sudah tiba di stasion Gambir. Big stations like Gambir have baggage porters who run alongside the train before it halts, jump through the open doors while the train is still moving and then congest the aisle while pestering people about carrying their luggage. If you are in a hurry to get off, just bear in mind one or two of these athletic fellows will jump into the carriage and bowl you over if you are standing in the doorway.
6/ warning about older style stations around Java
Many stations have low level platforms and footpaths across railway tracks. Examples include Bandung Station and Yogjakarta Station. Please keep your eyes open and be aware a train might run you over if you wander around abscent-mindedly.
So there is a little bit of 'info' on the PT KA of Java. I hope I have provided an insight to a possible alternative to flying that some people will find helpful. I would like to conclude with the observation that rail travel provides a much better view of the passing country side than air travel and it is much more comfortable than road travel. Should I add it is also the ecologically responsible form of travel?