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Railway communication in Indonesia is best developed on the island of Java. You can get by train from the capital Jakarta to all the most popular tourist cities, and where trains do not go, you can always take the train to the nearest station and transfer to the bus. Theoretically, by train you can even get to Bali Island with a transfer by ferry and then by bus, but for this you will first have to take one train from Jakarta to Surabaya, and then take another train to Banyuwangi.
On the other largest island of Sumatra, the railway connection is not so well developed: there is only one passenger branch for long-distance trains.
Read more about the trains of Indonesia and how to travel on them further:
What are the trains in Indonesia
Long-distance trains are comfortable and quite modern. If you happen to ride on the old commuter trains in Jakarta, do not be alarmed, long-distance trains are completely different.
However, there are no sleeping places even on long-distance trains, only seats. All trains and long-distance cars are air-conditioned, and even too much. Take warm clothes for overnight trips, you will freeze very much in shorts and a T-shirt. They have toilets in each car, sockets for 220V, food is offered. There is a special dining car in the middle of the train.
There are three classes of comfort trains, differing in cost, take this into account when buying tickets:
Eksekutif class (Executive) – the most expensive and comfortable class. The seats rotate around their axis, lean back, there is a table for drinks and food. But the most important thing is that each passenger has his own individual seat, separated by an armrest from the next one, as in an airplane.
Bisnis class (Business) – average in value. The seats do not recline back, common to two passengers, i.e. not separated by handles.
Ekonomi class (Economy) is the cheapest class. Nothing is fundamentally different from the previous one, except perhaps the very quality of the seats and upholstery (slightly stiffer) and less legroom between the seats. There are also seats for three passengers at once.
The difference in price between the classes is noticeable, more than twice, so if you don't really need to sleep on an overturned seat in the Aksekutif class, you can buy a cheaper class. But not all routes have all three class options, most often there are only two to choose from.
And yet, we do not recommend traveling in the cheapest Ekonomi class for longer than 2-4 hours, and it's better to forget about night travel altogether. The seats in the Ekonomi class are simply plastic without upholstery, the backs are completely vertical, do not recline. It is also not necessary to count on the seats, because as a rule this class is crowded. Therefore, it will not work to get enough sleep and relax during the night move, you will be squeezed out like a lemon.
Where to find out the schedule
As we mentioned above, different trains in different cities depart/arrive from different stations, and in the schedule search you can't just set the cities and get all the options, you must specify the stations. Therefore, to get the most complete results, you need to check all the stations in the city of departure and arrival, but again, it's bad, you need to know the names of the stations in the city. Here is for a reference information that will help you:
- In Jakarta there are two main stations: Gambir station (GMR) – high-class Eksekutif class trains depart from it; Pasar Senen station (PSE) – only economy class Ekonomi class from it.
- Yogyakarta: Choose Tugu Yogyakarta (YK).
- Solo (Solo or Surakarta): Choose Solobalapan (SLO).
- Surabaya: Choose Surabaya Pasar Turi (SBI) to/from Jakarta; choose Surabaya Gubeng (SGU) to/from Solo, Yogyakarta, Bandung, Probolingo (Probolinggo), Banyuwangi (Banyuwangi), Jember.
- Banyuwangi: Choose Banyuwangi Baru to get to the station next to the ferry to Bali.
Where and how to buy tickets
Train tickets in Indonesia are best bought in advance, the sale opens 90 days before the trip. Moreover, you can buy them while still at home while planning a trip via the Internet. And the earlier you buy, the cheaper they cost, because there is a special fare system in place, as in aviation, when blocks of seats in the same cars cost differently. First, the cheap ones are redeemed, then the more expensive ones, and if you purchase tickets just before the trip, you will probably have to buy the most expensive ones.
There are no discounts for children and pensioners, all tickets for children aged 3 and over are paid as an adult, and children under 3 years old can travel for free, provided they do not occupy a separate seat.
Speaking of the cost, tickets are not so cheap, especially the most comfortable Eksekutif class. Despite the fact that these are seats, they are more expensive than traveling on Russian trains for the same compartment distance. But the lower class is almost twice cheaper if you buy in advance.
When buying tickets for a particular train class, you will be asked to choose a subclass. You need to choose the cheapest one, in fact there is no difference between them. These subclasses are just the same blocks of places with different prices.
Boarding pass system
When purchasing tickets through websites, travel agencies, in terminals, there is a boarding pass system, as on airplanes. After purchasing the ticket, you will receive an electronic ticket with an alphanumeric code and a QR code, but you will not be able to board with them right away. Using these codes, at the departure station in the electronic terminal (Check-in counter) you should receive an orange boarding pass, with which you can already board.
It is the same with the purchase of paper tickets at the ticket office: if you purchase a ticket more than three days before departure, you will receive a blue ticket with codes, which will also need to be "exchanged" for a boarding pass at the terminal.
You can get a boarding pass only at the station from which you will depart, and you can do this at any time, even a few days before the trip, but no later than 10 minutes before boarding.
Attention! At some small stations that are not yet equipped with electronic terminals, you can immediately board the train using an electronic or blue ticket from the ticket office.
And now, where and how to buy tickets:
At the station
Already being in Indonesia, you can come to any station and buy tickets there. But remember that the later you buy them, the more expensive. Sometimes, a few days before departure, it is not possible to purchase tickets at all in Aksekutif or Bisinis class. The largest influx of passengers is observed during the Chinese New Year and the month of Ramadan.
Passports of all passengers are required for purchase. Electronic queues are installed at large stations. While you are waiting in line, you can fill out a paper form indicating the place of departure and arrival, date and time, and hand it over to the cashier. Ticket offices at stations can be separated for different types of trains (long-distance, suburban) and classes. There are also separate ticket offices for buying tickets on the same day, or for buying in advance.
Also at large stations there are electronic terminals where you can skip the queue to buy a ticket. Their interface is in Indonesian, but in general everything is clear, or use the help of the staff, they are sometimes on duty near the terminals. Payment in the terminal is made in cash in banknotes.
In travel agencies
Travel agencies on the streets of popular tourist cities sell train tickets in all directions. It is safe to purchase them, but you will have to overpay the commission. Presumably, they just book you tickets through the official website of the Railways of Indonesia.
Via the official website
Indonesia Railways has a website with online ticket purchase - https://kai.id/, but it is only in Indonesian, and through it you can pay for a ticket only with a local bank card. But you can watch the schedule, even in Indonesian everything is simple and clear there.
Via the agency's website
Site https://en.tiket.com/kereta-api gives you the opportunity to book tickets online with payment by any card. This is an official agency working with railways, and adds a small commission of about $1.5 to the cost.
When searching, please note that there are several railway stations in each major city, and trains do not depart/arrive at all of them. At the same time, it also happens that high-class trains depart from one station, and a lower one from another. Therefore, if the search doesn't give you the necessary results, try other stations in the city (see about this in the "Where to find out the schedule" section above).
If you try to pay for a ticket with a bank card, you may have a problem: some cards are not accepted. But this problem is solvable. To do this, you will need to report the problem via online chat (it will appear on the personal information entry page). There you will most likely be asked to provide your passport and card details, or send their photo/ scan to your email address. You can do this, but you just can't report/send the reverse side of the card with a CVV code. When you send everything, your card will be included in the "white list", and after that the payment will be completed.
After payment, you will receive a special alphanumeric booking code and a QR code. One of them will need to be used to receive a boarding pass at the terminal at the departure station, which must be done no later than 10 minutes before departure according to schedule.
Terminals in Indomart stores
Some stores of the national Indomart retail chain have electronic terminals where tickets can be purchased. They are in Indonesian, but you can yell. Here are the hints:
- You need to select from the menu: i-tiket, then Kereta Api.
- Next, choose a route (don't forget that you need to specify the names of stations, not cities) and the number of passengers: Dewasa – the number of adults (including children 3 or older), Infant – children under 3 years old.
- Next, choose a class. Each class will have subclasses with different prices, choose the cheapest one.
- On the next page, enter the passport details of all passengers.
- After that, the machine will issue a receipt that needs to be paid at the checkout in the store.
In extreme cases, contact the store staff, they will help you.
Other useful information about trains in Indonesia
- Smoking is prohibited on all trains.
- There are one or two toilets in each car, but there is no soap and toilet paper anywhere, take it with you.
- The air conditioners in the cars work mercilessly, so take warm clothes for night trips, even a jacket or blanket will not hurt.
- For all classes, there is a limit on the weight of free baggage – 20 kilograms. If you have an excess, you need to pay for each kilogram from 2000 to 10000 rupees (this is only 0.15 – 0.75 US dollars, see Indonesia currency exchange rate). Payment is made at special weighing stands, and it is better to take care of this yourself in advance, and not when it turns out when boarding.