All seven of Java’s domestic airports (Jakarta, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Solo-Surakarta, Malang and Bandung) have regular flights between each other. In addition to these, Java has a large number of regional airports serviced by smaller carriers operating semi-regular or charter flights. Given the clogged roads throughout Java, if you’re short of time an internal flight might worthwhile, and in our experience, internal flights can be ridiculously cheap from time to time. We recommend finding and booking flights online with tiket.com or a reputable travel agent once you’re on the ground in Indonesia.
Java has a reasonably good train service linking most major cities in Java and Bandar Lampung with Palembang in Sumatra. In our experience, the trains generally run on time, they’re clean and comfortable, refreshments can be purchased on board and tickets prices are quite reasonable. Given that travelling by road can be painfully slow, travelling by train is an excellent alternative and a great way to see the countryside.
Train times and fares can be found on the Indonesia Railways website www.kereta-api.co.id but they only accept Indonesian credit cards so you can’t actually buy tickets with them. Fortunately tiket.com has filled the void for foreign credit card holders. Otherwise, you can purchase tickets at any train station up to a few weeks in advance.
Taxis are everywhere in Java (with the possible exception of small villages). In major centres like Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Surabaya you won’t have any trouble flagging one down. In smaller centres, ask your accommodation provider to call for one. Make sure the taxi has a metre and that the driver puts it on as soon as you get in. If he tells you it’s broken it’s probably a scam so hop out and get yourself another cab. Bluebird and Express taxis have good reputations; the former even has a handy mobile app for online bookings.
There’s a taxi desk just outside the domestic and international arrivals terminals at all the main airports. Taxi desks operate on a set price per destination, which is displayed on a board at the counter. Pay at the desk, then head to the taxi rank with your pre-paid voucher to give to the driver. No money changes hand between yourself and the driver – if he requests additional payment it’s a scam, but feel free to tip as you please. Be aware that taxi desks are usually closed after hours so if you’re arriving early or late you’re on your own. After hours expect to pay more than the fixed fare posted at the taxi desk.
Unlike Bali, your chances of getting an English speaking taxi driver are very slim. Before you head out, make sure you write down the names and address of where you’re staying (or grab a card off the front desk) and going. Some places have English names and local names so make sure you get them both down and keep it in a safe place.
Java has a huge number of tour companies servicing just about every attraction and every corner of the island. As well as standard tours, most tour companies are happy to provide private and customised tours. You can find a lot of companies online which is great for getting ideas and narrowing your choices but even in the high season there’s really no need to book anything more than a day or two in advance. In our experiences, it’s best to book tours in person as the high level of competition means prices are very competitive and can often be haggled down even further, especially if you can get a small group together or are booking more than one tour. Even if you’re not normally an organised tour kind of traveller, you may find the competitive prices and convenience of having everything organised for you outweighs the costs and logistical issues of doing some of Java’s attractions independently.
Java has an excellent bus service connecting just about every town and village using a combination of coaches, minibuses and bemo’s. The problem is that most of the roads are so clogged it’s painfully slow to get around, particularly in West Java where we once spend 4 hours to travel 12km’s. Also, in bigger centres, bus terminals are often located out in the suburbs so you may need to get a taxi from your accommodation. Having said all that, if you don’t mind waiting around for connections and have the plenty of time, you can’t beat the bus service for cheap travel. This isn’t such a problem for intra-city transport (except Jakarta which is just plain awful) but the standard of the minibuses varies from excellent to death traps. Ride at your own risk.
Travelling by private car is the most convenient way to get around Java where there’s no way to avoid using the roads. There are no set prices and what you end up paying will usually come down to how well you haggle with the driver but as an indication, a car with an English speaking driver will usually set you back around US$45-50 per day. Cars can be arranged through your accommodation or a travel agent but you’ll usually get a better price approaching drivers direct as there’s no commission involved. You won’t have any trouble finding one as there are always drivers touting for business around busy tourist areas and attractions. Most private cars are actually small minivans than can comfortably seat between 8-10 people so if you can split the cost with travelling companions, they are extremely affordable.
Beware that some Javanese drivers are lunatics who will happily risk their own and passenger lives to make 50m progress. If you’re not happy with your driver, find another one and don’t be afraid to tell them in no uncertain circumstances that you won’t put up with reckless driving. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The promise of a good tip for careful driving sometimes helps too.
Just don’t. Given the clogged roads and the Javanese penchant for lunatic driving, you’d be risking life and limb riding around Java on the back of a scooter.
In addition to conventional transport, Java has some rather unusual intra-city transport options such as Bajai, small three-wheeled taxi’s that can carry two passengers, three at a squeeze. They’re most common in Jakarta where there are thousands of these orange taxi’s all over the city. They have a fairly deserved reputation for being dirty and dangerous but the industry seems be trying to lift its game. They’ve even gone digital with a professional online booking system and a handy mobile app which you can find at bajaiapp.com.
Traditional horse and carts called andong or dokar are still widely used in Java, particularly central Java. Although they’re popular with locals, they’re rarely used by tourists other than in Yogyakarta where you’ll find them touting for business outside hotspots like the train station, the Kraton Palace and along busy Malioboro Street.
Trishaw pedal powered carts, known locally as becak, are also widely used throughout Java. Like andong, always haggle hard and be very clear about what the price covers (one-way or return journey, per passenger or per group) before you set off.