INDONESIA | Java by train

INDONESIA | Java by train

The train is a great way to travel around Java. It’s very comfortable, fast and not so expensive. On my trip around Southeast Asia I spend a week exploring the beautiful Java, using the train as my main way of transport. Let me tell you about where I went, what was really great and what was not so great and what is what like to travel on the train throughout Java.

Jakarta
My trip started in Jakarta. Many people had warned me beforehand that Jakarta really wasn’t that great and that I’d be better of just skipping it. Of course, I was stubborn and I felt like I had to check it out for myself. However, I’m sad to say that it indeed wasn’t my favorite place. I would never tell anyone not to go, because that I don’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t either, maybe I just didn’t manage to find it’s charm. If you decide to go there, my tips would be to visit the National Monument and Merdeka square and to walk around Old Batavia. We tried to find the port of Sunda Kelapa, but after walking around for about an hour we gave up. Please let me know if you did manage to find it, because I would love to know where we went wrong. Even though we didn’t find it the walk was pretty cool, because we got to see a little more of the local life, so I definitely do recommend just wandering around for a bit (as long as you have the feeling it’s safe).

Train journey 1: Jakarta to Yogyakarta
The train journey from Jakarta to Yogyakarta is one I can definitely recommend to anyone. It takes about 8 hours and it was probably my favorite train ride in all of Southeast Asia. A little because we had the most luxurious seats on the train (thanks to our ignorance when buying the tickets), but mostly because of the views. The first half hour or so the train drives through some of the Jakarta’s suburbs and you can get a really good view into local life. You see the living circumstances change the further away from the center you get. From neighborhoods with mansions to slums where little kids are playing only a meter away from train tracks. It is very impressive and it’s insane to see how close some of the houses are build to the tracks. The rest of the journey the train passes through amazing landscapes, mountains, rice fields and little village. There is basically always something beautiful to see when you look out the window.

Yogyakarta
The city of Yogyakarta is lovely, they have everything you could be looking for in an Indonesian city, but the most amazing part are the two impressive temple complexes close by, Borobudur and Prambanan. I wrote a separate post about this, so check that out here if you are planning to spend some time in Yogyakarta. I spent 4 days in Yogyakarta, which I think was a great amount of time, however if you don’t have that much time you could do it in just 2 or 3 days too.

Train journey 2: Yogyakarta to Probolingo
This was definitely an interesting journey for me. We had booked it in advance as it was included in the Bromo tour we were doing. Of course, the company we booked it with had put us in the lowest class and after the luxurious experience on the first train trip it was definitely a bit of a shock. Looking back on it it was a really great experience and I actually recommend traveling in ‘economy (third) class’ maybe just not for 8 hours. After approximately 7 hours of all the locals looking and smiling at us, but not saying anything, the man who was sitting across from us decided to break the ice. Soon the 6 people on the other side of the isle were engaged too and we were all laughing together trying to make conversation without speaking the same language. One of the ladies started offering us food and she actually ended up insisting on giving us a huge bag of some sort of Indonesian candy.

Bromo
The tour company picked us up from the train station in Probolingo and brought us to a super crappy hotel near mount Bromo. You should definitely see the sunrise over Bromo and hike up the volcano, but make sure you do some proper research beforehand about the way you want to do it. I think the best option is to arrange accommodation and transport yourself and then book a 4WD jeep tour to see the sunrise and climb the volcano at your ho(s)tel, when you’ve arrived.

Useful information

Tickets
You can buy your tickets at the train station, the machines are usually only in Indonesian, but if you tell someone behind a counter where you want to go and on which date they will able to book tickets for you. I do recommend buying your tickets a few days in advance if there is a specific date you want to travel on.

Classes
In Indonesia there are three different classes. The economy (third) class is where you will get the most local experience, some carriages are with and some without air-conditioning. As mentioned above I do recommend it as it’s a really cool experience, but maybe for a sorter journey. From my experience the people traveling in economy class take a lot of cargo with them, so we had to keep our backpacks on our laps for the first few hours, until some people got off. Additionally, the benches are pretty hard and they really cram as much people as they can onto the Just be prepared if you do decide to go for the economy class seats. There are also ‘business (second) class’ carriages and ‘executive (third) class’ carriages. These are both very comfortable from what I’ve seen and you’ll have plenty of leg space and room for your luggage. In the ‘executive class’ you even get a pillow and reclining chairs, so you can have a nice nap.

I’ve also made a couple videos about my trip around Java, so check these out if you want some more inspiration:

Our first destination | Jakarta
City to city | Jakarta (Has some great shots of the train journey)
Meloj and Juryaj visit temples | Yogyakarta
On top of a vulcano | Bromo

Let me know where you went on your trip to Java or where you are planning to go. Do you think the train is a nice way to travel?

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