Transportation in Indonesia

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The good thing about Indonesia is that many times you can walk to get to places. Unlike many cities in North America (like Los Angeles) which force you to drive, you can actually walk or take public transportation in Indonesia.

If you don't have to drive in Indonesia, don't. Indonesians drive on the left-side of the street, as oppose to the right(correct)-side. (Pun intended). Many streets are narrow. They are good for two cars, one in each direction, with only a few feet or inches between the two cars. Some people also park their cars on the street (no room for garage), making it more difficult to drive. On top of that, you have to be careful with motorcyclists, people walking (also jaywalking) on the streets, and public transportation cars or buses which stop and cut you in an unpredictable manner.

[Bandung license plate]To drive a car or a motorcycle you need a driving license. Many countries issue International Driving Licenses which are valid in Indonesia. I used to live in Canada for a long time (10 years) and I had a Canadian driving license. When I visited Indonesia I had to take an International Driving License. Unfortunately, at that time Indonesia is not listed in the list of countries in which that license can be used. (Wierd). Check with your local DMV.

Public transportation includes:

  • trains
  • buses
  • taxis
  • "angkutan kota" (mini busses)
  • "ojek" (motorcycle). Here is a picture of an ojek. You'll ride on it.
  • traditional vehicles: "becak" (a three-wheel cycle thing, the driver paddle on the back, a picture of becaks), "delman" or "andong".

Public transportations are not convenient, but usable. It can take you from point A to point B reasonably.


Trains connect big cities. Some trains are dirty and are full with passengers. At the end of "Ramadhan" (the fasting month for Moslems), many people go back from big cities (such as Jakarta) to their villages where they came from. At that time, people even hang outside the trains! Dangerous indeed.

Trains between Jakarta and Bandung (called the "Parahyangan" train) is good and clean. I recommend this. Some of the coaches are air-conditioned (the executive class). It costs Rp. 20.000,- (for business class) and Rp. 32.000,- (for the executive class). The ride lasts around 3 hours. There is also a faster train between Bandung and Jakarta called the "Argogede" train. The cost is Rp. 40.000,- and the ride takes 2.5 hours. Have a look at the schedule.


Bus is the main transportation between cities. I have to warn you that some bus drivers drive like crazy and they are reckless. You may have a heart attack riding on their buses. Buses are cheaper than trains and they go more often. Also watch out for pick-pocket. Watch for your belonging! Don't leave them unattended! Seriously!

During busy seasons, it is difficult to get into a bus. You have to fight with the other passengers, just to get into the bus.

In some places, I heard buses are also nice. I heard buses in Sumatra are like inter-city buses in North America. But I can't confirm that.


[taxi, minibus]Many big cities have taxis. But only in Jakarta taxis are common. In other cities, taxis are just starting to become popular. Taxis are metered (using "argometer"), but sometimes the drivers refuse to use the meter and ask (haggle) you for a certain amount instead. They are supposed to use the meter. If you are not in a hurry in Jakarta, insist on the meter or get another cab. In some places (such as train station), some taxis inside the parking area refused to use the meter. Get taxis from the street, instead. All taxis in Jakarta have air conditioning. Otherwise, you'll get cooked inside. There are taxis that are notorious (I suppose for legal reasons I shouldn't name their names here).

There have been rumours on robbery on taxis passengers. However, I could not confirm this rumours. It should be safe. Although, you should always be careful. For example, I always lock the doors when I use a taxi. I just don't want strangers to jump into the car. Never happened to me (and hopefully never will), but it's better be safe than sorry.

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