Long-distance Train Travel In Indonesia

Long-distance Train Travel In Indonesia

Earlier in the month of May 2015 I experienced my first long-distance train travel in Indonesia. And it was so fun! I would highly recommend it for the experience, even if it is only one time.

Like most people, I usually travel by airplane, but I just wanted to experience the train for once. I travelled from Jakarta to Yogyakarta and then a few days later from Yogyakarta to Malang. The ride from Jakarta to Yogyakarta was from the morning until the afternoon and the ride from Yogyakarta to Malang was overnight. Two very different train rides and two very different experiences.

The Good

  • Big comfortable seats with lots of legroom!
  • Jakarta to Yogyakarta service was excellent.
  • A one-way train ticket can be cheaper and more affordable than a plane ticket.
  • Some amazing and beautiful scenic views can be seen during the ride!
  • Decent food and drinks provided (not free though).
  • A blanket is provided during overnight travel.
  • There is a socket to charge your electric appliances.
  • Stops at the stations were short.
  • Booking a seat and getting a ticket at the station was supereasy. Just type in your booking number and print your tickets! That’s it.

The Bad

  • Cleanliness in some trains: we had cockroaches crawl around in the train cabin during our overnight ride from Yogyakarta to Malang. Our other train ride was spotless.
  • There were no announcements during the overnight train ride to Malang. What if you fall asleep?
  • Luckily we had to go out at the last stop.
  • There was a monitor display in the cabin, but it did not show anything. Might be useful to announce the next station, especially for foreigners.
  • Service during the overnight train ride was not so good as from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. Even though both rides were 7/8 hours long.
  • For some people the cabins can be quite cold. So bring a jacket or sweater if you think you need it.

The Weird

  • Mini-adventure: going to a squat toilet on a fast-moving bumpy moving train.
  • Guys watching loud kung-fu movies without headsets in the middle of the night.
  • Some people have a lack of decency: they are not muting or turning down the volume on their videogames, movies, series, and Youtube clips. So bring noise-cancelling headphones if you are a light sleeper.

From Jakarta to Yogyakarta

We took the Argo Dwipangga that was supposed to leave at 08:00 from Stasiun Gambir, Jakarta in the morning. Unfortunately, the train was delayed for about 45 minutes, but we still arrived on time at around 16:30 in the Stasiun Yogyakarta in, well, Yogyakarta.

The ride took about 8 hours and was really comfortable. The seats were great and there is quite a lot of room for your legs. An electric socket is also provided to charge your phone and camera and such. You get a little pillow and the food and drink service was excellent too. The stations were announced clearly and there were even some employees waking up passengers to make sure they would not miss their stop. Great service!

The reason I took the day train was to enjoy the views along the way. While traveling by air saves you a lot of time, you don’t get views like this. And they were excellent throughout the whole ride. The train took us through cities and small villages, over brown, gray, and green rivers, up and down mountains and hills, along lush green rice fields complete with a picturesque mountainous backgrounds, and over deep jungle canyons. It was amazing and I loved every minute of it.

I highly recommend this train ride if you have time to spare during your travels in Indonesia. It takes longer than travelling by plane, but it’s a bit cheaper and the experience is totally different.

From Yogyakarta to Malang

We booked seats on the overnight Malioboro Ekspres to Malang to save on a night of accommodation. We departed from Yogyakarta Station at 21:00 sharp and arrived in Malang around 05:00 in the morning. It was a decent ride, but not as good as the one a few days earlier.

The cabin was not so clean, as there were cockroaches crawling around the seats. The service was also not so good; station names were not even announced. Luckily we had to go out on the final stop, but what if you have to go out earlier? You better not fall asleep or you’ll miss your station. This could be especially confusing for foreign travellers.

On the other hand, we did get a blanket to nap in. Unfortunately, our sleep was kind of interrupted by a guy watching loud kung-fu movies on his laptop in the middle of night WITHOUT any headphones. I mean, seriously. I was really too tired to ask him to turn it down. But after a few hours he kind of understood how rude that was to other passengers and turned his movies off.

All in all, while this ride was not as good as the first one. It was fun and there was no delay and we arrived on the dot. That was great. I think going by train to Malang from Yogyakarta is one of the cheaper and faster ways to get there, so I’d recommend it. Perhaps the day train is a very different experience. I think I would recommend that over the night train so you could enjoy the views there as well. There is not much to see out the window at night. But yeah, train travel in Indonesia is can be quite a fun experience.

6 thoughts on “Long-distance Train Travel In Indonesia

  1. Hi Michael, I am Izyan from Malaysia. I just read about your story using train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. It is an amazing journey and view during the trip. May i ask you some questions regarding on the trip? I am planning to use train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta.

      1. Hi Michael. Thank you for your feedback. I want to as some questions regarding on your trip to Yogyakarta by train.

        1. Did you buy the train ticket on the day of your trip or a day before?
        2. What will be the best place to visit in Yogyakarta? Me and my friends would like to spend time together doing activities without shopping. hehe
        3. Which train type is good?business class or executive class? for long distance journey from Jakarta to Yogyakarta.
        4. The trip take about 8 hours is it?

        Thanks Michael 🙂

        1. Hi Izyan! Hope you are doing well. I’ve answered your questions below, let me know if you need more information. 🙂

          1. I bought my train tickets in advance through this website: http://www.tiket.com. I suggest you do the same if you want to travel by train, so you can be sure you will have a seat. Once you have bought the tickets, you will get a confirmation email from the agency. Then, you will have to exchange the confirmation emails at the Gambir train station for the actual tickets a few hours before the train departs. Make sure your personal details match up.
          2. Hmm, it depends on what you and your friends would like to see and how long you guys will be staying there. I suggest booking a “sunrise” tour for the Borobudur temple, that will be beautiful. You can also visit a bunch of other temples in the area such as the Hindu Prambanan temple and Candi Mendut. There is also a nice museum an hour away from Yogyakarta called Ullen Sentalu. You and your friends could also rent a car with driver for a day and visit some beautiful beaches near Gunung Kidul (Kidul Mountain). I heard you can also go rafting and tubing around that place, but I haven’t tried that myself yet. There are a bunch of interesting sight-seeing spots in the city as well such as the Taman Sari Watercastle, the Keraton in the city center, an old Dutch Fort, or stroll around various markets on Malioboro Street. Also, visit many restaurants and try various foods.
          3. Because the train ride took 8 hours, I booked the executive class. It was quite comfortable and fine. You get a lot of leg room and there is a food and drink service as well. Only going to the toilet in a wobbly moving train took some effort, but otherwise this was fine haha.
          4. Yep! It will take around 8 hours. I took the train in the morning and arrived in the late afternoon in Yogyakarta. I also took the train from Yogyakarta to Malang and it also took 8 hours, but this was a night train instead.

          Hope this helped!

          1. Hi Michael,

            My apologies for the late reply. Thank you so much for your explanations. I hope I can take note from your answer and make it as our guidance :). May I know if I can ask another question regarding on the train? below are the questions that still make me wondering until today hehe:

            1) To which station of Yogyakarta we should stop? Based on the website, I saw there are 2 train station for Yogyakarta. Tugu Yogyakarta and Lempuyangan.

            2) We plan to take train at night and from Gambir station Jakarta, and maybe will arrive at Yogyakarta by morning. In your opinion,is that enough if we just spend 2 days at Yogyakarta?

            3) I saw the ticket to Lempunyangan still in reschedule status for October. Is that okay if I buy the ticket once I arrive at the Gambir station?

            4) Can you suggest any tour guide and hotel that are affordable in Yogyakarta? since I am going with my all girl friends. We should need trusted tour guide :). Or you think it is okay if we just go by our own?

            5) Since we have short time in Jakarta, can you suggest any place we should wait/stay there? During we ar waiting for the night train 🙂

            I’m so sorry if I ask you so many questions.

            Thanks Michael 🙂

          2. Hi! Sure, I’ll try my best to help. 🙂

            1. The “Tugu Yogyakarta” is the main train station. I think they call it Yogyakarta Stasiun now.
            2. Sure, it’s enough to see some of the famous sights and eat some good food. I’d just visit the temples around Yogyakarta.
            3. I think you should buy the ticket before you go to Indonesia. I don’t know if you can buy it on the day itself.
            4. There are a couple of companies that rent a car for a day. I think it costs around IDR 400/500k for 8 hours including a driver. Just keep in mind it is just a driver though and usually not a tourguide. He can drive you to all the famous locations. At the temples, you could hire another guide for a fee. It’s worth doing this if you want to know the history of the places. You can also look around the temples by yourself.
            5. How long do you have to stay in Jakarta to wait for the train? I would wait in a cafe or restaurant nearby the train station.

            Hope this helps! 🙂

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