Indonesia's train system is patchy, but where it exists -- primarily on Java, with a less used stretches on Sumatra -- it can be a pleasant and relatively quick way to get around. On Java, main stops include Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. Sumatra has three non-connected train services: in Aceh and North Sumatra, then West Sumatra and finally Lampung and South Sumatra.
For long distance trips, Java has a far better network and greater frequency of trains. As a general rule trains are faster than buses in Java, but also slightly more expensive.
Think of train travel as a great compromise between scenery-skipping flights and stomach-churning buses. Occasionally it is possible to pick up an economy fare on a train with cramped bench seats for a slightly lower price than the bus, but be warned that the bus in this instance may well be more comfortable.
Type of Train
There are Three Classes of Trains; smoking is not allowed in any:
- Economy (Ekonomi): Which used to be fan-cooled but is now mostly air-con and no longer available on many popular.
- Executive (Eksecutif): Which has air-con, more legroom and power sockets for all your gadgets. On trunk routes the services tend to be primarily business and executive.
- Business (Bisnis): This has larger coach-style seating in a two-two configuration.
In the economy and business carriages, sellers will regularly jump on the train to sell food, drinks and knick-knacks, meaning you don’t need to go hungry on your journey. In all carriages you will be regularly offered nasi goreng on plates from the train staff themselves, but you pay a premium for this service.
All classes of carriages have clean squat toilets and racks for luggage which are large enough to fit even the biggest of backpacks. It is worth noting that theft on trains is not unknown in Indonesia so it’s best to keep valuables close especially if heading to the toilet or having a sleep.
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