Train Travel Across Java, Indonesia

Train Across Java

As we had a bit more time in our time budget than our financial one, we opted to cross central and eastern Java by train. Our adventure began shortly after our arrival to Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, where we caught the Damri bus direct to Gambir Station.

Train Across Java

Gambir is one of the main train stations for long-distance trains in and out of Indonesia’s capital. Before we began navigating our map, however, we had to figure out how to purchase with Kerati API, the official train company.

Now, we’ve bought train tickets in many countries, but Indonesia has a system we’d never seen before. First, we had to fill out a ticket request form and then proceed to the “loket” (ticket window). It’s possible to buy your ticket ahead of time, but the website is only available in Indonesia, so the windows designated for pre-ordered tickets were not the ones for us. We discovered this useful fact only afterΒ we spent 15 minutes in line.

With our completed request form, and having queued for the correct window, we bought our tickets for Yogyakarta, leaving at 8:30 am on the “Taksaka Pagi” train in 2 days time.

Train Across Java - Scenery

Gorgeous vista

Not being too keen on big cities, we were excited to leave Jakarta, and especially because we had heard great things about Yogyakarta. Scheduled to take 7.5 hours, but took upwards of an hour longer, the rail journey offered an amazing way to see the country, and Indonesia is incredibly scenic! We passed some spectacular views of mountains, rice fields and volcanoes, one of which was erupting and was front page news in central Java.Β We saw water foul, sheep and cows, as well as children excitedly waving as our train engineer blasted the warning horn.

Train Across Java - Eksekutif Class

Sitting in Eksekutif class

For this trip, we opted for the highest class, Eksekutif. We must admit, the reclining seats, footrests and pillows did make it more comfortable than 2nd class, Bisnis,Β which we took for our subsequent trips to Surabaya and Banyuwangi.

Train Across Java - Pillows for Rent

Pillows for rent in Bisnis class (5,000 Rp)

However, the love-seat style of our Bisnis car, with their reversible seat backs to allow for forward- or backward-facing travel, are only slightly less comfortable and we were happy to save the money.

Both 1st and 2nd class are cars of the same train, separated by the meal car. Train staff continuously walk the aisles with varying dishes, but none were vegan.

Train Across Java - Bisnis Class

Bisnis class with reversible seats

The biggest challenge while on board, by far, are the bathrooms. We were happy to be wearing closed-toe shoes as the squat toilets got a bit slippery in the latter half of the journeys, and that we always brought our own toilet paper in case the stock provided was empty. On a side note, if you’re lucky enough to have an open window in the bathroom, it’s the best opportunity to get tint-free photos of the passing scenery.

Train Across Java - Toilet

Squat toilet

Java is the only island on the archipelago that has an extensive rail network. If we had had a bit more time, we would have also tried the cheaper, 3rd class option of a local train. Alas, that adventure will have to wait for another day.

Train Across Java - Scenery

Scenes through a tinted window

All in all, we spent about 22 hours on eastbound trains crossing Java during the first week of our Indonesian vacation. Scenery-wise, the last half of the journey between Surabaya and Banyuwangi was the most stunning.

What countries have you traversed by train?

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15 thoughts on “Train Travel Across Java, Indonesia

  1. Diana Edelman

    This sounds incredible! Minus the food options. And the toilets. But, the toilets are par for the course. Even on the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai that is the situation. Smart to wear close-toed shoes!!

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Well I guess the toilet is all part of the experience really. Close-toed shoes can be so helpful in so many situations, but really the train toilet has got to be towards the top of the list. πŸ™‚

  2. Rian

    Don’t bother yourself to take local / ekonomi – class train, it’s not very comfortable (cramming people, not-so soft nearly-90-degrees-angle seat that can make your back hurt if you take long trip, etc.), and also it yield in few station if some train with upper classes passing. Don’t know about now, last time i travel using ekonomi-class is in 2012, maybe they got better, hope you enjoy your journey! greetings from indonesia! (sorry for my bad english)

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Thanks for the info Rian about the local/ekonimi class. It definitely sounds like a different experience from the ones we had.
      And by the way, your English is just fine! πŸ™‚

  3. Giselle and Cody

    We love train travel but we did not take a train while in Indonesia. Glad to hear how comfortable it was. We plan on revisiting Indonesia, so we’ll take the train next time and some vegan snacks for the ride πŸ˜‰

  4. Alex

    I am so into train travel right now. Having only done the Bali – Nusa Lembongan – Lombok – Gilis circuit this has me excited to explore more of Indonesia!

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Hi Alex,
      There is so much more of Indonesia that we want to explore as well. We didn’t realize just how big of a country it is! Would love to visit Sumatra to the west and Komodo and Papua to the east. Next time…and maybe we’ll run into you there. πŸ™‚

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Courtney,
      You can take the train across Java for less than $100. This included making several stops as well. It would be cheaper if you bought one ticket for all the way through. Have a wonderful trip and before you go, consider reading our “Scams of Java” post to avoid any mishaps. They can’t scam you if you know about it ahead of time. πŸ™‚

  5. Gen

    I’m planning to leave Yogya soon and make my way by train to Bali (bus from the ferry). So far planning to stop by Malang and Bromo, but was wondering if you have other must see cities on the way?

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Gen, Your travel plans sound wonderful. When you get to Bali, we highly recommend staying in the north in the village of Pemuteran. If we went again we would also explore more of Lovina and the northeast and avoid the south entirely. Enjoy πŸ™‚

  6. Dipa

    Glad to hear your thoughts about the train ride in Indonesia. If you want to have a bit more scenery, I would say that the train from Jakarta to Yogya via Bandung are definitely worth to check. You can also try the economy class, which may be cramped (especially in holiday seasons), but now has been fitted with AC and if you’re lucky, you can get a larger legroom! All with half the price of eksekutif class (sometimes even more!)

    Greetings from Bandung, Indonesia

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