Travelling by Train in Indonesia
Indonesia’s railway system is mostly limited to the main island of Java, and a small train line in Sumatra. If you have to travel between any destinations that connect to these train lines, the train is a very convenient way to travel.
The major destinations in Java that connect with the train lines are Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Malang Probolinggo (for Mt. Bromo), and Banyuwangi (for Mt. Ijen and those hoping to cross from Java to Bali),
The different train classes
There are three train classes in Indonesia: executive, business, and economy. All classes offer a good level of comfort. Your choice of train class will essentially depend on your budget, preference, and distance of travel.
Apart from the short-distance economy class, all are air-conditioned and have sockets (2-pin Europlug) for charging your electronics.
In most cases, there are big price differences between the three classes. However, prices can also vary within the same class even though there is no difference in the type of seat. This is why it’s much better to book early online before the cheaper seats get sold out.
One other thing to note: if you’re looking for the fastest train, stay away from trains with only economy-class cabins. Instead, take one that is also attached to business or executive class trains, which make fewer stops so you can reach your destination quicker. If you’re booking online, you can easily spot them by checking and comparing the travel time.
Economy Class (Ekonomi)
Economy class has five seats per row (two on one side and three on the other). The rows alternately face the front and back so that they face each other. They don’t offer a lot of privacy or legroom, but they often cost just 1/2 the price of an executive class seat.
We think this class is sufficient for journeys that take three hours or less. But for those that take longer, you might want to consider booking a business or executive class seat.
Non-aircon Economy Class
As the name suggests, these are open-window cabins with fans instead of aircon. Apart from that, everything else is similar to an air-conditioned economy class. Just keep in mind that as the cheapest train option, these are often very crowded.
These are only available on short journeys, so you shouldn’t have a problem taking one. Also, online booking is not available, so you’ll have to buy your ticket at the train station. Ticket prices shouldn’t be more than 30,000 IDR ($1.90).
Business Class (Bisnis)
From the economy to business class, there is usually a few dollars jump when it comes to ticket prices. We think it’s worth it for the extra legroom you get.
As opposed to the economy’s 2×3 seating arrangement, there are only four seats per row in the business class and the seats are a bit more comfy. Half of the rows face the front of the train, while the other half face the back, meaning the middle seats face each other. The business class is a good alternative to the executive, just note that its seats do not recline.
If you’re a budding photographer hoping to capture some good landscape shots along the way, then this is the class you’ll want to be in. That’s because you’re able to open the windows for a few shots.
Executive Class (Eksekutif)
The main draw of the executive class is its seats that recline up to 30%. Each seat comes with a small cushion as well as a footrest. There’s an armrest per individual seat too, which makes a lot of difference if you’re travelling alone.
Like the business class, there are four seats per row, two on each side, but all are facing forward. There is also the option to turn your seat around, which is very convenient if you’re travelling with your family or in a group.
The price difference between the executive and business class is normally not that much, usually just a couple of dollars. The downside is that most trains don’t have an Executive class wagon attached. This means there are less timeslots available if you only want to travel Executive.
Executive Luxury Class
The executive luxury class is a reasonably new level of train travel in Indonesia and comes closer to an aeroplane’s business class. Here you’ll be treated to plush solo seats that recline all the way until it’s a flatbed. These come with surround-walls, a flat-screen TV, and a blanket.
If you’re after that much comfort and privacy, expect to pay twice the amount of an executive class seat for the same route.
The executive luxury class was only introduced in 2018, so it’s not available on all trains yet. You’ll only be able to find them on some trains operating from Jakarta to Surabaya (Argo Bromo Anggrek and Sembrani) and between Jakarta to Yogyakarta, and Solo (Argo Dwipangga). There is only one executive luxury class on each of these trains, so seats are very limited.
How large are the price differences between each class?
To make it easier for you to decide which train class fits your preference, we’ve made a table of comparison for one of the most common Java routes, which is Yogyakarta to Surabaya.
Train ticket prices from Yogyakarta to Surabaya
|190,000 IDR ($12.10)
|260,000 IDR ($16.60)
|280,000 IDR ($17.90)
For additional info, if you’re also wondering whether it’s better to take the bus instead of the train, bus rates for the same route start from 186,000 IDR ($11.90) and travel time is estimated at 6 hours. Do note that Java roads are often congested, so the advertised travel time is never guaranteed.
Where to buy the train tickets
There are 3 ways you can buy a train ticket in Indonesia:
- online via Tiket.Com
- at the ticket terminals of Indomaret convenience stores
- at the train station
Whichever method you use, note that you’ll need every passenger’s name and passport number.
Online Booking via Tiket.com
We highly recommend that you book your train ticket online well before your trip if you want to save money. The prices vary even for different seats within the same class. The cheaper ones, of course, sell out faster, which is why booking online will save you a lot of money.
You can conveniently book your ticket online via Tiket.com.
Note that there have been some reports of international (non-Indonesian) credit cards not being accepted for payment at Tiket.com. If you’re worried about this happening to you, you can contact their customer service beforehand to assist you with your booking. The problem is usually resolved after a short chat with one of their agents.
Ticket Terminal at Indomaret Convenience Store
If you’re already in Indonesia and want to book your tickets beforehand without going to the train station, you can still do it online or visit an Indomaret convenience store. It’s a popular brand with close to 17,000 branches in the archipelago.
Find the touch-screen ticket terminal inside the station and start your booking.
As far as we know, these ticket terminals are in Indonesian only, but don’t worry, we got you. First, lightly press i-tiket, and then Kereta Api. This will lead you to the booking page.
Here are some words you need to know to complete your booking:
- Kereta Api – Train
- Eksekutif/Bisnis/Ekonomi – Executive/Business/Economy (choose which one you prefer)
- Dewasa – Adult (anyone three years old and above)
- Infants – Any passenger under three years old
- HP – Handphone/mobile number. You can leave this blank.
In the case of a page error, chances are your desired train or train class does not have enough seats for the number of passengers. In that case, just go back to the previous page and edit that part.
You’ll know your booking was successful once you see the page asking for passenger details. Fill it out then click continue. The machine should print out a small ticket, which you are to bring to the cashier and pay for in cash.
Over-the-counter at the Train Station
You can also buy your train ticket at the station on the day of your trip (or a few days before if you have time to drop by). Again, keep in mind the risk of your desired sea or train class being fully booked if you buy your ticket too late.
At the station, you will usually find a desk with a bunch of ticket order forms. Get one and fill it out. It will ask for the same information you need when booking tickets online or at the convenience store: starting point, destination, travel date, train class, passenger names, and passport number (of all passengers).
Once done, get in line at any window with a sign that says “pemesanan” or ticket booking.
A few more things to note…
- Boarding pass – If you booked your ticket online, at Indomaret, or at the station (three days or more before the travel date), your ticket will probably be not enough to get you inside the train. You’ll need an orange boarding pass. You can get them by simply checking in via one of the check-in counters inside the train station. Make sure to do that no less than 10 minutes before departure time.
- Luggage allowance – In principle, each passenger is only allowed 20kg of luggage. But if you’re travelling with a companion or in a group, the luggage allowance is spread out. Say you’re in a group of three, it’s safe as long as your total luggage weight is 60kg or less. Note that they normally just check the weight of large suitcases or huge backpacks.
- Food & drink – You are allowed to bring your own food and drinks on the train. However, it is worth noting that every train has a cafeteria and they serve fairly good local dishes for a low price.
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Ela is a storyteller, content producer, solo traveller and a mermaid-in-training. When she’s not in front of her laptop, you will find her barefoot and living her best tan on some island in the Philippines… Or exploring the depths of its seas as a budding freediver. An island girl at heart, she’ll be happy anywhere there is sea, sand, sun and coffee.