Indonesian Transportation and Getting Around
Getting around Bali and Java can be exciting but tiring; a hair-raising ride along mountain roads or a relaxing becak ride with the wind in your face, modern jet aircraft or a Javanese horse-and-buggy. Many adventures lie before you if you travel by local vehicles, or nice and easy if you choose taxi or tour-bus. One of the attractions of Indonesia is that it caters for all needs. Common Indonesian transportation modes are:
Garuda is Indonesia’s international airline and also the dominant domestic carrier. Other airlines that fly domestic routes include Lion Air, Citilink and Batik Air. From Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali there are flights to Jakarta, Jogja and Surabaya and other cities in Java, the outer islands, and overseas. There are no international and domestic airport taxes to pay, as they are included in the ticket.
When booking domestic flights, try not to book the last domestic flight of the day in case it is cancelled.
Getting on a local bus can be a rather daunting experience. Day buses are probably the slowest and most crowded way to travel around Bali and Java. They are often crowded with market produce, and stop anywhere, any time. Best to be avoided, except once for the experience, and take a local bemo which follow the same routes.
Overnight Express Bus
If travelling distances of over 200 – 300 km, the Overnight Express Bus ( Bis Malam Cepat) is a good option. The seats are comfortable, the bus has air-conditioning, and may also provide meals. They usually leave between 3-5 pm and arrive at 4-6 am, depending on the distance travelled. Some bus companies offer Executive (Eksekutif) buses and normal buses, so be careful which one you are buying. Eksekutif buses have more leg-room.
Train travel has improved a lot in the past few years. Executive (Eksekutif) Class is worth it for the longer trips, and the National Railways website is easy to navigate. Click on the departure station on the right side of the home page, then scroll down for the destinations.
This link will show departures from the main Kota Station in Jogja. Click on the required station to change the screen.
Metered taxis are common only in Jakarta, Surabaya and sometimes in Bali. Elsewhere the taxi price is set before departure. They work from outside the larger hotels and can be arranged at the lobby. If you walk to the carpark you will get a cheaper fare because they don’t have to wait so long or pay a fee to the hotel.
Most hotels and main tour operators arrange day-trips ‘ to places of interest in Bali and Java. It is an easy way to travel but the least recommended if you want to meet Indonesians and sec how they live.
There are three types of ‘bemo’. One is a 10 seater mini-bus which follows a set route at regular intervals. Another is smaller (4 or 6 seater with an open back) and operates similar to a taxi. They are available for charter over short or long distances or periods. Late at night they are a quick way of getting to an out-of-the-way bar in Bali, but you are at the driver’s mercy as far as price goes.
During the day they are commonly used for sightseeing trips or surfing safaris. It is best to charter in a group of 2-4 people to share costs. Be sure to agree to a price before you get in, otherwise you have to pay whatever price the driver says.
A ‘becak’ (pronounced betch-ya) is a 3-wheel peddle ( and now motor) powered taxi found in Javanese towns and cities and recently in Bali. You should bargain strongly to fix a price before you sit down. Jakarta is becak-free because of the traffic jams that they cause. In Jogja. Solo, and Malang they are still the way to get around.
A Dokar is a horse-drawn carriage that is common outside Jakarta. They are used to go to and from the main market by local stallholders.
Ojek Motorcycle Taxi
The ojek is very popular with the locals to cover short distances from the public transportation routes to the home. Or to go across town to avoid the congestion encountered if travelling by taxi or bus
In most tourist areas of Bali and Java cars are available for self-drive rental. They are much safer to drive than a motor-bike and not too expensive if 2-3 people share. Daily rental is around $20 plus petrol.
Many visitors to Bali rent a motor bike, even though they may never have ridden one at home. This puts them in great risk of having an accident as road rules in Indonesia have little similarity to the rules in the West.
WEAR A HELMET.
Too many visitors are killed in Bali while riding a motor bike. Drive slowly, don’t drink alcohol before riding, especially at night. Other common injuries are gravel rash or exhaust pipe burns, so if you plan to rent a motor bike at least wear denim jeans and shoes for protection. Take antibiotic cream and light dressing to reduce the risk of infection. Keep all injuries away from water. Daily rental is around $10.
Ideally, while on holiday you shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry, so a bicycle is really all you need to get around. If you walk you will only get hot and dusty, and hassled by dogs at night in Bali. Daily rental starts at $5.
When Renting a Vehicle
Before renting a motor bike, bicycle or car, check that the horn/ bell, brakes and lights are all in good working order. If the horn or lights don’t work when the engine is not running, it is most likely that the battery is flat. Tell the owner that you won’t hire it until the battery is charged and he will soon find another. While you may think that these precautions are not necessary, if you neglect them the chances of you having an accident will increase to 100%.
Before you leave home get an International Drivers Licence. Licences can also be arranged at the local Police Station for a small fee and a few hours of your time. You will also have to take out insurance.
AROUND BALI BY BUS
Most visitors to Bali book accommodation at one of the beaches in the south (Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua or Sanur) and make day-trips by hire car, taxi or local transportation. A better alternative is to spend some of your time at the beach, and then travel around Bali by bus,
staying one or two nights in the towns along the way, and experience the Balinese lifestyle in its natural setting – places such as Bangli, Padangbai, and Karangasem, as well as the popular Ubud area, Candi Dasa and Lovina Beach.
The Ubud area is usually the first stop when moving away from the south. There is accommodation there to suit all budgets, much to see around town, and beautiful walks in the surrounding ricefields. Or rent a bicycle and travel further afield. By bus from Ubud to the rim of Mt. Batur takes two to three hours. The view of the volcano and lake from the main road is spectacular, but the nights are cold and the local people at Kintamani and Penelokan can be pushy.
Still, it is worth staying there to cross Lake Batur to the hot springs and to visit the Pura Sukawan temple at Penulisan which is often shrouded in mist.
It is also possible to travel to Singaraja in north Bali via Klungkung, Padangbai and Tirtagangga along the eastern slopes of Mt. Agung. The countryside around Tirtagangga rates amongst the most beautiful in Bali.
Behind Tirtagangga to the north, the semi-active Mt. Agung symbolises the ultimate power of nature over man … the volcano. The old royal capital of Karangasem, also known as Amlapura, was almost destroyed in the devastating eruption of 1963, in which a great river of lava just missed the town.
Following the eruption there was a mass exodus from the town as it was thought that the Gods no longer looked upon them favourably.
Tremors still occur, but it is these frequent eruptions that give Bali its rich soil which enables them to devout so much of their time to art and religion. From Tirtagangga the road winds around the side of Mt. Agung and meets the Lombok Strait near the village of Culik.
The road from Culik is Tianyar is absolutely awe inspiring; being cut in places where the volcanic slopes meet the sea. In the wet season it may be difficult to pass along this route to Singaraja. Singaraja (King of the Lions) is the seat of another Balinese royal family.
There are a number of hotels and losmen in town, but Lovina Beach, 11 km out of town, is a better place to stay. Whereas at Kuta-Legian the famed sunset is over the ocean, at Lovina the sun sets behind the towering peaks of East Java.
Driving and Road Safety in Indonesia
Driving in Indonesia
Road Safety when driving in Indonesia is perhaps the most important topic in the whole book.
Your life may depend on it! If others before you had read it they probably would not have gone home in a coffin.
Please pay great attention to these (unofficial) Indonesian (and Asian in general) Rules of the Road. If you have second thoughts after reading this, then DO NOT hire a motor bike. Many visitors are killed every year on motor bikes !
Rules of Road in Indonesia
– Give way to the biggest.
– Bip your horn at all times of uncertainty.
– If someone bips his horn, get out of the way.
– If you see anybody or anything move towards the road, bip your horn.
– Bip your horn intermittently when passing through built-up areas such as markets and villages.
– Always bip your horn when approaching blind corners.
– At night, dip/flash your lights instead of bipping your horn in all of the above situations.
– Normal road speed is 40kph in built up areas.
– Horse or bullock pulled vehicles generally have right of way.
– The onus is on the driver to warn other people that HE is on the road, i.e. “watch out, I’m coming”.
– Always be prepared for someone to step in front of you, or a vehicle to pull in front of you without warning.
– There is no static “middle of the road” that separates traffic going in opposite directions, so don’t expect oncoming traffic to pull over.
As you can see, driving in Indonesia is not for the faint-hearted.