Category Archives: Travel

Have A Holiday!

A list of upcoming Indonesian public holidays, PLUS their implications for travel in Indonesia.

Indonesia has a relatively large number of public holidays, with e.g. New Year holidays for four different religions/calendars. This can be useful to know for visitors planning when to go or when not to go, to know when Indonesian embassies/consulates are closed, or when Indonesian domestic flights and hotels will be cheap or expensive.

Please click on the relevant date for more information:

2 June 2011 | 29 June 2011 | 17 August 2011 | 30-31 August 2011

6 November 2011 | 27 November 2011 | 25 December 2011

1 January 2012 | 23 January 2012 | 4 February 2012 | 23 March 2012

6 April 2012 | 6 May 2012

Please note: All religious holidays except Christmas change dates each year. This page will be updated as the dates of future holidays become known.

Thursday 2 June 2011

Ascension of JesusWhat for? Ascension Day (Ascension of Jesus Christ)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Unless you want to go to Church, very little. Wednesday night and Thursday morning flights may be crowded/expensive with people wanting to take a four day weekend.

(Celebrated on Thursday 17 May in 2012.)

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Ascension of MuhammadWhat for? Isra dan Miraj (Ascension of the Prophet)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Apart from possibly an slightly interrupted night’s sleep, not much. (Muslims celebrate at the local mosque with possibly an all-night prayer vigil, often broadcast on the mosque’s loudspeakers). It is already school holidays in Indonesia then, so it is already high season and many locals will already be on the road. If you are a light sleeper, stay in a room/hotel that isn’t facing/near a mosque.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Indonesia MerdekaWhat for? Indonesia’s Independence Day (When Indonesia declared independence in 1945)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Less than usual this year, because it falls during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. There may be some street parades in Central Jakarta, leading to street closures and disruption of traffic. In other areas, there are only flag-raising ceremonies in schools, government offices, etc, and Indonesian flags everywhere – by law, locals have to display a flag at one’s residence and place of work.

Tuesday 30 – Wednesday 31 August 2011

Idul FitriWhat for? Lebaran / Idul Fitri (the end of the Muslim fasting month, like a Muslim Christmas)

How will it affect my travel plans?
It can have a large impact. If you are in a majority Muslim area, it will be difficult to travel around as many services are closed. Flights, trains and buses are full of people returning to their hometowns. Non-Muslims take advantage of the long break – schools are closed for 1-2 weeks – to have a family vacation. It is usually recommended that visitors to Indonesia either travel in a non-Muslim area (e.g. Eastern Indonesia) or stay in the one area for a few days. Mosque loudspeakers ofter go all night during Ramadan – starting at the beginning of August – so you may want to remember this when choosing a hotel or hotel room.

Sunday 6 November 2011

What for? Idul Adha (the Day of Sacrifice)

Idul AdhaHow will it affect my travel plans?
If you are a vegetarian or animal-lover, stay indoors in the morning when the knives come out and all the animals that have been dotting the roadsides are ceremonially slaughtered, and their meat given to the poor. Otherwise, minimal impact apart from mosque loudspeaker noise overnight the night before. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Islamic New YearWhat for? Muslim New Year

How will it affect my travel plans?
Minimal impact apart from mosque loudspeaker noise overnight the night before. (Muslims celebrate at the local mosque with possibly an all-night prayer vigil, often broadcast on the mosque’s loudspeakers). It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Nativity SceneWhat for? Christmas (birth of Jesus Christ)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Flights to and hotels in popular tourist locations (e.g. Bali) will be full with both local and foreign tourists, and many tourist attractions will be very crowded. It is also the wet season in most parts of Indonesia (but not Ambon), but this rarely means rain all day; it is usually just an afternoon storm. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Sunday 1 January 2012

What for? (Gregorian/Solar) New Year

How will it affect my travel plans?
The day before, it will be difficult to travel in the main streets of some larger cities, which are closed to all vehicles in the afternoon in preparation for parties. Hotel prices tend to increase at this time, too. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

Saturday 23 January 2012

Gong Chi Fa ChaiWhat for? Chinese New Year

How will it affect my travel plans?
There may be traffic jams in areas where there are many Chinese Indonesians, e.g. Glodok in North Jakarta, the night before and during the day. Otherwise, any effect will be small.

Friday 4 February 2012

Maulid NabiWhat for? Maulid Nabi, a.k.a. The Prophet’s Birthday.

How will it affect my travel plans?
Minimal impact apart from mosque loudspeaker noise overnight the night before. (Muslims celebrate at the local mosque with possibly an all-night prayer vigil, often broadcast on the mosque’s loudspeakers).

Friday 23 March 2012

NyepiWhat for? Nyepi, a.k.a Hindu New Year, Saka New Year, The Day of Seclusion

How will it affect my travel plans?
It is a day of silence for Hindus, with no noise, work or travel. If you are in Bali, you have to stay indoors. Electricity is turned off in many areas, and the silence is governed by Hindu security guards called “pecalang”. 5-star resorts in e.g. Nusa Dua, Jimbaran Bay and Ubud allow guests to perform outdoor activities within the hotel grounds. Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar is closed for both international and domestic flights from sunset on the day before until sunset on the actual holiday. In other areas, flights will probably just be more expensive with people taking advantage of the long weekend.

Friday 6 April 2012

Good FridayWhat for? Good Friday (there is no holiday for Easter or Easter Monday)

How will it affect my travel plans?
Most likely less than in your home country, as in Indonesia it’s only a 3-day long weekend. Having said that, flights to/from tourists centres in e.g. Bali, Lombok will be full or more expensive than usual.

Sunday 6 May 2012

WaisakWhat for? Waisak, a.k.a. Buddha’s Birthday

How will it affect my travel plans?
Borobudur will be closed for Buddhist temple rituals, otherwise not much as it’s on a weekend. It being on a Sunday might mean some places are closed the next day.

If you have a question about any of the holidays above, please ask with a comment below.

Have A Holiday! is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Sumatra For The Intrepid

Intrepid Travel launches a new tour in Indonesia, covering the highlights of (northern) Sumatra.

Intrepid Travel logoFor many years, Australian-owned tour company Intrepid Travel has operated a slowly declining number of tours in Indonesia. Recently, these were almost entirely based around the tourist hub of Bali and neighbouring Lombok.

However, Intrepid recently launched a new tour: Sumatran Highlights.

According to the brochure, it gives:

the opportunity to travel in areas that few people get to visit and to spend time with the people who call this region home.

and was recently selected as one of National Geographic’s Top 50 Tours of a Lifetime.

The Sumatran Highlights visited on this trip include:

Lake Toba
Pulau Weh diving
Tsunami Museum, Aceh
Mt Sibayak
Gayo Highlands

The 15-day tour includes flights to and from Kuala Lumpur, transport, accommodation and some meals. The price is $US1825 / € 1395 / $A1995.

However, Intrepid’s tour only covers the island’s two northern-most provinces: North Sumatra and Aceh.

This suggests there are six other provinces Sumatran provinces seemingly deemed to have nothing special.

Locals may disagree and point to other noteworthy attractions like the remains of the world’s most famous volcano: Anak Krakatau; Lonely Planet’s other highlight of Sumatra: Bukittinggi, West Sumatra; and the surfing and stone-jumping mecca of Pulau Nias, despite regular flights there.

Anak Krakatau
Bukittingi, West Sumatra
Nias Island

If you were constructing a tour of the best of Sumatra, what would you keep, drop and change? Or what undiscovered/hidden gems would you recommend?

Also, are you willing to pay a premium price to be able to visit places that are otherwise difficult to see?

Please share your thoughts below.

Sumatra For The Intrepid is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.


A guide through the maze of bemusing and ever-changing world of Indonesian city, airline and airport names.

Travelling around Indonesia can be a little confusing if you aren’t aware of the plethora of Indonesian cities’ alternate names, spellings and airport names. Some have changed names, others have changed spelling and some have changed multiple times.

This is one of the reasons why the Mau Ke Mana Flight Booking Service doesn’t just have an automated system of spitting back a list of flights and fares.

Wikipedia has a useful reference list of city and airport names/codes, but even it doesn’t cover all bases.

Here is an attempt at an all-inclusive list of all these issues, in alphabetical order:

Ambon | Bali / Denpasar | Lion Air and Wings Air | Lombok / Mataram / Ampenan Makassar / Ujung Pandang

Here are some alternate spellings, the current/official “Indonesian” one on the right:

Yogyakarta & Jogjakarta | Manado & Menado | Sumatra & Sumatera

Confusing directions

Ambon (Airport Code: AMQ) (a.k.a. Pattimura Airport, Laha Airport, Ambon City, Kota Ambon, Ambon Island, Pulau Ambon)

Map of Ambon

Ambon City/Bay/Island/Airport

The city of Ambon is located on the island of Ambon, while Ambon Airport is located in Laha, 36km from Ambon City on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped Ambon Bay. Apparently no other names were available at the time…

Confusing directions

Bali (Airport Code: DPS) (a.k.a. Denpasar, Ngurah Rai Airport)

Bali Airport MapBali is not a separate country from Indonesia, but it is an island and province with its own unique culture. Some airlines, e.g. Air Asia, also use “Bali” as the name of the airport because Bali is much more well-known than “Denpasar”.

Officially, the name of the airport is Ngurah Rai Airport or Denpasar Airport, and is located about 10km south of Denpasar, the capital city of Bali.

Confusing directions

Lion Air v Wings Air
Both airlines are part of the group/corporation and work together, like American Airlines and American Eagle in the United States, or Singapore Airlines and Silk Air in Singapore.

However, unlike Singapore Airlines/Silk Air or Garuda Indonesia and their budget wing Citilink, Lion Air and Wings Air continue to use the same website, airline code and booking system.

Their levels of service are mostly the same; the small differences are:

Wings Air plane Lion Air B737-900ER
Wings Air ATR72-500 Lion Air Boeing 737-900ER

– Wings Air operates smaller ATR72-500 planes (see above left) on shorter/less popular routes. Lion Air uses mostly Boeing 737-900ER planes (see above right) and operates on the longer/more popular routes.

– Lion Air’s baggage allowance in economy class is 25kg for domestic flights, 20kg for international flights. Wings Air has a smaller – but not strictly enforced – baggage allowance: 15kg.

– Lion Air offers business/executive class on some routes.

You can tell which flight is operated by which airline in two ways:

Lion & Wings Air 2 Lion & Wings Air
  1. The logo next to the flight number.
  2. Usually a four-digit flight number also indicates a Wings Air flight.

Confusing directions

Makassar (Airport Code: UPG) (a.k.a. Ujung Pandang, Hasanuddin Airport)

Visit Makassar

Makassar was renamed Ujung Pandang in 1971 by an Indonesian government that wanted to give the city a more Indonesian or less Dutch name (around the same time that Djakarta became Jakarta). However, it was changed back to Makassar in 1999 by then President Habibie. These days, some airlines use Makassar, others Ujung Pandang.

Confusing directions

Mataram (Airport Code: AMI) (a.k.a. Ampenan, Lombok, Selaparang, Selaparang Airport)

The capital city of West Nusa Tenggara province, Mataram is actually one part of a conurbation of a few smaller cities. The airport is actually located in the city of Ampenan (what Garuda Indonesia’s website currently calls it). It is also the only airport on the island of Lombok, so Selaparang Airport also has the working name of “Lombok Airport”. Some smaller airlines flying from Denpasar/Bali also use Selaparang as the destination city name.

New Lombok Airport
The new Lombok International Airport, still under construction

A new airport in Central Lombok, tentatively named Lombok International Airport, is also under construction. It was due to open in 2010, but still has no scheduled opening date. It is not yet determined whether the existing airport in Mataram (West Lombok) will reduce or cease operations when this new airport opens.

Map of Old and New Lombok Airports
Old and New Lombok International Airports,
located in Mataram/Ampenan and Praya respectively

The new airport is located in Praya, Central Lombok; it is closer to (the other) Kuta, but quite far from Mataram and the tourist beaches of Sengigi and Gili Islands, so a complete closure seems unlikely. Any affected passengers will be informed if when the airport is about to commence operations.

If you have any other questions or areas of concern, please write a comment below, and we’ll answer it.

Confusion! is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Bali Bromo Express

Wings Air launches direct flights from Denpasar to Malang, reducing travel time to Mt Bromo significantly.

For many years, Mt Bromo has been the most visited of Indonesia’s 129 active volcanoes (more than the famous/infamous Anak Krakatau or Mt Kelimutu). This is probably due to its relatively easy access, wide choice of accommodation nearby and proximity to Indonesia’s tourist hub of Bali.

Bromo Tengger Semeru
The picture that launched 1000 postcards:
Sunrise at Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park.

In the past, a trip from Bali to the picture postcard moonscape of Mt Bromo usually involved a short flight from Denpasar/Bali to Surabaya, then a bus/train ride to Malang or Probolinggo, then another bus/jeep ride up the mountain in the early morning to the lookout point. Or the more intrepid could take a bus from Bali all the way to Probolinggo (including a short ferry ride). However, both ways could take several hours or longer, due to delays, traffic, narrow/hilly roads, etc.

Left Flag: Mt Bromo, Right Flag: Bali/Denpasar Airport.
As you can see, Malang is much closer to Mt Bromo than Surabaya

However, Wings Air (partner/subsidiary of Lion Air) has launched a new route that reduces the hassle and travel time significantly: Denpasar to Malang.

Wings Air ATR72-500

Using their brand new ATR72-500 aircraft (see above), Wings Air flies this route daily at the following times:

Flight Number Route Departs Arrives
Wings Air
to Malang
13:45 14:00*
Wings Air
Malang to
14:25* 16:25

*Local time in Malang is one hour behind Denpasar/Bali

One-way fares start at $US55.

Alternately, if you are flying from Europe to Jakarta, there are also multiple daily flights from Jakarta to Malang.

If you would like a quote for this flight, please fill in an enquiry form here.

Bali Bromo Express is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Lion Air Pricing Structure

News on Lion Air, their pricing structure, and how competitors might be faring.

PT Lion Mentari Airlines, operating as Lion Air, was founded in 1999 and begun operating in July 2000 with a single route, Jakarta-Pontianak. It has since grown to be Indonesia’s largest domestic carrier and even flies internationally, and today has sixty planes in operation and does 3300 flights a week, and is about to add four more routes to the dozens it currently runs domestically, they being: Yogyakarta – Balikpapan, Palangkaraya – Surabaya, Tarakan – Balikpapan, and Tarakan – Jakarta (Cengkareng).

Lion has grown so strongly in such few years partly due to its aggressive, but flexible, pricing structures, which win over bargain hunting Indonesians; for each flight Lion has 12 classes of ticket, with the stated goal of such a system being to ensure that no flight runs at a loss. Lion boss Edward Sirait explains:

Whether there are 200 passengers on a flight, or only 150, we aim to make the same return; with a single fare system that is not possible.

Lion management gives their marketing staff upper and lower pricing limits for each route, in between which they can ‘play’, says Edward:

For Jakarta to Surabaya the price maximum is 900,000, it can’t be more than that, while at the low end you can buy a ticket for 350,000. Our marketing have a lot of room to move.

Meanwhile a commentator in the New Straits Times [subscription required], John McBeth, worries that Lion Air’s ultra cheap fares are driving competitors to the wall, or out of the market. John says Air Asia has cut back on its Indonesian domestic routes in favour of international flights, because it sees little profit potential in competing with Lion Air’s budget offerings.

Mandala Air recently stopped operating temporarily due to debt and cashflow issues; Batavia Air, he says, is barely surviving; Sriwijaya Air, he says, is trying to keep out of everyone’s way by choosing less popular routes to run.

Lion Air Pricing Structure is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Family Hotel in Bali

Review of the Bali Baruna Holiday Inn hotel in Tuban, good choice for a family holiday.

I recently stayed a few nights at the Bali Baruna Holiday Inn hotel, which is located in Tuban, or south Kuta if you prefer, very close to the airport. It in 2010 was one of the few Indonesian hotels to be listed in the Top 10 of any of the 9 categories of the Trip Advisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for hotels (it placed 4th in the “Trendiest Hotels in Asia” section). Here it is on the map, that’s its pool:

Here is a view of the grounds and looking towards the beach from the hotel lobby; it’s a pleasant place, nice pool which while not that big never felt over-crowded. The beach outside the hotel looks great from a distance, but up close it’s less impressive and people rarely seemed to swim at it- the pool is better for that.

View from the lobby to the beach at the Bali Baruna Hotel
The ground of the hotel and the beach; on the left is the pool, on the right a bar.

This was the room we stayed in, which is a Kids Suite; it has a little cubbyhole room for children, with a bunk bed, desk, tv and x-box, and importantly a door, which can be closed.

Kids Suite family room at a Bali beach hotel

The Baruna is ideal for families, there is a Kids Club, pictured below, where you can leave children in the care of the staff for the day, and they have activities to keep them occupied; the Kids Club is free if you stay in a Kids Suite or the bigger Family Suite. Nannies can also be hired for I think $5 an hour, the ones I saw seemed quite good with the kids and spoke English of course.

Bal Hotel Kids Club

There’s also a club for teenagers, with internet, games and tv:

Club for Teenagers at the Bali Baruna Hotel

Where breakfast is served:

The dining and breakfast room at Bali Baruna Hotel

If you’re not bringing kids, then probably this is the standard sort of room you’ll be staying in:

Ocean Room for Two at the Bali Holiday Inn

The hotel also has a bar, called Envy, and a spa, called Tea Tree, but in an ascetic (or cheap) spirit your scribe did not partake of either.

And the hotel by night looking at it with the beach to our backs:

The pool and pool bar at the Bali Holiday Inn

All in all a good choice for a family holiday in Bali, popular with Australians in particular, and you can book the hotel at Agoda, prices start from around $110 per room per night.

Family Hotel in Bali is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Medan to Nias

How to get to Nias Island in Sumatra, flights on Wings Air and Merpati from Medan to Nias.

The island of Nias just off the western Sumatra coast, recently recovering from the 2005 earthquake and consequent tsunami, has traditionally been difficult to access, with the only flights for many years being run by the less than reliable SMAC (Sabang Merauke Air Charter) service, which in any case not long ago ceased flying to Nias for uncertain reasons.

These days however two larger, national airlines service the route from the nearest sizeable city on Sumatra – Medan, flying from Medan’s Polonia airport to Nias’ Binaka airport in the town of Gunungsitoli six times a day. The reverse route, from Nias to Medan, has five daily flights.

The trip takes 50 minutes (whereas traveling by road and then sea from Medan takes around 22 hours) and tickets cost in the range of $35 to $80 one way, depending on demand and how early you book.

The two airlines serving the Medan-Nias route are the cheap budget carriers Wings Air and Merpati. Wings Air, a daughter airline of Lion Air, flies out of Medan four times a day, at 05.30, 07.00, 14.15, and 15.45, while Merpati departs for Nias at 06.55 and 13.10.

The departure times for the return trip with Wings are 07.00, 08.20, and 15.30, while Merpati leaves Nias for Medan twice a day, at 08.30 and 14.45, so there’s plenty of choice and flexibility in when to leave, and arrive at, the island.

If you’re interested in booking a flight to Nias, and seeing one of Indonesia’s cultures that is still relatively earthy and unspoilt by mass tourism, or in going surfing on the island, you can do so here.

Medan to Nias is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Airline Passenger Numbers 2010

Passengers numbers in the world’s 12th biggest domestic market continue to grow.

Passengers numbers on Indonesian domestic routes rose to 43.7 million people in 2010, up from 35.6 million in 2009, a 22.7% increase, according to the national statistics body Biro Pusat Statistik (BPS).

Numbers of passengers flying internationally increased by 20%, from 8 million in 2009 to 9.6 million last year.

BPS official Rusman Heriawan said of the figures

Both domestic and international routes are booming, plane travel is increasingly challenging the role of rail and sea traffic.

By comparison, passenger numbers on trains in the country declined by 1.7% year on year. However sea traffic saw a considerable increase, up 18%, from 5.9 million people in 2009, to 7 million in 2010.

Rusman put the success of Indonesian airlines in attracting more and new business in the aggressive pricing practises of ‘no frills’ airlines like Lion Air and Air Asia.

Airline Passenger Numbers 2010 is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Long Stay Visas for over 55′s

Oldster foreigners and tourists can stay in Indonesia for months on end, on a new long stay visa.

Indonesia has formally brought into being a one year long stay ‘tourist’ visa, for those of advanced age.

The visa is available initially to people over 55 from the following areas:

  • Europe
  • North America
  • Asia Pacific

Africans, Arabs, and south Americans need not apply. However there are plans to extend the facility to certain select countries not yet allowed, like South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Suriname, among others.

It seems that the process for applying for the visa is similar to that of a long stay work visa (KITAS), and must be applied for abroad, with the following requirements:

  • be over 55 years of age
  • provide ten passport photos
  • provide passport photocopy
  • record of medical check-up
  • proof of at least $1500 a month income

Applicants must also provide proof that they will have accommodation in the country, and proof that they will employ, or have employed, someone, like domestic help.

Holders of the visa are not allowed to work or engage in business activities in Indonesia.

It will be possible to eventually convert the one year visa into a more permanent KITAP visa, probably after holding it for two years.

Of the new visa, a Department of Tourism official enthused:

This is to allow us to take advantage of an important, growing market.

He said many tour and travel companies in Indonesia already had their sights on providing for long stay elderly and retired foreigners. [1]

Long Stay Visas for over 55′s is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Jakarta’s Cartesian Train

Back in 2007 when Sutiyoso was Governor of Jakarta, a new train commenced operations: the Blue Line. It was a plank of the then Governor’s desire to improve public transport in Jakarta and turn Dukuh Atas into a 5-way transportation hub with busway, monorail, boat, MRT and city/airport train. Unfortunately, today only the busway currently exists, and that had already commenced operations in 2003.

Ciliwung River
Ciliwung River

Three years later, the train still operates but is sadly bereft of passengers, both residents and visitors. KAI have tried reducing the price from Rp5000 to Rp3500, to no avail.

Curiously, KAI also renamed the train to KA Ciliwung, a very brown river that runs through Jakarta (or over it when it floods) and that you can smell before you see.

What would be a more suitable name? Here are some ideas:

Norwegian Fjord
A Norwegian fjord

1. Jakarta In A Nutshell

This name is inspired by the famous Norway In A Nutshell day-trip from Bergen or Oslo, designed for those who want to see a few fjords, and don’t have the time/money to head further north and see more remote ones.

Similarly, KA Ciliwung does a one-hour tour of the best and worst of Jakarta. On the good side, you can get a bird’s eye view of tourist attractions in Jakarta (e.g. the theme parks at Ancol) and new/modern infrastructure; the eagle-eyed might also be able to spot some historical landmarks, like the only remaining Dutch drawbridge in Kota, North Jakarta. You can also get a perspective on the daily struggles of many of Jakarta’s poor, with a ringside seat to the many surprisingly close rail-side slums and shanty towns. On a lighter note, you can also see some local Indonesian train customs: conductors receiving a small tip from ticketless passengers rather than giving a fine (for a bit of additional income), or other trains having people sitting on the roof despite the overhead power lines.

And you can do all this in air-conditioned comfort for the amazingly low price of Rp3500 (about 40 cents), a fraction of the many Kroner it costs to do the Norway In A Nutshell tour.

"Misteri" Magazine
"Misteri" magazine

2. Jakarta Mystery Train
Like a good ghost story, a few people have heard about it, but nobody really knows where/when to find it. Similarly, Indonesians love a good mystery, and many of Indonesia’s most popular magazines and horror movies plumb the depths of the supernatural and curiously unexplained.

Indeed, few people have heard of the KA Ciliwung train, including staff at the new Jakarta Tourist Information booth in FX Mall on Jl Sudirman and Pt KAI (the Indonesian Railways Management). It rates a small mention on the website here, but clearly hasn’t been updated for a while.

With this name, it might even get some interest from Beatles fans remembering the album “Magical Mystery Tour”.

You could alternately call it the “Jakarta Cartesian Train” as a in-joke, after the famous quote of French philosopher/mathematician Rene Des Cartes “I think therefore I am/exist”. That is, no one knows about it, therefore no one uses it because to all intents and purposes it doesn’t exist/operate. Unfortunately, similar to the Visit Indonesia 2008 slogan the idea would probably be lost on most international visitors, let alone many less than well-read locals.

Melbourne's City Circle Tram
One of Melbourne’s
famous City Circle Trams

3. Jakarta City Circle Train

Like the Melbourne City Circle Tram, it does a clockwise loop around Central Jakarta, starting at Manggarai, then continuing to Sudirman (Dukuh Atas), Karet, Tanah Abang, Duri, Angke, Kampung Bandan, Kemayoran, Senen, Jatinegara and terminating (temporarily) at Manggarai. One loop of the city takes about an hour.

Like in Melbourne, you can board and get off the train at any station; for most visitors, the Sudirman (Dukuh Atas) station would be the closest and easiest to access.

Sudirman Station is walking distance from the Dukuh Atas and Tosari Busway stops, as well as being near the following hotels: Four Seasons, Intercontinental, Hotel Indonesia Kempinski, Grand Hyatt, Nikko, Grand Sahid Jaya, Shangri-La.

Unfortunately, the KA Ciliwung Train leaves Sudirman Station a little less frequently than Melbourne City Circle Trams; there is only one train, and it goes in only one direction: clockwise.

Here is a current timetable:

KA Ciliwung Timetable
KA Ciliwung Timetable for Sudirman Station

The locomotives and carriages aren’t quite as old as Melbourne City Circle Trams, and small signs on the carriages suggests they are imported second-hand from Japan. However, the felt chairs were comfortable, the ride smooth and (unlike inter-city trains) the air conditioning was not set too cold.

Comfortable ride
KA Ciliwung is comfortable for people of all ages and backgrounds

Another difference is Melbourne City Circle Trams have a commentary about:

– The attractions being passed
For example, a voiceover or conductor saying, “On the left, you can see… ” and then giving some historical background to that place. This being Indonesia, however, it is likely that only the positive sites of interest would be highlighted, even though some of the less positive ones might be just as interesting to visitors.

– The name of the stop/station
This would be particularly useful in Jakarta, where many of the train stations have little or no signage.

– Advice on how to visit nearby places of interest
For example, a voiceover or conductor saying at Tanah Abang station, “Get off here for the famous traditional Tanah Abang textile market and the National Textile Museum”.

This would create more interest for foreign and domestic visitors to Jakarta, as well as helping many (especially the less famous) Jakartan tourist attractions.

If you were the President of Pt KAI (Indonesian Railways Management), what would you call this train?

  1. Jakarta In A Nutshell
  2. Jakarta Mystery Train
  3. Jakarta City Circle Train
  4. Other (suggestions welcome)

Please add your vote below.

It would also be interesting to hear the views of others who have also taken this train.

Or if you haven’t yet, why not go try it out?

Jakarta’s Cartesian Train is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.