We decide to hot-tail it out of Java, and embark on an epic journey from Yogyakarta to Bali. First we take a train to Surabaya, a town which nobody recommends. We stay the night there, then take a train, a bus, a boat and bus to Denpasar, the transport capital of Bali. This is our last overland journey before reaching Australia, and as we step of the bus in Denpasar we are rather frazzled from the experience.
As always on Java, the natural environment is beautiful. Villages exist with jungle all around.
Surabaya is the focus of Indonesiaʹs independence, meaning statues are all over the otherwise
pleasant but featureless city.
The train is comfortable – and a bargain!
At Banyuwangi we waited an hour for our connecting bus. If you ever do the same, look for this
lady! She makes Gado Gado from scratch, grinding the peanuts as we watch. Her stall is just across
the road from the station and she charges local prices to tourists. Either that or, like some other
people here, she thinks that Stephen is from Indonesia.
Our bus boards the ferry from Ketapang to Bali. Itʹs pleasant on deck!
Night falls while weʹre on the boat. Looking back at Java we see some beautiful volcanoes.
fisrt , you have very good travelblog with great pictures!
Did you book your trainticket at the main train station in Jakarta?
or online ? the indonesain train homepage is not i english,very difficult for booking..
I’m planing the same journey .
My route is:
The route Jakarta-Bali i wanna take the train/bus/ferry.
Thank you!! We really appreciate it! We bought our tickets (from Jakarta to Yogjakarta) at Stasiun Gambir. You’re right, the websites are tricky. We visited the station the day before to check the timetable in person – it was the only way to get the right information. The next day when we went to the station there were some scammers in the queue, trying to convince us there was no train… But it was fine once we got to the counter, and we were able to buy tickets on what was a relatively nice train.
If you decide to take the same route as we did between Jakarta and Bali (Jakarta-Yogjakarta-Surabaya-Denpasar) you will find you can buy a ticket in Surabaya station which takes you all the way to Denpasar, combining the train/bus/ferry fare. It’s super cheap and you can buy it on the day. Our hostel helped us with the timetable on that one. Beware that the bus ride at the end is a little frightening, especially if you’re doing it at night.
Good luck and happy planning!
Chloe and Stephen
Hello, Thanks for your answer and the advice.
Now I have a concrete plan for my travel!
Bangkok-Palawan (EL NIDO -meet some friends) -Boracay- Clark-Manila-Yogjakarta-Bali-??
We are arriving at midnight in Jakarta so we will stay a litle bit at the airport and the take a taxi to the Gambir Station and try to get a train ticket for this day or the next.
We wana stay two days in Yogjakarta and then go further to Bali.
There is a nice trip in Yogiakarta : Borobodur Temple – Merapi Vulkan – Prambanan Temple .
I,m very excited, its my first trip to the Philipines and Indonesia.
Been to Thailand,Laos and so on, but still there is so much to see and to do in SEA!
Wishing you well!
Excellent! Very exciting. Have a wonderful time and let us know if there are any other elements with which we can help:)
Chloe and Stephen
How many days to you intend to take to cross Java? There is so much to see there. I used to teach English in Bandung. I suggest you visit Bandung, Jogjakarta and Malang ( for Mt Bromo ) Please email me for more details on transport, sights, etc.
Hi, I found your blog from seat61. I am an Aussie now living in the UK. I spent many years travelling around SEA. I have lived in Indonesia and Malaysia. Your blog brings back many memories and experiences for me. This is the first page I have read, so a lot more to do. Thanks for posting.
Thanks for your comment, we really appreciate it:) The blog continues to be rewarding for us. I (Chloe) am an Aussie too, I lived in London for 5 years and have now brought Stephen (who’s English) back to Sydney for his turn at being an ex-pat:)… The journey was kind of my trip “home”.
We hope you’re having a lovely time in the UK and managing some to fit some adventures in too!
Chloe and Stephen
Is there alternative to the scary bus once you disembarked from the ferry in Bali going to Denpasar?
There are buses going to other places in Bali – I don’t know if there were any alternatives going to Denpasar. There’s a woman at the ferry disembarkation point who speaks English and was coordinating all the people who had bought the same train/ferry/bus combination ticket which we bought — she seemed to know information about the other bus services available as well, she definitely mentioned one to Lovina.
The main problem with the bus journey was that it was rainy and at night, which in turn caused delays and prolonged the scariness… Hopefully in the dry season conditions are a little better (and hopefully that’s when you’re going!).
All the best with your planning!
Chloe and Stephen
Dry season? What dry season? =p
In my ultimate wisdom, I’ll be in Bali in December/January.
Oh dear, same time as we were! Lots of nice, refreshing rain;)
Happy new year 2013 !!
my 5 week trip is over . The route was :
Bangkok-Manila-Puero Princeza-El Nido- Manila-Puerto Galera-Manila-Jakarta-Yogyakarta-Mt Bromo-Gili Islands-Rinjani Trekking Lombok- Kuta Beach Lombok- Sengiggi Lombok- Ubud Bali-Kuta/Legian Bali-Bangkok
Mount Bromo was great, and the Rinjani 3 days Treking tour , too but very tough. Enjoyed the three quiet Gili Islands,what a nice piece of paradise.
Philippines are great, very nice people, beautiful islands, not so crowdy and touristic.
Will go there back again to visit Bohol and other islands.
Now it a good time to go there, no mass tourism (except Boracay)!
Indonesia was super ,too. It was raining a every day, but still hot and humid.
You need a lot of time time to see everything there.
I will come back for sure to visit Flores.,Commodo,Sumbawa,Raja Ampat,and so on on..
I read you blog and got a lot of good info. My question is about the Train ride from Jakarta to Surubaya and then to Banyuwangi. Was there a lot to see as far as scenery from Jakarta to Surubaya? My destination is Bali, but if there’s nothing to see, I’d rather just take a flight.
And do they serve meals on the train from Surubaya to Banyuwangi?
Any information would be appreciated.
Thanks In Advance,
Can’t Wait to Go!
Thanks for your questions.
The train ride from Jakarta to Surabaya is pleasant, though not particularly breathtaking so-to-speak. There are always beautiful details to see anywhere though – most of which are the mountains and people living their everyday lives that you can see from the window. On that stretch there were a few children outside the train begging, which was painful of course.
They did serve meals on that train – it was a small selection, and predominantly nasi goreng (a typically popular Indonesian dish), which only a handful of people paid for.
In summary, there is never ‘nothing to see’, but as for major landmarks most tourists would want to see, well, there were very few tourists on that train! Also, the bus ride from where the boat lands in Bali to other parts of the country was quite unpleasant, as you may have gathered from our post. Something that may help you decide whether to take a flight or another mode of transport may then be where in Bali you wish to go. It’s not a large island, but it can take longer than you might expect to cover a fairly short journey.
Thanks for the information. I think based on that, I will take a plane.
Thanks for responding.
Chloe and Stephen
firstly, a brilliant wesbite with all your blogs. absolutely fantastic. one of the best I’ve seen so far.
with regards to anybody going on the train from jakarta to surabaya, its pretty simple. turn up at gambir train station and buy a ticket. take the damri bus from jakarta airport to gambir station. its very cheap and quick. avoid the taxi as the queues are very long and you’ll pay much much more.
don’t trust anybody at gambir station who states there is no train etc..as they will try to rip you off. they are only after your money!
jakarta is a dump. avoid at all costs if you can. surabaya likewise but its the gateway to places like mount bromo and bali. i personally feel bali is a complete dump too, waste of time and too expensive. if you do go there all you’ll see there are lots of foreigners and rip off merchants who will take you for a fool – beware!
the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok. I was there in Dec last year and they are absolutely rubbish. all you get there is a beach surrounding the island and people who want to rip you off and charge you 50x more than they charge the locals.
i have been to indonesia so many times that i know the country better than my own country. train travel, ferry travel and air travel is nice but expect delays and you need to be vey patient. if you’re on a budget stay in simple losmens, use public transportation and eat from warungs – cheap and cheerful. avoid touristy areas and your money will go a long way.
hope this is helpful to anyone. enjoy your travels….
Hi! interesting journey.
I haven’t been to the island of Java and am planning a trip there. Where would you recommend going, would it be Jogjakarta, Bandung or Surabaya. How about Jakarta? I only have about 10 days.and would want to try the trains.
Tks in advance!
Thanks for writing! I would say to try some places we didn’t go…. Jogjakarta was nice though. There’s a lovely cafe there called Milas which is worth a visit, as well as some quiet lanes selling teak furniture. It was very heavy on scammers though, so beware! Borobodur is also worthwhile. We didn’t do the Mount Bromo trip because we heard a lot of horror stories about the scams involved and we were short on time, but I’m told it’s the other major Javanese highlight. We didn’t come across tourist attractions as such in Surabaya, but I kind of liked it for that reason — it had a more local feel rather than a tourism feel!
It seems counter-intuitive but unless you know someone in Jakarta, I wouldn’t plan to spend a lot of time there… It’s a very difficult and unfriendly place as a stranger (I think it must be better with a local)… It’s hard to get around, hard to find nice food, and then the main sights seem underwhelming after all that effort. Oh it’s horrible to be negative about a city and I’m sure it would have come across better with a little help from a local – but that’s the way it was for us!
In Java it felt as if the local culture had been tarnished by tourism, and perhaps some detours off the beaten track would be beneficial.
Happy trip planning, and all the best!
Thanks so much for your most helpful suggestions. I will not be visiting Jakarta but will fly into Jogja and then thinking of taking the train to Surabaya and maybe Bandung. Is Bandung worth a visit? Have you been? Understand its in the highlands?
Thanks for your message! We didn’t make it to Bandung unfortunately! Did you go? How was it?
Hi, I am indonesian, and have taken some journey across this country. For train ticket reservation, now train company has developed a reservation system as simple as you buy the coke. Most minimarket called Indomaret (equal to seven eleven ) provide the ticket reservation, you just go to this minimarket and ask the cashier to reserved the ticket. More simple is you can click the website http://www.tiketkai.com/ and you can find all ticket to the city which is conected by train, sadly the web site is in local language.
Travel by train is nice recently, the company has restored and provide a better wagon or car, land traveling is good as well to bali if you stop in some cities and not in one shot driving. Last january I drove jakarta- to Bali by my own car, and it become a great journey I ever did.
Thanks for the info!That is very interesting:)
If any travellers have feedback on the Indomarket ticket sales please post it here for the benefit of others:)
We will be in Bali for 12 days in June. Does anyone know the price of the ferry to Jakarta from Bali? We intend to stay overnight then get the train/ferry/bus back to Bali. Can this be done comfortably as an overnight trip? Any other relevant info would be appreciated.
Thanks for writing! Apologies for the slow reply, we’ve been away again and out of internet connection. I imagine I’m too late to help by now — but if not, then read on! When you say “ferry” from Bali to Jakarta, are you referring to a Pelni boat? I’m not sure of the cost or existence of that route, so if anyone else reading this has any info in this regard then please post it here!
Our route from Jakarta to Bali consisted of a train to Jogjakarta (cost R600,000), then train to Surabaya (cost 420,000), then a combined train/ferry/bus ticket to Denpasar, Bali (cost R300,000). So all up it cost us R1,320,000.
In terms of other information, I presume you are familiar with http://www.seat61.com ?
If you have already completed the journey, Alan, I hope it went well and you found a good route! If not, then I hope this has been helpful…
All the best, Chloe and Stephen
Really informative blog. I have some queries, Due APEC Summit my flight got cancelled to Bali. So, I am thinking of travelling to Bali from Surabaya. Can anyone guide me what are the best public bus companies, private taxi hire, along with the fares.. We are 6 adults and 1 child + luggage altogether. My preference is for a private 7seater taxi.
I spent my first two days and last two days in Java in Jakarta. Didn’t expect much, but got much… one has to adapt their eyes to see what is to be seen there. Stayed at 6 Degrees hostel…. met other travelers and friendly locals as I walked the streets. Jakarta is not to be written off.
I understand that you took this journey a long time ago, so you may not remember, but could you tell me what class you traveled in on your train trip from Surabaya to Banguwangi? I can’t find any information on the difference between Executive (A) & Executive (H).
Also, was the airconditioning strong? We will be traveling next week (February) and I can’t imagine aircon being extremely necessary…
Looking forward to hearing from you,
From what we understand, the difference in the lettering relates to ‘subclasses’. However, we believe that all Executive class seats are the same seats in the same carriages – the difference in letters (subclasses) is just like airline booking classes, i.e. an indication of the fare difference depending on when you book and how. You can basically simply book the cheapest executive option available for your travel.
The air conditioning was reasonably well done – it wasn’t noticeably hot or cold on the train. The nice aspect of the executive class is that you will get a seat (you have to book one), and you are far likely to be constantly harassed by people, which in our experience, is a good thing!
All the best, Chloe and Stephen