Air transport is the easiest and most comfortable means of travel in Indonesia. Air services are available to all provincial and district capitals and other remote areas operated by Garuda Indonesia, Merpati Nusantara, Sempati Air, Bouraq and Mandala Airlines.
Garuda Indonesia, the national flag carrier, operates on both international and domestic routes. Domestically it serves 33 cities including all the provincial capitals.
The only all-jet airline on domestic routes, it has several daily flights from Jakarta to destinations of commercial and touristic importance, such as Bali, Medan, Ujung Pandang, Manado and Yogyakarta. It also operates shuttle flights to Surabaya and Semarang several times a day. For visitors Garuda Indonesia has introduced Visit Indonesia Air Passes which offers special fares on its domestic flights. The passes are sold in conjunction with travel on Garuda from Europe, USA, Australia and Japan, and have to be purchased from Garuda Offices in these areas. On its international network, Garuda Indonesia serves London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Rome, Vienna, Cairo, Abudhabi, Jeddah and Riyadh. In Asia and to points South, destinations are Ho Chi Minh city, Bangkok, Hongkong, Taipei, Manila, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Nagoya, Seoul, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Darwin, Port Hedland and Auckland. Garuda serves Honolulu and Los Angeles as well.
Merpati Nusantara Airlines is the second national carrier and flies to about 110 destination in Indonesia and has some border crossing flights to Australia (Darwin), Brunei Darussalam and East Malaysia (Kuching).
Bouraq and Mandala also have scheduled services. There are some other privately owned airlines which mainly operate charter flights.
Indonesia's three main gateways are Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta, Polonia Airport in Medan and Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali. Several international airlines serve Jakarta. Medan receives direct flights from Singapore, Penang and Kuala Lumpur operated by Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines System (MAS) and Garuda.
Bali is served by Garuda and Qantas and since 1986 Garuda initiated joint services with SIA, MAS, Cathay Pacific and JAL for direct flight to Bali from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur Hongkong, Osaka, Tokyo, and Nagoya and another service from Amsterdam, through Vienna and Abudhabi to Medan and Bali, offering easier accessibility and overflying Jakarta.
Train service is only available through out Java and parts of Sumatra around Padang, West Sumatra, Medan in North Sumatra, South Sumatra and Lampung.
Several trains run between Jakarta and Surabaya. The most comfortable are the air-conditioned "Bima" sleeper train and the "Mutiara" which both travel at night. The "Bima" passes through Yogyakarta and Solo, while the Mutiara takes the northern route through Semarang.
Another train, the "Senja Utama" is an express service to Yogyakarta and Solo. It has reclining seats but no air-conditioning.
Trains to Bandung have regular service from Jakarta and Yogyakarta. The "Parahyangan" offers four services a day between Jakarta and Bandung, taking about three hours.
Bus services are available and the best known are those serving the Bali - Banda Aceh route, traveling night and day. Many are air-conditioned and have reclining seats as well as TV with video programs. There are numerous bus services between major cities in Java and also limousines which provide door-to- door service.
For longer trips in or out of town, cars can be hired from taxi or car rental companies.
Another option would be to bargain for one at taxi stands which are usually found around busy public places such as markets or railway terminals, however, many fly-by-night drivers operate here without the officially required license which has its risks. Chauffeur-driven cars have different rates for in-town and out of town usage.
Different rates apply depending on condition and make of car. Remember that all registered taxis and hired cars have yellow number plates. Black is for private and red for government-owned vehicles. It is better to stick to registered taxis and airport transport upon arrival in the country.
With the purchase of new passenger transport vessels, PELNI, the state-owned shipping company, now has six modern ships serving all main ports from Banda Aceh in the westernmost tip of the country to Sorong in Irian Jaya in the East. Built to accommodate 1000 to 1500 passengers in four classes, the ships are air-conditioned, whereas first class cabins have attached bathrooms and TV.
Not luxurious but comfortable, the ships offer an alternative to flying and is a more leisurely form of travel. There are regular sailing schedules and routes, all touching in at Jakarta, their main base. Foreign cruise lines operate in Indonesian waters, though not regularly. A 40-passenger luxury cruise ship, the MV Island Explorer, offers trips to the eastern Indonesian islands from Bali part of the year, and from Jakarta to Sumatera the rest of the year. There are also ferries between islands, though comfort may not be as desired.
For adventure travelers, a ride on a Pinisi Bugis schooner could be exciting if advance arrangements are made. One of the last sailing fleets in the world, about 3,000 of these schooners still ply between islands, carrying trade goods as they have been for centuries.
Taxis and Hourly Chauffeur-driven Cars
In most bigger cities and some towns as well, taxis are available, though only in Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya metered taxis are commonplace. In other cities and tourist areas one can hire cars, usually chauffeur-driven and paid by the hour or for each one-way trip.
At any airport, railroad station as well as bus terminal there will be public transportation available of one kind or another. Another mode of transport is the Bajaj (pronounced bahji), a minicar tricycle seating two passengers rather tightly with its driver in the front. Except for metered taxis, where the flag-fall rate is Rp. 600.-(US $ 35 cents) plus the rate of distance covered as registered by a visible meter, the rest of all public transportation should be bargained beforehand, except bus fares which are uniform (Rp 250.- regular, Rp 500.- express, and Rp 1,000.- air-conditioned, all of them for any one-way distance within Jakarta's city limits, whereas in other cities bus fares may be slightly less).
Chauffeur-driven cars may be hired by the hour with a minimum of two hours. Rates differ from city to city, but they are normally from Rp. 4,000.- to Rp. 6,000.- per hour (US $ 2.20 - 3.30) for use within city limits. Other rates apply when going out of town. Bargaining once again is necessary for these cars, whereas rates also depend on make and year of car. Limousine service from and to the airports of Jakarta and Surabaya are available. They are comfortable and air-conditioned and cost less than half the taxi fare, but chances are that you may not be let off at exactly the address you are heading for. In this case, combine it with a taxi by getting off the limousine at a spot closest to your destination.
Mikrolet, Oplet/Bemo and Colt
These different names probably apply to the same vehicles, depending on where you use them. They are usually employed on tours between city and suburbs and can seat up to 10 passengers per vehicle, sometimes even more than its capacity. Fares are not uniform, as here it does depend on distance covered by the passenger. One advantage over the bus routes is that by using these smaller vehicles you may be let off anywhere you want to, making it a slower vehicle because of its frequent stops. If you care to charter such a vehicle, you may do so, however, you should bargain for it after having obtained the right information on the approximate rates from your hotel clerk. They should cost less than hiring a chauffeur- driven car or a taxi.
In Bali and Yogyakarta for instance, motorcycles can be rented, usually on a daily basis, costing about US $ 5.50. Weekly rates are probably less. Insurance is usually covered in the rate, whereas in Bali you do not need a driver's license and in Yogyakarta it is a small formality to issue a temporary one at a fee.
Around beaches motorcycles are also popular, so here too, they can be rented for the day's use. Although motorcycles are already popular at tourist spots, these individual rentals are NOT recommended for safety reasons. Aside from the fact that Indonesians drive on the left side of the road, like in most Commonwealth countries, it would still be unfamiliar terrain for the tourist, not to mention the local driving habits, traffic patterns and road signs. Therefore, if you prefer to stay on the safe side, use one with the drivers instead of riding it yourself, and sit behind him equipped with headgear.
Bicycles and Ojeks
Bicycles or bikes, are rented in Bali and Yogyakarta on a daily basis (about US$ 2.00). There is no insurance on the bike nor rider, so make sure to ride carefully by keeping left most of the time. A ride to the countryside to see the peasants and paddy fields is certainly recommended.
Curiously, bicycles at small villages are also used as "commercial vehicles". For a small fee, the rider is the one who pedals the bike, whereas the passenger hops on the back of it.
An Ojek is a motorbike hired with its rider. You may pay him for one single trip (minimum is Rp 500.-), or you may hire him for the day, or by the hour. Be sure to bargain beforehand. Ojeks can be found in cities and their suburbs, at intersections or at the mouths of certain side roads. Rarely, if ever, do ojek owners rent out their motorbikes without themselves riding them. The agreed upon fare depends on distance covered. Ojeks usually come in handy to go to places where roads are either too narrow or bumpy for four-wheel vehicles.
Pronounced "baychahk", it is a tricycle pedaled by a man who sits normally behind the passenger. It could seat two persons, however, rather tightly. Becaks are mostly found in cities and towns on Java and have been here for over four decades. Unfortunately this means of transport is gradually disappearing in the big cities as motorized transportation has rapidly taken over public transportation everywhere in the country. In Jakarta it has practically disappeared all together, but they can still be found in the faraway suburbs where streets are narrow and other public transportation is rare. In other cities like Surabaya, Bandung, Semarang and Denpasar they can still be used for short distances. Before stepping into a becak, make sure you have bargained before with the becak driver for the agreed upon fare (usually between US$ 0.40 and US$ 0.60).
Not anymore available in Jakarta, but they are still popular in Bogor, Yogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya. They differ in size and shape from place to place as these carts can be two-wheeled or four-wheeled as well, but they are always drawn by either one and sometimes two horses. Manipulated by one driver who rides in front and in the same compartment as where the passengers are. Depending on the size of the cart, it can take between two and four passengers. Here too, bargaining is necessary. The fare is approximately US$ 0,60 or US$ 0,80 per kilometer.
Some towns in Sumatera operate horse carts as well.