Logistics in Indonesia is extremely unpleasant and difficult in comparison with rest countries I visited in Asia.
Well, it’s clear with the airplanes as almost everywhere (phh, maybe I should say that inner flight by some reason are more expensive that international ones). Flights usually take exactly that amount of time as it states in the ticket and actually for Indonesia this is a very strange thing.
The worst thing about flights is an airport tax which is not included into the ticket price and you have to pay it before every flight (except transfers).
Oh yeh, the most weird thing one can find in a plane was found among safety brochures and magazines when I took a flight from Medan to Jogjakarta by LionAir airlines. Invocation card. You better prey when you fly with LionAir!
All right, what are the rest options? Basically, there are buses and bike/car rental (well, there are trains as well in Java, but I didn’t use them). Plus sometimes taxi has to be taken.
According to my two-months travel-in-Indonesia experience (I crossed it from North Sumatra to the east part of Flores island) it is a very bad idea to take any bus. And these are the reasons why:
first, it’s dangerous. It could cost you your cash, credit cards, photo cameras, backpacks and who knows what else. I’m always very careful with my stuff but there… first time in my life I got robbed. They took everything from my backpack in a bus while my friend and I were sleeping as dead (oh, God, that was a weird sleep. People don’t sleep like this. One need some drugs in his alcohol do fall into such a deep sleep… But we didn’t drink any alcohol that day or whatever else what could lead to such unnatural sleep. So, I started to believe that Indonesia is really full of hypnotists, wizards and shamans after that bus trip)… Good thing they didn’t take my passport.
Second, it is usually very nervous. I’ve never seen such scum anywhere else. Taxi drivers make a special human cast and seems that they always try to cheat their passengers – in France, Russia, China – country doesn’t matter. But here… They try to overcharge you not for 50-100% as taxi drivers would do in Thai but in several times more. And the worst thing is that it’s not about only taxi drivers but about public bus drivers as well! We had long argues with bus driver in East Java trying to prove him that the ticket price is way lower than he says (I guess we had a right as all prices were stated on a board at the bus station. But that bastard pretended that he doesn’t understand my English all the way when I argued about the price (but he started with decent English when we just arrived and asked about prices and timetable)). We went to the nearest police office (just 10 meters from the bus station) and asked a police officer. He confirmed that yeh, price on the whiteboard at the station is correct but at the same time his English turn to be very poor when we asked to go with as and help us to deal with those cheaters… Anyway, we went back to the bus and told to the driver what policeman said. He smiled and moved to the police office and asked as to follow him. On the way he shouted something to the policeman in Indonesian, so the policeman started to say that the driver’s price is correct when we were near the police office again. Moreover, men who work in official tourist information office (I mean governmental one), whom we asked for help after we figured out that we could do nothing with that bastard-driver, cheat on us even more.
Third, it takes hell of time. It seems that there was no single bus which arrived in time. We were told that it takes 12 hours but we drove for 18. Another time – 24 hours instead of 17. And once it took a bus 4 hours for 24 km trip! How??? How is that possible??? Oh God, so easy! The max speed is 10km/h, the bus stops every 3 meters to catch more passengers or sellers or singers, and plus the bus driver stops and gets out of the bus and calls to smb to chat for 15 minutes at least…
Forth, it’s uncomfortable. Buses could be either touristic or “for locals”. Touristic buses are considered by sellers to be of business-class and super comfortable. Their favorite point is a toilet inside. They would definitely mention it while trying to sell you a ticket. But they never mention another thing – that it seems that air intake is located in this toilet. Plus, air con in half of those buses don’t work properly. So, usually waves of smell from the toilet change to suffocating stuffiness and then back to the toilet aroma.
What´s about buses for locals… Well, there are often no aircon at all. And actually it’s a good thing if you can open a window there at least…
Buses sometimes are extremely crashed. Do they make them of cardboard?
Plus local buses were not built for tall foreigners, so my legs were always in such a pain after couple of hours in one of those buses with tiny space between rows of seats. And moreover, if quantity of passengers in touristic buses is equal to the number of seats, it is not like this in local buses. Not at all. They try to push inside as many people as possible, so all crowds in the subway in rush hour in the West is nothing in comparison with what you have to experience here.
And another unpleasant thing – price for tickets for foreigners costs more than for locals. Doesn’t really matter that you with ur double priced ticket are gonna sit next to a local with a way cheaper ticket. Doesn’t matter… A foreigner means “rich”. So, all “guests” of Indonesia are gonna pay twice. The only company which doesn’t really overcharge you (just a bit) I saw there – Perama tour.
So, basically all positive experience is connected with time of our freedom from public transport – when we had a rented bike. We crossed some islands and visited many places in two on one bike. We liked it so much that we tried to get a bike asap we arrived to a new location.
It’s easy to rent a motorbike almost everywhere. Prices grows from the West to the East. It cost us 40 000 IDR/day instead of 50 000 the lady asked in the beginning (but our friends got a bike for 20 000 IDR/day for one month there) in Samosir island (North Sumatra); 50 000 IDR/day in Jogjakarta (Java) – they asked this price and we didn’t bargain as we rented it just for a couple of days. The best bike we had we rented in Sengigi (Lombok island) and at the same time it was the cheapest one – we got it for 33 000 IDR/day for a week instead of 50 000 as the original price. And they asked for 75 000 IDR/day in Laboan Bajo (Flores island) but we had it for 40 000 IDR/day for 2 weeks.
The motorbike makes life so easier. You can stop where you want (and you want to do it all the time as you drive because the scenery is beautiful), plus you don’t waste your nerves. Petrol is very cheap in Indonesia – it’s kinda weird very smelly stuff but it costs 4 000 +- IDR/liter. I saw 91st just couple of times and it cost 10 500 but normally there are just two types of petrol: premium – for bikes and solar – for cars.
So, bike is the best option to travel in Indonesia. Just check it carefully before you take it. The roads are fine almost everywhere (well, there are totally crashed roads as well but you better don’t use them neither by bike no by bus) but then roads on the islands are mountain serpentine which goes up and down.
We got almost dead bike on Flores island and on the way up it could not go faster than 20 km/h, so our asses were really in pain as we had to spend some extra hours on the bike which we could avoid if it was able to move faster.
The certain place where we could not manage to rent a bike is East Java – all places close to Bromo. It seems that it was done in purpose, so taxi and ojeck drivers and travel companies won’t stay without clients. We found some places where bike rent was available but they asked for 200 000 IDR/day what is just insane! They said that the price is high because of the bad condition of the road – but it’s a bullshit because the road was fine as we figured out later.
And it was a pity that we could not get to Bromo by bike as surroundings are nice and there are many places to stop on the way and have a look.
So, cause of my super-negative experience of using any kind of public transport in Indonesia and scum everywhere all the time I would say that it’s a bad idea to go there if you can’t rent a bike/car and make all your way without any buses and talks with locals who are involved in tourism business. There are nice people and all of them will help you to find your way but you have to have got your transport for that.
What’s for me, I was amazed by Indonesian nature and there is still hell of places I wanna see but next time I will go there only when I get money for my own helicopter (or at least a very good motorbike which would be able to fight any road).
Indonesia is beautiful as long as you are on your own and don’t need any help and service from locals.
If you haven’t got any accommodation for your next trip booked yet, try it here: Airbnb.
You will get $25 discount for your first booking
and would be able to stay in a nice room or apartment rented from locals and not just in a dorm!