Flying from Jakarta to Bali takes less than two hours. Bali is ahead by an hour, so you’d get there three hours later.
If you’re not a big fan of flying, want to spend your money on something other than plane tickets or just loves riding a train (like myself), then perhaps you’d consider traveling from Jakarta to Bali without flying, by train. Well, you’d still have to take the ferry, of course…
Jakarta to Ketapang Port
Indonesia Railways offers a combined Train-Bus-Ferry package from Jakarta to Bali’s capital, Denpasar. Since you’re already taking the Jakarta-to-Bali-without-flying-route, why not enjoy the rest of Java by having a stop-over at some of its must-visit places? That’s what we did!
From Jakarta, we took a train to Yogyakarta and strolled the streets and alleys of Malioboro before heading off to see the awe-inspiring temples of Prambanan and Borobudur. Then we were talked into availing a 1.2M Tour, taking us to two active volcanoes. The surreal sunrise and the Sea of Sand at Bromo and the warm smiles of the Sulfur miners of Ijen left an indelible mark in mind.
The train will take you only as far as Banyuwangi, from there it’s a short bus or taxi ride to Ketapang port. If you chance upon a bus waiting outside Ketapang port, ask if they are heading to Denpasar. Some buses are loaded onto the ferries so you don’t have to wait for one once you get across. During our travel, there were a lot of people waiting for buses at Gilimanuk port.
Ferries cross from Ketapang to Gilimanuk in Bali every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. The loading and unloading takes much longer than the 30-45 minute ferry ride.
The ferries are much like the Philippines’ ROROs, they’re not in tip-top shape. It doesn’t get too crowded given the frequency of ferries crossing the strait. The upper deck affords a great view of Java to the west and Bali to the east.
The unloading of the bus from the ferry was much quicker. Before the bus left the port area, a police officer checked documents from everyone on-board. The other passengers were fishing out paper documents from their bags. We prepared our passports, but the officer was mainly concerned about the locals.
Bus to Denpasar
You’d immediately feel a different vibe once you’re in Bali. There were several artists who boarded the bus playing different instruments asking for small donations. As with most places we’ve been to in Indonesia, everyone is very welcoming. The man sitting across us asked what places we’ve been to and offered suggestions on where to go.
The bus ride from Gilimanuk to Denpasar took four hours, there’s a lot to occupy you though. You’d pass along beaches, countless temples and large sculptures along the way. There’s also a shift in architecture, really giving you a feel that you’re in a new place.
Famished by the four-hour journey, we had dinner at one of the many Warungs outside the bus station. The two meals plus bottled iced tea only costed us IDR 27,000.
Jakarta to Bali without flying is doable. Although it requires a great deal more of patience and enterprise, the experience can be very rewarding. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d hike towards two active volcanoes! It’s also one of the best way to get to know the locals.