It has been a goal of ours to travel the countries of South East Asia through its railway system. This is the first post of a series that I will be calling ‘SEA by Train’. Hmmm… I like the sound of that, SEA by Train! :)
You haven’t experienced backpacking if you haven’t slept at a terminal. Well, I’m not really what you’d call a backpacker. Neither am I a luxury vacationer. I fall somewhere in between. We do, however, try to find ways to save our pocket money as much as we can. If that means sleeping at the airport to let pass a few hours, instead of checking in at a hotel, so be it.
This was the case during our trip to Indonesia. Arriving at Soekarno Hatta Airport in Jakarta a few minutes after midnight, we decided to sleep at the benches at the airport. We were waiting on a bus that will take us to Gambir station then on a train to Yogyakarta. Bus trips starts at 1 am until 9 pm.
There are airport buses that has direct routes to Gambir train station. These buses go around all three airport terminals. Unfortunately, we did not know this. Several locals pointed us to a different terminal each time we ask. We actually went to all three terminals, only to get on a bus from where we originally were.
From the airport take a DAMRI airport bus that has a Gambir signboard. Fare is Rp 20,000. Travel time is about 1.5 to 2 hours. Pick-up and drop-off points are strictly enforced within the airport terminals.
You may also hire a taxi from the airport to Gambir station. We decided against this as most forums say that tourists are usually taken advantage of. In our experience, Blue Bird taxis are the most trustworthy ones.
It’s a short walk from the bus stop to Gambir station. The station doesn’t look like it services long-haul trains. It’s just like Manila’s MRT. Tickets are sold at the ground floor while the train tracks are elevated.
At the upper level is where it becomes apparent that the trains here travel long hours and distances. It can get a bit crowded, with those traveling from Jakarta to the province carrying huge baggage and boxes. Everything was still orderly though.
The Indonesian National Monument, Symbol of the fight for Indonesia, can be viewed from the station. The flame at the very top of the monument is covered with 50 kg of gold foil. Ooohlala! :)
I suggest taking the Eksekutif class trains. These are air-conditioned trains and are said to be the most comfortable. There is also Bisnis and Ekonomi class. One way Eksekutif class train ticket from Jakarta to Yogyakarta is IDR 325,000.
There are several personnel at the station, ready to help. We boarded the Taksaka Pagi, train number 40. The train left the station at the exact schedule printed on the ticket.
It’s an 8-hour train ride from Jakarta to Yogyakarta. Good thing there’s a lot of leg room. The train is clean. Remember to bring a small blanket or bandana, it can get a bit nippy.
Though I slept through most of the journey, I was able to experience the scenic countryside of Indonesia through videos taken by my travel buddy. There’s just something about the chugging and gentle rocking of the train that lulls me to sleep.
If you need more information on schedules and pricing on train travel (anywhere in the world), I suggest visiting seat61. I found this site to be most informative during my research.
The train attendants are very accommodating, always have a ready smile to greet the passengers. Most understand and speak English.
Unlike the trains in Thailand, food is not included with the ticket. If you were not able to bring anything to nibble on for the 8-hour journey, fret not. There are train attendants carrying menus for those who want to grab a bite. We tried Ayam Goreng (ayam = chicken, goreng = fried). The price is around IDR 10,000-20,00, if I remember correctly. The portions were really small.
We arrived at Yogyakarta at around 6:30 pm, as was printed on our ticket. It didn’t feel like an 8-hour journey. Maybe because I slept through most of the eight hours. Haha!
The friendly service and the well-maintained train makes a whole lot of difference, especially when it comes to long-haul journeys. Passing the scenic countryside of Indonesia also makes for a wonderful train experience. Good thing my companion took videos. :)
On top of this, the train being on time and not having any hassles along the way really makes for a positive experience. Now off to explore Yogyakarta!
01 Oct 2015 – Added DAMRI bus schedule