Trains in Indonesia have been operational since the Dutch colonial era, but surprisingly, not every Indonesian citizen has experienced this form of travel. The main reason behind this is the uneven distribution of commercial railroads across the country, with a majority of them concentrated on Java Island.
The development of rail transport in Indonesia is currently experiencing robust growth. Apart from diesel locomotives, which are primarily used for inter-city travel, the country also boasts electric trains (KRL), Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), and Light Rail Transit (LRT) for shorter routes. In an exciting development, even shinkansen-style fast trains have now been introduced.
If you're someone who's never taken a train ride and are uncertain about how to do it, this article is here to guide you. We'll focus exclusively on the process for long-distance trains traveling between cities, leaving other train types for separate discussions.
To start your journey, the first step is to purchase your train tickets. You have various options, both online and offline:
Note on Timings: Tickets bought online can be acquired a month prior to departure, but not later than 3 hours before. However, if you opt to buy at the station, you must do so at least 3 hours before departure.
When purchased online, tickets are sent via email and include details like passenger data, train type, class, carriage, departure schedule, starting station, and destination. If bought at the station, a boarding pass is handed out immediately.
Online tickets also come with a barcode and booking code, which are later used to print the boarding pass at the station. Therefore, the e-ticket must eventually be exchanged for a physical boarding pass.
For a detailed step-by-step guide on how to purchase train tickets both online and offline, see our article below:
Once your departure day has arrived, the next step is to come to the station, ideally an hour before departure. This gives you enough time for tasks like printing boarding passes and security checks.
Remember: Don't forget to bring necessary documents like ID cards and train tickets. Other valid IDs like a driver's license or passport may be used if your primary ID is unavailable. This identification will typically be inspected by officers at the boarding gate.
For those who have bought tickets online, simply save the ticket on your smartphone. There's no need to print it; keeping it in your email or the application used to purchase the ticket will suffice.
Once you get to the station, the first thing you should do is print your boarding pass. Without it, you won't be allowed on board. Just having a ticket isn't enough – you need to exchange that ticket for a boarding pass.
To get that, you'll need to find a boarding pass printing machine. You can usually spot one of these close to the ticket counter. For a step-by-step guide on how to use the machine and print your boarding pass, refer to our detailed article below:
Your printed boarding pass is not just a pass to board the train; it also contains a wealth of information about your upcoming journey. Here's a brief information of what's on the pass:
In addition to the conventional printed boarding pass, there's now the choice of using an e-boarding pass. For guidance on how to obtain your e-boarding pass, please see the directions given below:
Once you have your boarding pass, you're ready to enter the boarding lounge—a dedicated area for passengers waiting for their train. Keep in mind that only passengers with a boarding pass can enter this lounge.
The first step to entering the lounge is to pass through the boarding gate, where your luggage will be inspected by security. Station officials will also verify your boarding pass and identity card to ensure data accuracy.
After clearing the boarding gate, you'll wait for your train in the boarding lounge. The lounge is equipped with plenty of seating and typically includes amenities like restaurants, minimarkets, souvenir shops, restrooms, and prayer rooms.
Some stations offer additional facilities to enhance passenger comfort, such as massage chairs, a Game Zone with PlayStation consoles, and coworking spaces.
While waiting, be sure to monitor the information screen for train arrival schedules and platform details.
As your train's arrival time approaches, station staff will make announcements over the PA system, informing you of the train's platform and departure time.
They usually also announce the order of train carriages, so passengers can position themselves near their respective carriages. Upon hearing this announcement, proceed promptly to the platform where your train will stop.
When the train arrives, you can board the carriage specified on your boarding pass. Each carriage's type and number are displayed near its door, which also includes the closest seat numbers accessible from that door.
However, if you're in a rush, you can enter through any door and walk through the interconnected carriages to reach your designated seat.
Once on the train, locate the seat number listed on your boarding pass. This number is generally above the window or below the luggage compartment. After finding your seat, you can settle in and stow your bags or suitcases in the overhead compartment.
The range of facilities available to you on the train will depend on your travel class. Here's a look at some common train amenities and how to use them:
To charge your phone, simply plug your charger into the electrical socket near the window. Bear in mind that these plugs are intended solely for phones, tablets, and laptops. Using them for other devices such as hair straighteners and the like is prohibited.
Your train seat is designed with your comfort in mind. To recline your seat, press the button located on the armrest. As you hold the button down, push your seat backwards with your body. Based on my experience, train seats can be a bit more substantial than car or airplane seats, so don't be surprised if it takes a bit more effort to recline.
Once the seat tilt is to your liking, you can release the button. If you wish to return the seat to its original upright position, simply lean forward, creating space between your back and the seat, and press the button until the seat snaps back into place.
To listen to the sound from the onboard television, plug your headphones into the headphone jack located under the armrest, near the seat recline button. Please note, your headphones must be equipped with a 3.5mm jack for compatibility.
The footrest is a comfort-enhancing feature for longer journeys. To lower it, apply gentle pressure with your foot until it reaches the desired position. Remember to do this while seated, not standing. If you need to adjust the position or return it to its original state, you can do so by stepping on the lever adjacent to it.
You can adjust the window blinds according to your preference. To close the blinds, gently pull the curtain until it reaches the desired position. To open them, give the curtain a slight downward tug and then release it.
During nighttime train travel, lights are typically switched off for the comfort of passengers. If you need some illumination, overhead lights are provided above each seat. Simply press the light switch to turn it on or off.
Each train carriage is equipped with a restroom facility, typically located at the end of the carriage, near the connecting doors. The restrooms are separated by gender, so make sure to use the appropriate one. Their design and usage are akin to airplane toilets.
Before entering, please check the occupancy indicator on the door. A green indicator means the restroom is unoccupied, while red indicates that it's currently in use. Please wait until the previous occupant has finished.
The restroom door is a folding type. To enter, push the center of the door. Once inside, push the center of the door to close it. Don't forget to lock the door, which will turn the outside indicator red.
Inside, you'll find a seat or squat toilet, shower jets, a sink, a mirror, hand soap, paper towels, and a waste bin. If you're unfamiliar with using a toilet seat, you can refer to our tutorial article on using a toilet seat.
After using the toilet, please flush it by pressing the flush button. Remember, items such as tissues, sanitary pads, or anything else should be disposed of in the waste bin provided, not in the toilet.
For long-distance train travel, you're permitted to bring both light and heavy meals. Each seat, especially in executive class and above, is equipped with a folding dining table to accommodate onboard dining.
Each long-distance train typically provides a selection of food and drinks available for purchase. If hunger strikes, there are two ways to order food.
The first option is to wait for the flight attendants who move between carriages selling food and drinks. You can buy directly from them and pay on the spot.
After purchasing, you can enjoy your meal right at your seat using the folding dining table tucked into your armrest. Remember to stow the table away after you've finished eating.
The second option is to visit the dining car. Usually located in the middle of the train, the dining car functions like a cafeteria where you can buy food and drinks. It also features chairs and tables for passengers who prefer to dine there.
Trains typically include a prayer room located within the dining car. This can be used as your private space for prayer. If you need to perform ablution, the onboard toilets are equipped with sinks and jet sprays. If circumstances make traditional ablution difficult, tayammum (dry ablution) is a viable alternative.
As we approach each station, an announcement will be made by a train officer via the loudspeaker system. Once you hear your destination being announced, it's time to prepare for departure.
Ensure that you leave your seat tidy and free of trash. Cleaners, equipped with large garbage bags, usually circulate through the carriages, making it easy to dispose of waste. Don't forget to check beneath your seat and in the overhead compartments to make sure you haven't left anything behind.
When the train has come to a complete stop, please disembark calmly and efficiently. Bear in mind, the train typically halts for approximately three minutes at each station, so punctuality is key. Once you have disembarked, follow the signposts leading to the station exit.
Hopping on a train is a breeze once you're familiar with the process. Hopefully, this comprehensive guide can assist those planning long-distance train journeys. If you're still unsure about anything, don't hesitate to drop us a line in the comment section, and we'll be more than happy to assist.
Additionally, we've compiled a list of some frequently asked questions (FAQs) by prospective train passengers to provide further information and clarification. Here are some of those common queries and their answers:
Where can I print the ticket?
Contrary to common misconceptions, train tickets, or boarding passes, are not exclusive to one particular station for printing. You can print your boarding pass at any station, not necessarily the one from which you'll be departing.
How long is the train check-in time?
The window for printing your boarding pass extends from seven days before your train's departure time up to a few minutes before departure, providing you with ample flexibility to prepare for your journey.
Can the train tickets be printed twice?
Please note, each boarding pass can only be printed once. However, if you happen to lose or damage your pass, don't fret. Simply contact a station officer for a reprint.
Can I get off at a station that's not my destination?
You are indeed allowed to alight at any station before your listed destination. However, you cannot continue your journey on the same ticket if you've passed your destination station.
Can I board the train at different station?
On the other hand, you're also permitted to board the train at a station other than your designated departure station, as long as it's further along the route.
How long does the train stop at the station?
Trains usually stop at stations for anywhere between 3 to 30 minutes. The shorter stops, typically around three minutes, are designed for passenger drop-offs and pick-ups.
However, the train might remain stationary for more extended periods due to a variety of reasons including allowing other trains to pass, refilling water supplies, addressing technical issues, or simply because it's ahead of schedule.
Is There CCTV?
Yes, modern trains are equipped with CCTV cameras in every carriage to help deter theft and other crimes, ensuring a safe and secure journey for all passengers.
How much is the blanket rental on the train?
If you're traveling in executive class or higher, a complimentary blanket will be provided for trips that are over six hours in duration.
Passengers in lower classes can rent a blanket for a small fee (Rp 10,000 per blanket). Please remember that these blankets are to be returned before you disembark.
Can I take the blanket home?
Tidak boleh, selimut yang diberikan di kereta harus dikembalikan ketika kita akan turun di stasiun tujuan.
Can I take two suitcases when boarding the train?
Each passenger is permitted to bring up to four suitcases with a combined weight not exceeding 20 kg. Should your luggage exceed this limit, an additional baggage allowance must be purchased.
How much is the rate?
The rates are IDR 2,000 per kg for economy class, IDR 6,000 per kg for business class, and IDR 10,000 per kg for executive class.
Can I also transport my motorcycle using the train?
Transporting your motorcycle with you on the train is also possible. It would, however, be placed in the cargo hold rather than in the passenger car. Consult the station staff to find out the fees and conditions for this service.
Do I get a meal on board?
Train meals are only complimentary for luxury class passengers. Those in executive class and below are not provided with free meals, but they have the option to purchase food in the dining car.
Can I use the restroom while train's moving?
Restrooms on the train are accessible regardless of whether the train is moving or stopped at a station.
Can seats on the train be rotated?
Seats in business and executive class trains have the unique feature of being able to be rotated to face each other, making for a more social journey. However, this feature is not available in lower classes where seats are fixed in place.