Traffic in Indonesia, especially in major cities like Jakarta and Bali, is chaotic, and driving can be a unique experience for expats – and even the most experienced city drivers. Luckily, private drivers are affordable and are a popular option among expats in Indonesia. Indonesia also has a relatively good public transport system, and taxis are readily available in larger cities.
Public transport in Indonesia
Indonesia has a decent public transport system, although taxis are probably the better option for short distances and trains over long distances.
Over the years, public transport has seen improvements in Indonesia. This comes with the government's push to make commuting more efficient and eco-friendly. The rise in infrastructure projects has also added to the convenience. However, expats should be prepared for crowded conditions during peak hours.
Indonesia’s railway system, featuring commuter and intercity trains, spans four primary networks in the regions of Java and Sumatra. Indonesians mainly use trains for long-distance travel. There is a commuter train service in Jakarta called the KRL Commuterline. Expats can purchase tickets at train stations or buy them online.
See the official KRL Commuterline website to access routes and tickets.
For daily commuting, buses remain the top choice for public transport among Indonesians and expats in Indonesia. There are frequent bus services in Sumatra, Java and Bali. In the more remote areas, there are minibuses that provide transport. Jakarta has its own bus rapid transit system known as TransJakarta.
For more information, visit TransJakarta.
Given Indonesia's vast archipelagic nature, island-hopping by boat or ferry is a common travel method. There are frequent ferries between the islands, particularly between Sumatra, Bali and Java. Expats can also use ferries to travel to nearby countries like Malaysia and Singapore.
Taxis in Indonesia
Most large cities in Indonesia have numerous taxi companies to choose from. Expats should always request that the meter be turned on when getting into a taxi to avoid being overcharged. Expats who are not familiar with the local language can make use of ride-sharing services such as Grab to avoid miscommunications with drivers.
Adventurous alternatives to traditional taxis include ojeks (motorcycle taxis), bajaj (motorised auto rickshaws) and becaks (pedal-powered rickshaws).
Driving in Indonesia
For locals and internationals alike, road transport remains the primary mode of travel in Indonesia, from bustling cities to serene countryside. There has been a massive growth in the number of motor vehicles in the country in the last decade, but the government has not been able to construct new roads fast enough to keep up with the demand. Traffic jams are therefore a problem, particularly in Jakarta and Bali.
Many embassies advise their nationals against driving in Indonesia, and many expats choose to hire a private driver or use taxis instead. Foreigners also often choose motorbikes as their primary means of transport, although this can be a dangerous option.
To drive in Indonesia, expats must apply for an Indonesian driving licence, which is called a SIM (Surat Izin Mengemudi). Those wanting to drive a motorcycle will need a separate licence called a SIM C. Expats will have to pass a written test to obtain a SIM.
Air travel in Indonesia
With a plethora of domestic airlines and routes, air travel often emerges as an economical and time-saving mode of transport across Indonesia's vast landscape. There are many domestic airlines to choose from, and all of Indonesia’s major cities have airports. The country’s main airport is Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, and the national air carrier is Garuda Indonesia.
What do expats say about public transport in Indonesia?
"The public infrastructure in Jakarta is not fully established yet. You can hire a taxi with an affordable rate, but it’s a challenge to find a reputable taxi in rush hour. The other option is hire a driver and car." Read more of Meilisa's take on expat life in Jakarta.
►For more information on public transport in the capital, see Getting Around in Jakarta
Are you an expat living in Indonesia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Indonesia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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