During your planning, determine who will pay what costs. OSU faculty should read the OSU Travel Policy. If a traveller is funded by US federal funds, such as Fulbright or a grant, the ticket must be ‘Fly America’ compliant. If it’s funded by any Indonesian funds, travelers must keep their ORIGINAL boarding passes for ALL flights. If the pass is lost, try using the bag tag as a substitute. After the ticket is purchased, enroll in the relevant frequent flyer program. A roundtrip ticket to Indonesia will earn about 24,000 miles – almost enough for a free roundtrip ticket in the USA.
Airlines. Here are tips for international ticket purchases.
– Google Expedia or other search engines for flights. Some travelers want the shortest trip and connections (25 hours) while others want longer itineraries (48 hours) with long stops in transit cities that can be explored.
– If you have time and flexibility, be creative in exploring options. Funders are willing to buy elaborate itineraries as long as the total price is less than the cheapest most direct route. Examples include: 1. Columbus-Chicago-Tokyo-Jakarta-Beijing-Wuhan-Jakarta-Tokyo-Chicago-Columbus cheaper than a roundtrip ticket to China. 2. Columbus-Dallas-Tokyo-Jakarta-Guangzhou-Auckland-Sydney-Dallas-Columbus cheaper than Columbus – Jakarta.
– Know approximate costs before calling the travel agent. Generally between Labor Day and Memorial Day (except at Christmas) roundtrip fares should be $800-$1,000. Memorial Day – Labor Day fares can be $1100 – $2200. Cheap fares can be obtained as little as 2 – 3 days before travel, but choices become more limited and less likely.
– There is no non-stop flight from the US to Indonesia. Typical carriers are American or JAL (Chicago/Dallas via Tokyo), United or ANA (Chicago/Newark via Tokyo), Delta or Asiana (JFK/Atlanta via Seoul or Tokyo), American or Qatar (DC/JFK via Doha), Cathay (Chicago/JFK via Hong Kong), Singapore (Houston/Moscow/Singapore) or Emirates and Etihad (DC/Dallas via UAE). Note middle east carriers weigh carryon luggage leaving the USA and insist on less than 9 pounds (that’s not much). Also, returning to the USA laptops in carry-ons are prohibited. Best service? Singapore. Good service? Cathay, ANA or JAL. Acceptable service? American, Delta and the Middle East Carriers. Worst? United.
– After you have the itinerary and price call the travel agent. If the agent provides a crazy air fare, persist and find out why. It’s not uncommon to get an initial estimate from an agent with a crazy price but when you demonstrate your homework the agent will persist and find the fare you identified on the www.
– In preparation for your trip, consider: 1. Packing personal clothes near the end of their life which will soon be given away and wear them in Indonesia. Then leave the clothes behind and bring home mementos in your bags. 2. Participating in the book donation program. Academic and children’s books can be shipped in your luggage and donated to partners in Indonesia. Ask for details. 3. Bring materials in one bag, leave the materials, and use the bag for taking home treasures. 4. Make sure you have 6 months left on your passport after the return date. Research which visa you will need (see below).
Domestic Air – EX
Use Skyscanner.com to identify domestic Indonesian carriers or regional international flights to adjacent countries. Some western agencies and online sites do not have ticketing agreements with these carriers. Arrange with your Indonesian host to buy the domestic ticket for you and reimburse them on arrival.
Garuda – a legacy carrier with meals and tv.
Lion – a discount carrier similar to Southwest.
Wings – regional prop planes operating on flights less than one hour owned by Lion
Citilink – Garuda-owned discount carrier.
Batik – Lion-owned full service carrier intended to compete with Garuda.
Air Asia/AirIndonesia – Air Asia is the Malaysian based discount carrier providing regional international flights which also owns Air Indonesia providing domestic flights.
Sriwijaya – old planes on less traveled routes.
Nam – a new start up owned by Sriwijaya.
Expressjet- a new startup for less travelled secondary cities.
Kalstar – load your own luggage and sit next to the pilot on these small planes for isolated areas.
- Expect to be charged excess baggage by domestic airlines
- Expect your luggage to show up on the next flight if it doesn’t make the trip with you; report it missing in the baggage claim area, give your hotel information; get an airport number to call to check to see if it has arrived; expect it to be delivered within a few hours.
- You may think the kind people of Indonesia are pushy and mean when flights are called or in boarding planes. Not so! They have a different sense of personal space. The aisle in the plane is considered a 2-way space. Someone in the widow seat may try to crawl over you. The moment the flight is called expect 100 people to charge the gate at once. But don’t interpret that as being pushy – just as being efficient. Enjoy this time to meet your neighbors, smile and enjoy it, and if you need space ask for it. Just hold up your hand and say ‘Wait’ or motion you will get up from your seat so your new friend can get to the window seat.
Rail. Except for an air train service in Medan, an inner city service between Jambi and Palembang, and a proposed train in Kalimantan, all rail services are located on the island of Java. Two lines run east – west between Jakarta and Surabaya with one line on the north shore and the other on the south shore. One line then connects Surabaya with the eastern terminus connecting to Bali ferry service. The quality of the trains is comparable to commuter train services in the Northeast USA. The Air Conditioning is good and the cars are well-lit, even over night. There are 3 classes of service: Executive (Airplane style seating), Business (Bench seats for 2) and Economy (Bench seats with 2 facing 2). The bench seats can be turned to face the window or for groups, can be turned to face your fellow travelers. The rail service has its own www site but Traveloka.com also is helpful.
Some cities may have one station but multiple stations are listed far from the city center. In other cases, like Semarang, 2 stations may be within one mile of each other. In Jakarta, two stations serve the city, with one providing national service and the other regional service, so make sure you have the right one. Executive and Business class tickets sometimes avoid frequent stops. Traveling by car may be quicker according to google maps, but if there’s traffic cars are stopped while the train moves on. Generally, rail trips less than 5 hours are faster by train and those more than 6 hours are faster by air.
Tips: Trains can book early. On board, go to the Dining Car and try the “Train Chicken”
Ferry. It’s an island nation so there are hundreds but the most heavily traveled ones connect Java with Sumatra and Java with Bali. It’s an adventure but it will take 1 – 2 days.
Taxi. Some cities are served by bluebird (blue Toyotas) or silverbird (black Mercedes with drivers who speak some English). If your city is, ONLY USE that company. They’re the best and safest. They also have an app you can download.
RideShare. Uber or Grab. Grab is more popular. Download the app. 60% of the cost of taxi.
Ojek. A guy on a bike who you walk up to on the street and you ride on the back. Most trips $1 – 2. Gojek – A guy on a bike in a green jacket marked Gojek. You can order one with their app.
Angkot. Minivans that run on routes. You can discern the route by number, color, sign, or a combination. Less than $1 per ride. Ask locals for routes and fares.
Trikes. In some cities, like a gojek with 3 wheels.
Bus. A range of busses of different qualities departing from one station if it’s intercity or multiple stations in the city. Transjakarta is the Jakarta one that runs on special lanes. If it’s painted pink, it’s for women and small children only.
Travel Car. It could be a minivan. Or it could be a car parked at a known pickup location. When the car fills up with people who want to go to the same place the driver leaves. About $5 for a 3 hour trip.
Walking. Streets may not be lit and there may be deep unexpected holes in the sidewalk. Don’t break a leg.
Self-Drive Car/Motorbike. DO NOT self drive. You’ll be lost and frustrated. To rent a car with a driver is the same as to rent without, so trust your local driver. Indonesia requires insurance but not many have it so if there is a collision expect a lot of loud angry arguing from the other driver, all his friends, and whoever he can recruit to yell the loudest. As a foreigner, you will lose.
Here is a story recently shared by an Indonesian colleague:
“Well I drank too much and I hit another car – it was a small dent. The other driver yelled at me and found a police officer so we went to the Station. In Indonesia the Army is stronger than the police so I called my friend from High School who is now in the Army. He brought his friend. When they arrived at the Station the police left and my Army friend threatened to hit the other driver. That’s when the friend of my friend who is also in the army said – hey – that other driver is drunk too! That’s when the police came back and said everyone should go home since both people were drunk and the court would not be able to find anyone guilty. I drove home but my Army friend told me I had to be careful because he was going away to fight terrorists and if I hit someone else he would not be around to help me.’
- Expect to be driven around by your hosts or their drivers
- Expect to spend an hour trying to get anywhere by car in a major city
- Macet – the Indonesian word for traffic.
- Jakarta has THE WORST traffic in all southeast Asia.
- Look out the windows while in transit to take in Indonesian life, work, and people; you will miss them if you talk or work all the time
- Sit in the front seat with the driver if you want to wear a seatbelt
- Trust your Indonesian colleagues, your driver, and a higher spiritual power; sit back and relax; you are NOT in control
- Expect taxi and university drivers to take short-cuts through neighborhoods and shopping areas or to go one direction to a round-about and then turn and go back the other way. Indonesian drivers try their best to avoid traffic jams and must abide by city rules (e.g., 3-in-1, must have three persons in the car to use main streets at certain hours)
- Watch the synchrony of vehicles as they dance with each other through traffic
- Learn why government employees sometimes carry 2 different license plates not necessarily corresponding to the vehicle registered to that plate.