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Bus

Buses are the mainstay of Indonesian transport (excepting Papua and Maluku). At any time of day, thousands of buses in all shapes and sizes move thousands of people throughout Indonesia. The 'leave-when-full' school of scheduling applies to almost every service, and 'full' sometimes means the aisles are occupied too. Consider the following.

  • On major runs across Indonesia, air-con buses are at least tolerable.
  • Crowded roads mean that buses are often stuck in traffic.
  • On major routes, such as the 24-hour run from Bali to Jakarta, budget airlines are competitive price-wise.
  • Buses on non-major routes are usually not air-conditioned.
  • Bring as little luggage as possible – there is rarely any room for storage. Large bags will ride on your lap.
  • Take precautions with your personal belongings and keep your passport, money and any other valuables secure and concealed.

Classes

  • Economy-class (ekonomi) buses run set routes between towns. They can be hot, slow and crowded, but they're also ridiculously cheap and provide a never-ending parade of Indonesian life.
  • Express (patas) buses look much the same as the economy buses, but stop only at selected bus terminals en route and (officially) don't pick up from the side of the road. Air-con patas buses are more comfortable and seating is often guaranteed.
  • Air-con buses (or 'executive' buses) come in a variety of price categories, depending on whether facilities include reclining seats, toilets, TV, karaoke (usually very bad) or snacks. These buses should be booked in advance; ticket agents often have pictures of the buses and seating plans; check to see what you are paying for when you choose your seat.

Tickets

Bus tickets are cheap. For long-distance buses, you can buy your ticket from a travel agent or visit the bus terminal where you may find several companies competing for your business. Book longer trips in advance, especially on air-con buses.

Often, hotels will act as agents or buy a ticket for you and will arrange for the bus to pick you up at the hotel – they sometimes charge a few thousand rupiah for this service, but it's worth it.