We Took the 13-Hour Train Ride From Ijen to Yogyakarta: Here's What Happened

Sunday, February 25, 2018

mt bromo to yogyakarta by train

Storytime is a series of  stories about my most memorable travel experiences. Read more here.

Exploring Indonesia would not be complete without commuting by train. It's a great way to see the countryside and to experience how locals commute. If East Java, particularly Bromo and Ijen, and Yogyakarta is in your itinerary, maybe this experience will help you should you choose to take the train.

After our hike to Ijen and as soon as we had our lunch, we asked to be dropped off to the nearest train station. The driver took us to Karangasem Station.

It was almost 3PM when we got here, so I immediately went to the customer service desk up front and asked for two tickets to Lempuyangan station in Yogyakarta. Unfortunately, all the tickets for that day's schedule were sold out. The earliest slot available was at 11:30AM the next day.

Now, fortunately, I allotted two days for our commute to Jogja. The train ride would only take 13 hours but having made no reservations, I knew something like this was bound to happen. I tried booking tickets online but the sites looked shady, and they all said there were no available tickets for our preferred date. Pierrick of Indotravelteam, our tour provider for our Bromo Ijen tour, advised we just get the ticket in the station. So, that's what we did.

It was lucky there were exactly two seats available on the 11:30AM train but they were separate seats. That's no problem, I said. I'll take it.

Alas, my rupiahs weren't enough. I sheepishly asked if they accept dollars. The lady at the desk shook her head. I asked if she could hold on to the tickets until I had my dollars changed. She said sure but only for thirty minutes.


So, I asked where the nearest money changer was. 15-minute ride from here, she said.

I said, Ok, I better get going.

I told Dennis I had to get rupiahs and he needs to stay there and safe-keep our things. I ran outside and asked the guy from the gate where I could have my dollars exchanged. By the look on his face, I knew he couldn't speak English. But I tried again, using gestures and using emphasizing the words "dollars" and "exchange".

The guy perked up and nodded. He called a nearby motorcycle and they talked in rapid Indonesian. The driver, an old toothless man, grinned with his toothless mouth. The gate guy chuckled. Then they turned to me and smiled.

The guy then drew a 20,000 bill and gestured at me. I understood. It was how much the driver was charging to take me to the money changer.

"Then back here," I said, pointing to the ground with my hand.

They both nodded.

"Ok. Let's go," I said to the driver.

"Terimah kasi," I said to the guy.

The driver handed me a bicycle helmet and together we rode the streets of Karangasem. It was ten minutes before we arrived at a pawnshop where I had my money changed. On the way, I saw an optical shop and I gestured for the driver to stop by. I needed to get eye drops.

Now back to the station. I paid the driver and dashed to the customer desk. The lady handed me a couple of forms which she helped me fill up. She also asked to see our passports.
how to ride the indonesian train

The ticket cost 290,000 IDR per person (about Php1,110). I handed her the rupiahs and she handed me back our passports. She made some taps on her keyboard and then our tickets were finally printed.

She said we should come earlier to check-in, pointing to the scanner on the left. I asked her what's the best time to come. Thirty minutes earlier, she replied.

I thanked her and walked to where Dennis was sitting. I told him what happened and explained that we won't be leaving until tomorrow. He shrugged and said we should get a place to sleep. We just came from a hike and hadn't had proper rest. It'd be a bad idea to spend the night on the hard metal station seats. Plus, we don't know if it's allowed.

In any case, I whipped out my phone and opened one of the apps that saved our lives during this trip: Traveloka.

Along with our speedy Internet from Flytpack, I toggled the "hotels near me" feature of the app and looked for the most ideal choice. After a few minutes of scrolling, we decided to book Anggun Homestay, which was just a short walk from the station. It was also cheap for Php336.59 a night, good for two. Read my full review here.

So, we gathered our things and followed the map to Anggun. We passed by residential homes, ultimately sending us across a parcel of rice fields. Our place was located amidst these fields. I liked it.

After freshening up and taking a nap, we went out to get dinner and stock up on supplies. We walked all the way and felt like we were locals. People almost always smiled back when I smile at them, and are not intrusive but are always willing to help. I love how not overly friendly Indonesians are.

On the way back, I saw a bakery and discovered another local gem. It's a cake roll, similar to the Filipino pianono. 12 inches of keju (cheese) roll for only 15,000 rupiahs. I was so happy with this find.
indonesian snacks

toku roti and donut

The next day, we walked back to the station, scanning our tickets at the check-in machine. We bought breakfast and lunch to-go at a nearby eatery where the vendor was enthusiastic about making use of his good English. As a result, he was generous with the food servings.
how to commute by train in indonesia

indonesia train check in

train schedule from banyuwangi to yogyakarta

Things noteworthy:
- The station's restroom is surprisingly immaculate.
- Our tickets said we'll be getting on at "Banyuwangi Baru" which was the next (and last) station from Karangasem. I asked the guy manning the turnstile and said it was fine and not to worry. As long as the destination is correct (it was), we're all good.
- The train, contrary to what I've read online, arrived punctually.
- I realized we paid for premium seats and not the ordinary non-airconditioned ones, which was fine.
east java to yogyakarta by train

train stations near ijen

train station near mt ijen

The train ride was very comfortable. There were electrical sockets to charge our gadgets. Ample legroom. Great views. The toilet was clean. You can also walk to the section between carriages to smoke or, in our case, to stretch.
traing from ijen to yogyakarta

how to ride the train from east java to yogyakarta

Most of the ride, we had the carriage all to ourselves. I think it was in Gubeng when the train got filled in. Now, remember earlier when I said the seats we got we're not beside each other? We sat together until then, and when a man claimed the seat, we just asked him really nicely to take Dennis', which was a couple of rows back. He obliged.

The train also had a store that sells snacks, and microwaveable dinners. Amazingly, the microwave meals tasted good. We shared a tub of Nasi Uduk for 33,000 IDR (about Php130), and a bottle of Teh Botol for 8,000 (about Php30). We wanted to get another one of the tubs but the store quickly ran out.
food on-board indonesian train

does indonesian trains sell food

Thirteen and a half hours later, we were in Lempuyangan. It was past midnight then. We had to wait 'til morning before we could check in to our hotel. We just spread out in the seats and took turns sleeping.
train stations in yogyakarta

Well, that's it. Aside from the loud crying baby, the train ride was fun and a great experience. Next time, we'll bring more food. With nothing to do, you tend to get really hungry.

Do you want to try commuting by train in Indonesia? What other unique modes of commute have you tried?

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