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Destinations and Transportation in Indonesia

Are you planning on living in Indonesia? Indonesia is an amazing country full of cultural and natural highlights. If you are considering living in Indonesia as an expatriate, read our guide for more information on Indonesia’s various regions, transportation, visa options and more.
Temples are a very important part of the Indonesian landscape.

Choosing the Right Place to Live

In a country with almost two million square kilometers and over 17,000 islands, it can be quite difficult to choose where to settle down as an expat. The largest islands in Indonesia, and those best known among tourists and expats alike, are Java and Sumatra. Both islands offer a host of different opportunities for leisure activities and everyday life.

The Capital Jakarta: Populous, Frenetic, and Alive

The capital city, Jakarta, is located on the northwestern shores of Java. With a population of over 10 million people, you can imagine how crowded and hectic it is. Yet Jakarta also offers a lot of cultural and natural highlights.

It is both the economic and political capital of Indonesia. As such, it has attracted a huge number of Indonesians from other parts of the country, who have brought along a rich variety of customs, foods, and languages. For the art aficionados, Jakarta offers many museums and performing arts centers, as well as some prestigious international festivals.

Bali: The Island of Hindu Culture, Beaches, and Tourism

The island of Bali is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and probably offers more in the way of outdoor activities and sightseeing than Jakarta. With a very large Hindu population, Bali mixes local traditions and culture with Hindu beliefs.

Bali boasts Indonesia’s most famous white sand beaches and its most intricate temples. Many expats in Bali live in either its capital city of Denpasar or in one of the exquisite beach towns. Due to the fact that Bali’s main economic resource is tourism, the island primarily offers job opportunities in this industry. Therefore, it is mainly an island for the hoteliers and restaurant owners, or the retired.

The Best Way to Travel Around in Indonesia

Due to the nature of Indonesia’s geography, traveling by plane may be the easiest option.  There are 186 airports with paved runways in Indonesia, making a large number of domestic flights possible each day. The Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta is Indonesia’s largest airport. Other busy international airports include Juanda International Airport, located outside of Surabaya, and Ngurah Rai International Airport, located 13 kilometers outside of Denpasar in Bali.

Due to the sudden and considerable population surge in cities such as Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya, the road transportation system has suffered. Despite substantial work on road and transportation infrastructure, progress is still slow.

How Public Transportation in Indonesia Works

There is no subway or street car system anywhere in Indonesia. The only forms of public transportation are trains, buses, and taxis. Although on the rise, car ownership is not as predominant in Indonesia as in other countries. However, traffic is often congested and accidents unfortunately happen quite often.

Nevertheless, whether they choose to employ a driver or drive a car themselves, expats are advised to have their own vehicle, as the little public transportation there is cannot be fully relied on.

Many Indonesians who do not have a car own a tuk tuk instead. During your time in Indonesia, don’t miss out on the opportunity to take a ride on one of the many traditional tuk tuks, covered, motorcycle-like vehicles with several seating options — but make sure it’s in a relatively quiet and safe area rather than in Jakarta’s rush hour traffic.

Alternative Means of Transportation

Other modes of transportation include railroads and waterways. Since the country is a large archipelago, water transportation is extremely important in Indonesia, although less so for the inhabitants themselves. There are several ferry services, such as the Pelni Company (website in Bahasa Indonesian only), which charter passengers from the larger islands to more remote ones. This is the best and most comfortable alternative to cover long distances at little cost.

All rail transportation is operated by the government-run PT Kereta Api Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesian only). Most railroads are located on the islands of Java and Sumatra and connect major cities on each island. The trains accommodate several classes, from the executive, with air-conditioning and plush seats, to economy class, with wooden benches and no air-conditioning at all.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Henrik Olsen

"I was amazed how many other members in Jakarta share the same interests as me. And some of them come from Norway, too ! "

Megan Turner

"It's a really helpful site: Via InterNations, we found an international playgroup for our kids (6 and 8 years old) here in Jakarta."

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