Java by Train
If we could travel everywhere by train, we would. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting back in comfort and watching the outside world roll by. Especially when the outside world looks like Java. Terraced rice fields, water buffaloes, coconut palm plantations and dense patches of jungle are interspersed with traditional terracotta-tiled houses and steep volcanic cones. Locals in conical hats plow the sunburnt fields and work the rice paddies as the train passes by at a snail’s pace. It’s pure fantasy.
Although you can travel the whole length of Java by railroad, for most people it’s not the obvious choice of transportation. As Tony mentioned before, hotels are quick to sell their tour packages, and many tourists are even quicker to buy them without considering alternative options. Yes, it may take an hour (or two) to figure out how to connect your route, where to buy your ticket, and which class to choose, but it can save you many hours of agony in an over-cramped minibus with zero leg space.
When it comes to crossing Java, traveling by train is the way to go. Fortunately, we figured that out pretty quickly. On our way east to Bali, we did most of our traveling by train. For the most recent 5-hour stretch between Probolinggo and Banyuwangi, we paid $10 per person in a first-class, air-conditioned coach. Cushy seats and all. Sure, Indonesian trains are no ICEs or TGVs: the trip here is slow and steady. But that’s fine with me.
Yeah, I might be able to outrun the train, but that’s a heck of a lot better than sitting in a bus racing head on into traffic all day. Take a train and turn your trip across Java into an experience.