How to take the train Bandung to Jakarta (or Jakarta to Bandung)
After my stay in Bandung I was curious to try the train service from Bandung to Jakarta. I knew that would be a bit of an adventure. The Indonesian government just gave a Chinese consortium the contract to construct a new high speed train line between the cities going all the way to Surabaya eventually.
Train tickets are sold at every Indomaret - a convenience store chain that is all over the country. Once you find one you mention the word 'train' and hopefully find an attendant who knows how work the command line interface. You will have to specify the route and day and will get tickets for a specific train. Ask for 'Eksekutiv service' - the first class. My 70 miles - 3 hour train journey - would cost IDR 120,000 or $9.12. Credit cards are not accepted for train tickets so bring some cash. You will also be asked for your name, ID number and phone number. I did not bring my passport so just came up with a random number and made-up Indonesian phone number. That was enough for the the attendant.
The Bandung station is a proper historic building and to my surprise not crowded at all - I used my receipt from Indomaret to check in with a six digit code (the same as an airline reference number) which prints a boarding pass with a seat assignment. With this in hand you can walk out to the train. There is a check for your ticket and ID but nobody worried about the passport numbers.
The tracks and trains are creaky but the train interior is quite reasonable. Think of an older Amtrak version that - like a really older version :)
The train was 80% full but I managed to get a double seater to myself. There is a very loud entertainment system at work in the train that shows movies (mostly in Bahasa Indonesia). I brought my noise cancellation headphones but without them the noise would have been rough!
The seats were initially comfortable but the train ride took a stunning 4 hours! After about 2 hours I felt very uncomfortable on those seats.
The train tracks must have been from colonial times - it felt like you could walk faster at times and the train would still go left and ride constantly. If you are motion sick easily this ride is not for you!
About half way drinks and snacks for purchase were available for purchase.
The scenery initially was very impressive as we rode through steep valleys and rolling green hills with rice paddies. However it was a gray, muggy day with little light and about an hour into our journey the landscape would flatten out and you see mostly the typical Indonesia made up housing. The train windows also were incredibly dirty and tinted making photography a challenge.
In sum the train ride was not as adventurous as I thought - the scenery wasn't as exciting (likely the weather was a factor). I'd take a bus service next time (or that high speed train if it ever opens up).