All About Indonesia #6: Modes of transport – The Bis

This is a continuation of our All About Indonesia series to help people flying in to Indonesia to get used to their surroundings.

In Indonesia, the locals call the bus, bis. There are basically two kinds of buses, the air-conditioned ones and the non-air-conditioned ones. If you want comfort, take the AC buses, but it will be more expensive. If you want to travel cheap, you’ll have to sacrifice comfort and, occasionally, safety, as many economy class bus drivers are quite reckless.

There are a large number of bis companies servicing routes in Jakarta. Many of the larger buses seat 25-40 people (depending on type). The buses have set prices (which should be posted on the bus). Bus companies include the government-owned PPD and Damri, which provides service to the airport. Private companies include Metro Mini. Some buses are air conditioned like Mayasari and Patas AC. Other bus lines are run by cooperatives like Kopaja and Kopami. MetroMini is the oldest running bus company since the 1980s but also in the most need of repair.

All buses have set routes and set fares, but not set schedules. Students in uniform pay a lower rate, no matter the distance. If you’re not sure of the fare, ask other passengers what it is. Pay the “conductor”, who is usually hanging out the back door. He won’t have change for large bills.

Buses are the most common transport of the masses and many are in bad condition.

Bus passengers are often the target for robberies, street singers, and beggars – both on the buses and in major bus terminals. Many bus drivers are notorious for reckless driving as they race against each other to try and pick up passengers before other buses plying the same route. Metro Mini is said to have the most number of incidents like this.

Buses do not necessarily stop at bus stops; they stop wherever they can pick up a passenger be it in the middle of the road or on a busy intersection. Buses do not necessarily come to a complete stop for passengers to get off and on. So be careful as to which foot you step off the bus with!

The beginning and end points of each bus route are found on the front and back of each bus, along with a route number. If you don’t know which bus to take, just ask the people at the bus stop and they’ll tell you (it helps if you speak Bahasa Indonesia, of course).

Inter-city buses to other cities in Java and Sumatra (bis antar kota) can be found at the biggest bus stations – Pulau Gadung, Kampung Rambutan, Lebak Bulus, Blok M, and Kota.

Transjakarta buses offer a more modern version of the bus option for transportation in Jakarta. Transjakarta began operating in January 2004, and is an air conditioned bus which serves a particular route. It has it’s own busway on the main thoroughfares, so it doesn’t get caught in traffic jams when the roads are really busy. Transjakarta has 11 routes ( The ticket price is only Rp 3.500 (as of Jan. 2012).

For more updates, always check out More tomorrow!



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