In my last article, I wrote about the state of Trans-Java Toll Road which is only partly finished. At the end of October 2017, my wife and I took a week long break and drove to Central Java area. After my return home, I took a snapshot of my odometer and found out that we drove about 1150 kilometers during the 6 day trip. Below, I am going to describe what my trip is like. This will be important if any of you want to try driving in Java Island.
From Banten to West Java – Bad Traffic
My trip start at around 9:00am Thursday morning in Tangerang Regency. About half an hour later, we experienced bumper to bumper traffic. We found out that there were a few truck accidents that happened in the Jakarta-Merak toll road. What should be an hour long trip from Tangerang to Bekasi turn to two hour trip. Unfortunately, that is only the beginning.
Leaving Jakarta through Bekasi to Karawang Regency (about 45 km long) should be less than an hour long trip on a good traffic. However, due to the construction of Jakarta – Bekasi Light Rail Transit, as well as the Jakarta – Cikampek Elevated Toll Road more than doubled the driving time. The two construction projects that caused the bad traffic is expected to continue until the end of 2018 at least. This condition caused many Indonesian travelers to use alternative transportations that doesn’t use the road, such as trains or airplanes.
All in all, this section of the trip took about 4.5 hour. The length of the trip is only about 90 km.
From West Java to Central Java – Smooth Sailing
Fortunately, the bad traffic stopped when we passed the Karawang Regency. We continued on the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road and took the finished areas of Trans-Java Toll Road to Brebes. The first part, the Cikampek-Palimanan Toll Road is very smooth although we passed through a large area of heavy rain. We averaged about 100 km/hour in this area, going over a bit during the descending portion.
The next area, Palimanan-Kanci Toll Road is not as smooth as the first since the road quality is not as good. The road is a bit wavy, caused by the overburdened trucks breaking the surface of the road and bad patching job. We can only go about 80km/hour in this area, but at least the traffic is not that heavy.
The next area, the Kanci-Pejagan Toll Road, is not fully finished. We can only go half-way through the road, exiting at East Brebes. The newly constructed toll road is as smooth as the Cikampek-Palimanan Toll Road. We averaged about 100km/hour in this area.
After exiting at East Brebes exit, we went to Tegal, a city about 5 kilometer away for our first stop. The length of the trip is about 240 kilometers, taking us less than 4 hours including a 15 minute break at a rest area.
Non-Toll Road Experience
The next day, we continued on to Semarang, a city about 160 kilometers away. Since the toll road there is not yet finished, we took the regular Pantura road. Although the road can be wavy in certain areas due to trucks breaking the road, the road is actually quite smooth. The quality of the road is much better than what I remember a decade ago. I guess due to the importance of this road in connecting the cities in Central Java area, the government spends enough money to maintain it.
We averaged about 50 km/hour in this area, sometimes bursting to 80 km/hour when the traffic is empty. Trucks and motorcycles slowed us down compared to toll road. It took us about 5 hours driving from Tegal to Semarang, including 30 minute lunch break at Pekalongan and a couple of 10 minute breaks.
The next day, we took a round trip from Semarang to Kudus Regency, a town 60 kilometers away. Our trip was relatively smooth, taking us 1.5 hours each way.
The Return Trip
The return trip is a better than the away trip. We left Semarang at 6:00AM Monday morning in order to avoid the bad rush hour traffic in Semarang city and the departures of trucks at the industrial area. It took us 4 hours from Semarang to Tegal and that included a couple of 10 minute breaks on the way. A two hour lunch break later, we exited Tegal to the toll road and started our journey to Subang (about 170km trip). That trip only took us 3 hours.
The next day we departed Subang and went home at 9:00AM. The 165 kilometer trip through the Jakarta-Cikampek toll road was not as bad as the away trip. We only encountered bad traffic when we entered the Jakarta area. This part of the trip took us less than 4 hour including a couple of 10 minute breaks.
In conclusion, our driving in Java Island trip is quite memorable. We drove about 1150 kilometers from Tangerang Regency to Kudus Regency and back with three stops in Tegal, Semarang, and Subang.
Should You Try Driving In Java Island?
Our experience tells us that driving in Java Island is very exhausting, especially if you encounter bad traffic. Even with plenty of 10-15 minute breaks and good traffic, driving this long can cause your backs and arms to ache. Our car doesn’t have cruise control, so it can be tiring to the legs, too. Thus our recommendation is: if you are going alone or as a couple, it may be easier and faster for you to take the plane. If you want to enjoy the scenery of Java island, train is a better alternative. We only recommend driving if there are more than 3 people in your team and there is an alternate driver. Of course, this could change in the future when the Trans-Java toll road is finished.
If you really want to experience driving in Java island, health insurance is a must. Exhaustion during the long distance driving trip can not only cause accidents to you, but also other people. Expats should take one of the plans shown here such as Cigna Global. Tourists should take our inexpensive travel insurance, such as the Diplomat plan. Taking an insurance can give you peace of mind which is important when you are driving in Java Island specifically or Indonesia generally.
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