Indonesia’s High Speed Rail: Experience the Whoosh

High speed electric locomotive pulls into the station in Jakarta, Indonesia.
High speed electric locomotive pulls into the station in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Whooshing to Bandung on Jakarta’s High Speed Rail

By Nuraini Arsad

When I saw that the new high-speed rail (HSR) between Jakarta and Bandung was about to be completed, I hoped I would try it out. After all, it was the first HSR train in Southeast Asia.

First class cabin
First class cabin

Ideally, this would be on the side of a business trip, since I visit Jakarta occasionally. I still remember the torturous taxi ride to Bandung on one of my past trips.

The trip was meant to take less than four hours. But we were stuck in traffic jams for almost the entire night.

I remember vividly trying not to fall asleep so that I could make sure the driver didn’t either. So I looked forward to comparing it to the HSR experience.

Months went by, and the HSR began operations. Finally, a business trip to Jakarta did come up, so I planned to lengthen the trip to join Bandung on the new HSR over the weekend.

Getting tickets

Jakarta train station with the high-speed train.
Jakarta train station with the high-speed train.

The Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Rail (dubbed “Whoosh”) is operated by KCIC, a joint venture between an Indonesian and a Chinese company. The route between Jakarta and Bandung already has a conventional intercity train connection, operated by KAI, the national train service.

At between 3 to 4 hours, the journey doesn’t seem that bad, considering the alternative of being possibly stuck in traffic jams for unknown numbers of hours. However, the HSR cuts this down to only half an hour, making the distance more of a commute rather than intercity. ]

Local colleagues cautioned me to get tickets online beforehand, as they can sell out. Perhaps this was the case at the beginning, but there seemed to be many more trains running by the time I tried it, and it was not a problem at all. HSR trains run almost every half hour, and even if you were to get a ticket at the station, it is easily done via ticket kiosks.

Ticket kiosks
Ticket Kiosks

There are three fare classes on the HSR: First class, Business class, and Premium economy. They cost IDR600k, IDR450k, and IDR225k, respectively. Since it may be my first and last time on the HSR, and even the first-class ticket is less than $50, I decided to check it out for the ride to Bandung and switch to business class for the return trip.

Whoosh booking website:

Jakarta Halim station

The HSR doesn’t depart from Central Jakarta. Instead, the HSR station is located in Halim, an area in East Jakarta. The out-of-the-way location had been a source of criticism, but it’s easily reachable.

Journeys within the greater Jakarta city are best measured not by distance alone, but by likelihood of running into traffic jams. I took a taxi to the Halim HSR station from the Shangri-La in Central Jakarta, and it was a smooth ride.

Departure lounge Halim
Departure lounge Halim

Halim station is spacious and modern. Ticket kiosks are obvious, and there are plenty of screens displaying information for incoming trains. A series of displays on one wall of the entrance hall chronicles the construction history of the HSR line. There was plenty of seating, most of it vacant. Retail spaces were still only half-occupied, but if you’re peckish, you can get food.

Jakarta to Surabaya high-speed rail route.
Jakarta to Surabaya high-speed rail route.

The departure hall is an escalator ride up. But I made a pit stop at the information counter to enquire about connections to Jakarta CGK airport for my return trip. Helpful greeters explained to me the information I needed.

Boarding the HSR

Upstairs, there were more F&B outlets. The station’s connection to Jakarta’s light rail transit (LRT) system links through at this level.

The departure hall is beyond a security checkpoint which requires you to submit any bags for scanning, similar to boarding an aeroplane. The seats within the hall were more full than below. However, if you’re early and need to charge electronic devices, there is a special seating area with charge ports next to a mock train replica.

There are six platforms just for this one HSR route! Perhaps, as the HSR infrastructure builds out, they will be for different destinations in the future. The wait wasn’t long, and the trains were on time.

The boarding platform was at the level above the hall. As the train arrives, you ascend to the train platform and find your car. But of course, regardless of which car your seat is in, people make a detour to get a photo at the front of the train!

Train journey to Bandung city center

The Bandung HSR station isn’t at the city center either. Instead, you have the option of two stations, Padalarang and Tegalluar. Which one you choose depends on where in Bandung you intend to be.

Bandung Padalarang HSR station
Bandung Padalarang HSR station

I decided to visit Bandung’s old city, for the city has a Dutch colonial history and – were it not for World War II breaking out and the subsequent Indonesian declaration of independence – nearly even became the capital of the Dutch East Indies instead of Batavia. Bandung does have a conventional train station, which is conveniently connected to the Padalarang HSR station.

First class on the HSR means not many people in the car with you. I thought I was going to have the car to myself until a young, clearly well-heeled local family came in. The seats were comfortable, with power outlets (Indonesian standard, not universal though). You also get a snack and a bottle of water. The luggage storage is just outside the sliding door entryway.

Above the entryway, an LED ticker displays the train’s speed. The train runs on elevated tracks, and rapidly gets up to 200km/h. But it then slows down to below 100km/h through what seems to be a heavy industry area.

Once past the area, it goes back up to above 300km/h, zipping across the Javanese countryside, reaching its maximum operational speed of 345km/h moments before reaching Bandung. Considering the speed, the ride was incredibly smooth. The acceleration is completely imperceptible.

Padalarang station is just as spacious and modern as Halim but with even fewer shops. I didn’t see much of it on the way to Bandung, however, since the onward connection to the regular train was so efficient. There was a special lane just for the HSR passengers to board the feeder train to Bandung, so you can’t possibly miss it. The feeder train journey is included in an HSR ticket.

The train is still a regular train, however. So there are other, non-HSR passengers also taking it. The HSR hostess on the train said that there are assigned seats for first class and business class, but in reality, it’s all free seating. Ironically, the trip from the Bandung (Padalarang) HSR station to the Bandung intercity train station, is also half an hour!

Fare class differences

I had the presence of mind to book a different fare class on the return trip. I figured that I could already see what premium economy looks like from various vlogs. So I booked a business class seat.

Business class cabin
Business class cabin

The business class car has a slightly higher density. The seats are less spacious, but as a short person, I preferred it because the headrest doesn’t jut out as much, which pushes the top of my head forward rather than acting as neck support. There is still a power outlet at the seat, but it’s shared between two seats. And you still get a snack and drinks.

Given that there are no differences between fare classes at the terminal side, I would go for business class if you want a more comfortable ride than just the basic ticket. The density is lower and you can work on the commute if you want to, which might be worth the extra IDR250k.

Between business and first class, however, the differences in seats and snacks, and the even lower density of first class don’t seem to be worth the extra IDR150k. The only scenario when it would make sense is if you want to book out the whole car as a family.

And a final tip for those who don’t like walking, especially if you don’t mind what fare class you’re on: pick a seat in the 4th or 5th car. There are around 8 cars on the HSR train, and the escalators to the platforms get you to where the middle of the train would be. The first-class car is at the front, so it is an equal walk as the last economy car.

Connection to Jakarta International Airport

My return journey was not just to Jakarta, but to the airport to catch my flight back home. So I bet on the HSR and its associated connections to get me from Bandung back to Jakarta, and to Jakarta airport, in time to check in my bag, all within four hours. I only needed three.

Though I left my hotel on Braga Street at 10:20 in the morning, I could have left at 11:20 and still be able to catch the same HSR train, take the same Damri airport shuttle from Halim station, and be at the check-in counter in the airport before 2 pm.

Onward transport
Onward Transport

This is because the connection between the Bandung feeder train and the HSR is just as seamless the other way around, whereby you can just get out of the train, wander up the escalator, and be on the HSR within minutes. So I arrived much too early at Padalarang. But I guess, being early is better for peace of mind when you have a flight to catch at the other end!

As for the cost, an economy class HSR ticket plus the airport shuttle would only cost IDR280k, plus any taxi fares. This is only a little more expensive than the regular intercity train, but faster and much more seamless to the airport. If you have business in both cities, I don’t know why you’d make the journey any other way. I wished the HSR could run across the ocean too, so I wouldn’t have to take the flight either!

Nuraini Arsad


Nuraini Arsad is a sustainability professional, who blogs about insightful travel and sustainability in her free time. Visit her website.


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