Getting away from Batu Karas proved to be a bit more difficult than getting there was, and as I’ll describe later on, I really did feel like I was getting away.
There is really no direct line between Batu Karas and Jogjakarta. One could fly to Bandung on Susi air; then catch a train from Bandung to Jogjakarta – there are several. The total cost would be about Rp.480,000.
The public bus is the cheapest option. You would need to get an ojek from Batu Karas to Cijulang, and catch a bus to Cilacap when they are running. If not, you’d need to go to Pangandaran and get a bus to Cilacap. From there, you can get a bus directly to Jogjakarta. The name of the bus you want in Cilacap is “EFISIENSI.” The total cost for this option is about Rp.65,000.
You also have the option of ojekking it to Cijulang; then taking a bus to Pangandaran, and another bus to Banjar, where the trains to Jogjakarta stop. The problem with Banjar is that the trains are though trains, so turning up and hoping to buy a ticket to travel on the same day can be hit or miss. Should you have to wait a day or two in Banjar, extreme boredom would surely set in – there is not much there. It’s far better to book ahead, but sadly there is no reliable way to do that from Pangandaran or Batu Karas. You would have to book the ticket in Jakarta, Bandung, or Jogjakarta before coming to Batu Karas. The total cost to do this would be about Rp.125,000, unless it’s a busy holiday period, when they require passengers who embark in route to pay the full fare from the train’s point of origin.
For me, the public buses aren’t a good option because I have more luggage than I can carry in one go. On public busses in Indonesia, there is sometimes a bit of jostling for position, so you need to have all of your luggage in your hand as you board the bus.
The worst option, and the one I chose, actually sounds the best. There is a mini bus that offers a package deal. It’s picks up in Batu Karas and takes you to the train station in Sidareja for Rp.250,000, which includes the minibus ride and the train ticket.
Unfortunately, there is no travel agency in Batu Karas, so you need to find a local who has the number to call, and who will tack on a little commission to the price. The price I was quoted by a Batu Karas local was Rp.500,000. Knowing that was way too high, I went to Pangandaran and booked the same trip for Rp.250,000 – the price printed on the brochure in the travel office. However, I didn’t even get back to Batu Karas before the local network kicked in and I got a call saying they had made a mistake and the price was actually Rp.500,000.
What happened is obvious – the local got his commission.
I decided to go ahead and pay the higher price because I wasn’t sure if I would get a refund for the Rp.250,000 if I didn’t, and it was still the quickest way to Jogjakarta. But, after a miserable ride in the hot, non air-conditioned, cramped mini bus, over a derelict road, I would surely choose to fly back to Bandung, and book a train from there, for about the same money.
It’s a sad thing – I had a great time in Batu Karas, and the people were very hospitable. Besides staying in a hotel, and eating in local restaurants, I rented a motorbike from a local, and also paid him to guide me around a bit. One would think they would want visitors to leave with a good feeling about the place, so you’ll speak well about it, and return some day. But instead, some of the locals feel they need to get one last fistful of cash.
Would I return to Batu Karas? Sure, but not without my transport out pre-arranged. If going from Jakarta or Bandung, I would either fly, or take a train to Banjar, and I would have my return ticket in hand. There are cars one can hire in Banjar to go to Batu Karas for Rp.150,000. I’d get the drivers number, and arrange for him to pick me up.
What I would never do, is trust a Batu Karas local with my transportation arrangements.
Currently, the hotels in Batu Karas don’t book transportation because they don’t want to compete with the locals. It’s certainly a policy they need to look at.
At the end of the day, being overcharged Rp.250,000 is not the end of the world, and I’m sure it’s not the last time it will happen on this trip. None the less, it’s still annoying, so I’m tagging this post and any similar, future posts, “overcharged” so it will be easy for everyone to see what they need to watch out for.
Do you have and overcharge stories? Please tell us about it in the comment section below.