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Hitchhiking is a pretty much unknown concept in Indonesia, and it might be hard to get a free ride at times. Despite all that, hitchhiking on islands of Java, Sumatra, Bali and Borneo might go very smoothly: on Java, according to those few hitchhikers who went there, you hardly wait ten minutes before you get a ride. Traffic is very slow though, and if you want to cross the whole country and get a full picture of Indonesia, it is not convenient to take a mere 1 month visa.
The thumb isn't used in Asia for hitching and a sign isnt really necessary. Instead of sticking out a thumb wave down each car as if you were signalling for them to slow down.[]
Getting a free ferry ride is also possible at least through a practice of hiding behind the truck seat. In fact, trucks are allowed to take 2 (3?) people for free onto a ferry - so you might be either one of the guys going for free, or one of the extra-passengers; in latter case you should rather hide behind the seat, and once you are on a ferry, relax - no one wants to see the ticket later on.
Most used harbors on Java island are Jakarta's Tanjung Priok and Surabaja's (goes to Borneo, 20h). The passenger ticket for the ferry Java-Bali is half a dollar a price, so you might as well skip hitchhiking there.
Hitchhiking in Sumatra is very easy for people with white skin and can be faster and more comfortable than public transport. The trans-Sumatran highway is used by cars going longer distances and is faster than the more scenic coastal/ small mountain roads. Getting a lift into town is also faster and easier than public transport. Often the Indonesians also feel obliged to pay for food and help find accomodation.
To differentiate between hitching a free ride and calling a taxi/ojek over, the word 'numpeng' (pronunciation varies) is used to mean a free ride.
It is also possible to ride the freight trains through central Java for free. Though police are loath to let a large number of tourists on - it generally being the reserve of the poorest of travelling Indonesians - it is possible in small numbers. Simply head to the train station and ask about 'krater barang barang' (luggage train). Particularly in smaller stations even the guards will be happy to help, through their information is often contradicted by each person you meet, asking every person you can is generally a good way to work out when a train might be coming through. There is generally one main train line that runs through Java for freight. It divides at each end (west and east), but if you're if hoping to head west, just get on the train going west and vice versa.
- The Rich Mike Hitch Hike - A recent blog about hitchhiking from Bali to Jakarta
- Faire du stop en Indonesie - a French blog entry by Ludovic Hubler
- 444km.blogspot.com - Blog entries about hitching Indonesia by Swedish hitchhiker
- Punk In Love A movie about hitching and freight hopping across Java, in Bahasa Indonesian but VERY understandable and funny.