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Travelling by ojek in Indonesia

We’ve recently covered a variety of different transport options across Indonesia including minibus (angkot) and train — here we focus on one of the most efficient forms, the motorcycle taxi which is known in Indonesia as the ojek.

A mud pit only accessible by ojek

A mud pit only accessible by ojek.

Like many other places in the world, the motorcycle taxi in Indonesia is an important part of the transport landscape, in this case filling in the gaps left by incomplete and inadequate angkot routes, shuttling people through the crowded streets of the big cities with speed and providing a good way for tourists to quickly tour cities and their surrounds without having to ride a motorbike on their own.

In many parts of Indonesia, ojeks congregate at junctions to roads that angkots don’t service, train stations and bus terminals, and any other place where a ready supply of customers awaits. Armed with this knowledge, it is usually quite easy to track down a nearby ojek post wherever you are. If all else fails, any guy with a motorbike is a potential ojek, so it’s quite possible to just say “ojek” to a random guy with a bike and get a lift to where you want to go.

An expensive ojek due to the condition of the

An expensive ojek due to the condition of the "road".

Prices of ojeks are highly negotiable, but a good starting point is 80,000 rupiah for an eight-hour journey of about 100 kilometres which includes the cost of petrol. You would normally be expected to buy the guy lunch and a drink as well, but if that’s awkward you can get around this by just increasing the price you pay him. If the road you are travelling on is rough and likely to increase wear and tear on his motorbike, there is excessive traffic, it’s raining or the stuff you want him to do is just not appealing, the price starts to increase. A two kilometre trip should cost 5,000 rupiah, so those guys you see in the Kuta backstreets charging 50,000 rupiah for a short trip to nearby Seminyak are rip-off merchants. The moral of the story: for a fair price, negotiate hard.

Once you have selected your ojek and negotiated a price, it’s time to hop on board and experience Indonesian traffic up close and personal. The bike will normally have pegs for you to rest your feet on and you will normally be given a helmet, unless the journey is short in which case your life is in the hands of the driver and the surrounding traffic. If you have a big backpack to transport as well, it is usually possible for the backpack to be stored between the driver’s legs. If you have another passenger to carry, meaning three people are on board, one person will usually not have pegs to rest their feet on. The three-person motorbike journey is an experience in itself, but rarely encouraged as it is illegal and should only be used in rural areas or for short journeys.

Ojek post - negotiate beforehand!

Ojek post -- negotiate beforehand!

Ojeks are a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle of an Indonesian city where sometimes it’s possible to feel trapped by the heavy congestion, thick smog and diabolical transport arrangements. Ojeks quickly get past all of this and carry you out into the countryside where green Indonesia reveals its true beauty. Give an ojek a go!

About the author:
Adam gave up a corporate career in 2009 and left Australia for the hustle and bustle of Southeast Asia. He now lives in Indonesia, where as well as writing for Travelfish.org he plays around with www.pergidulu.com.

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