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Want to spend a few days in this idyllic island group north of Central Java? If you’ve done any research, you might think it’s fairly straightforward: starting from Semarang, take a bus to Jepara, hop on a ferry or fast boat (or charter plane if you have the money to drop) and bam, you’re in paradise.

The ferry time from Jepara to Karimunjawa is available on a few websites and they’re fairly consistent, but I couldn’t find certain information on the bus from Semarang to Jepara, and I thought no problem, I could figure it all out once I was in Semarang. It’s always much easier on the ground.

And it is. But my big mistake was that I asked around at my hostel and tried to call various numbers from brochures. People don’t always pick up, and when they do, they might not speak enough English to communicate with me.

In the end, I did get all the information I needed, but it was too late and I had to ditch my island getaway weekend. Now I’m passing what I’ve gathered onto you so you don’t have to waste time and can plan better than I did.

There are 3 important things to remember:

1. The first thing to do in Semarang is to stop by the Tourist Information Center TIC for the most up-to-date timetables.
2. You have to be in Jepara the day before you depart for Karimunjawa.
3. There are no ferries or boats departing Jepara on Thursday or Sunday (as of July 2014). There are no ferries or boats departing Karimunjawa on Friday (as of July 2014).

Now, step by step:

1.  Arriving in Semarang, immediately go to Tourist Information Center TIC for the most up-to-date shuttle and ferry schedules. The TIC is located at #147 Jalan Pemuda. It’s a big building and can be easily spotted thanks to the red Pandu taxis that park in front of it.

In the back of the TIC are the offices of Yoglosemar (Yogyakarta – Semarang and Solo – Semarang shuttle busses) and Central Java (Semarang – Jepara shuttle). If you arrive by a Yoglosemar bus, for your convenience, make sure you get off at the TIC (last stop).

2. Take the shuttle bus from Semarang to Jepara. This trip takes 3.5-4 hours. If you want to take the fast boat, you have to leave Semarang in the morning in order to arrive in Jepara before 4pm so you can go buy ticket before the office closes.

Here’s the shuttle schedule as of July 2014. The shuttle leaves from the Central Java office in the back of the TIC building.

(departing Semarang and Jepara at the same time)
Monday: 06:00, 10:00, 14:00, 17:00
Tuesday – Friday: 07:00, 10:00, 14:00, 17:00
Saturday – Sunday: 07:00, 10:00, 13:00, 16:00

3. Take the ferry or fast boat from Jepara to Karimunjawa. You need to buy ticket for the fast boat the day before. No need for the ferry. The fast boat takes 2 hours, the ferry takes 5 hours.

Jepara – Karimunjawa

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Fast boat 11:00 11:00 x x 14:00 11:00 x
Ferry 09:00 x 09:00 x x 09:00 x


Karimunjawa – Jepara

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Fast boat 14:00 x 11:00 x x 08:00 14:00
Ferry x 09:00 x 09:00 x 09:00


P/S 1: Semarang – Karimunjawa boat: This service starts July 26, 2014. The boat leaves Semarang at 9:00 on Saturday and returns from Karimunjawa at 13:00 on Sunday, taking 4 hours one-way. Sounds pretty convenient if you want a short weekend trip.

P/S 2: Tour packages are available, leaving from either Semarang or Jepara. 2d1n: Rs. 850,000/pax. 3d2n: 1,150,000/pax. 4d3n: Rs. 1,250,00/pax. Prices include accommodation, meals, transfers, boat tour, entrance fee. Contact at the Tourist Information Center in Semarang.


We took them all!

Tricycles, or trikes, pedaled or motorized:trikes

inside trike

Another model:


Nice bus:

nice busLess nice bus

less nice bus

Shuttle van:van

The famed decked-out jeepney: cheap and convenient, only 8 pesos a ride, but at risk of diesel exhaust poisoning.


Another color scheme:

jeepney (2)

Public bangka (outrigger boat): if you take them on rough days like we did, you’ll get a free workout for your arms, from holding down windows and canvas flies to keep the water out.


Ferry: this one was 16 hours from Surigao to Cebu. I didn’t pee not even once. Flanked on 2 sides 3ms away from our berths were the men and women bathroom so we periodically got a lovely whiff. But at least we stayed dry in the middle and didn’t got splashed on by the rain and the water.

ferry (2)


Not pictured: habal-habal, customized motorcycle taxis. They usually have canopy on top and a few other adds-on to increase carrying capacity, e.g. panels on two sides. In Siargao, we rode from Cloud 9 to the ferry terminal on 1: the driver, me, Col, our 2 backpacks and 1 carry-on suitcase. My ass was ready to fall off the seat at all time.

picked Dave up at Daewoo hotel, went to look for a xe om driver to take him home. Seeing his white skin, they decided to double the price. I could have easily paid 15,000VND but didn’t like that attitude so I bargained. All of them made a volte face and started berating me.

at each crossroad, after the red light’s turned green, everyone, lips tightened, struggles to speed forward, but sometimes no one can move because it’s too crowded. And for some reason, people still honk endlessly. What do they think it’d solve? I notice that most of them drive (or at least the honk sounds like it comes from a car).

today when we got to Canh, there were cars in both directions so they slowed down so as not to scratch each other. Some motorbikes “mindlessly” took to the left and ended up stopping right in front of the cars going in the other direction. Traffic Jam!

Sometimes it’s just hard to understand. Is it because they think for themselves (although in the long run they don’t gain a thing) or because they can’t think for others?