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Travel Guide Asia Indonesia Java Central Java Semarang

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Introduction

With over 1.7 million inhabitants, Semarang is the fifth most populous city of Java. It is also the most populous city and the main port of Central Java province. Like the main ports of West and East Java, Jakarta and Surabaya respectively, a Chinese merchant community had settled near what was then a natural harbour long before the advent of the Europeans. That earliest harbour is thought to have been located at the foot of Bergota hill, about 5 kilometres inland from the present coast. Such has been the extent of the alluvial sedimentation in 600 years. In our time the coastal area has suffered flooding because of rainwater carried by rivers not flowing out to the sea. As a remedy roads and railroads have been raised by roughly one metre with sand and rocks trucked in from elsewhere. But lower lying buildings are left standing abandoned.
Of interest to foreign visitors are Semarang’s colonial achitectural heritage, China Town and Sam Poo Kong temple. Passengers of cruise ships that dock for a day at Semarang are offered the choice of sightseeing in the city, a bus trip to Borobudur, or a unique steam train ride at Ambarawa railway museum. Semarang can also serve as base for visiting the Gedong Songo temples, Dieng Plateau and Ungaran Mountain.

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Neighbourhoods

  • Chinatown - Semarang's China Town - Pecinan in Javanese - should be discovered walking. And best set out early, because the day becomes hot in Semarang. Also by noon the market in Gang Baru closes. Because of frequent reconstruction little remains of the Chinese architecture with typical gables; one has to search for them. The atmosphere is still that of a busy merchant quarter.
  • Little Netherland - The former Dutch business quarter of Semarang is nowadays referred to as Little Netherland because of its many buildings dating back to colonial times. Unfortunately most of these are in a sorry state of dilapidation, though some have been nicely restored. Among these are the Post Office and the protestant church Gereja Blenduk.
  • Candi Baru
  • Tanjung Mas Harbour - Semarang's harbour is located in the northern part, in an area that used to be coastal marshland. Lower lying plots are still often flooded during high tide. Modern ships are accommodated in the eastern part, accessed through Jalan Coaster. Traditional vessels moor in the western part, along Jalan Yos Sudarso.

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Sights and Activities

Gedung Lawang Sewu front view

Gedung Lawang Sewu front view

© All Rights Reserved theo1006

  • Gedung Lawang Sewu, “the building with a thousand doors”, is THE iconic building of Semarang. The complex was constructed in phases from 1904 to 1919 and served as head office of the Dutch East Indies Railway Company (Nederlandsch Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij) until 1942. It then fell in serious disrepair. In 2007 it was used to shoot a horror movie! But subsequently it has been carefully restored.
  • Sam Poo Kong Temple
  • Ronggowarsito Museum - The Ronggowarsito Museum was established in 1983 at the intiative of the then governor of Central Java, Soepardjo Roestam, with the aim of making it the foremost museum in Central Java. As such it offers - in its present compound since 1989 - displays on a wide range of topics, from paleontology to Javanese art and the struggle for independence.

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Events and Festivals

  • Chinese New Year - Semarang is home to a vibrant Chinese community, 15% of the population. During the dictatorship of president Soeharto the Chinese were not allowed to express their culture, use Chinese characters or celebrate public festvities. But early in 2001 president Abdurrahman Wahid restored their civil rights. The Chinese New Year (or Imlek) celebration that year was the grandest ever. Since 2003 Imlek is a national holiday and non-ethnic Chinese also take part in the festivities. The day coincides with new moon between 21 January and 20 February. In 2018 the date will be 16 February, in 2019 it will be 5 February.
  • Zheng He Commemoration - The Chinese community in Semarang venerates Admiral Zheng He almost as a saint under the name Sam Poo. They celebrate the memory of his first arrival in Semarang annually on the 29th and 30th of the sixth month according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which usually falls in June. The celebration in 2005 was special because of the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's first expedition. A mock-up of his ship was constructed in front of Tai Kak Sie temple in Gang Lombok, and has been on display there since.

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Weather

Semarang features a tropical rainforest climate that borders on a tropical monsoon climate. The city features distinctly wetter and drier months, with June through August being the driest months. However, in none of these months does average precipitation fall below 60 mm, hence the tropical rainforest categorization. Semarang on average sees approximately 2,800 mm of rain annually. Average temperatures in the city are relatively consistent, hovering around 28 °C.

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Getting There

By Plane

Ahmad Yani International Airport (SRG) offers flights to Singapore, Jakarta, Banjarmasin, Balikpapan, Surabaya and Denpasar, Bali.

The TransSemarang bus system Koridor IV passes through the airport, with buses going towards Cangkiran and also the other direction towards the Tawang train station stopping at the same bus stop located just outside the parking lot gate after the railway track. To go to the city centre (e.g. Simpang Lima or the City Hall Balai Kota), take the bus towards Tawang and transfer to Koridor I in Karangayu. Ticket costs a flat Rp 3,500, which includes transfers to another corridor. Keep your ticket for checking. The bus operates only between 05:30 and 17:30.

By Train

Semarang is well-connected to Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya by train. From Solo, once daily early in the morning there is an economy class train Kalijaga, meaning travel from Yogyakarta all the way by rail is theoretically possible, although it requires a 4:00 departure with a transfer, and is likely to be slower and less comfortable than taking the direct buses. Multiple executive-class trains connect Semarang to Jakarta (6 hours) and Surabaya (4 hours) several times a day, with overnight journeys also possible. The Harina service connects Semarang to Bandung once a day with executive, business and economy class coaches.

By Car

Semarang can be reached by car from Jakarta in around 10-12 hours, along the Pantura road (Pantura is from pantai (coast) and utara (north)). Overnight travel is faster but more dangerous. Head east on the Cikampek tollroad, following directions Cirebon. Tollroad is being installed all the way along the route, starting with bypasses around the towns and cities.

You can reach Semarang from Solo partly on the tollway which now joins Semarang to Salatiga. It should take 2-3 hours. Drivers from Solo are noted for their more aggressive and more reckless driving.

Semarang can be reached from Banyumas/Cilacap without traveling through Yogyakarta via highways and streets. If you choose to travel through Magelang, be prepared for traffic problems, as well as in Ambarawa and Ungaran. Your best bet is to leave late at night via Purbalingga so that you can arrive early in the morning in Semarang, which will take about 8 hours (via Magelang-Ambarawa-Ungaran). If, however, you'd like a more scenic (during the daytime) and a faster drive, avoid Magelang entirely by traveling through Temanggung, bypassing Magelang entirely, after which you can choose to drive through Bandungan and take advantage of their all-day fruit and vegetable market, or take another route that isn't as mountainous as Bandungan (such as through Secang then Ambarawa). Bandungan is a mountainous, rural area that also offers Gedungsongo Park and numerous small hotels and it is only about 30 minutes (given good traffic) from Semarang. Average travel time for sane drivers is 5.5-6 hours. For F1 drivers, expect a record of 4-4.5 hours.

Driving to and from Surabaya, takes about 6 hours, again along the Pantura road.

By Bus

Many bus companies offer daily service from Jakarta, from Pasar Rebo Terminal in East Jakarta, Kalideres Terminal in West Jakarta or from Lebak Bulus Terminal in South Jakarta. The overnight bus with A/C is also available with good service. You can choose bus operators such as Rosalia Indah, Raya, Kramat Jati, Safari Dharma Raya, Garuda Mas, Laju Prima, which are all well reputed. Sometimes the bus route is Jakarta to Solo via Semarang. You can choose them too, but make sure to remind the bus driver's assistant (the person who checks your ticket on-board the bus) to wake you up in Semarang.

There is an executive-class tourist bus Joglosemar, which connects Jogjakarta, Solo and Semarang (hence the name). It picks up tourists from specific hotels and provides snacks and water for their trip. Pricier than other executive buses, it is more comfortable and provides friendly service. They depart almost hourly.

Other companies providing shuttle vans in and out of Semarang include DayTrans (from Jogjakarta, Jepara), Cipaganti (from Jogjakarta, Solo and Cilacap), Central Java Travel, Bejeu (from Jepara), Bintang Raya, Matraman Travel, Mitra Travel and Putra Mandiri.

By Boat

Semarang's Tanjung Emas Port (reachable by TransSemarang Koridor III) is located in the northern part, in an area that unfortunately is often flooded during high tide.

It is regularly served by ships mostly to/from destinations in Kalimantan. The state-owned PT PELNI has ships going to Banjarmasin (using KM Egon), Pontianak (using KM Lawit), and Kumai (using KM Leuser and KM Egon). Another operator with ships also going to Kalimantan is Dharma Lautan Utama, which serves Pontianak, Ketapang, Kumai and Sampit. There are no regular ships going directly into Semarang from other major cities in Java, except for occasional ships from Jakarta during the mudik period close to Lebaran offered as an alternative for people going back to their hometowns.

Cruise ships occasionally spend a day in port. It has few facilities for passengers, but an informal market of street vendors often assembles outside the secure area. Most passengers take a one-day tour to Borobudur, or a city tour of Semarang.

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Getting Around

By Car

Taxis are safe and comfortable, and reasonably priced (starting price, Rp4,000).

Make sure you understand the route or ask a friend. Make sure the driver uses the meter ("argo"). If he refuses to use the meter, use another taxi.

By Public Transport

There are medium-sized buses operated by government-owned company DAMRI in the city. These buses are normally blue and white. All DAMRI buses are air-conditioned and relatively well-maintained. There are also routes operated by companies such as Rata Kencana, MINAS, Nugroho although which tend to be not air-conditioned and the fleet tends to be less well-maintained. These buses stop whenever a passenger flags them down. Accordingly, to alight you just tell the driver or conductor and the bus will pull in and stop. There are very few designated bus stops and no route maps whatsoever, so it is good to ask a local beforehand and double check with the conductor. Fares range anywhere from Rp2,000 to Rp8,000 depending on the distance travelled. There are also TransSemarang buses with designated stops on raised platforms (locally known as shelter).

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Eat

Although Semarang's choice of foods is not as complete as other larger cities, you can find Japanese, Italian (including pizzerias), Thai, Korean, Indian, Western and more. Although some of these places are inexpensive, such as many Chinese and Indonesian restaurants, most foreign food establishments tend to be expensive.

  • Semarang Restaurant - This moderately-priced Chinese restaurant features furniture from bygone days. The walls are full of photo's of pre-war Semarang, and one can also buy a book on Semarang’s history. A few cupboards are full of memorabilia. Semarang Restaurant has the same atmosphere as better-known Toko Oen on Jalan Pemuda. Yet it has one advantage. Both restaurants have French windows, but at Toko Oen they never open them any more: too much noise and dust from busy Pemuda street. Semarang restaurant is set back from the street, so the French windows are always open. The food is delicious, the fruit juice always from real fruit. Address: Jalan Gajah Mada 125

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Sleep

Budget

Go to Jalan Kauman (Near Johar Market - Trans Semarang Koridor II or buses to/from Terboyo Terminal) and you'll find a lot of cheap accommodation. They are most likely to be a basic fan room with outside bathroom for the cheapest price level, some naming themselves as losmen (inns) and others as hotel. Several places offering basic fan room are located near the mosque at the northern end (Masjid Kauman) with rooms going for as cheap as Rp 50,000. Many budget places will not have a western-style shower.

  • Hotel Pelangi Indah - This budget hotel is located a few minutes' walk from Tawang Railway Station, convenient for those doing Java by train. In colonial times the building served as office of the internal revenue authority, witness an empty vault with heavy iron door that cannot be closed shut anymore. The amenities are spartan, but cleanliness is spic and span.

Mid-range

  • Semesta Heritage Hotel - This hotel is located conveniently close to Semarang’s China Town. It was established by a group of Muslim businessmen. They renovated two ancient buildings that now serve as meeting hall and ball room, and had a five storey hotel block built behind those. The buffet breakfast is exceptional because of the great variety of food to choose from. The owners being Muslims, alcohol is taboo. However, there is a counter where they serve traditional herbal drinks (jamu) free of charge all day.

View our map of accommodation in Semarang or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet is becoming more widely used in Indonesia, and warung Internet (warnet) - Internet cafés - are emerging everywhere. A lot of restaurants and cafés in big cities normally have wireless internet available for free. Internet connection speed in Indonesia varies between ISP and location. Prices vary considerably, and as usual you tend to get what you pay for, but you'll usually be looking at around Rp3,000 to Rp5,000 per hour with faster access than from your own mobile phone. In large cities, there are free WiFi hotspots in many shopping malls, McDonald restaurants, Starbucks cafes, 7 Eleven convenience stores, and in some restaurants and bars. Some hotels provide free hotspots in the lobby and/or in their restaurants and even in your rooms.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

You can use 112 as an emergency number through mobile phones. Other numbers include 110 (police), 113 (fire) and 118 (ambulance).
The international phone code is 62.

If you have GSM cellular phone, ask your local provider about "roaming agreement/facility" with local GSM operators in Indonesia (i.e.: PT Indosat, PT Telkomsel, PT XL Axiata). The cheapest way is buying a local SIM card, which would be much cheaper to call and especially use internet compared to your own cell phone's sim card.

The Indonesian mobile phone market is heavily competitive and prices are low: you can pick up a prepaid SIM card for less than Rp 10,000 and calls may cost as little as Rp 300 a minute to some other countries using certain carriers (subject to the usual host of restrictions). SMS (text message) service is generally very cheap, with local SMS as low as Rp129-165, and international SMS for Rp400-600. Indonesia is also the world's largest market for used phones, and basic models start from Rp 150,000, with used ones being even cheaper.

Post

Pos Indonesia provides the postal service in Indonesia. Pos Indonesia is government-owned and offers services ranging from sending letters and packages to money transfers (usually to remote areas which have no bank branch/ATM nearby) and selling postcards and stamps. Sending a postcards, letter or parcel is relatively expensive, but fairly reliable. It takes several days at least to send it within Indonesia, at least a week internationally. It is recommended to send letters from a Pos Indonesia branch, not by putting it inside orange mailbox (called Bis Surat) in the roadside, because some of the mailboxes are in very bad condition and aren't checked regularly by Pos Indonesia. Opening times of post offices usually tend to follow general business hours: Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm (sometimes shorter hours on Fridays), Saturdays from 8:00am to 1:00pm, closed on Sundays. Bigger cities, tourist areas and central post offices tend to keep longer hours, into the evenings.

Private postal services based in Indonesia include CV Titipan Kilat (CV TIKI), Jalur Nugraha Ekaputra (JNE), Caraka, and RPX. There are also foreign postal services that have branches in Indonesia, including DHL, TNT, UPS, and FedEx.

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Accommodation in Semarang

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Semarang searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Semarang and areas nearby.

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This is version 34. Last edited at 12:50 on Dec 31, 17 by theo1006. 15 articles link to this page.

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