The largest exodus in Southeast Asia began this week with millions of Indonesians traveling home, packing the roads, railroads, sea-lanes and the sky on various modes of transportation.
In Cirebon, West Java, thousands of people on motorcycles began swarming the Java north coast highway (Pantura) at high speed on Wednesday, still several days before Idul Fitri, which is expected to fall early next week.
They formed convoys consisting of hundreds of motorcycles. The travelers had been arriving in Cirebon from Wednesday morning. Most of them claimed traveling by motorcycle was cheap and fast.
"Traveling by motorcycle is very economical. With just Rp 150,000 [US$13], we can return to our home villages. Besides, it is relatively quick," Suryono said, adding that he and his wife were on their way to Purwokerto in Central Java.
Cirebon Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Irman Sugema urged the motorcyclists to be careful and remain alert.
"We advise them not to travel at high speed. We also urge them not to ride a motorcycle with more than two people for safety's sake," he said.
The Transportation Ministry estimates that around 28 million people will join the annual exodus this year, up 7 per cent from last year. Over half of the travelers will use public transportation.
Transportation Minister EE Mangindaan said that thanks to free travel services provided by companies operating in Jakarta, more city residents had been given the opportunity to return home, or mudik, this year.
Citing data, he said around 130,000 people obtained free tickets home this holiday season. Mangindaan encouraged companies in Jakarta to provide more free travel services for holiday travelers.
A team from the ministry have been conducting ramp checks at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport since Tuesday. Checks have included inspecting aircraft and pilots, to ensure that all security and safety requirements have been met.
"From these ramp checks, as of now, we can give our assurances that Ngurah Rai airport is ready to face the increasing number of mudik passengers this year. All the main and supporting facilities for aviation safety and security are in their proper condition," said the deputy transportation minister, Bambang Susantono, after the inspections at the airport on Wednesday.
The team also conducted urine tests on flight crews, including pilots and flight attendants, to identify anyone working under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Bambang said the ramp checks were also being conducted at 11 other airports. During this year's exodus, Ngurah Rai airport will add 148 extra flights with around 27,912 seats.
Meanwhile, scores of truck drivers who have been stranded near the damaged Comal Bridge in Pemalang in Central Java for the past six days staged a rally on Wednesday.
"We are waiting for certainty as to when we can get across the bridge to continue our journey. We don't have any money for extra fuel if we make a detour," said Satimin, 43, who was transporting recycled paper from Jakarta to Kudus.
Central Java Traffic Police estimate the peak of the Idul Fitri traffic passing through the province will occur from Friday to Sunday.
"Today is the peak of the exodus from Jakarta. They will arrive in Central Java tomorrow," Central Java Traffic Police deputy chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Tulus Pamoji.