Surabaya is the capital of East Java and the 2nd largest city in Indonesia.

Surabaya CBD skyline by day


1897 Map of Surabaya, Indonesia, from Guide to the Dutch East Indies by Dr. J.F. van Bemmelen and G.B. Hoover, Luzac & Co, London

The story goes that Surabaya's name derives from the Javanese words Suro, meaning shark, and Boyo, meaning crocodile. With over 3 million people, Surabaya is the second-largest city in Indonesia. While many people come for business, Surabaya is also a gateway city for Mount Bromo and Bali. The city's tree-lined streets and renovated pavements will impress those newly arrived from other cities in the archipelago, though in general the city's attractions tend to be more apparent to those who make it their home rather than to short-term visitors. Put in the effort here, and you'll have an authentic, fascinating, unique experience of an Asia that once was: get it while it lasts.


Very tropical and you need to wear casual, light clothes: T-shirts, shorts, sandals or shoes. Temperatures vary little through the year, with daytime highs around 32-34°C, falling at night to 22-26°C. During the rainy season (November–April) be prepared for occasional flash floods and traffic jams, although it's not as bad as Jakarta.


Bookmobile in a Bungkul Park, Surabaya

Being simultaneously one of the most ancient and significant trading ports in Indonesia, a post Dutch-colonial city (the Dutch knew it as Soerabaja), and having passed through brief Japanese control during WWII, Surabaya has a complex and patchwork heritage. It's not unusual to meet Surabaya locals with heritage from other parts of Indonesia, all parts of south-eastern China, the Middle East or Europe. Surabaya is also the only place in Indonesia with a synagogue.


The national language, Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian), is the medium of government, commerce and education. Many locals also speak the regional language, Javanese (sometimes with a local accent). However, there are significant communities speaking Arabic, Cantonese (the language of Guangdong), Hokkien (the language of Fujian) and Mandarin (the now-standard spoken language of China). Most of this variety is centered in the north of the city, closer to the historic maritime center of business. There is also a surprising amount of English visible in Surabaya on advertising and signs.

While the Chinese were the first to record the area in the 13th century under the name 重迦廬 (zhonggala; apparently after the then-current local kingdom Jungala), local Chinese now know the city as 泗水 (sishui), while some further afield call it by a transliterated name 苏腊巴亚 (sulabaya).

Get in

By plane

Juanda Airport (SUB), some half hour or more south of Surabaya

Surabaya's Juanda Airport (IATA: SUB) is the second busiest in the country after Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta, with very frequent flights to Jakarta and other major Indonesian destinations, as well as some direct international flights to destinations including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, Guangzhou and Bandar Seri Begawan.

The airport has two terminals. Terminal 2, on the south side of the airport, opened in 2014 and serves Garuda, Air Asia, and all foreign carriers. Terminal 1, on the north side of the airport, opened in 2006 and serves most other domestic carriers. A free shuttle bus operates between the two terminals; allow at least 30 minutes for the transfer.

Officially, you're supposed to buy fixed-fare taxi coupons from the "Prima Taxi" stand for the 18 km trip into town, around US$7–10 depending on your exact destination. In practice you may be able to get a driver dropping off passengers to pick you up. If you're going further away (e.g. Mount Bromo), it'll be cheaper to a rent a car with a driver instead.

There is an Airport Bus service operated by DAMRI (same company as in Jakarta), which goes to the Bungurasih bus station. Buses stop in front of the terminal, are air-conditioned and reasonably comfortable; a ticket costs Rp 25,000 (8/2015). The bus terminal, however, is hectic and is only slightly closer to the city center than the airport - going there makes sense only if you continue by bus to another city (e.g. Malang, Probolinggo), or do not mind continuing in a local bus.

AirAsia flies daily to Surabaya.

There is a large waiting room on the top of the airport terminal (accessible directly from outside). It could be very useful if your flight is delayed or if you have to wait here for one night.

An airport charge of Rp 150,000 is levied upon passengers departing on international flights, Rp 40,000 for domestic flights.

By train

Surabaya has two main stations, Surabaya Pasar Turi and Surabaya Gubeng. Seats in eksekutif (first class) and bisnis (second class) for any intercity journey can be reserved from 90 days in advance up to 24 hours before departure at any major railway station in Java through e-kiosks serve by yourself. It same with online reserved by minimarket attendant of Alfamart and Indomart and the payment in minimarket can be done by cash also without any additional fee. On the last 24 hours before departure, the ticket is only availabe in the ticket counter at departure station. Senior citizens ages 60 and above are eligible for a 20% discount when the ticket is bought in this time bracket.

Stasiun Pasar Turi

Trains using the northern main line from Gambir Station in Jakarta take at least ten hours to arrive at Pasar Turi, while trains using the southern main line take no less than 15. Air-conditioned trains are available on both routes, though. The Argo Bromo Anggrek, Sembrani and Gumarang trains use the northern line, while the Bima uses the south line. All these trains have air-con eksekutif accommodations.

  • 05:30: Gumarang, from Rp 170,000 to Rp 320,000 in eksekutif, from Rp 104,000 to Rp 175,000 in bisnis; arrival 06:17.
  • 06:30: Sembrani, from Rp 170,000 to Rp 320,000 in eksekutif, no bisnis; arrival 06:23.
  • 08:00: Argo Bromo Anggrek Siang
  • 14:00: Rajawali, Rp 150,000 in eksekutif; arrival 19:09
  • 17:30: Gumarang
  • 18:30: Sembrani
  • 20:00: Argo Bromo Anggrek Malam

Stasiun Gubeng

Trains from Bandung and Yogyakarta use the Gubeng station. The Argo Wilis travels at daytime, allowing passengers to enjoy the scenery in the western part of the route. The Sancaka travels to Yogyakarta via Solo twice a day and takes approximately 6 hours. Railway connections to Bali are made by the twice-a-day Mutiara Timur express to Banyuwangi, transferring to buses before the ferry crossing to Gilimanuk. Don't forget to buy salak bali.

  • 07:30: Argo Willis, from Rp 200,000 to Rp 320,000 in eksekutif, no bisnis; arrival 19:56.
  • 16:00: Mutiara Selatan, from Rp 96,000 to Rp 130,000 in bisnis, no eksekutif; arrival 06:15.
  • 18:00: Turangga, from Rp 180,000 to Rp 320,000 in eksekutif, no bisnis; arrival 07:10.
  • 08:15: Train Sancaka Pagi, from Rp 230,000 to Rp 315,000 in eksekutif, from Rp 75,000 to Rp 160,000 in bisnis arrival 12.57.
  • 15:35: Train Sancaka Sore, from Rp 230,000 to Rp 315,000 in eksekutif, from Rp 75,000 to Rp 160,000 in bisnis; arrival 21:11.

Slow and packed local economy-class trains from Malang arrive at Kota station (also known as Semut) and passing through Gubeng station as they come in from the south.

By boat

By bus

Surabaya has frequent bus connections from all parts of East Java and from major cities in other parts of Java and beyond. The main bus terminal is at Bungurasih, about 10 km south of the city. There are frequent shuttle buses from Malang (Rp 20,000 for air conditioned, less for "ekonomi") and Probolinggo (for Mount Bromo), so just turn up. Long-haul bus journeys are best booked in advance.

Note: The names "Purabaya Terminal" and "Bungurasih Terminal" are used interchangeably to refer to Surabaya's main bus terminal. "Purabaya" is the correct name but it is sometimes called "Bungurasih" because it is located in Bungurasih.

There are many people inside the terminal trying to solicit passengers to the bus of the company from which they get a commission, and they are especially bothersome to the foreigners. If you follow them to the bus, you are likely to get offered an inflated (Rp 200,000 or even more to Bali) price, even though there's an official price list (you can see it at the exit to the platform). Ticket offices do not guarantee you to be safe from overcharging - most of them are private, and there's no price posted on the window, so shop around. It may make sense to bargain if the price is certainly too high. Prices may be slightly higher during high demand periods like weekends and public holidays.

To Denpasar in Bali, fair price is Rp 100,000-120,000 by eksekutif night bus, including the ferry trip between Banyuwangi and Gilimanuk, mineral water and a meal. Buses depart from Bungurasih bus terminal in Surabaya, and arrive in Gubeng bus terminal in Denpasar. Duration: 10-12 hr.

A ticket to Jakarta should cost Rp 130,000-150,000 in eksekutif bus - however the trip may be extremely tedious. The road is one of the busiest in Indonesia - despite that, much of it has only one lane in each direction, and there are lots of slow heavy trucks. There will be 3 or 4 rest stops on the way (20–30 minutes each), and at least some traffic jams near Jakarta, so even in an express bus what was advertised as 13–14 hours journey could easily turn into 18 or even 20.

By minibus

Another option is to go by minibus (known in Indonesia as travel). A number of companies run door-to-door minibus services from and to major destinations in Java, including Malang and Yogyakarta. These services are both more convenient and more expensive than public buses. Seats can be booked in advance through company offices, and also through many hotels and travel agents.

Get around

By taxi

Taxis are plentiful on the streets of Surabaya. Some taxis are not renowned for their reliability so stick to the well known firms: Blue Bird Group ☎+62 31 3721234, Orenz Taxi ☎ +62 31 8799999, Silver and Express. Always insist on a metered fare. Figure on Rp 20,000 for a cross-town trip and Rp 70,000 to the airport. Drivers will expect a minimum fare of Rp 15,000 for short trips and for longer trips, pay the fare shown on the meter rounded up to the nearest multiple of Rp 1,000. Drivers will appreciate a tip of a few thousand rupiah. Blue Bird has increased its minimum payment to 25,000, but it's still the most reliable taxi company.

Since the fuel price hike in November 2014, there are some taxi operators that still use the old tariff, such as Zebra Nusantara Taxi which uses gas for its taxi, so the Zebra operator never increases the taxi tariff if the gas price is not increased yet. Zebra still uses the old flag-fall tariff Rp 5,500 for the first kilometer. The cheapest tariff among taxi operators. Zebra Taxi has been a public company for about 10 years and reliable enough. ☎ +62 31 8416666.

A trip from Stasiun Gubeng to Pasar Keputran should cost around Rp 20,000.

By train

Commuter city trains are extremely limited, serving some parts of Surabaya and Sidoarjo.

Train Stations in Surabaya

By bus

This is a large populous city and buses are usually crowded. There are two class of bus: standard buses which are usually very full and patas buses (supposed to be first class, but it is still... a bus.)

By minibus

Bemos in East Java are sometimes called Angkot or Mikrolet. They are plentiful in Surabaya and can be hailed fairly randomly.

Angguna (Angkutan Serba Guna or multi-purpose transport) are basically non-airconditioned, non-metered (bargain the price) taxis. This makes them cheaper than taxis but they are often in a poor state of repair.

By becak

Becak (cycle rickshaw) are a traditional form of transportation in Surabaya. Surprisingly, they are still visible everywhere in the city, unlike throughout most of Southeast Asia where they have nearly vanished already. Expect to pay around Rp 5,000 for a short-hop, or Rp 10,000 for a few blocks, Rp 20,000 for a multi-block haul. Drivers may not want to go a long way, and if it's stinking hot have a heart and pay them some more money. Note that some of them have sun and rain covers, though these can be a bit low at times. Also, they can vary quite a bit in width: if you are 'big boned' you might need one to yourself.

By car

Another option to discover Surabaya is by car and there are many car rental companies.


Hok An Kiong Chinese Temple: Photographed at the turn of the 20th century. The oldest Chinese temple in Surabaya, it was founded in the early 19th century, so it was already perhaps nearly a hundred years old.
Kya-Kya Kembang Jepun: The gateway to Chinatown, formerly Japantown.
Scene in the Chinese district of Surabaya during the inauguration of Queen Wilhelmina.
Monumen Kapal Selam, a Soviet-built, ex-navy submarine
The Arab Quarter, Surabaya. Gerard Pieter Adolfs, oil on canvas, 35x35cm, 1934. Adolfs grew up in Java and was already well known and respected for his images of Asia; "He tells us about the special mixture of the intimate and the fantastic in an old quarter of Surabaya" - De Telegraaf, Amsterdam, 2 June 1929.
Gate near the Ampel Mosque in Surabaya's Arab quarter, photographer unknown. 14 January 1927. This is today the southern portal to the Ampel Mosque bazaar, and stands almost unaltered 85 years later.
Pasar Keputran: apparently a small local market
Surabaya Cathedral
Surabaya Zoo: one of the largest in Southeast Asia



Surabaya boasts some of South-East Asia's largest shopping malls. Try to shop between 1 May and 30 June when the Surabaya big sale is on. Discounts are up to 50% at this time.



Tunjungan Plaza: The largest consumer mecca in town

Factory outlet


BG Junction shopping center. The food court is terrible.





rujak cingur: Surabaya's local, saucy, cow nose salad (not to be confused with the other ones)
lo mie: egg and noodle soup
dendeng sapi dari: beef jerky
tahu telor: tofu topped with vegetables
tahu telor: tofu and vegetables
kue lapis: Surabayan layer cake
lontong kupang: rice cake served with small saltwater clams (Corbula faba H), a specialty dish in Eastern Java, especially in Surabaya and Sidoarjo.

Surabaya is famous for rujak cingur, a local salad with sauce and cingur (slices of cooked cow nose). Try also the sate kelopo, satay with coconut rasp which you can find in Jalan Walikota Mustajab.

Surabaya is home to a huge number of restaurants - this is an eating culture.

Don't forget to try pecel, gado-gado, semanggi, bakso, es cendol, es campur, es teler, and es kacang ijo (mung bean milk).

Kue lapis Surabaya is the local variety of a cake that's made throughout large parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.



Fast food

Ice cream and pastry


The tap water is unsafe to drink, make sure you order your drinks or soft drinks that come in sealed bottles. One drinking water brand that is pretty well known here is Cheers, the official drinking water of Surabaya approved by the city government.





Stay safe

As with any big city, never let your guard down, because big cities such as Surabaya have a reputation among Indonesians for a mid crime rate. That said, Surabaya has few real dangers for visitors apart from the perils of crossing the very busy roads (the secret is to raise an arm while crossing, and to progress with a predictable speed and bearing, allowing the traffic to flow around you). Don't walk on the streets, especially at night other than the CBD area, if you can avoid it since you won't have anything to sightsee. Bring along your face mask if you travel by foot during rush hour since the traffic will be chaos and the air pollution is bad. (Around 16:30 to 18:30) Be polite to the people, since Surabayans tend to swear easily which is very common. Do not easily trust people you have just met, even if they look friendly.

Stay healthy

Avoid drinking tap water. Bottled water is available in most places. One of the trusted brands is Cheers, the official drinking water of Sparkling Surabaya.

Surabaya has hospitals with 24 hr emergency rooms Unit Gawat Darurat (UDG) (ER)


By phone

The international code for Indonesia is +62. Local Surabaya phone numbers will start +62 31 xxx xxxx or +62 31 xxxx xxxx for the CDMA provider or +62 8xx xxxx xxxx for the GSM provider.

There are four main telecommunication providers in Surabaya: Telkom, Telkomsel, Indosat, and XL.

To make an international call from Surabaya, dial the access code 001 (for Indosat), 007 (for Telkom/Telkomsel), or 008 (for Indosat), followed by the country code, area code and party's number. Recently the providers have started offering cheaper rates for calls using Internet telephony routes (VOIP). The access codes for this cheaper service are 01016 for Indosat provider and 01017 for Telkom and Telkomsel provider.

By net

If you have your own laptop, it may run free wifi networks at many malls. Ask at the information desk for access codes. Free hotspots are also available in most restaurants and cafes. Several hotels also provide free hotspots in their lobby. All major hotels provide internet access in one or more ways; simply ask them about this when you make your booking.

Alternatively, if you have a compatible 3G mobile phone and a laptop, tethering to your PC is the quickest way to gain internet access although speeds might not impress. Note that prepaid SIM cards can be purchased very easily and cheaply, and that service activation is completed on the user's phone very quickly. Once activated, recharge with credits as necessary. Internet access is usually available at this stage; refer to your phone's user manual for tethering instructions. Operators will usually offer internet packets that offer cheaper access fees-instructions to access these services are available in the booklet that comes with your SIM card (i.e. XL's services are accessible by dialing *123#). BlackBerry Internet Service is readily available and can be registered similarly on the prepaid SIM.

Internet cafes are available in many parts of the city with a price of Rp 4,000-Rp 5,000 per hour. However, most of them only have dial-up capabilities. Most of the internet cafes can be found around universities, and in most shopping malls.

Internet speeds in Surabaya are rarely fast, regardless of your connection. They are usually sufficient to make decent Skype voice calls, although HD video calling may not be possible. Temporarily disabling software updates (Windows Update, security software updates, Adobe Updater, etc.) may help maximise access speeds.

Tourism information office

  1. Jl Wisata Menanggal, . ☎ +62 31 8531815, +62 31 8531820.
  2. TIC Balai Pemuda, Jl Pemuda Surabaya, ☎ +62 31 5340444


Police stations


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