Mudik, the Most Hectic Time in Indonesia


There are many names for it all over the world. Some call it a homecoming, Diwali, Songkran,  and many more. In Indonesia, it’s called mudik, mass travel from big cities to homes which usually is located in rural areas. This yearly phenomenon is not only awaited but also celebrated by many.

muslim couple with suitcase and backpack. family travelling eid mubarak mudik tradition. via shutterstock/oduaimages

Another term used in Indonesia is ‘pulang kampung’ which has a similar meaning. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem unless they do it all at the same time, flooding the roads with vehicles, creating traffic jams island-wide. That’s just a glimpse of what mudik is. Here is what you need to know about mudik.

Return to hometown

It’s hectic on the street. via Instagram/ninik_ciptati_handayani

The term mudik comes from the world ‘udik’, meaning to go south or upstream. Over time, mudik has shifted its meaning into going back to the hometown. People who work in big cities decide to return to their homes once a year. This tradition is not new at all. During Majapahit era, many nobles and royals left the capital city of Trowulan to their ancestral homes. This tradition can also be seen in many other tribes in Indonesia.

Mostly done by migrant workers

People who go home from big cities are usually migrant workers who come from rural areas. Every year, about eight million people go to the street to go home. After a year working in big cities like Jakarta and Surabaya, they go home to their families. Most of them are from Central Java. Apart from creating chaos on the streets, this mass exodus also leaves the big cities somewhat empty. Most of the inhabitants in Jakarta and Surabaya are leaving town at the same time.

Happens during major holidays

The traffic jam happens 24 hours a day. via Instagram/infocrbcom

Mudik is usually done during Ramadan, a few days before Lebaran or Ied el-Fitr. That is why the Lebaran holiday in Indonesia takes so much time. In 2019, for example, most offices give their employees 10 days of holiday. However, people also go home during long holidays. The Christians, for example, commonly mudik during Christmas and New Year holidays.

Homecoming with extended family

Lebaran homecoming in his hometown greet each other apologizing with friends during the Eid. via Shutterstock/Odua Images.

The main reason people coming home is to visit their family, especially parents. Lebaran also provides rare opportunities to gather with the members of extended families. Usually, many of the relatives are scattered in other cities and they can only meet them all during Lebaran. This is the best time to catch up with everyone.

The toll roads are well connected now. via Instagram/irul.oziq

Mudik period is the most hectic time in Indonesia. Train stations, airport, bus stations, and harbors are full of people who want to go home, return to the place they grow up.

Indonesia Lebaran Mudik