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An aerial photo of a traffic jam at a toll booth of a highway, as Indonesian Muslims go back to their hometown to celebrate Eid Al Fitr. Image Credit: Reuters

Jakarta: On motorcycles, cars, buses, planes or by boat, millions of Indonesians are travelling to their hometowns in the annual Eid holiday exodus that is expected to peak by Thursday.

Major seaports and toll roads are packed, while airports and bus terminals are also full of travellers looking forward to reuniting with their families.

This year marks the first "mudik", as the annual exodus is known, since Covid-19 restrictions were removed at the end of 2022 in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

Indonesia's transport ministry has predicted up to 123 million people will travel for Eid this year, up from 85 million estimated to have made the trip last year.

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Travelers crowd the access out of Indonesia's capital Jakarta, in Bekasi as they head out to their hometowns to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with their families. Image Credit: AFP

Some 18 million people are forecast to leave the Greater Jakarta area alone, enduring hours of traffic or congested airports and seaports to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with families.

Authorities have temporarily made some highways leaving the capital one way to ease congestion.

"I'm happy to meet my parents after quite a while and to be able to perform Eid prayer together," Muhammad Naufal Vadina told AFP by phone on Wednesday.

He was taking a break during a trip that involves driving more than 350 kilometres (220 miles) from Tangerang on Jakarta's western outskirts to his wife's hometown in Central Java.

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Passengers wait for a bus, to return to their hometowns, known locally as 'mudik', ahead of the Eid Al Fitr celebration, at Kampung Rambutan Terminal in Jakarta, Indonesia. Image Credit: Reuters

Some 500 travellers had a rare chance to sail aboard an Indonesian Navy warship, which left Jakarta on Tuesday on a trip that included stops in Semarang in Central Java and Surabaya in the island's east.

"We found out on Instagram that the Navy has a free 'mudik' programme using a warship. It was our first time having such a journey," said 33-year-old passenger Nurul Febryanti.

"It is enjoyable for us because we are provided with a room as we brought our children. The Navy officers are kind and friendly," Febryanti said.

Hours spent in traffic did not deter others from making the annual trip because they were looking forward to reuniting with loved ones after the pandemic.

"For me, 'mudik' and the Eid al-Fitr is why I work to earn money. So it feels less meaningful if I don't celebrate Eid in my hometown," said 29-year-old Rahayu Agustini, who was travelling with her relatives to her hometown in West Java.

"Although it is exhausting, I'm still grateful as not all people can have the chance to experience 'mudik'."