Travel Tips for Jakarta Indonesia

I’ve had a request from my friend Simon to give him a few tips about his upcoming trip to Jakarta, Indonesia. Although this is a response directly to Simon, it may have general interest for anyone contemplating a trip to Jakarta.

I assume that you’re going to arrive by air, in which case, you’ll land at Soekarno Hatta International Airport, which is about 20 kilometres from central Jakarta.  I assume that you will be wanting to go somewhere in central Jakarta.  There is a bus that leaves from the airport, but unless you know exactly where you are going it may be safest to take a taxi.  Be warned though, there are touts who approach once you exit the terminal. And it is definitely not recommended that you do business with them, as you will probably get ripped off.  The major taxi companies do have booths at the airport, and they will have fixed prices to get to various parts of Jakarta.  One of those companies is Bluebird, who I recommended in one of my Bali blogs for being honest and reliable. Here is a link to Bluebird the only reason that I recommend them is because I have used them and was satisfied with their service.  Other people may have had bad service, in which case, please write a comment to let us know. Bluebird also offers an airport transfer service. I haven’t costed it, but it would be more expensive than a normal cab, but at least the transfer would give you a sense of security, here’s where you can book it online.

Depending on what time you arrive in Jakarta, you journey into the city will be either reasonably pleasant or, if you arrive during peak hour, be prepared to endure a couple of hours of traffic jam.

Jakarta is a city of 8 million people and no decent public transport infrastructure, until you get to know it well enough to use public transport, taxis are probably your best bet.

I’m not sure what style of accommodation your are looking for, but Trip Advisor has 160 Jakarta hotels reviewed by people who’ve stayed in them, and the reviews include everything from luxurious five-star resorts to fleapits. I always read the reviews in Trip Advisor before choosing a hotel that I haven’t stayed in before, and then I compare prices on my favourite hotel booking sites, that are bookmarked on the right side of this page.  The reason why I do that is because the booking agencies usually have better rates at some hotels and not others, or they may be better than other agencies at getting you the room that you want.  I don’t recommend one over another because I’ve used them all and have found that they all have different strengths and weaknesses, hence the reason I compare. If you want to save on accommodation, Hostelworld has a number of reviews as well.  Some hostels are really good, a bit more basic than your average hotel, but some will outshine the cheaper hotels in cleanliness and value for money.  Or you can try guesthouses for something more homely. I’ve stayed in guesthouses (although not in Jakarta), and they can be fantastic.

SIGHTSEEING

Some of the most popular places for sightseeing in Jakarta are:

Kota
The centre of old Batavia, the Kota district, is the tourist hub of Jakarta. The heart of the action is on historic Taman Fatahillah, a cobbled timewarp of a square that still somehow survives in modern Jakarta. Sunda Kelapa is the old port area and many of the scenes there today are unchanged since the likes of Joseph Conrad evocatively described the sailing schooners striding around the high seas and then tying up at the quayside here to trade exotic spices.

Free admission.

Maritime Museum
What was once a warehouse as far back as the 19th century for the Dutch down in Sunda Kelapa is now fittingly home to a museum that tells the story of Jakarta’s rich maritime history. Model boats and faded sepia photos depicting various adventures at sea and in and around the Batavia waterfront are the highlights. The old watchtower offers good views out over the area.

Jalan Pasar Ikan 1
Tel: (021) 669 3406.
Admission charge.

National Museum
The city’s most impressive museum really delves into the history both of the capital city and the rest of Indonesia. The 19th-century building is suitably dramatic and its highlights include early Chinese ceramics, pieces culled from Java’s myriad temples and a bronze elephant that was gifted to the museum by the King of Thailand. The museum is also home to a number of eclectic temporary exhibitions.

Merdeka Square
Tel: (021) 381 1551.
Website: www.museumnasional.org
Admission charge.

National Monument
This literally unmissable column rises over 130m (426.5ft) into the heavens above Independence Square. It is a potent symbol to many people in many ways. For some it is a celebration of Indonesia’s successful drive to escape from the claws of the European colonial powers, while others see it as a fittingly vacuous legacy of the man who commissioned its construction, Soeharto, the former dictator still beloved of some Indonesians but reviled by many others. At a time when much of the country lived in poverty, its grand gold leaf topping said enough for many critics.

Merdeka Square
Free admission.

There’s also the Ancol Dream Park, which is on the waterfront.  It has a Seaworld, Ocean Park and other amusement parks, hotels and beaches within its boundaries.

SHOPPING

Shopping is good in Jakarta, and it is also relatively cheap.  There are many shopping malls throughout the city, which are all modern and similar to ours. Jakarta also has a number of markets selling everything from antiques (probably fake) to clothing.   Just go to The Visitors Information Centre is located in the Jakarta Theatre Building, Jalan MH. Thamrin No. 9, tel.: 314 2067, 316 1293, 315 4094. For more information whilst in Jakarta.

BREATHING

You don’t often get a headline called `Breathing’ when plugging a tourist destination, but the air in Jakarta is dead set foul.  When I was there, it felt like I was gargling kerosene it was so bad.  My bit of advice about breathing: when you’re in the middle of a traffic jam, do not wind down the taxi window, or you will regret it.  You will need to wash your clothes after you’ve left Jakarta, because the smell on them just hangs around.  Jakarta is a modern, bustling metropolis, but it has been let down by government officials who’ve done nothing to alleviate a very bad situation there.

I remember sitting on the plane when I was leaving, and we had to climb several thousand feet before we got out of that horrible, brown much they call air.

I’ve only been to Jakarta for business.  To be honest, I wouldn‘t go there as a tourist, because I don’t think it has enough attractions to keep tourists enthralled, and the traffic is so bad, to get anywhere turns out to be a bad experience.  Having said that, I have enjoyed myself in Jakarta, and the people with whom I interacted where lovely and friendly.

I know that I may have put a bit of a downer on your forthcoming trip, but for all I know the air may be clear during your stay.  In which case, could you bottle some and bring it back for me?

6 comments to Travel Tips for Jakarta Indonesia

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