This post was last updated on July 10th, 2020 at 09:18 am
The busy traffic rings, the honking in your ears, and the heat hit you in the face as soon as you set foot in Jakarta. Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, stimulates all your senses. If you want to experience the real Indonesia, start your tour through Java in the metropolis of Jakarta.
Jakarta is a busy and chaotic city, and that is not surprising with more than nine million inhabitants. This dynamic metropolis is brimming with people, traffic, modern skyscrapers, and self-built market stalls. Wander the narrow paths of the many kampongs (neighborhoods), hop in a tuk-tuk to explore Jakarta, or try Indonesian food at a street stall.
The locals often say that Jakarta is the engine of Java and Yogyakarta is its soul. Don’t try to make sense of Jakarta, let yourself be carried away by the heat, chaos, and crowds to experience the best of this city.
History of Jakarta
Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, takes its name from the Islamic general Falatehan of the sultanate of Demak. In 1527, Falatehan expelled the Portuguese from Sunda Kelapa, the then capital of the Hindu empire of Pajajaran.
He renamed the city Jaya Karta, City of Victory. In 1619 Jaya Karta was destroyed by Governor-General Jan Pieterszoon Coen, who renamed the city Batavia.
Batavia would turn into the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C.). They tried to rebuild the city in such a way that it would resemble a Dutch city with canals. These included a fortified fort and a number of department stores.
However, the humid climate and location in a low-lying swamp area contributed to the outbreak of diseases. Shortly after 1800, the city was expanded because the Dutch moved more to the south. The center was moved to a higher area.
World War II
In 1942 during World War II, the Japanese occupied Indonesia and also Batavia. To win the sympathy of the Indonesians, the city was renamed to Jakarta. After Japan lost the war, the return of the Dutch was prevented and Indonesia was declared independent, the name Jakarta was maintained.
From 1949, Jakarta would become the center of government, business, and industry. More than 9 million people live in an area of over 650 square kilometers. Jakarta is also classified as DKI, which means that the city is governed by a governor. It has the same status as a province.
17 Best Things to Do in Jakarta
Jakarta has a number of highlights that you must see during your holiday in the capital of Indonesia. Many sights in Jakarta have associations with the past, such as the independence square Medan Merdeka and Taman Fatahillah square. We’ve listed the best things to do in Jakarta, below!
1. Explore Jakarta’s Chinatown
Like almost every major city, Jakarta also has its own Chinatown. Jakarta’s Chinatown, or “Glodok” as it is called by locals, is an important place in the capital. It is the only place in Jakarta where you can eat traditional Chinese dishes, or shop for Chinese products.
Everything is for sale here, from cheap electronics to food and clothing. You will also find many beautiful Chinese temples here. This part of the city is often included in tours to Old Town, where you can enjoy a nice walk through the old part of the city.
TIP – Try out the Walking Tour. It’s an awesome experience!
2. Discover the Old City District – Kota Tua
Jakarta is a modern city with large glass towers, hotels, and bank buildings. You also have to search hard to find some remnants of the real old city center. However, especially in the Kota Tua district, there are a lot of buildings that date back to the time of the Batavia fort. Unaffected by all the changes in the city, they now usually serve as a museum, office, or café.
The Kota Tua district is located in the north of Jakarta, near the Java Sea. Taman Fatahillah square is located in the center. A tribute to Prince Fatahillah who conquered ‘Sunda Kelapa’ from the Portuguese in the 16th century and gave her the name Jakarta. The square with real old-fashioned Dutch pavers has changed little since its heyday in the 17th century. Just the name. Back then it was still called Stadhuisplein.
Around it lie three colonial buildings with museums. In the south is the Jakarta History Museum. On the east side the Balai Seni Rupa (Museum of Fine Arts) and on the west side the Wayang Museum.
3. Admire the Istiqlal Mosque
Jakarta is home to one of the largest mosques in the world. The Istiqlal mosque can accommodate up to 120,000 people. There are only two other mosques in the world where more people can come together at the same time.
The huge building was completed in 1978 after a construction period of almost 18 years.
Istiqlal stands for independence. The mosque was built after Indonesia was declared independent of the Netherlands. As a tourist, you are more than welcome to visit the mosque. However, do dress appropriately and leave your shoes at the entrance.
4. Go to Sunda Kelapa
Sunda Kelapa is the old port of Jakarta and is located at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. The port was very important to the Portuguese in the 16th century for trade with the Hindu Kingdom of Pajajaran. Remains of the old Fort Batavia can still be found in the harbor.
The old harbor is better known as Pasar Ikan, the fish market. In the early morning, they sold fish here. From Sunda Kelapa, the Dutch began to dominate Jakarta and the rest of Indonesia.
The remains of Batavia Castle, an old harbor and trading post of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), can still be seen. Other remains are the old shipyards and a number of department stores. The Maritime Museum Bahari is located in two department stores. In these buildings where merchandise such as spices, coffee, tea, and copper was stored, you can now view traditional sailing ships.
Today Sunda Kelapa is a fishing wharf and a departure point to other islands. Every day a number of Buginese schooners, traditional boats from South Sulawesi, are moored in the harbor.
5. Visit the Puppet Museum
The Puppet Museum, or Wayang Museum, is the doll museum of Indonesia. Wayang (puppetry) is very important within the culture of Indonesia. In Jakarta and the rest of Java, you can enjoy a lot of performances. The Puppet Museum is located in a former church, built by the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
Today you will find a huge collection of dolls, masks, and everything related to the performing arts from Indonesia.
TIP – The entrance fee is 5,000 IDR (about US$0.35) p.p. and the museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
6. Take a trip to the Thousand Islands
The Thousand Islands, or Pulau Seribu, are a relatively unknown archipelago near Jakarta. It’s the perfect getaway for travelers who are spending just a little too much time in Jakarta. They are certainly not the most beautiful islands, but if you have the time and you’re near Jakarta, the Thousand Islands are definitely recommended.
The easiest way to get there is to take the ferry from Marina Ancol. It takes about half an hour to two hours, depending on which island you choose. It is also best to buy your tickets at Marina Ancol.
TIP – You can read more about these islands on our Thousand Islands page.
7. Shopping at Pasar Baru
Pasar Baru is a market and one of the few streets that are pedestrian-friendly. You will find many locals here who sell everything, from clothing to food and watches. There are many vintage fashion stalls where you can buy copies of trendy clothes for very low prices.
You will also find the best local dishes here. Well worth a visit!
8. Visit the Beach
You don’t expect to find many beaches in Jakarta, but they’re there. You can go to the beach at Ancol. Here you will find a beach amusement park (Dufan) where many locals come. Don’t imagine a beach with white sand and clear water because you will not find it here. It is more like a water park like Waterbom in Kuta (Bali).
The beach is also not very clean, but it may be an option if you want to enjoy the sunset while sitting in a cafe after visiting Dufan.
TIP – Read more about beaches on Java Island.
9. Visit Medan Merdeka
In the center of Jakarta lies the Medan Merdeka, or Freedom Square. This square is hundreds of years old and is surrounded by government buildings. The main attraction of Merdeka square, however, is the National Monument, also known as the Monas. The Monas National Monument is a tower of over 130 meters high.
The Monas National Monument was built by the order of Sukarno and completed in 1975. The top of the National Monument consists of a bronze flame covered with a whopping 25 kilos of gold.
The National Museum, the oldest museum in Indonesia, is located on the west side of the square. Southeast Asia’s largest mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque, is located on the east side of Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara.
At the time of Governor-General Daendels, the square was used for military exercises. In 1818 it was renamed Koningsplein, the center of Batavia’s power. In the 1960s anti-imperialist and national speeches of Sukarno were given here.
TIP – For 15,000 IDR (around US$1) you can go up with the elevator. This offers a magnificent view of the city.
10. Visit Museum Sejarah Jakarta
The Museum Sejarah Jakarta, the Historical Museum, is located in the old city hall of Old Batavia. In 1627, the building was taken into use as a town hall. It is the oldest building in this region and the former city hall of Jakarta.
It looks a bit like the old city hall of Amsterdam, the palace on the Dam. You cannot possibly miss it. From this place, Indonesia was administered and the city of Jakarta was starting to take form.
Today you can learn more about the historical background of Jakarta in this museum. In the 37 beautifully decorated rooms you can still taste the atmosphere of the colonial era. There are old folders and portraits on display, as well as furniture and porcelain previously owned by the colonial governors in Jakarta.
From 1966 to 1977, when the Dutch had only just left Jakarta, Governor Ali Sadikin presented plans here to modernize and expand the entire city. Strangely enough, the city hall and its square did not change with the rest of Jakarta. Some parts of the building were thoroughly renovated in 1980, but the original style has been preserved as much as possible.
One of the Indonesian heroes, Diponegoro, is said to have been detained in the basement of this town hall before being exiled to South Sulawesi. The basement of the town hall was used as a dungeon for people who were nominated to be tried. In many cases, this was no longer necessary because the basement was constantly underwater so often only the human remains had to be removed.
11. Taman Mini Indonesia
Taman Mini Indonesia is located in the east of Jakarta on an area of 160 hectares. In this complex, you get to know the different cultures of the 27 provinces of Indonesia.
A miniature replica of the most characteristic architecture can be seen from each province. You will see the typical Batak houses from Sumatra and the Toraja houses from South Sulawesi.
In addition to architecture, there are also countless artifacts on display and 35 mannequins walking around in local wedding costumes. There is also an orchid garden with hundreds of species of Indonesian orchids, a bird garden, and an animal museum. For the visitors, there are also a number of restaurants and a swimming pool. A beautiful lake has been built in the center of the complex.
12. Visit Kali Besar
West of the Taman Fatahillah lies Kali Besar, the most Dutch part of all of Jakarta. The Kali Besar is a large channel that flows into the Sungai Ciliwun River. This was once the major access road to Jakarta. Boats full of supplies left from this channel towards the Netherlands.
The wealthiest authorities and merchants built huge buildings along the canal. Almost all of these buildings are still intact and now mostly serve as an office building. One of the most beautiful examples is the Toko Merah or the red house. This was the home of the wealthy governor Van Imhoff. It has stones painted red and an overwhelmingly luxurious interior with mahogany furniture.
On the north side of the Kali Besar stands the last Dutch drawbridge; the Chicken Market Bridge.
13. Jalan Sidoarjo
On the corner of Jalan HOS Cokroaminoto and the Jalan Sidoarjo, where the popular blues café BB is located, the first street food stall was opened. Night owls came here from all over Jakarta to buy a portion of nasi gila (crazy fried rice).
The crazy thing about this fried rice is that it doesn’t amount to much: some rice with frankfurters, bakso meatballs, chicken and a lot of hot cabe (a kind of vegetable). The latter provides the necessary flavor.
They ate food here while sitting on the steps of a bench with a plate on their lap. Simple but with a great atmosphere that attracted everyone from businessmen to fishermen. Of course, it did not stop at this one street food stall in Jakarta. Soon there was a stall with sateh padang and one with dim sum and the street was quickly packed with stalls selling the most delicious local dishes.
The stalls have now been replaced by sponsored carts and tables with logos from well-known brands. Fortunately, all these changes have not been able to replace the original atmosphere. The food is just as tasty, the service is very friendly, there are musicians who play for some money and the wide variety of people are still there.
14. Enjoy Yourself at Dunia Fantasi
Jakarta has its own amusement park. Dunia Fantasi has over thirty rides, including a rollercoaster, a Ferris wheel, and an Indonesian version of Disney’s ‘It’s a small world’. In addition, there is a water park with several swimming pools and slides, a cable car and you can visit theater shows. It’s a great activity for families with children, couples, and… well, anyone!
15. Jakarta Art and Cultural Center
The Jakarta Art Center ‘Taman Ismail Marzuki’ is the focal point for cultural activities in the city. It is one of the largest cultural centers in Southeast Asia. The T.I.M. has several exhibition halls, theaters, an art academy, an archive building, and a planetarium.
In recent years, the center has not only focused on contemporary Indonesian art but also increasingly on international art. Almost every evening you can watch a performance of traditional and modern dance, local and foreign films, poetry readings, theater, and many types of music. Every month there are also performances by the Jakarta Symphony Orchestra and various art performances.
16. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics
In this 1870’s neoclassical building, to the east of the Taman Fatahillah in Jakarta, you can enjoy the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics. The Court of Justice was previously located in this colonial building. The museum has a collection of Indonesian paintings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In the museum you can see ‘The regent of Lebak’ by Raden Saleh, but also modern works by Haryononto, Mirna, and Hardi are part of the collection. There are also a large number of naturalistic and abstract sculptures.
In the ceramic part of the museum, you will not only see contemporary local ceramics but also sixteenth to eighteenth-century ceramics from other parts of Asia and Europe. One of the best parts of the gallery is a collection of antique porcelain, which was left to Jakarta by former vice president Adam Malik.
17. Café Batavia
Café Batavia is located opposite the Museum Sejarah Jakarta. In Batavia’s time, this building was a warehouse and department store. In 1992, the building underwent a thorough renovation and was transformed into a luxury eatery. The owners have chosen their style well. Everything in this cafe exudes the atmosphere of the last period of the Batavia. The chairs, the accessories, and even the music.
The only modern thing about this cafe is the huge amount of photos. No less than 300! Every free piece of wall, from the entrance to the toilet, has been used for pictures of international stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, and Elton John. You have to search well to see photos of famous Indonesians. The only ones that stand out a bit are those of the patriot Kartini and Guruh Sukarnoputra with his famous dance group Swarah Mahardika.
Even the menu is full of photos. The food here is very good but it’s adapted to the tourists. They only serve European and Chinese dishes here. Birdcages hang throughout the building to keep the Betawi culture alive. Keeping birds in a cage is a hobby of the Betawi. Unfortunately, there are no real songbirds in these cages. They are illuminated and all have the Betawi colors of red and green.
When the sun goes down, the street scene of Jakarta changes. The busy roads are almost deserted and there is a relaxed, cozy atmosphere. Years ago there was not much to do around this hour. Nowadays you can go to hip bars and clubs, dine in chic restaurants or visit special events.
In Jakarta, there is a high turnover of bars and clubs. There are all kinds of bars where you can start or end your evening. There are cafes where you mainly see tourists, but also lounge-like bars where you can meet everyone from local stars to Chinese tourists. There are many hip clubs that belong to big hotels and are centrally located in the city. There are also clubs on higher floors in office blocks.
To get to the bars and clubs you will have to take a taxi. Most entertainment venues are not close to each other. Fortunately, this is not expensive. You can spend some time in a club for a few dollars and the price of drinks is not exactly high. You’ll spend about a dollar on alcoholic drinks and even less on soft drinks.
Since the Jakarta nightlife is an expensive affair for many Indonesians, you will mainly encounter Europeans, Americans, Australians, wealthy Indonesians, and local ladies with light morals. A number of entertainment venues have specialized in one culture. There is the Italian Café Pisa, Brazilians are always dancing in Salsa, and you can find many Indians in Hasara.
Clubs and Bars
A popular café is the Hard Rock Café in Plaza Indonesia. This American rock bar has become a phenomenon in Java. With live music and concerts, the café is not only a fun place to eat a burger, but also a place to party. At this Plaza, you will find an entertainment center, where you can shop, eat and hang out.
Since 2003, Jakarta has been home to Centro 360, a chain from Singapore. The club consists of five floors and houses the Centro (disco), La Dolce Vita (live music), Yoshi’s (Japanese restaurant), Cicada (bistro), and the penthouse La Terazza (a private club for members of Centro 360). Centro 360 is located in Dharmawangsa.
Jakarta is home to dozens of karaoke bars, so if you love singing or are in a crazy mood, then Jakarta is the place to be.
Even after all the modernizations of the city, the Jakarta nightlife is still the same as it always was in various places, such as in the south of the city. In BB’s Bluescafé you can go for real, intimate concerts and then enjoy life on the street. When the sun comes up and the streets are filled with traffic jams, it is difficult to imagine that music is made here in the middle of the night and that you can enjoy a nice meal.
At first glance, Jalan Sudirman in the Senayan district of South Jakarta appears to be an empty street with little to do. But at night this street turns into a real race track. When the cafes close, the rough life on the street really starts. The world of illegal street racing begins here.
The youngsters take to the streets in groups. They fill the night with the hum of imported scooters and amped-up cars. You can see Vespas and Ducatis in front of the brightly lit 24-hour chains such as McDonald’s and Starbucks.
When the police cars around the corner disappear, the engines are started and the street comes alive. Onlookers rush out of the cars and a, often drunk, starter finds himself in the middle of the street. Everyone is allowed to race, no matter what car you have. The races end almost as quickly as they started when the police cars return and put an end to gambling and racing.
Jakarta Food & Drinks
In Jakarta, you have a lot of choices when it comes to food. There are countless occasions where you can get acquainted with Indonesian cuisine. Whether it’s hot spiced Padang meals or delicious Ujung Pandang chicken dishes, the different regions of the archipelago are well represented here. A good place to start is the small food courts. Here you will not only discover your favorite dishes but also see how the different meals are prepared.
In Jakarta, you can enjoy more than just Indonesian cuisine. If you need a break from rice after traveling through Asia for a while, you can get dishes from America, Brazil, India, France, Italy, Mexico, Japan, and even from the Netherlands. You can choose from both the more expensive and the more affordable eateries.
Restaurants in hotels are always more expensive. If you want to eat cheaply, go to one of the many fast-food chains in Jakarta. For a more authentic experience, head to the street food stalls.
Street Food Stalls
Gerobak or Kakilima food carts are everywhere on the streets offering local delicacies. Please make sure that the food is well cooked; it’s better to avoid raw vegetable salads. It is also best to buy drinks only if they are offered in sealed bottles. Only buy your fruit with peel and you will have a great time.
In the various warung stands you can also go for the local specialties, you can get a complete meal here cheaper than in a restaurant. On the weekends there will be more popular warungs because many young people like to pass the time outside.
Best Time to Visit Jakarta
The best time to visit Jakarta in Indonesia is from January to December. These months have a warm temperature and barely to moderate rainfall. The highest average temperature in Jakarta is 32°C (89.6°F) in October and the lowest is 30°C(86°F) in January. The weather and climate of Jakarta are suitable for a sun holiday.
The average climate figure for Jakarta is 8.6/10. This is based on various factors, such as average temperatures, the chance of precipitation, and weather experiences of others.
Jakarta has 2 types of climates, namely the monsoon climate and tropical savanna climate. The average climate of Jakarta, the monthly temperature, or when most rain or snow falls, can be found below. This way you are well prepared for your next trip or holiday. This average monthly climate data is based on data from the past 30 years.
Jakarta Weather by Month
Where to Stay in Jakarta
Jakarta is a metropolis that attracts a lot of tourists every year. Many conferences and other meetings are held here. There are also many hotels, guesthouses, and resorts in Jakarta. Most backpackers who stay in budget or mid-range accommodations often stay in Jalan Jaksa which is located at the large Lapangan Merdeka square in the center of Jakarta. The Gambi train station is located directly east of the square.
Jalan Jaksa is filled with cozy budget guesthouses, hostels, and hotels and there are also many attractive restaurants. It is the place to stay in Jakarta. Mid-range and luxury hotels are spread throughout most of the city. Kota Tua is the old colonial district of Jakarta. The district is located in the north of the city on the coast. Here you will find a small number of attractive hotels between the old colonial buildings.
Budget Hotel Tips
Looking for a cheap hotel in a beautiful location? Madu Inn is located in the Taman Sari district, bordering the old colonial district of Kota Tua. The accommodation has attractive rooms that are functional with simple furnishing. Many sights are within walking distance of the hotel. You can book rooms including breakfast here for around US$16 a night.
Mid-Range Hotel Tips
For a slightly more luxurious hotel with a swimming pool in the heart of the city, Take’s Mansion is the best choice. The attractive and small-scale hotel has a swimming pool on the roof from which you have a panoramic view of the city. The rooms are tastefully decorated and fully equipped. Around the corner are restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues such as Sarina, Plaza Indonesia, or Grand Indonesia. You can book a room here for around US$43 per night including breakfast. This hotel is highly recommended for its perfect location, the rooftop pool, attractive rooms, and good service.
Luxury Hotel Tips
For even more luxury and comfort, the Hotel Borobudur Jakarta is the ideal accommodation in Jakarta. The 5-star hotel is located in the business center of the city. The hotel has a large swimming pool, a spa, and several tennis courts. There are also 5 restaurants in the hotel that serve Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, and international dishes. You can book an overnight stay in this hotel for around US$154 per room including breakfast.
TIP – At Booking.com you can find an overview of all accommodations in Jakarta.
» Looking for gorgeous beaches? Learn more about the most beautiful beaches in Java.
Events in Jakarta
National Film Day, March 30
On March 30, the film community of Indonesia celebrates National Film Day every year. On this day you can watch new movies produced in Indonesia in different cinemas. There are all kinds of festivities in the important streets of Jakarta.
Jakarta Fair, Mid-June
The annual Jakarta Fair takes place in mid-June. For seven weeks, this trade show focuses on the trade, tourism, and culture of Jakarta. Various Indonesian regions, ASEAN countries, and international companies participate. On the first day, you can watch a range of traditional costumes and dances. Cultural evenings from different regions are given on special evenings.
Jakarta Annual Festival, June
In June, the city of Jakarta celebrates its birthday. During a beautiful ball, a king and queen are chosen to end this party in style. On this evening, a number of streets, including the important Jalan Thamrin, will be closed to traffic so that everyone can go crazy from sunset to sunrise. During the whole month, prior to this evening, there are all kinds of social, cultural, and sporting events.
Grand Prix Indonesia, Early July
The top race event of the year, the Indonesian Grand Prix, will take place in the first week of July. International drivers compete for the final victory on the Ancol circuit.
Transport in Jakarta
Jakarta is a complete madhouse in terms of traffic. The city has no rush hour: it is busy all day. The heavy traffic and congestion create a thick smog above the city. Walking is therefore not recommended, it is not only unhealthy but also not very safe due to the lack of pedestrian paths.
The taxi is the most comfortable way to get transported within Jakarta. However, there are plenty of other means of transport within the city, including the famous Bajaj.
The most comfortable way to get around Jakarta is by taxi. This is an expensive form of transport for Indonesian standards, but compared to the taxis in most Western countries, the price is very low. All taxis have a meter that only runs when the car is moving. If you are in a traffic jam, you do not have to pay for it. There are always drivers who make a nice offer and who want to turn off the meter.
Licensed taxis are equipped with a meter and have an ID card on the dashboard. For the first kilometer, you pay about 3000 IDR (around US$0.20) and after that, you pay per kilometer. It is also possible to hire a taxi on an hourly basis.
Bluebird taxis are easily recognized by their blue color. They have the best reputation. This taxi group includes Bluebird, Siverbird, Gamya, Pusaka Nuri, Morante, and Cendrawasih.
Tourists are advised not to take a taxi without a license. These black taxis are easy to recognize. They are ordinary passenger cars that keep driving up and down the streets for their rides and search for customers. The passenger pays the toll and the drivers expect a tip. Make sure you have small amounts of cash with you because the drivers have little change.
There are more than twenty bus companies in Jakarta that can take you from point a to point b. The buses are full of passengers, which makes boarding rather difficult. The average bus ride costs about 2,000 IDR (around US$0.13).
If you want something more luxurious, choose the patas bus, with air conditioning. Prices are slightly higher here, 3300 IDR, which makes the bus less crowded. The local tourist office has information about various organizations and lines.
These are small buses that cross through the Indonesian traffic chaos. You can recognize them by the blue with orange colors. If you see one, you only have to raise your hand. So you don’t have to get on at a bus stop. These buses often have a fixed route. Most MetroMinis have between 25 and 40 seats. You always know the price of your ride in advance. When you leave the bus, you pay the conductor at the back. Try to pay appropriately because they generally don’t have much change.
Bajaj are motorized tricycles with a cabin for one or two passengers, these tricycles have completely replaced the becak. The bajaj was imported from India in 1975 and has been an integral part of Jakarta’s streetscape ever since. Costs are between 3,000 and 5,000 IDR. It is important to agree on an amount with the driver in advance, otherwise, the ride may be more expensive than a taxi ride. The bajaj is used for short distances and some routes are off-limits to them, such as Jalan Thamrin.
In certain areas of Jakarta and for short distances you can use a becak. A becak is a kind of tricycle. The driver will cycle you to your destination for an amount between 2,000 and 5,000 IDR. The center of Jakarta is now off-limits to becak. Between the 1940s and 1990s, the becak was one of the most common modes of transportation in the city. In 1966, an estimated 160,000 pedicabs were operating. In 1971 the becaks were banned on the main roads, and later the government issued a total ban.
This caused major problems and rebellion among the drivers. There was no other work available for them and the government had to act hard to ban the becaks from the center. They took the becaks from the drivers and then dumped them in the sea. This only made matters worse for the drivers: they rented the becaks, which left them with high debt. Outside the center, you can still find a number of becaks.
Mikrolet are minibuses that run on fixed routes, but they have no fixed stops. It can take six to eight passengers and costs depend on the distance. Make sure the mikrolet is full of fellow passengers so you’ll pay less. It is common for foreigners to pay more than locals.
In various places in the city, there are motorcycles with a driver who are happy to drive you around. Because of the heavy traffic, it is a bit dangerous. But it is recommended for the real daredevils: off the main roads, you can take off your helmet and ride with the wind through your hair. Ojek is a cheap way of transportation.
Outside the City
From Jakarta, it is possible to travel by train or bus to almost every conceivable point on the island of Java. The trains and buses run at set times and are quite comfortable.
The rail lines connect Jakarta to neighboring cities: Depok and Bogor in the south, Tangerang and Serpong in the west and Bekasi, Karawang, and Cikampek in the east. The main train stations are Gambir, Jatinegara, Manggarai, and Jakarta Kota.
The Bima night express runs between all major cities in Java. There are also air-conditioned trains with a high level of comfort.
For cities that are three to five hours from Jakarta, you can use the ‘suburban’ buses. The suburban drives about nine to ten passengers. Passengers can be picked up at their home or at another agreed-upon place. Prices are fair.