“Anywhere else, aside from Jakarta?”
This was the reply I would usually get whenever I said I was going to the Indonesian capital. “No, just Jakarta,” was my answer. And it took them a second to realize that they heard my response right.
Jakarta feels strangely familiar. There is so much about it that reminds me of Metro Manila, my home city. Both are capital cities of developing Southeast Asian nations. Both are among the biggest urban hubs in the world, serving as a home and/or workplace for tens of millions of people. And for many international tourists, both are seen mostly as a jump-off point to another destination, a necessary means to a more spectacular end. In Jakarta’s case, this spectacular end can be the beaches of Bali, the temples of Yogyakarta, or the picturesque volcanoes in other parts of Java.
But like Manila, Jakarta can hold its own. It may not be as Instagram-worthy, but it does have a long history and rich culture, making it a great stop for Indonesia first timers. From the numerous museums to the sumptuous street food, the city will give you a taste of what the world’s greatest archipelago has to offer.
WHAT’S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
Jakarta is the capital of and the largest city in Indonesia. Located in the island of Java, the city serves as the economic, political, and cultural center of the country. Jakarta is sprawling. Over the years, as it continues to draw in more people, it also paves way for the development of neighboring areas.
Today, Jakarta may also refer to the Greater Jakarta area or the Jakarta metropolitan area, which is also called locally as Jabodetabek, short for Jakarta–Bogor–Depok–Tangerang–Bekasi, referring to the nearby cities in West Java and Banten. And with an estimated population of 35 million, it is the second largest urban hub in the world, next only to Tokyo.
The history of Jakarta dates back to the 4th century CE, making it one of the oldest inhabited cities in Southeast Asia. It has been known by several names. Under the Sunda Kingdom, it was known as Sunda Kelapa, an important trading port at the time. In 1619, the Dutch took control and founded Batavia which became the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Then in 1942, Batavia fell to the Japanese and was under the Japanese occupation until 1945. It was 1949 when the Indonesian independence was proclaimed and Jakarta became the national capital.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL INFORMATION
As of our most recent visit (November 2022), these are the requirements required for travelers going to Jakarta as mandated by the government. These must be presented when you check-in for your flight.
Depending on your country of citizenship, a visa may also be required. (Filipino citizens may enter Indonesia VISA-FREE.)
Jakarta is huge. Covering 664.01 square kilometers, Jakarta is divided it into its five administrative cities: Central Jakarta, West Jakarta, East Jakarta, North Jakarta, and South Jakarta. Easy to remember, right? But these three areas have the key points of interest for tourists:
In our opinion, the best area to stay is the part where Central Jakarta, West Jakarta, and North Jakarta meet. Staying here puts you in a position close to the key attractions and with plenty of dining and lodging options.
This area includes these neighborhoods:
Any of places above are great for first-time Jakarta visitors. However, if you’re the type of traveler who likes to spend their nights going out or partying, South Jakarta might be a great option too. Just keep in mind that this area is a bit farther from other parts of the city, especially if you plan to visit attractions in North Jakarta.
I booked a dorm bed at The Packer Lodge near Kota Tua for only PHP 450 per night. Yep, that’s only USD 8 or 124,000 IDR. But by random streak of good luck, I was upgraded to a private solo room for FREE! (Possibly because they might have overbooked the dorm.)
But there are plenty of other options, too! Here are some of the top reviewed but affordable properties on Agoda:
The primary airport that serves Jakarta is Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK), formerly called Jakarta Cengkareng Airport. It is located at Benda, Tangerang, close to West Jakarta. It was expanded in 1991 to replace Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport, which now services mostly domestic and private flights—for international flights. CGK is said to be the busiest airport in Southeast Asia and currently has 3 terminals with a fourth terminal being built.
As Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta is well-connected. If you’re coming from Manila, Cebu Pacific flies directly to Jakarta and vice versa DAILY. The flight departs from Manila at 8:40 PM and takes around four hours. This is perfect for busy bees who cannot afford to file another leave of absence from work or students who can’t miss a school day. This also means you arrive in Jakarta just before midnight, bypassing heavy traffic to the city center.
For your return journey, Cebu Pacific’s Jakarta-Manila flights are scheduled at 12:30 AM, allowing you to make the most of your last day in Jakarta! Just leave your luggage temporarily at your hotel upon checkout, explore the city the entire day, and pick it up before heading to the airport.
Cebu Pacific has three bundle options for your flight booking: GO Basic comes with a free hand-carry baggage allowance (7kg). If you want a checked bag and reserved seats, GO Easy includes a one piece checked baggage (up to 20kg) and a standard seat. For more flexibility, GO Flexi allows you to cancel your flight for free and store the value as a travel fund.
To book, visit: www.cebupacificair.com.
Travel time from the airport to your hotel depends on which part of Jakarta you choose to stay, but it could take between 30 minutes to an hour. The most convenient way is by taking a taxi or using a ride hailing app. More details about these below.
Countless taxis await potential passengers at the airport. After going through customs and before reaching the exit, you’ll be welcomed by people offering you taxi services. If you want to take a taxi, a recommended taxi service by locals is Blue Bird. You’ll find a Blue Bird booth to your left after you exit, near the SIM card stores.
However, in my experience, their rate was higher than Grab, but this could vary. You can go to the booth to inquire about the fare going to your hotel and compare it to rates on Grab or Gojek.
These two are the ride hailing apps available in Jakarta. It is easy to use and booking a ride only takes a few minutes. The Grab pick-up point in Terminal 3 is located at the parking of the arrival area. After you pass through customs, turn to your right and head towards the Pick-up zone. You should be exiting through the West Lobby door. At the parking, you will find signage for the Grab Pick-up Point.
It is important to know that the fare that shows on the app is not the final fare. A parking fee and highway fee or toll fee will be added on top of it. This was also clearly communicated by the person at the Grab Pick-up point once I got there and the driver after I entered the car. But the Grab fare still turned out cheaper than the Blue Bird rate even after adding these fees.
Gojek is also available at the airport. The pick-up point at Terminal 3 is also located at the international parking area. Gojek also adds the parking fee & toll fee plus a location fee on top of the fare that shows on the app when you book your ride.
The most affordable way of staying connected in Indonesia is by purchasing a data SIM card. However, SIM cards in Jakarta need to be registered first, so you’ll need to present your passport to get one. Two of the most popular internet providers are XL Axiata and Telkomsel.
You can get a SIM card at the airport, but keep in mind that the prices here are significantly higher than prices at a telco branch or SIM card center. Moreover, airport stores are open only from 7:00AM to 3:00AM.
If you’re from any of the countries below, you can have the data SIM card delivered to you via Klook:
If you’re from the Philippines or any other country, you may opt to pick up Indonesia DATA SIM at the Jakarta Airport (Soekarno Hatta International Airport). The pick up location is at the JavaMifi booth at Terminal 3 Departure at the 2nd floor. The staff will also help you set up the sim card on your phone. However, the operating hours is from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM only. You can purchase one here: Indonesia DATA SIM Jakarta Airport Pickup!
If you’re arriving in Jakarta late at night, you won’t be able to avail of this since their registration has a cut-off time. Another option to consider is Grapari, the SIM card center of the telecommunications company Telkomsel. They have multiple locations all over Jakarta. If you want to save and you can manage to go from the airport without data, just look up the Grapari branch closest to your hotel. More info on its website.
Jakarta is a very busy city and there are various transportation options available. There are a lot of taxis all over the city and you can also use ride hailing apps. Commuting is also an option since they have an efficient public bus transportation called Transjakarta. However, because it is a busy city, the traffic gets heavy especially during rush hours.
If you’re visiting attractions, some of them are within walking distance from each other. You can walk from The National Monument to see Merdeka Palace, and then walk to the National Museum. You can also explore Kota Tua or the Old Town on foot. You can choose from the following mode of transportations to explore Indonesia’s capital depending on your budget and preferences.
There are a lot of taxis around the city. In some areas there are cabs lined up by the side of the road so you don’t have to hail a cab on the street anymore. The suggested reliable taxi company in Jakarta is Blue Bird. Their units are easy to spot because they’re, well, blue.
Riding a taxi may pose a challenge because of language barrier since not everyone speaks and understands English. But what you can do is write down the address of your destination or find it on Google Maps, and show it to the driver when you take a taxi. You may also ask your hotel to call a taxi for you and ask them for help to communicate your destination to the driver.
Taking public transportation is the cheapest option. Each ride costs only IDR 3,500 no matter where your destination is. The bus is very efficient since there are 13 lines and over 200 stations all over the city. You may use Google maps to know which bus line you should take and where you should get off to reach your destination.
Here’s how you can ride the Transjakarta buses:
Riding the bus can take much longer compared to the taxi, car service, or motorcycle taxi. You can look up your destination on Google maps and compare the travel time for each and decide from there depending on your time and budget.
Also known as Old Batavia, Kota Tua is Jakarta’s Old Town. It was a part of the first walled settlement of the Dutch in Jakarta and also served as the capital of the Dutch East Indies. In this area, you will find Dutch-style structures from the 17th century. Some of them used to be government buildings that has been turned into museums. Here are some of the places you can visit in Kota Tua.
The biggest Chinatown in Indonesia, Glodok was established back in the Dutch colonial period.
Today, Glodok is dotted with stores selling snacks and Chinese medicine. There’s also a market where you can buy seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Foodies will also be delighted by an array of dining options, from street food stalls to food courts.
Merdeka Square serves as a recreational park for the locals. With an area of around 75 hectares, the square is so vast that they even have a shuttle to take you to the National Monument, its centerpiece.
If you visit at night, you will see the Monas light up and illuminate the square. There’s also a food court area here where you can have snacks or a meal.
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Entrance Fee: FREE
Here are some of the structures within and around Jakarta’s Merdeka Square:
A 19th century market located in Central Jakarta, Pasar Baru is one of the oldest shopping districts in the city.
The whole street is lined with stores selling mostly textiles, shoes, and clothes. You will definitely not miss this area when you visit because the street is marked by a bridge and a gate that displays its name.
Ancol is a waterfront complex located in the coastal area of North Jakarta. Inside Ancol is a theme park called Dunia Fantasi or Dufan. You’ll also find Atlantis Water Adventure which is a waterpark featuring the ancient cities of the Mediterranean.
Also located within he complex are an ecopark, an art market, and Gondola Ancol, which is the first cable car ride in Indonesia. Each of these attractions has a separate entrance fee.
You may purchase tickets online through their website. You may also pay for the ticket at the entrance on-site, but take note that they only accept card payments for now.
Operating Hours: Daily, 6:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Entrance Fee: IDR 25,000
Textiles are a huge part of Indonesia’s culture. Museum Tekstil displays collections from different parts of the country. Located in West Jakarta, the museum was inaugurated in 1976 in honor of Madame Tien Soeharto, who was Indonesia’s first lady at the time.
Aside from the different textiles, traditional weaving instruments and equipment used to make batik also take centerstage inside the museum.
Visitors may also join a workshop where you can get try making batik. From the gate of the museum, turn to your left and follow the sign that says Pendopo Batik. You may also tell the person at the entrance that you want to make batik so they can lead you to the workshop area. Here, the nice ladies who make batik will guide you through the whole process starting from tracing your chosen design and using the tjanting, a traditional tool used to apply the liquid was to the fabric in batik making. The whole process takes around an hour and you get to keep your batik and the tjanting as a souvenir!
Operating Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Entrance Fee: IDR 5,000
Batik Making: IDR 40,000
Along Jalan Surabaya in Menteng District lies a flea market. The street is lined with stores selling tons of various antique items. A visit to Jalan Surabaya is a must — especially if you’re interested in antique items or you just like looking at random unique pieces, from trinkets to collectibles to chandeliers. Also available are old CDs and vinyls, ceramics, and a lot more!
Jakarta’s food scene mirrors Indonesia’s rich culture and long history. The food here is a mix of different cuisines from various parts of Indonesia, with influences from other places. You won’t have a hard time looking for a place to eat in Jakarta because it’s bursting with choices — from street food stalls to hawker centers (food courts) to proper sit-down restaurants. And because Indonesia has a strong coffee culture, you will also find a lot of cafes ranging from traditional establishments to modern ones that give a new spin to everyone’s favorite drink.
– Rumah Makan Surya
Operating Hours: Daily, 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM.
Address: Jl. Bendungan Hilir
– Pagi Sore
Here’s a sample 3-Day Jakarta itinerary with breakdown of expenses. This assumes that you will be flying with Cebu Pacific, staying in Central Jakarta, and taking public transportation to go around. You may use this itinerary and make adjustments based on your schedule and preferences.
This itinerary will set you back around IDR 2,700,000 (USD 172, EUR 165, SGD 235, PHP 9700), excluding airfare and travel tax, but assuming you book a hotel room that costs around IDR 200,000 per night. You may still minimize the cost if you stay in a dorm or book a cheaper hotel like we did. In reality we only paid IDR 124,000 per night.
This also includes a big allowance for incidental expenses.
May to October is the best time to visit since these are the driest months in Jakarta.
Jakarta has a tropical climate. The temperature here doesn’t change so much throughout the year. However, the chance of rain varies significantly making the wet and dry season very apparent. The dry months are from May to October, with the driest month being August, so schedule your trip around this time if you want to avoid the rain ruining your plans.
The wettest months are September to April, with the most rain in January. During these months, some parts of the city are prone to flooding.Public holidays may also affect the traffic and the operating hours of attractions and other establishments. Here’s the list of public holidays in Indonesia:
I’ve only tried a couple of money changers along Gajah Mada near Glodok. They are open until late night and there’s one that is open for 24 hours. DollarIndo and Primatama have the same or very similar rates, which are pretty good.
Electricity Info: 230V, 50Hz frequency. Type C and F plugs and sockets.
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