Jakarta is an upbeat city that moves at a fast pace, whether that means the traffic on the streets or the redevelopment projects that continue to pop up all over town.
This city of over 10 million sprawls over the island of Java where the Ciliwung River flows into Jakarta Bay, and eventually the Java Sea. Founded in the fourth century, the city served as a key trading port in the ancient Kingdom of Sunda, then became a city crucial to the Dutch East Indies under colonial rule, and in the modern era has grown into the financial, cultural, and political capital of Indonesia.
Jakarta's foods and dining options draw upon traditions from Indonesia's 17,000 islands. You'll see architectural styles from China, the Netherlands, and the Arab world, along with local Malay and Javanese influences and gleaming postmodern skyscrapers. Past and present combine in the fascinating modern city of Jakarta.
Jakarta's offerings when it comes to shopping malls are equal in caliber with the best of Singapore or other Asian centers. Taman Anggrek Mall is the city's largest, covering just under 89,000 acres in West Jakarta, with over 500 stores on seven levels. More than 70 shopping centers participate each year in the Jakarta Great Sale during June and July, held to commemorate the anniversary of Jakarta's founding.
Jakarta's is home to some of the best nightclubs and bars in the region. From chic rooftop bars to trendy nightclubs and cocktail bars, there is a diverse, lively nightlife scene to explore.
Jakarta's diverse group of cultures has created a multifaceted culture that you can experience via traditional performances, film festivals, the Java Jazz Festival, and many other world-class arts and entertainment events hosted by the city throughout the year. The Taman Mini Indonesia Indah or "Beautiful Indonesia Miniature Park" in East Jakarta includes pavilions that illustrate life in all of Indonesia's 26 provinces.
Betawi cuisine - or the local cuisine of Jakarta - incorporates many outside influences, including Chinese, Arabic, Indian, and various European, particularly Portuguese, cuisines. It's spicy and fragrant, with popular dishes like soto Betawi, a spicy beef stew, or gado-gado, basically fresh salad in a peanut sauce. You'll find everything from cheap street food favorites to fine dining rooms offering fusion cuisine.
Most of the city's museums can be found in Jakarta's Old Town and Merdeka Square in Central Jakarta, including the National Museum of Indonesia - called Gedung Gajah (the Elephant Building) because of the elephant statue in the forecourt - with its extensive archaeological and historical collections.
In tropical Jakarta, the drier months of June through September, when daily temperatures range between about 85 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, are the most popular times for tourists to visit. The remainder of the year is considered the rainy season, with the most rainfall in January and February.
Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) is about 18 miles from the city center, handling most international flights to Jakarta. The best option to get to town is by one of the many taxis available. A regular taxi fare to the city should cost about Rp120,000. Damri bus service connects to the city's commuter train network and starts at Rp25,000. Some domestic flights and discount airlines operate out of Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport (HLP), which is about 11.5 miles from Jakarta.
Long distance train service passes through Jakarta via KRL and Jabodetabek. There are connections to Surabaya, Bandung, Yogyakarta, and Bali with a combination of train, bus, and ferry service.
Driving to Jakarta means navigating a network of toll roads made up of an inner and outer ring road. Five toll roads radiate out from the city in all directions to the east, west, and south to Ciawi, to Serpong, and to the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
Jakarta connects to other centers in the region via bus, including Bandung and Yogyakarta. Companies include XTrans and Primajasa, with the main bus terminal located in South Jakarta.
Luxury accommodation options, like the Mandarin Oriental, are still reasonably priced. At the mid-price level, you'll find sleek modern towers like the Oakwood Premier Cozmo Jakarta, or the Novotel Jakarta Mangga Dua Square, with contemporary furnishings and amenities. There are also many budget-priced options like the clean, comfortable favehotel LTC Glodok.
Central Jakarta – this is where you'll find landmarks like the Jakarta Cathedral, and some of the city's best museums, including the Taman Prasasti Museum, and the Textile Museum. There are also large parks, such as leafy Taman Suropati, where you can join a free yoga or aerobics class, and Menteng Park with its greenhouses and manicured plant beds.
West Jakarta – this district includes Chinatown and historic landmarks like the Toko Merah, built in 1730. This is also where you'll find the Old Town, the original downtown area under Dutch colonial rule.
South Jakarta – this largely upscale neighborhood is where you'll find some of the city's best shopping malls, including Pondok Indah Mall and family-friendy Gandaria City. The main bus terminal and railway station are also located in this district.
Public transit is limited in Jakarta. The TransJakarta bus rapid transit system caters to commuters, as does the electric commuter rail system, but be forewarned that both usually run at over capacity during weekday rush hours. Rapid bus service fares are Rp3,500.
Taxis are a good option for travel inside the city, with multiple companies on offer, including Blue Bird (basic service) and Silver Bird (premium service), with cheap fares at both levels. A basic cab from South Jakarta to North Jakarta will cost about Rp60,000.
Visitors are allowed to drive in Indonesia with an International Driver's License. Traffic is chronically congested in Jakarta and the connecting highways. A car rental starts at about Rp915,000 and Avis has outlets in the city. Parking spaces can be very scarce in some neighborhoods, where you will be competing with locals for spots that go for up to Rp10,000 per hour.
Grand Indonesia Shopping Town is located in Central Jakarta. It's got a good selection of high end brands, along with Blitzmegaplex, Indonesia's largest movie theater, and a video game arcade. Also in Central Jakarta, Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua, formerly a traditional Java market, is now a large shopping mall where you can bargain for a huge range of goods from clothing and jewelry to homewares.
Most of the major shopping malls include a Hero supermarket. So-called hypermarkets are superstores where you can purchase just about anything, and there are several to choose from including Carrefour and Hypermart. A quart of milk costs about Rp18,000 and a dozen eggs costs about Rp23,000. The Pasar Minggu Sunday market in South Jakarta is famous for its delicious array of fruits.
The Tugu Kunstkring Paleis was once a fine arts center, and you can still view fine art exhibitions as you dine on Indonesian favorites that start at Rp60,000. Jalan Kampung Lima is a small street in the Jalan Jaksa area near the Mandiri Bank where you can sample classic Javanese street food from a number of stalls. Favorites like piseng goreng (fried banana) and spicy fried chicken start at Rp20,000. For fine dining, Indonesian style, with a menu that changes according to the supply of local ingredients, you can try Nusa, where multi-course menus start at Rp350,000.