Thursday, April 13, 2017

Top Tips for Visiting Jakarta

When I have friends visiting Jakarta from abroad I always try my best to ensure that they have the best time here. I usually advise some dos and don'ts to ensure that they have a smooth navigation around the city.  

Here are my top tips to visit Jakarta, whether you are here for holiday or in transit for your next destination.

1. Do your research.
Jakarta is not an obvious holiday destination but it sure has its own charm. It does not have a famous landmark like Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty, so it takes a little bit of digging to find the best places to go to. Whether you are a shopaholic, a foodie, a coffee connoisseur, an art lover, or an outdoorsy, there is something for everyone, it's just that these nice places are not well-known and not well-promoted. Considering the traffic situation in Jakarta, not knowing where to go or how to get there can cause you a lot of time wasted on the road.

So read the blogs and official websites, ask people who has been here, or consult with your hotel concierge or host in Jakarta so that you get exactly what you want to see or do in Jakarta.

2. Stay close to your main destination.
Traffic is Jakarta's numero uno problem both for citizens and tourists. When you have decided your destinations, choose your place to stay nearest to your main destination or the area you will visit the most. Even if the price is slightly higher, it is worth it if you can avoid the traffic. If you want to visit many places in different areas of Jakarta, I would recommend to stay near to a TransJakarta bus stop or to a train station. The buses and the trains will take you to most main areas in the city.

3. Do not fly in on Friday evening.
I always let anyone I know who plan to come here to not fly in on Friday evening. The Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is located just outside the city and the traffic into the city at this time is horrible. Sitting in a taxi for 3 hours is not the first thing you want to do when in Jakarta. Other than that, any other time is about the same. The only exception is during Eid and Christmas holidays when the city is practically empty.

4. Take TransJakarta bus.
Not everyone in Jakarta speaks English, so if you don't speak Bahasa and don't know your ways around the city, my recommended means of transportation is TransJakarta bus. It's cheap, it's safe, it's comfortable, it goes to most of the main areas, and you do not have to talk to anyone. Even if you do, the officials at the bus stops generally speak at least enough English to give you directions. It also has its own lanes, so it beats the traffic most of the time.

Most unrecommended transport during weekdays is the train, but if you do want to give it a try do avoid the rush hours, ie. 6AM - 10AM and 5PM - 8 PM. It is generally fine during weekends. Unfortunately, there is no fixed train schedule and it does not come every 5 minutes like how it is in other big cities, so sometimes you have to wait a while at the station.

If you are adventurous enough, motorcycle taxis are the most practical. You may call one via apps like Gojek, Grab, or Uber. A bit of a warning, riding motorcycles in Jakarta can be dangerous, but a lot of people do it daily anyway.

If you prefer traditional taxis, I would recommend to take Blue Bird taxis because this is the most reputable taxi company in Jakarta right now. You can hail one on the road or reserve it via phone or My Blue Bird App. Gojek, Grab, and Uber apps also provide online taxi services.

Please do be prepared for the language barriers if you take taxis.

5. Avoid street food
Jakarta is really a food heaven. From high-end to street food, from local to international tastes, Jakarta has everything. Unfortunately the street food's hygiene here is unguaranteed and the ingredients are sometimes questionable. As great as it is, I think that nothing is worth risking your health while you are travelling. Not all of them are dirty but unless you have a local guide who understands Jakarta's street food scene, the ones that are truly safe and nice are hard to find.

So there you go! I hope these tips help you to enjoy Jakarta!

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