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Moving to Jakarta

Expats moving to Jakarta will find themselves in a sprawling, densely populated megalopolis, with a population size that is steadily increasing. As the commercial and economic centre of Indonesia, Jakarta offers a good base for exploring the rest of the country and, despite some drawbacks, it can be a fun place to live, once expats become accustomed to the local culture and lifestyle.

Jakarta is colourful and somewhat exotic, yet new arrivals might not find many of the obvious charms of other large cities around the world. It can be noisy and polluted, and getting around the city can be difficult due to the congested roads and the high volume of traffic. Unless very brave, most expats don’t drive themselves, choosing to hire a driver instead.

Expats in Jakarta generally find jobs in the oil, gas, telecommunications, engineering and education sectors. The process for getting a work permit and visa for Indonesia is often arduous; there are strict rules regarding giving employment to foreigners due to the high rate of unemployment already present in the country. Even voluntary work in many cases is classed as work, so it’s advisable to seek legal advice when embarking on anything that may jeopardise one's visa and stay in Jakarta.

Generally speaking, Jakarta is a safe place to live but, like any large city, expats should be savvy and take precautions for their safety as they would do anywhere else. For women especially, it’s unwise to walk alone at night and they should only use taxi companies that are reputable and reliable. Violent crime is rare, but petty crime is fairly common and expats should always be cautious of scams. Although there is a threat of terrorism in Jakarta and the city has been targeted by extremists in the past, security is given high priority, especially around business districts and in shopping areas. 

There are many different options for accommodation and housing for expats in Jakarta, and depending on one’s income, there are properties available to rent ranging from luxury penthouse apartments or houses with a pool and garden, to rooms in guesthouses with shared bathroom and dining facilities.

The cost of living in Jakarta depends very much on lifestyle choice. The city is not a cheap place to live if choosing only to shop at Western-style supermarkets or high-end stores, but local shops are quite affordable and Jakarta is also home to many markets, making for a colourful shopping experience. Imported goods can be expensive, but Indonesian products are considerably cheaper.

Schooling for expat children is available in Jakarta, with most expat parents choosing to send their children to an international school; this is likely to cause the biggest dent to one’s income as international schools are expensive.

Healthcare is also pricey in Jakarta, and any serious medical emergencies may require being taken to a neighbouring country, such as Singapore, to receive adequate medical attention. It’s advisable for expats to take out medical insurance if this is not already provided for through their company.

Life in Jakarta can be hectic and is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but there are also so many great areas to explore, a rich cultural heritage to embrace and some new friends to be made. Whatever one chooses to make of Jakarta, nobody could claim that life in the Big Durian is dull.

Accommodation in Jakarta

Expats moving to Jakarta will likely find that organising accommodation in the city is relatively easy and prices are reasonable when compared to those in Western cities or other Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

The Indonesian capital boasts a number of family-friendly neighbourhoods. Central Jakarta is a great location for expats who want to get the most out of city living, while south Jakarta has more suburban neighbourhoods with large houses and villas.


Types of accommodation in Jakarta

Expats will find an extensive range of options for accommodation in Jakarta. Apartments, detached homes and villas are all widely available, depending on the neighbourhood in which expats prefer to settle.

Expats in Jakarta's Central Business District will find that apartments are the most practical solution, especially to avoid spending hours each day stuck in traffic while commuting to and from the office. Many apartment buildings have been constructed in recent years, so there is plenty of choice for new arrivals, from simple and small apartments with only basic facilities to large, luxurious, fully serviced apartments. 

Most apartment buildings offer 24-hour security and other facilities including swimming pools, 24-hour shops, laundry services and sports facilities. 

Expats willing to venture out into Jakarta's suburbs will have more options for larger houses and villas. Some of these areas also offer easy access to some of the city's many excellent international schools, making them an ideal choice for expat families. 

Many rentals in Jakarta come fully furnished. However, expats who would prefer to bring in their own household goods should be able to negotiate for most properties to come unfurnished without too much difficulty. 


Finding accommodation in Jakarta

Expats in Jakarta generally find their accommodation through their company or online through property portals. The language barrier can pose a problem for new arrivals, and as such, it is crucial that expats have a reliable local contact who can translate for them when necessary.

When looking for accommodation in Jakarta, expats should keep in mind that location is one of the most important factors. Expats will be able to save a lot of time by living close to their place of work and their children’s school. Jakarta suffers from major traffic congestion and this situation is continuously worsening.


Renting accommodation in Jakarta

Indonesian law makes it complicated for foreigners to buy property in the country, and this has led most expats in Jakarta to choose to renting over buying.

When looking to rent property in Jakarta, expats will find that it is generally cheaper and expected to rent for a longer period of time. Rent can occasionally be paid on a month-by-month basis, but landlords tend to offer more favourable prices to those willing to pay for a year or several months upfront. 

Expats should be sure to have a reliable local contact available who will be able to help them negotiate the terms of any new rental contract. 

Areas and suburbs in Jakarta

The best places to live in Jakarta

Jakarta is a sprawling metropolis and expats moving to the city may initially be overwhelmed with the possibility of finding a home in the right area. But there are plenty of areas and suburbs in Jakarta for expats to choose from, and they’re bound to find something that suits their particular lifestyle and budget.

Generally, South and Central Jakarta are the most popular areas for expats. East, West and North Jakarta are significantly less popular among the expat population. 

Below is an overview of some of the most popular expat neighbourhoods in Jakarta.


Popular expats neighbourhoods in Jakarta

Kuningan

Kuningan is a residential area of Jakarta that forms part of the Central Business District, making it convenient for those working in the area. Its proximity to a number of embassies and international schools makes Kuningan particularly popular among expats. 

Housing in Kuningan ranges from modern apartment blocks to older spacious housing developments along tree-lined streets. There are also plenty of restaurants and hotels in the area and many nearby shopping malls, including the Ambassador Shopping Mall, Pacific Plaza, Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia. 

Senayan

Situated between South and Central Jakarta, Senayan is a popular neighbourhood in Jakarta, especially with young couples. Housing is mostly in the form of modern apartment blocks. There are plenty of shopping and dining options and a great nightlife to be enjoyed.

Permata Hijau

Permata Hijau is a neighbourhood in South Jakarta. This area is full of apartment options. It’s a popular neighbourhood for expat families with children due to its convenient transport links to Jakarta's international schools and shopping malls. There are plenty of green spaces for families to enjoy a walk and access to sporting facilities for active expats. However, a downside to Permata Hijau is that it can get very congested on weekdays.

Pondok Indah 

Pondok Indah is an upmarket neighbourhood of Jakarta that is popular with expat families due to its spacious living options and proximity to several good international schools. Large family homes sit along tree-lined streets. Commute times to the city's commercial areas can be long, but there are plenty of entertainment opportunities to keep the family busy, with shopping malls, a water park and golf course nearby.

Kemang

Another popular area for expat families, Kemang is close to several international schools and offers a range of housing options from large family homes and villas to apartments. Kemang has wonderful entertainment options from restaurants to bars, and much of Jakarta’s art scene can be found here. A downside to Kemang, however, is the fact that the suburb suffers from heavy traffic congestion, which can be a source of frustration for many residents. 

Healthcare in Jakarta

Healthcare in Jakarta is variable, and while expats have access to both public and private facilities, the majority of expats choose to use private hospitals or clinics. For more serious medical procedures, expats often travel to neighbouring Singapore.

Although Indonesian authorities have begun to implement a universal health insurance scheme, foreigners do not benefit from this scheme and it’s essential for expats moving to Jakarta to arrange comprehensive health insurance. Those arriving in the city as part of a corporate relocation package will most likely have their company organise and contribute towards this.

Pharmacies are plentiful in Jakarta and can be found in most large malls; these sell a wide range of prescription and over-the-counter medication. 

Below is a list of the most prominent expat-friendly hospitals and clinics in and around Jakarta,


Hospitals in Jakarta

 

Bintaro Premier Hospital

www.rs-premierbintaro.com

JI. MH Thamrin No.1, Sektor 7 Bintaro Jaya, Tangerang Selatan

 

RP Premier Jatinegara Hospital

www.rs-premierjatinegara.com

JL Raya Jatinegara Timur No. 85-87

 

Rumah Sakit Metropolitan Medical Centre (MMC) 

www.rsmmc.co.id

Jl Rasuna Said Kav C21, Kuningan, South Jakarta

Education and Schools in Jakarta

Expats in Jakarta have a wide variety of schooling options available. While public schools are not a popular choice among expat families, the city boasts an impressive array of international schools. These cater to expat students from a number of countries, including the UK, the US, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore. Many international schools also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. 


Public schools in Jakarta

Public schools in Jakarta are administered by the local government and follow the Indonesian curriculum. The teaching language at these schools is Indonesian.

Due to the poor standard of education at local public schools, as well as the language barrier, expats moving to the city with children generally send them to one of the many excellent international schools instead.


Private schools in Jakarta

Private schools in Indonesia usually offer an international curriculum in combination with the local Indonesian curriculum, and classes are generally in English rather than Indonesian. The International Baccalaureate is commonly taught in these schools.

While the majority of students at private schools are Indonesian, some expat parents choose to send their children to these schools due to the lower fees compared to international schools and the opportunity for more cultural integration for their children. 


International schools in Jakarta

Though international schools can often be expensive, they usually offer a good standard of education, and also have the advantage of allowing children to continue with a familiar and internationally recognised curriculum. 

In a bid to regulate the quality of education in Indonesia, the government no longer permits schools to use the word 'international' in their title. Prior to this regulation, low-quality schools would often tack "international" on their names as a justification to charge high fees. Most international schools are now classified as Satuan Pendidikan Kerjasama (SPK) – this roughly translates as collaborative schools. SPK schools are required to teach Indonesian civics, religion and language. In addition, they must allow Indonesian students to attend and must employ local teachers to teach Indonesian subjects.


Special-needs education in Jakarta

As is the case throughout Indonesia, Jakarta has two types of public schools that cater to special-needs students: inclusive schools and extraordinary schools. Inclusive schools have a student body made up of both special needs and mainstream students, while extraordinary schools are dedicated to special-needs students. Most expat families don't find these to be suitable and instead opt for private schooling. It's worth noting that many international schools are able to provide the specialised services such a student would require. This is usually for an extra fee but can be a good option for expat families.


Tutors in Jakarta

Tutors are widely used in Indonesia. For expat families, tutors can be a great help in giving expat children a leg up in adjusting to a new school, especially if an unfamiliar curriculum or language unfamiliar is involved. Some expat families hire a tutor to help maintain a child's mother tongue, or to help them learn and refine Indonesian or English quickly.

The months leading up to final exams are a busy time for tutors, who are often hired to help students reach peak performance. Most tutors specialise in a particular subject but some are able to help across the board, especially when it comes to teaching general essay writing and study techniques.

International Schools in Jakarta

Expat families in Jakarta will have access to some of the best international schools in Indonesia. There are a number of international schools offering highly respected curricula like that of the US (including SATs and AP subjects), the UK (including the Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels) and the International Baccalaureate. These schools offer an excellent standard of education backed by dedicated teachers, modern facilities and small class sizes.

International schools in Jakarta give expat children the opportunity to continue with a familiar, globally transferable curriculum. Being around other expat children who understand the difficulties of moving abroad also goes a long way to ease the process of settling in. What's more, parents can count on their children being exposed to various cultures, as international schools in Jakarta will often have students of a dozen or more different nationalities.

Below is a list of some of the most reputable international schools in Jakarta.


International schools in Jakarta

NAS%20Jakarta_cropped.jpg

Independent School of Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 2 to 13

The Independent School of Jakarta builds on British educational heritage to provide an exceptional education to boys and girls aged 2 to 13 years at their newly built campus in Pondok Indah, Jakarta. Read more

Nord Anglia School Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum and International Primary Curriculum
Ages: 1.5 to 12

NAS Jakarta's welcoming atmosphere and leafy green campus provide a haven for the school's truly international community in the heart of Jakarta. Read more

ACG School Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.jakarta.acgedu.com

Australian Independent School Indonesia

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ais-indonesia.com

Beacon Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.beaconacademy.net

British School Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.bsj.sch.id

GMIS Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.gandhijkt.org

Jakarta Intercultural School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.jisedu.or.id

Lycée Français de Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.lifdejakarta.org

North Jakarta Intercultural School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 2 to 18
Website: www.njis.org

Lifestyle in Jakarta

With a thriving economy and attractive expat salaries on offer, an expat's lifestyle in Jakarta can be full of comforts and luxuries.

Traffic can sometimes hinder leisure time during the week, so weekends are perfect for playing on the golf course, scuba diving expeditions and short holidays to the nearby islands. International companies often offer their employees three to four weeks' paid leave and, on occasion, paid tickets to the employee’s home country. 

Expats in Indonesia work hard and play hard. During the week employees are often expected to go to work from 8am to about 6pm and by the time traffic allows them to get home their weekday leisure activities start out at 8pm or 9pm. Many pubs, bars and restaurants offer entertaining activities during the week such as trivia nights, darts and pool championships, ladies nights and live music. 

As is often the case, expat spouses, both male and female, have a hard time finding a job in Indonesia due to the strict work visa regulations. This, however, doesn’t mean that meaningful work can't be done in Jakarta. Many associations offer volunteer opportunities at different charities and knowledge and experience never go to waste. With affordable help at home, leisure time is maximised and “stay-at-home” spouses never stay put, since there is a wide array of activities available to cater to all the needs and tastes of the budding expat population.

The vast expat communities and associations in Jakarta provide a little taste of home to expats with their constant balls and special charity events. From medieval banquets to Latin balls and Mardi Gras soirées, expats are able to enjoy the buzzing nightlife of Jakarta as often as they please. 


Shopping in Jakarta

Shopping can be seen as a national sport for Indonesians, both honorary and native. The immense variety of shopping malls, markets and boutiques make Jakarta a shopper’s paradise. Like most countries in Asia, Jakarta boasts extravagant world-class malls with designer stores galore, as well as smaller local designer boutiques. Renowned designers and interior decorators often visit Jakarta and showcase their latest creations both at runway shows and special exhibitions at the many malls around the city. 

Malls

Visiting shopping malls is a central activity in the lives of many Jakartans. Malls provide an escape from the heat, humidity and rain, and the many entertainment options make them pivotal in the lifestyle of Jakartans and expats alike. Shopping malls in Jakarta can be described as lifestyle centres. Expats can leave the mall with a fresh new haircut, after getting a massage, enjoying international cuisine and buying stationary, a pair of shoes, and food for their pets. Malls are truly the cornucopia of shoppers, where products are bountiful, ever-changing and always following the latest trends.

Malls are plentiful throughout Jakarta and so are their visitors. Weekends and Indonesian holidays are popular days to visit so expect to find a buzzing centre. 

International Trade Centres

International Trade Centres, popularly known as ITCs, are the go-to places when looking for small electronics, factory outlet clothes, imported toys, brand-name purses and almost anything else. Although these shopping centres do not boast the swank and cleanliness of the nicer malls, most shoppers leave the ITCs satisfied after spending much less money than at regular shopping centres. 

Markets 

For the more adventurous, traditional pasars (markets) offer an authentic cultural experience where true kampung (village) life can be observed, breathed and lived. Markets are excellent venues for buying fresh produce, live fish and beautiful freshly picked flowers. These markets are often crowded with bajajs (two or three-wheeler cars), carts and even motorcycles, and they are bustling with life and colour.

Beware of price fluctuations between locals and foreigners and have at least a slight idea about how much something is worth. Bargaining is expected so be prepared to negotiate prices until finding a good discount of about 10 to 20 percent. 


Eating out in Jakarta

Jakarta is home to a colossal variety of international cuisine. Restaurants often host award-winning chefs for months at a time and offer specialised menus and special events. Specialities range from high-end tepanyaki restaurants to small hole-in-the-wall type venues that offer authentic Javanese fare.

Despite the fact that Indonesia is a Muslim country, alcohol is widely available and served in most restaurants. Alcohol, however, can sometimes be pricey compared to other countries due to high levies on imported spirits and wine and the value-added taxes.

Some of the most popular restaurants are located within hotels, office buildings and shopping malls. Westernised menus are popular among the expat and wealthier local population, and the quality and authenticity are often first-rate. 

Reservations are expected at the more popular restaurants, often for lunch and especially for dinner. Tipping is not expected due to the fact that a service charge is regularly included in the bill. However, if the service was exceptional, a small tip is encouraged to demonstrate appreciation. In many cases, waitstaff remember their patrons and regulars often get top-notch service. 


Nightlife in Jakarta

Nightlife in Jakarta exemplifies Indonesia at its best: diverse, swarming and intense. From small pool bars to swanky and hip nightclubs with queues of hopeful partygoers lining up for hours outside, Jakarta offers expats whatever kind of diversion they desire. 

When compared to the nightlife scene in Europe, Australia or elsewhere, Jakarta keeps up with all of them in the quality and quantity of its nightspots. However, the biggest difference is that the traffic situation compels the clientele to stay put in the nightclub they have chosen for the night instead of bar-hopping between the different venues available.

Snazzy nightclubs in Jakarta can be compared to any trendy hotspot in New York City or Berlin. Current music and famous DJs make their way to Jakarta, and live music is often heard booming through the speakers. Expats are usually allowed in soon after arriving at the gates of these clubs as long as they are all well dressed and not wearing tennis shoes or jeans. 

Several neighbourhoods are popular among expats due to their exuberant party scene. Kemang, in South Jakarta, is frequented by groups of friends looking to watch sports, listen to live music, play pool or drink beer with friends in an informal atmosphere. The Senayan and Kuningan areas are home to the hippest, trendiest and most expensive clubs Jakarta has to offer. Expats and locals attend the clubs to see and be seen and booking a table for the night is common practice. Single men looking to have a cheap beer with friends and mingle with the locals often visit the area of Blok M.

Several clubs offer private lounges that can be rented for a whole night. Many decide to rent them out and invite their friends to party all night long. Some restaurants and hotel bars offer salsa nights and tango milongas with live music performances. Jazz concerts and comedy shows are also a common entertainment option among expats.

In true Asian fashion, Jakarta has a karaoke club on almost every corner. Jakartans spend hours singing, drinking and eating at the different venues, and the low prices for beer and renting out the karaoke rooms makes it very popular among the locals and expats alike.

Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, doesn’t prompt any big changes to the nightlife of Jakarta. Although some bars may close earlier than usual, alcohol and food are still served in most of the places frequented by the expat community.

Kids and Family in Jakarta

With a growing expat community, the city boasts many international schools with good standards, diverse entertainment options and a wide array of community activities conducted in English and other languages for expat parents and kids in Jakarta.

Indonesians love children with devotion. No matter where one goes, children will make instant friends with other children and adults alike. It’s not uncommon for expat kids to receive playful looks and taps from passing strangers and parents will be asked for permission to have their child's picture taken often. Foreign children in Jakarta will receive a lot of attention and parents can be sure they will be entertained as Indonesians are generally pleased to see happy children. Indonesia can be an excellent place to raise children and teach them to interact with all kinds of people and learn from the diverse cultural offerings.

If both parents are working, and even if that is not the case, it’s easy to find childcare options. Indonesian nannies are used to working with foreign families and will accommodate most of an expat's requests and needs. Nannies can grow very attached to children and can become the go-to person when requiring help in translating something or just dealing with life in Jakarta.


Education in Jakarta

There is a broad assortment of schools in Jakarta for expat children. The biggest challenge will be to decide which programme fits the needs of a person's children and their family.

International schools are the best options for families who know that they will be in Jakarta for a specific length of time. The curriculum followed is easily validated and transferable to other international schools in different countries and even back home, wherever that might be. Most of the international schools' staff, from the principal to the teachers, is composed of expats, with English, German or French being their native language.

An expat's school of choice will very likely determine the area where they will want to find housing in Jakarta. Traffic can be a big hindrance to some kids' activities so parents will need to find a home close to their children’s school to ensure that they can take advantage of all the extra-curricular activities and events the school has to offer. 


Entertainment for kids in Jakarta

Although the entertainment options might be different from what expats may be used to, it's not difficult to keep kids engaged and entertained in Jakarta. 

For Indonesians and expats alike visiting the mall is a favourite pastime. Malls in Jakarta are very large and they have up to eight storeys full of food, entertainment and shops. Malls are a great place to find indoor entertainment options for the children as they have indoor playgrounds, bowling allies, family-friendly karaoke venues and movie theatres. There are even Ferris wheels, carousels, water parks and small roller coasters within the malls.

Sunday brunch is a favourite activity among Indonesians and “Car-Free Sunday” is one of the best opportunities to ride a bike or take a stroll on the main streets of Jakarta. Many kids' shows such as Disney on Ice are often available, while tickets for movie theatres are cheap and the newest blockbusters are generally available.

Outdoor parks are not really available in Jakarta. However, there are two good alternatives for those wanting to take their children outside. The Playparq and the Playground in Kemang offer outdoor playgrounds and a water-play area that kids of all ages can enjoy. 

For those willing to travel a little bit further out, the options become endless. Taman Safari is a drive-thru Safari where families can see more than 2,500 animals in their natural habitat. Visitors are able to feed and pet the animals and can camp out at the park. The tea plantations and strawberry farms in Bandung are a great option for those wanting to teach their children about nature. Finally, the botanical gardens and zoo in Bogor provide a nice break from the pollution and hustle and bustle of the Big Durian.


Challenges for expat parents in Jakarta

Jakarta is a city going through a lot of growing pains. The infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the huge growth spurt it has experienced in the last few years and this is evident in the quality of the construction of the different systems, from highways to sewerage.

Traffic is one of the biggest challenges and sources of frustration for many expats in Jakarta. The lack of clean sidewalks and the bad air quality do not allow for alternate modes of transport and using public transport with children is not recommended. Taking a stroller out for a walk is difficult unless it is done at the mall. 

A big issue is the quality of air and water. Tap water is not safe to drink and its dubious treatment makes many hesitate to even brush their teeth and bathe their younger babies in it. Pollution and bad air quality make Jakarta a breeding ground for respiratory infections and the lack of reliable medical treatment makes healthcare a decisive issue when moving to Jakarta with children.

Although many people speak English, miscommunication is often a problem. It’s common to not be able to understand what the locals really think and not because of a language barrier but the importance of “saving face”. It may be helpful to learn the local language in order to bridge the communication divide.

During Idul Fitri (Ramadan), the pace of Jakarta comes to a virtual standstill. Everything seems to take longer and most transactions and processes become very difficult. Most expats go home for most of June and July and come back in August for the start of the school period. During the summer, the heat and humidity make life a bit more challenging but the availability of pools makes it more bearable.

Overall, Jakarta is a fun city to live in with children, despite its ups and downs, and it is a great city to raise kids in a dynamic and multicultural environment.

See and Do in Jakarta

If one is willing to go beyond the prickly surface and find the sweetness within, there are so many things to see and do in the 'Big Durian'. As an expat moving to the city or a weekend tourist, one will be spoilt for choice. Jakarta is a great city for people who love to eat, shop and pamper themselves.

A good grasp of conversational Bahasa Indonesia would be advantageous as English is not always spoken by locals. If not, a translator application or phrasebook are advisable. 


Sightseeing in Jakarta

Monas

Monas stands for Monument Nasional and is very popular with the locals who like to fly kites, ride bikes, stroll and picnic on the grounds. The Monas was built in remembrance of the Indonesian heroes’ struggle to fight colonial domination. The impressive monument, which might look small from afar but is astoundingly large up close, is gorgeously clad in marble and topped with a bronze flame that is lit up at night. There is a museum at the base, and for a few dollars more, one can ascend to the top and get a 360-degree panoramic view. On the viewing deck, expats can admire the Presidential Palace, the Istiqlal Mosque and the Jakarta skyline.

National Museum of Indonesia

The National Museum is near the Monas and houses the most comprehensive collection of cultural artefacts in the entire archipelago. Allocate at least half a day to wander around and learn about the fascinating and rich Indonesian history. 

Fatahillah Square

Located at Kota Tua Jakarta or Old Jakarta, in the northern part of the city, is Fatahillah Square. There are many historical buildings around it that are great to explore on foot. Colourful bikes are also available for rent. The square itself is dotted with locals hanging about and vendors selling their wares/services.

The Fatahillah Museum is located here and is a great place to see interesting pieces of old furniture. The museum is not as well maintained as the National Museum, but it's still interesting to see. 

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah

If one does not have time to travel the archipelago of Indonesia, visit Taman Mini instead. There are a number of gardens in this attraction which show how Indonesians lived in different places and historical times. In the middle is a lake with miniature islands in the shape of the archipelago, complete with volcanoes. There are also museums and rides for children to enjoy.

Within the complex, there are different attractions that have a separate but minimal admission fee. Be sure to see the live Komodo dragon in the Komodo dragon-shaped museum building. 

A car is a must for entering Taman Mini so rent a car or hail a taxi. The entrance fee will depend on the vehicle expats are using to enter the park. 


Day trips in Jakarta

There are many more things to see around the wider Jakarta metropolitan area. A car is necessary for these trips; car rentals are cheap and come with drivers. Depending on the deal bargained with the agency, one might have to pay for gas and the driver’s meals. Allot a day for these excursions because of unpredictable traffic.

Bogor Botanical Gardens

This is a popular spot with the locals for picnicking. Drive in with a car to explore the vast grounds and see gigantic trees that are hundreds of years old and amazing to behold. If expats do not want to picnic they can also have lunch at the café and enjoy a breathtaking hilltop view of the gardens and a tranquil pond with giant lotus lilies.

Taman Safari

About one and a half hours away from Jakarta is Taman Safari, a sprawling safari park and amusement complex where one can feed freely roaming animals. Outside of the park, vendors sell bunches of small bananas and carrots to feed the animals. 

Check the schedule of the different shows on their website as they are worth watching. Other musts are the baby zoo, the aviary, riding on an elephant, camel or pony, and the elephant show.

Take note, traffic can increase travel time up to three hours on weekends, so it's better to visit during the week.

What's On in Jakarta

Jakarta’s cultural and entertainment scene is as diverse as its people, customs and neighbourhoods. From shopping fairs to music festivals, Jakarta will satisfy the craving for entertainment, and several annual events are popular among the expat and local population. 


Annual events in Jakarta

Chinese New Year (January/February)

Although the Chinese population in Indonesia accounts for less than two percent of the total population, Chinese traditions permeate several neighbourhoods in Jakarta. Chinese New Year is a big event for which many a Jakartan prepares well in advance by shopping and decorating their homes. The best place to take part in the festivities and fun events is in the Glodok area. 

Java Jazz Festival (March)

This annual event brings together world-class musicians and artists with local up-and-coming bands in a three-day festival full of music, art and entertainment. Vendors from across Asia showcase their products while artists share their talents on several stages all across the festival grounds. This is a must-see for those who have the blues in their soul. 

Highland Gathering (May)

The Highland Gathering is a festival full of Scottish tradition and flair that includes several highland games, a golf tournament, live music and entertainment for the whole family. It is a very well attended event where the expat community gets together with the locals to enjoy a day of concerts, games and great food. 

Indonesia International Motor Show (May)

Car and speed enthusiasts will greatly enjoy this annual automobile and motorcycle show that is held over the course of three days. Exhibitors from all around the world present cars, motorcycles and parts in a well-organised show that includes entertainment and demonstrations.

Eid al-Fitr (June)

In preparation for this Muslim holiday, during which devotees fast for a month and visit their relatives at the end of the fasting period, many stores have special sales and small neighbourhood festivals. Many people from all over Indonesia come to Jakarta to visit their relatives and shop to get ready to celebrate Eid al-Fitr at home. Non-Muslim expats do not participate in most of the festivities but are able to take advantage of the special deals available at hotels and sales at the shopping centres.

Jakarta Fair (June/July) 

This fair celebrates the anniversary of Jakarta's founding and exhibits a wide variety of goods and products from across the country, including speciality food items and handmade arts and crafts. This is a great opportunity to shop for traditional handicrafts at good prices.

Java Rockin’ Land (July)

Rock music lovers will enjoy this three-day rock festival that is held yearly by a lake in Ancol. Artists such as the Cranberries, 30 Seconds To Mars, Good Charlotte and Smashing Pumpkins have starred in this festival, which is now considered to be the major rock festival in Southeast Asia.

Getting Around in Jakarta

Getting around in Jakarta can be a nightmare, so expats will need a sense of humour, the ability to plan ahead and infinite patience. There are various modes of transport available, ranging from luxurious Mercedes taxis with their English-speaking drivers, to the very basic bajaj, the Indonesian equivalent of a tuk-tuk

Most wealthy Indonesians and expats employ a full-time driver to take care of their transport needs, but for the average Jakartan this is a luxury which they cannot afford. For the majority of people living and working in Jakarta, buses, ojeks and bajaj are their only option. It is common to see overcrowded buses, and motorbikes carrying at least two, if not three, passengers.

There is currently no subway or monorail system, which is why the roads are so badly congested and Jakarta’s traffic so notorious.

Whether riding around in a comfortable air-conditioned car or holding on to the back of an ojek, one thing that is guaranteed in Jakarta is traffic congestion. Even the shortest journeys can take hours so it is advisable to allow plenty of time to get to one's destination. Friday afternoons are known to be particularly bad. 

Despite the huge volume of daily traffic making its way along the highways and byways of Indonesia’s vast capital, road traffic accidents are rare and drivers and their passengers are remarkably good-natured and patient considering how long it takes many of them to commute every day. 


Public transport in Jakarta

Buses

Buses in Jakarta range from the large, modern air-conditioned TransJakarta buses that have a fixed route through the city, to the very basic Koasi buses. Prices for TransJakarta buses vary depending on destination and they have their own designated stops along the route.

Kopaja and Metromini are medium-sized buses, typically full and overcrowded with no air conditioning. These usually have no official bus stops, just stopping anywhere that someone wants to hop on or off. 

Mikrolet and Koasi are more like minivans. The driver generally won’t leave until he has a full bus so it’s not uncommon to see people waiting inside the hot stuffy bus for over half an hour while the driver waits to get more passengers.

Trains

Trains run from Jakarta to the suburbs and beyond. The trains are busy and often very crowded on the commuter line, but are the fastest way to get out of Jakarta and back again, avoiding the heavily congested roads.

Ojeks

Ojeks are motorcycle taxis. There are signs for ojeks on most street corners and along the side of the main roads. If one is lucky, the ojek driver will supply a helmet. Most drivers are knowledgeable about routes around Jakarta and also have the advantage of being able to get through static traffic more easily than a car. 

Bajaj

Bajaj are the most fun way to travel around Jakarta. However, expats should be prepared for a noisy ride due to the fact that these vehicles are open-sided, and may have little or no flooring in the back, often just a piece of old cardboard stuck down over a gaping hole. It’s unlikely the driver will speak any English so expats need to know exactly where they are headed and negotiate a price beforehand. 


Taxis in Jakarta

There are a number of taxi services in Jakarta, with ride-sharing services like Grab being the recommended service for expats to use. Drivers are generally very good, have knowledge of the city and speak reasonably good English. They are a safe bet for newcomers to Jakarta and those unfamiliar with the area. 

Other local taxi drivers generally don’t speak English and often have a very basic knowledge of the city. It is not unheard of for these drivers to get lost and for journeys to take longer than normal because they have to stop to ask directions. 


Personal drivers in Jakarta

For most people who can afford it, having a full-time driver is the easiest and most convenient option for getting around Jakarta. The driver's pay is based on a daily rate and then overtime is added if they work late and on weekends. A good driver is invaluable as he will have an excellent knowledge of the city’s roads and know the quickest routes to a given address. 


Cycling in Jakarta

Due to the heavy traffic congestion, cycling in Jakarta can be dangerous. There are no bicycle-sharing facilities in the city and there is very little infrastructure for cyclists, so expats are advised to avoid cycling in Jakarta. 


Walking in Jakarta

Walking in Jakarta is problematic. First off is the pollution, which makes this form of exercise unpleasant. Secondly, the lack of pavements means that people have to keep their wits about them if they are to avoid falling into holes in the ground, tripping over uneven paving or, worse, falling into open sewers that often run alongside the roads. Not least, the sheer volume of traffic makes crossing a road something of an extreme sport.

In the centre of Jakarta, around the shopping malls and in some expat residential areas, walking is easier but, in general, walking in Jakarta is not as pleasurable as it might be in other cities.