JAKARTA BASICS: ITS HISTORY, PEOPLE AND PROBLEMS

JAKARTA

Jakarta is a big, sprawling, dirty, steamy hot city with crowded slums, monsoon flooded districts, thistle-like skyscrapers, traffic-clogged streets, and shacks and street stalls intermixed with modern buildings built with Western money. There are around 10 million people in the city and another 20 million around it. By some counts Jakarta is the fastest growing major metropolis in the world, expanding at a rate of 4.4 percent a year. Greater Jakarta grew from 2.8 million in 1950 to 15 million in 2000 and is home to around 31 million people today. During the day the number in the city proper increases by 2 or 3 million as commuters make their way to work in the city, and decreases when they go home in the evenings. When it was under Dutch control before World War II, Jakarta was known as Batavia then spelled Djakarta. Indonesia was known as the Dutch East Indies.

Located on Jakarta Bay on the north coast of western Java, Jakarta covers 590 square kilometers. It is currently ranked as the world’s 21th largest city but greater Jakarta ranks as the world’s fourth largest metropolitan area and covers over 1,000 square kilometers (400 square miles). It rivals Bangkok in terms of pollution and traffic congestion but not in terms of things to do and see. Most tourists visiting Indonesia give it a miss. Some that do a layover at Jakarta’s international Airport, chose to sleep in the airport rather than deal with going into the city.

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, but in 2019 plans were announced to move the capital of Indonesia to Kalimantan in Borneo because Jakarta is too crowded, sinking and often flooded. But for now Jakarta it is still the seat of the national government as well the home of a large provincial government and Indonesia’s main political scene, with the Presidential Palace, national government offices, Parliament, and the Supreme Court all located in the city center.

Jakarta is the chief port and major financial, commerce and banking center of Indonesia but not its cultural center. Jakarta began as a colonial outpost set up by the Dutch. The cultural centers and traditional home of the Javanese royalty have been in Solo and Yogyakarta in eastern Java. But Jakarta is the center of Indonesia’s popular culture and its modern music, media, film and publishing industries. Jakarta’s attractions include a few interesting museums and some interesting colonial buildings in Kota (Old Jakarta). The city has vibrant nightlife, lots of good place to eat and multicultural scene with Indonesians from all over the archipelago: Ambonese. Madurese, Timorese and Batiks. The main ethnic groups in Jakarta are Sundanese, who predominate in the surrounding province of West Java, and Javanese. There is a substantial Chinese population and tens of thousands of expatriates.

The province of Jakarta has rapidly expanded through the years, absorbing many villages in the process. Jakarta in fact is a conglomeration of villages known as kampungs, now crossed by main roads and super highways. This explains why you can be cruising down a wide avenue and then suddenly find yourself squeezed into a small street jammed with cars and motorbikes. The names of the former villages can be detected from their main streets: Tanah Abang, Kebon Kacang, Kebon Jeruk, Kampung Melayu, and other. In case its often a mess and a good map, or a well-tested GPS navigation system is strongly advised even for finding well-trodden tourist destinations.

Jakarta is built on a wide flat delta, intersected by 13 rivers. In the Bay of Jakarta are a large number of tiny islands, known as the Thousand Islands or Pulau Seribu, where tourists can snorkel, swim and escape the city. To the south are the towering volcanoes of Gede and Pangrango, where the cool mountain retreats of Bogor, Puncak, Sukabumi and Bandung are situated. Construction in and around the city is booming, and includes hotels shopping malls, apartment complexes To reach the far-flung destination scattered across the sprawling metropolis, the government has built toll roads to ease congestion through and over Jakarta’s busiest centers though these are often clogged like ever other major road in Jakarta, especially during morning and evening hours, which can last three or four hours.

The Province of Greater Jakarta is comprised of six municipalities: 1) Central Jakarta which includes the Merdeka Square and the elite residential area of Menteng; 2) South Jakarta, which includes the districts of Kebayoran and Bintaro; 3) West Jakarta, where some of Jakarta’s tallest buildings and major hotels have recently been constructed; 4) East Jakarta, site of the Indonesia in Miniature Park as well as many industrial estates; 5) North Jakarta, the city’s prime trading area and site of Jakarta’s beach recreation Ancol Dreamland; and 6) the Thousand Islands, some 76 idyllic islands lying in the Bay of Jakarta.

History of Jakarta

Jakarta was where Indonesia proclaimed Independence on August 17, 1945, which was the outcome of the National Awakening Movement in 1908 and the Youth Movement against colonialism since 1928. Jakarta was also where the ongoing Indonesian Reform movement started in 1997. Jakarta, formerly known as Batavia, was the seat of the Dutch East India company, VOC, and later of the colonial government over the then Dutch East Indies.

Originally a small fishing village known as Jayakarta or Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta was trading center used by Arabs, Indians, Indonesian ethnic groups and Chinese before the arrival of Europeans. When Portuguese (the first Europeans in the region) arrived in 1522 it was a bustling port for the Hindu Pajajaran dynasty. The Dutch captured it in 1619 from a Muslim saint and transformed it into a major port called Kota and then Batavia. Out of swamps and coconut groves the Dutch built a large fortress, canals that rivaled those in Amsterdam, ornate churches, lavish mansions and neat street grids. Jayakarta means “victorious.”

At its height Jakarta was known as the “Queen of the East” and boasted warehouses filled with spices that were as valuable as gold. When the Dutch spice monopoly ended in the 18th century, the city declined. The canals became clogged, malaria became a serious problem and the fortress was demolished. In the early 20th century some large administrative buildings were built. When Indonesia became independent it reverted back to a form of its original name—Jakarta. In the 1970s many new high-rise buildings were built and the downtown shifted to where these buildings were built.

According to “Cities of the World”: “In the 16th century, Jakarta, called Sunda Kelapa, was the chief port for the Sundanese (West Javanese) kingdom of Pajajaran. Later, the Sultan of Bantam changed the name to Jayakarta, "Glorious Fortress" in the Sundanese language. At the end of the 16th century, Dutch and Portuguese traders struggled for a foothold on Java. Since it was difficult for foreigners to pronounce Jayakarta, the name was changed to Jakarta. Eventually, the Dutch won possession of Java and established a fortified trading post at Jakarta, which they renamed Batavia. For three-and-a-half centuries after the Dutch arrival, Batavia was the focal point of a rich, sprawling commercial empire called the Netherlands East Indies. In older sections, Dutch-style gabled houses with diamond-paned windows and swinging shutters are still found. The canals, narrow downtown streets, and old drawbridges will remind you of the city's Dutch heritage and early settlers. [Source: Cities of the World, Gale Group Inc., 2002, adapted from a 2001 U.S. State Department report]

“Eventually, more modern sections of the city were built some eight miles inland. Indonesia became a sovereign State on December 27, 1949; the next day Batavia was renamed Jakarta. The city has grown rapidly in population from about 600,000 in 1940 to over 11 million. Physically, Jakarta has changed much in the last decade. A modern center with hotels, restaurants, and tall office buildings now has grown up amidst the crowded "kampungs" often with banana groves and rice paddies reminiscent of rural Java. Infrastructure, roads, electric power, and water supply are vastly improved, and new housing and apartments have gone up. With Jakarta's expanding boundaries, most Americans and other foreigners live in newer suburbs, such as Kebayoran, Five miles from downtown. Air pollution and traffic congestion are increasing problems.”

Early History of Jakarta

According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism: “Since the fifth century, ships from China and Champa (Vietnam), and from all islands in the archipelago docked at the mouth of the Ciliwung River. Indian and Portuguese traders also visited this small town. Javanese sailors, carrying spices from Molucca, were also docked there. Between 17th and early 18 centuries, ships could sail further up to the river Ciliwung. Towards the south of this drawbridge, the once busy harbor town of Sunda Kelapa stretched along both sides of the river between the 12th century and 15th century.

“Sunda Kalapa was the main port of the Hindu Kingdom of Sunda. The capital of the Pakuan Pajajaran kingdom was located two days journey upriver, now known as Bogor. Ships often visited this port from Palembang, Tanjungpura, Malacca, Maccasar and Madura, and even by merchants from India and South China. Sunda Kelapa exported, among other items, pepper, rice and gold.

Portuguese in Jakarta

“In 1513 the first European fleet, four Portuguese ships under the command of Alvin, arrived in Sunda Kelapa from Malacca. Malacca had been conquered two years earlier by Alfonso d' Albuquerque. They were looking for spices, especially pepper, to this busy and well-organized harbor. Some years later, the Portuguese Enrique Leme visited Kalapa with presents for the King of Sunda. He was well received and on August 21, 1522 signed a treaty of friendship between the kingdom of Sunda and Portugal. The Portuguese received the right to build a go down (warehouse) and to erect a fort in Kalapa. This was regarded by the Sundanese as a consolidation of their position against the encroaching Muslim troops from the rising power of the Sultanate of Demak in Central Java.

“To commemorate this treaty, they put big stone, called a Padrao, which vanished for some years. This stone was uncovered later in 1918 during an excavation for a new house in Kota area on the corner of Cengkeh Street and Nelayan Timur Street. This Padrao can now be seen in the National Museum on Medan Merdeka Barat Street. The original location of the stone suggests that the coastline in the early 16th century formed a nearly straight line, which is marked by the present of Nelayan Street, some 400 meters south to the Lookout Tower. The King of Sunda had his own reasons for great danger from the expansive Muslim Kingdom of Demak, whose troops threatened his second harbor town, Banten (west of Jakarta). Sunda felt squeezed and was in need of strong friends. Thus, the king hoped the Portuguese would return quickly and help him protect his important harbor. But they came too late. For in 1527 the Muslim leader Fatahillah appeared before Kalapa with 1,452 soldiers from Cirebon and Demak.

“According to some historians, this victory of 1527 provided the reason for Fatahillah to rename Sunda Kelapa, Jayakarta, which means "Great Deed" or "Complete Victory." On the basis of this victory, Jakarta celebrates its birthday on June 22, 1527; the day Fatahillah gave the town a name of victory of over Sundanese Hindus and Portuguese sailor. Prince Jayawikarta, a follower of the Sultan of Banten, resided on the west banks of Ciliwung river, which in the early 17th century reached the roughly at our starting place, the Lookout at Pasar Ikan. He erected a military post there in order to control the mouth of the river and the Dutch who had been granted permission in 1610 to build a wooden go down and some houses just opposite there on the east bank. Dutch ships had already come to Jayakarta in 1596. The Prince tried to keep a close eye on these unruly guests.

British in Jakarta

“To keep its strength equal to that of the Dutch, Prince Jayawikarta allowed the British to erect houses on the West Bank of Ciliwung River, across the Dutch go down, in 1615. The Prince granted permission to the British to erect a fort closed to his Customs Office post. Jayawikarta was in support of the British because his palace was under the threat of the Dutch cannons. In December 1618, the tense relationship between Prince Jayawikarta and the Dutch escalated. Jayawikarta soldiers besieged the Dutch fortress that covered two strong go down, namely Nassau and Mauritus. The British fleet made up of 15 ships arrived. The fleet was under the leadership of Sir Thomas Dale, former governor of the Colony of Virginia, now known as Virginia State in the United States.

“The British admiral was already old and was indecisive. After the sea battle, the newly appointed Dutch governor Jan Pieter Soon Coon (1618) escaped to Molucca to seek support. Meanwhile, the commander of the Dutch army was arrested when the negotiation was underway because Jayawikarta felt that the Dutch deceived him. Then, the Prince Jayawikarta and the British entered into a friendship agreement.

“The Dutch army was about to surrender to the British when in 1619, a sultan from Banten sent soldiers and summoned Prince Jayawikarta for establishing closed relationship with the British without first asking an approval from Banten authorities. The conflict between Banten and Prince Jayawikarta as well as the tensed relationship between Banten and the British had weakened the Dutch enemy. Prince Jayawikarta was moved to Tanara and died in Banten. The Dutch felt relieved and tried to establish a closer relationship with the Banten. The Dutch fortress garrison, along with hired soldiers from Japan, Germany, Scotia, Denmark, and Belgium held a party in commemoration of the change in situation. They name their fortress after Batavia to recollect the ethnic group Batavier, the Dutch ancestor. Since then Jayakarta was called Batavia for more than 300 years.

Dutch Takeover Jakarta

“Under the relationship of J.P Coen, Dutch army attacked and destroyed the city and Jayakarta Palace on May 30, 1619. There were no remains of Jakarta except for the Padrao stone now stored at the National Museum in Jakarta. The Jayakarta grave was possibly located in Pulau Gadung. If we stand on top of Menara Syahbandar and look around, we can enjoy the beautiful panorama in the oldest area of Batavia. Certainly, we can't enjoy the remains of the city Sunda Kelapa or Jayakarta. Kasteel or the Dutch fortress, too, has been destroyed. Here we can see several remains from the mid-17th century. Nearly all of the remains are related to trade and sailing.

“Syahbandar Tower was built 1839 to replace the old flagpole in ship dock located right on the side across a river. From the pole and later the tower, officials observed ships about to anchor gave signals. The tower then is used a meteorology post. To the West of the Lookout Tower, we can see the view of the present Bahari Museum. The museum represents a very old and strong edifice with Dutch architecture. The museum also provides several maps of the city, with stages of the city development shown. The museum is part of something in Dutch called Westzijdsche Pakhuizen (Warehouse on the West bank. Here nutmegs, pepper, coffee, tea, and cloth in a large scale were used to be stored.

“The area around Syahbandar Tower was once the center of Kota Batavia. It was the center of a trading network with wide spread agents reaching Deshima (Nagasaki) in Japan, Surate in Persia and Cape town in South Africa. Inter-trade among Asia was more profitable than inter-trade between Asia and Europe. And the Pasar Ikan (Market Fish) once was the pulse. Here, the site where the origin of the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, came from.

People of Jakarta

Jakarta is a multicultural city with Indonesians from all over the archipelago: Ambonese. Madurese, Timorese and Batiks. The main ethnic groups in Jakarta are Sundanese, who predominate in the surrounding province of West Java, and Javanese. There is a substantial Chinese population and tens of thousands of expatriates.

Since the 5th century the area around present-day Jakarta has been an important trading port. People from across Java, but also from Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan as well as traders from China, India and the Middle East came to settle here, some maintaining their own exclusive communities, others integrating into new communities with the Betawi ethnic group, regarded as the of Jakarta but also recognized as a mix of the original inhabitants and early visitors.

Betawi culture today includes influences of people that reached Jakarta over the centuries. The long process of borrowing and blending Chinese, Arab, Portuguese and Dutch elements with the local culture has produced the colorful, composite Betawi culture. The word “Betawi” is derived from the word “Batavia” the name given to the city by the Dutch.

Especially after independence and the designation of Jakarta as the nation’s capital, people from all over Indonesia have poured into Jakarta. Despite this the Betawi people have held on to their own even though they are now relegated to small pockets in the greater Jakarta metropolis. Most Betawis are small landowners or live from the land. By the Pasanggerahan river, they do their best to protect their areas from pollution and industrialization. The symbol of the Betawi is the huge doll called “Ondel-ondel” that paraded around during weddings and circumcisions.

Jakarta residents are predominantly modern and dress in Western-style clothes but some still wear Indonesian attire. Some are very fashion conscious. Since most residents of the city are Muslims, women wearing the “jilbab” over their hair is a common sight. Like most large Southeast Asia cities, Jakarta has a large population of Chinese, most of whom are Indonesian citizens. They constitute the country's largest non-Indonesian ethnic group. Many have lived in Indonesia for generations and no longer speak Chinese, but most maintain Chinese traditions and family ties. Most Chinese in Jakarta operate businesses. Their district, Kota (or Glodok), has a distinctly Chinese flavor. [Source: Cities of the World, Gale Group Inc., 2002, adapted from a 2001 U.S. State Department report]

“Over 25,000 foreigners live in the Jakarta area. Over 60 nations now maintain diplomatic or consular missions. The U.S., Russia, Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, and Australia operate the largest. Over 6,000 Americans reside in Jakarta—members of U.S. Government agencies, the U.N. and private, nongovernmental agencies, business representatives, and missionaries. Jakarta is the main stop for an increasing number of U.S. business visitors and many American, European, and Australian tourists visit Jakarta each year, usually on their way to tourist areas such as Bali or Yogyakarta.

Learn a few necessary phrases in Indonesian. Not all Indonesians can speak English well. “English is understood by many higher level Indonesian officials, business representatives, and professionals, particularly the younger generation. However, some knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia, the national language, is needed by foreigners for everyday communication. The older, Dutch-educated Indonesians can speak Dutch, especially those who grew up under The Netherlands colonial rule.

Jakarta's Problems: Mostly Flooding and Pollution

Like many big cities in developing countries, poor people from the countryside are pouring into Jakarta and straining its infrastructure, almost to the breaking point. And its only going to get worse. There are now about 2 million people in Jakarta living ins slums, and this will no doubt increase. The traffic is so bad a trip of five kilometers can take more than an hour

Jakarta is shrouded by a thick cloak of smog and has severe water problems. In the early 2000s, only half the population was hooked up to the municipal water systems and only two percent were hooked up to sewage systems. All the rivers are dead, smothered by acids, alcohol and oils. Some of Jakarta’s river are so choked with garbage that some residents make a living by picking through it and collect recyclable materials.

Wastes flow into well water and salt from the Java Sea seeps in aquifers that supply drinking and bathing waters for hundreds of thousands of people. If that wasn't enough water taken from the aquifers is causing the city to sink and neighborhoods to become so flooded they have to be rebuilt every few years to keep them above sea level.

Only now is extensive work being done to bring piped water to most of the city. The work is being done by a French and British companies and is expected to be completed in 2025. In the meantime people have to put up with water that is often contaminated and makes them sick.

Jakarta traffic is terrible. Often times it is quicker to walk than drive or take a taxi. In the past the streets were the domain of motorbikes but many of Jakarta's residents own cars, making congestion worse. To ease the traffic and congestion in Jakarta, the city council passed laws banning local forms of transport such as bemos and bakajas. Laws have also been passed that require vehicles traveling during rush hour to have three or more passengers. To get around this law, some drivers pick up street children, paying them a small fee, drive past video cameras monitoring motorists and then drop them off.

Sara Webb of Reuters wrote: “To get a sense of Jakarta's infrastructural shortcomings, start at Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Indonesia's busiest. At peak times the queues at the visa and immigration counters snake back several hundred meters, and it can take up to three hours for passengers to be reunited with their luggage. The drive into Jakarta's center provides sweeping views of shopping malls set among slums and densely packed housing. Traffic crawls along at 15-20 kilometers (10-12 miles) per hour, flooding is common during the heavy rains, power supplies are erratic, while Dutch-era canals serve as stinking open sewers for slumdwellers. Only the affluent, ensconced in compounds with guaranteed power and water supplies, live comfortably. [Source: Sara Webb, Reuters, August 26, 2010]

In an article entitled “Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater, the Financial Times reported: “In one of the world’s most densely populated cities, where a third are without access to piped water, traffic jams and pollution are ubiquitous and there is no metro system, residents have good reason to want change. Jakarta is a major engine of growth for Indonesia, which has been expanding at about 6 percent a year for the past five years. But, mirroring the rest of the country, the capital’s poor infrastructure has deterred foreign investors. Even though Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, many international companies prefer to locate their regional headquarters elsewhere.” [Source: Financial Times, “April 26, 2018]

Despite all this, Jakarta is relatively safe. Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institute wrote: Jakarta’s smog may be deadly and its traffic murderous and the inability of Jakarta’s cabbies to locate any address may well push one’s self-control to the threshold of violence; but with respect to crime...Despite occasional dramatic killings by the gangs that draw sensationalist media attention, Indonesia’s urban gangs come across as rather docile. Jakarta is a remarkably safe city. Even in the vast slums where the state is absent and the gangs rule, the atmosphere of violence is palpably lower than in many of Latin America’s cities. That does not mean that the Jakarta gangs do not exercise a great deal of power and authority over both slum areas and some business parts of the city. Just like in Rio de Janeiro, some gangs may at times have a virtual stranglehold on a neighborhood, complete with checkpoints and controlled entry into the slum.” [Source: Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institute, February 6, 2013]

Accommodation in Jakarta

Jakarta has quite a few deluxe hotels including the Shangri-La, Ritz Carlton Jakarta Pacific Place, Sultan Hotel, Hotel Pullman Jakarta Central Park, Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel, Grand Hyatt, Gran Hotel Melia, JW Marriott Hotel, and Bidakara Hotel. There are also Best Westerns and a Holiday Inn. Hotels like Sahid Hotel Jakarta, Le Meridian Hotel, Intercontinental Hotel, Sari Pan Pacific, Nikko Hotel Jakarta, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Alila Hotel, Sultan Hotel Jakarta (former Hilton hotel), Mandarin Oriental Jakarta located near the Trans Jakarta halt.

There are also quite a few standard hotels, hostels, guesthouses, YMCAs and other hotels. The most popular budget hotel area is Jalan Jaksa, a small street a couple of blocks from Jalan Thamrin, about a 10 minute walk from Gambir train station. . Be warned that many of he cheap hotels also serve as brothels. Mid range hotels cane also be found in Jalaln Jaksa as well in Cikini, east of Jl Thamnrim close to the T.I.M. Cultural Center.

The tourist office in Jakarta and the hotel information desk at the airport can help you find a luxury or standard hotel. The Lonely Planet books and website has good suggestions of cheap accommodation options.

GETTING AROUND IN JAKARTA

Public transportation is frustrating. Sidewalk come and go. At many intersection drivers are entertained by street musicians. The buses tend to be irritatingly crowded. The Bluebird runs the most established fleet of taxis. Traditional forms of Indonesian urban transportation include bemos (a term that used to refer to three-wheeled minibuses but now refers to any kind of minibus) and bajajes (small tuk-tuk-like three wheelers).

The best way to travel around Jakarta is by hired car, taxi or by package tour, Be prepared, though, to meet traffic jams, especially when traveling during peak hours and into business districts, including the area around Old Batavia. It is advisable therefore to choose a hotel near the attractions or destinations you wish to visit. Distances in Jakarta are far and there are frequent traffic snarls.

The most comfortable way to get around is by renting a car or taking a taxi. It is advisable to call for a taxi from your hotel and to avoid renting a car and driving yourself as it is easy get lost and difficult to understand Jakarta’s peculiar traffic rules and behavior. There are “car calls” and valet services available at all hotels and malls to call drivers. Drivers can also be called using cell phones. If you are adventurous you cab try the TransJakarta express buses, which connect the main streets. Trans-Jakarta buses, popularly known as Busway, run on their own exclusive lanes to avoid traffic. Unfortunately the Busway as yet serves only a few routes.There are also regular buses and city trains. Make sure you know your destination and which bus to take before you set out. For more information see the "Getting Around Within Cities" section Under Tourist Information.

For those who wish to move around by Trans Jakarta, 10.00 am to 04.00 pm is the best time. From 7.00 am to 10.00 am and 04.00 pm to 07.00 pm Trans Jakarta is a crowded with commuters. On Saturday and Monday, Trans Jakarta is crowded all day long. To access National Museum and National Monument (MONAS), stop at Monas Halt.

According to ASIRT: “Jakarta metropolitan area includes Central and Old Town Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi. Privately-owned intra-city buses: Buses seldom run on schedule. There are no fixed bus stops. Drivers stop at passengers request. Disembark quickly, as drivers may not come to a full stop. The risk of being mugged is greater when sitting on back seats. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT): PDF, 2008]

“Minibuses (mikrolet) and minivans (angkot) have routes on smaller streets. Routes are confusing. 'DAMRI' shuttle buses provide transport to Jakarta, Bekasi and Bogor. Taxis are generally safer than regular intra-city buses. Government-owned Transjakarta buses: Transjakarta buses travel on busways (reserved lanes on key urban roads). Other traffic can use busways in emergencies or during rush hour.

Two busways are open: the Pulogadung to Kalideres and Blok M to Jakarta Kota routes. Busways are reducing congestion and average travel times. Buses are comfortable, but may be crowded in rush hour. Buses only stop at busway stations, situated in the middle of wide streets. Pedestrian bridges connect bus platforms to sidewalks. Buses operate from 7am to 10 pm.

“Buses, taxis and limousines provide transport. Taxis are metered. Tolls may be added to the fare. The 'DAMRI' Shuttle bus provides service two and from many locations in the city. Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) is limited; lines connect Jakarta with Bogor, Tangerang and Bekasi.

Taxis are readily available. Board taxis at a major hotel or phone for a cab. Do not hail taxis.Taxis are metered, but drivers may not use the meter. Ask, “Argo?” (Meter?) If the driver says, “No” or “Tidak,” use a different taxi. Tipping is not expected; rounding the fare up to the nearest Rp 1000 is customary.

“Blue Bird group taxis (Blue Bird, Morante, Cendrawasih and Puska and Silver Bird) are recommended. Tel: 62-21- 7981001. Fares are higher for Silver Bird’s “executive taxis.” When possible, know the best route to your destination. Many drivers are newcomers and may not know the shortest routes. Other drivers just take the long way. Ojeks (motorcyle taxis) and bajaj (three-wheeled taxis) are not recommended, due to safety concerns. Fares are not fixed. Drivers may overcharge visitors. Agree on fare prior to departing. Becaks (cycle rickshaws) are not permitted in city center and some larger roads. Drivers may have to take round about routes.”

Bus and Train Stations in Jakarta

There are many bus stations in Jakarta and getting to the one you service the place you want to go can be a little confusing. Most of the long-distance bus stations are in the suburbs far from the center of town (the train stations are much more centrally located and convenient). There are city bus station in all the districts and bus go from there to the long-distance bus stations. Door-to-door travel minibuses are available to and from Java and Sumatra Island, mostly provided by travel agents

There are four main bus station. 1) Lebak Bulus station, 16 kilometers south of the center of Jakarta, handles delux buses to Yogyakarta, Bali, Sumatra, Surabaya and Bandung. 2) Economic buses to Ceribon, Yogyakarta and destinations to Central and East Java as well as Bali and Sumatra leave from the Pulo Gadung Station, 12 kilometers east of Jakarta. Many of the air conditioned buses leave from here. It is a confusing place and the largest bus station in Indonesia. 3) Buses to Bandung, Bogor, Puncak, Sukabumi and towns near Jakarta leave from Kampung Rambutan bus station, 18 kilometers from the city center. 4) Buses to Merka and destinations in the west leave from Kalideres bus station, 15 kilometers northwest of Merdeka Square.

Train Stations: There are four main trains staions in Jakarta, all of tehm relatively close to the city center. The most convenient railway station is at Gambir next to Merdeka Square. It is a short walk from Jalan Jakson, the main cheap accommodation area. The trains station in Kota in the old city is also convenient. .

Getting to Jakarta

Jakarta has two international airports: 1) the larger Sukarno-Hatta international airport, located in Tangerang, now in the neighbouring province of Banten; and 2) the smaller Halim Perdanakusumah airport, which is reserved to receive visiting Heads of State.

Jakarta is an international gateway for Indonesia. Practically all international airlines that fly to Indonesia stop in Jakarta or Bali. Sukarno-Hatta international airport serves a growing number of international airlines and provides of domestic flights to everywhere within Indonesia.

From some cities in Java, you can travel to Jakarta by train, bus or minibus. Some cruise ships call at Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok harbor. There are frequent train connections available from Gambir station, the city’s main railway station. In tourist bus or private car one can travel on wide toll roads. For more detailed information on Jakarta, visit Enjoy Jakarta, the official site of Jakarta travel site.

Many international airlines from Europe, Asia and Australia make the Sukarno-Hatta their turnaround airport, while a number do continue on to Bali and Australia. This airport is also the hub of Indonesia’s own Garuda Indonesia as well as home for most of Indonesia’s regular domestic airlines and low-cost carriers (LCC). Taxis can be hired at the airport to get into the city. There are options to take from regular taxis to limousines. Make sure that you get your taxi from the counter, rather than hail taxis from the curb. There are buses going into town, but these are infrequent. From Soekarno Hatta Airport you can take an airport taxi or airport bus to Gambir Station and then connect with the Trans Jakarta bus, which reaches many parts of Jakarta.

Driving in Jakarta

According to ASIRT: “ Many drivers drive recklessly, ignore traffic regulations and travel on the wrong way on one-way roads and drive three or four abreast on two-lane roads.

Traffic is often heavy on expressways leading to Jakarta. The number of motorcyclists is growing rapidly.Motorcyclists tend to drive recklessly. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT): PDF, 2008]

“Gatot Subroto Road is a “three in one” road. During rush hours, cars must have at least 3 passengers. Sudirman and Thamrin Street are heavily traveled main streets. They are being widened to create busway lanes. Expect delays and detours. The Waterway (a river boat service on the West Flood Channel) offers an alternative to land transport. Route links Halimun in South Karkarta to Karet in Central Jakarta.

High numbers of 2-stroke motorcycle engines contributes to traffic congestion and sound and air pollution. Flood preparedness is poor. Warnings are not issued. Insufficient staff and equipment slows response. During heavy rains, floods may cause widespread street closures and power outages, block traffic on main roads into the city and slow traffic between the airport and city center..Few taxis operate during floods; fares are high. Businesses may close or have limited hours. During severe floods, the U.S. Embassy may close. Sukarno-Hatta Intenational Airport is in Cengkareng,Tangerang district, 20 kilometers from city center. Address:Building 601, P.O. Box 1245 BUSH, Jakarta 19101; website: angkasapura2.co.id.

Roads in Greater Jakarta

According to ASIRT: “ Jl. (Jl. for Jalan; means “road.”) Letjen Soeprapto in Central Jakarta, Jl. Gatot Subroto in South Jakarta, Jl. S. Parman in West Jakarta, Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan in North Jakarta, Jl. D.I Panjaitan in East Jakarta, Jl. Thamrin in Tangerang, Jl.A. Yani in Bekasi, and Jl. Margonda in Depok. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT): PDF, 2008]

Puncak Route: The main road from Jakarta to Bogor. The section linking Ciawi, Cibogo, Cipayung, Cisarua, Cipanas and Bogor passes through some mountainous areas. Road crash rate is high. Traffic is generally congested on weekends. Buses are not permitted to travel through the Puncak Pass on weekends.

Jambi-Kerinci Road: A major highway to Jambi city, the road has over 50 sections where landslides frequently occur. Be alert for debris on the road from minor

Surabaya-Gempol Toll Road: The Porong-Gempol section is closed due to a mud volcano eruption near Sidoarjo. Efforts to stop the mud flow have failed. Damage to roads, railroads and other infrastructure is extensive. Reopening of the road is unlikely. Expect long traffic jams near Pasar Porong and Sidoarjo.

Asian Highway Route 2 (Ah2): The road links main cities in northern Java and western Bali. Most of the road is in good to fair condition. Ferry services provide inter-island

Asian Highway Route A-25 (Section Onjava): Indonesia’s most heavily traveled road. Traffic includes many overloaded trucks. Most of the road is in good to fair condition. However, conditions may deteriorate rapidly. Most sections on Java are 4-lane divided highways. Traffic slowdowns occur in 2- or 3-lane undivided highway sections. Shoulders are often lacking.On Java, the road is also known as the North Java Transport Corridor, Pantai Utara Road or Pantura Road. Links main cities on Java and eastern Sumatera. Ferry services provide inter-island transport.

Asian Highway Route A-25 (Section Onsumatera): The road is paved, but narrow and may have many potholes. Traffic is fairly light. Some sections are mountainous and have many sharp curves. Landslides are common in mountainous areas during the rainy season. Debris is generally cleared quickly. Road is difficult through Bukit Barisan; limit travel to daylight hours.The road runs from Banda Aceh on Sumatra to Merak Port on Java. Ferries provide inter-island transport. On Sumatera, the road is known as the Sumatera Eastern Highway or the Trans-Sumatra Highway.

Belawan-Medan-Tanjung Muara Toll Road: A road on Sumatra that reduces heavy traffic levels through main cities.

Cipularang Toll Road: Toll road linking Jakarta, Karawang, Purwakarta, Padalarang and Bandung in West Java. Runs through a mountainous area. May be closed in the rainy season due to landslides. Repair of road sections and embankments damaged by landslides are almost complete.On weekends, traffic is often congested near the toll gates in the Djunjunan/Terusan Pasteur area. The road intersects with the Cikampek Toll Road.

Jatiasih-Cikunir Toll Road: Opened in August 2007, the road forms the eastern section of the Jakarta Outer Ring Road. The road links with 3 turnpikes: Jakarta-Serpong (in Tangerang), Jakarta-Bogor-Ciawi (in West Java) and Jakarta-Cikampek (in West Java). The road has eased congestion at the Cawang junction.

Jagorawi Toll Road: Links Jakarta, Bogor and Ciawi. The road’s name comes from the cities it links: (Ja)karta - Bo(gor) - Ci(awi).

Cipularang Toll Road: Toll road linking Jakarta, Karawang, Purwakarta, Padalarang and Bandung in West Java. Runs through a mountainous area. May be closed in the rainy season due to landslides. Repair of road sections and embankments damaged by landslides are almost complete.On weekends, traffic is often congested near the toll gates in the Djunjunan/Terusan Pasteur area. The road intersects with the Cikampek Toll Road.

Cinere-jagorawi Toll Road: A heavily traveled road, linking Jalan Raya Cinere and Jagorawi Toll Road. The road is part of Jakarta’s Outer Ring Road Second Stage

Roads in South West Java: Most roads are paved

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( indonesia.travel ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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