Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and as such, serves as the first experience of the country for most tourists.
It may not always be the best introduction however, as Jakarta sprawls in all directions and can prove to be difficult and confusing to navigate.
Most people treat Jakarta simply as an entry and exit point, which is understandable, as at first glance this is nothing more than a big city. If you are flying in or out of Jakarta though, it is well worth stopping off for a few days and experiencing all that the city has to offer. As you would expect, you can find attractions suitable for all budgets, age groups, and even for something that suits solo travelers, families, or couples.
Jakarta has a huge number of attractions depending on what you want to do, such as a visit to Monas – the golden flame-topped national monument located in the center of Jakarta. Other must-visit places include Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, which has 26 sections that depict models of Indonesia’s 26 provinces. This includes Kota Tua or Old Town Batavia for a peek of how Jakarta was in the days of old.
Jakarta caters to a number of international flights from other Southeast Asian countries among others. You can also reach Jakarta overland via trains or buses from neighboring cities like Yogyakarta, or you can fly domestically from hubs like Bali. One of the best things about Jakarta is that it has flights going to other parts of the country, making the city a great start or end point for your trip.
Money matters are easy in Jakarta, as you will find international access ATMs and money changers all over the city. The city also has a huge number of international banks, making it easy to shop around and find the best exchange rate.
Jakarta has two distinct seasons – namely wet and dry, but it will always be hot whenever you choose to visit. The rainy season takes place from October to February and the possibility of rain is high every day. Unfortunately, Jakarta has a big problem with flooding so during the rainy season, some roads become impassable. Peak travel season in Jakarta coincides with major Western holidays like December and January, as well as during the summer months of July and August, when it is almost unbearably hot in the city. The best time to visit is during the shoulder season of May, June, and September.
You can get around Jakarta in a number of ways, depending largely on your budget and comfort. Some of the cheapest options include motorized trishaws called bajaj and minivans called angkot. A step up from these are the buses and trains that travel all over the city, or you can go via ojek – a motorbike that you can hire with a driver. If your budget is enough, you can opt for taxis, Uber, or Grabcar, or you can also hire a private car and driver to take you around.
Jakarta has pretty much every kind of food you could want, from local street stalls to upscale hotel buffets. It is easy to get Western food here as well as other world favorites like sushi, Thai bites, and Korean hotpot. When it comes to Indonesian food, you can find dishes that represent all areas of the archipelago, including local favorites such as soto betawi, a kind of noodle soup. Street food is very well represented in Jakarta and you can expect to see carts on the road sides selling all kinds of delicacies such as bakso or meatball soup and fried stuffed tofu.
Jakarta can be busy, polluted, and difficult to navigate, but it also offers some of Indonesia’s highlights, such as national monuments and other charming areas including the Old Town or the main port. It’s diverse dining scene and myriad of shopping options are other reasons to linger in the city. Shopping malls jostle alongside local markets and there is plenty to keep you busy for a few days if you are passing through.