If you are taking a night flight and landing at Soekarno-Hatta airport, or if you view the city from a tall building, you can see Jakarta is a beautiful and modern city with skyscrapers, colorful city lights, whereby roads are lit with the coming and going of vehicles. Indeed it’s beautiful, but remember Jakarta is also one of the world’s most crowded cities with heavy traffic throughout most of the day, especially within the city center. You may also notice there are many complicated and confusing traffic rules. As a tourist, it might be easier for you to take the public transportation. Read on for some much-needed useful travel tips for navigating your way through Jakarta!
Driving situation in Jakarta
Jakarta’s roads may seem a little crazy to some foreigners, mostly because all the cars, trucks, motorcycles, as well as different public transportation vehicles, like bajai (motorized tricycle) and Metromini (a van functioning for public transportation) are all sharing the road at the same time. There are many people who are not accustomed to driving in such heavy traffic, and may find it hard to adjust. For that reason, driving in Jakarta isn’t on the list for many tourists, as they will have to deal with the police for breaking a traffic rule in Jakarta’s heavily patrolled roads, or with the locals if an accident happens. Several tourists may also find they are not familiar with differences, such as how the traffic rules and may also find it hard to interpret numerous road signs.
Riding a taxi
The most convenient and comfortable way to travel around Jakarta is of course by taxi, especially if you’re carrying heavy luggage. In Jakarta, you can easily find a taxi at public places such as the airport, malls, hotels, hospitals, and entertainment centers. However, it’s also the most expensive public transportation, and just like a car it’s prone to traffic jams and is surely not the fastest way to reach your destination during the rush hours.
Take the TransJakarta Bus for cheap and fast transport
Although this may resembles a common bus in your country, TransJakarta bus, which the Jakartans also refer to as ‘busway’, is a new thing in Jakarta. If you have visited Jakarta before 2013, you will be surprised to see these big 10-wheel busses (2 single wheels in the front row, and 4 double wheels in the middle and back rows). These buses are spacious, and have seats facing each other. There are also rubbish bins onboard the bus. You’ll notice each bus is equipped with grab handles, and have 5 or 6 special seats in the front for the elderly and those who are disabled, versus the smaller busses that lack the above mentioned facilities.
Besides being completely accommodatable, it’s cheap and fast! If a taxi costs you well more than 100,000 IDR (~7.20 USD) from one corner of the city to another, this only costs you 3,000 IDR (~0.20 USD) for the ticket and for all rides and transfers within the routes, which covers a vast area of Jakarta. This is the cheapest public transportation in Jakarta! Additionally, these busses are free from any uninvited ‘pengamen’ (who would sing in the bus and eventually beg for money) and hawkers trying to sell children’s toys and snacks. Above all, a bus line is provided specially for TransJakarta buses, making them free from traffic jams, even during rush hours!
Commuter train: another cheap but fast transportation
If you stay in a hotel near a train station, like in Mangga Dua district, riding on the city train, known as KRL (Kereta Rel Listrik, or Electric Rail Train) is also a very good option. City trains have been used by people in Jakarta for many decades, and several years ago, older trains were replaced with the newer, modern, spacious, and well air-conditioned trains that have interior facilities and comforts like those found on a TransJakarta bus. Plus they have an automatic sliding door, and certainly these made-in-Japan trains are free from traffic jams too!
It’s very easy to find a train station in Jakarta. The railway system has been in Jakarta for many decades, and now it covers a very wide area of the city. There are so many train stations in the city that a train stops every 5 to 10 minutes (they also have routes to nearby cities like Bekasi and Tangerang) in each station. It’s very cheap too, costing roughly 5,000 IDR (~0.40 USD) or less to travel to a corner of the city. The view from inside the train is different from a TransJakarta bus. While from the bus you will see roads, traffic, and tall buildings, from inside the train you will see Jakarta’s slums. However, riding on a train can be faster, as many motorcycles (and a few cars) often illegally trespass on the special road for the bus, slowing down the buses speed.
Gojek, a high-tech, cheap, and practical way to venture around Jakarta
Riding on a motorbike during rush hour is also a good idea, as they are much slimmer than a car and can go through smaller spaces. Motorbike taxis (known as ‘ojek’) have been around in Jakarta for a long time. However, they aren’t organized and the drivers work as freelancers, meaning they work for themselves and not for a company. Very recently a new form of motorbike taxi was introduced by a company named 'Gojek’, and had a very good response from the Jakartans.
Gojek is a motorbike taxi, but is professionally managed, and can be arranged through the use of your smart phone. All you need to do is download the application from the playstore, do a simple registration (they only need your name, contact number, and location), order and also mention your destination. The price (you can choose to pay cash to the driver) and the driver’s profile will appear on the application. It costs 12,000 IDR (~0.90 USD) for up to a 12-km (7 mi) trip, and 15,000 IDR (~1.09 USD) for a 15-km (9 mi) trip, with an extra 2,000 IDR (~0.15 USD) for each kilometer after 15 km (they don’t give rides over 25 km).
After you agree with the price, completed the registration and ordering process (it takes less than 5 minutes), you can expect the arrival of your driver in a few minutes. Helmet is provided (with a disposable plastic hat to keep your hair clean) and a masker, and that’s it! You are good to go! It’s so simple, right?
Both kinds of taxis will take you to your final destination, but if you take either TransJakarta bus or the train, you may need a connecting vehicle if it is not within walking distance. There are other forms of transportation such as the use of ‘bajai’ (motorized tricycles), Metro Mini and Kopaja (they are small buses of 2 different management), along with 'angkot’ (a type of van) that will take you closer to your destination. However, most of these are old, non-air conditioned, and not very well maintained. Also, you will find hawkers doing their activities inside the bus, and to avoid this I would recommend to use either a taxi or a gojek. So, which kind transportation would you choose?