Our Tips on Living in Jakarta
Beat the traffic in Jakarta. Remember to always position yourself on the good side of the street when you try to get a taxi. If you want to go to a building that is on the right side of the road, you should always take the taxi on the right side of the road. In other cities with less problematic traffic jam, it may not be that important, but in Jakarta it is essential because of what we call the “putarbalik” (U-turn).
Cars can rarely just turn on the right to go to a building. They frequently have to make a u-turn far away down the road to go on the other side of the road. This is the “putarbalik” and it explains why you have to position yourself correctly when taking a taxi. You’ll never know how long a small “putarbalik” can be, which can be a few kilometres long. In a rush hour traffic, this could add up to an hour of your travel time.
Another tip to beat the traffic is to utilize your gadget with reliable apps like Google Maps, Waze or the locally sourced www.lewatmana.com for live traffic updates.
Plan and research carefully for your accommodation option. Depending on your budget and the size of your family, there are a lot of factors to consider. If you are living alone or have a small family, your best bet would probably be is to rent an apartment. There are quite the selections and most offer facilities like swimming pool, tennis courts and a gym. Apartment also means you don’t have to deal with the Jakarta floodings.
For bigger families, especially those with pets, renting or even buying a house is definitely something worth considering if you plan to live for longer period. You will obviously have more space and privacy, but it is important to remember that being in the tropics, means being exposed to ‘intruders’ like lizards, cockroaches ants (these creatures naturally have easy access to houses), and last but not least: mosquitoes, which is on another level of ‘annoying’ for those living in houses, especially at night time.
Go for the street food. In fact, a huge majority of Indonesian never set foot in a restaurant, and even a meal in a RumahMakan (basic eatery) is not always common. However, eating in street stalls can be considered almost as common as eating at home simply because how ridiculously cheap it can be.
Street food is one of the most authentic Indonesian experience you can have in Jakarta, and with so many places to choose from, it is also the easiest way to integrate for expats and practice your Bahasa Indonesia. You will sit elbow to elbow with other customers and since expats are not always a common sight on the streets, you won’t have any difficulties to engage in some chitchat. Eating in the street is also quite lively: You often have some singers or musicians trying to make a few rupiah as well as street vendors approaching you. It is definitely a vibe like no other.
The street food available in Jakarta mainly consists of The Kaki Lima or the small wheeled carts that usually only offer a few kind of dishes: Bakso (meatball), soto (soup), ketoprak (rice cakes, tofu, sprouts drizzled with sweet peanut sauce) snacks like PisangGoreng (fried banana), fresh juices, and countless others. The portions are small service is quick since the food has mostly been prepared. It’s extremely cheap, ranging from Rp. 3000 to 10,000, you will be tempted to sample everything. In some cases, you might have to pay a few thousands rupiah more if you look like an expat, but consider it as a tip!
Never bribe a policeman. If didn’t do anything wrong but get pulled over but, just stay calm and don’t worry. some police man would try to play the intimidation game by giving you a little warning and make you wait a maximum of 10 minutes; but that’s it. Never be tempted to bribe and try to nicely reason with them that you’re not doing anything wrong. If you did do something wrong, best if you ask for a ticket and pay for the fine (done through a bank).
Visit Kemang. With great selection of restaurants, cafes, bars, and boutiques, Kemang is very popular amongst expats and has turned into one of the busiest areas in Jakarta, especially at night. On weekends, Kemang turns into a gathering place for the young and executives of Jakarta from various circles to hangout.
With the bars & restaurants sometimes close together, this is the area where you can go bar hopping with no need to change you car parking. Park your car or hop off a taxi in one place and you can go walk from bar to another in the Kemang street.
Kemang is also where you can find a lot of good quality hair salon and spas, antique shops, international groceries, and lots of others. Check out or guides for more!
Malls to malls. Stick to mainly, but not exclusively, the medium to upper-scale malls for shopping as they have pretty decent security, and are more likely to be fair. If you want to venture to lessor known, or backpackers’ touristy areas, then do not wear any fancy or expensive jewelry or clothes, as that is a sure fire way to attract thieves in any country.
That being said, the Ambassador Mall is a great place for some serious bargain hunting, Senayan City and Pondok Indah Mall are the top malls in Jakarta where you can find authentic branded bags and shoes.