1. Get out and explore
Indonesians are generally inquisitive, friendly people. Meet them, talk to them, buy them a coffee. If you’re walking around (jalan-jalan) as a foreigner you’ll be stared at quite a lot in Jakarta (although less so than elsewhere in the country); don’t be intimidated by this – smile back and say hello, and you’ll see that they’re generally just pleased to see you.
Remember that the best experiences in Jakarta are the ones you stumble across, not the ones you plan.
2. Try not to travel anywhere around the city during rush hours
Rush hour are: 8.30am-10am, and 5pm-7.30pm on weekdays. Weekends are much quieter on the roads
Wherever possible, try to book inbound and outbound flights which arrive or depart outside rush hours too. During peak traffic times, the trip from the airport to Six Degrees can take more than two hours, compared to 45 minutes when it’s quiet.
3. Try new food.
Often the street stalls are the places to get the freshest, cheapest food. If you don’t know what something is, just try it! The Indonesian specialities which simply shouldn’t be missed are rendang (coconut-stewed beef, available in ‘Padang’ restaurants), sate, fried rice (nasi goreng), Soto (delicious spicy rice soup) and gado-gado (vegetables in peanut sauce). There are thousands of other delicious Indonesian dishes, so try as many as you can while you’re in town. Get local knowledge on the best places to go.
4. Respect the culture.
Yes it’s a capital city and, like most, has its fair share of sin and debauchery, but try to do as the vast majority of locals do, dress as the locals dress, and try to learn a little about Jakartans and how they live. You might sometimes see some locals in mini-skirts and skimpy tops, but foreigners dressing ‘provocatively’ does nothing to rectify the Indonesian perception of The West being the cause of Indonesian cultural destruction. It really is true, however, when they say anything is possible in Jakarta!
5. Use the Trans-Jakarta Busway
On the whole, it’s a great way to beat the traffic and get around the city quickly and cheaply. Find links to the busway map elsewhere on this site.
6. Be careful with ice, and don’t drink the tap water.
The odd dose of ‘Bombay-belly’ is inevitable anywhere you travel in Asia, but the majority of Jakarta’s restaurants are clean and use fresh ingredients. If they aren’t, they quickly go out of business as, when it come to food, hunting out the very best of the best is a national pastime for Indonesians . Having said this, Indonesians have strong stomachs and, at many warung (street stalls) with no freezer of their own, ice is delivered in huge blocks by pull-carts, and can be a source of illness for us weak-stomached foreigners (sometimes made from tap water, which is to be avoided at all costs). Check that restaurants (just like Six Degrees) freeze their own ice, and use mineral water to make it.
7. Negotiate prices
Except from when you’re in malls or big chain shops, most prices are negotiable. Our tip – try to seem disinterested in the product you want, make a low offer then, when they protest, start to walk away. Often they’ll call you back with a much better price. Learning the Indonesian numbers (in thousands) also helps a lot with this, although signing the prices with your fingers always works too.
8. Don’t take a risk with a dodgy-looking taxi
If they see that you’re not 100% clear on how to get to your destination, some less scrupulous taxi drivers may take you ‘the scenic route’. Some may even use clocked meters, charging you triple the standard fare. As a rule, stick to the very new-looking cabs. The best company, by a long way, is Blue Bird. Their drivers sometimes even speak English, and funny business by drivers is never tolerated by this well-respected company. Use the cheaper ‘tarif lama (old price)’ taxis only if you know where you’re going, and know how to get there. Don’t use a taxi which refuses to switch the meter on, and avoid ‘Prestasi’ taxis altogether.
9. Learn a few basic phrases in Indonesian.
Yes, learn the essentials (numbers, left & right, thank you, simple questions), but also try to pick up some of the commonly used slang. Just a few words can really help people relax around you, and quickly see that you’re not ‘bule sombong’ (arrogant foreigner).
10. Stay at Six Degrees!
It’s the best backpacker place in town, and will mean you have a safer, more enjoyable, more rewarding adventure in Indonesia’s capital. See you soon at Six Degrees!