Arriving at Jakarta airport
Leaving the airport via Taxi
Go to the Blue Bird taxi company counter which is near the taxi rank. Ask their staff for a taxi: you can choose the cheap "Blue Bird" service, the slightly more expensive "Silver Bird", or if the wait is too long, you can hire a "Golden Bird", which is a chauffeur driven sedan. This last option costs around 20 - 30% more, but there are no hassles and little delay. Depending on your destination, the fare will be in the range of 30,000 - 50,000 rupiah with a Blue Bird.
Do not engage the private taxi hustlers who will pester you as soon as you clear customs (even before you are outside the airport). These are unlicensed operators, and you are at high risk of being assaulted and robbed, or you may just be abandoned somewhere. They are very persistent.
TIP: If you are waiting for someone to pick you up, it helps if you stay in the arrivals hall and turn to watch the other arriving passengers, as if you are waiting for a friend to arrive. This generally fools the taxi hustlers, who will leave you alone. This is another entry in my collection of good small ideas; I hope that perhaps one day the Swedish Academy will award a Nobel prize for a lifetime's contribution of little ideas.
Here is another good tip, if you have a driver: get him to pick you up from the departures level. You simply take the lift up there with your luggage trolley. This avoids the traffic jam, the crowds and the hustlers.
Do not hire a non-Blue Bird taxi, even if it looks clean and new and is waiting at the taxi rank. Only hire a Blue Bird taxi. If a Blue Bird official takes you to a Gamya taxi, that is ok: they run that company also.
Read the section on taxis, below, for more information.
Airport porters: As soon as you leave customs, you will be approached by uniformed men wanting to take your bags. They will expect 1000 rupiah per bag, or possibly 2000 rupiah if your bags are heavy. You can politely but firmly refuse them. If you do engage them (I don't recommend this) then make sure they don't walk off with a private taxi hustler. You may be in trouble if this happens.
Customs and Immigration: If your inquiries at your embassy told you that you don't need a visa, then you don't, no matter what the immigration officer may say. However, they seem to be a lot less corrupt than in the past. Most people don't have problems any more. The Customs people are also ok. They seem to bother with Indonesians a lot more.
Transport: Getting Around
Which city is closer to Jakarta: Melbourne or Sydney?
Melbourne is closer..
Most of the buses are un-air-conditioned monstrosities. My Indonesian friends never take them. They are rife with pickpockets and fighting mobs of high school boys. The main buses come in two flavours: orange and beaten up, or green and beaten up. Much of the blame for air pollution is laid upon the buses (fairly or not I don't know), and they are regarded more as an act of God then as a vehicle. According to Jakarta custom, most of the bus drivers are Bataks, a straight-talking (straight-driving) non-Javanese ethnic group with a head-hunting tradition. Head-hunters or not, bus drivers involved in accidents tend to flee the scene, in fear of the local kampung's instant justice. In what may be an urban vestige of the Javanese animist religion, the mob will then burn the bus.
The air-conditioned buses are ok.
Bad taxi experiences in Jakarta used to mean you had a driver who didn't know where to go, or pretended not to.
Bad taxi experiences in Jakarta now mean you get robbed and killed. So you should read this.
The only taxi company that I trust is Blue Bird; they also run Gamya. Citra is also supposed to be safe. When your embassy advises you to take "reputable taxis" they mean Blue Bird. Blue Bird taxis are blue. But so are other taxis, trying to catch the unwary. However, only Blue Bird taxis have Blue Bird signage. The phone number is 794 1234. They also offer a slightly more expensive taxi service called Silver Bird, which will get you a large car, a Nissan Cedric. The engine sounds lovely.
At airports and late-night venues you will come across taxi-hustlers; owners of private vehicles claiming to be taxis. They ask prices that are too high. You are also at high risk of robbery. Only knaves, fools or the naive would take such a risk if they are on their own, although in a group it's probably ok.
Bajai (or bajaj) (pron: bar-jye to rhyme with eye): Three wheeled orange vehicles from the home of environmentally disastrous transport, India. Ok for small distances. Fares are usually 1000 - 3000 Rupiah for a couple of kilometres. Probably dreadfully unwise on the grounds of health and safety, but lots of fun.
Bajai: Lawnmowers on the move.
Ojek (motorbike taxis). Looks like even more fun than a bajaj, but I haven't tried it yet. Fares would be in the bajaj range. For the bungee-jumping set.
Trains to regional centres
Bandung: There are two types of train to Bandung. The faster one is the Argo Gede. It takes less than 2.5 hours. The other one has a fearsome Sundanese name whose spelling I won't attempt. It takes nearly three hours.
In both cases, you should buy Executive AC class tickets. This is the best class. Fares are very cheap: around 40000 IDR one way. These trains are good -- comfortable and clean. The food is fine, and they deliver to your seat.
The train journey to Bandung is spectacular. The beauty of mountainous Java will take your breath away, so make sure you schedule at least one leg during daylight. Travelling to Bandung by road is not a very good idea: weekend traffic means that the return journey frequently takes six hours, and is never less than four hours (by reports. After taking the train, I wouldn't consider any other transport).
Trains cover Java very well. The standard of the carriage is always quite good, but journeys to other centres take too long for my time-budget. I fly everywhere else.
Accommodation (Long term)
Most expatriates live in houses in South Jakarta, preferably near Kemang, but more and more live in apartments. Until recently, rentals were ridiculous: $3000 a month would be an average, and that's paid two years in advance, if you don't mind. It is rapidly becoming more of a buyers' market as the rupiah plunges in value and Jakarta heads towards an oversupply of top-end housing. Most deals are currently being negotiated in Rupiah, and even those that are nominally in dollars are at a fixed exchange rate bearing no resemblance to the real exchange rate.
South Jakarta is cooler than other areas, and has more foreigner life support, like decent cafes, Kemchicks (see below or anything about Jakarta) and the supermarkets carry Vegemite for the Australians and equivalents for other nationalities. There is even a VCR rental in Kemang. There are some lovely houses too. Gardens are a speciality. The soil and climate are magic.
A maid costs about 200 000 - 300 000 IDR a month. You are also expected to pay around this much as a bonus at Ramadan. Maids usually work 6 days a week and live in the maid's quarters of your house (although my maid has much more generous conditions). Sometimes food is included in the conditions, and sometimes not. There is no overtime for maids (unless you ask them to work on Sundays). Most people get maids through an informal network; maybe your driver knows someone looking for a job, or you pick up the maid of a person leaving town.
A driver costs around 500 000 - 700 000 a month. The pay for a driver consists of a base salary (around 150 000) , a daily allowance (around 15 000 per day), over time (around 2500 per hour) and meal allowances (say 4000 per evening of late work). It may include a travel allowance. Drivers are highly recommended because driving in Jakarta takes some getting used to, and they double as security guards.
You may also require a gardener and a security guard.
Postcards and Writings from Jakarta
Things to Buy in Jakarta
Furniture: wooden furniture is beautiful and cheap here. Of course, you have to get it home...
Batik fabrics and clothing is good value still. Tailoring is cheap and there are good tailors in the major malls (for men). I am a customer of the tailor in Pondok Indah Mall, although I buy the wool elsewhere. Tris has a very good tailor for her clothes; I can provide more information on request.
Subscriptions to the Economist and other journals are very good value. Economist subscriptions are portable: address changes are recognised anywhere in the world, at no cost.
Comments. Page modified: August 11, 2003