With 14,440 people crowded into each square kilometer, Indonesia’s busy capital is a melting pot of culture.

For the majority of its residents, Jakarta is a city of promise. The lure of jobs and a better life has caused the city’s population to blossom to 9.5 million, with some 14,440 people crowded into each square kilometer. It has the same warts as the capital cities of other nations – especially traffic jams – but counterbalancing its hectic pace is a rich cultural life with an abundance of performing and visual arts. Particularly alluring is its a laid-back, courteous persona.

The heartbeat of Jakarta is its Central Business District along Jalan Thamrin-Sudirman. Further north is Old Town (Kota Tua), originally called Batavia by the Dutch. What remains of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) headquarters is centred there and is gradually being renovated into a heritage site filled with museums and cafes. In between is Menteng, its tree-lined boulevards and stately homes were once occupied by colonist elites. To the south and north are affluent neighborhoods edged by villages.

There’s something to appeal to nearly every visitor in Jakarta. There is an abundance of eating and shopping options, nightlife, cultural attractions, theatre, three symphony orchestras, and cinemas. The challenge is locating them and enduring traffic to get to them, but thanks to the friendliness of the melting pot of people who call Jakarta home, just asking will produce solutions. The key to enjoying Jakarta’s many treasures are indeed patience and a sense of humour. With those on board, relax and enjoy the adventure!


When to go

Jakarta is a great place to visit year-round, but January is usually the wettest month so steer clear then if you want to keep dry.

Visa requirements

Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. Visitors from many other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival at Jakarta for US$25.


Indonesian rupiah, IDR, locally denoted as Rp.


Avoid the touts at the airport and head for the taxi queues outside the arrival area. Recommended are Blue Bird, its more expensive sister Silver Bird, and their affiliates Pusaka and Morante (both blue). Also good are Gamya (green) and Express (white). Shuttle buses from the airport into town take longer, but are more economical. Look for the DAMRI ticket booth outside the arrival halls.

The most efficient way to get around town is via one of the taxis mentioned above, but Jakarta also has an efficient bus system, called TransJakarta, using dedicated lanes in the city. Network maps can be downloaded from www.transjakarta.do.id. It is advisable to avoid travelling during rush hours, 7am and 4pm. Other public buses are not recommended.

For scooting around neighborhoods, Jakarta's version of the Thai tuk-tuk is the bajaj, bone-rattling, exhaust-fume-emitting little motorbikes with a cabin in the back. (New regulations are gradually replacing them with more eco-friendly versions.) Be prepared to weave through traffic and squeal with delight. Ask a local what fare to pay so you don't get over-charged.

Health and safety tips

As with any major city, watch out for pickpockets in crowded areas, thieves in cheap hotels, and the occasional scam artist. Report and theft immediately to police or security officers. English-speaking tourist police, in specially marked uniforms and cars, are trained to handle foreigners' questions and lend assistance.

As everywhere in Indonesia, don't drink the tap water. While there is very little danger of contracting malaria in Jakarta, there is a potential risk of dengue fever, particularly towards the end of the rainy season, so do your best to avoid mosquito bites.

Emergency details

Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said, Kav. X-4, No. 2, Kuninga (tel: (62) 21 2995 0400, www.mfa.gov.sg/jk)

In an emergency dial 110.

Basic greetings
English Indonesian
Hello Halo!
How are you? Apa kabar?
Fine, thanks Baik, terima kasih
Goodbye Selamat tinggal
Excuse-me! (to get attention) Permisi!
Thank you Terima kasih
Yes Ya
No Tidak
What's your name? Siapa nama anda?
My name is… Nama saya…
Nice to know you Senang berkenalan dengan anda
Are you on Facebook/Twitter? Anda ada di Facebook/Twitter?
Where’s an internet café? Warnet [warung internet] di mana?
Where can I get a taxi? Di mana saya bisa mendapatkan taksi?
Where is the bus/train station? Stasiun bis/kereta di mana?
A one-way/return ticket to… Tiket sekali jalan/pulang-pergi ke…
Do you have a room for one/two? Ada kamar untuk satu/dua orang?
When's check out? Kapan waktu check-out?
Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar? Bisakah anda menyarankan restoran/bar yang bagus?
A table for two, please Tolong meja untuk dua orang
A menu, please Tolong minta menunya
The bill, please Tolong minta bonnya
Where's the toilet? Kamar kecil di mana?
Help! Tolong!

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MONAS (National Monument)

Central Business District, Jl. Silang Monas

A Jakarta landmark, MONAS, the National Monument, rises from the centre of Freedom Square (Medan Merdeka) as a symbol of its success in gaining independence from colonial powers. Crowned with a huge flame encased in pure gold, in the base are dioramas depicting Indonesia’s history from prehistoric times. An elevator rises to the observation deck for a 360-degree view of the city. On weekends, the park is crowded with people and vendors.

National Museum

Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat

Fronted by a bronze elephant statue presented by King Chulalongkorm of Siam in 1868, the National Museum was founded by the Batavian Society for Arts and Sciences. It contains valuable collections of books and ethnographic artefacts acquired by the Dutch during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Treasures include Hindu-Javanese stone statuary, prehistoric bronzeware, Chinese porcelain and a stupendous hoard of royal Indonesian heirlooms. The Ceramics Room features the largest collection of Southeast Asian ceramics under one roof. Guidebooks are available at the Indonesian Heritage Society shop (Jl. Asia-Afrika, No. 8), which also offers free tours in several languages.

Sunda Kelapa Harbour

Waterfront, North Jakarta

No nostalgia tour into Jakarta’s past would be complete without visiting the old spice trading seaport, Sunda Kelapa Harbour, a relic from the past that still thrives today. Early morning is the best time to walk along the 2km (1.25-mile) wharf among colourful wooden pinisi schooners to see one of the world’s last remaining commercial sailing fleets. Filled with the romance of a bygone era, watch barefooted men loading cargo up narrow planks as they go about their daily work. The boats are built by the seafaring Bugis of South Sulawesi, once feared pirates.

Textile Museum

Waterfront, North Jakarta Jl. AKS Tuban, Nos. 2–4

Protecting a collection of nearly 2,000 pieces, the Textile Museum (Museum Tekstil) is a gold mine of information about thread preparation, hand-loomed and non-woven cloths (such as bark and fur), fabric ornamentation and garment-making. In addition to changing exhibitions highlighting textiles from throughout Indonesia, it also has a permanent Batik Gallery, a natural dye garden, and a workshop where you can try your hand at batik. The building was erected in the early 19th century by a Frenchman and was converted to a museum in 1976.

Glodok (Chinatown)

North Jakarta

Jakarta’s Chinatown (Glodok), was established by the Dutch in 1740 when all Chinese in Batavia, as the city was then known, were banished to an area outside the city walls. Today Glodok is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. Take a walk through its alleys and thoroughfares to see herbal medicine shops, old architecture, two ancient temples, and life at its busiest. Glodok shops and malls are also known for their wholesale-priced electronics.

Maritime Museum

Jl. Pasar Ikan

The Maritime Museum (Museum Bahari) is housed in a former warehouse built by the Dutch in 1646 and used to store coffee, tea and Indian cloth. Inside are displays of traditional sailing craft from all corners of the Indonesian archipelago, as well as some old maps of Batavia. Down a narrow lane behind the museum lies the Fish Market (Pasar Ikan) and numerous stalls selling nautical gear. Continue walking south to a 19th-century Dutch lookout tower (Uitkik).


AlunAlun Indonesia

Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, West Mall, Level 3

A vibrant showcase for products created by some of Indonesia’s best artisans, AlunAlun is dedicated to promoting local products while including education and fun in the process. Continually changing events highlight pottery, silver, textiles or rattan. Fashion, jewellery, lifestyle and spa products are also among those featured, as well as books, music, and packaged food products that you can take home.

Budget $$

Chic Mart

Jl. Kemang Raya, No. 55

Chic Mart, located along Kemang’s main street in South Jakarta, has a unique collection of home accessories, bath, bedding, fashions and gifts handcrafted throughout Asia. This is one of those shops that you go into thinking that you’ll just browse a bit to escape the traffic on the street, and end up with an armload of treasures that begged to go home with you.

Budget $$

Five-star hotel gift shops


For an opulent shopping experience that is generally uncrowded, hassle-free, and affords the ultimate in personal service, stop in at the gift shops at any of the city’s five-star hotels, such as the Mandarin Oriental, Hotel Kempinski, Hyatt Regency Jakarta or Ritz-Carlton Pacific Place, to name a few. Catering to an exclusive clientele, they offer the best of the best for those with unlimited budgets. A great time-saver if price is not the main concern.

Budget $$$

Local markets


To experience some of Jakarta's most frenetic shopping, step into one of the local markets, which sell almost anything you can think of. Tanah Abang in Blok M is packed to the rafters with textiles, clothing and Islamic wear at wholesale prices. At Mangga Dua, on Jl. Mangga Dua, you will find fake branded items, electronic goods, and pirated DVDs. Pasar Baru, on Jl. KH Saman Hudi, has men’s suits, women’s traditional wear (kebaya), accessories and bags. Watch your belongings in crowded places as pickpockets lurk here.

Budget $

Pantry Magic

Jl. Kemang Raya No. 14B

Loaded with must-haves for the kitchen, the overwhelming stock at Pantry Magic ranges from pots and pans to tableware to cookbooks and gourmet food magazines. The attentive, but non-intrusive, staff is always on hand to help with advice and suggestions. Owned by a husband and wife team who love to cook, this shop is always abuzz with cooking demos, chef competitions and all sorts of excitement for gourmands or beginners.

Budget $$$

Puppet Museum

Jl. Pintu Besar, No. 27

Located in Fatahillah Square’s Old Town (Kota Tua), where many of Jakarta’s Dutch heritage buildings have been restored, the Puppet Museum (Museum Wayang) has a gift shop where you can find mementos of your visit to the city. Souvenirs such as key chains and magnets sell for as little as US$1, and they also have Kota Tua guidebooks and puppets on hand.↵

Budget $



5th Floor Plaza Indonesia, Jl. Thamrin

Attached to the Aksara book store in Plaza Indonesia, Canteen is tucked away from the noisy, crowded food court, and has gigantic windows looking out over the city. The spacious layout lends itself to private conversations, hanging out with friends and catching up on emails. Lingering is welcomed. The delicious menu is primarily Italian and on Sundays there are special brunch choices. Open until midnight during the week and 2am on weekends. There is a very similar branch at the Pacific Place mall (Jl. Jend. Sudirman) .

Budget $$

Local food


Although Jakartans thrive on street food, it is not recommended for foreigners as hygienic standards are less than ideal. The safest way to experience the local fare is either at food courts in any of the many shopping malls or at fast-food franchises found in neighbourhoods and along main thoroughfares throughout the city. You can tell which ones are best by the size of the crowds. Two examples are Sate Khas Senayan (Jl. Kebon Sirih,  Menteng) specializing in satay and Bumbu Desa (Jl. Cikini Raya, No. 72), for Sundanese fare.

Budget n/a

Nanny’s Pavilion Bathroom

Pacific Place, Jl. Jend. Sudirman

If you fancy having your lunch or dinner served in a restaurant decorated like a vintage French bathroom, Nanny's Pavillion Bathroom is the place for you. However, if bathroom fixtures don’t appeal, Nanny's also has a Living Room in Citywalk Sudirman (Jl. KH Mas Mansyur, No. 121), a Sewing Room at Gandaria City (Jl. KH Syafi’I Hazami, No. 8), a Terrace at Central Park (Jl. Let. Jend. S. Parman, No. 28), and a Kitchen at Pondok Indah Mall (Street Gallery, Level 1). What started as a quirky idea turned out to be a popular string of restaurants serving good old-fashioned home cooking.

Budget $$$


Debenhams, Senayan City, Ground Floor, Jl. Asia Afrika, Lot 19

Without a doubt the best pizza in town, this branch of PizzaExpress was called Pizza Marzano and is in the process of upgrading all its outlets to reflect its new image. The aroma of fresh basil, oregano, olive oil, tomatoes and cheeses as you pass the door is enough to lure you in, but the flavours will keep you coming back. Try their Classic Pizza, or for genuine Italian flavours get one of the Romana Pizzas, and of course you can personalise any order to your liking. Not hungry for a pizza? They also have salads and pasta and small desserts to top off the meal.

Budget $$

Potato Head Restaurant & Bar

Pacific Place, Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav 52–53

Get ready to spend a bundle at Potato Head Restaurant & Bar, the first of two very successful bistros, although if whimsical art and fashionable decor are your thing, you won't resent the expense. Seating is on the ground floor, mezzanine and outdoors, the divine cuisine is international, and innovative cocktails are supervised by a renowned London-based mixologist. Its sister establishment is the famed Potato Head Beach Club in Bali with three restaurants, a beach club and a boutique hotel. Both are places to see and be seen, so dress appropriately.

Budget $$$

The Soup Spoon

Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, Jl. Thamrin

Ingeniously founded by university students in Singapore, The Soup Spoon offers a healthy alternative to regular eating-out fare. The freshest ingredients are used and new soups are occasionally added to the menu as new flavours are discovered. Try the Mushroom Stroganoff or Tangy Tomato Soups, a pastrami sandwich on focaccia with wasabi mayonnaise, and be sure to save room for dessert. Don’t be shy to ask for a taste test before deciding on the soup. Outlets are also located in Citywalk Sudirman and in Senayan City. Yum!

Budget $


favehotel Kemang

Jl. Kemang 1, No. 6

Geared to young budget travellers, favehotels have popped up in many Indonesian cities very recently. The favehotel Kemang is located in young and trendy Kemang, in the southern part of Jakarta. Within walking distance are cafés, night spots, art galleries, boutiques and book shops. All are in a friendly neighbourhood populated with hip Indonesian and expatriate families.

Budget $

grandkemang Hotel

Jl. Kemang Raya, No. 2H

Set on the main street of trendy Kemang in South Jakarta, the grandkemang Hotel’s restaurants and bars offer consistently good food, beverages and service and a busy programme of events, such as Friday Night BBQ and Sunday Brunch. Its spa has won several awards. Although it lists itself as a luxury hotel, its prices are more in the mid-range category, which is a great combination for travellers.

Budget $$

Ibis Jakarta Senen

Jl. Kramat Raya, No. 100

The ever-reliable Ibis budget franchise has cleverly put the Ibis Jakarta Senen of its hotels only 5km (3 miles) from the Central Business District but within walking distance of one of Jakarta’s biggest shopping mall complexes, pleasing both business and holiday travellers. The rooms have been colourfully decorated to appeal to a younger clientele, and disabled access is provided.

Budget $

Kemang Icon

Jl. Kemang Raya, No. 1

Who could possibly resist staying in a hotel that was named 'one of the most scene stealing hotels in Indonesia' on Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List and whose swimming pool was voted by Forbes one of the 20 coolest hotel pools? The Kemang Icon describes itself as 'ultra-modern, avant-garde, and chic yet cosy', and that’s exactly what it is. Despite its luxury status, some reasonably priced rooms can still be had, particularly if you book online.

Budget $$

The Dharmawangsa Jakarta

Jl. Brawijaya Raya, No. 26

Getting five-star luxury doesn’t mean you have to stay in the Central Business District if you don’t want to. In a lovely residential neighborhood just minutes away from the city center, the Dharmawangsa is the epitome of elegance, style and hospitality, with a 24-hour butler service and green standards. A nice variety of food and beverage facilities assure there’s a place to suit every mood, and its Wellness Spa is simply divine.

Budget $$$

The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place

Central Business District, Jl. Jendral Sudirman Kav. 52–53

If there’s any doubt that this is a luxe hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Pacific Place amenities which include free airport pickup and drop-off service, free limo 24/7, and free laundry should convince you. There are no regular rooms here; all are Club suites, meaning guests also have access to Ritz-Carlton’s fabulous Club Lounge with free food and beverages throughout the day. What's not to like?

Budget $$$



Particularly significant to the Chinese-Indonesian community, the whole city rocks with parades, lion dances, special foods, and fun for all. Although most of the activity takes place in Chinatown, look for special celebrations in shopping malls and neighborhoods throughout Jakarta.

Inacraft (Jakarta International Handicraft Trade Fair)


The largest exhibition of its kind in Southeast Asia, Inacraft has been drawing artisans, exporters and importers together to celebrate Indonesian handicrafts for over 15 years. Nearly 2,000 vendors demonstrate and display gifts, housewares, home and garden, textiles and other handicrafts.

Independence Day


A nationwide commemoration of the declaration of Indonesian independence, this national holiday is celebrated with parades, competitions, and a mass of red-and-white flags.

Jakarta Fair


During this six-week festival to celebrate Jakarta’s anniversary, stores host Great Sales, trade exhibitions introduce everything from cars to handicrafts, and a food festival is ongoing. Fireworks open the festival and concerts by some of Indonesia’s leading artists are held nightly.

Jakarta Fashion Week


Held at various venues throughout the city, this is the largest fashion event in Southeast Asia, and is intended to introduce Indonesian creativity to the world. Seven days and nights see models sporting designs created both locally and abroad. See www.jakartafashionweek.co.id for more information.

Java Jazz Festival


An event that attracts international artists such as Natalie Cole, George Benson, Santana and Fourplay, working together with local faves. For three days concerts are held at various venues throughout the city from early afternoon until very late. See www.javajazzfestival.com for more info.


At times it seems that Jakarta is trying to out-glitz itself with new high-end shopping malls and lifestyle centres popping up everywhere. All the big brands are found within their climate-controlled confines, along with some of the city’s best restaurants, kids’ activities and supermarkets. For the best of the best, go to Plaza Senayan on Jl. Asia Afrika which also has a bowling alley and a wonderful musical clock in the atrium that performs every hour. Nearby is Senayan City with its over-the-top cinema complex and opulent jewelry stores.↵↵Beneath the Grand Hyatt on Jl. Thamrin is Plaza Indonesia, with two Indonesian designer outlets, House of Obin and Butik Iwan Tirta, and across the street is Grand Indonesia, one of the largest upscale lifestyle centers in Southeast Asia.


If it’s local goods you’re looking for, to take home as gifts or souvenirs, Sarinah is just up the road to the north on Jl. Thamrin and is dedicated to Indonesian handicrafts and textiles. In the suburbs at Blok M, Jl. Iskandarsyah, is Pasaraya which similarly has an entire floor dedicated to all things made in Indonesia. For some serious browsing head to 'antique row' on Jl. Surabaya near the Central Business District. Dutch lamps, vinyl records, and wooden puppets are among the curios for sale here. Buyers beware: Not all the 'antiques' are, well, antique.



Places to visit:
Plaza Senayan, Senayan City, Plaza Indonesia, Grand Indonesia, Sarinah, Pasaraya, Jl. Surabaya.


For a glimpse into Jakarta’s past, take a stroll through Old Town (Kota Tua), which came to life during the Dutch colonial era in the 1620s as a tiny, walled town modelled on Amsterdam. Most of the original settlement – then called Batavia – was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century, and only the town square area survived. Its heritage buildings are currently being restored, and it is now known as Fatahillah Square (Taman Fatahillah).


Facing the square are several museums. The Jakarta History Museum (Museum Sejarah Jakarta) was formerly the city hall, completed in 1710. It now houses memorabilia, notably 18th-century furnishings, along with many prehistoric, classical and Portuguese-period artefacts. Dungeons visible from the back of the building were used as holding cells where prisoners were made to stand waist-deep in sewage for weeks awaiting their trials.


The Puppet Museum (Museum Wayang) is on the western side of the square and has many puppets and makes, some of them rare buffalo-hide shadow puppets (wayang kulit), along with a collection of topeng masks, both popular Indonesian art forms. There are also tombstones of several Dutch governors.


Occupying the former Court of Justice building, completed in 1879, is the Fine Art and Ceramic Museum (Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik). Its collections include paintings and sculptures by modern Indonesian artists, and an important exhibition of rare porcelain, featuring many Sung celadon pieces, ancient Javanese water jugs and terracotta pieces dating from the 17th century.



Places to visit:
Old Town, Jakarta History Museum, Puppet Museum, Fine Art and Ceramic Museum.


Kids will enjoy the tropical outdoors by spending the morning at the Taman Botani Perdana (Perdana Botanical Garden). Popularly known as the Lake Gardens, this green expanse is full of wildlife attractions. The large covered aviary that is the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park is home to over 200 species of birds, and feeding time and the bird shows are fun to watch. Another covered attraction is the Butterfly Park. Here, hundreds of species of butterflies and moths flit about a beautifully landscaped garden. Visitors get to see the insects in all stages of development, too. Meanwhile, the Deer Park is one of the few places in the country where it is possible to see the world's smallest deer. The mouse-deer is the size of a cat and extremely shy.


As the day heats up, head to the air-conditioned Petronas Twin Towers, where there are family-friendly eateries and activities for children. Inside the mall, the two-storey Petrosains discovery centre has great interactive displays on science and the oil and gas industry. Fun exhibits include a prehistoric section featuring an animatronic dinosaur. Children can also experience a real-life oil rig and 'drive' a racing car. Alternatively, music-lovers should head to the Ground Floor of Tower Two to check out the offerings for kids by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Their family fun days and music appreciation sessions are popular and affordable.