What is the best way to get around in Jakarta?
There is a wide range of transportation in Jakarta, each of them answering to different needs. There is not one best way to get around, but different options that you have to know to make the best choice when going from point A to point B. Since there is a lack of common mass transportation (there is a lot of them actually but it's a huge mess and packed to the max), you will end up paying a lot for your transport in Jakarta if you have a lot of road to make.
Getting Around in Jakarta has just become must easier with several new apps. I encourage you to try one of the followings:
Gojek for getting ojeks (see below) and food delivery
Grab to get taxis (GrabTaxi), private cars (GrabCar) and ojeks (GrabBike)
Uber to get private cars (UberX), luxury cars (Uber Black) and ojeks (Uber Motor).
The prices for those services is cheaper than normal taxis and normal ojeks (at least 30% less).
During your stay in the capital, you might ride one of the following:
Man-powered rickshaw. Never tried, they have some in some areas of Glodok, it's more of an old Chinese women thing, and I don't think even tourists dare taking it.
It's the equivalent of the motorized rickshaws in India or the tuk-tuk in Thailand. They cannot use the main roads so they are pretty much limited to operate in a smalll area . Some drivers will tell you that they can take you from Kemang to Kota, but it's crazy.. Bajaj is ok for distances up to 1 km or so. I use them when I have a very short trip to make and i don't want to walk, for instance if i'm back from the grocery store, 800 meters from my house, or back from Pizza Hut and I have to hurry back home.
Price for a Tuk-Tuk: Never give less than Rp5,000. Less than 3 minutes ride between Rp5,000 and 10,000 rupiah. 3 minutes to 10 minutes: Between Rp10,000 and Rp20,000. More than 10 minutes: Get a taxi.
Motorbike-taxis. Very convenient because it is very easy to find one and they will help you avoid traffic. The price must be negotiated before, and usually it's about 20,000 to 40,000 rupiah for a 20 minutes ride.
If you use the applications Gojek, Uber Motor or GrabBike, the prices is much cheaper. It varies depending on traffic but you can expect to pay half of the normal rate
Read my articles: Why Ojeks are More Expensive than Taxis? (a bit outdated though since I wrote it before applications changed the city)
An anggot (or bemo or mikrolet) is a small van that picks up everyone on a well-defined route. It stops and goes approximately every 100 meters so it's not very fast and the worst part is the comfort since you are usually 8 or more in an area that should only accomodate 4 pygmies max.
The good part of it is that it's really cheap, around 2000 rupiah, no matter how far you go. I was using it on specific very short trip, like when I go to Mangga Dua Square from Stasiun Kota. Very local as well, people are usually amused to see bules in there.
It's the cheapest way to make long connexions within the city (2000 rupiah), but during the day, they are extremely packed, hot and dirty and the safety is not the number one priority. At night, it can be OK because there are less people and it's not as hot. The most famous ones are the Kopaja (Koperasi Angkotan Jakarta, the green and white ones) and the MetroMini (the red and blue ones). Look at the letter of the buses, each one corresponds to an area: P= Pusat (centre of Jakarta), B= Barat (west), S=Selatan (South), U= Utara (North), T= Timur (East). Next to the letter, you have a number, that indicates the route.
For instance, the Kopaja S66 is the one that goes from Blok M to Manggarai. Once you memorize a few routes, it is not that bad to use.
It's pretty good compared to the rest, though it's rare that you can make a whole trip using only the Transjakarta since inter-connexions are still limited. They have their own dedicated lane, making it the fastest mean of transportation during the worst traffic hours. It is more expensive than a normal bus but the service (Rp3,5000) though imperfect, is much better than in Kopajas. I use it quite often, for instance from Plaza Indonesia to Kota.
You can see all the routes here: Map Transjakarta
There are a lot of taxi brands in Jakarta but most people use either Express or Blue Bird. The price currently starts at Rp6,500 and you'll pay about Rp50,000 for a 20 minutes ride.
A transfer from the airport to the city center (Jalan Sudirman) will cost you around Rp130,000 (50 minutes ride).
Most companies will use the "meter" but it's best to always ask before getting in to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Don't be paranoid about taxis in Jakarta. The worst thing that can happen to you is that you'll pay an additional two dollars because the driver took a longer road.
Personally I rarely use taxis anymore, I stick to Uber and Grab.