10 Best Things to Do In Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
Many tourists hate Jakarta because they visit it the wrong way. They check the things to do in a guidebook or on the internet, and then try to do as many as possible in a short time.

Since they are not familiar with the city, they get stuck for hours in traffic, walk in the heat from one sight to the other, and spend more time bargaining than actually talking with Indonesians.

I am not saying that Jakarta is perfect, but if you know what to do, you can definitely have a good time.

Below is my list of the 10 most recommended things to do in Jakarta, starting from the best. An alternative title for the article could probably have been "How Not To Hate Jakarta". Your suggestions are welcome, please just write a comment at the end.

You can also read Is Jakarta worth visiting? for more information.

1) The best thing to do in Jakarta is to date a local (at least for guys)
Let's be honest here. Would Jakarta be as interesting for expats as it is today without Indonesian girls? Certainly not.

Dating local girls is the main activity of most guys I know who live here, and even for those who already have a Western wife. It is a fascinating introduction to Indonesian culture and the best way to learn the language. Leaving Indonesia without this experience is a bit like leaving Italia without eating pizza.

As a traveler, an easy way to get a date is to use online dating apps like Tinder. I wrote an article with the best services you can use: Online Dating Apps and Sites in Indonesia. Many girls in Jakarta will be suspicious about your intentions if you are a tourist though. If online dating does not work, you can read more advice in How to Meet Girls in Jakarta.

2) The second best thing to do in Jakarta is to party
The nightlife is one of the few areas where Jakarta can compete with Bangkok or Singapore. If you go to X2 on a Saturday night, you have at least 200 tourists. I don't think there are as many visiting the National Monument (Monas) over the whole weekend.

Clubs in Jakarta are not perfect but they are fun. Foreigners get a special treatment as long as they dress well and, unlike in Europe, you stand a chance with girls.

My whole website is about Jakarta nightlife. If you are not familiar with it already, start with Best Nightclubs 2016, Jakarta Nightlife 2015 and Jakarta Nightlife Guide.

3) The third best is to eat Indonesian food
I advise you to do the same when you visit Jakarta. You can go to Sabang street in Central Jakarta or Mangga Besar street in Kota (for more ideas, read Street Food in Jakarta) and choose one of the crowded food stalls. The prices are low: A dish without meat usually costs around Rp10,000, a dish with chicken or fish about Rp20,000 and a dish with beef or lamb between Rp30,000 and Rp50,000.

Don't make the mistake of only trying Nasi Goreng as you'll miss hundreds of delicious specialties. My personal favorites are Gudeg (cooked jackfruit), Ayam Gulai (chicken with Indonesian curry), Beef Rendang (slow-cooked beef with spices), Bebek Mercon (duck with extra spicy sauce), Grilled Fish with Dabu-Dabu (Manado spicy sauce), Lawar (minced vegetables and meat), Konro (ribs soup), etc.

You can also read: How I Became Fat in Indonesia.

4) The fourth best is to get a massage

Indonesia is one of the best countries in the world to get an excellent massage.

In Jakarta, for just US5$ you can have a professional masseuse at your door who will massage you for an hour. The easiest way to find a therapist is to download the app Go-Jek and to use the feature "Go-Massage". Alternatively, almost every hotel in Jakarta with more than 3 stars has an in-house spa or 24/7 massage services.

You can also check independent spas. The prices are between 15$ and 30$ for a 90-minute treatment in a decent venue. For a luxurious one, you can read my article: Best Luxury Spas in Jakarta.

To find the spa nearest from your place, you can use my guide Finding A Spa In Jakarta. Beware as I'm also mentioning plus plus spas (that are also quite an experience... you can try Delta if you are curious).

Expat women would tell you that Jakarta is a great place to have an inexpensive cream bath, a nail polish or a scrub. Beauty salons are not expensive and they can be found everywhere.

5) The fifth best is to do nothing 
"Nongkrong" ("hanging out" in English) is the trademark hobby of Indonesia. Basically, it means doing nothing with other people.

You can hang out pretty much anywhere: In a coffee shop, on top of a rooftop bar, in a restaurant, in front of a 7-eleven, in the street, at a friend's place, at the mosque, etc. All you need is at least another person. You may also add a beer, a kretek, a coffee and some snacks. A chair is not required as you can see on this photo:

You may feel it is a waste of your time but it's not. It is a time for relaxing, eating, drinking, socializing and adapting to a new environment. In such a hectic city, slowing down is essential to avoid going mad.

6) The sixth best is to walk around
As surprising as it may seem, my favorite day-time activity in Jakarta is simply to walk around in normal Indonesian neighborhoods. It is a free and simple thing to do, yet very rewarding.

Whenever I have guests coming to Jakarta, I always take them for a walk and they love it. It allows them to discover the softer, slower-paced side of the city, where regular folks live.

This is something you can do almost anywhere as long as you understand how Jakarta is organized. Most of the malls, offices, luxury residences and hotels are located along huge streets like Rasuna Said, Sudirman or Gatot Subroto. As soon as you venture behind those skyscrapers, you have smaller and smaller streets (also called "gangs"), where only motorbikes can enter. The atmosphere changes completely: It becomes almost rural with no traffic, low-rise houses, chicken running wild and women going to the mosque with their daster (a sort of daytime pajamas).

This drawing may (or may not) help you understand:
Three nice areas for walking around are Glodok (Jalan Kemenangan, near the Chinese temple Vihara Dharma Bhakti), Tanah Abang (you can go to Jalan Kebon Kacang I, II, III, etc) or Pasar Baru (Jalan Kelinci).

7) The seventh best is to visit the tourist spots
Some tourist spots in Jakarta are interesting, but it would be a mistake to visit them before doing the things listed above.

My most recommended attractions are the Istiqlal Mosque, the National Museum, Taman Fatahillah (a square in the Old Town with several museums and coffee shops) and Sunda Kelapa (the old harbour). All of these can be done within a day if you start early and if you choose a hotel in a central area (Where to Stay in Jakarta).

Other sights that you can skip:
Monas is not that special and the surrounding park is not well maintained.
Taman Mini is too far from the city center so it will take you the whole day to visit it.
Waterbom and DuFan are two themed parks that are only interesting if you have kids.

If you need more ideas, I have been to most tourist attractions in Jakarta and I reviewed them on Jakarta100bars here: Things to Do in Jakarta. You can also check my ranking of the best museums: 16 Best Museums in Jakarta.

8) The eighth best is to learn Indonesian
Indonesian is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It is easy to learn because there are no verb tenses or declensions (noun modifications). You can make sentences just by putting up words together. The pronunciation is also simple: Every letter has a sound.

A traveler I know managed to reach a conversational level within two weeks only. All he did was to memorize 200 words, then seize any opportunity to start a conversation with Indonesian people. He was dating a girl also, that helps.

If you stay in Jakarta more than a few weeks, or if you live in Southeast Asia, I recommend you to learn at least a few words. It will make your Indonesian experience richer and more enjoyable.

9) The ninth best is to go shopping
Indonesia is a protectionist country. This means anything imported or requiring imported components will be expensive, and anything that can be made local is (normally) cheap.

Shopping in traditional markets and shopping streets is a great local experience. I've written a complete article about these here: 25 Best Markets and Shopping Streets in Jakarta.

Shopping in middle-class malls is also fun and you may find a few bargains (though not as good as in Thailand or Vietnam). Indonesian-made clothes and accessories are generally cheap. Electronic equipment, mobile phones, computers and cameras with a local brand don't cost a lot as well, but the quality can be poor. There are always a lot of fake products too. Some of the best middle-class malls are ITC Mangga Dua, Mall of Indonesia, Mall Kelapa Kading, Mall Ambassador and Mall Taman Anggrek.

Shopping in luxury malls like Plaza Indonesia, Plaza Senayan or Pacific Place is not really interesting in terms of prices. Most items sold are more expensive than elsewhere. Those malls are still worth a visit if you want to see the glitzy side of Jakarta. It is also where you will find the most popular caf├ęs, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and cinemas.

10) The tenth best thing to do in Jakarta is to get out
If you don't get out from Jakarta once in a while, you will start to hate it. There are flights from Jakarta to most airports in Indonesia, making it the best base to visit the country. 50$ will take you thousands of kilometers away to white sand beaches, world-class reef corals and indigenous tribes.

Get some travel ideas here: 11 Indonesian Islands You've Never Head Of and Bali Cheap Travel Guide.

2 comments to '' 10 Best Things to Do In Jakarta "

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  1. "Would Jakarta be as interesting for expats as it is today without Indonesian girls?" : I would say the same with "without Indonesian guys". Althought Jakarta is not a popular city for LGBT like Bangkok, I think it offers many opportunities and many places to meet nice people and make nice experiences

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  2. "Waterbom and DuFan are two themed parks that are only interesting if you have kids."

    I disagree! it is a blast (awesome) to hang around dufan or waterboom or Atlantis with your girlfriend. there is good food, but expensive, in ancol. the bowling alley is fun as well. I've used my annual pass alot at dufan!

    drink beer before arriving ;)


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