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Is Jakarta Worth Visiting?

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
There are barely any tourists visiting Jakarta. Most foreigners you see are expats or businessmen. In the backpacker street of Jalan Jaksa, you will have a maximum of 50 travelers on any given night. For a capital city with 10 million inhabitants, this is exceptionally small. 

It is not difficult to understand why most people avoid Jakarta: It is noisy, smelly, dirty, polluted, hot and messy. Getting around is difficult with massive traffic jams, no sidewalks and bad public transportation. There are no spectacular tourist sights and the attractions are disappointing compared to those in Bali, Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur

Things are not as bad as they seem though. If you can get past your first negative impression, you will discover that Jakarta is home to museums, modern malls, authentic neighborhoods, traditional markets, monuments, religious buildings, parks, cultural centers, art galleries, a beachfront and of course one of the best nightlife in Asia.

As the most diverse and liberal city in Indonesia, it is the best place to meet Indonesians from various background. You'll be surprised how easy it is to start a conversation with anybody in Jakarta. It often starts even before landing, when you're still on the plane. Unlike in Bali, most people are genuinely interested in you and not trying to sell you something.

It is also in Jakarta that you will find the best Indonesian food. All the cuisines of the archipelago are easy to find, from the ubiquitous warung Padang to fine dining restaurants.

For all these reasons, I would say that yes, it is worth visiting Jakarta for at least 2 days. On the first, you'll have enough time to visit the National Museum, the Monas, the Istiqlal Mosque and Taman Fatahillah. In the evening, you could try some local street food, have a drink at a rooftop bar and end up in a nightclub.

On the next day, get a massage in a luxury day spa and wander in huge malls like Grand Indonesia. If shopping is not your thing, an exciting experience is to walk inside smaller streets, also called "gangs", where Indonesians live in a surprisingly peaceful, almost rural atmosphere.

If you choose a strategic location, you can do all of the above without suffering too much from the traffic. You can read Where to Stay in Jakarta for more details. It is best to come during the weekend as the streets will be more quiet. You'll also have the opportunity to try one of the city's numerous weekend brunches. Sunday morning is also car-free day on Sudirman street (the 2nd, 3rd and 4th photos of this article were taken during that day).

Jakarta is not for everybody though. To enjoy it, you need to have an open and positive mind. The standards are lower than in any Western countries for almost anything you'll do (except the malls and the cinemas). If you compare it with other cities, you'll keep on being disappointed. You should also be a bit adventurous, particularly if you are on a budget as you'll rely on public transport.

If you are preparing a trip to Jakarta and need more informations about things to do, hotels and general advice, don't hesitate to drop me an email thibaud@jakarta100bars.com. Jakarta is safe but you should get a travel insurance for the duration of your trip. Read my advice here: Choosing a Travel Insurance for Indonesia.

3 comments to '' Is Jakarta Worth Visiting? "

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  1. "The standards are lower than in any Western countries for almost anything you'll do (except the malls and the cinemas)". I will add hotel & spa also, as you can get top end, luxurious & higher standard hotel with much cheaper price compare any western country.

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    1. Yes it's very true... You can get better and cheaper accommodation in Jakarta than elsewhere... same with the spas...

      Now that I think about it, golf courses are also better...

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  2. I think you should mention the quality of restaurants too (non indonesian food): you have an incredible variety of quality restaurants in Jakarta for a reasonable price (pizza, pasta, turkish, indian, greek, german, chinese, french-style, japanese) and you have most of the international franchise restaurants in the malls(japanese, korean, american and european)

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