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Where to Stay in Jakarta - Best Areas for Tourists

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
If you visit Jakarta as a tourist, you are probably wondering about the best areas to stay in the city.

Due to the horrible traffic and the lack of public transportation, I advise you to choose your location carefully. 1 kilometer in Jakarta is like 10 kilometer in normal cities. Just going to the opposite side of a street by car can sometimes take up to 30 minutes!

If you don't have time to read my entire review, the following paragraph is a short summary:

The best place to stay in Jakarta, either you are a tourist or a businessman, is around Plaza Indonesia or Grand Indonesia, for instance: KempinskiGrand HyattPullmanMandarin Oriental. It is an expensive area though so if you are on a budget, you can stay near Sarinah Mall instead. You'll find backpacker hostels (Jalan Jaksa), 2 star hotels (Favehotel), 3-star hotels (Holiday Inn or Ibis Tamarin) and 4-star hotels (Morrissey, Four Points by Sheraton, AONE or Akmani).

Need more addresses? See the following recommendations for Hotels near Grand Indonesia and Hotels near Sarinah.

If you have time to read my whole review, I will list below all the potential areas for you to stay in Jakarta, starting from the best.

(I included a direct link to Agoda to help you book your hotel. I make a small commission on every booking but the price is the same for you. You can compare using HotelsCombined.com (excellent hotel comparator) or  Booking.com.)

Hotel Indonesia (Plaza Indonesia / Grand Indonesia)

The iconic Hotel Indonesia roundabout (Bunderan HI in Indonesian) is one of the most famous landmarks in Jakarta. All around it are 5 luxury hotels (KempinskiGrand HyattPullmanMandarin OrientalKeraton at the Plaza) and the two best malls in Jakarta (Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia).

Both of these malls are great meeting points with lots of popular cafés, cinemas, restaurants, bars (Cloud, Social House, Skye) and nightclubs (Immigrant). It is a modern part of Jakarta ideal for lifestyle travelers who are interested with shopping, eating out and partying.

It is also central, so you can reach other parts of Jakarta fairly easily (for Jakarta standards). In particular, it is just a few minutes away from Tanah Abang (budget shopping), Jalan Sudirman (business district) and Menteng (government offices). Attractions like the Monas or the National Museum are only 15 minutes away. You can use public transportation to reach any of these (Transjakarta).
Summary:
Distance from airport:
Between 1h and 1h30m with normal traffic conditions.

Pros:
Central, easy to access, upmarket area
Good for nightlife, shopping, eating and drinking out

Cons:
Nothing touristic in the immediate area (no monuments, no historical buildings, no traditional markets)
Busy, crowded with a lot of traffic
Nowhere to walk around except inside malls
No street food
Expensive

Sarinah Mall (Jalan Jaksa, Wahid Hasyim, Sabang)
The Sarinah Shopping Center is only a kilometer north of the Hotel Indonesia roundabout (see above), but the feel is much different. It is a middle class area with affordable shopping and restaurants. You will also find great Indonesian street food 24/7. Most buildings are low-rise but this might change soon as several towers are being built.

There are many convenient businesses for travelers, some of which are open 24-hour: Money changers, travel agents, internet cafés, printing services, photography shops, etc. You also have several laundries (one of which is a coin laundry).

The mid-range hotels are along the streets Wahid Hasyim and Agus Salim (nicknamed Sabang).

If your budget is very tight, meaning under 10$ a night, you can get a room in Jalan Jaksa. Many of the cheaper guesthouses are not listed on internet so it's best to just walk around and look for "room for rent/kos" signs.

The location is just as strategic as the one in Hotel Indonesia (you can walk there in 15 minutes). If you are not interested in going to malls, it is probably even better.

East of Sarinah is the upscale area of Menteng-Cikiniwhere some of the richest Indonesian families live. It is central with many nice restaurants, a few museums, public parks and cultural attractions. Hotels tend to be either pricey or low-quality. 
Summary:
Distance from airport:
Between 1h and 1h30m with normal traffic conditions.

Pros:
Central, in-between modern Jakarta and old Jakarta
Many budget hotels with good value for money
Cheap shopping options
Travelers shops (Money changers, travel agents, etc)
Good street food
Very lively, even at night (many shops and restaurants are open 24-hour)
You can meet other travelers more easily (see Jalan Jaksa Nightlife)

Cons:
Not an upmarket location
Not walking distance from any tourist landmarks
It was the location of a terrorist attack in January 2016

Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/kroenisme/
Golden Triangle
Mega Kuningan Streets
The Golden Triangle is the main business area of Jakarta and it is made from the following streets: Gatot Subroto, Rasuna Said and Sudirman. It comprises some famous neighborhoods such as Mega Kuningan, SCBD (Sudirman Central Business District) or Setiabudi. It extends in the South until Plaza Senayan and Senopati.

Mega Kuningan and SCBD are exclusive and modern areas with a Western city planning model. You'll find blocks, large streets and sidewalks, just like you would in an American city. It is the trendiest part of Jakarta and home to dozens of hip bars, clubs and restaurants. There are also several 5-star hotels (Ritz Carlton Mega KuninganMarriott) and luxury malls (Pacific Place). It is cleaner than the rest of Jakarta and you have less traffic jams. Some would say it's a ghetto for rich people that has nothing to do with the real Jakarta.

Many young, single expats choose to live there when they can afford it. If they don't have the budget, they may choose to stay in Setiabudi instead (see below).

Jalan SudirmanJalan Rasuna Said, Jalan Gatot Subroto are some of the busiest streets in Jakarta. They are packed with cars, messy and polluted. Still, choosing a hotel directly on one of these thoroughfares is a good idea to avoid unnecessary commuting time. Most are 4 and 5-star hotels though.

Summary:
Distance from airport:
Between 45 minutes and 1h30m with normal traffic conditions. Gatot Subroto is the closest and it is connected to the airport highway. Mega Kuningan is more difficult to access (traffic bottleneck).

Pros:
Modern, Westernized part of Jakarta
Easy access to nightclubs, malls, trendy restaurants
Central
Public transport options (Transjakarta)

Cons:
Expensive
Limited street food options
No traditional street life
Heavy traffic during peak hours
Setiabudi
Setiabudi is a residential and low-rise neighborhood in the northern part of the Golden Triangle. Its residents were originally low to middle income families, but this is starting to change as the land prices increase. Many houses have been transformed into boarding houses, small apartments or hotels which are popular with single office workers (both Indonesians and expats).

You can get a room there for an affordable price while being near from the Central Business District (more information: How to Rent a Cheap Room in Jakarta). It is a great area for street food as well.

Staying in Setiabudi would not be my first recommendation though if you are a tourist because it can be difficult to get there (traffic) and to find your hotel (small streets).

Summary:
Distance from airport:
Between 1h and 1h30m with normal traffic conditions.

Pros:
Very good location between Sudirman and Rasuna Said streets
Low-rise, middle class neighborhood
Near offices, malls, nightclubs, bars, restaurants
Street food
Convenient shops (laundry, photocopy, etc.)
Possibility to walk around

Cons:
More complicated to access when you are not familiar with Jakarta
More difficult to get public transport
Traffic Jams
Kota Tua
Street food near Jalan Kali Besar in Kota Tua
Strictly speaking, Kota Tua (Old Town in Indonesian) is the area around Taman Fatahillah Square in North Jakarta. In this review, I use it to describe a larger zone inclusive of Mangga Besar and Glodok.

Kota Tua is infamous for being a red-light district: This is where you will find the most expensive naughty massage parlours, strip clubs, nightclubs and gogo bars in Jakarta. Most hotels are used for short time and the streets are busy 24/7.

In spite of this, staying nearby has several advantages: Hotels are much cheaper than elsewhere and they are close from many tourist attractions (Chinese temples in Glodok, Museums, Sunda Kelapa). Some people, including myself, also enjoy the authentic street life. Jalan Mangga Besar in particular is one of the best places to eat street food in Jakarta.

From Kota Tua to the city center of Jakarta (Plaza Indonesia), it will take about 1 hour with normal traffic conditions (30 minutes at night). There is a very convenient Transjakarta line from Kota Tua down to Blok M that goes through Monas and the the National Museum.
Summary:
Distance from airport:
Between 45m and 1h15m with normal traffic conditions.

Pros:
Near most tourist attractions in Jakarta
Near nightclubs, bars, massage parlours and karaokes (naughty ones)
Cheaper area in Jakarta for sleeping and eating out
Great and colorful street life
Street food stalls open 24/7 - Excellent Chinese food
Busway line

Cons:
More dirty and dodgy than average
No modern malls and restaurants
Lots of prostitutes
Other possible areas for staying in Jakarta
Kemang
Kemang is a popular area with expats because it is near from the international schools. Many live in expansive villas with swimming pool and gardens. It has a vibe similar to the one in Seminyak.

As a tourist staying in Kemang, you will be near from many designer shops, good Western restaurants and several bars and clubs. On the negative side, there are no tourist sights and it is far from the city center.

Gajah Mada/Hayam Wuruk (+ Pasar Baru)
This area is strategically located as it is between Sudirman and Kota Tua. There are not so many things to do in the immediate vicinity apart from some famous strip clubs and massage parlours (Malioboro, V2, Emporium).

Recommended if you are planning to visit places in both South and North Jakarta. They have recently opened several brand new hotels such as Harris Harmoni VertuHotel Santika Premiere Hayam Wuruk and Novotel Gajah Mada.

Mangga Dua
In North Jakarta, Mangga Dua is a shopping area with several naughty nightlife venues. It can easily be reached from the airport by the toll road, and it is not too far from the city's tourist attractions like Kota Tua or Ancol. If you need to go to the South, it will take you about an hour.

If you only have one night in Jakarta, it can be a more fun option than staying near the airport. After two nights, you might get bored.

Slipi-Taman Anggrek
This area is in the vicinity of the malls Central Park and Taman Anggrek. You can stay there if you want to be closer from the airport as it is only 40 minutes away by car. Downtown Jakarta is about 30 minutes away.

Pluit and PIK (Pantai Indah Kapuk)
This is an upscale area where many Rich Indochinese families live. It is close from the airport (less than 40 minutes) and you have a growing nightlife scene (see my review Nightlife in PIK).

Kelapa Gading
There are not many reasons to stay in Kelapa Gading apart from shopping and nightlife.

For shopping, you have several malls including the gigantic Mall of Indonesia and Mal Kelapa Gading.

For nightlife, you'll find mostly massage parlours plus plus, brothels, strip clubs and beer houses (Sumo, Delta, King Cross, Level 5 and other prostitution joints).

Map of the Best Areas in Jakarta - Summary
If you are interested to stay in Jakarta near the nightlife, please read my other hotel guides:

Contact me by email thibaud@jakarta100bars.com if you have any questions about where to stay in Jakarta (or just leave a comment below).

Guide to Choosing the Best Travel Insurance for Indonesia

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
When I speak with short-time travelers in Indonesia, I am baffled to realize only a few have a proper travel insurance or a medical evacuation insurance. Among long-term residents and expats, there are also many who do not have health insurance, particularly among those without a working permit.

The objective of this article is to convince you that spending a few dollars per day on an insurance is not a waste of money. Even if you are on a tight budget, you can get a cheap one (as low as 3$ per day if you take a yearly subscription - check here) that will at least save your ass in case of a serious illness or accident. If you cannot afford it, then you probably should not travel to Indonesia.

Why you need a travel insurance in Indonesia
While you certainly need insurance everywhere, there are even more reasons to get it when you travel in Bali, Jakarta or the rest of Indonesia:

You are exposed to more risks
There are several risks specifically related to being in Indonesia. Some are unfortunately too common: Dengue fever, malaria, dog bites, food poisoning or motorbike accidents are really not that rare. If you've lived in the country long enough, you probably know a few people who had these problems.

There are generally lower safety standards in everything in Indonesia: Construction, food, transportation, roads, activities, etc. This increases the likelihood of an unfortunate event as well. You can read more tips about this topic here: WorldNomads Travel Safety Tips.

Medical care in Indonesia is very expensive
According to the AAMI, a day in an intensive care unit in Indonesia can cost up to 3,000$. Even in the cheapest hospitals you can expect to pay 800$/day.

Facebook groups like Bali Expats or Jakarta Expats are full of horrible stories of people who had their lives ruined in a few minutes because they did not plan their trips properly. Here are just a few examples (click on the photos for the whole story):
Some of them actually had an insurance, but they didn't read the fine prints. Not having a a motorbike license is often a reason for not being reimbursed for instance. I will give you tips later in this review on what you should be looking for to make sure your risky activities are covered.

More banal problems can be quite costly as well. Among my friends, several ended up in shitty situation for common accidents or diseases:

First one hit his head by diving into a pool: 1000$ in Sanglah Hospital (local one) for a few stitches and X-rays.

Second one got bit by a street dog in Legian: 3,000$ including anti-rabies medication.

Third one got a very bad case of dengue fever combined with malaria. He went into a coma and he had to stay 4 weeks in hospital. Total bill: 25,000 dollars. Luckily, he was covered and everything was paid for. It was after this unfortunate event that I rushed to get an insurance actually.

Private hospitals will never accept you if you cannot pay
In Indonesia, the decent hospitals are run as a strict business and not a charity. If you arrive bleeding to death after an accident, the doctors will not treat you until they make sure you can pay. If you can't, you'll be left outside. It's as simple as that.

An American will probably understand that. For a French, this concept is a bit hard to grasp as we are used to get healthcare for free.

Hospitals will overcharge you
You should know that as a foreigner with or without a working permit, you will be charged more for medical treatment in Indonesia. Expect to pay at least 2 times more than locals, more if you don't have a resident visa.

Many doctors have a poor ethic. If they can find a way to inflate your final bill, they will probably do it. It is a bit like going to a random auto repair shop in Europe: Most likely you will be charged for stuff you don't need.

Serious accidents will need a medical evacuation
Since many hospitals cannot treat the most serious patients, medical evacuation is often needed. To give you an idea of current prices:

Evacuation from Indonesia to Singapore: From 25,000$ to 50,000$
Evacuation from Indonesia to Australia: From 40,000$ to 70,000$
Evacuation to Europe: Up to 100,000$

Don't expect compensatory damages
The concept of third party responsibility is foreign to most Indonesians. If you are hit by an Indonesian drunk driver, don't expect you'll get any money from the person who was responsible. Actually, even if he is at fault, he could possibly still manage to get money out from you if he is a well-connected assh*le. The same thing apply if you have an accident within your hotel or while doing an activity with a company. If you are dealing with a local company, don't even think about getting compensatory damages.

What types of insurance do you need in Indonesia?
The type of insurance you need in Indonesia depends on your activity (working, retired, tourist, etc), your length of stay, your activities and your area of travel.

Travel Medical Insurance:
An insurance that will cover your medical bills for a limited duration (usually less than 90 days) when you are traveling outside of your home country. If you are traveling to Indonesia, it is the minimum you should get. For expats it is not necessary as long as they have an expat insurance.

Travel Insurance:
A generic term for an insurance that will cover several aspects of a trip: Medical problems, but also flight cancellation, theft, lost luggage, etc.

There are several websites where you can get a price estimate for your travel insurance in Indonesia. You can check WorldNomads which is a partner of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. Among the famous ones you also have SmartTravel from AXA and Travel Guard from AIG.

You can find more options in your home country. The advantage of WorldNomads is that it is very easy to apply online and you do it even if you've already left home.

You can also search through the comparator Insure My Trip.

International Health Insurance or Expat Medical Insurance:
Travel insurance is for travelers and covers emergency situations. If you live permanently in Indonesia, you need coverage for regular health expenses such as dental care, optics, medical check ups, pregnancies, cancer treatment, etc. Those are typically not included in Travel Insurance policies.

Expats working in Indonesia should subscribe to the mandatory BPJS health insurance scheme. It is cheap, but don't expect to much from it. Many will also have their employer's insurance.

For the other expats without a company plan, you can either purchase a normal travel insurance for long term travel (but then you won't be covered for non-emergency situations) or purchase a dedicated Expat Health Insurance from a private company.

The latter is usually more expensive, but you should consider that you'll get more reimbursements as well. Reputed companies include Allianz, April-International, AXA, GMS, etc.

Repatriation/Medical Evacuation Insurance: An insurance that guarantees your medical evacuation will be paid for if needed.  The cost is usually reasonable, as little as 150$ per year, and it can save you tens of thousands of dollars. Remember that for serious injuries, you will not be able to be treated properly in Indonesia. This insurance is particularly needed if you plan on visiting remote areas.

If you purchase an insurance from WorldNomads, it is already included.

Things to check before purchasing a travel insurance

The obvious first step before purchasing a travel insurance is to make sure you don't already have one. You are probably aware that when you buy your plane tickets with a Visa or Mastercard, you are entitled to some kind of (limited) insurance. If you are traveling on a tour group, you may also already have one automatically added (though you can refuse it and buy your own instead).

Once you know for sure that you will need a travel insurance in Indonesia, you should be careful to check the following:

What is the maximum payable amount that I can get?
I think 200,000$ is the minimum amount to get considering how high some hospitals bills can be in Indonesia.

Is the medical evacuation included or not?
If not you will have to pay extra with another company. This is an essential part of your insurance and you need a high ceiling as well (minimum 150,000$).

Can you contact your insurance company 24/7? Can they approve a quotation 24/7?
This is a must in case of a major emergency. If you cannot prove quickly that you can pay for your treatment, the best hospitals may refuse you.

Do you have to advance the money?
Some insurance can give a guarantee to the hospital that your bill will be covered so you don't need to pay upfront.

Are there any exclusions?
There are always a lot of exclusions (things that the insurance does not cover). Read carefully to avoid any surprises. If you are planning to do dangerous sports and outdoor activities in Indonesia, ask for instance if surfing, scuba diving, diving, rafting, hiking, jet-skiing or paragliding are included.

What is the motorbike situation?
Motorbikes are a major cause of accidents for foreigners in Indonesia. Be careful as almost all insurers require a valid international license for the driver (even if you are a passenger). A specific motorbike license is also required for vehicle with more than 150cc. If you were drunk, high or not wearing a helmet at the time of your accident, you can also say good-bye to any potential claims.

What if you hurt someone?
Check if you can get reimbursement for third party damages.

The website of WorldNomads provides a lot of great tips to help you choose the right insurance. You can also make a simulation for your trip so you'll know exactly how much it will cost you and how long you will be protected. Don't forget to read the fine print very carefully to make sure you won't have any unexpected surprise.

How to save money on travel insurance?
The companies I've mentioned before are quite affordable. You'll only pay a few dollars per day for coverage. You can try to make a test on WorldNomads to see how much you will pay depending on your age, your country of origin, and the number of people you want to protect.
Click to get a a travel insurance quote from WorldNomads
If the amount is really to big for you, there are a few ways to lower the price even more:

Buy longer
This need some commitment, but naturally the longer you purchase, the cheaper it get. I made a test on WorldNomads for myself and got the following:

  • 7 days travel insurance to Indonesia (for a French): 26.70 euros (3.8 euros per day)
  • 4 weeks travel insurance to Indonesia (for a French): 93 euros (3.3 euros per day)
  • 365 days travel insurance to Indonesia (for a French): 804.30 euros (2.2 euros per day)
Make your own simulation here: Quote from WorldNomads.

Buy for several people at once
If you travel with your girlfriend or your family, you should choose the same reputed company for everybody.

Don't insure flights and valuables
This is what I do. Considering I travel alone with cheap flight tickets, last minute hotels bookings and few valuables, I don't really care about getting reimbursements on those things. The only thing I care about is not jeopardizing my whole life with an accident I can't afford to have.

Choose high deductibles and excess
Your insurance deductible and your excess are minimum amounts your insurance will charge you on any claims, not matter what. If your deductible for an accident is 1,000$, the insurance will reimburse you any medical expenses above 1,000$.

The philosophy of choosing a high deductible is the same as the previous point: It is for people who only want help if they are in big trouble. Having to pay 1,000$ from your own pocket sucks, but you can always find the money.

Don't buy it from your airline
When you book a flight, your airline or your tour operator will offer you to buy an insurance. Those are usually pretty bad deals and the prices are not interesting.

Compare
You can use Insure My Trip to search for the best deals. Be careful with cheap insurance companies though. If they can give a very cheap price, it probably means they don't reimburse much. You cannot have it all.

Rely on your credit card insurance only
This is possible but you must know the limitations of this strategy. In general, when you pay your trip with a classic Visa or Mastercard, you get 3 months of insurance with maximum reimbursement of less than 15,000$ (please check again with your banker to be sure). This ceiling is really too low in my opinion. You also have a lot of restrictions on what you can claim as well as high deductibles.

What insurance do you use?
This article would be greatly improved with your input. Which insurance did you choose for traveling to Indonesia? Did you succeed in making claims? If you are an expat, do you have a health insurance? Do you recommend it?

Personally, I have an expat insurance company that only insure French nationals. The name is CFE, if you are French and need more information about it you can email me thibaud@jakarta100bars.com. I pay 100 euros per month and I've made 2 claims that went well. The main one was for a gallbladder infection that kept me a week in Kasih Ibu hospital in Denpasar. The total bill was 7,000$ for 8 days and I had 5,000$ reimbursed.

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 hotels in Jakarta with more than 3 stars have 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 creambath, 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 hangout 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 cafés, 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.

Best Time To Visit Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
Are you wondering what is the best time to visit Jakarta? There are several factors to consider before planning your trip:

- Weather in Jakarta: What are the best and worst seasons?
- When are public holidays in Jakarta? How do they affect the city?
- Is it OK to visit Jakarta during Ramadan?
- At what time of the year can you get the cheapest prices on flights and hotels?

If you don't have want to read the whole article, here is a short answer: The best time to visit Jakarta is during the "dry" seasons from May to October. Within this period, it is best to avoid Ramadan (in May in 2017, in April-May in 2018). To get the best prices on plane tickets and hotels, the months of April-May-October-November are the most interesting. Weekends are nicer as you have less traffic jams. It is also better if you want to party and the hotels are cheaper.

For more details, please read the long answer below:

Weather in Jakarta
Unlike in Europe, you will not experience huge weather variations in Jakarta. Average daily temperatures are usually between 29°C and 35°C (84°F and 95°F). It is hot, especially because of the humidity, but I've always found Singapore or Bangkok were much worse.

Temperatures get slightly cooler at night or very early in the morning, or after a massive rainfall.  It does not change a lot though: During the 12 years I lived in Jakarta, I have never worn a jacket or a sweater even once!

While the temperatures are rather stable all year long, there is a dry season and a wet season. From my observations, the worst of the wet season goes from mid-December to February. You can expect that there will be rain every day during these months. This is when all the recent major floods in Jakarta happened (2007, 2013, 2015). November, March and April can also be wet, but it is more random. 

The dry season in Jakarta is never completely dry. Even in August or July, you may have a few storms once in a while. Generally speaking though, you have less rain from May to October and this is the best time of the year to visit Jakarta.

Summary:
December, January, February: Avoid Jakarta if possible
November, March, April: You can visit Jakarta but it is likely that there will be showers from time to time.
May, June, July, August, September, October: Occasional showers, but overall a good time to travel to Jakarta

Public Holidays in Jakarta
Indonesians have approximately 12 days of public holidays + 12 more days of paid leave. In general, Muslims will use their holiday the week after the end of Ramadan, Christians will use them for Christmas, and Hindus will use them to celebrate Kuningan and Galungan (good to know if you are traveling to Bali).

Some public holiday dates are fixed such as New Year (January 1st), Christmas (December 25th) or Independence Day (August 17th). Others are changing  every year, for instance Idul Fitri, Chinese New Year, Good Friday, Waisak Day or Idul Adha. You can check the updated schedule easily by just typing on Google: "Public Holiday Indonesia".

In Jakarta, the consequence of public holidays are a massive exodus of population, especially during Lebaran (the week after Ramadan) and for Christmas/New Year.

As a traveler, it is a recommended time to visit Jakarta. It is more easy to get around in the city and you may feel the air is less polluted. Hotels and incoming flights are often cheaper also. The only problem is that some of the museums may be closed on public holidays.

Ramadan in Jakarta
Ramadan happens approximately every 11 months in Indonesia (and the rest of the Muslim world). In 2017, it will be in May and in 2018 in May-June. 

It is possible to visit Jakarta during that time. You are allowed to eat during the day, even in public, and all shops and museums are normally open. If you are not familiar with the city, you might not notice the change.

Still, unless you are particularly interested with the religious aspect of Indonesia, I think it is best to come at another time. There is clearly less energy around and people are more tired. Personally, I'm also embarrassed to eat outside by myself. Nightclubs and bars become very quiet and you may need to hide if you want a beer.

Another issue with ramadan is that you may get stuck in the "mudik" migration. Just before Idul Fitri, the last day of fasting, millions of Indonesians go back to their villages so the traffic on the roads is terrible. In 2016, there was a 3 days traffic jam in which 12 people died. There is also a surge in price for train and plane tickets. Things get back to normal around 10 days after the end of ramadan.

When To Travel Cheap to Jakarta
The biggest fluctuations for Jakarta hotels is caused by business travelers who generally come from Monday to Friday. For this reason, you will normally get a lower price if you stay in Jakarta on the weekend. You may not get a discount on flight tickets though as many Jakartans come back home during that time. If possible, you should try to arrive on Friday morning and leave on Monday afternoon to avoid the biggest rush.

Holidays in your home country may also affect the price of your plane ticket. If you are European, flights to Asia are always more expensive during Christmas and summer. Conversely, March, April, May, October and November are the cheapest months to travel.

Finally, as I mentioned above, hotel prices are lower in Jakarta when there is a local public holiday because the population tends to leave the city.

Do you need more help about your travel plans to Jakarta? You can leave your question in the comment form below and I'll do my best to answer you. For more information you may also read my article: Where to Stay in Jakarta? Best Areas for Tourists and Best Things To Do in Jakarta.

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.

16 Best Museums in Jakarta

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars) →
I visited almost every museums in Jakarta this year (I'm only missing the TNI Satria Mandala Museum and the Galeri Nasional Indonesia). The idea of this review is to give you my recommendations on the best museums to visit and the ones to avoid. I also wrote individual articles for each with a full description, just click on the name of the venues to read it.

Contrary to what people might tell you, most are interesting and worth your time. They are a good introduction to Indonesian history and culture, and at the same time they give you an opportunity to explore authentic neighborhoods.

The entrance ticket for each museum is very cheap, usually between Rp2,000 and Rp20,000. You can refer to the opening and closing hours on each separate reviews. All museums are rather small and you'll often need only a couple hours to visit them.

English explanations are not always available. I don't think it's a big problem: Just take pictures and notes, then find out more on wikipedia from home. You can also visit the museums with a guide. The best tours are organized by the Indonesian Heritage Society. For more information: Jakarta Museum Tours.

Which Jakarta museums to visit in 1 day?
If you have only 1 day of sightseeing available, I would advise you to visit in priority the National Museum first and then head to Kota Tua (the Old City) where you'll find the Bank Indonesia Museum and the Jakarta History Museum. Both areas can easily be reached with the Transjakarta busway.

This is the ranking of the best museums in Jakarta, based on my visits:

Easily the best museum in Indonesia. It features quite a large collection of statues, masks and artefacts from all over the archipelago. A great introduction to the different cultures of the country. You'll need at least 3-4 hours inside to see everything properly.

I didn't have any expectations when visiting this museum, yet it turned out to be one of the most interesting I've been to. Don't be turned off by the word "bank". The museum is more about the history of trade in Indonesia, starting from before the colonization. It is just 100 meters from Taman Fatahillah.

This is the main museum on Taman Fatahillah square. It is housed in a beautiful colonial building that served as the City Hall of Batavia during Dutch times. As the name suggests, it is about the history of Jakarta, starting from prehistoric times. The visit is a bit short and hopefully they'll add more things to see in the future.

4) Museum of the Indonesian Constitution (at the Supreme Court)
Opened by President Jokowi in 2015, this is the newest and most modern museum in Jakarta. It is a nationalist museum, telling the story of how the Indonesian constitution was created. Still, you'll learn a lot about Indonesia's recent history. It makes you realize the profound gap between the hopes of the founders of the Nation and the harsh reality. You'll also get to see the Indonesian Supreme Court. Advanced reservation is required.

This museum is similar in its purpose with the Indonesian Constitution Museum. It focuses on the history of the birth of the Indonesian independence movement. It is located in the ex-STOVIA doctors' school and as such, you'll also find information about the early medicine in Indonesia.

The main art museum in Indonesia, with a collection of paintings from contemporary and older artists. Too many replicas unfortunately. It is part of the museums of Taman Fatahillah square.

Considering Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, the Museum Bahari (or Maritime Museum) could probably be improved. Currently, it feels it is in need of refurbishment. Still, I enjoyed my visit, which was a quick stop on my way to Sunda Kelapa, because of the location in an old Dutch warehouse and because I learned quite a few things about the history of Indonesia. The neighborhood was great too (fish market of Luar Batang) but the government evicted local residents recently and I haven't been there again since.

I did visit this museum but I haven't written a review about it yet. It is set in a beautiful property with a relaxing garden. There are some explanations on how Indonesian fabrics are made, particularly batiks. You can see a large collection of beautiful ones but it can be quite repetitive after a while. It is not too far from Central Jakarta, just after Tanah Abang Market.

This is a small museum with barely anything on display, yet it is worth a stop as the building is one of the nicest in Jakarta. It used to be the residence of the Governor General of the VOC.

The Museum Wayang is recommended by most tourist guides but I found it quite boring. There are almost no explanations in English and the place is not well-maintained. Not recommended unless you have a fascination for wayangs, puppets and masks.

The only positive thing about the Bank Mandiri Museum is its location, inside a Dutch colonial building. Apart from that, most of the things on displays are old ATMs, old typewriters, old computers, etc.

12) Museum Taman Prasasti
I still have to write this review as well. Anyway, this "museum" is actually an old Dutch graveyard and not a proper Museum, despite its name. It's not a bad place though and if you pass by, it won't hurt you to have a look.

Not visited yet:

Museum Galeri National Indonesia: This museum of art will be next on my list when I go back to Jakarta in September.

Musée Satriamandala: A military museum that belongs to the Indonesian TNI (Army). Apparently it's fun for kids.

A1 Museum: A private contemporary art museum.

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN): As announced by the NY Times, the MACAN is set to open in 2017. It is owned by the billionnaire Haryanto Adikoesoemo and will feature its private collection of artworks. It can probably become the best museum in Jakarta then.

You can read my article: 10 Best Things To Do in Jakarta for more daytime activities in the city.