Before coming to Indonesia we read a lot about this country. Especially about Jakarta (map) – as we weren’t sure whether to stay in the capital with its 9,58 Million inhabitants or not. Nearly every article about Jakarta was pretty bad and nobody recommended going there. But as it is the capital and we had to change planes anyway, we decided to give it a chance and stayed in Jakarta for two nights.
When we arrived at the airport we were really excited to see Jakarta and get our first impression of Indonesia. But as we came to the passport control, the police officer told us that Carlotta’s passport expired in 5 months and 29 days and that she wouldn’t be allowed to enter Indonesia (your passport always needs to be valid for another half a year). On the day we left, her passport was valid for 6 months, but as we had a stopover in Abu Dhabi it had changed when we came to Jakarta. We believed that the day you leave Germany is the important date. So our excitement was gone and we were pretty shocked. We tried to convince him that we had booked everything already and that there was no possibility for us to go back to Germany right now. After long discussions the officer told us that he would only make an exception once for us and that I could buy an extra visa at the airport for 25€ to enter the country. We were so relieved after passing the control and letting the strict and not very nice police officer behind. Better don’t take any chances and check your passport before coming to Indonesia.
Reaching the airport exit, a driver from our Airbnb apartment already waited for us and took us to the place which took 30 to 40 minutes. It is definitely a good idea to have a driver organized before you arrive, as there won’t be any normal taxis waiting for you. The Airbnb which was called ‘Tropical Wood House’ is located in a pretty quiet and secure neighbourhood and was exactly what it had promised – a green oasis in the middle of loud and dirty Jakarta. The house was pretty big, our room spacious, the small garden a nice extra and the pool a good refreshment. A simple breakfast (toast, jam, peanut butter, eggs, juice, milk, tea and coffee) were included and the owner also drove us back to the airport which was a great help.
Getting around in Jakarta is really easy with a taxi, we preferred blue bird taxis as they are all metered taxis and most of them have seat belts. You will find taxis everywhere and also other colours apart from the blue birds are reliable. The taxi price starts at 6500 Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) and a 25 minutes drive will cost you about 2€. Prices are sometimes rounded up and you don’t need to give tip. As the apartment is pretty close to the Islam hospital it is good to tell the driver to drop you off here as they sometimes don’t know the exact street of the airbnb. But it is still a great help to always have your exact address with you in case you forget it. Most taxi drivers don’t speak English.
The day we arrived we definitely wanted to try the famous street food and took a taxi to the Sabang district (one street is Jalan H. Agus Salim). You will find many different food stalls that sell Indonesian sate, Chinese food, soups, fried vegetables, sweets and much more. We also saw two pretty modern and European looking cafés. The streets in Jakarta are in general really dirty, loud, full of smog, crowded with people and scooters and not nice to walk for long distances. Always expect to see cockroaches and rats as there are a lot of canals full of dirt running through the city. Within Sabang we can also recommend the Restaurant ‘Penang Bistro’ in Kebon Sirih Raya no. 59. It is very modern, well designed and the food is definitely worth trying. The mango chicken is amazing! The restaurant is relatively expensive compared to the street food and local warungs but we needed a little break from dirty and crowded Jakarta street life. The ‘Awan Lounge’ is also located in Sabang within the Kosenda Hotel in Wahid Hasyim no. 127. It is a modern and very comfortable rooftop bar with good drinks, some snacks, a pretty good view and many plants. It is also one of the more expensive places in Jakarta but we would always go there again.
You will find a small pedestrian precinct in the Kota district with the National museum which is 5000 IDR per person. Don’t expect a European museum, there are many drawings and old furniture exhibited in a way too big space. While walking though the museum we had the feeling that we were more interesting to the people than the exhibited art and history as everyone wanted to take a picture of us. Not many tourists visit Jakarta so most of the inhabitants have never seen a white person before. Just across the museum you will find the ‘Batavia Café’ which is pretty popular among the few tourists but we didn’t like it much as you feel like the former high society of the colonial times and there are no local people. Within the same street you will find the ‘Djakarte Café’ which we liked a lot as it has a cozy and modern upstairs area with local people and good drinks. We had the soda with passionfruit and the melon juice which were very delicious. They also have food but we didn’t try it.
From there we took a taxi to the old sailing harbor. The entrance is 5000 IDR per person and you will see some huge old sailing ships which are still being used. You have to be careful as everyone wants to sell tours and show you around. The harbor is mainly one large street, not very interesting and pretty far from the pedestrian precinct.
In general, Jakarta is nothing for sensitive people as it has many canals full of rubbish, is crowded and full of smog. Always carry mosquito spray with you as there are many mosquitos everywhere around. It is hard to say if you have to visit Jakarta or not. On the one hand it is the authentic, raw and real capital of Indonesia and you can make up your own mind about this city. On the other hand, all reports that we read beforehand were true and Jakarta is just not beautiful or culturally interesting. We guess that you have to decide for yourself!