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Jakarta Travel Guide

About Jakarta

Make no bones about it: Jakarta is definitely a traveller’s tightrope walk. Hardly a halcyon vacation spot, the ‘Big Durian’ compensates with rewarding experiences, should the more adventurous accept its sights, sensations and challenges.

A muezzin summons the faithful from one of Jakarta’s many mosques, but the driver of the angkot (minibus) you’re riding in blasts disco dangdut music from his dusty car stereo. The passengers, young Muslim schoolgirls in jilbabs, chuckle when he croons a love ballad whilst keeping his cool in a nose-to-tail macet, the kind of congestion which has created the city’s unique gridlock economy of snack hawkers and guttersnipe traffic boys.

Despite Jakarta’s sub-equatorial and coastal profile, Indonesia’s economic dynamo boasts no beautiful beaches or no palm-lined avenues, yet its nightlife is world class, its colonial history worth exploring, and its citizens so friendly that you’re bound to create lasting friendships.

From Jakarta’s urban jungle of high-rise buildings, highways and open sewage canals, the only place to escape to is an air-conditioned shopping mall with free Wi-Fi, an international food court and brand-name shops.

However, thanks to their ubiquity in this Southeast Asian megalopolis, many are starting to see the shopping mall as outdated and uncool, opting for the alternative hipster markets.

South Jakarta seems to be thriving with prime real estate, trendy bazaars and a huge expat scene, while its old town (Kota), located on the northern shores, is redolent of bygone colonial days.

Although half of its buildings fester in an advanced state of dilapidation, Sunda Kelapa showcases the hallmark of historic Batavia (Jakarta’s erstwhile colonial name). Here you can see retired windjammers, which once transported the holy trinity of the Asian spice trade—clove, pepper and nutmeg.

A number of museums also reveal Indonesian culture and Jakarta’s unique identity summed up in the national slogan, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

It may be a traveller’s tightrope walk, but for the courageous tourist, Jakarta gets the balance just about right.

Key facts

9,500,000 (2007).
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Featured Hotels


Oakwood Premier Cozmo

Minutes from Ambassador Mall and Kuningan City Mall, the Oakwood Premier Cozmo Jakarta offers guests 5-star quality, air-conditioned rooms in the middle of Jakarta’s high-class shopping and entertainment district. Guests can choose between rooms or apartments, and the hotel comes with an outdoor pool and fitness center in addition to four restaurants and 3 coffee shops on the premises.

Gondia International Guesthouse

This homely guesthouse with a small garden in a quiet street provides a good respite from Jakarta. It's a decent alternative from the hostels and guesthouses of Jalan Jaksa and has comfy rooms and a friendly ambience.

Red Planet Hotel Pasar Baru

Right next door to the famous Ramayana Pasar Baru market, this hip hotel offers guests the chance to explore Central Jakarta without straying too far from their accommodation. Each room has free Wi-Fi, custom-made beds, flat-screen TVs, and of course air conditioning to survive the year-round sky-high temperatures.

Grand Hyatt

Only in the moderately priced bracket if booked in advance because this is a luxurious residence bearing the hallmarks of quality expected from a Grand Hyatt. Located in the Pinheiros financial district, it has all the amenities you could wish for, including high speed internet, a choice of bars and restaurants, 466 rooms and suites and an exemplary spa. The Wine Library bar offers guests a giddying choice of 2,500 bottles. Breakfast included.

Harris Suites fX Sudirman

This budget hotel is housed in a beautiful high-rise building in the heart of Jakarta's CBD, with direct access to fX Sudirman Mall and Plaza Senayan for travellers who want to save on accommodation but spend big in Jakarta's famous shopping malls. Harris Suites offers free Wi-Fi for all guests and complimentary water, tea, and coffee in their modern, bright, and clean rooms.

Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada

This 4-star hotel is located near Batavia, Jakarta's Old Town, so guests can enjoy all the cultural, artistic, and leisure activities that North Jakarta has to offer. In addition to using the hotel's modern meeting rooms, guests can enjoy delicious meals at the in-house restaurant or relax at the pool, sauna, or spa.