Shopping in Jakarta
Whether you’re a penny-pincher or a profligate, Jakarta has something for everyone, so go nuts spending - the exchange rate is most likely in your favour. Shopping in Jakarta is considered something of a national pastime and there are over 170 shopping centres. From Batik fashion at traditional pasar (markets) to haute couture at swanky world class malls, the variety of merchandise is endless and a whole day could be spent swiping your credit card till it’s bent out of shape.
As shopping centres slowly arched up and replaced the traditional Alun-Alun (Main Square), browsers and buyers disseminated across the city, heading to its hallowed malls and dispersing any key shopping areas. Follow the beelines to Jakarta’s biggest and boldest.
Old record players, Wayang Golek puppets, wooden handicrafts, batik, brass work and all sorts of bric-a-brac can be found at the flea market at Jalan Surabaya in Menteng. Though many of the antiques may appear genuine they are, in fact, reproductions. Haggle here as most prices are severely inflated. Tanah Abang Market, specializing in wholesale fabrics and inexpensive clothing, is where locals go to shop. It’s rather chocka during weekends. Mind your wallet as petty thieves lurk onsite. Pasar Santa has vintage clothing stalls, antique stores and record shops as well as trendy coffee kiosks and a used book store.
If you shirt label reads ‘Made in Indonesia’, there are often surplus items from foreign factories to be bought too. Mangga Dua in North Jakarta is the place to get them for much cheaper than back home. Many bulk purchase as there are several shops that sell in units, but be wary as some knockoffs are often peddled as genuine.
Jakartans love shopping centres and the city is a mecca for the merchandiser as a constant flow of consumers whirl in and out of these glitzy, air-conditioned buildings. Plaza Indonesia, Senayan City, Mall of Indonesia, and Pondok Indah 2 are just a few of the many malls in the city. Thamrin City, located in central Jakarta, is a treasure trove of souvenirs, essentials and fripperies as well as quality batik products at a much lower price.
There are also several malls which showcase ‘Indonesian Fashion Avenues’, home-grown fashion boutiques from local big names. They can be found at Plaza Senayan, Pacific Place and the Grand Indonesia. Toko Ampuh, a shop in Plaza Indonesia's basement, sells traditional Indonesian medicines from across the archipelago.
Hours of operation in Jakarta can be quite flexible with most shops generally open Monday to Friday 0800-1700. At the weekends expect stores to be open from 0800-1200 or later. Shopping centres open from 1000-2200.
While batik clothing might be the quintessential Indonesian souvenir, there are other items just as memento-worthy. Wayang Kulit and Wayang Golek puppets are unique choices, dating back to the beginnings of the spice trade. There are also ondel-ondel woodcarvings, some come as miniature figurines, others at waist height. The prodigious puppets are used in Betawi folk performances to ward off evil spirits. The keris, a Javanese dagger with a squiggly blade, has been awarded recognition by UNESCO for its cultural importance. Decorative replicas come in wood or metal, with fancy engravings fit for a Sultan or with no wrought garnishing at all.
Some shops offer a VAT rebate for certain goods. The scheme is only for tourists departing Jakarta within two months, and for purchases above IDR 500,000. The retailer must also display the ‘VAT refund for tourists’ logo on its doors for the incentive to stand.