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Getting around in Jakarta can be a nightmare, so expats will need a sense of humour, the ability to plan ahead and infinite patience. There are various modes of transport available, ranging from luxurious Mercedes taxis with their English-speaking drivers, to the very basic bajaj, the Indonesian equivalent of a tuk-tuk.
Most wealthy Indonesians and expats employ a full-time driver to take care of their transport needs, but for the average Jakartan this is a luxury which they cannot afford. For the majority of people living and working in Jakarta, buses, ojeks and bajaj are their only options.
The city's railway system is currently being expanded, but in the meantime, the roads remain jammed. Whether riding around in a comfortable air-conditioned car or holding on to the back of an ojek, one thing that is guaranteed in Jakarta is traffic congestion. Even the shortest journeys can take hours, so it is advisable to allow plenty of time to get to one's destination.
Public transport in Jakarta
Jakarta is home to a rapid transit system known as TransJakarta. These are large, air-conditioned buses that have a fixed route through the city. They travel in dedicated lanes, which helps to skip some of the traffic. Kopaja are medium-sized buses, typically full and overcrowded with no air conditioning. These usually have no official bus stops, just stopping anywhere that someone wants to hop on or off.
Trains run from Jakarta to the suburbs and beyond. The trains are busy and often very crowded on the KRL Commuterline, but are the fastest way to get out of Jakarta and back again, avoiding the heavily congested roads. A light-rail system is currently under construction.
Taxis in Jakarta
There are a number of taxi services in Jakarta, with ridesharing services such as Grab being recommended for expats. Drivers are generally skilful, have knowledge of the city and speak reasonably good English. They are a safe bet for newcomers to Jakarta and those unfamiliar with the area.
Other local taxi drivers generally don’t speak English and often have only basic knowledge of the city. It is not unheard of for these drivers to get lost and for journeys to take longer than normal because they have to stop to ask directions.
There are also ojeks, which are motorcycle taxis; bajaj, which are motorised rickshaws; and becaks, which are cycle rickshaws.
Driving in Jakarta
Driving in Jakarta is generally not recommended. For most people who can afford it, having a full-time driver is the easiest and most convenient option for getting around Jakarta. The driver's pay is based on a daily rate and then overtime is added if they work late and on weekends. A good driver is invaluable as he will have an excellent knowledge of the city’s roads and know the quickest routes to a given address.
Expats who prefer to drive themselves will need to obtain an Indonesian driver's licence, known locally as a SIM (Surat Izin Mengemudi). SIM registration can be done online or in person at a police station. Anyone with a valid foreign licence can register and take a theory test to obtain a local licence.
Cycling in Jakarta
Cycling has not traditionally been advisable in Jakarta, but conditions are slowly changing with safety features such as bike lanes and cycle paths being added around the city. There is also a bike-sharing scheme run by the government which makes it easier to get around on two wheels.
Walking in Jakarta
Walking in Jakarta is problematic. First off is the pollution, which makes this form of exercise unpleasant, as does the sheer volume of traffic. In the centre of Jakarta, around the shopping malls and in some expat residential areas, walking is easier but, in general, walking in Jakarta is not as pleasurable as it might be in other cities.
► For more information about expat life in Jakarta, have a look at Lifestyle in Jakarta
"The public infrastructure in Jakarta is not fully established yet. You can hire a taxi with an affordable rate, but it’s a challenge to find a reputable taxi in rush hour. The other option is hire a driver and car." Read more of Meilisa's take on expat life in Jakarta.
Are you an expat living in Jakarta?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Jakarta. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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