When I told people I was going to go out of my way to spend two days in Jakarta the general reaction was…why? It isn’t the kind of place you go to just have a look and see the sights. I’m probably one of the few people who actually went there for the sole purpose of seeing Jakarta, as most people view it as a necessary stop on the way to the more interesting parts of Indonesia. But since I found a really cheap ticket (and it was the one big city in Southeast Asia I hadn’t yet been to) I decided to check it out. I’d heard the traffic in Jakarta is insane and it’s just a hectic and unpleasant place, and this is true to some extent, but it isn’t such a bad place to spend a few days. Looking for some of the best things to do in Jakarta? Keep reading!
Things to Do in Jakarta
Hang Out at Jalan Cikini Raya
I stayed on a street called Jalan Cikini Raya which is pretty much in the middle of town. This area is actually quite nice even though it still has the trash, damaged footpaths (sidewalks) and crazy traffic that people complain about when discussing Jakarta. The area is home to some really nice houses and what looked like embassies. It’s close enough to some of the inner city sights yet doesn’t really have the bustle you’d expect from inner-city Jakarta. The best part about this area, and one of the best things to do in Jakarta in general, is eating the delicious local food. Small Warungs (streetside restaurants with plastic chairs and small gas cookers) can rustle you up a surprisingly good meal for around a dollar. These aren’t places you’d take someone on a first date (actually, I probably would) but they are great places to eat, not only for the food but because it also allows you to hang out with the locals and breathe in the real Jakarta atmosphere.
Jalan Surabaya Flea Market and the National Monument
About a five minute walk from my guesthouse was the Jalan Surabaya Flea Market — this was easily my favourite thing to do in Jakarta. More a street with lots of shops on it than a market, you can find everything including sculptures, drums with buffalo teeth sticking out of them, puppets, sunglasses, old records, golf clubs and dubious antiques. Apparently there are a lot of fakes here, but if you shop around there are good deals to be had. It is also just a good place to walk around and window shop (actually these shops have no windows, but you know what I mean). Not too far from the market is the National Monument, commissioned by former president Sukarno to celebrate Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch. As far as monuments go it’s pretty average but apparently you can go all the way to the top for some nice views of the city. Unfortunately it was closed when I was there.
Kota: Jakarta’s old town
Like a lot of cities in the world, Jakarta has an old part of town, and if you’re looking for the best things to do in Jakarta you should definitely check it out. The Dutch were there for quite a while and left some buildings in their wake and some of them look like they haven’t been touched since. It’s definitely the least renovated of the old towns I’ve been to in Asia and while it could do with some work, the crumbling buildings and lack of pretension make for an interesting visit. There are a few museums in the area but I think the best thing to do is just walk around, take some photos, and try not to breathe through your nose if you go down by the river. There is also a square (one of the few places in Jakarta that I managed to escape the traffic) which is home to a huge number of students who want to talk to tourists. Some will find this annoying but I think it’s always interesting to talk to locals and it’s nice to see a tourist area filled with far more locals than foreigners. The old town is known as Kota and is around 5 stops from Cikini train station.
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Accommodation: Jalan Cikini Raya
Most big cities in Southeast Asia have a backpacker district; Jakarta’s is called Jalan Jaksa. I heard that accommodation standards there were pretty awful so I decided to avoid it. I don’t usually plug guesthouses or hostels but I think so much of people’s Jakarta experience is linked to where they choose to stay. I chose Six Degrees hostel on Jalan Cikini Raya and it worked out really well. I’m not a big dorm room fan but it did the job and it had a really nice common area and a rooftop bar. I was a little out of practice at staying in dorms and there was a horrible moment at 4:45 am when my tablet’s alarm started ringing. Sounding more like a car alarm, it went on for a couple of minutes while I located my key, climbed down from the top bunk, struggled to get the key into the lock because it was so dark, and then struggled to actually turn the alarm off because the screen doesn’t work properly. It’s one of the worst things you can do in a dorm room so I guess I can’t write any posts complaining about people’s lack of dorm room etiquette anymore.
It’s worth spending 2 days in Jakarta!
Jakarta is a place worth spending a few days. Despite its many flaws there are plenty of cool things to do in Jakarta, some fantastic food and heaps of friendly people who aren’t just talking to you because they want to sell you something. Spending two days in Jakarta really isn’t such a bad thing!
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Do you think two days in Jakarta is enough (or too much)? Do you know of any other fun things to do in Jakarta? Let me know in the comments below!
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Sunday 31st of July 2016
Just wanted to drop a line to say that I'm reading this in 2016! I'm going to Bali for a holiday and thought that I might as well pass by Jakarta and spend two days there (those keywords brought me to this!). This gave me something to look forward to since I got the same initial reaction from a friend as you. Thanks for writing this!
Monday 1st of August 2016
Thanks for commenting Meryl, I hope you enjoy your trip!
Tuesday 17th of May 2016
I like your website. Have you been to Batam Island? Small island near Singapore. It's part of Riau Island province(Indonesia) with beautiful beach. Highly recommended.
Monday 23rd of May 2016
Thanks! I haven't been yet but I'm sure I'll get there one day.
Thursday 11th of February 2016
Sending this to my brother in law who will be there next month! Thanks!
Friday 12th of February 2016
Cheers Shane, hope he enjoys the trip.
Wednesday 24th of June 2015
I was in Jakarta for a week at the shock of every backpacker I met. Luckily, I stayed with two awesome CSers who took me out to try lots of yummy food from a martabak stand to a posh upscale bar in the north to cobra satay near the Monas monument.
Using the bus system with the pocket map wasn't too bad, and I took it to the south side of the city to check out Taman Mini, which was kind of like a theme park that was interesting to stroll around.
I would also recommend that people check out the lovely gardens in Bogor, just an hour train or bus ride south of Jakarta as well as taking the Sunday bus across Puncak Pass through the tea highlands from Bogor to Bandung. I think they said the bus only goes through the pass on Sundays due to traffic otherwise.
Sunday 15th of March 2015
Jakarta is indonesia capital, but its crowded. Maybe you can try visit east java. Everything is more comfort and cheap for travellerr :)