How lovely it is to have people come and stay with us in Jakarta! To be able to share our lives here in the Big Durian with family and friends is so special and can bring the ‘home’ we left behind that bit closer. Of course, high on the list of priorities is to ensure our visitors have a great time. To help you achieve this, we have compiled our General Guide for Visitors to Jakarta.
No one would deny that Jakarta is an eclectic city, with its delights and its challenges. And as you would also know, there’s plenty to do here in JTown but sometimes just organising an itinerary can be a little overwhelming.
Today’s post is aimed at simplifying your planning. We have divided our suggested activities into categories so you can pick and choose to suit the interests of your Guest/s.
And as always, your feedback is of value to us. We would love to know which activities have been successful when your visitors have come to Town. Leave us a message in the Comments section below.
Happy Planning 🙂
Before you start planning your Jakarta itinerary, consider the following:
Are your Guest/s sure-footed? Footpaths (if they exist) can be uneven or broken. Make sure your Guest is stable on their feet and knows to keep an eye on the foot path, especially if the ground is wet. Ensure they pack well-fitting, sturdy footwear.
If journeying outside, be sure to have a sun hat, sun cream, mozzie repellent and a bottle of water.
Although it is likely that you have acclimatised, bear in mind that your Guest may find Jakarta’s climate hot and potentially uncomfortable. Encourage them to wear clothing that breathes easily e.g natural fibres like cotton, linen and silk.
Consider what life is like back home for you Guest – If they’ve left behind a hectic schedule, or are elderly, be sure to include some rest time in your itinerary. This could include some time at a day spa, or afternoons spent at home. Simply having the time to read a book, an afternoon snooze or a swim in the pool are all simple luxuries!
Ok.. Let’s Start!
Suggested Activities for Your Guests to Jakarta
Food & Drinks
Food is an integral part of life in Jakarta. Indonesian cuisine is diverse and varied, reflecting the many different cultural groups and historic influences throughout the archipelago. The best way to experience a selection of this food is to head to a reputable Indonesian restaurant.
Of course, eating home-prepared Indonesian dishes is also a must – no need to fight the traffic and food prepared by yourself or your *Pembantu is likely to be very authentic and fresh.
Food – Dining Out
Our current restaurant suggestions include 1953, Plataran, Nusa Gastronomy, Seribu Rasa and in the Cipete neighbourhood the Balinese cuisine of Le Seminyak. The view of the city from Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill Restaurant is also impressive (when booking, be sure to ask for the Dining Room, if you have a larger group. This is where you get the best view).
A must try in the traditional drinks department include Jamu (especially Jamu Kunyit Asam), Bir Pletok, Bir Jahe Merah, Es Kelapa Muda and Wedang Jahe. Keep an eye out for these drinks at any Indonesian restaurant.
Food – Eating In
Start each day or cool off each afternoon with a tropical fruit platter filled with an assortment of local fruits. This is refreshing, healthy and also adds some vitamins and water to your diet!
Local snacks are also a great way to introduce your visitors to the tastes of Indonesia. Check out our stories on Traditional Cakes & Sweets of Indonesia and Traditional Snacks of Indonesia. All the foods featured in these posts are readily available throughout Jakarta at pasars and supermarkets.
Of course visit a *pasar too for the wet market. We really enjoy a stroll around Pasar Mayestik in South Jakarta or Pasar Modern in Bintaro. Buy some fruits and vegetables that you are less familiar with and ask your *Pembantu to help you prepare them.
Our number one recommendation is to head to Indonesia’s Grand Mosque, Istiqlal. You can visit any day but we feel that a Friday visit is particularly interesting as this is when the Muslim men head to the mosque for Friday Prayers. Go with a guide for the full experience. Allow a couple of hours to explore with your guide then head across the road with your Guide to Jakarta’s Catholic Cathedral.
When it comes to an overview of Jakarta’s history, our top two recommendations are to head to Jakarta’s original harbour of ‘Sunda Kelapa’ and Jakarta’s Old Town, ‘Kota Tua’. Both locations offer an abundance of photo opportunities.
We would recommend arriving at Sunda Kelapa by 8.15am and pick up a guide just inside the Harbour gate. We have toured the harbour with Pak Yuda, however, there are many other guides that you can choose from (negotiate your price before you start).
Spend about 1 hour at Sunda Kelapa and be sure to have a sun hat and water bottle as there is no shade. Also wear sturdy shoes as you may be offered the opportunity to walk the gangplank to board one of the traditional wooden vessels – the beautiful Phinisi boats of South Sulawesi.
Afterwards, hop back in your car and head to nearby Kota Tua. This is the original Old Town and was formerly known as Batavia. Take a stroll around Fatahillah Square and enjoy a cool drink and some Indonesian nibbles at Cafe Batavia. Make sure you sit upstairs, at a window table to maximise the experience.
We also recommend a visit of the Old Post Office (next to Cafe Batavia) as well as a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts and Ceramics.
The Museum Nasional Indonesia (also affectionately known as Museum Gajah – ‘Elephant Museum’), has recently undergone an extension and renovation. To get the most out of your visit, we recommend booking a guide through The Heritage Society.
A visit to the National Monument, MONAS is also worthwhile but be prepared to line up (unless you go mid-week and with a guide). To get the most out of this significant landmark, a tour guide is a must. We particularly like Ibu Maria (see below for her details). Plan to go early too, to avoid the heat of the day.
Jakarta is loaded with art galleries and art spaces. Of course a visit to the National Gallery of Indonesia in Jakarta’s leafy central district of Menteng is the place to start as there are always new exhibitions. Check out their National Gallery Instagram for program details.
Of course it’s an absolute given that COFFEE is featured in our General Guide for Visitors to Jakarta! Indonesia is the World’s 4th largest producer of coffee, so a few cups of an Indonesian brew is surely a must!
Where to go for your coffee…? Well, there are so many options! Here are a few of our current favourites – and note, they all do pretty good food too:
Pigeonhole at Shop Haus – This is a great option for the whole family – under one roof you’ll find a gelato bar, a patisserie, great coffee, smoothie bowls and more..!
Beau – If you’re looking for a quality French-inspired bakery, then look no further than Beau. Their pastries and bread is fabulous and they make gluten-free bread also. We particularly like their bakery/cafe in Jl. Cikajang.
Relaxation and Day Spa Services
Everyone needs a little rest, relaxation and pampering now and then. In Jakarta being able to indulge in these services is so affordable, it would be crazy to not include some treatments in your Guest’s itinerary.
Your first decision is whether you indulge in your spa services at home or at the venue itself. From pedicures to manicures; from massage to reflexology; from facials to waxing, all of these services can be done in the convenience and privacy of your own home, should you wish.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
For quality massage at a very good price, head to Nano Healthy Family
For a more personal experience, we really love Rumah Yoga Studio/Spa
Of course a lot of the high end hotels offer very exclusive day spa experiences too, but we believe that you don’t have to pay a fortune to have a wonderful spa experience in Jakarta.
Our first recommendation? Head to the cinema! – A trip to the cinema in Jakarta won’t cost you a bomb and unless the movies are produced in Indonesia, most are in English.
Buy your ticket then grab some popcorn and a cold drink (we love our drinks with extra jelly!) – All this for less than the cost of a single ticket back home. And in Jakarta we have 3 movie experiences: Regular Class, Premiere Class and Velvet Class. Regular is always clean and comfy and a first rate experience. Premiere is the equivalent to Gold Class back home (for an absolute fraction of the price) and Velvet Class allows you to relax on a bed – yes, you read right, on a comfy bed with a blanket and a pillow – and like Premiere Class, you can have your food and drinks delivered while you watch the movie.
So irrespective of which option you choose, you will definitely have a good time at the movies..
Our only recommendation? Bring some ear plugs – In Jakarta, it appears the louder the better!
Our second truly Jakarta experience is to *’Naik Bajaj!’. You will see these three wheeled motor taxis around the streets of Jakarta. Until quite recently, they were (mostly) all orange and ran on petrol, however, almost all of these have now been replaced with blue bajajs which are fuelled by natural gas, hence better for the environment.
Pick up a bajaj in your neighbourhood and head to a coffee shop close by or maybe a green space (Taman Suropati is a good choice!). There’s no need to do a long trip – 10 – 15 mins tops is enough to have the bajaj experience without filling your lungs with too many emissions! It really is a fun thing to do and will put a smile on everyone’s faces.
Note: Negotiate your price with your bajaj driver before you hop in. Want more info on the humble bajaj? Check out our post, ‘Hail the Bajaj – Jakarta’s Three Wheeled Taxi’.
Or a third suggestion – Why not stay really local and have a stroll around your own neighbourhood? I live in South Jakarta and whenever we have Guests to stay, we always enjoy a stroll around the streets, looking at the gardens and the architecture. The many and varied street vendors are a truly Jakarta sight, so take the time to engage with your neighbourhood.
After this, we always head to the local coffee shop for a rest before we peruse the many flower shops. Usually at this stage, I need to head to the supermarket which in itself is also an experience! My Father-in Law absolutely loves to check out the fruit and vegetable section of our local supermarket (and my friend Fiona enjoyed checking out all the different products on the shelves.. and pushing my trolley too!)..
Fashion and Homewares
Getting creative and having things made for you is an affordable luxury here in Jakarta. If your Guest is interested in having any garments made, suggest they bring with them any items of clothing that they want copied, or pictures of garments that they would like made.
Next stop? Visit one of Jakarta’s many fabric shops. We particularly like Alta Moda and De Mode in Jl. Fatmawati.The sales people in these stores can advise you on the type of fabric and the quantity that you will need. Then, with your fabric in hand, head to your tailor or dressmaker to make your concept become a reality. We recommend Ibu Yana or Pak Nana (see below for details).
If you are looking for more traditional fabrics including Batik and Ikat, you cannot go past Pasar Mayestik. Buy a length or two and take it to Pak Hasan of Hanidas Collection. Pak will promptly turn your batik fabric into beautiful bedding – an attractive and functional souvenir to take home (see below for details).
Heading out of Town
Depending on how much time your visitors are with you, you may wish to organise a trip out of town. For day trips, we have 2 recommended destinations (both weather-dependent):
Anak Krakatau – To date, my family and I have done this trip twice – the first time with my Dad (who had his first experience of snorkelling at the age of 71 years.. the expression on his face when he saw all the fish was priceless!), and the second time with my friend Fiona. On both occasions, the trip was a huge success.
Be aware that this definitely requires a full day (start at 0500 and home after 8pm) but we can assure you that it will be a trip that will be remembered for a lifetime.
To climb a live volcano (the ‘child’ of the original Krakatoa) and enjoy a day of snorkelling contact :
Ph: +62 813 86668811(Pak Roman)
Note: The boat trip out to the volcano is lengthy (more than 1.5 hours), so this trip is not recommended if your Guest suffers seasickness. Secondly, wear old shoes when climbing the volcano (eg: old runners). It’s likely you will throw them out afterwards!
Thousand Islands – Closer to Jakarta, a trip to The Thousand Islands will have you feeling like you are a world away. A 1 – 1.5 hour boat ride off Ancol marina in North Jakarta and you will be sailing through increasingly clean waters to your destination tropical island. We visited Pulau Sepa, one of the outermost islands. There we hired snorkelling equipment and a paddle board. We were set for the day. Our entire trip was organised through Sealeader Tours. Overall, we were extremely happy with the service and quality of our experience.
Sea Leader Marine
Kantor Pemasaran Kepulauan Seribu
Jl. Lodan Timur No. 7
HP: 0857 1906 2677 (Ibu Widya)
Ph: 021 – 6450181
A couple of other day trip suggestions which are not weather-dependent include a walk through the rice paddies at Sentul or a stroll through the Botanical Gardens of Bogor.
Got a little bit more time to spare? Then why not head to Bali! Keep an eye on mid-week flights. You can find some seriously cheap ones if you’re on the ball. Here’s a suggested itinerary which has been tried and tested (twice) by my family:
Arrive and settle into accommodation.
A sunset seafood dinner on the beach at Jimbaran Bay (our pick is Lia Cafe). The sunset is lovely.
AM: After a leisurely breakfast (we love Sea Circus), hire a car with driver (around Rp 700,000 for 10 hour day) and head up the east coast of Bali (about 1.5 hours north of Seminyak) to Blue Lagoon Beach.
Hire snorkelling equipment (rp25,000 per set), have a beach massage (rp50,000 for 30 mins of bliss!) and eat from the local warung.
PM: Head to the nearby village of Candidasa and treat yourself to a delicious meal at Vincent’s The food is always fresh, tasty and beautifully presented and surprisingly easy on the hip pocket. It’s been there since 2004 so it’s definitely a good bet!
Note: If you want to eat in their lovely garden, be sure to book. This place is popular!
Alternatively, you may like to head to Yogyakarta in Central Java and visit the World Heritage listed Buddhist temple of Candi Borobudur at sunrise (be prepared to get up very early for this.. but you will be rewarded!). Whilst there also visit Prambanan Hindu temple.
Jl. Pemelisan Agung
Jimbaran Kuta Selatan
Jl. Raya Candidasa
Ph: +62 0363 4168
Well, that brings us to the end of today’s post. Of course, these suggestions are not exhaustive.. merely the tip of the iceberg of Things to See and Do in Jakarta. And as we said earlier, we would love you to share your own ideas with us below. Where have you taken your Visitors to Jakarta? What was successful? and what would you recommend?
Do you have a family with young children coming to stay? Then check out Liz’ post – Visitor Edition #1
Ibu Maria (for MONAS, Kota Tua, Sunda Kelapa, Istiqlal Mosque and Catholic Cathedral)
Ph: +62813 108 74 374
Pak Yuda (for Sunda Kelapa)
SMS: +62 812 810 88277
Dressmakers and Tailors
Ph: +62 858 1199 9267/
+62 815 878 7910
Finenovan Tailor and Modeste
Jl. Terogong Raya No. 36
(Opposite JIS main gates)
Whatsapp: +62 0859 2504 2236 (Pak Nana speaks a little English)
Hanidas Collection (for bedding, cushion covers)
Jl. Pelita Abdul Majid
Cilandak Barat (near ‘Excellent Car Wash’)
Ph: +62 853 1103 1352 (SMS or Whatsapp)
*Pembantu: Helper (ofter refers to Housekeeper)
*Naik Bajaj : Go/travel by bajaj
Words: Jo Photography: a journey bespoke