Jakarta is the huge capital city of Indonesia and well known amongst Indonesians and anyone that’s already visited for having very congested traffic. For this reason, as a first time traveler coming to the city, you should plan out what you want to do in advance to avoid getting stuck in the traffic and missing out on attractions.
Jakarta is home to more than 10 million people, myself being one of those 10 million, so I think I’m qualified to provide my personal recommendations on what you should do while here. I have made this list of the top 5 things to do in Jakarta so you can make the most of your time in my city and enjoy the real Jakarta as a local would.
1. Visit Jakarta’s Malls
This probably sounds like wasting your time here. But in Jakarta, the malls are literally everywhere. There are 5 districts in Jakarta (Central, East, South, West, North) and each has more than one huge mall and small mall with all branded items to a middle class below. You can even find big malls (yes more than one) located next to each other or next to a small mall or in the same compound. So it is inevitable that you’ll be tempted to go.
Once you visit a big mall, you probably turn into loving it, even only for window shopping. Why? First, the cool AC feels nice after strolling down the city in the heat. Second of all, the malls here have everything. You can find high-end items to affordable items, from street food to high-class beautiful cuisine, souvenir shops and much more. The mall has become the place for most Jakartans to spend their weekend, either to gather with family or for shopping. You can see it by the congested traffic in the area around the malls.
For me, I go to the mall mostly for eating, cinema, and window shopping. My fave mall is Grand Indonesia in city center. It has 2 wings, the East Mall and West Mall, each has five stories. Everything I want is here. There are nice restaurants with different cuisine or a food court full of affordable traditional food, street food, junk food, healthy food. I can just do window shopping for affordable branded items, clothes, etc. The cinema is really nice. I can keep going on about it.
Then behind Grand Indonesia, there is a mall called Thamrin City where you can find cheap clothes, shoes, other goods and Batik, the traditional textile originally from Java which is considered traditional clothing.
2. Take the Free City Tour Bus #JakartaExplorer
Who doesn’t want a city tour in a cozy bus for free? We have it in Jakarta and it is something you must try if you want to explore the city. This program is organized by Transjakarta, one of the public transportation companies. It runs the “busway”, a bus which has its own lane. The bus itself looks like a double decker bus like the one I see in the movie, only the roof is closed. It is very comfy.
The tour program varies. You can choose History of Jakarta, Jakarta Modern, Art and Culinary, Jakarta Skyscrapers, and Jakarta Open Space. The starting point is from a Busway stop which has a special sign “Free City Tour”. I would recommend to go from the busway stop called BNI 46 or Tosari situated in the city center. These are near Grand Indonesia so it’s easier to find.
The usual operating hours is 10:00-18:00 (Mon-Fri) and 12:00-18:00 (Sat-Sun). You can get a schedule and map on the “Transjakarta Tourism Bus” website.
Note: The “free” term always bring the crowds so I would advise to start as early as possible, especially on the weekend.
3. Explore The Miniature Park of Indonesia (Taman Mini)
As the name suggests, this is the place where you can see the culture of Indonesia from all the provinces in Indonesia. It is like the whole country lies in one big park. The place is known as Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (The Miniature Park of Indonesia) or Taman Mini for short. This is one of the top tourist attractions in Jakarta for both locals and foreigners alike. I always recommend to my friends who are first timers here to visit Taman Mini. Because you can simply learn everything about Indonesia, without actually visiting the provinces.
What you can find at Taman Mini is 35 compounds of all provinces in Indonesia, showcasing their traditional housing, clothes, culture and more. Some have traditional dance performances during the weekend. You can also find museums about Indonesia or the animals, mammals, transportation of Indonesia and many other interesting things.
To explore this part, I would advise you to rent a bicycle. The rental vendor is in the parking lot after the main entrance. The rent costs from Rp15k up to Rp30k per hour, depending on the day. Prices vary for weekdays, weekends and public holidays.
Note: Do not forget to bring sunglasses, hat, and mineral water because the weather can be very hot and humid!
4. Try Jakarta’s Street Food
When you visit a new city, it’s very tempting not to try their street food. Jakarta offers plenty of tasty street food options, not only for Jakarta cuisine but food from all over Indonesia too. You can find it in the street, behind a tall building or around the malls.
You can try Kerak Telor, originally from Jakarta. Also Ketoprak (rice cake, vermicelli, bean sprouts, peanut sauce, sweet soya sauce, garlic), Mie Ayam (chicken noodle), Martabak Manis (a pancake with sweet flavor of cheese, choco, peanut or mix of all), Martabak Telor (omelette mix of spring onion, salty egg, ground beef, wrapped with a thin dough and then fried), Sate (satay, a skewered chicken, goat meat, served with soya, peanut sauce), and many more. I can keep going on and on when talking about food.
The one that is hard to stop eating is Gorengan, a fried snack usually crunchy. Basically like a fried chicken lol, but we use banana, tofu, sweet potato, tempe, cassava, mix veggie. It is not really healthy and it’s very greasy, but I believe more than 90% of Indonesians loves it, including me. So you should try it!
Note: When buying street food, I would advise you to buy from a clean street vendor. Just look around the stall and make sure it is clean for you. Then drink only from a sealed bottle, no ice. Or you can find it in the mall too.
5. Challenge yourself in the “Dufan” Theme Park
If you have 1 day to spare then the next thing you can do is to go to Dunia Fantasi (dreamland) or Dufan for short. It’s situated in North Jakarta, inside Ancol compound area, where you can find other attraction such as Sea World (the biggest aquarium in Jakarta), Ocean Dream Samudera (an oceanarium where you can get kissed by a dolphin), Atlantis Water Adventure (huge swimming pool), Ancol beach (not for swimming) and much more.
In Dufan itself, you can try many challenging attractions and if you have a big courage and self confidence, I would advise to try Tornado where it will spin you upside down. My fave is Arum Jeram (safe version of rafting) and Istana Boneka (a palace of dolls wearing traditional clothes of Indonesia and other countries).
There you have it! The top 5 things to do in Jakarta that you should try! Feel free to share your thoughts about what your favorite things to do in Jakarta are in the comments section below.
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Check out the Jetset Bunny Guide To Indonesia including the basics, things to do, eat, stay and plan: Indonesia Travel Tips