Jakarta, Indonesia

Like its namesake, ‘the Big Durian’, Jakarta is larger than you’d think, pungently aromatic, and, once you’ve got used to its dramatic flavour, unexpectedly addictive. Known as Batavia under Dutch colonial rule, Indonesia’s capital retains architectural traces of its history as the administrative centre of the East Indies and culinary relics abound in its cafés and restaurants. Today, however, Jakarta is vigorously modern outpost with a thrumming nightlife, a robust shopping scene and an eye for art and design. Located on the north coast of Java, this non-stop traffic-clogged city makes a striking contrast to the rugged tropicana of the rest of the island.

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When to go

Thanks to the Indonesian archipelago’s equatorial position, Jakarta is hot and humid all year round, although the November to April is the wettest period (January especially). For a drier visit, go between June and September.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    International and domestic flights, including Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Emirates touch down in Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Metered taxis readily available for the 12-mile drive to the city, with an additional Rp 3, 000 airport surcharge and Rp 8, 000 road toll. On the subject of charges, it’s worth remembering that the departure tax (Rp 30, 000 for domestic and Rp 100, 000 international) has to be paid in cash.
  • Trains

    While the city doesn’t have an internal subway system, Kota, Gambir and Jatinegara train stations, located within Central Jakarta, provide connections within Java to destinations such as Yogyakarta and Semarang.
  • Automobiles

    Indonesia’s drivers often play fast and loose with the rules of the (frequently treacherous) roads, so hiring a chauffeured car is often the safest bet. The Blue Bird group, which runs the city’s most reliable and extensive network of taxis, offers limo rentals on an hourly or daily rate, with or without a driver (www.bluebirdgroup.com). Jakarta is notoriously congested, and there’s a three-person minimum requirement for cars on certain roads at peak times to minimise this.
  • Taxis

    Stick to the Blue Bird taxis, distinguishable by the blue paintwork and bird logo. Major shopping centres and buildings all have ranks, and flagging one down on a main road rarely poses a problem. They’re surprisingly affordable too – it’s the traffic that’s the turn-off.