Jakarta is a beautiful city of lights-with towering skyscrapers, lively nightlife and culture all mixed into one. It’s no wonder that the big durian is one of the most visited cities in Indonesia. Whatever you need, you will be able to get. However, there are also certain things that newcomers should come for when visiting Jakarta.
Here are the things you should watch out for in Jakarta:
How do I eat?
Eating has its own etiquette and style in Jakarta, especially street food.
The first thing to note is the way eat, in which Indonesians eat using their bare hands rather than utensils. It might be tricky to eat at first, but you will develop the knack of it sooner than later! You can work in gradual progresses from dipping tempeh into the sambal to eating rice with hands to eating fish expertly. Secondly, you will be served lemon water at the end and beginning of each meal. That is not to drink but is meant to clean your hands prior and after eating.
It’s important to note that sambal is very spicy. Choose your battles carefully, as there are times when eating the wrong sambal will leave you crying with hands that burn for hours. However if you love chilli, this is the exact place to be!
Other than choosing your favored sambal, Jakarta’s local cuisine scene is mostly consisting of spicy, greasy food. So if there comes a time the doctor has asked you to avoid these kinds of food-you are in a lot of confusion.
A food that you can try free to your heart’s content is instant noodles. Amongst the various instant noodles found around the world, Indonesia has some of the best tasting ones. Inexpensive and tasty, you can try it in all colors, flavors and sizes.
Finally, you should be very careful with street food stalls commonly known as the “kaki lima” (food carts, literally five legs). Pick the stores carefully to see the locations where they are set, the utensils that they use to cook and inspect the ingredients used. Delicious as it might be, some of the kaki lima are not hygienic and there are numerous horror stories of food poisoning for those who aren’t careful.
Many types of local beverages are available in Indonesia, although there are some exceptions to the rules. The first would be the consumption of alcoholic drinks which are prohibited.
An important note to remember is that tap water is undrinkable in Indonesia. Instead, you will have to buy bottled water for the rest of the trip. Tap water in Indonesia will most certainly make you sick, which is the last thing you want on your holiday.
The hustle and bustle of Jakarta is truly one of a kind. The traffic on several roads can be downright terrifying, with many kinds of transportation struggling for space on the roads. Foreigners new to Indonesia can feel downright terrified with the crazy traffic that exists here.
Keep calm and do not panic when crossing the road. What you can do is simply put your hand out to show that you want to cross and walk calmly. Running might put you in danger as many drivers may become shocked with your sudden appearance in from of their vehicle.
Dressing and Acting Modestly
Unlike some countries which are more lax in terms of things worn in public, Indonesia is not one of it. Foreigners will generally have to cover up or have the locals ogle and lecture you on dressing more conservatively. Loose clothes that cover the body are best to be worn when walking around.
If you are a fan of bright or extravagant clothing, you are very welcome to wear it. However at times, it would cause confusion among the locals. Not only dressing conservatively, people also tend to dislike seeing people performing PDA (kissing and hugging) outright in public.
What to bring
There are several things that you should specifically bring to Jakarta. First is your mosquito repellent. Like any other tropical country, there are many mosquitoes in Jakarta. The humidity makes abreeding place for mosquitoes. Repellent also very important as there are frequent dengue fever outbreaks.
Located at the equator, Jakarta experiences summer almost all year around. For foreigners who have more sensitive skin and are more likely to get sunburns, stocking up on sunblock is essential. Anything to protect you from the heat such as creams, sunglasses, umbrellas, baseball caps and hats will help tons while staying here. Wearing t-shirts, shorts, and sandals combo is the way to go if you want to venture outside during the day. You might also want to wear a mask to protect yourself from the city’s air pollution.
As mentioned, tap water is not recommended to drink in Jakarta. Bringing in refillable water bottles will come in handy when travelling. Even better if you carry water bottle that has a built-in filter. You can use this water bottle with filtered water at your accommodation or using water purification filter.
Getting clean toilets
Toilets are also something that is radically different from what people may find outside. If you are used to toilet paper, some hotels or public restrooms may not provide toilet paper. Instead, they have what is called a ‘butt spray’.
At times, you may not even find a sitting toilet but rather a squatting toilet. Yes, you will be required to squat in order to do your business-but science has actually proven that sitting in a squat is much for the bowels.
How people greet each other
Indonesian people also have a special way of greeting each other. They usually tend to offer wide smiles while shaking each others hand, slightly bowing and calling each other brother or sister depending on age or gender.
The hands used also contain meaning. The right hand is specifically used for dealing with people such as shaking hands, offering, accepting and eating. The left hand is left for cleaning your privates, which is why it is considered impolite to use the left hand. Be careful and aware which hand you use when dealing with people, as it might affect their impression of you at the end.
Not to forget respecting local traditions while travelling to sacred sites. Mosques, for instance are off-limits unless you are wearing closed clothes. You must also take your shoes off before entering the mosque.
One of the safest and most trustworthy transports in Jakarta are the Blue Bird Taxis. Otherwise, you can also order the Silver Bird or Riara Express when travelling to and fro. You will be charged by the meter, so do not accept anything otherwise.
Now you can also order through ridesharing apps like GOJEK or GRAB.
While travelling, we would also recommend to bring a clear address of your destination to show the driver. This is because most of the taxi drivers in Jakarta are not trained in English language. Either get google Maps or a printed map would be enough to show the driver. When you achieve your destination, it’s advisable to round up the fare to the nearest Rp 5k or Rp 10k.
Jakarta is a melting pot of numerous cultures from all around Jakarta to all around the world. That is also the main reason that Jakarta has certain cultures that differentiate it from other capital cities in the world. Sooner than later, we guarantee you will adapt and begin to see the plus sides of our habits.
Do you have any tips when travelling to Jakarta? What else have you noticed? Share with us your experience in the comments below!