The Big Durian: the megacity that never sleeps

It’s often unfairly treated as a stopover on the way to Bali or Borneo, but Jakarta, in all its hectic, sprawling glory, is a destination in its own right. The world’s second-largest city teems with life all day and all night, offering open-minded travellers plenty of opportunity for exploring, partying, eating and even relaxing.

Start by absorbing the old town’s rustic charm, before exploring some of the museums that show off Indonesia’s fascinating history and culture. Cool down in an air-conditioned mall that rivals anything Singapore has to offer, before taking in Jakarta’s vibrant nightlife.

There’s plenty in the surrounding region to help you find respite from Jakarta’s pace. Relax on one of the Thousand Islands, an archipelago of pristine islands just off Jakarta’s northern coast, visit the tea plantations in Puncak or see the expansive Kebun Raya Botanic Gardens in Bogor.

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Things to do: Jakarta

  • A white colonial building in front of a green lawn with palm trees and skyscrapers in the background, Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Check out the museums and galleries

    As the capital of the country, Jakarta boasts its fair share of museums, galleries and monuments. Visit the beautiful Museum Nasional to explore Indonesia’s long history or take a walk around Taman Mini Indonesian Indah to get a taste of life in each of the country’s 33 provinces. For something a bit different, pop into Museum Layang-Layang, Jakarta’s much-loved kite museum.

  • Colourful, run-down colonial buildings above a canal with palm trees in the foreground, Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Go back in time at Kota Tua

    Get a feel for Jakarta as it once was when you visit the old town, known locally as Kota Tua. Explore the beautifully preserved Dutch colonial buildings centred around Fatahillah Square, which comes alive with street food stalls, live performances and flocks of people on weekends. Don’t forget to stop in for a coffee or three at the historic Café Batavia.

  • Bird’s eye view of lots of small islands surrounded by white sand and blue water, Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Tick off some of the Thousand Islands

    The best way to escape Jakarta’s hectic pace is with a day trip to Pulau Seribu, or the Thousand Islands. A plethora of gorgeous, untouched beaches are just a couple hours’ boat ride from the city, making it a great spot for a day trip or a weekend getaway. Spend your time snorkelling, paddleboarding, checking out the local conservation efforts, or just lie on some perfect white sand.

  • Hit the clubs

    Jakarta’s nightlife lives up to the scale of the city. It’s well-known as a party capital throughout the region, and no visit to Jakarta is complete without at least one night that ends as the sun comes up. From rooftop bars where you can enjoy the spectacular cityscape over a cocktail to pumping nightclubs where the music never stops, there’s something for everyone’s taste.

  • Give your wallet a workout at the malls

    Make some space in your suitcase because the malls in Jakarta are legendary. There’s more than 170 of them around the city but check out the ‘Golden Triangle’ area around Sudirman, Kuningan and Thamrin for some of Jakarta’s best shopping. You’ll also find movie theatres, epic food courts and even an ice-skating rink if you’re just looking for an air-conditioned respite from Jakarta’s heat.

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Airport information

Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK)

Distance to city centre 35km

Taxi A taxi into central Jakarta can take anything from 1 to 2 hours depending on traffic. It costs around IDR Rp150,000-200,000 – book through the official taxi desks.

Bus The DAMRI airport bus goes to Gambir Station in central Jakarta. It costs IDR Rp40,000; it can take 1 to 2 hours depending on traffic. 

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When to go

It’s sunny in Jakarta nearly all year round, which makes it pleasant to be outdoors and even more pleasant to be in the air-conditioned comfort of the nearest building or shopping mall. During the wet season from October to March, it typically rains for a few hours on any given day, adding to the constant traffic chaos.

The Java Jazz Festival is held over three days every May. The annual Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP) rave party takes place every December, usually at around the same time as Singapore’s famed ZoukOut beach party.

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Getting around

Transjakarta bus is a convenient way to get around, with buses operating on fixed routes throughout the city. Metered taxis can be flagged down just about anywhere. Choose the reliable Blue Bird brand, and be wary of drivers who offer a fixed price as this is not a common practice. 

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