For travelers visiting Jakarta for the first time, among the popular search queries to enter include “Is Jakarta safe for female solo travelers” or “Is Jakarta a dangerous place for tourists”. It is certainly a valid question to ask especially for travelers who haven’t been into the city before, and with the country featured in the news for the wrong reasons, it’s certainly worth a thorough diligence check.
Jakarta is not as dangerous as you might think, and ignorance can be addressed by understanding how things work in the city.
When you arrive at the airport
Your flight is likely going to land at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport, which is quite far from the city center. On a typical trip out of the airport into the city, expect to pay between $15 and $20.
A common decision is to take the taxi, but the airport is teeming with touts offering you rides once you exit the arrival area. You can simply ignore them and take the Blue Bird taxi (a similar taxi in blue color is also around so pay attention to the bird logo as well), which has a queue outside. You’ll be given a card with a written number which will be used as you join the queue. If there are plenty of passengers you’ll expect to pay to wait a long time before getting your taxi. Instead, you can take the same taxi at the departure area, but if you have plenty of luggage and can’t manage to board the taxi quickly, stay at the arrival area since departure taxis are supposed to be for dropping off departing passengers.
If you don’t want to take the taxi, there is also Damri Bus as another option. This bus line is affordable, with fares pegged at about IDR40,000, offers large, comfortable seats and serves multiple destinations.
(It’s in Indonesian, but you can see the destination you wanna go and the schedule).
When buying a SIM card
Most travelers love to share snapshots of their adventure and using roaming data from their home network isn’t practical so getting a local Indonesian SIM card is highly recommended since it’s so easy to get them and local networks also provide decent connections. Popular ones are Telkomsel, XL, and Indosat.
If you stay around one to two weeks, you can buy phone credit for IDR 100,000 and ask retail staff to register you for the unlimited monthly Internet plan.
When getting a taxi around the city
With your itinerary fully set, you can book a taxi using the same company recommended at the airport. You can contact Blue Bird to make a booking.
As with taxis in many other countries, it pays to be attentive to ensure drivers will use meters. If it’s not being turned on in the first 20 seconds, you may kindly remind the driver to turn it on. Also, take note of the taxi’s identification so you can trace it in case you leave some stuff or want to file a complaint.
Indonesian drivers are nice and share generous smiles even though they sometimes cannot speak English so treating them well is a win-win situation.
When taking Jakarta’s Transjakarta transport lines
Jakarta is a huge city and navigating from one place to another can be a big challenge. Thankfully, there is an improved Transjakarta or as locals call it “busway”, which you can use to get around the city center. Before arriving in Jakarta, make sure to familiarize the Transjakarta lines, how to get there and stops close to attractions and prominent landmarks.
Safety tip when taking Transjakarta: Pay close attention to your belongings. Pickpockets can be very clever so outwit them by not giving them an opportunity. Place your belongings in front of you — don’t place your wallet in your back pocket. There’s a reason why you’ll observe many locals place their backpacks in front.
When consuming food and drinks
Tap water is not safe for drinking in Jakarta so it’s advisable to have bottled water handy, especially when dealing with the city’s hot and humid conditions. It might also be a safe bet to stay away from street food particularly if you are not used to them or if they’re located in less hygienic places and exposed to dust, insects and other elements that spoil food quality. Mind you that Indonesian street foods are delicious so this is not necessarily forbidding you from trying them; pay close attention to cleanliness.
When crossing the streets
Jakarta’s traffic congestion is one thing that irritates both motorists and passengers, but personal safety when you are outside a vehicle is another. Streets are often packed with vehicles and motorcycles, in particular, can pose hazards to pedestrians. Crossing streets should be done only on pedestrian lanes. However, there are also areas where such markings are conspicuously absent so when you need to cross the street, do it with caution, cross with predictable pace — do not step backward, and get the driver’s attention by raising your palm in his direction as you cross the street.
When obtaining local currency
Indonesia uses rupiah as a standard trading currency, so foreigners often ask whether it’s better to take money from ATM counters or exchange them at money changing companies. Generally, withdrawing money from the ATM at the airport is the best option, followed by changing your foreign currency to Indonesian rupiah at authorized money changing agents located at the arrival area. Unless otherwise necessary, do not deal with unauthorized agents as they might offer favorable rates but include fake bills and make you vulnerable to pickpockets or robbers who can see you counting your money.
When carrying your belongings
If you carry a shoulder bag in the street, make sure to have your hand on your bag, and place it on the opposite side of the street. Some incidents of motorcycle riding culprits grab bags of their victims. If you are carrying a backpack, be wary of potential pickpockets looking at your bag. Do not place valuables like jewelry or expensive gadgets in those pockets. Wearing expensive jewelry in public can also attract potential criminal activity so it is advisable not to wear them excessively when you are out in public.
When carrying your identification papers
It is not necessary to bring your passport with you unless you are going to a transaction that requires it such as booking airline tickets. Your passport is better stored and locked in your hotel room safe. However, bring with you a copy of your passport that provides information about your identity, and the validity of your stay in Indonesia. For backup purposes, also take a photo of your passport.