Things To Do in Jakarta in 2 Days
Jakarta is located on the island of Java and is the capital city of Indonesia. The city is huge and over populated with chronic traffic and pollution, a result of its rapid growth over a short period of time.
Our flight into Indonesia landed in Jakarta airport (Soekarno-Hatta) and instead of immediately travelling out of the city we decided to stop and explore for a couple of days. Knowing very well that Jakarta did not enjoy a good reputation as a tourist destination we wanted a first hand experience and be able to draw our own conclusion.
We have to confess that our expectations were quite low based on what we have read on line. But surprisingly our overall experience in Jakarta turned out to be better than our expectations. Yes the city is busy, roads are congested and not quite pedestrian friendly but this huge city has so many things to do and see and its people are the friendliest we have come across so far. Although we believe that the city might be overwhelming for first timers and having flexible dates is best.
Major changes are on the way for this mega city. The government plans to build a new city on Kalimantan island and transfer the administrative headquarters there in the hope to ease Jakarta’s current pressures.
Things To Do in Jakarta in 2 days
Day 1 - Things to do in Central Jakarta
On day 1 you will explore Jakarta’s central area and its landmarks. Here you will find The National Monument, The National Museum, Merdeka Palace, Istiqlal Mosque and The Jakarta Cathedral all close to Merdeka Square which is a big and beautiful park.
The National Monument or Monas Tower
The National Monument or Monas Tower is impressive as it stands at 132 metres in height. The monument is in the centre of Merdeka Square and was built to commemorate the struggle for Indonesian independence.
The basement is an interesting museum with dioramas depicting the history of Indonesia whilst at the top there is an observation deck that offers a stunning 360 view of the city.
We visited the monument on a Friday morning and though the square was busy there was no queue at the lift that takes you to the deck. It seems that on weekends this attraction is busier and some waiting time is expected.
The monument is open daily from 8:00 until 22:00 except Monday. The peak is open on these same days from 8:00 until 16:00 and then 19:00 until 22:00.
The entrance fee to the museum is 5k IDR per person and that to the observation deck is 10k IDR per person.
The National Museum depicts Indonesia’s history and showcases many historical artifacts from all over the country. Best to plan your visit to coincide with the English tour (see below) as it will be a good opportunity to learn about the history of Indonesia.
The English tour is every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:00am and also Thursday at 1:30pm. Museum is open Tuesday to Friday at 8:00 to 16:00 and Saturday and Sunday 8:00 to 17:00.
Entrance fee is 10k IDR per person.
Istiqlal Mosque & The Jakarta Cathedral
Istiqlal Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world and the largest in south east Asia and can accommodate an astonishing number of over 120,000 people. 4 levels of balconies face onto the large rectangular prayer hall. Apart from the large 45 metres diameter dome the interior is simple.
On our visit, we were greeted by a guide who provided some general information on the mosque and then allowed to go around to the upper floors and the outside area freely. We were impressed by the hugeness of the mosque and enjoyed our time here mostly spent talking to people. We visited the mosque late afternoon during Ramadan and this might have been the reason why at the exit there were many street vendors.
The mosque is facing The Jakarta Cathedral which in a way demonstrates the unity throughout the country’s different beliefs. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit the cathedral as there was an ongoing function.
Day 2 - Things To Do in the North and East Jakarta
Day 2 will include visiting the Old Town in the morning and after Taman Mini Indonesia. These 2 attractions merit a full day of sightseeing so if you can include an extra day in Jakarta they can be done on 2 separate days.
Kota Tua in the North of Jakarta
Kota Tua is Jakarta’s Old Town. This area has many museums (attractions here are highlighted in orange on the map) housed in old Dutch colonial buildings. Cafe Batavia and most of the museums here are in or around the Fatahillah Square.
The Wayang Museum or the Puppet Museum is in the same building that housed the Old Dutch Church. The museum displays traditional puppets, a performance art which originated in Java. Bank Indonesia Museum makes an interesting visit. The central bank of the Dutch East Indies operated from this building. Today it has a large collection of old currencies and showcases Indonesia’s banking history.
Unfortunately, you will see that not all the old buildings in the Old Town are preserved well.
Taman Mini Indonesia in the East of Jakarta
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago with over 17,000 islands (apparently there are even more islands than this official figure). The best option of getting a glimpse of Indonesia’s diverse culture prevailing on the islands is by visiting Taman Mini.
Taman Mini has 26 reproductions of traditional houses found throughout the archipelago. These houses showcase the history and tradition of the islands. A number of parks and museums are also found at Taman Mini.
Taman Mini is huge so getting around will require either renting a motorcycle or hopping on a bus (although renting a bike is expensive). The cable car is also a good option as it provides a bird’s eye view of the park and goes from over the lake which has small islands in the shape of the Indonesian archipelago.
Entrance fee is 20k IDR (1.40$) per person and the cable car ride is 50k IDR (3.50$) per person. Some attractions within the park charge additional fees.
Click on the button to the right to view the map larger and the list of attractions.
Jakarta Travel Tips
Visa upon Arrival at Jakarta Airport
The visa upon arrival (VOA) costs 36 USD or 500k IDR . For the VOA you need to show proof of the flight out of the country. The process of getting the VOA at the Jakarta airport is fast (no queues) and simple.
Getting from Jakarta Airport to Central Jakarta
We used the Damri bus to get from the airport to the city centre (journey time is 90 minutes but usually the journey is longer because of traffic). The cost of a bus ticket to Gambir station (the train station in central Jakarta) is 40k IDR (2.80$). From terminal 2, the buses are located to the left of the arrival hall within a short walk from the airport building. Tickets are bought before getting on the bus. It is possible to stop the bus if the hotel is on the way to the train station.
Where to stay in Jakarta
Jakarta is a huge city and identifying the best area to stay in can be difficult. We chose Simple Inn Wahid Hasyim in central Jakarta as it is close to the main attractions. The hotel is clean and includes breakfast.
In Jakarta street food can be found everywhere and though we usually indulge in local street food we were cautious here.
Stalls don’t have running water which means dishes are washed over and over in the same couple buckets of water. The food is good enough but seems to have too many spices which may not be so appealing. If you are willing to try the street food find a stall which looks at least cleanish and check if the water in the washing buckets is clean. If you do this and you have a strong stomach you should be alright. On the other hand if you have just arrived in Asia or have a weak stomach just avoid the food altogether.
Eating from restaurants is a safer option and prices are reasonable since they are targeted primarily to local customers as few tourists visit Jakarta.
Plaza Semanggi is a shopping mall located between central and south Jakarta. The mall is well known for its choice of restaurants. On our visit we ate at Leko which serves local and fusion dishes. Portions where small but the taste was exceptional. One of our favourite dishes was beef on the bone which was cooked to perfection and was absolutely delicious.
Kafe Pisa Menteng
Pisa Kafe Menteng is in central Jakarta and is a long running Italian restaurant. Pizza and pasta are the highlights of the menu here. All the dishes we had were good. The restaurant has exceptional Italian ice cream.
Dapur Babah Elite
If looking for a restaurant with a twist we suggest checking out Dapur Babah. A fusion menu and an avant-garde decor are the highlights here. Although the restaurant is high end and popular with prominent figures, the ambience is still relaxed. The interior design is a mix of traditional furnishings, statues and paintings which is in fact the owner’s private collection. We decided to visit the restaurant to sample a variety of food we would find in Indonesia. The menu is a mix of traditional, Dutch and also fusion dishes. Food was very good especially the Dutch and traditional.
Getting around in Jakarta
While in Jakarta we made use of Grab taxi for short distance travel and public buses for longer trips.
TransJakarta is one of the best ways to avoid the traffic in Jakarta. Bus fares are cheap and may even be faster than a taxi. Specific lanes are dedicated to the long bendy bus and therefore reduces time spent in traffic. Getting to your final destination might entail changing buses at certain stops. At bus stops there are TransJakarta personnel that can help with buses to your destination.
Grab or Gojek
Grab or Gojek are a good and reliable means of transport throughout Indonesia. What we love about these is the ease of use and the fact that you get to know the price from beforehand. Booking a ride is through their respective application and therefore you will need an internet connection.
Taxis are a good way of getting around the city especially from transport hubs. Airport, bus terminals and train stations have a restriction for online ride service. We found metered taxi prices very much similar to Grab prices. The only downside was that if the taxi doesn’t find your destination the cost just keeps going up until you finally get there. Blue Bird taxis are the most reliable service and always use the meter.
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