Just days away from the biggest sporting event in Asia, Indonesia welcomes athletes, delegates and tourists to the biggest Muslim nation on the planet.
However, this fascinating country does things differently and visitors to Jakarta and Palembang should arrive with some cultural and legal understanding. I can’t say much about Palembang but here’s eight handy tips before visiting Jakarta.
1. Location, location, location
If you don’t already know, Jakarta is infamous for its brutal macet (traffic congestion). Although the government has expanded the odd-even traffic scheme and a number of schools shut down during the event, traffic is still a huge concern. Walking is not an option as pavements are hard to come by, the air pollution will get the better of your health and public transportation is limited. Best to book your accommodation near the stadium or your choice sporting event location. Here are some hotel suggestions if you prefer to be near the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Stadium:
· Hotel Mulia Senayan
· Fairmont Jakarta
· The Sultan Hotel & Residence
· Harris Suites fX Sudirman
· Ibis Jakarta Slipi
2. GoJek your smartphone
GoJek is an all-in-one, multi-functional and the most convenient application in Jakarta or Palembang. You can weave through traffic on a motorcycle with its ride-hailing app Go-Ride or if not in a hurry, you can order a taxi via the Go-BlueBird app. As opposed to ordering Grab or GoJek’s GoCar, motorcycles and taxis are not subjected to the odd-even traffic scheme. So chances of you getting dropped off halfway to your destination are nil. You can also order food, groceries, movie tickets, massage and more via the powerful app.
3. Drink bottled water
Jakarta’s heat and humidity can really get to you, best to hydrate regularly but more importantly, from the right source. Best to drink or cook from bottled water and to avoid ice from dubious warung (hawker) or altogether just to be on the safe side.
4. Hawker food warning
Unlike other Asian countries where the hawker or street food is scrumptious, I can’t say the same of Jakarta. If you are craving for the famous bakso, sate, nasi padang and nasgor, there are plenty of proper restaurants, cafes and food courts that offer these local delicacies. Must-try restaurants serving Indonesian food in Central Jakarta:
· Larra Jonggrang
· Harum Manis
· Sate Senayan
· Seribu Rasa
· Kembang Goela
5. Pack your meds
Due to its nature, Jakarta may get the better of your health. Best to bring some medication for flu, cough, headache and stomach ache as the local-made medication might not gel with you. Although locally produced, the medication and clinics do not come cheap. Beware of prohibited medication, for instance; Codeine, Tramadol and Panadeine are illegal in Indonesia. If you have a serious health condition, be sure to have a prescribed letter from your health practitioner detailing your ailment and medication.
6. Stay safe
Jakarta is a relatively safe city but just like any big city, petty crime, pick-pocketing and mugging (sometimes committed by children or beggars) are unavoidable, especially around tourist attractions such as GBK. Bring a photocopy of your passport instead or a photo of it on your phone, beware of your surroundings and valuables. The police force in Indonesia is short for Polri and they can be contacted at 110 via a local number.
Most of the working class don’t even make the already-low minimum wage, so if you’re satisfied with a service or product, it’s customary to tip. Tipping from 5,000 to 20,000 rupiah is common depending on the service.
8. Be a good tourist
Indonesia is the biggest Muslim country in the world, though the capital Jakarta is more tolerant. Stay out of trouble by respecting others and dressing appropriately.
Nicknamed The Big Durian, Jakarta mirrors its fruity namesake with the ability to repulse first timers.
But just like a durian, there is that sweet sensation in between the thorns. Follow these handy tips and you’ll swift through Jakarta like a pro and hopefully make it in time for your sporting choice.