Sunday, 23 May 2010

Coming to Jakarta

Some questions and answers I get and give from people coming to work or live.

Indonesia and Jakarta

What is the weather like?

Jakarta is hot all year round including in the rainy season. Average temperature is 80 degrees and that includes the night. Depending on the air quality the sun can burn you in minutes so you need to be careful as Indonesia lies along the equator.
If it rains prepared to get wet. Umbrellas help but you might need to take a change of clothes with you if you are walking.

Is the city safe?

Jakarta is a big metropolis and there are over 18 million people living in and around Jakarta, so like any city it has criminals and crime. In my experience it is not less safe or safer than say London, Los Angeles etc. Being an Islamic country there is a lot more tolerance and well behaved people here but like any where else in the world, make sure you keep bags closed, wallets, phones purses hidden and never leave anything lying around. Petty theft is more common with pickpockets and opportunists looking to take things from you.

What clothes should I bring?

Bring casual clothes you feel comfortable wearing when you are at home or out and about. Western women normally dress conservatively here in the city. It is hot so loose clothing is preferred. For School – the men should wear trousers, shoes, shirts and ties and for women, smart shoes, trousers or skirts, tops and blouses.

Can I buy my size clothes in Jakarta?

That depends on your size but overall yes. If you can’t buy it off the peg you can have it made from a tailor or cobbler. There are so many clothes shops here from the cheap to the very expensive and Indonesians come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. For those with big feet and bodies, shoes, socks and shirts can be a challenge to find.

Is there anything that is hard to find?

As a rule, no. Everything is available for a price! Alcoholic Spirits (Muslims do not drink alcohol) can be hard to find by the bottle but it is available. Feminine Hygiene products, like Tampax are again hard to find and expensive but they are available. Non food items are more expensive here but you will find most products you are familiar with are here from Kellogg’s cornflakes to Pantene shampoo

How many hours head / behind is Jakarta?

Jakarta is 7 hours ahead of London, 11 hours ahead of New York and 5 hours behind Auckland.

How do I shop for food and where?

Don’t panic. There are lots of western style shops to shop in. Every mall has a supermarket which is either – Giant, Hero, Carrefour or Hypermart. There are also Indomarts, K Marts and lots of little stores you can buy food from.

Can I buy a car or motorbike?

You can but through an Indonesian, You will also have to have a licence.

How safe is air travel?

No worse or better than many other countries. The airlines here are getting safer all the time and Air Asia is probably the most safest airline for domestic routes and one of the cheapest. 

How safe is traveling in Indonesia?

As safe as anywhere else. Indonesia is a 3rd world country so its infrastructure is not the best and when you are out of the cities you will find people very poor financially but rich in heart and spirit. Just be careful with your belongings when you travel.
Transport safety is probably the biggest concern however all types of transportation are becoming safer and more reliable all the time.
You should refer to your governments information regarding how safe it deems Indonesia to be. Like every other country in the world, it has its share of random terrorist attacks and violent demonstrations. Also it is wise to review any information on health warnings or geological events.


Is money easily changed?

Yes it is. But you need to bring very good condition US dollars otherwise they wont be exchanged. All notes for exchange need to be in mint condition.

Do I need to bring cash with me?

Yes, bring cash, already turned into Indonesian rupiah. The notes are 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 in size but beware 10,000 and 100,000 look the same at first so be careful.

Are there ATM’s in Jakarta?

Yes lots. And they accept most cards including Maestro and Cirrus. But the charges for them might be costly. Visa and Mastercards can also be used.

Do I need to bring a credit card?

If you have one then yes it is a good idea for backup if you need quick cash. Visa is preferred. However you should notify the card issuer that you will be in Indonesia so that they allow it to work here.

Should I bring American Express Travellers Cheques with me?

These are hard to exchange as many places do not like to exchange them and the rates are low so in my opinion I would say no.


What kind of food is eaten in Indonesia?

Everything is eaten. Rice and Noodles are the staples here but you will find everything and anything. The fruit and vegetables are vast and wide in variety and there are lots of meats and pastries too. Most supermarkets carry great ranges of goods to buy. Breads, cakes and ice cream are very popular. Many types of food are fried and Chicken is the most popular meat. Seafood and shellfish is fantastic and cheap too. You can eat from the street vendors or in very plush restaurants. Becareful with ice and prepared fruit though.
Every thing comes with chilli sauce and that can be very hot to taste.

I am a vegetarian can I buy food with out meat?

Yes you can, there are lots of vegetarian options here.

Is the water safe to drink?

I do not recommend drinking tap water. Cleaning your teeth and washing dishes is ok but not to drink. Buy bottled water and be wary of the ice you get from street vendors.

Is there western food here?

Yes sadly! From Pizza hut to Macdonalds. Most fast food restaurants deliver and some open 24 hours a day. There are over 30 Starbucks in Jakarta alone!!!


Does Indonesia have mobile phones?

Yes it does. There are 2 types of service, CDMA and GSM. GSM is for 3g etc. Most popular networks are 3, Telkomsel and XL and sim cards work in any unlocked phone. Try to bring an unlocked phone or buy one here.

Is the Internet fast and secure?

The internet is getting better in terms of speed. It is safe If you use it carefully.
If you have skype or voip then that works perfectly well here too.


Can I get malaria?

There is a chance if you go to malarial places and get bitten, however, Jakarta is currently malarial free but other parts of the country are not. If you wear mosquito repellent then it will help prevent you from being bitten.

Do I need health vaccinations?

It is wise to make sure your vaccinations are up to date and to take precautions with your health while you are here in Indonesia. It is a 3rd world country so taking boosters for HEP A B and tetnus are advisable. If you are unsure you should consult your doctor.

Are the hospitals clean?

Most Hospitals here in the city are part of Western Chains so they are of a very high standard. Hopefully you won’t ever experience one.

What are the dentists like?

They vary on price and service but all dentists are trained and are of a very high standard. Again consult your DoS.

How bad is the pollution in the city?

Jakarta sadly has lots of traffic problems and poor ineffective laws regarding pollution so it can be very bad some days and good on others.


What is the rainy season like?

Yon can expect lots of heavy rain for long periods of time, frequent floods and the occasional power cut. There are still lots of days of clear blue skies and it never gets cold

Should I register with the local embassy?

Yes it is a good idea. You can normally email them to let them know where you are. You should check out your government’s information and your countries rules and where the embassy is situated.

Can parcels and letters be sent home?

Yes they can but it is expensive to do so. If you are receiving parcels or post do not have money or valuable things sent unless through a courier and always have it delivered to a safe address.

Should I bring electrical items?

Most cafes and restaurants offer free wireless internet and sitting on a Sunday afternoon drinking ice cold coffee and surfing the net in an internet café is a great way to while away some hours. I think a camera is a must and if you like music then bring your mp3 player with you.
Hair tongs etc here are hard to find but you can buy them.

I play sports, is there stadiums and places to play?

There are lots of sports played in the city, Badminton and Football are the favourites alongside basketball and billiards.
There are golf courses, softball pitches, tennis courts, gyms, swimming pools aplenty so if you are sporty then you should find something you like.

Are the poisonous snakes in the city?

Most dangerous wildlife is in the countryside and forests and I have yet to encounter anything more sinister than a ghecko lizard or a low flying bat in the city. Most wildlife is away from Jakarta although ants and mosquitoes will still bite you occasionally.

How bad is the poverty?

Indonesia is still a 3rd world country and it is working very hard to change that, however the process is slow and there is much to do.
You will see poor homeless people, beggars and children begging. Also many people live in shacks and slums or squatters housing without adequate sanitation or access to clean water.

What is the nightlife like?

The social scene is becoming more and more western and there are lots of cafes and bars opening all the time. There are some western hangouts and your teachers will take you to those places. The nightclubs are some of the best in Asia but most of them play either RnB or trip hop and far too loudly. There is also a great live music scene and there are live bands always playing in malls and bars.
If that is too much for you then there are western eateries that open late and of course the coffee shops which close after midnight.
There are plenty of movie theatres and all the latest movies are shown here.

How far is the Ocean for diving or Surfing?

Jakarta is on the north coast of Java. Off the coast are a group of islands called the Thousand Islands. They are easily accessible from Jakarta. For Surf,  head to east Java or Bali where there is plenty of surfing to be done. For beaches that are clean then no more than 4 hours away but because of tides etc I would not recommend swimming.

Are there any rules or customs I should be aware of?

Yes there a few. The most serious one is the taking or procession of illegal substances which like the majority of Asian countries has the death penalty as its maximum punishment.
Working in a Islamic country there are a few things to understand. The people here whilst friendly and very curious are also very shy when it comes to affection and aggression and so showing either of those in the street can be met with some hostility and comment.
Drinking alcohol publicly is not accepted as a general rule. It is also important to ensure you dress correctly. Dressing down maybe ok for the house but in the street it is not really accepted. Also just because it is hot it does not mean that you can walk around half naked as this is also considered vulgar and rude so you need to be smart but appropriately dressed for the weather.
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