What I thought about Jakarta and how it turned out to be

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Man sitting on a deck chair on Macan Island, Jakarta Indonesia

And do I need to apply for a visa too? I have never been to Indonesia before and have no idea about its immigration laws for Indians. Can Indians get an eVisa or a Visa on Arrival? How much does it cost?” I asked, my voice shaking.

“Oh, the good thing is, you don’t need a visa for travelling in Indonesia if you’re travelling for no more than 30 days,” replied the person on the phone.

I fairly remember how when I was planning a trip to Jakarta, in Indonesia, the very first thought that troubled me was of Visa. I mean for a budget traveller, what else can be more painful than losing money to a foreign government? But as I realised that Indonesia offers visa-free travel to anyone holding an Indian passport, I couldn’t be happier. This moreover meant that I could continue travelling in the Himalayas a day before it was actually time to fly to Jakarta.

Small boys standing around a well in Kota Tua, Jakarta, Indonesia
PC: Devesh Joshi
My First Impression of Jakarta

So with some happy news to start with, I ended up in Jakarta, and with that, in Indonesia for the first time ever. And before actually landing there and having no introduction to Indonesia as a country, I expected Jakarta to be a bit more like Bangkok — wild and adventurous.

But as I explored it, I only realised that Jakarta, in reality, was much safer and easy to adapt. The streets were less chaotic, people seemed nicer and helpful, and day-to-day life was certainly not maddening. And that’s when I developed such a liking towards it. I mean it is always a better surprise to find a place to be more organized, than you had initially thought it to be, than finding it wild and confusing.

Though of course, Jakarta can be pretty exciting too, and you feel its energy the moment you land there but at the same time, everything still looks fairly organised. Local transport in Jakarta is clean and efficient. Food is always hygienic. People are willing to help without expecting anything in return.

What made it better was, unlike other budget travel destinations in Southeast Asia, Jakarta also didn’t feel, even for a moment, a place where I should beware of petty crimes, like pick-pocketing or of being ripped off by a local restaurant with their fake English menu.

So yeah, safe, friendly and beautiful, Jakarta felt like a perfect place to be travelling in Southeast Asia.

Happy locals posing for a photo in Jakarta
Friendly locals. PC: Devesh Joshi
Jakarta: Not Just A Bustling Metropolis

I think for any place to be a great holiday destination it is important to have something for everyone. From honeymooners to solo travellers to families, if the place can entertain people of every need, it’s going to do good in tourism and that’s the story of Jakarta too.

Before flying to Jakarta, I expected it to be a crazy metropolis, which, in reality, it was, but there was so much more to it than just being a crazy bustling town. It had theme parks, temples, shopping malls, museums and a rich street scene — whether you’re into some food or some serious shopping.

Jakarta is also home to a centuries-old colonial Dutch neighbourhood called Kota Tua which, in minutes, will make you forget the modern Jakarta and take you back in time — with streets of old Dutch-style buildings and newly restored museums. Kota Tua, indeed, is a great place to find a quieter corner.

Man standing in a doorway beside a bicycle in Kota Tua, Jakarta
Kota Tua. PC: Devesh Joshi

Additionally, for most international travellers to be visiting Indonesia, the biggest fascination remains the islands. And that’s where Jakarta doesn’t disappoint either.

At just half an hour speedboat ride away, lies Jakarta’s nearly 350 islands stretching 45km north into the Java Sea, known as the Thousand Islands cluster.

Out of the original 350, over 30 islands are privately owned and catering to tourists with facilities ranging from restaurants to bars to hotel rooms. So if you want to experience a bit of Island life, Jakarta certainly has more options than you can imagine.

People sitting on the deck of Pulau Macan Island (Tiger Island)
Pulau Macan Island (Tiger Island). PC: Devesh Joshi
Men playing chess on Pulau Macan Island (Tiger Island)
Pulau Macan Island (Tiger Island). PC: Devesh Joshi
Local Community: Making Jakarta Even Better

Out of all the busy towns in Southeast Asia (and much of the world), I found Jakarta to be more welcoming and that was because of friendly locals. Local people in Jakarta have time for others and they’re willing to go the extra mile to make sure they helped a tourist and made them feel at home — whether it’s a simple question of directions or something more demanding.

Despite a busy life and a fairly limited knowledge of English, locals in Jakarta genuinely and without wanting something in return, help you out.

Happy locals posing for a photo in Jakarta
PC: Devesh Joshi

And then there are other reasons to be loving Jakarta: clean public spaces, a comparatively safer environment, big markets, an impressive nightlife, all on top of a great value for money and cheap flights to anywhere in Indonesia.

Read more first-hand experiences of the Jakarta trip. 

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