Indonesia has long been a firm favourite on traveller’s bucket lists and there is no better place to get a sense of this wonderful country’s culture than the capital of Jakarta. With its melting pot of cultures which have influenced the city’s architecture, food and language, it’s not hard to see why so many flocks to this fascinating city. However, if it is your first time to Jakarta, it can be a bit of a shock to the system. So here’s a guide on how to survive your first trip to this amazing capital.

Don’t change your money at the airport

Indonesian rupiah banknote and Thailand passport on baggage at airport
Indonesian rupiah banknote and Thailand passport on baggage at the airport

It goes without saying that airport currency exchange offices don’t offer the best rates. Instead, you should wait until you are in Jakarta itself and change your money at an exchange office in one of the many shopping malls.

Use registered and authorised taxis

Atmosphere at Terminal C Soekarno Hatta International airport, Jakarta, Indonesia
The atmosphere at Terminal C Soekarno Hatta International airport, Jakarta, Indonesia

When you walk out of Jakarta airport, you will have many people coming up to you offering their services as taxi drivers. Don’t use them. It’s better to queue up for the official taxis – either Blue Bird Taxis or Express Taxis – who charge by the meter. Whichever taxi company you use, make sure you have your destination address written down for the driver. Using apps like Google Maps or Maps.me would also be useful.

It is also worth noting that you may have to travel by toll road to get to the city. You can either pay the toll charges as you go or ask the driver to add the amount onto the fare at the end of the ride.

Eating at street carts is only for the most fearless

Vehicles, Pedestrians, and Traders meet one corner of the city of Jakarta
Vehicles, Pedestrians, and Traders meet one corner of the city of Jakarta

Although sampling the local street food is usually one of the best things about travelling in South-East Asia, street carts in Jakarta are known for their varying standards of hygiene. If you want to be on the safe side, stick to eating in restaurants.

Be careful with the spice

Soto Betawi. Traditional beef and offal soup from Betawi, Jakarta
Soto Betawi. Traditional beef and offal soup from Betawi, Jakarta

Indonesian food is delicious but can have a hell of a lot of spice. Even if you’re used to eating spicy food back at home, combined with the heat it may wreak havoc on your insides. It’s better to start off with milder foods and then work your way up to the really hot stuff.

Tipping isn’t essential – but is appreciated

Customer paying order by credit card at the restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia
Customer paying order by credit card at the restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia

Jakarta doesn’t really have a tipping culture per se due to the fact that a service charge is included in the total bill. However, if you do tip, it will be greatly appreciated by the waiter or waitress.

Walking is a great way of getting around

Modern crossing bridge with interesting design in Sudirman Street, Central Business District of Jakarta, Indonesia
Modern crossing bridge with interesting design in Sudirman Street, Central Business District of Jakarta, Indonesia

Walking is a perfectly feasible way of getting around Jakarta so you don’t need to worry about public transport. If you don’t fancy using your legs, Grab and Go-Jek is the best transport apps.

Respect the local dress codes

Beautiful Balinese women in traditional costumes, Culture of Bali island and Indonesia
Beautiful Balinese women in traditional costumes, Culture of Bali island and Indonesia

Jakarta has a much more liberal approach to clothing than other South-East Asian cities. However, local men and women usually cover their legs and women their shoulders, so if you want to be respectful towards the culture, it’s a good idea to do the same. Casual clothing is fine during the day, but if you want to visit nightclubs, make sure you dress up; trainers and flip flops are a big no-no.