With a population of 12 million people, Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta may seem chaotic and overwhelming for the first time visitor. Often underrated and overlooked for the glitzy beach resorts of Bali, peel back the layers of this city and you will find a fun, colourful and cultural city ready to welcome visitors with open arms.
Experience the real Indonesia with all its surprises and shortcomings including the obvious divide between the rich and poor. In Jakarta you will find the poorest of poor and the richest of rich living side by side in a seemingly endless city sprawl.
The rich have their special car parking spots called the ‘Super Car Community’ reserved for those taking their Lamborghini’s to the shopping centre. A block away the poor are living in homes with no running water.
Somewhere in the divide lies Jakarta’s large expatriate community, where many areas are set up just for western visitors. In the expat enclave of Kemang, you will find cafes, playgrounds, restaurants and supermarkets all tailored to suit western tastes, where homesick Aussies can get a jar of Vegemite there. Another visitor friendly area where expats reside is the CBD, which is the heart of Jakarta and where I call home.
Kid friendly Jakarta
The one thing I love about Jakarta is that kids are welcomed and never seen to be an inconvenience. Most restaurants and cafés happily accommodate kids and high chairs are always available. Kids are accepted and kept entertained wherever we go.
The best time to goto Jakarta with kids
Jakarata is hot and humid throughout the year with two main seasons. The wet season occurs from October to April and there can be monsoonal downpours and floods.
The dry season in Jakarta is from May to September with average temperatures in the 3o’s Celcius. The best time to goto Jakarta with kids is in the dry season from May to September.
Getting around Jakarta with kids
Car and driver
Hiring your own car with driver is the only way to go when navigating Jakarta and it’s crazy traffic. Hire rates range from $30-$60 AUD a day.
Cars are equipped with air conditioning and whilst car seats are optional can you can easily have yours installed for peace of mind.
Taxi’s are the next best thing for short trips around Jakarta. Inexpensive and airconditioned, always catcha Blue Bird or Silver Bird taxi and request the meter. Car seats are not used in taxi’s in Jakarta.
A word of warning about the traffic – avoid peak hour
The key to enjoying Jakarta is to plan and organize your day so that you avoid the dreaded traffic jams. When a 5km trip could take you 15 minutes in good traffic but 2 hours during peak hour.
Peak hour is from 7am – 10am and 4:00pm -7:00pm in the evenings.
The best things to do in Jakarta with kids
Whilst Jakarta may not be a family holiday destination, if you and your little ones find yourself here for a stopover, visiting family, friends or on business for a few days, here are the best things to do in Jakarta with kids:
Take advantage of Car Free Sunday
With massive delays, especially during peak hours when the roads are chock full of people getting from A to B, it feels so good when Jakarta closes the roads on Car Free Sunday.
Every Sunday, one of the main arterial roads called Jalan Jenderal Sudirman closes from 6am until 11am so that people can run, bike or stroll for the morning.
This feels so good, as you rarely get a chance to walk around the streets during the week with the lack of footpaths and the heavy traffic. We make a morning of Car Free Sunday, leaving early with our infant in the pram and our 3 year old daughter on the scooter, our family takes a stroll down the street to a nearby restaurant for a long breakfast before returning home after the road re-opens.
A Sunday favourite is Social House. It has great food, great coffee and besides those essential basics for a Sunday breakfast, the fit out of the restaurant is gorgeous. There are fairy lights on trees, rustic wooden cartons filled with fruit and wooden tables and chairs give this place a homely and relaxing feel. While you wait for your meal, the kids can play in a fenced in play area complete with colouring books, rocking horses and board games located right next to the eating area.
Embrace the people and the culture
Jakarta weaves a tapestry of diverse ethnicities comprising of Javanese, Betawi (native to Jakarta), Sundanese, Chinese, Batak, Minagkabau and Malay.
This fast paced megapolis has so many layers thanks to contributing influences of Hindu rulers, Asian and Portuguese influences and a history of European and Arabic colonial rule. All this makes for a colourful culture bringing a variety of traditional practices, foods, flavours and religions that gives Jakarta its unforgettable character – it’s soul.
Swim at resort pools
The weather in Jakarta is hot all year around, therefore a swim is essential to an enjoyable weekend. The Shangri-La Hotel has a kid’s zone set up on Saturdays and Sundays right next to the pool.
For 50,000rp (around $3.50), kids can jump on a jumping castle play with toys under a marquee or on the grass, eat popcorn, get their faces painted, watch clown shows and ride a pony. This play is supervised with attendants, so parents can either join the fun or hang out within ear – shot by the pool.
Hand feed exotic animals from your car at Taman Safari
Taman Safari, located near Bogor is a zoo with a difference. Buy a ton (well maybe a few kgs) of carrots and bananas on your way to this zoo. The self-drive safari allows you to stay in your own car to drive around the zoo. Here the animals roam free – everything from antelope, lions and zebras will come up to your car for food. It is so much fun.
After that take a walk to the baby petting zoo to hold a baby cheetah or orangutan and finish the day with a wildlife show. Note that the shows are commentated in Bahasa Indonesia, but regardless, they are entertaining. I would recommend starting early by arriving at the 9am opening time and finish your visit by 1pm at the latest to beat the traffic back to the city.
Enjoy Indonesian cuisine
Indonesians really enjoy and delight in their food. Dinner is all about taking time for sitting around the table and sharing different plates.
Indonesian food is tasty and aromatic. My family often goes to a restaurant in Menteng called Lara Djonggrang, a must when visiting Jakarta to experience traditional Indonesian food that represents all of its provinces.
Lara Djonggrang is a converted Dutch mansion and is dramatic, historical and elegant. This atmosphere, paired with delicious food makes for a great night out. Kids are welcome here, and we always take our three year old for a walk before sitting down so she can explore the different areas of this restaurant.
In some rooms it feels like a mini museum of Indonesian artifacts, but her favourite is always the outdoor, candlelit area where stepping stones are surrounded by fish swimming beneath your feet.
Check out a miniature version of Indonesia at Taman Mini
Taman Mini is one of the most popular tourist destinations. It is unlikely that you will get to see all of Indonesia’s 26 provinces and 17,000 islands, so why not check out the miniature version that will give you an idea on the cultural diversity of these provinces. There is so much to see here, so plan your visit and make a day of it.
Tour Istiqlal Mosque
Indonesia’s national mosque is located in the heart of Jakarta. This is huge, with four levels plus a balcony it can accommodate 120,000 people. Visitors are welcome and 30 minute tours are offered by English speaking guides.
Role play at Jakarta’s Kidzania
The Kidzania concept allows kids to learn through play by mimicking real life. Kids can role play adult jobs for money that will give them an opportunity to shop or be entertained. Children walk paved streets and enter child size buildings to go to work. Kids can be anything from firemen to doctors to journalists and shopkeepers. The indoor play centre is ideal for kids aged 5 and above, however there there are a few activities for kids 2 years and above.
Meet DeeContributing Author
Many thanks to Dee Mahon our contributing author. A most beautiful soul, one that epitomises the words love, calm and kindness. A fellow wanderluster, Dee has travelled the world and lived in Malaysia, Canada and the UK.
A mother of two beautiful intrepid little girls Gabrielle 3 years and Juliette 9 months, she now calls Jakarta, Indonesia her home.
You’ll find Dee penning something poolside inbetween adventures across South East Asia with her litte family.