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Becak were banned within the Jakarta city limits in 1994 due to their propensity to cause traffic jams. Former President Soeharto (and others) also wanted to eradicate becak from the city streets because they felt the work to be degrading to the drivers. Becak are widely missed by people who live in housing complexes off the main roads and small roads which are not serviced by bus routes - as their sheer numbers in the city prior to the crackdown attests to how widely they were used. It used to be a common site in Jakarta to see becak drivers taking children to school each morning, and women home from the pasar (traditional market).
However, you may still be able to find an occasional becak driver ignoring the ban in certain locations within the city limits. Outside city limits becak are still found at the junctions of main roads and smaller country lanes that don't have smaller bus routes. Models of becak are different in each city they are found in across Indonesia.
Becak fit two passengers comfortably and possibly even more, depending on the size of the passenger. There is some protection from the sun ... and a plastic sheet that comes down over the front helps protect passengers during rainstorms. Bargain before you get in ... ! And don't expect the driver to have change for large bills.
Perhaps the only truly traditional transportation left in Jakarta, delman(horse-drawn carriages) are getting harder to spot in Jakarta nowadays. They are most commonly used to transport goods from major markets. Delman can often be found around Pasar Palmerah, Kemanggisan, Cipulir, around big pasar run by PD Pasar Jaya (the city market authority).
On Sundays you can rent a delman in the roads surrounding Monas (the national monument). The locals pile in the kids and have the delman driver take them for a fun ride around the Monas park.
Delman are often rented by a Betawi family to transport kids around the neighborhood to celebrate a sunatan ceremony (circumcision). When rented for parties such as this, the delman are often decorated with traditional Betawi ornamentation which lends a very festive air.
Delman have been used by the expatriate community in Permata Hijau for years to carry their kids around the housing complex to the participating homes for trick-or-treat fun. They provide great fun for a expat child's birthday party as well.
Bargain ahead of time to settle on a price as the price varies depending on the distance. Delman pictured above is from Cibadak, near Sukabumi.
Back in time, long before taxis, bajaj and becak ... Jakarta's residents traveled the many canals and rivers and canals in a variety of boats. Today there are still places in Jakarta where you can find perahu penyeberangan (boats used to cross). These boatmen take people across a river often from a major road to the kampung on the other side/so that they don't have to travel way out of their way.
Getek are small foot ferries/rafts that operate on several rivers in Jakarta. This form of transportation has been used in Jakarta to cross the rivers ... going back to colonial times. Now they're mostly found in the slum areas of the city. You will find getek on the Ciliwung River on Jl. Kartini, Jl. Gunung Sahari; on Banjir Kanal (Jati Pulo); as well as at other points on the 13 rivers that pass through Jakarta. The raft is made from bamboo and the boatman moved the raft across the small rivers using a long bamboo pole or by pulling a cable.
Bright orange and noisy ... easily describes a bajaj. These traditional transportation vehicles became popular in India where they were developed with Vespa and later imported to and built in Indonesia. Similar vehicles are known as rickshaw in Africa, Tuk-Tuk in Thailand and MotoTaxi in Peru. With an estimated 20,000 bajaj in Jakarta, it is evident they are very popular here too!
Bajaj seat two passengers comfortably and up to five passengers - depending on the size of the passenger of course. Their areas of operation are limited to one mayoralty in the city. On the side of the driver's doors you'll see a big circle in which the area is designated ... Jakarta Barat, Jakarta Pusat, etc., with a different color for each mayoralty. The drivers are not allowed to go out of their area and aren't allowed onto many main roads, so routes may be a bit circuitous.
Fare determination is by bargaining. It's always best to ask an Indonesian what they would pay for a trip to a particular destination from your point of departure, and then bargain and pay accordingly.
A ride in a bajaj is hot, utilizing "AC alam" - or nature's air conditioning. The ride will also be noisy, smelly (car and bus fumes), bumpy, harrowing, and a grand adventure. My favorite maneuver is when the bajaj driver decides to flip a u-turn in the middle of the road.
There is some protection from the rain, unless it's blowing hard. You'd think you'd have to be careful about robbery since the vehicle is so open - but it's not as common as robberies in buses. Having said all that ... bajaj are extremely convenient in many areas of Jakarta for a short drive.
The government has been trying to replace bajaj with kancil, a new 4-wheel transportation. Police sweeps in 2012 have been aimed at getting the older, non-licensed bajaj off the road.
Bajaj BBG is the newer version of the traditional Bajaj, and has been in use in Indonesia since 2006. Bajaj BBG are a light blue color, less noisy, less smoky, and more comfortable when compared to the traditional Bajaj. Bajaj BBG use natural gas, so they are more environmentally friendly. There are still less Bajaj BBG than the orange bajaj, and the fare isn't much different, but of course the cost all depends on your bargaining skills.
Another noisy little neighborhood vehicle is the bemo, which is used for local transportation in limited areas in Jakarta. Originally brought to Indonesia by the Japanese government as part of a disaster relief package in 1962, the vehicles were never manufactured in Indonesia in as great a number as bajaj or becak. Bemo are found in and near Benhil, Tanjung Priok, Kramat Jati and other areas outside Jakarta.
There are a large number bus (bis) companies servicing routes in Jakarta. Many of the larger buses seat 25-40 people (depending on type of bus). The buses have set prices (which should be posted on the bus). Bus companies include the government-owned PPD and Damri, which provides service to the airport. Private companies include Metro Mini. Some buses are air conditioned like Mayasari and Patas AC; they are more expensive. Other bus lines are run by cooperatives like Kopaja and Kopami. MetroMini are the oldest running since the 1980s and in the most need of repair.
All buses have set routes and set fares, but not set schedules. Students in uniform pay a lower rate - no matter the distance. If you're not sure of the fare, ask other passengers what it is. Pay the “conductor”, who is usually hanging out the back door. He won't have change for big bills.
Buses are the most common transport of the masses and many are in bad condition. There are less buses on the road as the price of spare parts has caused companies to vandalize other buses in their fleet and up to half of many of the fleets may not be roadworthy.
Bus passengers are often the target for robberies, street singers, and beggars - both on the buses and in the major bus terminals. Many bus drivers are notoriously dangerous as they race against each other to try and pick up passengers before the other buses plying the same route. Metro Mini has the worst reputation for poor drivers.
Buses do not necessarily stop at bus stops; they stop wherever they can pick up a passenger be it in the middle of the road or on a busy intersection. Buses do not necessarily come to a complete stop for passengers to get off and on. So be careful as to which foot you step off the bus with!
The beginning and end points of each bus route are found on the front and back of each bus, along with a route number. If you don't know which bus to take, just ask the people at the bus stop and they'll tell you (helps if you speak Bahasa Indonesia, of course).
Inter-city buses to other cities in Java and Sumatra (bis antar kota) can be found at the biggest bus stations - Pulau Gadung, Kampung Rambutan, Lebak Bulus, Blok M, and Kota.
Transjakarta buses offer a more modern version of the bus option for transportation in Jakarta. Transjakarta began operating in January 2004, and is an air conditioned bus which serves a particular route. It has it’s own busway on the main thoroughfares, so it doesn’t get caught in traffic jams when the roads are really busy. Transjakarta has 11 routes (www.transjakarta.co.id).
Learn more about various forms of Public Transportation in Jakarta.
A commuter train (kereta api) runs several times daily from Bogor to Jakarta. These trains are quite simply furnished and often quite dirty. Scores of passengers brave the dangers and seat themselves atop the trains to avoid paying the fares.
Trains to other major cities on Java leave Jakarta from train stations at Gambir, Tanah Abang and Senin. Different classes of service are available, with the first class or executive class being quite comfortable. Some trains are bookable in advance. Trains are a good transportation option for inter-city travel on a budget. Information on train schedules can be found on the National Railways website.
Mikrolet and angkot (these vehicles go by other names as well) are smaller vans/mini-buses that serve set routes on smaller main roads. They seat 9-12 people, depending on the type. Fares depend on the distance. Students pay less if in uniform.
The beginning and end points of the routes are visible on the front and back of each bus, along with a route number. For example, Tanah Abang - Meruya M11.
Ojek “motorcycle taxis” began appearing in Jakarta after becak were banned in 1994. Ojek service began as a people's initiative to provide a transportation options for people who used to use becak from main roads into housing complexes. There is no government licensing for or control over ojek.
By law all motorcycle passengers should wear helmets, so ojek drivers should have a spare for you to wear. Ojek tend to congregate at t-junctions on main roads and near smaller roads that are not serviced by bus routes. Ladies have a careful balancing act if wearing a dress and must sit sidewise on the back of the vehicle.
Bargain before you get on - ask a local what the price should be first.
Rarely seen in areas of Jakarta outside Kota and Tanjung Priok in North Jakarta. Ojek Sepeda “bicycle taxis” operate much like ojek, except for shorter distances.
Please read our separate article on Taking Taxis in Indonesia.
Panoramic photographs for this Traditional Transportation article are the work of Martin Bennett of Gambar Panjang ... we appreciate his generous and unique contribution to the site.
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