Traditional & Modern Pubic Transport in Jakarta
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Becak were banned within the Jakarta city limits in the mid-90s 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. For years, becak were missed by people who live in housing complexes off the main roads and small roads which are not serviced by bus routes. 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 major cities throughout Indonesia 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 distant suburbs of metropolitan areas and smaller towns. 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 with the canopy over your head 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. They are most commonly used to transport goods from major outlying markets. Delman can occasionally 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 even been used by the expatriate community in Permata Hijau 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 the traditional bajaj. These traditional transportation vehicles became popular in India where they were developed with Vespa and was imported from Indonesia in 1975 and later built in Indonesia. Similar vehicles are known as rickshaw in Africa, Tuk-Tuk in Thailand, and MotoTaxi in Peru. Years ago there were an estimated 20,000 bajaj in Jakarta, evidence of their popularity! That number has dwindled to about 14,000 in 2016.
Bajaj seat two passengers comfortably and up to five passengers - depending on the size of the passenger and the amount of goods they want to carry. 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 not from a meter, but 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 you have a good reference point from which to bargain and pay accordingly.
A ride in a bajaj is hot, utilizing "AC alam" - nature's air conditioning. The ride will also be noisy, smelly (car and bus fumes), bumpy, harrowing, and a grand adventure. My favorite pulse-raising maneuver is when the bajaj driver decides to flip a u-turn in the middle of the road, with no notification to others on the road, because the vehicle doesn't have any signals.
For passengers, 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 pick pocketing in public buses.
The government has been trying to restrict the bajaj for years by limiting zones in which they can operate and stopping new vehicles from entering the market. They have been pushing the replacement of the classic orange diesel bajaj for years, with kancil - a 4-wheel transportation, the blue gas-powered baja BBG (below) and the latest innovation - the electric bajaj, nicknamed batik from the bajaj listrik play on words; and most importantly the use of buses and other forms of more mass public transportation.
Bajaj BBG have been in use in Indonesia since 2006. The imported Bajaj BBG are a light blue color, less noisy, less smoky, and more comfortable when compared to the traditional diesel powered Bajaj. Bajaj BBG use natural gas, so they are more environmentally friendly. The fare isn't much different from the traditional orange bajaj, but of course the cost all depends on your bargaining skills.
The noticeably different Bajaj Listik is an electric version of the more traditional bajaj. Also sporting three wheels, the vehicles are white and green - with the wording "Kendaraan Listrik" (electric vehicle) on the side panel. Touted as more economical to run for the drivers and more friendly to the environment, Indonesia may see increasing numbers of this mode of transportation in years to come!
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 the early 1960s, 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 areas outside Jakarta.
There are a large number bus companies (bis) servicing routes in Jakarta. Many of the larger buses seat 25-40 people. The buses have set prices (which should be posted on the bus). The air conditioned buses are more expensive.
Transjakarta buses offer a more modern version of the bus option for transportation in Jakarta. Transjakarta operates air conditioned buses and has its own busway on the main thoroughfares, so the buses don’t get caught in traffic jams when the roads are really busy. Tansjakarta offers a very efficient and reasonably priced option for commutes into the central business district. See their numerous routes along major thoroughfares (www.transjakarta.co.id). You can only ride with an e-ticket, purchased through re-loadable Flazz, e-toll, etc., which can be purchased at any stop along the busway. Check out the Busway Transjakarta or Trans apps for Transjakarta busline info.
APTB bus lines use the Transjakarta busway in the CBD and regular roads beyond that. While expensive compared to other buses, they are still cheaper than a taxi, are air conditioned, and you can use Flazz to purchase tickets.
The government-owned Damri bus company serves the airport. The bus visits all the terminals. It can drop passengers off along the way when off the toll roads. Destinations include pick-up/drop-off locations in Jakarta, as well as Bogor, Bekasi, Karawang, Serpong and beyond. Rates as posted on the DAMRI website. The buses are safe, air conditioned and comfortable.
All buses have set routes and set fares, but not all have 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 generally in poor condition. Bus passengers are often the target for pick pockets, street singers, small mobile vendors, 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.
Expat women should take particular care when riding a public bus as uncomfortable occurrences do happen when male passengers grope, rub or lean into your personal space. The Transjakarta buses have a female-only section in the front of each bus, attesting to the common occurrences!
Off the major thoroughfares, 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 at a busy intersection. Buses do not necessarily come to a complete stop for passengers to get off and on. So be careful when you step off the bus!
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; it 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.
Learn more about various forms of Public Transportation in Jakarta.
The Kereta Api Indonesia commuter train (kereta api) runs several times daily from Bogor/Depok to Jakarta. See the map of other train routes in Jakarta. These trains are quite simply furnished and crowded and dirty, and often run late, but the fares are cheap! Air conditioned cars are available and female-only cars can be found near the front and end of the trains.
E-tickets are recommended, unless you want to queue.
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.
Check out the various commuter apps to follow the status of the trains.
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. they are not air conditioned and don't run on any schedule, but often run late into the night. Fare should be posted, but if not check with Indonesian colleagues/friends to see what the normal fare is before hand.
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 the early 1990s. Ojek service began as grassroots entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to provide a transportation options for people who used to use becak from main roads into housing complexes.
By law all motorcycle passengers should wear helmets, so ojek drivers should have a spare for you to wear. Ojek tend to congregate at intersections 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. Payment is in cash and the drivers won't have change for larger bills.
Over the last couple of years as the traffic situation in Jakarta has become extremely challenging, a modern, more professional alternative to the individual ojek has appeared. Companies such as is Go-Jek, Grab Bike and Yellow Bike have developed an organized Ojek network that allows you to order an Ojek from your phone. They can be ordered to transport yourself, pick up a meal from a restaurant or deliver goods and documents. Their computerized system uses transparent pricing which reduces the uncertainty of the costs involved! Many people are using these services as transportation time is greatly reduced.
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.
Despite the many current modes of public transportation, most expats living currently in Jakarta rarely take public transportation and will have their own company-provided (or supported) car and driver, or choose to take a taxi door to door. 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.
Last updated September 26, 2016
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