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Shopping in Jakarta

Shopping in Jakarta takes many forms from the most traditional pasar (markets) to glitzy  world class malls with a wide range of international designer shops. Most expatriates shop most comfortably in malls and department stores where the prices are fixed and there is no need to bargain.  However, that is no reason to avoid the more colorful traditional markets for a true cultural experience.

Malls and Shopping Centers

International shopping at its best can be found in several high-end malls in Jakarta. You’ll find both local designer boutiques and many of the most popular and famous brands from around the globe. Indeed, shopping in Jakarta is truly an international experience! Several malls focus on designer clothing, leather goods, or household furnishings, including: Plaza Senayan, Plaza Indonesia, Pondok Indah II, and  Senayan City. The boutique designer shops offer opportunity to the average expatriate to view, try on, and purchase famous international brands and haute couture. If, indeed you are from a small town in your home country, you may find better shopping in Jakarta than you do back home!

The nicer malls also have an excellent selection of cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants offering a wide variety of international cuisine to provide refreshments to shoppers. Italian coffee, Japanese snacks, or Canadian ice cream treats and more abound! Indeed the shopping centers and malls are a magnet for recreation as they provide everything you need for family fun in one place and in air conditioned comfort. The mall facilities don’t just stop at shopping, but also include movie theatres, bowling, ice skating, and more!

Malls in Jakarta include the huge Taman Anggrek, which even has an indoor skating rink. Plaza Semanggi has been built around the Balai Sabini concert hall which now hosts many concerts and live TV shows.

Read this article for more information on Shopping Centers and Malls in Jakarta

Arts and Handicrafts

Tourists and expatriates alike will enjoy visiting department stores like, Pasaraya Grande, Batik Keris and Alun Alun, which is located in Grand Indonesia, which all offer a large selection of Indonesian handicrafts. These stores dedicate entire floors or sections of the store to traditional handicrafts, clothing and textiles and are therefore constant favorites.

Read more about Indonesian Arts and Crafts

What is a Nota?

In some department stores you will see a sign near items that says “pakai nota”. This means that you must get a small written bill from the salesperson on the floor and take it to a centralized cashier for payment, because each individual counter is owned by a separate business entity and they are operating on a commission-based system. You don’t take the item to the cashier, just the slip of paper, then return to the original section of the store and file your salesperson to complete your purchase by picking up the item.  Other stores are all under one ownership, so you do not collect several receipts and pay at the cashier.

Concentrations of Specialty Shops

The small shops that line the streets of the city are often grouped together according to the merchandise sold.  For instance Kemang Timur is known for furniture, Blok A in Kebayoran Baru is known for household items – plumbing supplies, paint, and certain streets around town are known for their concentrations of nursery stalls as well.

Traditional Market - Pasar

The majority of Jakarta’s frugal population shops for everyday food and personal needs at the traditional markets, the pasar. Crowded with small carts and lined with small stores, the pasar is a hive of activity. In the pasar and wholesale markets, bargain with courtesy but don’t give up too easily. If you are shopping in the pasar, it is best to have a good idea of the actual value of items. Some stall owners will take advantage of a foreigners lack of knowledge of the “real price’ of items and inflate their prices, as a common belief is that “all foreigners are rich and have lots of money”. In most places you can easily get a 10% -20% discount. With luck and a little stubbornness you can get even more off.  In small stores, especially if you speak to the owner, you can get larger discounts.

If you are puzzled by the wonderful variety of Indonesian produce that can be found in traditional markets you can find detailed descriptions in the book “A Jakarta Market” published by and available from the American Women’s Association. This illustrated guidebook can also prove useful when you are wondering what kind of fruit or food it is that you have noticed while shopping at your neighborhood supermarket.

A market that is easily accessible for most expatriates living in South Jakarta is Pasar Mayestik, in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. The name Mayestik comes from the former ‘Majestic’ cinema that was located here. The second floor of the market building houses the general market and there are also many tailors plying their trade and stalls selling textiles and sewing supplies, as well as stationery supplies and household goods. Many larger shops selling fabrics, electrical appliances and household goods surround the market.

A good range of textiles is also available at Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, and in particular furnishing fabrics and curtains, as well as carpets, sporting goods and musical instruments. Pasar Baru is the centre for Jakarta’s Indian community and a wide variety of Indian foods and spices are sold here.

Mangga Dua in North Jakarta is one of the biggest centers for wholesalers that distribute to many other parts of Indonesia. Although some of the stores will only sell in bulk volumes, many of the stores will sell single items. Almost anything that you could imagine is on sale at Mangga Dua. Many women patronize the kiosks on the ground floor of ITC Mangga Dua that sell imitation branded leather goods. On the upper floors, many stalls sell women’s and men’s clothing and surprisingly enough a few stores have a very good selection of winter items. Some of the manufactures of overseas stores produce their items in Indonesia and this results in “sisa export” or over production of some items. These items are usually very cheap in comparison to what they would sell for overseas.  On the top floor of Mangga Dua you will find the wholesalers of clothing accessories. Here is perhaps on of the most complete selections of ribbons buttons, beads, and knick knacks that you will find in the city. Many expats make a special trip here to buy Christmas decorations, children’s party favors, and an assortment of other items in bulk, really almost anything you can think of! If you are willing to endure the congested, hot and busy atmosphere of Mangga Dua, you are in for a fulfilling shopping experience.

The textile market of Tanah Abang is a much rougher wholesale market.  It is the largest wholesale textile /clothing market in Southeast Asia.  Its claim to fame is for pickpockets and it’s not a place for the claustrophobic!

At Pasar Barito, located along Jl. Melawai, Jl. Mahakam II and Jl. Barito, Kebayoran Baru you can buy flower arrangements, aquariums and tropical fish, fruit and fruit baskets, and further along Jl. Barito is the bird market where you can see birds for sale, bird cages and bird seed and even small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and monkeys. Quite often endangered species are offered for sale illegally and you are strongly advised not to purchase any of these animals.

In Jalan Surabaya the prices of items at the row of stalls selling antiques (some genuine, some fake!) are very high, so a final price should be no more than 30% to 50% of that first price.  So bargain and bargain!

Read more about Traditional Markets in Indonesia

Gemstone Market

Another favorite of expatriates is the Gemstone Market in Rawabening, Jatinegara where precious and semi-precious stones are available for sale. This is a traditional market environment, so bargaining is expected, and the quality and origin of the stones cannot be guaranteed. It’s a great cultural experience, if you’re up to braving the traffic.

Safety while Shopping

Wherever you shop in the city, be sure to watch your purse and phone. It is advisable to always have your purse zipped or closed and firmly secured under your arm or held in front of you. When sitting having coffee or in a restaurant never hang your purse over the back of a chair. A common practice for ladies in Indonesia is to put their purse behind them on their chair so there is no way someone can get access to it without you feeling it. Backpack style purses are often a target for pick pockets when you stand on an escalator or in a cashier line up. Your personal belongings can be easy accessed without you knowing it. Some instances of purse slashing also happen - more often in open markets where a razor blade or exacto knife is used to slash the bottom of the purse and empty the purse without the owner of the purse realizing it has happened.

In an open market situation it is best to have your purse over your arm but pulled in front of your body with your arm held over it so you can see if anyone is attempting to gain access to your purse.  Dress down in the traditional markets; do not any valuable jewelry or clothes.  Don’t lose your temper when bargaining; treat it as a game, not a competition. So go out and explore the different ranges of shopping Jakarta offers as it truly is a fun and interesting experience.

Read more about Credit Card Fraud in Indonesia
Read more about Security at Home and Around Town

Bazaars and Resources

You will find another great opportunity for shopping at the bazaars organized by the different expatriate women’s associations. Many beautiful and unique items can be found direct from the producers and often brought in from other islands, at relatively inexpensive prices. The “bazaar season” occurs twice a year, in the months leading up to Christmas as well as in May and June before the summer holidays when most expatriates return to their home countries. This is a good opportunity to look for some unusual and delightful gifts for friends and family. The women’s groups put an announcement in the Jakarta Post the week before the bazaar to let the expat community know the date and time.

Another valuable tool is the “Jakarta Shopper’s Guide” published by the American Women’s Association. Initially published in 1987, this wonderful book has grown over the years to become the most useful and detailed guide to products and services available in the city. For newly arrived expatriates the Shopper’s Guide is a must! It helps you to locate the many products and services that you need to furnish your home and get established in your new life.

For expatriates who have lived in Jakarta for some time the Shopper’s Guide is no doubt a familiar reference. It is so useful that most people will want to get the latest, most up-to-date edition to keep up with the rapidly changing variety of shops and services available. Many people like to keep two copies, one for the home and one for the car. The best thing of all is that proceeds from the sale of the Jakarta Shopper’s Guide benefit needy Indonesians through the numerous charitable projects of the AWA.

Whatever your shopping preference – Jakarta offers literally hundreds of locations to shop till you drop … ! Visit the various malls and traditional markets during your stay and you’ll become a world-class shopper in the process.