What to Do in Jakarta

University life can be hectic and sometimes boring, but finding time to relax in between assignments and classes could be difficult. Mental health is important, however, and students should schedule some time to refresh and energise their body and mind.

Culture and norms in Indonesia

The culture and norms in Indonesia will be different from an international student’s home country. Whilst Jakarta is a thriving cosmopolitan city with a modern outlook, there are areas in Jakarta that still have traditional values and expectations. Depending on where the student would be staying, there may be an expectation of, for example, not having parties, limitations to night time visiting and having sleepovers. If in doubt, ask for the house rules in advance before selecting accommodation. However, this rarely applies to places like South Jakarta and Central Jakarta as those areas have become accustomed to western culture. Often many foreigners live in those areas.

I found it hard to adjust to some of the norms at first. Like having to return home at a certain time or being wary of hanging out with a group of people past a certain time in less westernised areas. If outside Central Jakarta or South Jakarta I find myself stared at more and sometimes followed as some wanted to chat and know more about me and where I came from. I have to respect Muslim areas which means I have to make sure I have dressed appropriately, not wearing short pants/skirts but long trousers, for example. However, since I mostly stayed in South Jakarta, I never really had those issues.


Jakarta is a popular shopping destination with a variety of modern large scale multi-storey shopping centres/malls scattered around the city. Most malls offer big chain brands such as Berskha, H&M etc. Grand Indonesia and Pondok Indah Mall are known to be the biggest malls in Jakarta. These types of shopping malls have opening hours from 10-11 AM until 7-8 PM. However, times may vary due to COVID-19. Parking fees usually cost no less than Rp10.000.

Other well-known shopping malls are Senayan City, Gandaria City, Central Park Mall, Plaza Senayan, Pacific Place, Lippo Mall, and Blok M that offer a good range of electronics for sale. Exported products would be quite expensive.

Traditional Markets (Pasar) are cheaper and offer a wide range of products. Traditional Indonesian clothes, batik souvenirs and gifts are on offer. Bear in mind when buying clothes that the Indonesian sizes are very different to European, UK or US sizes. Bartering and asking for discounts from the initial selling price is a common experience in these markets.

Some well known pasars are Pasar Tanah Abang, Pasar Senen, Jalan Surabaya Antique Market, Pasar Baru Market, Jatinegara Market, Induk KramatJati Market, Jakarta Gems Center, Pasar Mayestik, Pasar Pagi Mangga Dua,Pasar Glodok, and Petak Sembilan Market. Traditional Pasars usually have opening hours from 9 AM until 10 PM.

A supermarket called Hari Hari Swalayan is quite cheap and popular with the locals. However, it can be quite crowded but don’t be surprised if you get a lot of stares and attention if you look like a foreigner. It is advisable to bring a few local friends shopping there. Other supermarkets that have good prices are Giant and Lotte Mart.

Photo: A Sutanto

Eating Out

Indonesia is a culinary delight and foodie heaven. In those Malls outlined in the previous section, there are Food Courts that offer reasonably priced Indonesian and International food.

There are some fun themed restaurants such as Hogwarts: Take a Bite in Pluit North Jakarta, and Cat Cabin Cafe in Kemang (cat cafe).

Photo: PeweFeed

Senopati is a good area with top-notch restaurants such as Sushi Hiro, MomoParadise and Three Buns.

I love Sushi Hiro which has one of the best sushi I have ever tasted. It is pricey so I went there as a Birthday treat for myself. Three Buns is a trendy and popular place to meet up with friends or to go on a date. The food is around Rp100.000.

The Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD) is an area close by with more restaurants that include Mr Park, Cork & Screw, Pizza Place, The Dutch, etc.

I’ve been to Cork & Screw in Senayan which has nice scenery, a bit fancy and pricey but really good. Pizza place in Kemang is a good place to eat and chill since there is a dog park close by and a good place for Instagram pictures.

Lastly in Blok M, there are plenty of restaurants that are cheap. I used to chill at this bar called Naruto which had discounted food and alcohol however it may be temporarily closed due to the pandemic restrictions.

These types of restaurants have opening hours from 11 AM – 9 PM. However, times may vary due to COVID. Check first before making arrangements. Price ranges from Rp200.000 or up for places like Senopati and SCBD. While Blok M could range from Rp50.000.

For lunch, coffee shops are extremely popular in Jakarta. There isn’t an area that does not have it. Cafe’s are the best place to socialise, grab food and do a bit of work as Wifi connection is available in these cafes. Some places that serve great coffee are Kopi Praja, Crumble Crew, Dua Coffee Shop, Lucky Cat and Coffee. Coffee shops usually have long opening hours from 7 AM – 10 PM.

I have been to Dua coffee shop which has three floors. The ground floor is the coffee shop and above them are areas serving food and speciality ice cream. It has good coffee but the cafe is not too spacious if you want to sit outside. KopiPraja has food and coffee. It is quite big, aesthetically pleasing and has a friendly owl outside you can pet!

Photo: Firza Pratama

Sight-seeing Activities

Indonesia has a rich cultural heritage. The people are often very artistic and value artworks. They also like to have fun.

Museum MACAN is a modern and contemporary art museum in Kebon Jeruk. Macan means tiger but it actually stands for Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara.

There are many other suggested museums and galleries such as Moja Museum, Dia.lo.gue Gallery, National Museum of Indonesia, Monas and many more.

Photo: Danumurthi Mahendra

Museums usually have opening times of 10 AM – 6 PM. Dia.lo.gue closes a bitlater. However, times may differ due to Covid. Ticket prices for museums are around Rp100.000.

I have visited Museum Macan, Moja and Monas. All these museums were very different from the museums I used to visit in Ireland. In some way, they had a fun interactive element to it which made it more enjoyable. More often than not, these museums are so aesthetically pleasing that it is perfect for Instagram pictures.

Photo: Museum Macan

There are also theme parks that are worth visiting, such as Dufan and Taman Mini Indonesia Indah that showcases Indonesian heritage in the forms of buildings, traditional costumes, cultural narrative and exhibitions representing many islands in its archipelago. Opening times are usually around 10 AM – 6 PM but may change. Dufan ticket prices are around Rp200.000 for entry.

Indonesia is also rich in flora and fauna. Recommended sightseeing places are Ragunan Zoo, Taman Safari and Water World Aquarium.

Photo: agusfianmf

Sporting Activities

Having an active and healthy lifestyle is essential for a healthy body and mind. Jakarta offers a wide range of sporting activities that will keep you on the move.

Running and jogging tracks are available in Lapangan Banteng Park, Monas Park, Menteng Park, Suropati Park, Ayodya Park and Cattleya Park. It is not advisable to run or jog around the city due to its traffic congestion and lack of footpaths; it may be possible however to exercise around the housing complex early morning or evening if living in a gated community.

There are many Gyms and Fitness Studios offering classes on yoga, pilates, Zumba, kickboxing, etc. Slightly more expensive are Sports Clubs that offer tennis, swimming pools, badminton and basketball courts. These types of establishments are widely available around the city.

To watch sporting activities, the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Main Stadium in Central Jakarta is the main football stadium for the city. The stadium complex does offer other sporting events and concert / musical events.

I used to go for walks around my complex. I also went to a local gym and worked out there 3 – 5 times a week before Covid. Membership was around Rp400.000 for 2 people per month. So I signed up with a friend. During Covid lockdowns, I would work out on my rooftop.

Photo: Denny Aulia

Cinemas and Performance Arts

Indonesians love the cinema. There are small local cinemas but don’t miss the luxurious multiplex cinemas such as Cinema XXI, CGV and Imax. Some of them have recliner seats. Cinema prices may vary. Places like PIM and other well-known and big malls charge around Rp80.000 per ticket while Lippo mall and medium-sized malls would charge around Rp60.000. Blok M and cheaper malls would charge Rp40.000. Levels of seating luxury vary accordingly. Normally, opening hours for cinemas are around 10 AM – 10 PM.

Music is also a part of Indonesian culture. From traditional songs to international music. Jakarta often changes venues when it comes to living performances but they bring the show with them. There are some spots for live music and festivals such as the Hatchi Lounge bar, Djakarta Warehouse Project Festival and Java Jazz Festival. A note on Java Jazz, if you are close to the DJ, he may invite you to a secret party held every year. To find the venue, you will need to go on a scavenger hunt which can be fun. I have been to bars like Hatchi which is a nice place to chill with friends and listen to live music.

For the artistic soul, go to Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM) in Cikini which is an art, cultural and science centre which hosts many cultural performances including dance, drama, art exhibitions (art, painting and sculpture), film festival screenings and poetry readings.

Photo: iqbal nuril anwar


Jakarta has a good selection of clubs and bars. Kemang is a good area with BeerBros, Monopoli, Parc 19, etc. Another good clubbing area is the Sudirman CentralBusiness District (SCBD) SCBD area with clubs such as Lucy in the Sky, Fable, Zodiac, Swillhouse and much more.

I’ve been to Beer Bros which has discounts on certain days with live music. It is a good place to relax with friends. I have also been to Lucy in the Sky and Swillhouse which are ideal if you want to go dancing. Drinks may be a bit expensive though.

Words of Caution:

Living in Jakarta can be fun, however, please note that the majority of Indonesians are Muslims and some areas may not tolerate drinking alcohol. It is therefore important to avoid going to areas that may disapprove of this. Drinking is however less strict in areas such as in South Jakarta. When drinking alcohol, avoid indulging too much as it may compromise personal safety. Socialise with friends and stay safe.

Indonesia has strict drug laws with lengthy jail sentences and a possible death penalty for possession or distribution. Avoid drug-taking or people that socialise with drugs in any circumstances.

Kira Lynch (BNSD Graphic Design, Int'l Student, Ireland)

Kira Lynch (BNSD Graphic Design, Int'l Student, Ireland)