Jakarta, you DRIVE me crazy!

I love driving. I really do. Being alone in a car, driving through an empty street at night, watching the world go by, fascinated by the street lights, those are wonderful feelings. BUT, unfortunately, in a city where I live (or spend the most time in), the traffic is HELL. There’s a popular saying,If you can drive well in Jakarta, then you can drive well anywhere in the world I have no experience of driving outside Indonesia, so I can’t really vouch for its truth, but I can say that driving in Jakarta is definitely not easy. It is a MAJOR challenge.


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Driving Etiquette

Non-existent. The rules are practically ignored, unless there’s a policemen in sight. The car horn used in the highway usually means “Get out of my way”. Similarly, even though the red light has just became green for 1 second, you’ll soon hear another horn which means “Didn’t you see the traffic light’s just turned green? Move, bitch!”  

Also, there’s not much street signs. You have to either really know where to go/which road to take, or get a good GPS to show the direction to your destination. Unless, you want to get lost, or worse, get fined by Mr Policemen for taking the wrong turn at the wrong time. Once I got fined just because my front right wheel accidentally touched the striped road. Gee.. In addition, do NOT trust traffic information on Google Maps as it doesn’t reflect the actual condition on the road. If you need some rough estimation, multiply the duration mentioned on Google Maps by (at least) three times! My day-to-day commute takes up from 1-3hours, for a 30kms distance. Can you imagine? It’s suggested to use crowdsourcing app like Waze for a more accurate info.


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Queueing. Jakartans doesn’t understand the basic principle of queuing. Not in person, not even when they’re driving. And mostly this is the main cause of major traffic jam across Jakarta. Every single vehicle are trying to cram in every empty spaces, which, you could’ve guessed, eventually would crowd the road and left it with no room for any movement.

Traffic Lights. Everywhere in the world : RED means STOP; GREEN means GO; YELLOW means be careful (as it soon going to turn to RED). In Indonesia : GREEN means GO, YELLOW means GO FASTER AND AVOID THAT RED LIGHT; RED means GO – AS LONG AS THERE’S NO POLICE AND NO OTHER VEHICLE AROUND. If you even try to be obedient and stop at that red light, prepare to be honked by every other cars behind you.

Cutting Lanes. I really don’t understand why some people thinks that it’s okay to take the right lane when actually they’re going to take a left turn, in within 100m ahead! And why some motorcycles going straight ahead find it’s acceptable to pass through the left side of a car which has clearly given the left-turn signal. Almost always you can find that motorcycles are acting like they’re “small”, they can fit in anywhere, thus make it okay for them to drive in the other side of the road without realizing that they’re blocking the road for vehicles coming from opposite directions.


Et voila!

Don’t expect people to slow down for you or let you out. Rather, seize the moment. As soon as you see a gap, go for it. People can go as slow or as fast as they want to. Even though there’s a speed limit of 60-80kmph on the highway, it’s not rare to find cars go 120-140kmph. And the police will not even try to stop you. So..

Public busses. I always think that the public bus drivers think that they’re somewhat an F1 racing driver. They can hit the gas, make a crazy maneuver (and I mean CRAZY with capital C!) then suddenly stop pretty much anywhere, anytime. On your left side, in the middle of the road, in front of you. You just need to be really careful on “reading” their driving style and be ready to hit your break anytime they make a stop, otherwise, you’ll bumped on them and things are not going to be pretty.


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Motorcycles. When I drove my first car in Jakarta (roughly 5 years ago), public busses were my biggest enemy. But then around 2-3 years ago, the trend for motorcycle started. It’s very cheap and easy to get a motorcycle and statistically speaking, there are almost 10million motorcycles in Jakarta, with roughly 1,000 more addition each day. Mind you that Jakarta’s population is around 12million people, so imagine that every people in Jakarta own at least one motorcycle. And we’re not talking about the numbers for private car, yet. And motorcycles are even worse than public busses. It’s like they own the street and doesn’t care about etiquettes or rules or whatsoever (Rules? What rules?) They can just appear and disappear anywhere, anytime. And mind you, I don’t think that any motorcycle in Jakarta have a break installed on it. Plus, as a car driver, you’ll be the “bigger” vehicle, so if anything happens, you’ll be the one who bears the “bigger” responsibility, regardless of who’s wrong.



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Street parking. The number of private vehicles (cars and motorcycles) in Jakarta is enormous. It is said that every day there’s an additional of thousand of new vehicles in the city. On the other side, there’s not enough parking space to accommodate all those vehicles. So they ended up using most of the body of the road as “parking spot” You an easily find anywhere in Jakarta, that sometimes up to 2/5 of the size of the road is used up as parking space. Imagine this happen in a two-way road while barely one car can get through it, but nobody wants to yield and give way to the other car. Add some motorcycles trying to sneak out through the loopholes. They got stuck and nobody can even move. It’s actually hilarious when you’re not in the middle of it. To use this side-street parking area, generally you’re expected to pay IDR1,000-2,000 (USD0.1-0.2) to the park staff (the one with/without uniform who will help you park your car and get back to the road)


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Building parking. Almost every hotels, office building, or shopping malls have their own carpark. But that doesn’t mean you can easily find parking SPOT. People tend to park as they like it, sometimes stupidly taking two spaces for their own vehicle or do a parallel parking with the handbrake ON. So it’s practically a major headache to find a spot. Some major shopping malls even have Valet parking service to overcome this. Some people would rather pay extra IDR10,000-20,000 (USD1-2) for the service rather than spend 30minutes-1hr to go round the carpark to find a spot on their own. Funny enough, even though “No Tipping” is clearly written everywhere (even on the back of the staffs uniform), tipping is generally expected.


Have you been to Jakarta? Do you have any experience of driving around the city? What do you think? Do you share the same frustation as me?


Note : this post is inspired by similar article I stumbled upon in Lonely Planet (An insider’s guide to driving in Italy) which I found hilarious because of the similarities.


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