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For Guys

Guide to doing business in Jakarta


Off to Jakarta but unsure of where to stay, what to wear and how to schmooze the locals there? We get British businessman Simon Barker, Commercial Director at TomTom South East Asia Consumer Business, give us insider tips to the best restaurants, bars, golf course and of course, cultural etiquette tips when behaving in this Indonesian city.

1. How often do you travel to Jakarta and who do you fly with?
I travel to Jakarta every six to eight weeks and normally fly with Singapore Airlines. It really depends on my schedule. The most important thing for me when choosing an airline is their reliable arrival and departure times.

2. One thing everyone ought to know about Jakarta:
Traffic can get very congested, so include plenty of travel time between meetings.

3. How quickly can you get a visa?
Visas are issued on arrival. I’m afraid there is no quick way to go about this, other than getting a front row seat on the plane, so that you can disembark first and be at the front of the queue.

4. Fastest way into and around the city?
I don’t usually take the train or buses as I prefer to rent a car with a knowledgeable driver. I always carry my TomTom GPS device so I know I will always get to my destination and never get lost. Taxis are metered and are relatively cheap.

5. When are the good and bad times to visit Jakarta?
Jakarta is generally good to visit all year round, but try to avoid the monsoon season at the end of the year when the streets can be flooded.  It’s also important to avoid arriving – or leaving, the city in the early morning or late afternoon so as not to get caught in the heavier rush hour traffic. 

6. Hotels you recommend:
I like staying at the Mandarin Oriental. It is very central and is situated across the road from two fantastic shopping malls, the Plaza Indonesia and the Grand Indonesia.

7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
The dress code is generally relaxed. A smart, open-neck shirt will suffice for most meetings and there is no need for a tie or jacket. However, for important meetings, it is advisable to suit up.

8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
Don’t touch another person’s head. Remember to point with your thumb, not your index finger. Greet people with ‘Selamat’. The locals are very friendly and they certainly would welcome a touch of local cultural greetings so my best tip would be to learn a few phrases of Bahasa! If possible, also sign up for a local data connection package before travelling to stay in touch while you are on the move. 

9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
Pondok Laguna has very good Indonesian cuisine and is very popular with the locals. And Sate Khas Sanayan is great for having sate (also known as satay in Singapore) in a traditional setting. My other favourite is Bebek Bengil, also known as the Dirty Duck Diner, which is just around the back of Mandarin Oriental. They specialise in delicious crispy Balinese duck.

10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
I like Skye Bistro & Lounge, an upscale rooftop bar and restaurant with great views of the city. It’s on the 56th floor of BCA Tower, Grand Indonesia. Another bar I recommend is Social House, conveniently located near the Mandarin Oriental. In the historical centre of Jakarta, there is Café Batavia, a beautiful restaurant with colonial theme décor and great ambience.

11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
On the whole, Jakarta is a safe and very friendly place. That said, it is wise to exercise caution and common sense such as to avoid wandering into dark alleys alone or going to unfamiliar places.

12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
I am an outdoor person, so if I have time, I love to go to the Royale Jakarta Golf Course for a round of golf, or fly to Bali to lounge by the beach for a weekend.

13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
I often send postcards to my family when I’m traveling. There are also plenty of great Indonesian handcrafted batik gifts available. You can get them at any traditional Indonesian shops dotted all around the city, 

14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport?
The airport is decent but it’s the travelling to the airport that is the main cause of concern. I leave for the airport up to four or five hours before my flight, because traffic jams can get really bad, especially on a Friday or if you’re catching a flight during peak hours.