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For Guys

Guide to doing business in Jakarta


Tom Hiew (33)
Lawyer at Ashurst

How often do you travel
 to Jakarta and who do you 
fly with?
I travel to Jakarta fortnightly for two 
to three days. I usually fly with Singapore Airlines as they have the best service. Sometimes if I miss the last Singapore Airlines flight on a Friday night, I’ll take AirAsia as they have later flights.

One thing everyone ought to know about Jakarta:
The traffic can get quite bad. It jams almost daily. During peak hours in the morning and evening, it can take a couple of hours just to get back to your hotel.

How quickly can you 
get a visa?
I never get my visa beforehand because you can get it at the airport when you arrive at the immigration area. Just queue up in front of the little booth, hand over the money and they will give you the visa which you stick into your passport. It’s usually quite fast.

Fastest way to get into 
the city:
Unfortunately, the current train system is quite inadequate so taxis are really the only way to get around. They’re quite cheap. The most reliable are Silver Bird Taxis. They’re run by the same company as Blue Bird Taxis but are the premium option. Although they’re more expensive than the regular taxis, I find that Silver Bird drivers are more experienced with most business destinations and speak better English.

I wouldn’t recommend taking a bus as it’s quite hard to know where you are going, especially if you don’t speak Indonesian. Besides stopping at designated bus stops, the buses often stop at intersections where passengers just board and alight. Renting a car is cheap but finding car parks and navigating the traffic would be challenging.

What are the good and 
bad times to visit Jakarta?
The month of Ramadan, around July, is a good time to visit because the nightlife is quite exciting as the Muslims break their fast in the evening. However, the days can be a little slow. A visit during Hari Raya Idul Adha/Kurban (26 October in 2012) is not for the squeamish as it’s not uncommon to see sacrificed meat bags being dished out at the roadside. The wet season at the end of the year is not the best time to visit, as the city doesn’t handle big downpours well. There is a lot of flooding. 

Any good hotels to recommend?

I always stay at the Mandarin Oriental (+62 21 2993 8888), which is really nice. You can’t go wrong with big chain hotels like the Grand Hyatt (+62 21 2992 1234), which is just opposite the Mandarin Oriental, or the InterContinental Midplaza (+62 21 251 0888). For an authentic Indonesian feel, stay at a smaller boutique hotel like Hotel Borobudur (+62 21 380 5555).

What’s the dress code 
for meetings?
The weather is similar to Singapore – both humid and hot. Most 
people are quite relaxed about not wearing a tie, though if it’s a really important meeting, you should put on a tie and jacket.

Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
It’s polite to address someone in a senior position by putting “Pak” (for men) and “Ibu” (for women) before their name.


You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where would you go?
There are a lot of amazing places to eat in Jakarta. French restaurant Lyon (+62 21 2993 8888) in the Mandarian Oriental is a fantastic choice. I also like the Dirty Duck Diner (+62 21 391 8016), which specialises in delicious crispy Balinese duck.

Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
One good place is Potato Head (+62 21 5797 3322) in Pacific Place in Central Jakarta. It’s a stylish bistro and bar with great cocktails. Immigrant (+62 21 3983 8257), on the sixth floor of Plaza Indonesia, is a funky bar and restaurant serving a fusion of Indonesian and Western cuisine.

For places where you will get hassled, Shangri-La Jakarta has a pretty notorious bar called B.A.T.S (+62 21 3048 8565). There’s a well-known area called Blok M that’s packed with pubs and bars geared to attract Western guys. 

Any unsafe areas to avoid?
There’s no particularly unsafe area but I’ve often been advised to travel within the city via taxi. It’s not terrible on the streets but a foreigner walking, especially at night, might attract unwanted attention. It’s better to be safe.

You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to sightsee but I hear the National Museum (+62 21 386 8172) is interesting and I’d like to visit it one day. The two upscale shopping malls, Plaza Indonesia (+ 62 21 310 7272) and Grand Indonesia (+62 21 2358 7000), have a lot of variety and are quite lively so you might want to hang out there too.

Gifts to take home for family and friends?
Jalan Surabaya Antique Market in Mentang, Central Jakarta, is an interesting place to go for antiques and crafts. Bargaining is commonplace there. You can find traditional Indonesian shops in Jakarta that 
sell Indonesian batiks and sarongs, which make nice gifts.

How long before your flight do you really need to be at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport?
It depends on what part of the day you’re flying but generally I would be nervous if I arrived less than one hour prior to departure. There can be delays at the airport but I’ve never waited longer than 20 minutes. The service is not as fast as Singapore’s Changi Airport.

Generally, it’s not check-in that’ll frustrate you the most; it’s travelling to the airport that will be the problem. If you’re catching a flight during peak hours, you have to plan ahead and give yourself at least three and half hours to get to the airport. The roads can jam for no apparent reason.