Greater Jakarta is a city of more than 10 million people, and sometimes it seems as if they're all driving somewhere at the same time. If there's one gripe you'll hear over and over again, it's how horrendous Jakarta's traffic is. And it's true, especially in the Central Business District between 6 and 10am and again between 5 and 8pm. Compounding the problem: 1) The city has no intercity commuter rail system (it's been in the planning stages forever), and 2) Instead of roads laid out in a neat grid, Jakarta has a messy web of streets. Cars and buses weave down one-way streets and ignore lane markings on larger roads while swarms of motorbikes zigzag through the chaos, not uncommonly in the opposite direction of traffic or even up on the sidewalks. Auto rickshaws, called bajaj (pronounced badge-eye), rattle around as well, though they tend to stick to the back streets since technically they've been banned for 20 years. There is no semblance of orderly driving, and rules (what rules?) are ignored or flouted (police bribery is commonplace) as drivers do whatever it takes to make headway. The only traffic rule that seems to be (somewhat) enforced is the "three-in-one" rule (imposed on some major roads during rush hours), which prohibits fewer than three passengers per car on certain roads. (That's why, sadly, young boys stand around the outskirts of the city offering to ride into the city with you so that your car qualifies and they can earn a few cents' tip.)
Most visitors get around by taxi, which are cheap but not necessarily fast. To avoid trouble, choose your taxi operator wisely. Again, you can't go wrong with the Blue Bird Group (tel. 62-21-7917-1234), which operates a fleet of blue taxis as well as the Silver Bird, Morante, Cendrawasih and Pusaka Nuri taxis. A cheaper but still reliable option is the Tarif Bawah (low tariff) Putra taxis, which are dark blue. Beware of dodgy imitators who try to pretend they're part of the Blue Bird or Putra groups by painting the companies' decals on their cars. The standard taxi rates start at 6,000Rp, with charges of 3,000Rp for every kilometer after the first two, though Silver Bird executive taxis, for example, cost more. Tipping is not necessary, but rounding the meter up to the nearest 1,000Rp is standard procedure.
Keep doors locked and windows closed when traveling in a taxi to avoid being a target of robbery when stuck in a traffic jam.
They're cheap, though not always easy to figure out (and watch out for pickpockets), but during rush hour you may want to give the TransJakarta bus rapid transit service a try (avoid other lines). The TransJakarta line operates on eight reserved busway corridors that connect several main points in Jakarta. The average fare is 3,500Rp.
To travel from Jakarta into the rest of Java, there are four major bus terminals - Kalideres, Kampung Rambutan, Pulo Gadung and Lebak Bulus -- but none are near the city center, so it makes little sense to go by bus. Simply getting to the bus terminal can take more time than the bus journey itself; go by train or car instead.
Jakarta does not have an intercity metro rail system or monorail. Although projects have been started, they remain uncompleted for various reasons. To travel to and from Jakarta to the rest of Java, the city has four main (fairly central) train stations. Gambir is the main station, located on the eastern side of Merdeka Square and the hub for comfortable executive-class express trains to Bandung, Yogyakarta, Solo, Semarang and Surabaya, which will run you about 50,000[IRD] to 200,000[IRD] one-way; and about 10,000[IRD] to Bogor. Some Gambir trains also stop at Kota, the train station in the old city area in the north. For express trains, tickets can be bought in advance at the booking offices at the northern end of the Gambir train station, while the ticket windows at the southern end are for tickets bought on the day of departure. Call for schedules and departure times (tel. 384-2777, 352-3790) or contact the station's 24-hour information office (tel. 692-9194). In general, you'll want to avoid the no-frills, economy-class trains that can get super crowded at rush hours and on weekends.
If you can bear the heat and humidity as well as the traffic fumes and general smog, you may get some places quicker by hoofing it, though walking any more than a few blocks in Jakarta is not a pleasant experience no matter how you slice it. It can be dangerous too. Sidewalks, if there are any, are not exclusively reserved for pedestrians -- it's not uncommon for motorcyclists to drive up on the sidewalks to skirt traffic jams. Crossing intersections is also a huge challenge given the notoriously haphazard style of driving and lack of civilized driving behavior.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.