How we get around

Living in a big city is much different from the suburban/rural life we were used to where both of us adults had our own cars and we drove everywhere without really thinking about traffic.

Arriving in Jakarta, we had no vehicle and no plans to get one right away. I’ve really enjoyed the convenience of walkable amenities. However, just before Christmas, we bought a motorbike.

I’ll tell you how we got around without one and what getting around looks like now.


We don’t plan to buy a car here since we can manage fine without one. Some expats who have lived here for a while have their own, and many expats buy a car and hire a driver. There are times when I would love this convenience.

We have hired a driver who rented a car for us when we took a day trip out of the city.


Living only 1.3 km from the school means we can walk every day. It’s not an ideal walk, however, since most of the way is without sidewalks or has low-quality sidewalks. It’s not the safest. Before the bike, we chose not to walk to school but I usually walked home after leaving the kids and tried to walk back to pick them up. The heat means I’m usually a sweaty mess anytime I walk somewhere though.

Around Kemang, this is usually as good as it gets for sidewalks.


These lovely little three-wheeled vehicles are my vehicle of choice when going short distances with the kids. They fit three in the back snugly, but can still weave through traffic fairly well. There is almost always a line of them waiting outside our complex and on the main road near the school. You see them driving all over the city and for about $1.50 Canadian, it’s a good deal. They were always how we got to and from school and M still usually uses them in the mornings.


Living in the suburbs/country in Canada with our own vehicle, I never had a need to take a taxi. I don’t think I ever took one before coming to Jakarta as I tended to avoid the big city, but now they are a very common and affordable way for us to get around. Taxi’s don’t cost much more than a bajai for a short drive and are about $4 or $5 Canadian for a half hour drive somewhere. We use taxis any time our family goes somewhere together, and since they park right outside the school, can be an easy ride home. Our regular drives are to and from church on Sunday mornings. I have also taken taxis on my own when shopping and I have more than I can carry on my own. 

In Jakarta, the main taxi service is called Blue Bird. You can also get something like Uber, called Grab or Go-Jek. These all have convenient apps that show you where drivers are, let you order where to be picked up and where you are going, and pay all through the app. However, when it’s raining, it can take a while to find an available driver. I have often waited a long time for these or have had drivers cancel after I’ve waited.


Photo by Shinya Sawai) from Nikkei Asian Review

There are so many motorbikes in Jakarta, and although they contribute to the traffic, they are also the fastest way around since they can weave through the cars and tend to have their own lanes beside or between cars. My first ride on one of these was both terrifying and thrilling. I was able to see more of the city from this vantage point and we got to my destination much faster. Wearing the helmet they provided was a little gross, but I guess it’s better to be safe. This was also my first experience on a motorbike of any kind. It was a great way to get used to being on a bike. 

image taken from Jakarta Post

Ojek, from what I’m told, means a motorbike taxi, so Go-Jek is a play on that word. Grab is a similar service that was started in Singapore. 

Whenever I have somewhere to go on my own, even now with my own bike, if it’s farther away or closer to the downtown I will take a motorbike taxi. I’ve been down some pretty interesting streets on these as drivers tend to avoid the main roads.


In December we bought our own motorbike, licenses and all. After navigating the city and it’s various transportation options, which are all fairly easy to use, I decided that I still wanted my own bike. There are many days when I am back and forth to the school a few times. Although bajai’s, go-jek and taxies are all very affordable, buying a bike was much more affordable than buying a car and I’m loving the convenience of it. 

Isn’t it crazy and dangerous to drive in Jakarta you ask?

Yes and no. I don’t think I’d ever want to drive a car and driving the motorbike has taken some getting used to. Yet, there seems to be a very respectful flow to the way traffic moves in Jakarta. I’ve heard it described as flowing water; it’s always moving a little and the gaps are always filled. Jakarta was ranked #12 for cities with the worst traffic according to the INRIX global traffic scorecard, moving from #22 only a year before. Cities like Los Angeles, New York, London, and Paris were ranked worse. It’s a different way of driving, but I’m learning, and enjoying the freedom.


Yes, there is a city bus system and the subway/LRT system should be functional this year. I haven’t tried either of these, but maybe one day I’ll have a new adventure getting around Jakarta.

2 thoughts on “How we get around

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