Traffic in Jakarta


About a week ago I read an article about the hassle of commuting in Germany ( After that, I noticed, that I also used to avoid spending time with driving and traffic in Germany as often as possible. For a good reason of course. It just makes you crazy to “loose” time in such a useless situation. Then I recognized, that people here in Jakarta must think different.

It can be normal to spend 3-4 hours in a vehicle, without even aiming a destination outside of the city. It is just like that. Almost 10 million people work and live on a surface of 740 km², so they cannot move a lot. To make it more comfortable, people from Jakarta increased the number of taxis and motorbikes (also see “indonesias best”).

Of course – for a german citizen like me – it looks unacceptable. It’s not. Not for Indonesians. They behave totally different in the traffic, than we would! Instead of waiting impatiently, running and sweating, people are “in the flow”. They grew up in Jakarta, they adopted and handle it gorgeous! I have never seen an Indonesian guy cursing, never pushing! I guess they grew up with a sort of patience, that we Germans will only reach shortly before we die. :-)

But again: outstanding is the flow, that they bring to life when they give way to each other. They even honk for saying “pull over, there is enough space for you!” I haven’t seen any accidents so far! Although, often a slightly bigger knee would not fit between a motorbike and a car. People don’t have to be afraid of the traffic, like in Germany. Many don’t hesitate to go on a 4-head-familiy ride with one motorbike. One kid is standing in the front, one sits in the middly between daddy and mommy. Interestingly, there is no speed limit in the city, or elsewhere. Either the traffic, the road or the power of your mashine limitates your speed.

Of course many inhabitants try to find their business on the streets. They sell water and snacks, they get tips from the drivers, when they engage themselves as living traffic lights. Others even go nuts as artists: they play the guitar for you at the crossroads! (I must post the latter as “brain fart” on our “what else” page, once I manage to take a picture! :-)) Recently the city tried to dicrease the number of cars. It became a rule, that each car should transport at least three people on some main roads during rush hour. Quickly some unemployed people were offering themselves as temporary filling, waiting at the junction to these roads. :-)

Meanwhile, we also found some ways to deal with the extra time in the traffic: we made friends with ojek drivers, we play chess in the taxi, or eat a burger once in a while (see Jeffs comment at “Welcome”)!  Any other ideas are welcome!

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  1. Cologne isn’t Jakarta, but also has increasing problems with traffic congestions – almost every bridge over the Rhine needs to be repaired. Last year, we were able to drive on the highway from south to north, crossing the river once, within about 20-25 min. This year, it takes us 45-60 min. Maybe we can also soon start playing chess – quality time!! ; )

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