How hard is it to get around by motorbike in Jakarta?

It’s easy. In 2010 there are few other reasonable options. Eventually — we’re told — Jakarta as whole, especially the transport situation will become unreasonable. For now, that’s correct: if you can’t beat them, join them.

You can buy a suitable bike for USD 500. In fact, your bike will be nicer than the majority of those on the road. You can spend 3 times that much and get a new or specialized bike. But part of the fun is that almost all bikes out there are the same. Like Indonesians — it’s hard to tell them apart ; ).

How do I find a bike? Just E-mail me. I’m serious. We have them for sale and for rent.

What about driver’s license? Easy. It’s called a SIM here (acronymn). The agent will quote you in the area of USD 60 to go do it for you. Well, that’s fair. Depending on what your time’s worth. If you go out and do it yourself it will cost you about USD 20 -30 depending on if you’re really going to stand in every line or maybe not. Half day is plenty.

But I can’t drive a bike. I can’t drive anything. Perfect. Jakarta is the place for your, my friend. No one cares. If you get pulled over by a cop you should — of course — give him some money. That’s the end of that. Now suppose you don’t have any money. That’s fine, too. Turns out it’s often cheaper to pay the traffic magistrate. And you can have someone do that for you. So just give your license to the cop and tell him no way are you going to be a party to corruption. He’ll give you ticket just like back home. Turn it all over to the gardener.

But aren’t motorcycles dangerous? Yes, but not as dangerous as in countries where there are just a few of them and they have an inferiority complex viz-a-viz the automobiles. “Start Seeing Motorcycles!” It’s a bumper sticker that the bikers put on their cars back home. It would look pretty ridiculous in Jak, huh. You can’t help but see the bikes. They’ve got the de facto right of way. They fill up all the interstices between the cars and the whole thing just oozes along very efficiently. When there’s a crash, it’s usually quite minor because no one can get going very fast. The most dangerous thing out there is the potholes. Drive slow unless you know the road and have driven it recently.

So if the light is green, does that mean go? Not necessarily. Intersections are negotiated. It all depends on what time of day, what you’re driving, is there a cop, which way is he looking, etc. So just take it easy.

Selamat Jalan!

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