Riding in a tuk-tuk in Jakarta is a rite of passage for any traveler to Indonesia. If you sit back and watch the traffic it might seem crazy at first. Tuk-tuk’s are prone to sharp turns and even going the wrong way down the street (motorbikes do, too) – and this is enough to deter some people from riding in the little blue cabs that clutter Jakarta’s streets. Do NOT be deterred.
Contrary to appearances, we found tuk-tuk drivers to be some of the best drivers in Jakarta. They generally knew where they were going, though it’s not uncommon for them to stop and ask if they need help, and they know the best ways to get there. Yes, you should always negotiate the price before getting in for the ride, but much is determined by distance and rates are usually reasonable.
Okay, so yes, tuk-tuk drivers pull some wild maneuvers, like I mentioned, but they do it with full understanding of how traffic flows in Jakarta. It’s not like other big cities. There’s a flow that is prepared for outlandish maneuvers. Room is left for the unexpected, making it rather…expected.
There’s a rule about roads in Jakarta, that once you start crossing the street, don’t stop, don’t rush, but don’t hesitate. Stay steady and the drivers will work around you. It’s a crazy kind of simple that requires trust – and everyone abides by it. Tuk-tuk drivers know better than anyone how to make use of this.
This video doesn’t show the wildest ride we went on, but it is a very typical one, and I like the way it shows both the traffic flow and the everday life of people on the backstreets of Jakarta. At one point you can see a family with the kid riding on the front of the motorbike. This is not only common, there are often more than three people on a single bike. Kids learn to hang on early. Likewise, they travel at significantly slower speeds than you see in the U.S.
If you go to Indonesia and have the opportunity, ride in a tuk-tuk. It’s not only one of the best ways to get around, it’s also lots of fun.