Jakarta Taxis

Dec 8th, 2009, in Opinion, by

Jakarta TaxiTravelling about Jakarta by taxi, Bluebird, Express, Trans Taxi, the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Despite my known preference for public transport, I have recently had to use taxis a lot, due to the presence in our domestic midst of one of my offspring, who is brave and resourceful but not yet fully au fait with the intricacies of suddenly having to bail out when a small angkot is inundated with five evil copet2.


Formerly it was a ‘given’; that one waited for a Bluebird, but that era has surely passed, for reasons both positive and negative, the latter being that so many Bluebird imitators are now on the roads, with azure livery deceptively designed to fool would-be passengers into believing they are boarding the famously reliable breed, the former reason being that in fact several rival firms are proving equally reliable in terms of both courtesy and service.

Bluebird TaxiI have to say what confirmed my willingness to disavow my erstwhile fealty to the blue vehicles is their appalling level of telephone ordering standards. Almost every time we ring them up and get a promise of a cab for the airport, we then get a call back about 15 minutes prior to the agreed time, saying there are no vehicles available. This subsequently transpires to be omong kosong, for once we have dragged our baggage to the high road, we see scores of Bluebirds sailing emptily past. A driver told us that HQ does not provide drivers with adequate communication!

Express & Trans

Taxi ExpressSo in the course of my peregrinations around our delightful metropolis, I have experimented with alternatives and found two in particular to be excellent, those being –

  • Express taxis, who have never yet given me cause for complaint, always been most civil, and usually appear to know the difference between north, south, east and west, and
  • Those Trans Taxis, the wee bright yellow ones that have TV sets installed by the driver, so important cinetrons can be monitored as we zoom along. Their drivers too are good.

Random usage of lesser known varieties has proven a patchy experience, some just fine but others leaving me exasperated when I have to give drivers directions to – for example – Blok M, which one would have imagined is quite a well-known area.

Kosti Jaya, Dian, Prestasi, et al

Kosti Jaya TaxiI have to say that many of the others are not to be recommended. I have rarely if ever found Dian taxi drivers to be either knowledgable, which is useful, or, more useful, being willing to find the right change. Kosti Jaya were once quite good, but seem to be dying out and those who have used the remaining specimens do not have high praise to heap on them.

Those which declare themselves to be ‘safe and steady’ have not always turned out to be. The old reviled Prestasi breed has disappeared, presumably flying another flag these days.

But I have perforce grabbed obscure varieties, and these can actually be okay. It has for so long been my habit to avoid the others that in all fairness I shouldn’t slag them off, for who knows, they may have improved!?! Perhaps other IM acolytes can comment!

Bali Airport Taxis

Taxi BaliAs a penultimate point, I am just back from a short break in Bali, which reminded me that the Isle of the Gods has less than divine aspects. Coming out of the airport, one is faced with an array of avarice, demanding Rp.80,000 or more to make the immense odyssey to Kuta.

If you are not accompanied by an Indonesian, I hear the rate quoted can be even higher. Press through the throng and the price falls to Rp.70K, then 60K, but once you break through the insanity barrier, which roughly corresponds to the airport carpark, you can negotiate it down to 50 or even less. This particular trip, I was with one of my young uns, and had been prevailed on to stay someplace rather posher than I usually choose. Having got a deal for 55K to Kuta, I gave the name of the opulent edifice and the swine tried to jack it back up to 60! On yer bike, mate!

Jakarta Angkot

angkotBut when all is said and done, you can’t beat Jakarta’s angkots. Last week I boarded a B03 one evening and sat beside the driver, who asked me where I was headed. When I told him the toll gate, he at once negotiated a personal contract to take me there by the shortest route, non-stopping for anyone else, for a mere Rp.5000! God bless enterprise!

24 Comments on “Jakarta Taxis”

  1. besok saja says:

    I beg to differ, sir. I found that Taksi Putra is better than Dian Taksi. Mersindo is also quite nice. You can also try Gamya, I rate them slightly better thatn Express.
    And for Blue Bird telephone ordering, the order will only go to those with GPS. The order will be broadcasted to all taxis with GPS. Blue Bird taxis without GPS can’t take phone order, they only pick up passengers on the streets, malls, etc.

  2. Chris says:

    Re: Bali airport taxis

    My experience is the official/authorised Bali airport taxis operate on a pre-paid voucher system. And unlike e.g. Juanda airport in Surabaya, there is a large and legible poster of prices according to the destination at the counter. (Kuta was Rp55 000 the last time I went there in July 2009). Exiting from the domestic terminal, you turn left and walk about 20 metres.

    By the way, is it just me or are the quality and service of Bluebird taxi drivers in Jakarta generally better than their contemporaries in Surabaya, Bali, Bandung, etc.?

  3. David says:

    Anyone been to Prague? When I went there 10+ years ago I kept getting advised to never, ever, set foot in a taxi, the drivers were supposed to be psychopaths, some had the backseats wired up and if you complained about the roundabout route or 10x normal fare they’d give you an electric shock or just lean over the back and smash your face in.

    Those were the tales I was told….I did actually get in one taxi, I arrived bleary eyed at a train station late at night or early morning, I forget, and a woman met me and offered me accommodation, and I just went along with her, so we walked out of the train station and there was a taxi waiting, she said get in, I hesitated, she said ‘it’s alright the driver’s my friend, she’s a woman’, so trusting women for some reason I got in. Anyway all went fine, and the accommodation was good, but on the way there this woman said, ‘ok after now, never get in a taxi again in Prague’…. So Jakarta isn’t all that bad after all!

  4. Ross says:

    Ya, besok saja, you are correct to remind me of the Gamya cabs. Formerly part of the Bluebird outfit, I believe, but hived off and still going. They are indeed usually okay.
    But the others you mention I have never yet come across.

    Patung, taxi tales pop up all over the place! It’s the nature of the beast!
    I have indeed been to Prague, but since my children were very young at the time, I did not risk cabs, preferring there as here, what your actual citizens use, and we did all right on the trams.
    In Copenhagen I once gave a taxi-driver several hundreds instead of several tens, and the kind Dane handed the surplus back. But that was decades ago.
    Similarly in Athens, when I reached my hostel and found I only had a Swiss five franc coin; the guy took it happily enough.
    Cabbies are a real mix, ratbags and pahlawans, everywhere, I guess.

    It’s only when you fall asleep and he has to wake you to ask directions that you face much of a hazard in Jakarta, though if you squabble easily, it can get dodgy.
    I witnessed a band of young Aussie louts hammering on a cab in Kuta last week, and tended to think the taxi-driver was not at fault. Drunks cause mayhem for cabs everywhere.

    An American friend once told a driver to ‘stop fiddling the f—ing meter,’ and the man agreed to do so, on condition that the Yank stopped using rude words!

  5. Mas Martin says:

    I live in Prague and if you don’t arrive too late at night or if you don’t have a bulky luggage, you can easily take bus/ tram/ metro. Public transport in PRG is reliable if sometimes crowded, but 1 EUR / trip is not too much indeed. I use taxis rarely – only after 12 pm for moderate distances – and I – as a 100% native – was never overcharged, even when more than slightly drunk…
    It is more difficult for disoriented foreigners, I suppose – so use taxis from reputable companies, City Taxi etc.
    An interesting link about Prague mayor being overcharged in a taxi.

    In Jakarta – Ekspres is decent enough and as far as I remember, it is (was?) cheaper than B.B. with tarif lama.

  6. andy says:

    80,000 to Kuta? It’s almost walking distance if the weather’s not to hot.

    I used to take Express taxis in Jakarta, as good as Bluebird in IMO but also on the old fares.

  7. David says:

    Hi Mas Martin, wow we’ve got a Cesky here, well I travelled on the train from Decin, and I did have bulky luggage and I’m pretty sure it was after midnight so no public transport…..but apart from that time I just used the trams/trolleys. But I’ve led us astray…

  8. sighjay says:

    Mostly I find the street taxis in Bali pretty good, as long as one avoids the Ngurah Rai company, who seem to be mostly rogues.

    The problem is they have the airport contract and bleed it for all they can. A very common trick is to slam the truck of the car shut with a small bag or some duty free still in it and race off. I know more than a few who’ve suffered this. The drivers take knowingly advantage of the state of some of the arrivals, asking for the payment slip from jet-lagged passengers, thus removing any physical trace of which cab it was.

    New arrivals are also charged to go to places they’re not going..Jl Legian goes through Kuta but they’re always charged for Legian or Seminyak.

    Generally you pay about twice what you’d pay using the ‘official taxis’ at the airport as you’d expect to pay using a rank or hailed cab. It costs me about Rp50k to get to the airport via Bluebird and Rp95k to get home if I use the airport cabs.

    Bali desperately needs a normal, ranked, taxi service at the airport but I doubt we’ll ever see it.

  9. sighjay says:

    Oh, and the worst taxis in SEA must be in KL…shocking bunch of thieves, scumbags and rogues

  10. timdog says:

    Mr Ross, I recently read a piece in the the traditional medium of print (rather glossy print, but no matter) in which a bule resident of Jakarta described his daily commute by public transport. It was really rather good, and I genuinely enjoyed reading it…

    Anyway, on the subject of the taxis at Bali airport. There is indeed a “fixed price” booth – outside both domestic and international terminals. About six or seven years ago the “fixed price” tariff was actually reasonably fair. It was of course more than one would pay on the meter, but not insane. But sometime about 2006 they seem to have decided suddenly to double the prices, and since then have just pushed them higher and higher to quite frankly absurd levels.

    There is a very simple way around this. Both terminals – and especially the domestic – are very close to the airport gate. So long as you are not totally loaded with luggage (and why would you be?) walk out of the gate and flag down a passing taxi on the road (there are in fact quite often a few drivers waiting in a pull-in about 20 metres to the left of the gate in expectation of people in-the-know doing just this.
    Any taxi you flag down outside the airport (and you should never have to wait more than a couple of minutes even late at night) will use the meter without quibbles (as most drivers seem prepared to do in Bali anywhere apart from the airport). From the airport to central Kuta on the meter will be between 15,000 and 20,000 (a little more in the other direction due to the one-way system)…
    Really, if you are physically capable of walking about 50 metres then the airport cartel is laughably easy to break free of…

    IN Surabaya I’ve never had a problem with Silver Taxis, but it’s very rare for me to use a taxi anyway. Why would anyone use a taxi when you could have one hundred CCs of throbbing Honda bebek at your command, eh? Just this morning I rode the beast in question back down from a night of coffee, chat, and a couple of hours sleep in a warung in the forest near a certain centre of mysticism halfway up a volcano. It was muacet buanget all the way from Sidoarjo to Wonokromo, but the whole trip took me only an hour and fifty minutes. It would have taken at least four hours by taxi (or any car). Bikes, people, bikes are the way to go…

  11. Ross says:

    Indeed, timdog, we once walked out onto the main road and got a large public angkot, for a few thousand.
    There are many ways to beat the grasping ratbags, and since we have moved onto Bali as a main theme, let’s remind visitors to beware of Besaki Temple, truly an interesting place but plagued by exploitative curs.
    The ‘admission fee’ was presented to me as a matter of choice, but the custodians -whoever appoints them must be an enemy of the Hindu creed – showed exapmles of tourists who’d paid 50 US and zillions of yen, etc., so we just turned around and made to walk down the hill, at which point the price tumbled. We paid RP 25,000 each.
    Oya, timdog, thanks…glad you liked the glossy effort!

  12. devilkitty says:

    the best “angkot” in Jabotabek is your own car, parking is cheap, & gasoline price is the lowest in Asia Tenggara :p so dont worry.

  13. andy says:

    No way! Traffic is insane and being bule, even if someone hits my car they will try and hit me up for damages and the police will rule in their favour. No thanks, taxi sitting at the back with my nose in a book….Just don’t let them switch off the meter.

  14. devilkitty says:

    pffff.. anak manja.. sama traffic indo aja gak tahan.

  15. andy says:

    spoilt child?? devilkitty, please give me some credit. If you want to insult me do it in a language I don’t understand. hehehe

  16. tomaculum says:

    So, someone tell me, which taxy is the best and the cheapest in Jakarta. I’ll visit Indonesia on May/june 2010 and need a safe (and cheaper) transport from Sukarno-Hatta.
    Last time I took Bluebird, the driver was very tired and he has some microsleeps during the journey. Maybe he worked already 12 hours at that day. 🙁

  17. riniss says:

    I suggest,express taxi,the white one.hehe.it is not the cheapest but at least cheaper than blue bird.

  18. diego says:


    translation in english for a pendejo like you: go back to your mommy skirt, and chinga tu madre.

  19. Ross says:

    Jogja taxis were scary, I was told, but my brief visit disabused me of that scare story. We took one from the mall which holds the newest cinema all the way to Marlioboro, a fair fare and a polite driver.
    Not so the premanish swarm at Gambir pre-dawn today, when I told them we wanted a Bluebird and one rogue refered me to his shirt, which had Royal’ emblazoned on it!
    I scolded him for his pretence and he scuttled off laughing. There were no Express in sight, but I still reckon they are the best currently on offer.

  20. Burung Koel says:

    I’ve never found Jogja taxis to be a problem – in fact better than Jakarta, and you don’t have to insist on them using the meter.

  21. Ross says:

    Studying devilkitty’s comment, I am forced – reluctantly, for I tend to defer to ladies -to disagree with her.
    Traffic in Jakarta is maniacal, and though every big city is tiresome that way, the sheer lack of discipline on the roads here is a nightmare.

    I’d never drive here, even if the choice was a ‘Safe N Steady taksi!

    And it is true that a car driven by a bule involved in an accident will not always but normally be the one faulted by either the authorities or a rabble of onlookers.

    Anyway, I use buses and angkots whenever possible. Though going over the Tomang fly-over always makes me think it’s time to say a prayer.

  22. Chris says:

    Hi Ross,

    I have to say what confirmed my willingness to disavow my erstwhile fealty to the blue vehicles is their appalling level of telephone ordering standards. Almost every time we ring them up and get a promise of a cab for the airport, we then get a call back about 15 minutes prior to the agreed time, saying there are no vehicles available.

    The same thing used to happen to me often too, until I found a way around it. Order a Silver Bird, then – when they ring up to say there are no SBs available – they give you the option of getting a Bluebird sent straight away.

    I never got a SB that I booked – so you won’t get stung for the higher fare – but I did get a (plan b) BB every time. You don’t even have to ring a different phone number for SBs any more.

  23. Chris says:

    I saw this article in “The Jakarta Post”:

    ‘Joe Le Taxi’ – Inside the Blue Bird Group

    This article is quite interesting and relevant to the subject. I have included a couple of the more interesting sections:

    Jakarta is as notorious for its sporadic taxi situation as it is for severe traffic congestion.

    With taxis turning up to calls an hour late, Rp 80,000 joyrides for expats and tourists, 40-minute intervals with not a taxi in sight, and indeed the more sinister rumors of night-club abductions, midnight lootings of unsuspecting passengers, and fake taxis using faintly dodgy, but not too unbelievable, signs and meters, it’s a wonder how anyone without a car can actually get from A to B.

    Interesting how the author seems to agree with Ross on some things, like Express Taxis:

    Many consider Express taxis to be more clued-up to street names and addresses, with one customer commenting that Blue Bird’s “biggest problem is with the drivers’ road knowledge.

    Yesterday, what should have been a 5-minute journey took one full hour of going up and down the same street to find the address.”

    and again, maybe a reason why Ross has a problem getting taxis to pick him up:

    One member of The Jakarta Post staff insists that no taxi will ever take a call within one mile of her house, located only slightly off the beaten track, unless she says she is going to the airport.

    The inevitable “ooh, err, sorry, I meant Kemang” comments aside, it does not take much from a taxi operator to realize the system is flawed.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were, occurred when the humble author of this article was himself victim of a fraudulent Blue Bird cab; the driver of which was effectively arrested in front of him at the first police barricade, not 5 minutes from EX Plaza, leaving the faintly bewildered passenger with no explanation, just the presence of mind to exit immediately in favor of another passing taxi, who in turn, on receipt of the desired address, pulled a U-turn in the opposite direction.

  24. mint_framboise says:

    For me, i prefer angkot, safe my time than my own car (but idk if safe your life or not lol). I don’t really like Taxi in Jakarta.

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