I have traveled to pretty much all the capital cities in Asia and there is not one place I like more than Jakarta, as far as the party scene is concerned. One of the best things about it is that there are still very few foreigners around. Even in luxury malls or expat neighborhoods, you will only meet a handful of them who are either working or visiting on business. Tourism is almost non-existent as there are hardly any attractions to visit. To make it worse, the reputation of the city in terms of pollution and traffic discourages many of the most adventurous travelers.
The direct consequence of this lack of foreigners is that you will feel very welcomed by Jakartans, and particularly the girls. If you go to the right clubs and approach girls in the appropriate way, you are also almost certain not to end your night alone (this is of course without paying). If you use online dating apps, you will be surprised at how popular you will be and how easily you can get dates.
Jakarta is a huge, 20-million inhabitant city, yet it is not too hard to learn the lay of the land. Most of the venues worth visiting are located on a South/North axis from Kemang (South) to Kota (North). Normal clubs are located in the Southern part of the city, particularly inside the Golden Triangle of Jalan Sudirman, Jalan Rasuna Said and Jalan Gatot Subroto. As you go towards the North, past the Monas (national monument), you will have all the underground, red-light district nightclubs. In those, striptease, drugs, and prostitutes are very standard.
There is usually a great party atmosphere in Jakarta. It is easy to talk to people and you will rarely feel any tension. Indonesians are amazingly welcoming and friendly people so you should not be afraid to visit even to the most local of venues in the North. The only problems I ever encountered at night were with other drunken foreigners who could not behave. Apart from that, my only safety tip would is to be careful with taxis and to only choose the Blue Bird brand. They have an Uber-like app that is very convenient and extremely easy to use.
If you come for a weekend don’t worry too much about the traffic, except on Sunday night going back to the airport. If you choose a hotel near Plaza Indonesia, you will be less than 30 minutes from all of the top bars and clubs worth visiting. All hotels in Jakarta are girl-friendly except family guesthouses so you don’t have to worry about that either (a common problem in Vietnam).
Partying in Jakarta can be quite expensive and you should be prepared to spend $150 minimum for a good night out. Alcohol is heavily taxed so you won’t find many places with cocktails under $10. The entrance fee of the most popular nightclubs can be as high as $20 and taxis aren’t that cheap either ($5 for a 15 minutes ride without traffic).
The best places in Jakarta for a pre-party drink
To avoid traffic, my advice would be to have your dinner and first drinks in a bar or restaurant as close as possible to where you are staying.
Loewy Bar and Restaurant is a good option. Located in the center of the business district in Mega Kuningan, it is full almost any day of the week with a mix of expats and Indonesians. You can easily meet girls there, especially if you stay near the bar, which is a hunting ground for both sexes. If you like Loewy, you also try: Bluegrass, Potato Head, Union, Cork & Screw, Social House or Bauhaus.
The best places in Jakarta for live music
BATS in the Shangri-La Hotel and CJs in Mulia Hotel have very busy bars with imported live bands playing Top 40. The drinks are very expensive, but if you can afford it, you should have a great night out. Note that in these two places, 90% of the girls are prostitutes. (Editors note: This sounds exactly like BRIX in Singapore!)
The best rooftop bars
Jakarta has two great rooftop bars, SKYE and Cloud Lounge, both of which are very close to Plaza Indonesia. I tend to prefer Cloud who has more of an “expat” vibe, better music and a better view. On weekends, the bar at Cloud is very busy and it is an excellent pickup joint.
Another option is Lucy in the Sky. Although not as spectacular as SKYE or Cloud, it is very busy on weekends with a crowd comprised mostly of young and trendy Indonesians. It is at the center of the SCBD district, which is to Jakarta nightlife what RCA district is to Bangkok nightlife.
The best nightclubs for foreigners
If you came to Jakarta hoping to score with an Indonesian girl (and if you are under 30), then look no further than X2 in Plaza Senayan. It has become so popular with expats that probably has more foreigners than any other nightclub. For this reason, it attracts hundreds of Indonesian girls who are looking to hookup with expats. If X2 doesn’t suite you, you may want to try these other popular clubs: Immigrant (close to Cloud) or Dragonfly on Jalan Gatot Subroto. Both are a bit smaller than X2 and usually have an older crowd. They are also very popular with expats.
My personal favorites
Blowfish and Empirica which are the favorite clubs of the Indo-Chinese community are also my favorites. You will find wealthy Indonesian Chinese partying here in large groups. They rarely hit the dance floor so it means it will probably be a bit harder for you to meet a girl there. This is similar to what I observed when I tried Saigon’s nightlife. If you want to be successful with this crowd, you must first befriend someone in one the groups. Once you are in, then there is no stopping you and they payoff can be huge.
North Jakarta nightlife
Until now, all the venues I have mentioned are located in the South of the city and they are considered to be “normal”. If you want to explore Jakarta’s seediest clubs, you will have to take a cab at least 20 minutes north of Plaza Indonesia.
North Jakarta clubs are all owned by people linked to the Indonesian mafia and as such they make most of their money from drugs and prostitution. Considering that Indonesia is reputed to be conservative, newcomers to Jakarta are often shocked by the craziness that can be found inside these clubs.
Three of the most famous places are Alexis, Tease Club and Malioboro, all of which have become extremely pricey over the past few years. I would recommend these options only if you have some serious cash to burn.
Alternatively, you can go to King Cross, Colosseum, Classic Hotel or Golden Crown. These often referred to as “one stop entertainment” because you can do anything there including clubbing, massage, karaoke, eating, etc. If you are not looking to spend a lot of money, you can just stay in the lounge area where all of the clubs listed above have sexy dancers, sometimes going full nude.
If you are feeling adventurous, you should check one of Jakarta’s underground clubs such as Mille’s or Exotis. Mille’s in particular is the best after-hours club in Jakarta. People tend to arrive after 6 or 7am and may leave as late as the afternoon. Even though drugs are almost sold in the open, I would strongly recommend against making purchases this way. The Indonesian police would be absolutely thrilled to catch you so they might extort as much money as possibly can from you.
If you’re a first timer in Jakarta, these tips should ensure every night you spend there is full of action. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you need more tips. Also please check out my website at www.jakarta100bars.com.