Is Jakarta Dangerous?
Safety on the road: High
I think that your biggest threat while being in Jakarta will be dealing with motorized vehicles, whether your are walking, in a car, or in a motorcycle. If you take the taxi for instance, you will notice cars don’t have a safety belt in the back. If you take an ojek (moto-taxi), the driver will give you a shitty helmet and drive recklessly, putting your life in danger every second.
How to avoid it: Take silver bird taxis, go in the passenger seat, avoid taking ojeks, be very careful when walking in Jakarta.
Natural Disaster: High
Flood, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis… Jakarta, as the rest of the country, is prone to natural disasters. In fact, according to the Natural Disaster Risk Index, Indonesia is the world’s second most dangerous nation regarding natural catastrophes after Bangladesh. I don’t think it can impact your stay in Jakarta though, because it is something you cannot really protect yourself from. All you can do is cross your finger and hope that everything will be OK.
Terrorism: Medium to High
I don’t know what I should say about terrorism. It happened in Jakarta and Bali, and even though the government is very active in fighting terrorists, we cannot ignore that new bombings could happen again in Jakarta/Indonesia in the future.
The targets of terrorists have always been places frequented by expats, like embassies, night clubs, restaurants or 5-star hotels. A safe precaution therefore is to avoid too crowded areas. Check your home country’s website for current warnings.
Some extremist religious groups have been attacking entertainment venues too, especially during religious times of the year like Ramadan. It is quite rare though and they are more scary than dangerous.
It is the most common offence in Jakarta affecting expats: Having a small thing stolen while in a bar (usually a phone) or in a crowd. It is not so common either, but it happened to me with a camera, and it happened to a few of my friends, in particular in Stadium nightclub. I had once a problem with a drink that almost made me pass out… The guy I was with may have put something in it, but I’ll never know that for sure.
I don’t have statistics about robbery, but from what I could observe, it involves most of the time the people working in your house: Maids, cooks, guards. It is usually low value items (in my situation, I had all my cleaning products disappearing…), but very annoying. To avoid any problems, look for staff that has been recommended to you by fellow expats, and pay them more than average.
Getting to pay the right price for things is a challenge in Jakarta when you are or when you look like an expat. Most of the times, it only requires negotiation, but sometimes, it gets tougher. Taxis are usually a pain in the ass: Apart from the reputed Blue Bird and Express brands, many drivers will try to get more from you by using various tricks: No meter, longer routes, fiddled meters. Beware also of “fake” Blue Bird taxis: They look exactly like them but belong to other companies. The danger is not so high, usually you only end up paying a few dollars extra, but in some cases, drivers can get violent (it happened with girls travelling alone)
Some people will warn you about credit card fraud, and you should be cautious about that. The same precaution applies when you want to change money: Always prefer a bank rather than street vendors.
Having to deal with the police is one of the worst annoyances in Jakarta for an expat, especially if you own a car or a motorbike. Personally I take a personal pride in never bribing policemen, but to do so you need to be “clean” and have all the appropriate documentation with you (a copy of the passport, driving license, etc..).
Political instability: Low
Many tourists are afraid of the potential instability of Jakarta and Indonesia. I know many people in Malaysia from Chinese descent who refuses to come to Jakarta, because they are scared of what happened during the 1998 riots. I also know many people who are afraid of going to a Muslim country, because they think people won’t be tolerant if they say they are Catholics. I think there is absolutely no reason to be scared. Indonesians are among the most welcoming and tolerant people on earth. Terrorism is only supported by a extremely tiny minority, and you will realize that Indonesia is not the dark, dangerous country some medias are trying to describe.
Health Hazards (Food poisoning, pollution, etc): Average
Jakarta is often dirty and not always very hygienic. It is very easy to get small diseases or asthma. If you are fragile, or if you are travelling with children or elderly people, I would advise you to be prepared to be in a hostile environment. I think if you avoid the most risky situation everything should be OK: No walking, no street food, do wash your hands, peel your fruits, drink bottled water, etc…
Physical assault: Low
It is very uncommon, but it happens. The most often, crime happens in Jakarta among gangs so you shouldn’t have troubles with it. Some clubs in North Jakarta have the reputation to be controlled by mafias, so if you want to be safe, you can start avoiding those