Shopping in Jakarta
Shopping in Jakarta takes many forms from the most traditional pasar (markets) to glitzy world class malls with a wide range of international designer shops. Most expatriates shop most comfortably in malls and department stores where the prices are fixed and there is no need to bargain. However, that is no reason to avoid the more colorful traditional markets for a true cultural experience.
CoVid Precautions (Feb. 2021)
Due to the rapid spread of CoVid many emergency policies have been authorized by the government in Indonesia. This has been a challenge as although the policy may be in place, often the biggest challenge is to enforce these new rules.
During the first months of CoVid when shopping malls were ordered to completely close and people were urged to stay at home, the repercussions one year on are now being seen that many businesses have not been able to survive the severe drop in business. Now that they have been allowed to reopen with greatly reduced hours of operation and limited numbers of patrons that are allowed to be in the malls at any one time, we have see during trips to malls that numerous vendors have closed their doors.
Change in shopping habits has also greatly affected how people get their goods. Going to the mall pre-CoVid was considered not only a shopping experience but also a place to meet up with friends and socialize. These habits are hard to break. Even though there is a huge decline in the number of people that go to the malls, a considerable number of people will wear the required mask and go to a shopping mall just for a change of scenery.
Almost all malls/buildings conduct a temperature scan as you enter as well as have a station to sanitize your hands. Malls and other public establishments are required to have social distancing measures in place. Even though the policies have been publicly announced, it is often left to the integrity and the discretion of the business owner as to how closely they are following the policy.
Hopefully in the near future we will see the pandemic come under control and we can return to enjoying normal shopping experiences.
Malls and Shopping Centers
International shopping at its best can be found in several high-end malls in Jakarta. You’ll find both local designer boutiques and many of the most popular and famous brands from around the globe. Indeed, shopping in Jakarta is truly an international experience! Several malls focus on designer clothing, leather goods, or household furnishings, including: Plaza Senayan, Plaza Indonesia, Pondok Indah II, and Senayan City. The boutique designer shops offer opportunity to the average expatriate to view, try on, and purchase famous international brands and haute couture. If, indeed you are from a small town in your home country, you may find better shopping in Jakarta than you do back home!
The nicer malls also have an excellent selection of cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants offering a wide variety of international cuisine to provide refreshments to shoppers. Italian coffee, Japanese snacks, or Canadian ice cream treats and more abound! Indeed the shopping centers and malls are a magnet for recreation as they provide everything you need for family fun in one place and in air conditioned comfort. The mall facilities don’t just stop at shopping, but also include movie theatres, bowling, ice skating, and more!
Malls in Jakarta include the huge Taman Anggrek, which even has an indoor skating rink. Plaza Semanggi has been built around the Balai Sabini concert hall which now hosts many concerts and live TV shows.
Read this article for more information on Shopping Centers and Malls in Jakarta
Arts and Handicrafts
Tourists and expatriates alike will enjoy visiting department stores like, Pasaraya Grande, Batik Keris and Alun Alun, which is located in Grand Indonesia, which all offer a large selection of Indonesian handicrafts. These stores dedicate entire floors or sections of the store to traditional handicrafts, clothing and textiles and are therefore constant favorites.
Read more about Indonesian Arts and Crafts
What is a Nota?
In some department stores you will see a sign near items that says “pakai nota”. This means that you must get a small written bill from the salesperson on the floor and take it to a centralized cashier for payment, because each individual counter is owned by a separate business entity and they are operating on a commission-based system. You don’t take the item to the cashier, just the slip of paper, then return to the original section of the store and find your salesperson to complete your purchase by picking up the item.
Stores that have each sales section under one ownership and those that are not using the commission-based percentage sharing system will not require you to “pakai nota”. The stores that are using this system will require you to collect several receipts for the individual items you want to purchase and then pay at the cashier.
Concentrations of Specialty Shops
The small shops that line the streets of the city are often grouped together according to the merchandise sold. For instance Kemang Timur is known for furniture, Blok A in Kebayoran Baru is known for household items – plumbing supplies, paint, and certain streets around town are known for their concentrations of nursery stalls as well.
Traditional Market - Pasar
The majority of Jakarta’s frugal population shops for everyday food and personal needs at the traditional markets, the pasar. Crowded with small carts and lined with small stores, the pasar is a hive of activity. In the pasar and wholesale markets, bargain with courtesy but don’t give up too easily. If you are shopping in the pasar, it is best to have a good idea of the actual value of items. Some stall owners will take advantage of a foreigners lack of knowledge of the “real price’ of items and inflate their prices, as a common belief is that “all foreigners are rich and have lots of money”. In most places you can easily get a 10% -20% discount. With luck and a little stubbornness you can get even more off. In small stores, especially if you speak to the owner, you can get larger discounts.
A market that is easily accessible for most expatriates living in South Jakarta is Pasar Mayestik, in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta. The name Mayestik comes from the former ‘Majestic’ cinema that was located here. The basement floors of the main building is where the fresh food market is. The first, second and third floor of the market building houses the general market filled with cosmetics, ready-made clothing, jewelery, gold dealers and soft furnishing suppliers. The fourth floor is home to many tailors and embroiders, who are willing to make one-of-a-kind clothing, Kebayoran dresses. Some stalls are selling limited textiles, beads and a small selection of sewing supplies. Many larger shops selling fabrics, electrical appliances and household goods surround the market.
A good range of textiles is also available at Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, and in particular furnishing fabrics and curtains, as well as carpets, sporting goods and musical instruments. Pasar Baru is the center for Jakarta’s Indian community and a wide variety of Indian foods and spices are sold here.
Mangga Dua in North Jakarta is one of the biggest centers for wholesalers that distribute to many other parts of Indonesia. Although some of the stores will only sell in bulk volumes, many of the stores will sell single items. Almost anything that you could imagine is on sale at Mangga Dua. Many women patronize the kiosks on the ground floor of ITC Mangga Dua that sell imitation branded leather goods. On the upper floors, many stalls sell women’s and men’s clothing and surprisingly enough a few stores have a very good selection of winter items. Some of the manufactures of overseas stores produce their items in Indonesia and this results in “sisa export” or over production of some items. These items are usually very cheap in comparison to what they would sell for overseas. On the top floor of Mangga Dua you will find the wholesalers of clothing accessories. Here is perhaps on of the most complete selections of ribbons buttons, beads, and knick knacks that you will find in the city. Many expats make a special trip here to buy Christmas decorations, children’s party favors, and an assortment of other items in bulk, really almost anything you can think of! If you are willing to endure the congested, hot and busy atmosphere of Mangga Dua, you are in for a fulfilling shopping experience.
The textile market of Tanah Abang is a much rougher wholesale market. It is the largest wholesale textile /clothing market in Southeast Asia. Its claim to fame is for pickpockets and it’s not a place for the claustrophobic!
At Pasar Barito, located along Jl. Melawai, Jl. Mahakam II and Jl. Barito, Kebayoran Baru you can buy flower arrangements, aquariums and tropical fish, fruit and fruit baskets, and further along Jl. Barito is the bird market where you can see birds for sale, bird cages and bird seed and even small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and monkeys. Quite often endangered species are offered for sale illegally and you are strongly advised not to purchase any of these animals.
In Jalan Surabaya the prices of items at the row of stalls selling antiques (some genuine, some fake!) are very high, so a final price should be no more than 30% to 50% of that first price. So bargain and bargain!
Read more about Traditional Markets in Indonesia
Another favorite of expatriates is the Gemstone Market in Rawabening, Jatinegara where precious and semi-precious stones are available for sale. This is a traditional market environment, so bargaining is expected, and the quality and origin of the stones cannot be guaranteed. It’s a great cultural experience, if you’re up to braving the traffic.
Safety while Shopping
Wherever you shop in the city, be sure to watch your purse and phone. It is advisable to always have your purse zipped or closed and firmly secured under your arm or held in front of you. When sitting having coffee or in a restaurant never hang your purse over the back of a chair. A common practice for ladies in Indonesia is to put their purse behind them on their chair so there is no way someone can get access to it without you feeling it. Backpack style purses are often a target for pick pockets when you stand on an escalator or in a cashier line up. Your personal belongings can be easy accessed without you knowing it. Some instances of purse slashing also happen - more often in open markets where a razor blade or exacto knife is used to slash the bottom of the purse and empty the purse without the owner of the purse realizing it has happened.
In an open market situation it is best to have your purse over your arm but pulled in front of your body with your arm held over it so you can see if anyone is attempting to gain access to your purse. Dress down in the traditional markets; do not any valuable jewelry or clothes. Don’t lose your temper when bargaining; treat it as a game, not a competition. So go out and explore the different ranges of shopping Jakarta offers as it truly is a fun and interesting experience.
Bazaars and Resources
You will find another great opportunity for shopping at the bazaars organized by the different expatriate women’s associations. Many beautiful and unique items can be found direct from the producers and often brought in from other islands, at relatively inexpensive prices. The “bazaar season” occurs twice a year, in the months leading up to Christmas as well as in May and June before the summer holidays when most expatriates return to their home countries. This is a good opportunity to look for some unusual and delightful gifts for friends and family.
Normally these bazaars are announced through club communications, school newsletters, WhatsApp groups and social media. Many of the women's’ groups support each other's events. With the declining number of expats in Jakarta there are many fewer bazaars than what was common is past years, but it still a great way for foreigners to support smaller local artisans that don’t necessarily have a retail store.
Another valuable tool is the “Jakarta Shopper’s Guide” published by the American Women’s Association. Although the current edition was published in 2012, making some of the entries out of date, the book is still a good starting point to become familiar with the variety of shops and services that cater to expats in the city. It is suggested that before you make a trip to the store or business of interest, phone ahead to make sure that the information in the book is still accurate.
Whatever your shopping preference – Jakarta offers literally hundreds of locations to shop till you drop … ! Visit the various malls and traditional markets during your stay and you’ll become a world-class shopper in the process.
Many advances have been made in online shopping in Indonesia, even prior to the COVID pandemic. Some of the more popular shopping Apps include Shopee, Lazada, Bukalapak, Blibli, JD Id, and Tokopedia.
Although not all of them are user-friendly to people that do not speak Bahasa Indonesia, these applications have changed the way that people shop. Businesses and products that were previously very difficult to source or purchase are now just a few clicks away. This, combined with delivery services like Gojek, Grab, Lala Move, and JNE, makes shopping so convenient without even leaving your home. Even if the store or restaurant does not have a delivery service, you can arrange the delivery with one of the many reliable couriers and have the product delivered to you very quickly after your purchase.
In Indonesia sometimes the authenticity of the product may be an issue. Some of these platforms have addressed these concerns and have made specific categories to ensure their customers that they will be buying original and authentic products. JD Id, which sells mostly electronics, guarantees all items on the site are authentic. On the “Shoppee Mall” all sellers that are within their virtual mall have been approved as official stores and are only selling authentic items. This allows shoppers piece of mind that the products from a specific cosmetic or clothing line are original. Tokopedia highlights “Star Sellers” which are sellers that have very good quality products, offer fast delivery, and good customer service.
Once the online shop/service has transferred a package to a delivery company, the delivery company is responsible for the package. You may want to insure the package up to the full value of the item/s, if you feel it is valuable or potentially breakable. This will allow you to get a full reimbursement, if the package is damaged, lost/stolen. If the item is low cost, insurance is probably not necessary.
Some of the bigger online stores are already offering guarantees; if there is a problem with the item, they are willing to replace it or issue a refund. Due to misuse of the this policy, some suppliers may now require you to provide a video of the opening of the package after it has been delivered to you, to make sure that in fact the product arrived in a damaged condition and was not damaged after the customer removed it from the packaging. If you have any doubt, it is best to make the video so that you have proof of what condition the product arrived in.
With some platforms, the platform may retain the money paid and will only pay the seller after the product has been delivered to the buyer. This is the reason that you may receive a WhatsApp message or SMS after you have received your goods from the seller and requesting you to please leave a review and rate the seller. If you are happy with the purchase, it is appreciated if you take a couple of minutes to leave a rating.
Last updated February 3, 2021