Get there Quick by Motorcycle Taxi

First time visitors to Jakarta should generally restrict themselves to travelling by taxi if they don’t have a friend to help them get around.  I’ve written about taxis before on this blog.  As an all purpose mode of transport, the taxi is the best, but there are situations which call for alternative means, one of these is the motorcycle taxi, or ‘ojek’.

I usually take an ojek if I need to travel a short distance.  Walking during the daytime causes excessive sweating.  Taxis usually resent giving customers short rides.  I would understand that if I was calling one off a rank, but even the ones you hail from the street don’t like taking short distance fares.  The ojek is ideal for residential back streets.  I try to avoid taking one on the main roads as it can be quite hair-raising and dangerous in heavy traffic, you will also get coated by diesel fumes.  The ojek can also squeeze through traffic jams – while cars are gridlocked, the motorbike can still get through.

The other reason for using ojek is when you’re in a real hurry.  If you really have to get somewhere fast, a taxi isn’t going to do it, especially during rush hour or when it rains.  You will have to accept the additional danger, dirt and discomfort, but if you survive you will have turned a 2 hour trip into 20 minutes.

Finding an ojek is quite easy.  There is generally a designated area at the back exits of major buildings, near pedestrian bridges, neighourhood watch posts and the places where buses tend to stop (notice I didn’t say ‘bus stops’ – buses stop where they feel like stopping).  Just look for a cluster of parked motorbikes.  Sometimes the ojek will find you.  A guy will stand up and raise his finger and you confirm by saying ‘ojek’.  It also works if you can’t spot the ojek rank – just call out ‘ojek!’ and chances are one will come.

One thing to do before you call an ojek is to have an idea of how much it will cost.  It’s best to ask a local person to estimate the likely fare for you.  You will need to do this so you know how much to offer the ojek at the end of the ride.  I’ve found the ojek drivers to be surprisingly honest, so somehow it doesn’t feel right to negotiate the price before the trip.  When I arrive at my destination, I tender the amount I think is right for that distance.  If the ojek looks disappointed then I offer a few thousand rupiah more until we settle on a fair amount.  You will, of course, want to negotiate the price beforehand if you are taking a long distance ride.

Jakarta is the only urban centre in Indonesia where I know they have ojeks.  Places like Yogya and Surabaya still have becaks (pedicabs).  The other place to find ojeks is in the villages.


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4 Responses to “Get there Quick by Motorcycle Taxi”

  1. jakartanna Says:

    For long distance ojek fare, I would pay the same amount as if I take taxi in normal traffic. It may sound expensive due to the damage of your hair style and make up, but time for me is even more expensive especially when you’re running late for an important meeting.

    When you’re often running late for mostly everything 😛 it is good to have a ‘ojek langganan’ [langganan = subscribed] all you need to do is asking his mobile phone number and call him whenever you need to (if he’s on duty, he’ll just looking for a replacement for you). In this case, you need to try several ojek riders and choose the best one you feel comfortable with, the way he rides the motorcycle, safety on the street, good and clean helmet, no bad odor, etc.

    • aboutindo Says:

      That’s a good rule of thumb. Even at taxi-fare rates the price is never going to be unaffordable.

      Unfortunately you can’t pick and choose your ojek when you’re at a rank, it’s definitely first come, first served. I remember one young guy at Mal Ambassador who usually seemed to be high on something. For some reason I always used to get him, even though it’s quite a big rank. I suppose I could have refused the ride, but he would have been disappointed if I did that.

  2. miphz Says:

    i love indonesia 🙂

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