Jakarta’s Most Iconic Transportation: Bajaj

If you like exploring the more rural parts of Jakarta, you’ll notice that Jakarta has many signature transportations that you might not find easily elsewhere. This is one of Jakarta’s lovable specialties: you can’t find ‘Jakarta things’ anywhere else. This transportation can be seen running in the streets like nobody’s business,  being so fast you might not catch it with your eye. With its signature orange or bright blue color with its loud gas noises, you’ll find bajaj being one of these transportations. You can’t miss them, bajaj takes the original concept of a rickshaw and then throws a lot of Jakarta culture and history brought into the mix. To get a fully local experience, we advise that you try riding on this fun form of transportation at least once. We’ve gathered all the information that you must have before you try on this cool and fun form of transportation.

How It Started

In a nutshell, bajaj is a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw that acts as public transportation. Even though bajaj is very popular in Jakarta, it did not originate in Indonesia. As many people know, bajaj first became a form of transportation in India, just coming to Indonesia around the ’70s. The unique design of bajaj is a product of PT Bajaj Auto, which has become the main manufacturer of Bajaj. 

Due to its popularity among locals, several TV Shows were built surrounding the lives of people who are bajaj drivers, such as Bajaj Bajuri and Si Bajaj. There used to be one version of bajaj: the ones painted orange. However, in its growth and development, another form of bajaj has emerged and is painted blue. The ones painted blue signify that these forms of bajaj run on gas instead of regular oil. 

The use of bajaj as public transportation was highly popular especially in the ’90s, where bajaj is an improved version of becak. Becak is another local form of transportation, but it’s operated with human labor. Bajaj on the other hand uses motors, so customers can travel conveniently faster!

How It Operates

How It Operates

On the scale of modern transportation, bajaj is more on the conventional side. There are still many bajaj that you can easily find all over Jakarta, especially in more rural areas of Jakarta like Jakarta Utara and Jakarta Timur. It is easier to find bajaj in consistently crowded places. Bajaj is commonly found in front of KRL/train stations or traditional markets, where drivers would line up and wait for customers to ask to ride in their bajaj. 

After you decide to ride bajaj, you can ask the driver the place that you want to go to. Warning: there is no fixed rate in riding bajaj, so you have to use your A-game in haggling! From there, it’s all just full fun. Bajaj drivers are known to go at a very fast pace, not to mention the loud sound to announce that you’re really on your way. Subtlety is truly not bajaj’s best virtue. Just enjoy the ride with the cool wind running on your face from the open windows. 

Like riding in any public transportations, you should pay attention to which way you’re going on the streets. If you know a shortcut here and there, you can tell the driver which way to go! Due to the noise of the bajaj, you might want to speak a little louder than usual. When words aren’t enough, you can always touch the shoulder of the driver aligning to the direction that you want to go. You can also simultaneously say ‘kiri/kanan, Bang!’ (left/right, please!) to make your point especially clear.

The Pros And Cons

After its high peak in the 90s, the number of people riding bajaj has significantly diminished over the years. Changes constantly happen to many aspects of Jakarta, including the use of transportation. This has sparked many conversations regarding the big question of “is new always better?”. For one thing, bajaj is truly a part of Jakarta’s culture. People growing up in Jakarta will probably always remember riding the iconic Bajaj. It’s beneficial especially if you’re going somewhere in a hurry because the drivers are always at their usual spot to wait on you. You can also go faster than the usual car ride, but safer than a motorcycle ride. 

Some bajaj drivers will ask you to be their regular customers because they know your regular destination. Being a regular customer, usually drivers will give you a better price for your rides. Bajaj drivers are known to be very bold on the streets, so you won’t be late to your destination. However, the fact that the rate of the ride is always determined by the driver, is considered a deficiency by some people, because there’s a possibility that some drivers mark up the prices.

The fixed-rate is one of the reasons that many people in Jakarta usually opt for online taxis and motorcycles to travel in Jakarta. That way, when you put the order, you’ve already agreed with the prices that are given to the ride. Not to mention, ordering from apps is significantly easier than going outside to certain spots like searching for a Bajaj. Your pick-up comes to you, not the other way around. However, there’s always a possibility that there’s an error in your GPS, which means your assigned transportations aren’t as close as you thought that it would be. All of this is just part of living in Jakarta, as surprising as the drivers may be.

The existence of bajaj has always and will always be a part of Jakarta. The legendary rides that you get from bajaj will show you just how exciting and fast-paced Jakarta is, with busy locals always hurrying off from place to place. We hope to give you the gist on bajaj, just so you know what you’re in for once you get inside the ride. Fast and furious, nothing less!

Read Also: A Guide to Commuting in Jakarta

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