Soekarno Hatta International Airport is the main one serving the capital city of Jakarta. This is one of the busiest airports of the world with more than 40 million passengers transiting every year.
Public transportation options are somehow more limited than in other Southeast Asian capitals and at first glance they look a little bit more confusing. There is not a fast train serving the airport, but a project to put one to function is in execution.
The Damri Bus service starts at Rp. 40.000 and you want to take the bus in the direction of Gambir train station, a central spot downtown. Traffic can be slow and remember that in a bus you will have to take public transport to your destination after arriving at Gambir. It can be good for one person, but groups of more than one could do better sharing a taxi. One should buy ahead the ticket in the kiosk of the company which costs around 3 USD, buses take at least an hour and a half and they leave from 5 am to 11 pm every 20 to 40 minutes. Some cab drivers will try to convince travelers that buses are not operating, but if you want to ride in bus go and verify it by yourself.
The main way to go from the Airport to the city is using cabs. The city is located roughly 25 miles away, but it is good to keep in mind that this is a huge metropolis so a trip to Central Jakarta may take from 40 minutes up to two hours depending on the traffic, and to other areas of the city it may be much longer.
There are many different Taxi companies serving travelers. Some visitors have been victims of scams, so the ideal thing is to use reputable companies. Once one goes through customs there is a first huge hall still separated from the people waiting outside, there it is possible to see several stands that belong to the most reputable, most luxurious and more expensive companies.
One can expect to pay around 40 USD for a trip in a Mercedes Benz to South Jakarta that will take 40 to 50 minutes depending on traffic.
After that first barrier one will find a second tier of stands belonging to good companies such as Silver Bird where one pays still a premium for a more comfortable ride, it is around 30 USD in a Toyota Camry or something similar. Blue bird is a more standard service. It is a respectable company whose air conditioned cars are in very good shape. This is a metered service and depending on traffic one can expect to pay around from 12 to 14 USD for that same trip to South Jakarta.
How to use the taxi service
Of course prices will vary according to the destination, so it is a good call to negotiate the fare before starting the trip and being sure that the price includes all possible extras such as toll or misterious charges that by the way at the end they will always try to charge a little more, just pick up your luggage first, try to hand over the exact amount and walk away confidently.
Be aware that even in the arrivals hall many people try to offer travelers their taxi service or to convince them to go out and take a different kind of ride, it is better to mistrust these kinds of offerings (which are often illegal) and to go directly to the desk of the most reputable companies. Some people will dress with blue clothing to try to confuse travelers making them think they belong to the blue bird company or one of the other good names such as Tiara or the executive services.