Jakarta vs. Singapore

Choosing between the vibrant, bustling metropolis of Jakarta and the sleek, modern city-state of Singapore can feel like a tough call. Both offer unique experiences steeped in rich culture and a wealth of history. If exploring past civilizations tickles your curiosity or immersing yourself in diverse cultural practices ignites your wanderlust, you're in for a treat. How does the antiquity of Indonesia's capital square off against Singapore's colonial heritage and rapid growth?
Jakarta vs. Singapore

Table of Contents

Delving into the depths of Jakarta and Singapore, we encounter dynamic cities that have shaped and have been shaped by time. These urban landscapes whisper tales of yesteryears, each echoing a different melody of history and culture. Unravel the narrative, won’t you?

History & Culture

To start, let’s take a quick look at Jakarta, a city of myriad tales. Sitting on the northwest coast of Java, Jakarta has seen many faces.

From a small port town during the Hindu Kingdom of Sunda to the bustling capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta has evolved with time. It was an important city during the Dutch colonial period, which is still evident in many of its historic buildings. Its history is rich and varied, reflecting the myriad cultures that have influenced it over the centuries.

In contrast, Singapore, despite its smaller size, has a dense and diverse cultural landscape. Founded as a British trading colony in 1819, Singapore has seen rapid growth. In just over 200 years, it has transformed from a sleepy fishing village into a high-tech metropolis.

Singapore’s multicultural society, comprised of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian communities, presents a colorful tapestry of cultures.

Both Jakarta and Singapore have colonial influences in their architecture and city planning. Jakarta’s old town, Kota Tua, features Dutch colonial buildings, while Singapore’s colonial district has preserved British-era structures.

Yet, the local cultures in both cities have influenced and transformed these colonial footprints. In Jakarta, traditional Betawi culture seeps into the city’s very fabric, evident in its music, dance, and vernacular architecture. Meanwhile, Singapore’s cultural potpourri has turned it into a cosmopolitan hub where East meets West.

Comparatively, while both cities have made significant strides in development, Singapore’s more recent transformation has resulted in a more modern and structured cityscape. Jakarta, on the other hand, offers a more organic blend of old and new, where skyscrapers stand shoulder-to-shoulder with historic sites.

In summary, Jakarta’s and Singapore’s histories and cultures present two different narratives of growth and development. From Jakarta’s rich antiquity to Singapore’s meteoric rise, both cities offer a fascinating window into the region’s diverse history and vibrant culture. Choose your own adventure: Will it be the dynamic, multicultural melting pot of Singapore or the time-honored, layered history of Jakarta?

Attractions & Activities

Travel is a treasure trove of experiences, and both Jakarta and Singapore are rich with gems waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, or a nature lover, these two dynamic cities have something to offer. Let’s peel back the layers of attractions and activities these destinations bring to the table.

Jakarta, known as the ‘Big Durian,’ can be a sensory overload. Monas, or the National Monument, is a symbol of Indonesia’s fight for independence. Standing 450 feet (137 meters) tall in the heart of the city, it offers panoramic views of the sprawling metropolis.

History lovers can also step back in time at Kota Tua, the old town, home to museums like the Jakarta History Museum and the Wayang Museum, dedicated to traditional puppetry.

On the other side of the spectrum, Singapore, also known as the ‘Lion City,’ dazzles with its unique blend of modernity and tradition. The iconic Marina Bay Sands Skypark presents unmatched views of the cityscape, while Gardens by the Bay, with its massive Supertree Grove and cooled conservatories, offers an immersive ecological adventure.

History and art enthusiasts can explore the Asian Civilizations Museum, showcasing a grand collection of pan-Asian art and culture.

If you’re a fan of animals and nature, both cities also have you covered. Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo, spanning over 185 hectares, houses a collection of native Indonesian wildlife and exotic species from around the globe. Singapore’s not far behind, offering the internationally renowned Singapore Zoo and the captivating Jurong Bird Park.

In conclusion, while both Jakarta and Singapore present a myriad of attractions and activities, they each offer a distinctive experience. Jakarta allows you to navigate through layers of historical epochs and a bustling city’s energy, while Singapore invites you to explore a sophisticated cityscape teeming with architectural marvels and lush green spaces.


When it comes to sunny shores and the soothing rhythm of waves, both Jakarta and Singapore offer unique experiences. So, shall we dive into the exploration of these coastal treasures?

Jakarta, primarily a business hub, does not boast a traditional beachfront within the city. However, a short trip of about 70 miles (113 kilometers) will take you to the Seribu Islands. This archipelago is known for its clear waters, rich coral reefs, and tranquil beachside retreats – a perfect getaway from the city’s hustle.

Contrarily, Singapore, an island city-state, offers its visitors several easily accessible beach options. One such popular spot is Sentosa Island, just a few miles from the city center. This resort island, with its golden sands, offers a variety of water sports and a relaxing seaside ambiance.

In contrast to the Seribu Islands, Sentosa Island is more commercialized and often bustling with tourists, providing a blend of relaxation and recreation. Yet, both locations offer sun, sand, and a sea breeze, each with its unique charm.

Between Jakarta’s distant but serene Seribu Islands and Singapore’s more accessible but bustling Sentosa Island, you’re offered a contrast. The decision depends on whether you seek a quiet retreat surrounded by nature or a lively beachside resort brimming with activities.

In summary, while Jakarta and Singapore differ in their beach experiences – with Jakarta offering a secluded archipelago retreat and Singapore serving up a vibrant, easily reachable beachfront – both provide delightful settings to soak up the sun and enjoy the rhythm of the waves. Which coastal charm would you choose to indulge in?

Eating, Drinking & Nightlife

Embarking on a gastronomic adventure, sipping on local beverages, or immersing yourself in the vibrant nightlife, both Jakarta and Singapore offer a delightful spectrum of experiences. Let’s delve into what these cities have to offer when the sun goes down.

In Jakarta, street food is a big part of the city’s culinary scene. From satay skewers to ‘nasi goreng’ (fried rice), the flavors of Indonesian cuisine come alive in these bustling street markets.

Singapore, on the other hand, offers a diverse palette of culinary delights with its hawker centers. In these food havens, you can savor a plate of Hainanese chicken rice, a bowl of laksa, or some delicious roti prata.

When it comes to quenching your thirst, Jakarta offers a variety of local drinks. One of them is ‘teh botol,’ a sweet jasmine tea typically served in a bottle or a carton. In contrast, Singapore’s iconic drink is the Singapore Sling, a gin-based cocktail invented at the famous Raffles Hotel. It’s a fruity concoction that’s a hit with locals and tourists alike.

Moving onto nightlife, Jakarta is known for its vibrant scene. From live music venues like The Jaya Pub to chic rooftop lounges such as SKYE, there’s a place for every taste. Singapore, while smaller, packs a punch with its nightlife offerings. Trendy bars, like the 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar, offer stunning views of the city, while clubs like Zouk provide a place to dance the night away.

In a nutshell, the eating, drinking, and nightlife in Jakarta and Singapore cater to a range of preferences. Whether you’re searching for authentic street food or sophisticated cocktails and/or casual live music joints or energetic dance clubs, both cities are ready to make your nights memorable.


Shopping is an integral part of any journey, and Jakarta and Singapore are no different. Whether you’re hunting for local handicrafts or luxury brands, these cities have something for every shopper. Let’s embark on this shopping spree, shall we?

Jakarta is a shopping haven, with its myriad markets and malls. For traditional Indonesian arts and crafts, the Jalan Surabaya Flea Market is a go-to spot. You can find vintage items, antique furniture, and a variety of local handicrafts here. For a more upscale shopping experience, Plaza Indonesia offers a range of international brands.

Singapore, a shopper’s paradise, offers everything from high-end luxury brands to quaint boutiques. Orchard Road, the city’s retail heart, is home to numerous malls such as Ion Orchard and Paragon, offering a blend of luxury and high-street brands.

For a more local shopping experience, Haji Lane in the Kampong Glam neighborhood offers independent boutiques selling unique clothing, accessories, and homeware.

In summary, both Jakarta and Singapore offer varied shopping experiences. Jakarta combines the charm of traditional markets with the convenience of modern malls, while Singapore boasts an extensive range of shopping, from luxury brands on Orchard Road to independent boutiques in Kampong Glam. So, where will your shopping adventures take you?


Choosing the perfect place to stay during your travels is just as important as the destinations you’ll explore. Whether you’re after luxury, affordability, or a blend of both, Jakarta and Singapore have you covered.

Jakarta’s accommodation options are as diverse as the city itself. Luxurious hotels like the Shangri-La or the Ritz-Carlton offer splendid city views, opulent rooms, and world-class service. For more budget-friendly options, you can find a plethora of hostels and budget hotels in areas such as Jalan Jaksa.

Singapore offers a different vibe with its accommodations. Marina Bay Sands is a landmark luxury hotel known for its stunning rooftop pool, while Raffles Hotel is steeped in history and elegance. Budget travelers are not left out, with hostels and budget hotels sprinkled across areas like Little India and Chinatown.

In summary, both Jakarta and Singapore cater to a variety of preferences and budgets when it comes to accommodation. From high-end hotels to cozy hostels, you’ll find something that fits your needs in both cities.

Family-Friendliness & Children’s Activities

Traveling with family and especially with children requires careful planning. Let’s take a look at how family-friendly Jakarta and Singapore are, along with the variety of activities they offer for children.

Jakarta offers a range of family-friendly destinations. For instance, Ancol Dreamland is an amusement park featuring a variety of rides and attractions that children will surely love. Ragunan Zoo, another popular spot, allows children to learn about different animals.

Singapore is known for being extremely family-friendly. Universal Studios Singapore provides a full day of fun with its movie-themed rides and attractions. The Singapore Zoo, with its interactive experiences like feeding sessions and shows, is another must-visit.

In conclusion, both Jakarta and Singapore are packed with activities that cater to children. Whether it’s exploring a thrilling amusement park in Jakarta or delving into a movie fantasy world in Singapore, these cities ensure your family holiday will be filled with joy and laughter.

Getting There & Getting Around

Traveling to and navigating around a new city can be daunting. Let’s compare the accessibility and transportation options in Jakarta and Singapore to help ease your journey.

Jakarta’s main gateway is Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, approximately 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the city center. It’s connected to various international and domestic destinations. Singapore’s Changi Airport, ranked as one of the best in the world, offers flights to numerous international cities.

Once in Jakarta, you can navigate the city via TransJakarta buses, taxis, or app-based rides. However, traffic can be a challenge. Singapore, on the other hand, boasts an efficient public transportation network comprising MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) trains, buses, and taxis.

In summary, while getting to both Jakarta and Singapore is straightforward with their well-connected airports, navigating the cities differs. Jakarta offers several options, but you might face heavy traffic, while Singapore provides a seamless and efficient public transportation network. Choose wisely, and you’re set for an enjoyable travel experience!


Weather is a crucial factor in planning your travel. Let’s take a look at the climate of Jakarta and Singapore, and how it can affect your travel plans.

Jakarta has a tropical monsoon climate. The temperature remains fairly constant throughout the year, averaging around 82°F (28°C). The city experiences two main seasons: the wet season from October to April, and the dry season from May to September.

Singapore, on the other hand, has a tropical rainforest climate with no distinctive seasons. The temperature stays consistent year-round, typically around 86°F (30°C). Rain showers occur frequently but are usually brief, making any time a good time to visit.

In summary, both Jakarta and Singapore offer warm tropical climates. Jakarta has distinct wet and dry seasons, while Singapore experiences regular short showers throughout the year. So, choose according to your preference for sunny or rainy days, and pack your luggage accordingly!


Safety is paramount when traveling to a new place. Let’s compare the safety levels in Jakarta and Singapore.

Jakarta, like many big cities, has areas that are safer than others. While petty crime such as pickpocketing can occur, especially in crowded areas, most visits to the city are trouble-free. Jakarta also experiences occasional floods, so it’s good to stay informed about the weather.

Singapore is known for its stringent laws and low crime rate, making it one of the safest cities in the world. Littering, jaywalking, and even chewing gum in public places can incur fines. This strict enforcement of laws contributes to the overall safety and cleanliness of the city.

In conclusion, while both Jakarta and Singapore are generally safe for tourists, they offer different experiences. Jakarta requires a bit more vigilance, while Singapore’s strict laws contribute to a very safe environment.


The cost of travel can make or break a trip. Let’s examine the costs associated with visiting Jakarta and Singapore.

Jakarta, generally, is more affordable for travelers. You can find a decent meal in a local warung (small family-owned business) for around 30,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($2). Hotel prices vary greatly, but you can get a comfortable room for around 400,000 Rupiah ($27) per night.

Singapore, on the other hand, is one of the most expensive cities in the world. A meal at a local hawker center might cost around 5 Singapore dollars ($4). Accommodation can be pricier, with hotel rooms averaging around 150 Singapore dollars ($112) per night.

In summary, Jakarta offers a more budget-friendly travel experience, while Singapore, although more expensive, offers a high standard of living. Your choice would depend on your budget and what you’re looking to get out of your trip.

Which Is Better – Jakarta or Singapore?

Choosing between Jakarta and Singapore depends on your travel preferences. Each city has its unique offerings, and your perfect destination may depend on your personal interests and expectations. Let’s summarize their highlights.

Jakarta and Singapore both have rich histories and cultures, with Jakarta’s Dutch colonial past and vibrant local traditions, contrasted with Singapore’s melting pot of cultures. Jakarta can be an enticing choice if you’re interested in immersing yourself in a unique cultural experience, while Singapore provides a blend of Eastern and Western cultures in a clean and organized setting.

In terms of attractions and activities, Jakarta offers historical sites and bustling local markets, while Singapore prides itself on modern attractions like Gardens by the Bay and Universal Studios. If you’re into historical exploration, Jakarta would be your best bet. However, if modern entertainment and attractions excite you more, you should consider Singapore.

Neither Jakarta nor Singapore is known for its beaches. Yet, they provide unique waterfront experiences, with Jakarta’s Thousand Islands and Singapore’s Sentosa Island. If you’re in search of a secluded getaway, the islands around Jakarta might be more appealing.

Conversely, for a more commercial beach experience with plentiful amenities, Sentosa in Singapore is an excellent choice.

For foodies and night owls, both cities offer dynamic experiences. Jakarta has an abundance of delicious local street food and a lively nightlife scene. Singapore, on the other hand, has an array of international cuisines and classy rooftop bars.

If street food and an energetic atmosphere are your preferences, go for Jakarta. But if you’re after a wide variety of food options and a more sophisticated nightlife, Singapore is your place.

When considering accommodation, Jakarta offers affordable and varied options, while Singapore caters to a more luxurious market. For shopping, Jakarta is a paradise for bargain hunters, while Singapore provides high-end shopping malls. Family-wise, both cities cater to young ones but Singapore stands out with its world-class family-friendly attractions.

Finally, concerning safety, weather, cost, and getting there and around, Singapore stands out with its safety, clean environment, and efficient public transport system but at a higher cost. Jakarta offers an affordable yet vibrant experience but requires a bit more vigilance.

In conclusion, your decision between Jakarta and Singapore hinges on your personal preferences. Whether it’s history and culture, modern attractions, food and nightlife, family-friendly activities, or simply cost and convenience, both cities have their unique offerings. All that’s left is for you to decide which city calls out to you the most, and then pack your bags and embark on your adventure!