Jakarta during Ramadan and Hari Raya Idul Fitri

Jakarta is a different city in June and July. Ramadan is the month long of fasting practiced by Muslim Indonesians during dawn to sunset. This year it will be from May 26th to June 25th of June. This period is also the summer holidays for international schools with the school break lasting for approximately two months. Expats like to take advantage of this time by returning home to their country of origin to enjoy the warmer months or go on a family vacation to popular locations like Bali or Singapore.

I find that this is a very quiet time of the year for Jakarta and it’s quite pleasant to be out and about. Whilst many malls will be busy, restaurants are empty during the day (they are very busy at night once break fast has started). Outdoor locations and recreational spots like parks and The Zoo are also quiet so its actually a good time to visit these locations without huge crowds. I also enjoy the simplicity of having a free agenda and no pressure with no school drop offs or playdates to rush to.

The end of Ramadan is Idul Fitri or Lebaran (25th June), the most important day in the Islamic calendar. If you have household staff members working for you, they are entitled to a mandatory two week period of paid leave. Many expats dread this time of the year because all staff members are on holiday simultaneously! Although some staff members may choose to work, the majority will decide to take this time off. It’s like our Christmas and New Year’s eve. This is the week where many workplaces shut down and people are on holiday mode so I think it would be very unfair of us to expect our staff to work during this festive season.

Most Indonesians will return back home to their province and leave the Big Durian for the week. The few days leading up to Idul Fitri is mayhem. This not the time to travel or be on the road! The streets are jam packed with literally 10 million Indonesians on their commute home. The roads are actually quite dangerous and many traffic accidents can occur during this time. I highly recommend to stay away and if you have staff members returning home, allow them the care and courtesy to travel before these few days to avoid the chaos. My nanny spent last year on the road for two days straight, crammed into a tiny bus full of people with no air conditioning and no water! She was terribly ill at the end the journey and she said a few people actually died!

This is when Jakarta becomes a ghost town. The streets are empty, shops are closed and no one is around. This year, we are happily staying in Jakarta once again for the third year running. We really love Jakarta this time of the year! It’s quiet, calm and there is no traffic! It’s our special family time in Jakarta where we wind down and enjoy the simple things in life like lots of television, take away food and pool time! I know many expats are afraid of the idea of staying in Jakarta during this period, fearful of the unknown. Basically, nothing really changes here, except no one is around. The shops only closed for the full day or two during Idul Fitri. Groceries, taxis and other services are readily available as usual afterwards. Tourists spots like The Zoo, Tamin Mini or Ancol are jammed packed with local tourism after Idul Fitri, so I recommend not going to any of these spots unless you like wading through huge crowds! Many Indonesians love to picnic and will use this time of the year to enjoy the outdoors with their family.

I must admit, the thought of having no nanny and maid made me really scared this year because it was so difficult last year to manage it all on our own (the kids were so young then) but I’m now looking forward to reconnecting with my family. It is my opportunity to take away that mother’s guilt that I constantly have for having a nanny in the first place and parent my kids without any outside distractions. The house will be messy. The dishes will be crusty from sitting on the sink for too long, and we’ll probably lounge in our pajamas all day but we’ll soak the stillness of the city together and remain grateful for living in Jakarta.

Below is a helpful website that I found that explains this Indonesian holiday, their traditions and salary requirements quite well  Public Holidays Indonesia