Jakarta, Indonesia Report of what it's like to live there - 01/10/13
Personal Experiences from Jakarta, Indonesia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
USA. There are frequent flights through various Asian and Middle Eastern hubs. It's a very long journey!
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
(The contributor is affiliated with the United Nations and lived in Jakarta for three years, a fifth expat experience.)
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Jakarta has many gorgeous homes with small yards. We lived in a complex with a shared play area for kids that resulted in a wonderful sense of community. As neighbours, we were quite social. However, we were an anomaly of a community in that sense. Living in Jakarta means a commute to work and school and dealing with horrible worsening traffic. Getting on the road early to avoid the worst of the traffic jams. Being able to accomplish a limited amount of errands daily because of the traffic.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can pretty much find what ever you want. Imported items are expensive, of course. Whether you think it is cheap or expensive really depends on where you are coming from and what you are buying!
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Surprisingly, vaseline was almost impossible to find! Vitamins are available, but really expensive.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are many restaurants at all price levels. You can enjoy a good quality meal in a restaurant for an average family for about USD 60-75 (without alcohol, which shoots the bill up considerably.) All of the fast-food chains are here, and they deliver to your house! Almost all restaurants in your neighbourhood will have some kind of delivery menu.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes can be a problem. Dengue fever is problematic, which luckily none of us ever got.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
When I sent anything abroad, I used the registered mail from the postal system. It was affordable and always arrived.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
You need good domestic help to navigate the chaos of Jakarta. Increasingly I noticed that quality help was asking for a minimum of IDR 3 million monthly. Overtime is expected to be paid and has different rates for holidays and Sundays compared to weekdays. Jakarta has quite a high cost of living. I would advise paying the driver a lump sum that includes over time. With my first driver, I noticed he often stayed stuck in traffic, rather than trying to take small roads to avoid the traffic. I believe he did this to increase his over time pay!
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
All over the place.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
You can use your credit card and ATM everywhere. You can also pay a lot of bills (electricity, cable, phone bill, mobile phone units, etc) using your ATM card!
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Cable TV costs about $70 month. There are 2 English newspapers.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more you know, the easier your life is. You definitely need to learn basic phrases, numbers and taxi directions.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It is not physical-disability friendly at all, despite its modernity!
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are everywhere in Jakarta and quite affordable.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Indonesia doesn't allow the import of cars. You have to buy in-country. Service garages are everywhere, but I would advise using an authorized dealer for the make of car you have.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet connection was good and is part of the cable tv cost.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Network is good. Calls are reasonably priced.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Dependent spouses often struggle over the long term as it is really tough to work. The spouses are dealing with the day-to-day hassles of running errands in the traffic and it does get exhausting.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
For such a large city, it is really very safe. Take the normal precautions. Hold on to your purse in public places. Be careful using BB or I-Pad while walking on the street. Sometimes your househelp taking some items is a challenge. However, break-ins and car thefts are not so common.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
On the surface, the medical care appears good. However, when you dig below the surface, there are many challenges. It is important to search for a doctor you respect and trust. Ask colleagues, neighbours and other expats whom they use and trust.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Jakarta is a congested city with lots of noise pollution and air pollution.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, hotter and unbearably hot! Heavy rain in the rainy season that often causes flooding in Jakarta which causes unimaginable traffic jams.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are many options: BIS, JIS, ACG, NZIS, AIS and a whole lot more. BIS is quite far out, however, accessible by the toll road, and once you reach the toll road, you can reach BIS with relative ease. I was very happy with the quality of education at BIS. Also, the kids had some self awareness issues about themselves and their relationships with others.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ACG, NZIS and AIS are ''all inclusive'' schools, meaning they accept all students. I would advise you to take care about full disclosure at the schools that are not ''all inclusive.'' JIS is narrow in its acceptance of children and can be pretty rude to parents and children with learning challenges. JIS sometimes accepts children with special learning needs under provision, and there have been a number of cases where, after half year, the parents are told the child is now being ''de-mitted'' and that the school cannot meet the learning needs. If your child has a learning disability, it is best to place the child elsewhere to spare the child much emotional distress from the JIS teachers and administration. For families of children with learning challenges, the perception is that the child is not welcome at JIS.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are many English-speaking nursery schools. They are a bit expensive, but you do feel that you are getting good value for the cost.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
English programs through the schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Jakarta is a city of 12 million. The expat community is diverse.
2. Morale among expats:
Jakarta is a place you either really love or you appreciate and respect it! It can be a daunting city and challenging.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Tons to suit your lifestyle. The barrier is the traffic.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is pretty much good for everyone! The real limitations to enjoying yourself are the cost and the traffic. However, there is plenty for everyone and a diversity of options.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Jakarta and Indonesians are quite tolerant.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling around the country -- Bali in particular. Learning about Islam. Being in SE Asia and experiencing the energy of the rapid pace.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are really too many to list and it depends on your interests. Many lovely islands to travel to. Bali is fantastic. Javana Spa outside Jakarta in the mountains is a little-known gem. Lots of child-friendly things to do in the city. There are places to go outside Jakarta that are a 4-hour drive or so away.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Travel. There are lots of lovely bits of art.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Jakarta offers many forms of entertainment for all ages--young and old. Finding out about it can be challenging at first until networks are established. There are many modern shopping malls with movie theatres. Also many outlet stores and trading centre malls with fabulous prices. Jakarta has many restaurants, indoor and outdoor play areas for children, an ice-skating rink, bowling alley, and Kidszania. Wonderful opportunities for kids. Indonesia is a beautiful country with many wonderful places to visit.
11. Can you save money?
Difficult. The cost of living is quite high. Also, if you want to enjoy what Jakarta has to offer, it will cost money.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely - -it was a fabulous experience. Southeast Asia and Indonesia are on the rise. It was a fabulous experience to live there. Really the major downfall is the horrendous traffic in Jakarta.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Patience for the traffic. Patience for language issues. Patience for the chaos. Some kind of portable hobby you can do in the car while stuck in the traffic!