Jakarta, Indonesia Report of what it's like to live there - 09/15/20
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?
Not first experience. Lived in multiple cities and countries.
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?
United States (East Coast) so takes up to 30 hours door-to-door if you don't take a rest stop.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing varies drastically from apartments, to small houses, to larger houses. If you work in the middle of the city the commute even from the outskirts of city center can be 1-2 hours in the evenings. There was a lot of construction on major thoroughfares while I was there which made the traffic worse. Traffic would be even worse if you are subject to the odd-even license plate scheme (does not apply to diplomats or taxis).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Cost of groceries was much cheaper than my home country (USA) unless you do not eat fresh food. Imported products (spaghetti sauce, etc) could be quite costly if you did not have access to an embassy commissary. I believe I once saw kraft parmesan cheese for equivalent of 17 USD.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Most things you need are available in Jakarta, including US brand clothes and makeup. I do not think there was much we could not find on the local market. What is very expensive is quality kids toys -- could be USD 40 for a small lego set. Or you could buy a 5 Chinese lego-like set. Recommend bringing gifts for birthday parties etc from your home country to cut expenses.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are tons of restaurants available of varying prices. We are not foodies but we found that many restaurants recommended by others were not as good as expected. There are good restaurants in the hotels, however, and the Japanese fast food is almost authentic. Much of the food can be delivered.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Account for 400-500 USD month. The cost of a driver, cleaning person, gardener, nanny would be in that ballpark or slightly more. You have to pay severance. Many expats will pay household help the prevailing minimum wage. Many locals do not, so household staff are eager to make the jump to working for expats.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are workout facilities all over, same quality or better than USA, for the same prices as East Coast in the USA.
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?
Credit cards widely accepted and safe to use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Many Indonesians speak some English. They are also very open to foreigners trying to speak Bahasa Indonesia with them, and will not generally cut you off to speak English instead. You can survive without the language but basic language (such as giving directions to taxis) is useful.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Major facilities like shopping malls all have elevators. The sidewalks in the city are terrible (except for a few neighborhoods) so most people do not walk. Taxis are quite inexpensive.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable. Trains and buses can be packed (pickpockets) so many who can afford it would prefer to use the inexpensive taxis. People on trains and buses wear their backpacks on the front.
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?
Probably the car will be dinged up at some point. It takes cars a long time to get import permission so the embassy does not recommend it. A car could take six months to arrive to post after the owner arrives because it cannot be shipped till the owner is in country and import paperwork is approved.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Quite easy and fast. Within a few days.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We used a local provider but had to learn how to use the machines to plus up our prepaid plans. Some people use their drivers. You can also buy pulsa off someone you know and have them transfer it to you.
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?
Yes, there are several good vets. My pet needed a two week quarantine upon entry and lost at least 3 pounds before we got it (from airport to delivery to our house). Some pets were known to die after arriving in country (within a few weeks) but I don't know the reason why. I would think carefully before shipping an elderly pet to go into quarantine based on what I saw and heard, although it was probably quite uncommon. There were several good vets in country, and also good animal hospitals, but not in my neighborhood. We did an hour commute each way for a week at one point when my pet was hospitalized.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many, many volunteer opportunities.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
No dress code. In Jakarta you can wear anything (miniskirt, spaghetti straps, etc). Other places may be more conservative and when you travel around the country you may choose to cover up more, but saw no adverse reaction to skirts or short sleeves anywhere.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is questionable. We flew to Singapore for anything major or invasive, as well as for our annual physicals.
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?
Air quality is quite bad, however other places are worse. An individual's response is... individual. My family was fine but I often felt sick if it went over a certain number. We used air purifiers in the home, but none at work or at the school.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
My spouse was find and didn't get seasonal flower allergies. Food allergy might be hard because peanut is everywhere.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
No Seasonal Affective Disorder here!
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Switches between hot and wet seasons. Jakarta is known to badly flood about every five years.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Fantastic schools. Many people stay (or come back) just for these schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not sure. They do have speech therapy, etc.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Through the schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are Facebook sites that will lead you to clubs if you are interested in expats.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great for everyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
The expat LGBT were happy but local LGBT might be harassed.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes, not too hard to make friends with locals. I had local friends. There is sometimes anti-Chinese sentiment (in waves) but there are many locals of Chinese descent.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are problems but many might not affect an expat in the expat bubble.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel can be expensive and it is hard to get out of Jakarta. Definitely recommend seeing the orangutan in Kalimantan. Also, fun just to get off the beaten track.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
It is a short flight to Bali to breathe fresh air and decompress from the city.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, though I did not shop much. There are a few major shopping events a year that bring all of Indonesia to you.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Everything is here. Everything.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How really, really bad the traffic was.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes.... but might choose to live closer to the school or to work.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sunblock. It is expensive and you will use a lot!