- Download our Jakarta Schools Guide
Jakarta, fondly nicknamed the ‘Big Durian’, is a sprawling and densely populated megalopolis. As the commercial and economic centre of Indonesia, Jakarta offers a good base for exploring the rest of the country. The buzzing city has much to offer those who are open to the local culture and lifestyle.
Living in Jakarta as an expat
Jakarta is colourful and somewhat exotic, yet new arrivals might not find many of the apparent charms of other large cities around the world. It can be noisy and polluted, and getting around the city can be difficult due to the congested roads. Unless very brave, most expats don’t drive themselves, choosing to hire a driver instead.
Expats in Jakarta generally find jobs in the oil, gas, telecommunications, engineering and education sectors. The process for getting a work permit and visa for Indonesia is often arduous; there are strict rules regarding giving employment to foreigners due to the high unemployment rate already present in the country.
There are many different options for accommodation and housing for expats in Jakarta, and properties range from luxury penthouse apartments or houses with a pool and garden to rooms in guesthouses with shared bathrooms and dining facilities.
Cost of living in Jakarta
The cost of living in Jakarta depends very much on lifestyle choices. Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living Survey places Jakarta at 151st out of 227 global cities, indicating that the city is largely affordable. Be that as it may, Jakarta is not a cheap place to live if expats only shop at Western-style supermarkets or high-end stores. Local shops are quite affordable, though, and Jakarta is also home to many markets, making for a colourful shopping experience. Imported goods can be expensive, but Indonesian products are considerably cheaper.
The vibrant lifestyle in Jakarta perfectly marries modernity and tradition. Shopping ranges from upscale malls with international brands to bustling traditional markets. As night falls, the city comes alive with a mix of clubs, bars and live music venues. Foodies can traverse from street food stalls offering local treats to high-end restaurants serving global cuisines.
Moreover, Jakarta's calendar is dotted with annual festivals and events, many of them free, ranging from cultural celebrations to film festivals. Those seeking cultural or recreational exploits have a rich choice of attractions, from museums delving into Indonesia's history to the scenic Thousand Islands just off the coast.
Expat families and children
Schooling for expat children is available in Jakarta, with most expat parents choosing to send their children to an international school; this is likely to cause the most considerable dent in one’s income as international schools are expensive.
Healthcare is also pricey in Jakarta, and any serious medical emergencies may require being taken to a neighbouring country, such as Singapore, to receive adequate medical attention. It’s advisable for expats to take out medical insurance if this is not already provided for through their company.
Family life in Jakarta presents its own unique set of joys and challenges. Beyond the international schools, families can engage in a multitude of family-friendly activities, from exploring city parks and zoos to joining community clubs.
Climate in Jakarta
Jakarta’s tropical climate is hot and humid year-round, with slight variations in temperature from month to month. Plentiful sun hours and warm sea temperatures throughout the year make beach-going and island-hopping an ideal pastime.
Life in Jakarta can be hectic and is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but there are also many fascinating areas to explore, a rich cultural heritage to embrace and some new friends to be made. Whatever one chooses to make of Jakarta, nobody could claim that life in the Big Durian is dull.
What do expats love about living in Jakarta?
"The best thing about Jakarta is definitely the people. Both locals and expats are so friendly that it actually makes it hard to leave this city. Quality of life is... different. On the one hand, some things are just so much more difficult here, but on the other hand, you are living a couple hours away from the most beautiful places you can imagine." Read more about Lidia's expat experience of life in Jakarta.
►Read more about Getting Around in Jakarta
Are you an expat living in Jakarta?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Jakarta. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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