Jakarta, often referred to as the 'Big Durian', is a city of contrasts and immense diversity, embodying the heart and soul of Indonesia. This bustling metropolis, much like its fruity moniker, can be an acquired taste, offering a unique blend of modernity and traditional culture.

As the nation's capital and economic powerhouse, Jakarta is a vibrant hub of activity, where skyscrapers tower over traditional markets and streets teem with a lively mix of locals and expats. The city weaves together a myriad of languages, cuisines and customs, making it an endlessly fascinating place to explore. From the historic monuments commemorating Indonesia's storied past to the sleek shopping malls representing its rapid modernisation, Jakarta is a city that never fails to captivate.

While it lacks some of the polished charms of other major international cities, Jakarta offers a raw and authentic experience. The streets buzz with the sounds of daily life: vendors hawking their wares, the hum of motorbikes weaving through traffic and the call to prayer echoing from mosques.

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.

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