Expats moving to Jakarta will find themselves in a sprawling, densely populated megalopolis, with a population size that is steadily increasing. As the commercial and economic centre of Indonesia, Jakarta offers a good base for exploring the rest of the country and, despite some drawbacks, it can be a fun place to live, once expats become accustomed to the local culture and lifestyle.

Jakarta is colourful and somewhat exotic, yet new arrivals might not find many of the obvious 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 and the high volume of traffic. 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 rate of unemployment already present in the country. Even voluntary work in many cases is classed as work, so it’s advisable to seek legal advice when embarking on anything that may jeopardise one's visa and stay in Jakarta.

Generally speaking, Jakarta is a safe place to live but, like any large city, expats should be savvy and take precautions for their safety as they would do anywhere else. For women especially, it’s unwise to walk alone at night and they should only use taxi companies that are reputable and reliable. Violent crime is rare, but petty crime is fairly common and expats should always be cautious of scams. Although there is a threat of terrorism in Jakarta and the city has been targeted by extremists in the past, security is given high priority, especially around business districts and in shopping areas. 

There are many different options for accommodation and housing for expats in Jakarta, and depending on one’s income, there are properties available to rent ranging from luxury penthouse apartments or houses with a pool and garden, to rooms in guesthouses with shared bathroom and dining facilities.

The cost of living in Jakarta depends very much on lifestyle choice. The city is not a cheap place to live if choosing only to shop at Western-style supermarkets or high-end stores, but local shops are quite affordable 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.

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 biggest dent to 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.

Life in Jakarta can be hectic and is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but there are also so many great 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.

Lottie Nevin Our Expat Expert

I was born and raised in the UK by my Dutch mother and my English father. After leaving school I travelled extensively and lived abroad for a year before settling down and bringing up five children of my own. I have had many jobs over the years, some of which were terrible, some very interesting, but I am always at my happiest when I am making my own work as an artist. I also love design and have a small design company based in the UK. Last year my husband was asked to help set up a new university here in Jakarta. We jumped at the opportunity to move to Indonesia and be part of such an exciting project. We now split our time between Bali and Jakarta, giving us the best of both worlds. I started writing a blog soon after we arrived.

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