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Moving to Jakarta

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 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. 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.

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.

Cost of living in Jakarta

The cost of living in Jakarta depends very much on lifestyle choice. The city is not a cheap place to live if expats only 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.

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 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.

Climate in Jakarta

Jakarta's tropical climate is hot and humid year-round, with little variation 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 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.

Accommodation in Jakarta

Finding and renting accommodation in Jakarta is a fairly easy process, with a wide variety of options to choose from. Expats are likely to find that prices are reasonable when compared to those in Western cities or other Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Indonesian law makes it complicated for foreigners to buy property in the country, and this has led most expats in Jakarta to choose renting over buying.

The Indonesian capital boasts a number of family-friendly neighbourhoods. Central Jakarta is a great location for expats who want to get the most out of city living, while south Jakarta has more suburban neighbourhoods with large houses and villas.

Types of accommodation in Jakarta

Expats will find an extensive range of options for accommodation in Jakarta. Apartments, detached homes and villas are all widely available, depending on the neighbourhood in which expats prefer to settle.

Expats in Jakarta's Central Business District will find that apartments are the most practical solution, especially to avoid spending hours each day stuck in traffic while commuting to and from the office. Many apartment buildings have been constructed in recent years, so there is plenty of choice for new arrivals, from simple and small apartments with only basic facilities to large, luxurious, fully serviced apartments. 

Most apartment buildings offer 24-hour security and other facilities including swimming pools, laundry services and sports facilities. 

Expats willing to venture out into Jakarta's suburbs will have more options for larger houses and villas. Some of these areas also offer easy access to some of the city's many excellent international schools, making them an ideal choice for expat families. 

Many rentals in Jakarta come fully furnished, but expats who would prefer to bring in their own household goods should be able to negotiate for most properties to come unfurnished without too much difficulty. 

Finding accommodation in Jakarta

Expats in Jakarta generally find their accommodation through their company or online through property portals. The language barrier can pose a problem for new arrivals, so it's crucial that expats have a reliable local contact who can translate for them when necessary.

When looking for accommodation in Jakarta, expats should keep in mind that location is one of the most important factors. Expats will be able to save a lot of time by living close to their place of work and their children’s school. Jakarta suffers from major traffic congestion and this situation is continuously worsening.

Renting accommodation in Jakarta


When looking to rent property in Jakarta, expats will find that signing up for longer rental periods and paying upfront will often work out cheaper. Rent can occasionally be paid on a month-by-month basis, but landlords tend to offer more favourable prices to those willing to pay for a year or several months upfront.

Signing a lease

Leases are usually negotiated with the owner of the property. Expats should be sure to have a reliable local contact available who will be able to help them negotiate and understand the terms of any new rental contract. 


Utilities are typically an extra expense on top of rent, so expats will most likely need to budget for electricity, gas, water and internet costs.

Areas and suburbs in Jakarta

The best places to live in Jakarta

Jakarta is a sprawling metropolis and expats moving to the city may initially be overwhelmed in their house search. But there are plenty of areas and suburbs in Jakarta for expats to choose from, and they’re bound to find something that suits their lifestyle and budget. South and Central Jakarta are the most popular areas among expats. 

Below is an overview of some of the most popular expat neighbourhoods in Jakarta.

Popular expat neighbourhoods in Jakarta



Kuningan is a residential area of Jakarta that forms part of the Central Business District, making it convenient for those working in the area. Its proximity to a number of embassies and international schools makes Kuningan particularly popular among expats. 

Housing in Kuningan ranges from modern apartment blocks to older spacious housing developments along tree-lined streets. There are also plenty of restaurants and hotels in the area and many nearby shopping malls, including Kuningan City Mall and Ambassador Mall.

Permata Hijau

Permata Hijau is a neighbourhood in South Jakarta. This area is full of apartment options. It’s a popular neighbourhood for expat families with children thanks to its convenient transport links to Jakarta's international schools and shopping malls. There are plenty of green spaces for families to enjoy a walk and access to sporting facilities for active expats. A downside to Permata Hijau is that it can get highly congested on weekdays.

Pondok Indah 

Pondok Indah is an upmarket neighbourhood of Jakarta that is popular with expat families thanks to its spacious living options and proximity to several good international schools. Large family homes sit along tree-lined streets. Commute times to the city's commercial areas can be long, but there are plenty of entertainment opportunities to keep the family busy, with shopping malls, a water park and golf course nearby.


Another popular area for expat families, Kemang is close to several international schools and offers a range of housing options from large family homes and villas to apartments. Kemang has wonderful entertainment options from restaurants to bars, and much of Jakarta’s art scene can be found here. A downside to Kemang is the fact it suffers from heavy traffic congestion, which can be a source of frustration for many residents. 

Healthcare in Jakarta

Healthcare in Jakarta varies in standard, and while expats have access to both public and private facilities, most expats choose to use private hospitals or clinics. For more serious medical procedures, expats often travel to neighbouring Singapore.

Although Indonesian authorities have begun to implement a universal health insurance scheme, foreigners do not benefit from this scheme and it’s essential for expats moving to Jakarta to arrange comprehensive health insurance. Those arriving in the city as part of a corporate relocation package will most likely have their company organise and contribute towards this.

Pharmacies are plentiful in Jakarta and can be found in most large malls; these sell a wide range of prescription and over-the-counter medication. 

Below is a list of the most prominent expat-friendly hospitals and clinics in and around Jakarta.

Hospitals in Jakarta

Brawijaya Hospital Saharjo

Address: Jl. DR. Saharjo No.199, Tebet Barat, Tebet, Jakarta Selatan 12810

Pondok Indah Hospital

Address: Jl. Metro Duta Kav. UE Pondok Indah, Jakarta Selatan, DKI Jakarta 12310

RS Premier Bintaro Hospital

Address: Jl. Metro Duta Kav. UE Pondok Indah, Kecamatan Kebayoran Lama, DKI Jakarta 12310

Education and Schools in Jakarta

Expats in Jakarta have a wide variety of schooling options available. While public schools are not a popular choice among expat families, the city boasts an impressive array of international schools. These cater to expat students from a number of countries, including the UK, the US, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and Singapore. Many international schools also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. 

Public schools in Jakarta

Compulsory schooling starts at age seven in Indonesia and lasts for nine years, during which time schooling is free of charge.

Public schools in Jakarta are administered by the local government and follow the Indonesian curriculum. The teaching language at these schools is Bahasa Indonesia.

The most significant deterrent for most expat families is the language barrier that exists in public schooling. Expats moving to the city with children generally send them to one of the many excellent international schools instead, especially if they'll only be in Indonesia for a limited time.

Private schools in Jakarta

Private schools in Indonesia usually offer an international curriculum in combination with the local Indonesian curriculum, and classes are generally in English rather than Indonesian. The International Baccalaureate is commonly taught in these schools.

While the majority of students at private schools are Indonesian, some expat parents choose to send their children to these schools due to the lower fees compared to international schools and the opportunity for more cultural integration for their children. 

International schools in Jakarta

Though international schools can often be expensive, they usually offer a good standard of education, and also have the advantage of allowing children to continue with a familiar and internationally recognised curriculum. 

In a bid to regulate the quality of education in Indonesia, the government no longer permits schools to use the word 'international' in their title. Prior to this regulation, low-quality schools would often tack 'international' on their names as a justification to charge high fees. Most international schools are now classified as Satuan Pendidikan Kerjasama (SPK) – this roughly translates as collaborative schools. SPK schools are required to teach Indonesian civics, religion and language.

Special-needs education in Jakarta

Jakarta has two types of public schools that cater to special-needs students: inclusive schools and extraordinary schools. Inclusive schools have a student body made up of both special needs and mainstream students, while extraordinary schools are dedicated solely to special-needs students. Most expat families find that the government doesn't offer adequare support and instead opt for private schooling.

It's worth noting that many international schools can provide the specialised services such a student would require, depending on the severity of the condition in question. Parents should enquire with individual schools to find out about the special-needs support they can offer as well as the costs involved.

Tutors in Jakarta

Tutors are widely used in Indonesia. For expat families, tutors can be a great help in giving expat children a leg up in adjusting to a new school, especially if an unfamiliar curriculum or language unfamiliar is involved. Some expat families hire a tutor to help maintain a child's mother tongue, or to help them learn and refine Indonesian or English quickly.

The months leading up to final exams are a busy time for tutors, who are often hired to help students reach peak performance. Most tutors specialise in a particular subject, but some are able to help across the board, especially when it comes to teaching general essay writing and study techniques.

International Schools in Jakarta

Expat families in Jakarta have access to some of the best international schools in Indonesia. There are a number of international schools offering highly respected curricula like that of the US (including SATs and AP subjects), the UK (including the Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels) and the International Baccalaureate. These schools offer an excellent standard of education backed by dedicated teachers, modern facilities and small class sizes.

International schools in Jakarta give expat children the opportunity to continue with a familiar, globally transferable curriculum. Being around other expat children who understand the difficulties of moving abroad also goes a long way to ease the process of settling in. What's more, parents can count on their children being exposed to various cultures, as international schools in Jakarta will often have students of a dozen or more different nationalities.

Below is a list of some of the most reputable international schools in Jakarta.

International schools in Jakarta


Independent School of Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 2 to 13

The Independent School of Jakarta builds on British educational heritage to provide an exceptional education to boys and girls aged 2 to 13 years at their newly built campus in Pondok Indah, Jakarta. Read more

ACG School Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 2 to 18

Australian Independent School Indonesia

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Beacon Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 5 to 18

British School Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

GMIS Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE
Ages: 3 to 18

Jakarta Intercultural School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

LIFE School Jakarta (French Intercultural School of Jakarta)

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: French
Ages: 3 to 18

Nord Anglia School Jakarta

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum and International Primary Curriculum
Ages: 1.5 to 12

NAS Jakarta's welcoming atmosphere and leafy green campus provide a haven for the school's truly international community in the heart of Jakarta. Read more

Lifestyle in Jakarta

With a thriving economy and attractive expat salaries on offer, an expat's lifestyle in Jakarta can be full of comforts and luxuries.

Traffic can sometimes hinder leisure time during the week, so weekends are perfect for playing on the golf course, scuba diving expeditions and short holidays to the nearby islands.

The vast expat communities and associations in Jakarta provide a little taste of home to expats with their constant balls and special charity events. From medieval banquets to Latin balls and Mardi Gras soirées, expats are able to enjoy the buzzing nightlife of Jakarta as often as they please. 

Shopping in Jakarta

Shopping can be seen as a national sport for Indonesians, both honorary and native. The immense variety of shopping malls, markets and boutiques make Jakarta a shopper’s paradise. Like most countries in Asia, Jakarta boasts extravagant world-class malls with designer stores galore, as well as smaller local designer boutiques. Renowned designers and interior decorators often visit Jakarta and showcase their latest creations both at runway shows and special exhibitions at the many malls around the city. 


Visiting shopping malls is a central activity in the lives of many Jakartans. Malls provide an escape from the heat, humidity and rain, and the many entertainment options make them pivotal in the lifestyle of Jakartans and expats alike. Shopping malls in Jakarta can be described as lifestyle centres. Expats can leave the mall with a fresh new haircut after getting a massage, enjoy international cuisine and buy stationary, a pair of shoes, and food for their pets. Malls are truly the cornucopia of shoppers, where products are bountiful, ever-changing and always following the latest trends.


Markets are excellent venues for buying fresh produce, live fish and beautiful freshly picked flowers. These markets are often crowded with bajajs (two- or three-wheeler cars), carts and even motorcycles, and they are bustling with life and colour.

There are often price fluctuations between locals and foreigners, so it's best to go in with at least a slight idea of how much something is worth. Bargaining is expected so be prepared to negotiate prices until finding a good discount of about 10 to 20 percent. 

Eating out in Jakarta

Jakarta is home to a colossal variety of international cuisine. Specialities range from high-end tepanyaki restaurants to small hole-in-the-wall type venues that offer authentic Javanese fare.

Despite the fact that Indonesia is an Islamic country, alcohol is widely available and served in most restaurants. Alcohol, however, can sometimes be pricey compared to other countries due to high levies on imported spirits and wine and the value-added taxes. 

Nightlife in Jakarta

Nightlife in Jakarta exemplifies Indonesia at its best: diverse, swarming and intense. From small pool bars to swanky and hip nightclubs with queues of hopeful partygoers lining up for hours outside, Jakarta offers expats whatever kind of diversion they desire.

Several neighbourhoods are popular among expats due to their exuberant party scene. Kemang, in South Jakarta, is frequented by groups of friends looking to watch sports, listen to live music, play pool or drink beer with friends in an informal atmosphere. The Senayan and Kuningan areas are home to the hippest, trendiest and most expensive clubs Jakarta has to offer. Expats and locals attend the clubs to see and be seen and booking a table for the night is common practice. Single men looking to have a cheap beer with friends and mingle with the locals often visit the area of Blok M.

Outdoor activities in Jakarta

Jakarta's lush environment has plenty to offer expats looking to enjoy the great outdoors. From volcanoes and hotsprings to waterfalls and forests, plenty of adventures await the adventurous expat. Beach days are another good option. Most of Jakarta's beaches require a boat trip, which is a fun way to get around, but for those who prefer something a little bit closer, Ancol Beach is easily reached from the city.

Kids and Family in Jakarta

With a growing expat community, Jakarta boasts many international schools, diverse entertainment options and a wide array of community activities conducted in English and other languages for expat parents and kids.

Indonesia can be an excellent place to raise children and teach them to interact with all kinds of people and learn from the diverse cultural offerings.

It’s easy to find childcare options. Indonesian nannies are used to working with foreign families and can accommodate most requests and needs. Nannies can grow very attached to children and can become the go-to person when requiring help in translating something or just dealing with life in Jakarta.

Education in Jakarta

There is a broad assortment of schools in Jakarta for expat children. The biggest challenge will be to decide which programme fits the needs of a child and the family.

International schools are the best options for families who know that they will be in Jakarta for a specific length of time. The curriculum followed is easily validated and transferable to other international schools in different countries and even back home, wherever that might be. Most of the international schools' staff, from the principal to the teachers, is composed of expats.

An expat's school of choice will likely determine the area where they search for housing in Jakarta. Traffic can be a big hindrance to some kids' activities so parents will need to find a home close to their children’s school to ensure that they can take advantage of all the extra-curricular activities and events the school has to offer. 

Entertainment for kids in Jakarta

Although the entertainment options might be different from what expats may be used to, it's not difficult to keep kids engaged and entertained in Jakarta. 

For Indonesians and expats alike, visiting the mall is a favourite pastime. Malls in Jakarta are large, and they typically have multiple storeys of food, entertainment and shops. Malls are a great place to find indoor entertainment options for the children as they have indoor playgrounds, bowling allies, family-friendly karaoke venues and movie theatres.

For those willing to travel a little bit further out, the options become endless. The tea plantations and strawberry farms in Bandung are a great option for those wanting to teach their children about nature. Finally, the botanical gardens and zoo in Bogor provide a nice break from the pollution and hustle and bustle of the Big Durian.

Challenges for expat parents in Jakarta

Jakarta is a city going through a lot of growing pains. The infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the huge growth spurt it has experienced in the last few years and this is evident in the quality of the construction of the different systems, from highways to sewerage.

Traffic is one of the biggest challenges and sources of frustration for many expats in Jakarta. The lack of clean sidewalks and the poor air quality do not allow for alternate modes of transport and using public transport with children is not recommended. Taking a stroller out for a walk is difficult unless it is done at the mall.

Although many people speak English, miscommunication is often a problem. Expats often wouldn't correctly interpret a local's intentions, not because of a language barrier but more because of the concept of 'saving face'. It may be helpful to learn the local language and read up on the local cultural norms in order to bridge the communication divide.

See and Do in Jakarta

If one is willing to go beyond the prickly surface and find the sweetness within, there is plenty to see and do in the 'Big Durian'. Jakarta is a great city for people looking to explore cultural and natural wonders, and expats moving to the city will be spoilt for choice.

Recommended attractions in Jakarta


Monas is short for Monumen Nasional and is popular with locals who like to fly kites, ride bikes, stroll and picnic on the grounds. It was built in remembrance of the local struggle to fight colonial domination. The impressive monument, which might look small from afar but is astoundingly large up close, is gorgeously clad in marble and topped with a bronze flame that is lit up at night. There is a museum at the base, and for a few dollars more, one can ascend to the top and get a 360-degree panoramic view.

National Museum of Indonesia

The National Museum is near the Monas and houses the most comprehensive collection of cultural artefacts in the entire archipelago. Allocate at least half a day to wander around and learn about the fascinating and rich Indonesian history. 

Fatahillah Square

Located in the centre of Jakarta Old Town is Fatahillah Square. The Jakarta History Museum, the Fine Art and Ceramics Museum and the Wayang Museum, which showcases traditional puppets, are all located in the area. The square itself is dotted with locals hanging about and vendors selling their wares/services.

Taman Mini Indonesia Indah

Taman Mini hosts a number of gardens that show the lives of local people in different provinces throughout Indonesia's history. In the middle is a lake with miniature islands in the shape of the archipelago, complete with volcanoes. There are also museums and rides for children to enjoy.

Bogor Botanical Gardens

This is a popular spot with the locals for picnicking. Drive in with a car to explore the vast grounds and see gigantic trees that are hundreds of years old and amazing to behold. An alternative to picnicking is lunching at the cafe, where diners can enjoy a breathtaking hilltop view of the gardens and a tranquil pond with giant lotus lilies.

What's On in Jakarta

Jakarta’s cultural and entertainment scene is as diverse as its people, customs and neighbourhoods. From shopping fairs to music festivals, Jakarta's annual events are popular among the expat and local populations and will satisfy the craving for entertainment.

Annual events in Jakarta

Chinese New Year (January/February)

Chinese New Year is a big event for which Jakartans prepare well in advance by shopping and decorating their homes. The best place to take part in the festivities and fun events is in the Glodok area. 

Java Jazz Festival (March)

This annual event is one of the world's largest jazz festivals, bringing world-class musicians and artists together with local up-and-coming bands in a three-day festival of music, art and entertainment. Artists share their talents on several stages all across the festival grounds.

Highland Gathering (May)

The Highland Gathering is a festival full of Scottish tradition and flair that includes several highland games, a golf tournament, live music and entertainment for the whole family. It is a very well attended event where the expat community gets together with the locals to enjoy a day of concerts, games and great food. 

Indonesia International Motor Show (April)

Car and speed enthusiasts will greatly enjoy this annual automobile and motorcycle show held over the course of several days. Exhibitors from all around the world present cars, motorcycles and parts in a well-organised show that includes entertainment and demonstrations.

Jakarta Fair (June/July) 

This fair celebrates the anniversary of Jakarta's founding and exhibits a wide variety of goods from across the country, including speciality food items and handmade crafts. Attendees can also enjoy music performances and amusement park rides.

Getting Around in Jakarta

Getting around in Jakarta can be a nightmare, so expats will need a sense of humour, the ability to plan ahead and infinite patience. There are various modes of transport available, ranging from luxurious Mercedes taxis with their English-speaking drivers, to the very basic bajaj, the Indonesian equivalent of a tuk-tuk

Most wealthy Indonesians and expats employ a full-time driver to take care of their transport needs, but for the average Jakartan this is a luxury which they cannot afford. For the majority of people living and working in Jakarta, buses, ojeks and bajaj are their only options.

The city's railway system is currently being expanded, but in the meantime, the roads remain jammed. Whether riding around in a comfortable air-conditioned car or holding on to the back of an ojek, one thing that is guaranteed in Jakarta is traffic congestion. Even the shortest journeys can take hours, so it is advisable to allow plenty of time to get to one's destination.

Public transport in Jakarta


Jakarta is home to a rapid transit system known as TransJakarta. These are large, air-conditioned buses that have a fixed route through the city. They travel in dedicated lanes, which helps to skip some of the traffic. Kopaja are medium-sized buses, typically full and overcrowded with no air conditioning. These usually have no official bus stops, just stopping anywhere that someone wants to hop on or off.


Trains run from Jakarta to the suburbs and beyond. The trains are busy and often very crowded on the KRL Commuterline, but are the fastest way to get out of Jakarta and back again, avoiding the heavily congested roads. A light-rail system is currently under construction.

Taxis in Jakarta

There are a number of taxi services in Jakarta, with ridesharing services such as Grab being recommended for expats. Drivers are generally skilful, have knowledge of the city and speak reasonably good English. They are a safe bet for newcomers to Jakarta and those unfamiliar with the area. 

Other local taxi drivers generally don’t speak English and often have only basic knowledge of the city. It is not unheard of for these drivers to get lost and for journeys to take longer than normal because they have to stop to ask directions. 

There are also ojeks, which are motorcycle taxis; bajaj, which are motorised rickshaws; and becaks, which are cycle rickshaws. 

Driving in Jakarta

Driving in Jakarta is generally not recommended. For most people who can afford it, having a full-time driver is the easiest and most convenient option for getting around Jakarta. The driver's pay is based on a daily rate and then overtime is added if they work late and on weekends. A good driver is invaluable as he will have an excellent knowledge of the city’s roads and know the quickest routes to a given address. 

Expats who prefer to drive themselves will need to obtain an Indonesian driver's licence, known locally as a SIM (Surat Izin Mengemudi). SIM registration can be done online or in person at a police station. Anyone with a valid foreign licence can register and take a theory test to obtain a local licence.

Cycling in Jakarta

Cycling has not traditionally been advisable in Jakarta, but conditions are slowly changing with safety features such as bike lanes and cycle paths being added around the city. There is also a bike-sharing scheme run by the government which makes it easier to get around on two wheels.

Walking in Jakarta

Walking in Jakarta is problematic. First off is the pollution, which makes this form of exercise unpleasant, as does the sheer volume of traffic. In the centre of Jakarta, around the shopping malls and in some expat residential areas, walking is easier but, in general, walking in Jakarta is not as pleasurable as it might be in other cities.