Indonesia is a colourful and exotic country, consisting of a vast archipelago stretching over more than 17,000 islands with an ethnically and culturally diverse population of over 270 million people. Most expats base themselves in the popular tourist hub of Bali or the sprawling metropolis of Jakarta, the country’s capital and economic, cultural and financial centre.
Living in Indonesia as an expat
Rich in natural resources, the country acquires most of its wealth from gas, oil and other mining activities, and most expats moving to Indonesia do so in order to work in these sectors. The telecommunications industry and teaching English are other attractions for expats seeking work in Indonesia.
Indonesia is an exciting expat destination, but it’s certainly a country that is not without its challenges. Obtaining a visa or work permit, for example, can be a frustrating process and one riddled with bureaucracy. Even more frustrating for expats planning a move to or already living in Indonesia is the fact that the requirements and processes for obtaining a visa change constantly.
Cost of living in Indonesia
The cost of living in Indonesia can be inexpensive compared to life in many Western countries, but this can vary according to one's lifestyle. Living like a local and shopping at neighbourhood markets for fresh, seasonal goods is inexpensive. But opting for modern, fully serviced apartments and buying imported goods hike up the cost of living significantly. Ultimately, expats will have to decide what is most important to them and what fits into their budget.
Expat families and children
For expats bringing the whole family over to Indonesia, education will likely be their biggest expense. There are numerous schooling options, but most expats look beyond public education due to the language barrier. Often, international schools provide expat children with a smoother path to settling into their new home as they continue with a familiar curriculum in their home language. There are a number of international schools operating in Indonesia, most of which are in Jakarta.
Indonesia's healthcare sector is considered quite poor and certainly not up to Western standards, particularly outside of Jakarta. Any serious medical conditions will likely see expats having to seek medical attention outside of the country, typically in Singapore. Increasing air pollution in Indonesian cities is a further health hazard.
Climate in Indonesia
With a hot and tropical climate, it may take a while for expats coming from cooler climates to get used to the humidity, which is present all year round. The wet and warm monsoon season can be uncomfortable. On the bright side, this climate allows the local greenery and island life to flourish, and there's no shortage of good beach days.
Population: About 277 million
Capital city: Jakarta
Neighbouring countries: Indonesia has land borders with Malaysia on the island of Borneo, Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea and East Timor on the island of Timor.
Geography: Indonesia is an archipelago of over 17,000 islands, with the five main islands being Sumatra, Java, Borneo (known as Kalimantan on the Indonesian side), Sulawesi and New Guinea. Parts of Indonesia are quite mountainous, and much of the country is covered by dense tropical forests. Located along the Ring of Fire, the country has many volcanoes and is also subject to frequent earthquakes.
Political system: Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Major religions: Islam
Main languages: Bahasa Indonesia and English
Money: The Indonesian rupiah (IDR), divided into 100 sen. There are plenty of local and international banks in Indonesia, but many expats choose to maintain their existing bank account in their home country.
Tipping: Standard 10 to 15 percent in restaurants unless included as a service charge. Round up the bill for taxis and give slightly more for hired drivers.
Time: GMT+7 to GMT+9
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Plugs with two round pins are generally used throughout the country
Internet domain: .id
International dialling code: +62
Emergency numbers: 110 (police), 118 (ambulance)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Indonesia has an established public transport system. Taxis are also plentiful. However, traffic can be brutal in Indonesian cities and driving is best avoided; many expats hire a local driver instead.
►Learn more about what to expect of day-to-day life with our guide to Culture Shock in Indonesia
"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." Read more about Spanish expat Lidia's expat life in Jakarta.
"Vibrancy, chaos, culture. I don’t really know how to put it in exact words; Jakarta is like a mixed salad, there’s a mix of everything and when you put all together, it actually tastes pretty good." Learn more about what Singaporean expat Cassandra has to say about living in Jakarta.
Are you an expat living in Indonesia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Indonesia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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