The complete guide to moving to Indonesia

Updated: Oct 30, 2018

Sitting on the top of the Northwest coast of Java, Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is a melting pot for different cultures. The unique blend of Jakarta’s Javanese, Chinese, Arab, Malay, Indian and European cultures have created a unique atmosphere that has left a unique influence on everything from culinary delights to the city’s architecture.

Setting Up Home

Due to its expansive size and bustling population, setting up a home in Jakarta can be an exciting challenge. But, the sheer number of people means that traffic can be a nightmare—to the point that residents tend to measure journeys in the time it takes to get there, rather than in distance. Therefore, when it comes to choosing where to live in Jakarta, location is paramount.

The most popular method used to determine the best location to reside in, is to choose a neighbourhood that’s close to the places you’ll frequent most - whether that’s a work environment, school or supermarket. The neighbourhoods in Jakarta tend to be broken down into the following categories:

Trendy: Kemang
One of the most energetic neighbourhoods in Jakarta, Kemang is highly popular with expats due to its proximity to international schools. You’ll also find some of the best brunches and designers - so there’s plenty to do when you clock off from work!

Family friendly: Kebayoran Lama

Offering the same amenities as Kemang, but with a more affordable price-tag due to its location being slightly further out, Kebayoran Lama is perfect for those who don’t mind trading in a slightly longer commute for houses with gardens, international schools and great dining options

Upmarket: Kuningan

Situated in one of the business district’s busiest locations, Kuningan is a location packed full of towering buildings. The abundance of shopping malls, high-end hotels and lifestyle centres make Kuningan one of Jakarta’s most popular residential areas.

Up and Coming: Jalan Benda
Dubbed as a ‘Boho Hub’, this area has seen rapid growth over the past few years and features edgy street art, cool restaurants and plenty of exciting places for people to shop.

To rent or buy

Due to the fast-paced nature of the capital, Jakarta is one of those cities where you don't know what it’s like to live there until you actually move. Therefore we recommend renting a property, before you commit to purchasing one, to see how you get on with your chosen neighbourhood.
The good news is that renting has become a popular option amongst expats because the large upfront payments that Jakarta’s rental scene was once infamous for, are slowly on the way out. As a result, you’re more likely to be able to find landlords willing to accept 6 months rental costs upfront, instead of the 12-month payment that was once required.

Monthly rental payments, however, are still quite rare and so it’s important that you have some money put aside for accommodation in your relocation costs.

The rental market in Jakarta has an abundance of options and whether you’re looking for an apartment or a home with a garden, you’ll be able to find both - depending upon the location you’re looking in. The average price of renting a property can be anywhere between $600 AUD - $1500 AUD depending on your property type, and the location in which you're looking to reside.

For those who have the funds to pay for their entire rental costs upfront - you’ll be in a good position for negotiations because as with most things in life, the longer your contract term - the better the terms that are offered. Plus it doesn’t leave you in the lurch or at the mercy of your landlord when your short rental agreement is up and enables you to lock in a fixed price and save yourself from any financial surprises.

Tip: When looking at accommodation options always do a 'test run' of your commute to see what the local traffic situation will be like at peak times. After all, a dream home doesn’t always feel like a dream home if a short journey turns into a two-hour commute each way every day!


Most accommodation options in Jakarta tend to include maintenance and service charges in the monthly price as standard. However, when looking into renting a property it's important to check the paperwork and ensure that any charges are clearly documented so that you're aware of what’s included each month - as not all properties operate on an inclusive rental price.

When checking your accommodation documentation, you should keep an eye out for common bills such as gas, water and electric, in addition to annual bills such as ground rent or security/reception surcharges.

If you’re looking into renting a serviced home or apartment as a place to reside, then you won’t need to worry about additional costs as much as all of the bills tend to be included in your monthly rental price - often with housekeeping and breakfast included alongside too!

Tip: Always check what's included in your contract prior to signing, to ensure you're prepared and avoid any unexpected costs.

Getting Around

It’s no secret that getting around Jakarta is, as some might say, a bit of a nightmare, and so in order to survive your daily commute - you’re going to need a sense of humour!

There are numerous ways to get around in Jakarta, but walking usually isn’t one of them! High temperatures combined with pollution and a random lack of pavements mean that travelling solely on foot can often be problematic—to the point that crossing the road has often been likened to an extreme sport!

But there are some areas where you can peruse on foot, and so once you’re armed with a humorous outlook, there are a variety of options available to you when it comes to getting around the city.


From basic to modern and air-conditioned, there are numerous options when it comes to this mode of transport. The type of bus you will get will depends upon luck of the draw, but mostly the route as each bus has different designated stops.

The TransJakarta buses have set places where they stop along each route, whereas the medium-sized buses without aircon tend to act as a ‘hop-on-hop-off’ service and stop whenever/wherever people need them too.


Running from the main city to the suburbs beyond, the trains in Jakarta get incredibly busy - especially on the commuter line. But thanks to its direct access and ability to avoid congested roads, it’s one of the fastest ways to get in and out of the city.


Otherwise known as motorcycle taxis, Ojeks are typically stationed on street corners and enable you to get to your destination quickly due to their ability to weave through traffic. Be careful though, not all drivers supply helmets, so be sure to look around and find one with suitable safety equipment.


Similar to a tuk-tuk, Bajaj are one of the most fun ways to travel around Jakarta. Their open-sided nature means that you get to feel the wind through your hair as you travel. But be warned - this mode of transport is fairly simplistic and you'll often you’ll find that there’s little to no flooring in the back!


With numerous taxi services together with taxi apps - your options for taxis are endless. The majority of drivers have pretty good English and a good understanding of the roads, however, sometimes you’ll notice that your taxi driver has to ask for directions. A good way to bypass the roulette nature of what type of driver you’ll have is to obtain a business card of a taxi driver that you know and trust and call them each time you need a collection.

Private Driver

If you’ve got the budget, then employing a full-time driver is a hugely convenient way for getting around Jakarta. Blessed with the convenience of your own vehicle, but with the knowledge of a local you can often miss out on huge chunks of traffic as personal drivers know all the best routes between addresses.

School Options

There are an abundance of options available in Jakarta in terms of schooling. The majority of expat parents tend to send their children to an international school and if this is something you’re interested in doing there are a variety of options available. Jakarta has several high-quality schools available, including the British International School in Bintaro Sektor 9. However, schools are usually allocated based on proximity to the family home and so it’s important to take this into consideration when choosing a place to reside.



When it comes to obtaining a visa, the system in Indonesia is notoriously complicated as policies and procedures tend to vary across different regions in the country. Therefore we always recommend that if you’re arranging visa applications yourself, you always consult your nearest Indonesian embassy for advice and information, as the rules and regulations are periodically changed with short notice.

The type of visa you will require, will depend upon your circumstance but the following visa types are available:

Tourist Visa

Designed for those who are staying in the country no longer than 30 days, the tourist visa is perfect for those whom only require a short-term stay.

Visit Visa

If you have meetings to attend prior to your relocation, then this visa is a suitable option. There are two options available under this visa type: single entry or multiple entry. The visa type you choose will depend upon your business requirements but the single-entry visa is valid for 60 days in one go, whereas the multiple-entry visa is valid for one year, but only permits you to stay in the country for 60 days total.

Limited Stay Visa

This visa enables you to enter the country for work-related purposes, or for visiting family. If you’re planning on relocating you’ll need to obtain a sponsor, or for an Indonesian organisation to submit the application on your behalf. Once you have obtained this visa and arrived in Indonesia, you can extend this visa for a longer duration.

VITAS and KITAS Resident Visa

Known as a Visa Izin Tinggal Terbatas, this semi-resident visa is valid for one year but can be extended. However, in order to proceed with the visa application process, you’ll need to obtain a sponsor who is happy to act on your behalf and apply at the immigration office in Indonesia.

Once you have obtained your VITAS you can apply for a temporary residency permit (KITAS) which will be valid for five years. This too is applied for through the immigration office in Indonesia.

You'll need to have your VITAS visa placed in your passport prior to your arrival to Indonesia, and once you have arrived in the country you'll be required to check in with the immigration office within seven days. Once you have done this and all of your paper is completed you'll be issued with your KITAS together with a 'Foreigners Control and Supervision' book which is designed to track any changes to your immigration status.

Once you have these documents it is vitally important that you do not lose them as you are required to renew your KITAS every year for a maximum of up to five years (depending on how long you stay in the country).


When it comes to medical care in Jakarta, it can be pretty pricey because Indonesia doesn’t have a public health care system in place and there is no national medical insurance. Therefore it’s important to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance cover in place when you relocate, to ensure that both you and your family are taken care of in the event of an emergency.

Having insurance in place is of great importance because the public facilities in Jakarta do not have the same Western standards that many expats are used to. Because of this many expats tend to pay for private clinics but this can become quite costly. It’s also worth noting that these clinics are only suitable for minor injuries and routine check-ups and any serious medical emergencies may require a trip to a neighbouring country, such as Singapore, to get the appropriate treatment.

Everyday Life

Making friends in a new city can be tough - especially one with such an overwhelmingly large population. But groups such as InterNations and the Jakarta Business Networkers (JBN) can be a great way to meet people. Often hosting lunch meetings, social networking nights and sports and group activities, these groups provide an opportunity to socialise and network in a relaxed atmosphere.

Recreational activities

Living in a bustling city such as Jakarta means that life can be hectic sometimes, but whilst the fast-paced lifestyle isn’t suited for the faint-hearted, it offers a great deal in terms of areas to explore. The rich cultural heritage can be seen in the city’s architecture but if exploring places of worship isn’t for you, then the city also has an abundance to do with shopping malls, open-air parks and day trips to places such as the Thousand Islands for beaches or diving.


Due to the long and arduous regulations in place when obtaining a visa and work permit in Indonesia, finding a job in Jakarta isn’t the easiest of tasks.

Therefore, you’ll find that it’s better to arrange employment prior to leaving so that you can get the necessary paperwork in order prior to your departure.

Indonesia has an abundance of strict rules in place with regards to foreign employment as their unemployment rates in-country are relatively high. As an attempt to lower this and boost the local economy the country has restrictions in place regarding the roles that foreigners can work as.

The majority of expats tend to find work in the gas, telecommunications, engineering, oil and education industries. However, there can be exceptions to this in certain circumstances - but it depends upon your employer and your level of expertise on a subject, as many industries often require specialists on certain subjects.

In Indonesia, even voluntary work is considered as work, and due to the strict provisions in place, you may want to find assistance through an agency, or your employer directly when searching for work abroad to ensure that you have assistance with navigating the legalities of employment in this country.