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. Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey places Jakarta at 151st out of 227 global cities, making the city 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, 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.