Moving to Jakarta
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What to know if you're moving to Jakarta
Moving to Jakarta will take you to a bustling city, complete with skyscrapers and traffic jams. Indeed, Jakarta is often considered to be the “Big Apple” of Southeast Asia. Our guide on moving to Jakarta will help you with your move by providing you with advice on housing, education, visas and more.
All about Indonesia
Relocating to Jakarta
- Jakarta has had a turbulent colonial history of which some signs are still visible.
- There are different neighborhoods in Jakarta — some suit an upscale kind of lifestyle, others are more family friendly.
- The school system here might be different from what one is used to; luckily, international schools are not lacking in Jakarta.
- In the capital, it is possible to do plenty of leisure activities — from museums and festivals, to visiting beautiful temples.
The Big Apple (Big Durian) of Southeast Asia is the economic, political and cultural hub of the Indonesian archipelago. With over 10 million inhabitants, it is the largest city in Indonesia. Jakarta is a fascinating place, even though it is fighting against the negative image of being a terrorist stronghold, which arose in the wake of violent terrorist incidents across Indonesia in the past decade.
Jakarta: A Brief Historical Background
Jakarta — formerly known as Batavia — has had a very turbulent colonial history. Europeans first came to Jakarta in the 14th century. Between the Portuguese and the Dutch colonists, Jakarta has seen its fair share of foreigners. Due to the lucrative work opportunities afforded by the Dutch government rule of the capital city, many Asians, especially Chinese people, decided to immigrate to Jakarta, making the Chinese one of the biggest foreign minorities in today’s Indonesia.
In 1942, Indonesian guerilla forces succeeded in regaining control over their city with the help of Japanese soldiers; however, they quickly withdrew again from the then Allied-occupied city. In 1949, after much back and forth, the city was finally proclaimed independent and made the capital of Indonesia.
Therefore, you should not be surprised to find remnants of the colonial era, such as buildings, parks, and the general infrastructure of the city.
Upscale Neighborhoods in Jakarta
Generally speaking, it is a good idea to investigate housing options before moving to Jakarta. There are plenty of neighborhoods, so everyone should be able to find something which fits their budget. Most expats end up renting a house or an apartment. Indonesian property laws are rather complicated, and it’s very difficult for foreigners to buy a condominium, let alone purchase land.
Central Jakarta is one of the most beautiful and oldest areas in the city. If you are looking for a more upscale lifestyle, Menteng with its colonial-era mansions, the busy neighborhood in the Golden Triangle in Setiabudi, and some expat enclaves in Kuningan would probably be of interest to you.
Due to their proximity to the Central Business District (CBD), rent prices in these neighborhoods are higher in comparison to that in some of Jakarta’s other districts. Housing in these neighborhoods comes mainly in the form of elegant apartment buildings, complete with a facility manager. Be aware, however, that some of these areas, especially the Golden Triangle, are quite loud in terms of traffic — something you should generally get used to when moving to Jakarta!
The Right Districts for Expats and Families
Expats with a more modest budget might consider moving to East Jakarta. In addition to being more affordable, this district is well liked among expats for its proximity to the commercial and industrial areas of town, where many expatriates tend to work. Housing is not as expensive as in other parts of the city, but the cheaper costs are made up for by the long travel distances. If you are looking for a large Indian expat community, East Jakarta is the place for you to live. It is not recommended to live here if you have children, as most international schools are quite far away.
Instead, if you are moving with your family, the best neighborhoods to live in are most probably Kemang and Pondok Indah. These are beautiful areas in southern Jakarta, with many gorgeous villas hidden behind veils of flowers and trees. Many expats find this the perfect place to raise a family, thanks to the large gardens, the many shopping malls and restaurants nearby, as well as the proximity to several international schools.
Expat Info Jakarta: Visas and More
Find the Right School for Your Kids in Jakarta
In Indonesia, school is compulsory for a total of nine years. Some children start attending playgroup at the age of two, while others go to kindergarten once they turn four. However, early childhood education is completely optional. Compulsory education includes six years of primary school, followed by another three years of secondary schooling.
After graduating from middle school, children must choose whether or not they would like to continue their education or start working. It is important to note that there are two different types of senior high schools (ages 15 to 18): the SMA (Sekolah Menengah Atas) prepares students for university, while the SMK (Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan) prepares them for the workplace, i.e. acts as vocational training.
Expats with children will be pleased to discover that Jakarta has a number of international schools available as well. For instance, there are schools catering to the American, Australian, British, French, German, Indian, Japanese, Korean, New Zealand, Russian, and Singaporean expat communities specifically.
Institutions like the Jakarta International School provide the International Baccalaureate program as well as other college prep courses. However, tuition at such private schools is pricier than a public education in Jakarta. Many international schools are also located in the outer suburbs of Jakarta, which, depending on which neighborhood you live in, may cost your child a daily commute of several hours.
For Your Free Time in Jakarta
Due to its location, Jakarta is an ideal spot for taking weekend trips. If you have a car — which may be a worthwhile investment considering the difficulties of public transportation — you can simply drive out of the city and head to a nice secluded beach or hike along the rice paddies and visit one of the numerous temples scattered throughout Indonesia.
Within its city walls, Jakarta has several performing arts centers featuring traditional Indonesian dance and music shows. There are also several arts and culture festivals which are internationally renowned, such as the Jakarta International Film Festival or the Jakarta International Jazz Festival. In fact, Indonesia as a whole is a very festival-intense country, hosting traditional festivities almost every month.
For the intellectuals among you, Jakarta also has a number of museums. They are located around the Jakarta Old Town and the Merdeka Square area. If instead you prefer leisure activities such as shopping, mini golfing, or ice skating, the Taman Anggrek Mall in West Jakarta is the place to go!
For regularly updated info on all things related to leisure time in Jakarta — from history and culture to the latest hip night spots and shopping malls — we can wholeheartedly recommend publications like the bi-weekly Indonesia Expat. The magazine is a highly useful as well as entertaining resource catering directly to expats. Featuring a wealth of different article series, reviews and leisure time tips which aim to open up expats’ eyes to the hidden gems of Indonesia, both seasoned expatriates as well as newcomers can definitely find something in every issue!
Of Fundamental Importance: Visas
Foreign nationals are required to have a valid visa when entering Indonesia for non-tourist stays. There are several visas which can be applied for, depending on the purpose of your visit. First and foremost, it is important that you have a valid passport and have several passport photos taken for your visa application. It is best to either contact the nearest Indonesian embassy or consulate directly, or to visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia in order to receive up-to-date and more elaborate information.
Please also read our guides on moving to Indonesia and living in Indonesia to learn more about the various visa categories aimed at tourists, business travelers, and expatriates. Regardless of which visa you will be applying for, be sure to do so well in advance of your intended departure date, as you may have to collect a lot of paperwork and the application process can take longer than expected.