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Living in Jakarta
A comprehensive guide about living well in Jakarta
As an expat living in Jakarta, you will be living in Indonesia’s largest city. With over ten million inhabitants, Jakarta is a metropolis with international flair. Read the InterNations GO! Guide on Jakarta for more information on Southeast Asia’s “Big Apple,” from culture to healthcare.
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Life in Jakarta
- The weather in Jakarta is very hot and humid with long rainy seasons; the capital is rich in both cultural and culinary offerings.
- The traffic jams are a nightmare; however, Jakarta’s administration is working on a new advanced transportations system: the MRT.
- There are different municipalities in Jakarta, with each one suiting a different type of need.
- Healthcare might not always be of the highest quality, therefore many expats living in Jakarta turn to private healthcare. Before moving here, it is advised to make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
Although Indonesia is perhaps not the highest ranking among expat destinations, life in Jakarta can be thrilling. Due to Indonesia’s long and turbulent colonial history, the influence of the Dutch and Portuguese are still prevalent. There are many traces from colonial times here, from the buildings to the way the city itself is structured.
What is more, as the metropolis of Indonesia, Jakarta attracts many new residents from other parts of Indonesia. Not only are the residents of Jakarta relatively open-minded in respect to foreigners, but the mix of nationalities brings a unique flair to the city.
With quite a few cultural offerings to attract tourists, Jakarta successfully lures expats to its city center. The restoration of the Jakarta Arts Center, for example, along with a number of other buildings, means that the city can now boast some of the country’s best concerts and exhibitions.
The Challenge of Getting Used to Jakarta’s Climate
Jakarta’s climate is generally hot and humid, with the Indonesian wet and “dry” seasons dividing the year in two. If you are planning on living in Jakarta, be prepared for average temperatures in the upper 30°C range year-round, and be aware that the rainy season is long, beginning in November and lasting until March.
As a result, living in Jakarta also means putting up with severe flooding of its many rivers. The rainy season is not the only reason for the flooding, however, as overpopulation and the resulting deforestation required to provide more space for the growing number of residents significantly increase the risk. The weak city infrastructure can lead to clogged sewers as well, causing parts of the Jakarta to be impassable at certain times.
Be Spoilt for Choice with Culture and Food
When living in Jakarta, you will have a number of opportunities to make up for any cultural deficits you may believe you have acquired. Jakarta is known as the cultural center of Indonesia for a reason. In fact, expats can easily profit from the city’s cultural offerings. From jazz festivals and fashion weeks to international art exhibitions and traditional trade shows, the capital offers a plethora of leisure activities.
If you are a food enthusiast, Jakarta’s spectacular culinary offerings will make your mouth water at all times. Due to the numerous domestic and foreign immigrants, especially betawis (immigrants from other Southeast Asian countries), the mix of flavorful culinary traditions abounds in the streets of Jakarta. From savory traditional dishes displayed by street vendors to expensive high-class restaurants, Jakarta has something for all.
Painful Gridlocks and the MRT Solution
At the time of writing in 2016, Jakarta’s public transportation system is still undergoing construction. The Jakarta administration broke ground on a mass rapid transit (MRT) system, which encompasses an elevated and underground railway system. The first phase of this project is expected to open to the public in 2018. This project was initialized as many people living in Jakarta commute from suburban areas around the city center, causing traffic jams to be a major problem here.
Currently, the residents of Jakarta have the opportunity to take a number of rickshaw-type vehicles (bajaj,becak, bemo, etc.), which can seat up to four people comfortably. However, using such a rickshaw in areas with heavy traffic can be rather dangerous. In addition, Jakarta has a bus rapid transit system called TransJakarta, which serves all of the city center as well as the outer suburbs, making it easier to get around. Further information is available on the TransJakarta website (Indonesian only). Tickets are relatively cheap at 3,500 IDR (about 0.30 USD) per ride.
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Districts and Healthcare in Jakarta
Choosing Where to Live in Jakarta
Jakarta is divided into several municipalities, each of which has its own administrative system. As Jakarta is officially not a city, but rather a province, it is best to briefly introduce each of the municipalities:
- Central Jakarta, Jakarta Puscat, is the smallest municipality. Despite being the administrative and political heart of Jakarta, it is also a very lovely place to live. With large parks, Dutch colonial buildings, and an all-around European feel, it is considered the most affluent neighborhood.
- West Jakarta, Jakarta Barat, contains a large number of small-scale industries. It is also home to Jakarta’s “Chinatown,” as there is a significantly large population of Chinese people living there.
- South Jakarta, Jakarta Selatan, is probably the wealthiest part of the province. With large upscale shopping centers and affluent residential areas, it can — if one’s budget suffices — be a comfortable district to live in. In addition to the shopping and residential section, it also includes the Jakarta Central Business District within its administrative boundaries. Expat families living in South Jakarta appreciate the proximity of several international schools.
- East Jakarta, Jakarta Timur, is a less residentially-friendly area, as here one can find not only several of Jakarta’s industrial sectors, but also the Halim Perdanaksuma Airport.
- North Jakarta, Jakarta Utara, located on the Java Sea, is also not a preferred place for expat living, since it includes the commercial seaport and many industrial areas. However, it also features one of the largest tourism areas in all of Southeast Asia: the “Ancol Dreamland”.
What to Expect from Indonesia’s Healthcare
If you are expecting five-star service in a healthcare facility in Indonesia, you may be disappointed. Although medical facilities — especially private clinics — usually have up-to-date standards, most expats prefer to jet off to Singapore in the event of a more serious operation or procedure.
Hospitals in Jakarta are of a very good standard, however, they are in high demand and thus often overcrowded. In order to quickly get treatment for a smaller medical emergency or simply a general check-up, it is advisable to visit a private clinic. There are several of these in Jakarta and their medical staff is highly qualified. Allianz Worldwide Care offers a list of hospitals and medical facilities located in Jakarta’s various municipalities.
Even though the government has recently introduced a universal healthcare scheme — with the aim of making basic healthcare available to everyone — it is not possible to say that it works perfectly yet. Therefore, it is recommended to invest in a comprehensive international health insurance plan. Please remember that if you plan on living in Jakarta with your family, you should get them insured as well.
What You Need to Know to Protect Your Health in Jakarta
The World Health Organization advises any person planning on staying in Jakarta over a prolonged period of time to get booster shots for standard immunizations and receive the following vaccines as a measure of precaution:
- Japanese encephalitis
- hepatitis A and B
- typhoid fever
Jakarta is considered malaria-free, but the disease is common in other parts of Indonesia. It is therefore important to protect yourself against insect bites and to be familiar with the early symptoms of malaria as well as dengue fever. When you are in doubt whether you are just suffering from the flu or if it’s anything more serious, go to see a doctor!
As always when someone moves abroad to a tropical climate, it is not uncommon to suffer a bout of sudden illness, which may be related to the heat, water consumption, or a certain spice, etc. In this case, rest assured that all pharmacies (apotik) in Jakarta have medication similar to those you are used to in your country of origin. It is wise to get the generic and medical names of the ingredients of any medication you take on a regular basis, as well as those you wish to take against illnesses such as stomach flu, in both English and Indonesian. This will make getting the proper medication at the pharmacy in Jakarta a lot easier.
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