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A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to Indonesia

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Relocating to Indonesia

  • Indonesia has a tropical climate, hot and humid; there are two monsoon seasons, which bring heavy rains with them.
  • Getting temporary accommodation before your move is recommended; once in Indonesia, real estate agencies can help you finding a suitable accommodation.
  • A work visa for Indonesia is not very easy to get and it is mainly up to your future employer to obtain one for you.
  • Indonesia has been subject to different terrorist attacks in recent years; it is therefore important to be vigilant.
  • Public healthcare is not always adequate, thus expats often turn to the private healthcare sector.

For most people, Indonesia evokes images of white beaches and stunning scenery. Although this is true, the country has a lot more to offer. Moving to Indonesia will enable you to delve into a very rich and ancient cultural tradition. With a population of over 259 million, Indonesia is also the fourth most populous country in the world.

Many people are unaware that Indonesia is an archipelago made up of thousands of islands. Each island offers a different taste of the country’s multitude of cultures. Moving to Indonesia offers many opportunities and generally speaking it is a well-liked destination among expats.

Along with the aforementioned beautiful landscape and beaches, a move to Indonesia gives you the opportunity to submerge yourself in a traditional and yet increasingly modernized culture. Its cities are densely populated; yet if you are moving to Indonesia with the goal of leading a more laidback life on a less inhabited island, there is plenty to choose from.

The Climate in Indonesia: Alertness Is Key

Keep in mind that regardless of what your precise destination is — be it a city or a village — it make take you some time to get used to the local weather. Indonesia has a tropical climate — in short, it is typically very hot and very humid.

You should also be especially aware of the monsoon seasons. There are two monsoons, the eastern monsoon from June to September, which is the driest season, and the western one from December to March, which brings the heavy rains. It would be less than optimal for you to move to Indonesia during the rainy season.

Check out the website of the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (in Bahasa Indonesian only) for more information on weather conditions in Indonesia. Alternatively, AccuWeather provides information in English.

An Overview of Accommodation in Indonesia

As with all overseas moves, it is best if you find at least temporary accommodation before moving to Indonesia. This not only ensures that you will have a place to stay once you enter the country, but it will also facilitate your finding something more permanent. Temporary accommodation is available in the form of serviced apartments (run by upscale companies like Silverdoor or Fraser), or suites in big hotels (e.g. Hotel Kristal, Ibis, Crown Plaza, or Marriott).

As in most countries, major cities offer the most modern and advanced lifestyle possibilities, therefore if you do not wish to be confronted with too big of a cultural shock, it is wise to choose accommodation and housing in one of these. In the capital Jakarta, for instance, all modern conveniences are readily available. When moving to Indonesia’s cities, be aware that it is not uncommon to hire domestic help, especially as an expat.

Ask your new employer to recommend several reputable real estate agencies to you to assist you in the apartment search. Always make sure to explore the neighborhood your new apartment is located in, both with the help of a street atlas and on several personal visits. After all, when looking for an apartment, it would be good to keep in mind the safety of the area and whether or not it has good transportation links.

If You Need Repairs in Your Rental Home

Contrary to what you may be used to in your home country, Indonesian landlords are not responsible for fixing things in the house. This means that if you rent an apartment or house, do not necessarily expect the landlord to fix a leaky faucet. (In more luxurious complexes, this may be different.) Due in part to the very low property taxes paid by homeowners in Indonesia, many neighborhoods even join forces to fix up the streets and sidewalks themselves.

Unfortunately, this often gives con artists the opportunity to increase the costs of so-called “repairs”. Thus, when choosing your new home in Indonesia, it is only advisable to live in this type of local neighborhood if your Indonesian is good enough to fully understand what exactly you are being asked to pay for.

Visa Requirements for Indonesia

Expats wishing to relocate to Indonesia should be aware that they might need a visa to enter Indonesia, depending on the purpose and length of their stay. In the following paragraphs, you will find information on applying for a work visa for Indonesia, as well as how to obtain a residence and work permit. For information on the types of visas necessary to enter Indonesia for other purposes, including tourism, please consult our Living in Indonesia article.

The Challenge of Obtaining a Work Visa for Indonesia

Navigating through Indonesian bureaucracy can be a confusing process. First of all, it is important to know that you cannot apply for a work visa on your own. It is up to your future employer to obtain one for you.

Before a company can hire foreigners, they need to obtain a special work permit called an IMTA. This work permit can only be obtained if the company can prove that foreign nationals are needed to fill certain positions, as the Indonesian government has a policy of prioritizing local applicants.

The company can then submit an application for a limited stay visa (VITAS) on your behalf. First, your future employer will need to gain approval for your application from the Ministry of Manpower. They will then send a letter of recommendation to the General Directorate of Immigration in Jakarta. At this point, a decision will be made concerning your application, and if it is approved, a limited stay visa will be issued by your nearest Indonesian representation overseas.

Understanding How Residence and Work Permits Work

Once you have arrived in Indonesia, you have seven days in which to report to the regional immigration office with your passport and embarkation card in order to get yourself fingerprinted and exchange your visa for a limited stay permit card (KITAS). It usually takes about two weeks for this card to be issued. The original KITAS permit is valid for one year and can be renewed annually for up to five years. After five years you can apply for a permanent stay permit card (KITAP).

Along with your KITAS card, you will also be issued a Foreigner’s Control and Supervision book (POA). This book tracks any changes in your immigration status, such as change of address, job, marital status, etc. Any dependents that move with you to Indonesia will also be issued a KITAS card and a POA book. Additionally, within 30 days of receiving your KITAS permit, you must register at the local police headquarters.

After you have received your KITAS card, you can obtain your expatriate work permit (IKTA). Before this can be issued, the Skill and Development Fund (DPKK) fee must be paid. This is an annual fee of 1200 USD that companies employing expatriates must pay, which is used for the training of Indonesian citizens. A receipt of payment of the DPKK and your company’s IMTA must be submitted with your IKTA application.

Indonesia: Safety and Healthcare

Better Be Safe than Sorry in Indonesia

Indonesia occasionally features on international news when extremist groups or terrorist organizations are involved in violent attacks, especially directed at foreigners, such as in Bali in 2002 or in Jakarta in 2009 and 2016. The Indonesian government is trying to crack down hard on the perpetrators of such crimes, but it is not possible to warrant that this won’t happen again.

The only option for foreign residents is to stay vigilant, keep a low profile, and follow the news regularly. It is also a good idea to avoid certain regions like Papua or Central Sulawesi. Make sure to register with your embassy and to have its emergency contact details ready. This can also prove beneficial in case of a natural disaster due to volcanic activity.

As far as crime rates are concerned, property crime is relatively common in major cities. Use only taxis booked directly from reputable companies, carefully monitor your credit card statements, keep your documents and valuables in a safe place, secure your new home against burglaries, and beware of spiked drinks when enjoying the local nightlife.

Tips and Information on Health Insurance and Emergency Services

Healthcare in Indonesia may be very different from what you expect. As the public healthcare sector is not always adequate, it is safe to recommend private international health insurance as your best bet. A number of insurance providers have policies that cover countries in Southeast Asia, like Indonesia.

Please always be sure to get a comprehensive medical insurance plan for yourself and all family members which covers both illnesses and accidents. Many wealthier Indonesians and expatriates also prefer to go to Singapore for high-quality treatment, so check if the policy covers that option, too.

The telephone numbers for police and emergency medical help (i.e. ambulance) in Indonesia are 110 and 118/119 respectively.

Know What to Except from Doctors and Hospitals in Indonesia

Allianz Worldwide Care provides a directory of doctors and hospitals whose services their insurance policies cover. You simply need to enter the name of the city you plan on moving to in Indonesia and then you will be given a list of addresses, telephone numbers and names of doctors. Unfortunately, English is not a requirement in hospitals, yet the services offered by most of these clinics should be up to par with Western medical treatment and can be relied on in emergency cases. As mentioned above, traveling to Singapore for treatment is also a viable option.

Most expats in Indonesia go to so-called “group practice medical clinics,” which have a wider range of specialists and offer most routine medical evaluations and care. In addition, most medical staff at these clinics speaks some English. Please also be aware that you will be required to pay in cash, as few hospitals have access to credit card machines.

It is also common that some medications which may require a prescription in your home country can easily and cheaply be acquired over the counter in Indonesia.

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  • Henrik Olsen

    I was amazed how many other members in Jakarta share the same interests as me. And some of them come from Norway, too !

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