Join now
Log in Join

Living in Surabaya?

Join InterNations to meet other expats where you live and read more articles like Living in Surabaya with relevant information for expats.

Surabaya at a Glance

Living in Surabaya

Surabaya, the so-called “city of heroes”, has a rich, diverse culture and historical importance, respectively because of its main port and its role in the Indonesian Independence, along with all the opportunities that a metropolis has to offer. Read on to find out more about life in Surabaya, from security to transportation.

Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia, and is widely considered to be the capital of the important eastern Java region of the country. Home to approximately 2.8 million people in 2014, Surabaya is a modern industrial city, located on the northern shore of eastern Java.

Many Indonesians refer to Surabaya as “the city of heroes” due to the vital role it played in galvanizing Indonesian and support for Indonesian independence. Surabaya still has a strong maritime heritage and it is home to the Eastern Fleet, one of the Indonesian Navy's two fleets.

Transportation in Surabaya

Surabaya is where Tanjung Perak is based, one of the busiest ports in Indonesia. In fact, it is thought to be one of the top ten busiest cargo ports in Southeast Asia. The city is further served by Juanda International Airport, which is a transit airport between West and East Indonesia. Many airlines also use it as a regional hub airport and international flights are available to locations such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Guangzhou.

A toll road connects Surabaya and Madura Island over the Madura Strait, while a new highway is being built from the Suramadu Bridge to Madura International Seaport-City in Pernajuh village.

Surabaya's main train station is Pasar Turi Station, which is where expats can use the Argo Bromo Anggrek, operated by PT Kereta Api, to reach Jakarta by rail. However, this is a journey that takes between 10 to 15 hours, and although the trains are air-conditioned, it is a lot quicker to fly. Other important stations in Surabaya include Gubeng and Surabaya Kota, which is also known as Semut.

The main bus terminal in Surabaya is Purabaya, but it is also known as Bungurasih, as this is the area in which it is located. Frequent buses are available from all over East Java to the center of Surabaya. City buses, pedicabs, and commuter trains can all also be used by locals and expats living in Surabaya. Taxis are plentiful and some of the best known local companies are Blue Bird Group, Orenz Taxi, Silver and Express.

Culture and Leisure in Surabaya

Football fans can look forward to a visit to the Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium, the main sports stadium in Surabaya and the home stadium of Persebaya, a football team that plays in the Indonesian national league. Having won the Indonesian Premier Division twice, Persebaya is considered to be one of the country's best sports teams.

Ciputra Waterpark is located in the CitraLand complex and it is one of the city's most popular leisure complexes, getting very busy at the weekends and on public holidays. There are also several excellent golf courses scattered around the city. 

Statues commemorating heroes of the independence movement can be found all over the city, which is extremely proud of its heritage. The city is also seen as a gateway to Trowulan, an ancient city and a famous archaeological site in Java. Sites of cultural importance that are well worth a visit for expats living in Surabaya also include Gereja Kelahiran Santa Perawan Maria, which is the oldest church in the city. 

One of the most popular places for young people living in Surabaya is G-Walk, which is home to a lot of food stalls and bazaars at night, as well as bars. Loop is another of Surabaya's favorite haunts for younger people.

Surabaya is also increasingly embracing Chinese culture, which can be seen in the Chinese influence in the nation's cuisine, for example. 

Safety and Security in Surabaya

Surabaya has a reputation as a safe city, but crimes do occasionally happen and expats living in Surabaya should always stay on their guard. 

The roads can be chaotic, so take extra care when crossing roads. One trick the locals use is to raise an arm to make them easier to see, while the traffic will often continue to flow around people crossing roads. Air pollution is also a problem and a lot of local people wear face masks to protect themselves. 

The city's toll roads are in much better condition, but they tend to be extremely full of traffic. It is advised that you hire a personal driver with knowledge of the local area if it is possible to do so, instead of driving yourself. 

Avoiding walking on the streets of the city alone is advisable, but Surabaya is no more dangerous than any other major city. Crowded public transport can be a haven for thieves, so make sure any jewelry is hidden and valuables are kept out of sight. Pickpocketing is also relatively common in the city's bars and restaurants. 

There is corruption in Surabaya and officials and police officers may ask for bribes. The emergency police number is 110, but operators are likely to have limited English language skills and response times have been known to be slow.

InterNations Expat Magazine