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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Surabaya

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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 !

Relocating to Surabaya

Indonesia is still a developing country, but Surabaya is one of the most appealing options for expats seeking a move to this part of the world due to its solid economy and plentiful job opportunities in a range of sectors. Surabaya is seen as a gateway city for Mount Bromo and Bali and the local climate is tropical.

About the City

Several large multi-level shopping malls make Surabaya a popular retail hub, while a clutch of skyscrapers, including five of Southeast Asia’s tallest buildings — the Adhiwangsa, The Via & Vue, Taman Beverly, Trillium and Water Place Residences. There, much of the city’s business is done.

Indonesian is the national language but the regional language, Javanese, is also spoken by a lot of Surabaya residents. English is the most widely understood foreign language. As well as the local Indonesian population, there are nowadays many Malaysian, Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Arab, and European people living in Surabaya, too. Most local people in Surabaya adhere to Islam, although Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism are also followed by some.

The majority of the local population lives in a metropolitan area called Gerbangkertosusila and there are a lot of slum areas around Surabaya that expats moving to the city will want to avoid.

Surabaya is the main education center in Indonesia and expats looking for work in Surabaya may find lots of opportunities in this area, with Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) jobs plentiful.

The Climate in Surabaya

Indonesia’s position in the so-called Ring of Fire means that it is often subject to minor, and sometimes major, earthquakes. Flooding is also common in some parts of Surabaya during the Indonesian rainy season.

There are distinct wet and dry seasons in Surabaya and it’s recommended expats moving to Surabaya pack casual, light clothes to stay cool. Temperatures do not vary a lot throughout the year, but they tend to range between 30 and 35°C, so it is a hot city to live in. Even the nights are warm in Surabaya, with temperatures tending to remain above 20°C.

November–April is the rainy season for Surabaya and flash flooding is not uncommon at this time of the year, although it does not tend to be as bad as it can be in Jakarta.

Visas for Indonesia

If you are hoping to check out your new home on a first trip, a tourist visas can be organized on arrival in Indonesia, with a 30-day visa available at a cost of 35 USD. Note that depending on your nationality, you may not be eligible for such a visa on arrival (VOA), though, and might have to apply for a visa from home. For those expats moving to Surabaya for longer stays or business purposes, different visa categories apply. You can read up on these in our article on Visa Requirements for Indonesia.

In general, Indonesia takes visas very seriously and it is not advised to allow a visa to run out. Expats who are found with a visa that is out of date may be held in detention or refused permission to leave the country. Fines would need to be paid and in the case of overstaying a visa for more than 60 days, there is a risk of being detained and possibly imprisoned.

Foreigners who stay in private accommodation during their time in Indonesia must also register their presence with the local police — those who fail to do so face a large fine. However, anyone who stays in a hotel will be registered automatically.

Jun 17, 2023, 12:00 PM
12 attendees
Dear Internations Surabayans, You are cordially invited to our Vesak Celebrations at Artap. Lets enjoy Vesak with great pieces of art and greater companies. Sabba satta bhavantu sukhitatta. May all
Let's crack our community catch-up in 2023 by enjoying a new cafe in the heart of Surabaya: Tunjungan, where many historical moments happened. We could also take a walk along Tunjungan Street afterw
Sep 24, 2022, 1:30 PM
9 attendees
Let's celebrate InterNations' 15th Anniversary by getting to know each other and playing games. We have prepared some special gift for the winning team. That'd be great if you could bring some drinks
Jun 4, 2022, 6:00 AM
9 attendees
Miss us yet? :D This time, we will invite you to our Jubilee High Tea a la Surabaya. Don't forget to bring your picnic blankets and British themed snacks to share ;) This will be held in Golf Avenu

See all upcoming events for expats in Surabaya

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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 !

  • Megan Turner

    It's a really helpful site: Via InterNations, we found an international playgroup for our kids (6 and 8 years old) here in Jakarta.

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