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.
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.
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.
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.