As an expat living in Jakarta, you will be living in Indonesia’s largest city. With its 9.8 million inhabitants, Jakarta is a metropolis with international flair. Read the InterNations Guide on Jakarta for more information on Southeast Asia’s “Big Apple,” from culture to healthcare.
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 in Jakarta, from the buildings to the way the city itself is structured.
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.
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, life in Jakarta also means putting up with severe flooding, due to its many rivers. The flooding, however, can be mainly attributed to overpopulation and the resulting deforestation required to provide more space for the growing number of residents. The weak city infrastructure can lead to clogged sewers as well, causing parts of the Jakarta to be impassable at certain times.
Culture and Food in Jakarta
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 in Jakarta can easily profit from the city’s cultural offerings. From jazz festivals and fashion weeks to international art exhibitions and traditional trade shows, life in Jakarta is filled with 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 traditions abounds in the streets of Jakarta. From savory traditional dishes displayed by street vendors to expensive high-class restaurants, Jakarta has it all.
Public Transportation in Jakarta
At the time of writing, Jakarta’s public transportation system is still undergoing construction. The Jakarta administration broke ground on a mass rapid transit system, which encompasses an elevated and underground railway system, as of March 2014. As many people living in Jakarta commute from suburban areas around the city center, traffic jams are a major problem in Jakarta.
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 for those living in Jakarta to get around. Timetables are available on the TransJakarta website (Indonesian only). Tickets are relatively cheap at IDR 3,500 (about USD 0.30 US) per ride.
Illustrative photo courtesy of Ra Residence Simatupang Jakarta