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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Indonesia
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Balangan Beach in Bali, Indonesia


10 Things to Know Before Moving to Indonesia

By Joshua Wood, LPC

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Summary: If you're planning a move to Indonesia, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to Indonesia.

Indonesia, a vibrant archipelago with over 17,000 islands, is a popular destination for expats from around the world. Its rich cultural heritage, diverse landscapes, and warm, welcoming people make it an attractive place to live. However, moving to a new country always comes with its own set of challenges and Indonesia is no exception. Here are ten things you should know before making the move to this Southeast Asian nation.

1. Understanding the Indonesian Culture

Indonesia is a melting pot of cultures, with over 300 ethnic groups each with their own traditions and languages. The national motto "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" (Unity in Diversity) truly encapsulates the spirit of the country. As an expat, it's important to respect and appreciate these cultural differences. For instance, Indonesians value harmony and tend to avoid direct confrontation. Understanding these cultural nuances can help you navigate social interactions more smoothly.

2. Learning Bahasa Indonesia

While English is widely spoken in tourist areas and major cities, Bahasa Indonesia is the official language. Learning the basics can go a long way in helping you integrate into the local community. It's also a sign of respect towards the local culture. There are numerous language schools and online resources available to help you get started.

3. Navigating the Indonesian Visa System

Indonesia has a complex visa system that can be difficult to navigate. There are several types of visas available, including tourist, business, and social-cultural visas. If you're planning to work in Indonesia, you'll need a work permit and a limited stay visa. It's crucial to understand the requirements and processes involved to avoid any legal issues.

4. Adapting to the Tropical Climate

Indonesia has a tropical climate, with high humidity and temperatures ranging from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius year-round. The country has two seasons: the dry season (May to September) and the rainy season (October to April). It's important to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun. Also, be prepared for sudden downpours during the rainy season.

5. Embracing the Local Cuisine

Indonesian cuisine is as diverse as its culture, with each region having its own unique dishes. From the spicy rendang in West Sumatra to the sweet martabak in Jakarta, there's a wide variety of flavors to explore. Street food is a big part of Indonesian culture, and it's a great way to experience the local cuisine. However, be mindful of hygiene and only eat at places that look clean and busy.

6. Getting Around in Indonesia

Transportation in Indonesia can be a challenge, especially in big cities like Jakarta where traffic congestion is a common issue. Public transportation options include buses, trains, and taxis. However, many expats prefer to use ride-hailing apps like Gojek and Grab for convenience. If you're living in a more remote area, you might need to consider buying a motorbike or a car.

7. Understanding the Cost of Living

The cost of living in Indonesia varies greatly depending on where you live. Major cities like Jakarta and Bali can be quite expensive, especially when it comes to housing and international schooling. However, living in smaller towns or rural areas can be significantly cheaper. It's important to research and budget accordingly.

8. Preparing for Natural Disasters

Indonesia is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions. It's important to be aware of this and have a disaster preparedness plan in place. This includes knowing the evacuation routes, having emergency supplies on hand, and keeping important documents in a safe place.

9. Navigating the Healthcare System

While Indonesia has made significant improvements in its healthcare system, it still lags behind Western standards. Public hospitals can be overcrowded and under-resourced, while private hospitals can be expensive. Many expats choose to get international health insurance to cover medical expenses. It's also recommended to get routine vaccinations and take precautions against mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria.

10. Enjoying the Indonesian Lifestyle

Despite the challenges, living in Indonesia can be a rewarding experience. The country offers a laid-back lifestyle, beautiful landscapes, and a rich cultural heritage. From exploring ancient temples in Yogyakarta to surfing in Bali, there's always something to do. Plus, the warm and friendly locals make it easy to feel at home.

Moving to Indonesia is a big decision that requires careful planning and preparation. By understanding the culture, learning the language, and being aware of the challenges, you can make the transition smoother and enjoy all that this diverse country has to offer.

Expats talk about Moving to Indonesia

"Don't worry too much. It's pretty easy life here but will require patience a plenty. Traffic is horrible! But I get lots of reading done in my Mitsurbishi Grandis. Good staff are very important and should be rewarded with your trust and better than average pay if you find good ones. We love ours. Finally, as usual, a little bit of the local language goes a long long ways. Vocabulary is the key here b/c the rest of the language is easy," said one expat living in Jakarta.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

AGS Worldwide Movers
AGS Worldwide Movers

Balangan Beach in Bali, Indonesia

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SJB Global

SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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SJB Global is a top-rated financial advisory firm specializing in expat financial advice worldwide, offering retirement planning & tax-efficient solutions with a regressive fee model.
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