I bet a number of you are doing some research before you move to the new place you call home. I know I did before we moved to Bangkok and then to Jakarta. I try to be as prepared as I can, especially if I’m moving with kids.
A fellow soon-to-be expat mom, Magdalena who’s moving from Texas with her husband and two boys, sent me a few questions about life in Jakarta. I thought her questions were so thoughtful and thorough that I thought I would share them with you guys hoping you would find them useful, too. This is the first part of two.
Moving to Jakarta without Losing your Mind.
Today we will discuss the living situation, housing, household help, preschools and medical care.
Living Situation/ Housing
We’ve been suggested to move Kemang due to its closeness to everything and the big expat population there. Is that true? Would you have a better suggestion?
The biggest concern you should have when choosing a place to live is the location. You should pick a place that is close to your husband’s office and your children’s school. Commuting in Jakarta is painful and is one of the biggest deal-breakers for many expats. Since you will be here for a while (3+ years) and your toddler will likely start kindergarten in the next two years you should pick a place close to the school of your choice (JIS, BIS, AIS, NIS, etc). Kemang is a fun expat enclave where you will be able to find everything. From Yoga studios and bars to bagels shops and seamstresses. I personally live in the city center due to my husband’s office location. If we were to stay here longer, we would consider moving to the south (Kemang area) because Evan would be starting kindergarten and I would prefer to be close to the school.
Another great area for expats is Kuningan. It is in the south but it is not inside Kemang and it has a great restaurant scene. Leaving Kemang can be a bit tricky because there is only two ways to go in and out and there is always heavy traffic. That being said you will probably have most of your activities within Kemang. I have even seen people running and exercising on the street, a very rare sight here in Jakarta. So yeah, Kemang is awesome but you just need to consider where you will be going to from Kemang.
2. House Vs. Apartment.
So far, we can tell renting a house would obviously be more spacious, however, requires more maintenance, such as having a security guard we were told. With that said, do you ever feel unsafe living in JKT? Do you ever feel threatened when you are with your kids?
Houses in Kemang and in most expat enclaves are very nice and usually follow “western” standards when it comes to closets, kitchens, and bedroom distribution. It is true that houses require much more maintenance here and the biggest bummer is that you cannot really work on the house yourself. You cannot really go to a home depot buy materials and fix them. This is key when choosing a landlord. You have to have a good one because some are known to flee the scene once the contract is signed and the repairs that are his responsibility can be unattended for a while.
When you live in a house you need a guard, and a poolboy as well as a gardener. Plus any housekeeping or nanny help you need. I live in an apartment and we love the community and the amenities (sauna, gym, big pool, playground). However I do wish I had a backyard of my own sometimes. It’s all up to you. We haven’t lived in a house for the past 5 years so I cannot even imagine what it is like. We lived in apartment in Germany and in Thailand so I am not really the best judge of that. I definitely wish I had more storage space and more room for the kids to run around but again we went for location and apartments in the city center are as expensive as houses in the south.
Regarding safety I have never really felt threatened or even scared. I am obviously more aware of my belongings at malls and when I’m out and about but it is still don’t feel like there is an imminent threat targeting bules (foreigners). I have heard of several situations where the household staff let strangers pretending to be repairmen in and they end up robbing the house. You just need to be very clear about who’s coming to visit, etc. Don’t worry but it’s still wise to have a guard and be a bit more careful than you would be in the US.
My husband will have one provided by work; will it be necessary that I get a separate one for the kids and me? Can I do without a driver? Can I take a taxi or a bus instead or would you not recommend that?
Jakarta unfortunately doesn’t have a reliable public transportation system so you will likely have to drive everywhere. I would definitely recommend you get an extra driver or just work around your husband’s schedule to move around. I would not recommend you drive here. (I’ve done it and it’s nerve-wrecking and exhausting). You can take taxis. They are very reliable but sometimes hard to find, especially during rush hour. There is a bus system and a “train”system but they are overcrowded and I would never ride them with the kids.
Is it necessary that you have house-help? Most of the places we looked at have “servants quarters”. Is it mandatory that we have to have someone live with us? If so, do they live with us and their entire family? I was reading other blogs where people commented that once you hire someone you also take care of them (e.g. pay for their health insurance, etc.).
It is certainly not necessary but I bet you will be glad to have help at home. Jakarta is a very dirty city and trust me you will want your home cleaned every single day. It is not necessary to have a live-in helper. She can live-out and come say from 8:00am to 5:00 pm. I personally have two helpers. A live-in nanny and a live-out housekeeper and cook. The nanny helps me in the morning by giving them baths and getting Evan ready for school. She babysits at night when I go out with my husband or friends and stays with the kids when I go grocery shopping (which is complicated to do with children here in Jakarta). The housekeeper does laundry, mops, cleans bathrooms, etc and cooks for us.
I don’t pay for insurance but I do pay for medical expenses. They usually bring a receipt or invoice from the hospital and doctor and I help out with their medicine. If you have a live-in she will live in her room and bathe in her quarters. The room is usually separate from the main living area and will likely be in the basement, or by the kitchen. When you don’t want her around you can just let her know and this won’t be a problem. If you live in a house you might consider hiring a maid/guard team consisting of a married couple. Some houses have a small apartment like area with two or more bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. They can “live” there if you desire them to.
1. Preeschool for a toddler.
We were thinking of putting our toddler in Montessori@Kemang in August/September, he will be three years old. Is Evan in school already or do you have both of your babies still with you? If he is at school, are you pleased with it?
Evan is at a preschool near my home. We are very happy with it. You will see there are many options for children so you will be able to pick and choose what you want. You can even start him in school as soon as you get here. Most preschools will let you enroll your kids at any moment in the term. I have personally heard that the Australian International School and the Netherlands International School have great preschool programs. If I lived in the South I would without a doubt check them out.
We were told there is an SOS clinic for expats, is that where you go? Do you have a good pediatrician? Dentist? How do I find one? What happens if we have an emergency with one of the kids?
The SOS clinic is the best-known clinic among expats. It’s all Indonesian doctors but they do have foreign “advisor” doctors that can do consultations but not prescribe medicine. My husband’s company has a clinic so we do most of our check-ups there. I haven’t personally experienced any doctor’s visits at SOS but I have heard overall good comments. I haven’t visited a dentist here, either. I usually go to Thailand or Mexico and see my regular dentists. I have several recommendations for dentists from friends and I can send you that information without a problem. There are children’s clinics where you can find good doctors. In severe cases you can go to Singapore that is an amazing medical tourism place. Indonesian hospitals are ok but are not the most reliable ones. I was told Joshua was a girl by two doctors and found out he wasn’t when I got to the US.
Are there any JKT expats out there that have anything to add to this?
Please let me know. I would like for the guide to be as comprehensive as possible!
Not really something to add, just some suggestions from me.
1. If your friend decides to live in Kemang, Kemang Village is a nice place to live in with kids. It’s safe, quiet and the most important thing is that there is a new mall (Lippo Mall Kemang) within walking distance. There is also a Hypermart in the mall. I have been living here since March and I’m very happy so far. Oh yes, there is also an SPH school in the development.
2. About Preschools. There is a new preschool in Kebayoran Baru opening in January, called Mighty Minds (can check it out @ mightymindspreschool.com) . We have visited for a trial with my son and we really liked it. It’s a nice place with well educated and experienced teachers.
3. About doctors @ SOS: Our paediatrician is Dr. Johny Nurman and our GP is dr. Harsono. We are happy so far with both of them. We haven’t faced emergencies or difficult health situations though.
I hope I have been of some help!
Hi Ariel! Thanks for your comment! This is so informative! I recently heard about Dr. Johny and heard that he was an excellent doctor. I have several friends in Kemang Village. Sounds like a lovely place. I wiill have to come your way sometime soon to meet you guys!
Thanks for all this helpful information!
Anytime Ana! See you soon!
I am Brazilian and my husband is English and we live in Amsterdam, Holland with our almost 2 years old son.
We will be relocating to Jakarta at the end of September and we still searching for accommodation.
We were in Jakarta last week and we visit some apartments and houses in Kemang area and we were happy about the location. My son will be 2 years old in October and we decided to put him at the New Zeeland International School. I would like to find a good place near the school.
We visited the Kemang Village (Tiffany and Ritz Tower) and we were thinking about living there.
You mentioned that you live there since March so I would like to ask you about what do you think about the compound, the use of the whole village is available to all residents? how about the club?
We haven’t seen all the facilities from the ground floor but on their website it seems to be a lot of different areas, pools, playground, school etc. Is everything already being use or are they still under construction?
I would love to here from you.
Hi Renata! I hope Ariel is able to give you some insight on the housing situation. Have a great move to Jakarta and let me know if I can help you with anything! 😉
Love this post! I dont think we’ll be bidding Jakarta anytime soon but this is EXACTLY the kind of information everyone wants to know and is usually impossible to find out until you arrive in a place! Would love to hear your thoughts on Bangkok sometime too!
You would fall in love with BKK. It’s so fun and dynamic! If you are considering going there you really should!! I will make sure I ask all of these when we go to our next post! Besides the last two times I used less than a third of our UAB and I’m planning to fill it up until the last pound next time!
Great useful tips here, Ana and I’m sure it will be very helpful to the newly soon to be expats in Jakarta 🙂
Thanks Maureen! I can’t wait to have your guest post and perspective (I will send it to you soon). Jakarta keeps be very very busy!
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Hi Ana, Wondering what hospital you had your son at and where you found your OB/GYN. I am Australian, 35 and pregnant with my first child and a little worried about what to expect in Jakarta.
Hi Coco. Congratulations on your pregnancy!
Joshua was born in the US. Many Australians and Americans decide to go to Singapore to deliver. I’ve had a couple of friends deliver their babies in Jakarta. They opted for the Pondok Indah Hospital and Medistra Hospital. I don’t have any personal experience with them but have heard over all positive things. The Doctors at the Brawijaya Women and Children Hospital are excellent. I had an appointment with Dr. Gozali there and was very happy.
Let me know if you have any more questions and enjoy your pregnancy!
this is extremely useful! Kemand sounds like a great place. It would have been great to hear more about the preschool choices you considered and what you think of them – there seem to be so many in Jakarta! I compiled a listing here but haven’t visited them personally:
which preschool do you think you will go for?
Hi Chen, yeah. Kemang is great. I have already chosen a preschool for the boys that is close to our home. There are many good options! Thanks for visiting!
read through the information you’ve provided. thanks a lot..need to ask 2 things..1. how is Gandhi International school? 2. can a family of three manage to live comfortably on a salary of about USD 12000 a year in jakarta
Hi Priyanka! Unfortunately I cannot speak to the Gandhi International School. I currently don’t have any friends attending the school so I don’t want to give any misinformation. I do know they have many international teachers so that is definitely a good signs. Regarding your second question it really depends on your lifestyle. Jakarta can be very cheap but it can be extremely expensive, too. It’s really up to you. I know rent is over the roof in some areas so if the rent is paid for, I think you can definitely be ok on that salary considering that groceries and imported products can sometimes be very expensive. If you stick to the local produce and spices (which by the way are amazing) you should be ok. Another aspect to consider would be whether your little one will be going to school. Again, some schools are super expensive so it really depends on how you manage your lifestyle. Please don’t hesitate to send me an email if you have any more questions! 🙂
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Hi, As an expat family considering a move to Jakarta this has been an excellent and informative post.
I just wanted to check, was there a part 2 posted?
oops, just found the link to part 2. duh!
Hi Blair! I’m so glad you found the information useful! Please let me know if you have any specific questions about life here and I would be glad to help out with anything I can. Take care and happy move!
Hey Ana,thanks a ton for the information. had bookmarked this page and lost it!!!!!!!! which is why replying late. one more ques. what about bali? is it safe? what about frequent illness/infections? have read that the pollution level is quite high! is it so? thanks
Hi Priyanka, I feel like it’s super safe. Of course there are some sketchy areas but we always avoid them. There is some pollution but the vast jungle makes up for it. Regarding infections you just have to make sure you avoid street food and you should be fine. Enjoy your trip! 🙂
Thank you so much for all the information Ana. Its been really useful and reassuring.
Hi Ana. I have just moved to Jakarta last Friday with my husband and 3 sons (8yr, 10yr and 12yr).
I would really like a recommendation of a good dentist if you have one?
I look forward to following your journey!
Hi Amanda, Welcome to Jakarta! I hope the rainy season is treating you well! Unfortunately I don’t have any personal experience with dentists here. We get our teeth cleaned in MX and the US and haven’t needed to go here. However, many of my friends go to the SOS clinic in Cipete. Good luck! 🙂
Hi Ana, I am from the Uk and my husband Australia. We have been expats in the Middle East now for 6 yrs but there might be a possibility of a job in Jakarta. I just wondered what you thought of it for families. I have a 6yr old girl and 3yr old boy. We have also acquired 3 rescue dogs. I guess I just wanted to know if we would fit in ok.
Hi Nikki. Jakarta is a great place for families. It is very family friendly and you will never run out of things to do. You might find it not to different to the Middle East in some aspects such as the mosques, and the fact that it is still developing. Importing dogs is a bit challenging but can definitely be done. You just have to hire a pet import company to make the process as smooth as possible for your pets. Please feel free to email me if you have any specific questions. Jakarta is a fun place!
There might be a possibility of a job for us in Jakarta coming from Europe, and we also have a dog. I was wondering if you used a pet relocation company to move your pets to Jakarta and if it all went (relatively) smoothly.
Any advice on such would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Alicia, in case Nikki doesn’t see this, I just wanted to chime in and recommend a couple of companies that some friends used: JakPetz (jakpetz.co.id/) and Groovy Pets (www.groovy.co.id/) seemed to be very reliable. You can contact them and get some quotes and ask for specific questions regarding your breed and travel arrangements. Happy packing and prep time! And Selamat Datang di Jakarta!
Spot-on! We have just moved to Jakarta and this info is great!
Thanks! I’m glad you have found it useful!
Hi Ana, your blog is very informative. My husband told me last night about moving to Jakarta by end of August. I almost had a panic attack ! I would be needing loads of information from you regarding housing, schooling and house help. Currently We are living in Dubai with our 5 year old.. We already have a house helper who lives with us. My son is going to British School in Dubai.
My son will have to continue his school from September. He is right now in Year 1. I have no idea whether admissions in British school in Jakarta have closed down because in Dubai getting into a school is a rat race !
Plus can we arrange a visa for our Filipino House helper ? We are planning to move her back to Philippines and then we can arrange for her work permit. Is it possible?
Thank you so much.
Hi Mina, I think you are still ok trying to get him at the BIS. Just email them and start the admissions process. I think you should be fine. You can get a visa for help but it will be challenging, you will have to sponsor her and I’m not sure how the process takes place but I think it’s feasible. Just check with the Indonesian consulate in Dubai. I am not sure how the whole work permit process works. Jakarta will be fun. Don’t worry too much. Let me know if you have any more questions.
Dear Mrs Ana, I love this post very much! saw your pictures, very beautiful family 🙂 especially evan and joshua. miss their face at D.C menteng-jakarta 🙂 best wishes for your boys….
THanks, Maria! We miss DC Menteng, too! We had fond memories of our time there. Warm regards!
Hi Ana nice to meet you and I loved your post!! It’s very usefull and also Good to know you like Jakarta even most people complaint with the traffic. However i want to introduce my self since i got jet-lag from our “vacaciones” trip. I’m originally from Jakarta however i left the country 12 yrs ago ( i come back sometimes to visit my family) and i have no intend to promote but I have new furbished apartment at kemang village ( we designed it by our self) we would love to rent it ASAP maybe around August 2014. Now we are here in until end of July for vacations ( I speak English and Spanish coz I’m married with an amazing Venezuelan man 😉 I speak & writes both languages fluently and understand a bit Portuguese & French) if someone you know want to rent an apartment they can contact me by email or cell phone ( I’ll give it later on). I hope I can get to know you personally since we also live as an expat, so this kind of information and communication are really help me a lot 😉 btw my name is Wieke Rosalina and I am a chef but for now I’m not working since I still have my two daughter 8 & 10 yrs old 😉 and my hubby work for oil service company.
Thank you for your blog hope we can get to know each other later
Hola Wieke, saludos! Sorry I didn’t reply before. It’s been crazy busy for us the past few months. I hope you were able to find a renter for your place and that you had a wonderful time visiting Jakarta. Warm regards!