Indonesia Expat Guide

Articles on Indonesia

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About Indonesia


With over 18,000 islands of which 6,000 are inhabited, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. It is also the fourth most populated country in the world and the largest Muslim population in the world. With islands on both sides of the equator, Indonesia enjoys a year round warm climate.

Facts and Figures

  • World’s lategest island country
  • 14th largest country in the world and 4th most populous
  • Java is home to over half of the country’s population and is the most populated island in the world
  • Indonesia is officially known as the Republic of Indonesia and the capital is in Jakarta.


Indonesia is a democratic republic with a president as the head of state. The main political parties include: Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Party of the Functional Groups (Golkar), the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), the Democratic Party, and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). Indonesia is divided in to 34 provinces, with 5 of these provinces having special status. The provinces are further divided into regencies and cities. These are then divided into districts and villages, with villages the lowest into form of government. Villages however are divided into neighborhood groups, called rukun tetangga or RT. The village administration can have a strong influence in the daily lives of people. Click here for more information about the government in Indonesia.


Religion plays an important role in Indonesian society. There are just six religions that are recognized in Indonesia, including Protestant, Catholic, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Confucianism. A person’s religion is marked on their identity card and atheism is not accepted in Indonesia. Marriages can only be legally registered if both parties belong to the same religion. Blasphemy is a serious offence, so it is important to show respect to religion and their institutions while living in Indonesia.


The official language is Indonesian or “Bahasa Indonesia”, a variant of Malay. Many words have been derived from Chinese, Arabic, Dutch, Portuguese and English. Indonesia has over 300 distinct native ethnic groups, most of which have their own language. English is spoken in the main tourist centers of the country.


Due to its proximity to the equator, Indonesia enjoys warm weather all year. There are just two seasons, wet and dry. Dry season is from May to October and wet season from November to April. The weather is very tropical, but it can get cooler in the mountains. Some areas like Kalimantan and Sumatra experience higher levels of rainfall, while others such as the eastern part of the country in Nusa Tenggara are much drier.


The official currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah, which is abbreviated as Rp. It is required by law for all businesses to display prices in Rupiah. Money can be easily exchanged at banks and money changers in tourist areas. Cash is still mostly used for payments but digital currency is increasingly becoming more common.

The most popular places for expats to live in Indonesia, include south Jakarta (Kemang), Central Jakarta (Menteng), south Bali, Yogyakarta and Lombok. See here for more information about living in Bali.

Jobs and Salaries

Salaries are quite low in Indonesia and many people live in poverty. The minimum salary differs from each region but can be around US$150 a month. A fresh college graduate may earn around US$400 a month.

The government does not welcome foreign workers and finding work and getting a working visa is not a straightforward process. Opportunities exist for foreigners in education, management level positions and the oil and gas industries. Some industries such as medical are mostly closed to foreigners.

Residency and Visas

Most foreigners living in Indonesia on a permanent basis hold either a working, retirement or spouse visa. A retirement visa is available to foreigners over 55 years of age who have a form of income like a pension, since working is not permitted on the visa.

Cost of Living in Indonesia

While living costs can vary around the country, with Jakarta for example being the most expensive, Indonesia generally has a low cost of living. This makes it an attractive place to live for anyone with an income from overseas. Some imported items have high import duties, such as wine which are expensive.

Healthcare in Indonesia

While healthcare conditions have improved greatly in Indonesia in recent years it is still a concern for any expats living in the country. It is not uncommon for wealthy Indonesians to seek healthcare in Malaysia or Singapore. Serious medical conditions, like being involved in a traffic accident, people will be medivaced to another country like Singapore or Australia. The cost of this can be around $50,000 so it is essential to have insurance which covers emergency medical evacuations. See here for more information about healthcare in Indonesia.

Schools and Education

The quality of education in Indonesia is not great and is entirely dependent on the socioeconomic status of the people. Standards are not high in government run schools, making private schools more popular for those that can afford the fees. International schools are located in the main areas where expats live but they can be very expensive. See here for more information about schools and education in Indonesia.

Interesting Facts about Indonesia

In rural areas, squat style toilets are still common. Toilet paper is not typically used and you will either have to use a water spray or there might be just a bucket and ladle to clean yourself.

While forks and spoons are provided in most restaurants, many Indonesians eat with their hands, or right hand since the left hand is not considered “clean”.

Indonesia is located on the Pacific Rim, known as the “Ring of Fire”. Earthquakes are common and the country has over 120 active volcanoes.

Indonesia is home to some unique wildlife including orangutans in Sumatra and the Komodo dragons on Rinca and Komodo Islands.


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