For Expats and Students: Living in
If you decide that Indonesia is the place to enjoy your retirement, or
if you will work or study in Indonesia,
make your preparations carefully.
Indonesia is not an immigration country and the immigration
complicated, cumbersome and costly.
First of all sort out your visa
and stay permit
. Then find yourself a place to stay
, buy a car
look for domestic help
Learn your way around the neighborhood
A suitable school
for your children is not hard to find. Set up your bank account
and see what taxes
have to pay.
opportunities for students exists, but are very limited.
Critically important is to learn
and Long Stay Permits
One of the most important
documents to arrange is the visa. Details of the admission
are available through the Indonesian embassies and consulates.
You will need to demonstrate that you have a sponsor in the country
(your employer, for example) and a regular source of income.
Retirees over the age of 57 years may appply for an
annually renewable visa with a
validity of 5 years.
Caution: don't enter the country on a tourist visa,
expecting to convert it into a limited stay visa. You will
With your first visa, the next step is to obtain a temporary stay (and
If you are going to work in Indonesia, usually your employer will
arrange all the paperwork with the Home Department.
But if you have to take care of the
process yourself, be prepared that it is exhaustive and complicated.
Professional help through one of the agencies, specializing in these
kinds of activities is almost essential.
Work permits, known as KITAS are valid for one year.
Foreign spouses of
returning Indonesian nationals are allowed to obtain a residence and
Gradually more professional real
and brokers set up shop in the major cities, such as Jakarta,
Bandung and Surabaya and they will be happy to find you a house or
(less popular) an apartment to your liking. Newspapers, including the
English language dailies carry advertisements for homes for rent.
The more regular way of renting a house is through local, usually
unofficial agents. It is an accepted form of brokerage, but a word of
caution is needed. Put all the promises the agent makes in a contract
and have it legalized.
The custom in Indonesia is to rent a house for one year, sometimes
for two or three years. When the contract expires you are supposed to
vacate the house. If you prefer to renew the rent it is best to put an
option in the contract right from the start. It should explain that you
will have the right on renewal and that the broker is not allowed to
offer the house to another interested party without your consent.
Even so, bring up the subject with the broker well before the
Another practical point to know is that the brokers usually will
be happy to make repairs during the first month after you move in.
From then onwards you will be responsible to pay for all repairs, be it
a broken water pump, a leaking roof,
a collapsing wall and so on (almost all roofs in Indonesian houses
walls usually remain firmly intact).
are allowed to buy property in Indonesia under very strict regulations.
Use the services of a reputable real estate agent to explore your
options. Any other offer for 'to good to be true' real estate deals are
often designed to relieve you from your cash.
License, Buying a Car
The process of buying a car in Indonesia is not much different from
that in other countries. Either you buy a secondhand
vehicle directly from the owner or through a dealer or you buy a new
car. Cars in Indonesia are relatively expensive as they are heavily
The price difference between a new car and a second hand is not too
Buying the car is the easy part, the ensuing paperwork of renewing
licenses, and paying taxes will
cost you many unhappy hours.
By far the best alternative is to use the services of
the car dealer who will do the dirty work, known as
(changing the owner's name) for you for
a small surcharge.
When you happen to move from one city to another the license plates of
your car will need to be changed. In other words, your car needs to be
re-registered in the new location and carry the local license plates.
This process is known as
(mutation) and is not very cheap.
always in Indonesia there are services available to do the work for
you, such as standing in line and filling out forms.
An important preparation before renting or buying a car is to
ensure that you have a valid International Driver's License. When the
license expires you need to renew it
abroad or obtain an Indonesian driver's license.
common procedure for the Indonesian license is to have an agency, or
your office take care of the formalities. If you have time, you may do
so yourself by contacting a
police officer at the police station and to express that you would like
to have a local driver's license.
Depending on who you have contacted the process may be cumbersome and
long or quick and neat. In some cases you only need to show up to have
your photo and fingerprint taken. Other essential documents to complete
the process are your passport, visa and work permit.
Driver's licenses for foreigners are valid for one year only.
Living in Indonesia without domestic help is a contradiction in
Newly arriving expatriates sometimes are reluctant to contract a maid,
a driver, a guard or a gardener, reasoning that domestic work exploits
local human resources.
Reality is that unemployment in Indonesia still is a very serious
Unemployment goes hand in hand with low levels of education. Therefore,
hiring domestic staff definitely helps
reduce the unemployment problem.
The major part of the wages
of your domestic helpers will most likely find their way to relatives
in faraway villages where the money helps to keep children in school,
improve homes, pay for medical needs and help the relatives survive.
In several cities there are official employment agencies for
domestic staff and you are required to pay at least the local minimum
Usually domestic help will be available for 24 hours and 7 days a week.
An alternative way to find domestic staff is through recommendation
from other expatriates, neighbors or co-workers.
Most domestic staff don't speak English. Patience and a sense of
relativism and humor will go a long way in establishing a good working
Whatever happens in your relationship with domestic staff, don't ever
shout at them. Your staff will lose face and, just as important, they
will appreciate you less and less, because with every emotional
outburst you will be losing face too.
The test whether your staff are happy to work for you is when they
break or stay away and never get in touch
again, not even to collect their severance
When employment is terminated, whatever the reason, employers
are required to pay
severance to the amount of one month's wages for every year of
employment with a
maximum of five years.
Talking about wages, culture requires that employers also pay for their
soap, toothpaste, lodging and so on. For Idulfitri
bonus of an additional month's salary, a new shirt or dress, and allow
the staff to visit
their relatives for at least one week (don't forget to pay for their
When you settle in and have unpacked all the boxes and the crates,
it is time to get used to your domestic staff (and they to
ensure that you register yourself and your family at several
During the Japanese occupation, the Japanese armed forces
introduced different neighborhood levels. This system is still
Starting from the bottom there is the RT (which stands for
An RT is a group of up to 100 households, headed by a leader, known as
, or more affectionately Pak RT
is short for
, which means both Father, Dad and Sir.
needs to know who is living in his RT and, in the case
of foreigners, for how long.
Shortly after arrival visit
, show your passport and explain who you are,
why you live here, at which address and for how long.
usually also wants to know the names of your
staff. He will give you a simple note, signed and stamped. With this
note you report to the next higher level, which is the RW (short for
A RW is composed of a number of RT and it is headed by the
. At the RW level you will usually find
an office with clerks. Instead of
, the clerks will do the processing. Once
again you will receive a note, stamped and signed. You will need to pay
registration fee too.
The note from the RW office is required to report to the
or sub-district level. Here again you are
charged a registration fee.
If your office is not equipped to do all the registration
formalities, depending on the level of education of your domestic
staff, they may do so at the RT and RW levels on your behalf, but you
must personally fulfill the registration at the
In many cities you will find international schools (now renamed to
Intercultural School). The most
common are the schools with an American curriculum. But there are also
British schools, Korean schools and Japanese
schools and even a Dutch school (in Jakarta). Until not so long ago
these were restricted to expatriate children only, but the government
now allows Indonesian children to enroll. Not all
international schools provide classes until college level.
A growing number of private Indonesian schools provide a curriculum
that comes close to those of the international schools, such as
Sekolah Internasional Ciputra
in Surabaya. These
popularly known as "plus schools".
Teaching occurs in English and in Indonesian. These schools offer a
viable (and economical) academic
It is possible for foreigners to study at an Indonesian
university. All over the country there are hundreds of universities to
some well known and many small and unknown.
Be prepared to come to the country with a scholarship because Indonesia
is too cash strapped to provide
them, although a few opportunities do exist.
The most popular is the Darmasiswa
program, offered through
the Department of Education. Darmasiswa
non-grade program to study
at Indonesian universities and colleges.
The program offers a choice of
Indonesian languages (Indonesian, Javanese, Balinese, Sundanese),
dances, music, and singing, theater and shadow puppet play, photography
traditional crafts such as batik
up your Bank Account
If you need to set up your bank account, you'll probably be dazzled by
the number of banks in Indonesia.
There are many domestic banks advertising their services. Very few seem
target expatriates, but all major banks provide US$ and Euro accounts.
All banks have facilities for online banking.
In the major economic centers there are several international banks.
The process to open an account is very easy. All you need is your
passport and your KITAS (stay
permit) and usually, Rp 50,000 or more to make the first deposit.
All banks offer online banking facilities.
There is no escape: foreign residents have to pay income tax if their
stay in Indonesia exceeds 180 days.
Not all employers
withhold all due taxes from your salary. Therefore, sit
down with HR and have all the intricacies of Indonesia's tax
Ensure that you receive proof of payment.
If you are self employed, you will have to make all arrangements with
office yourself or use the services of an agency, such as Okusi
The only foreign residents who are tax exempted are those holding a
visa or a service visa (Visa Dinas).
Indonesian and Understanding Indonesians
Anyone who stays in Indonesia for more than just a few weeks should
make an effort to speak Indonesian.
Most Indonesians, especially the younger generations will do their best
to speak English.
You may run into groups of youngsters who ask you lots of questions
practice their English.
Nevertheless, most Indonesians only speak their local language plus
Indonesian and nothing else.
If you make an effort to speak Indonesian, even if you don't
master the grammatical complexities, everyone will sincerely praise
your mastery of the language and even help you to improve it.
There are many language schools in Indonesia with courses for just a
few weeks or up to two months.
But learning the language is not all. Even if you speak Indonesian but
understand the mindset of the people you will be in for many
breakdowns. Investing in an inter-cultural program before you fly to
is a wise decision.
Newly arriving expats are required by law to pass a
language test in Bahasa Indonesia
prerequisite to obtain a work
permit. If the law is enforced, only time will tell.
On the Links
page you will several options for language
Language and culture are closely linked to history
for those who are interested in history, we have a brief
Or have a quick look at the Online