Everyday life tips for Jakarta expats

(Views of Monas from Masjid Istiqlal)

For those who have recently arrived and are trying to figure their way around the city, here are some tips for everyday life in Jakarta.

Grocery shopping

I mostly order groceries online via the HappyFresh App, which allows users to shop from nearby supermarkets in exchange for a Rp20,000 fee (usually delivery can be made within the same day). I mainly order from Grand Lucky SCBD, which has the most competitive prices in Central Jakarta and carries a large selection of imported goods.

Even though that doesn’t get me the freshest and cheapest vegetables and fruits, I prefer doing so than having to go to the local wet market.

For special imported items (specialty cheese, imported meat…), I occasionally order from Pak Stefan, a Frenchman who sends a weekly list and delivers straight to your door (payment is made cash on delivery). Send an email to be added to the weekly mailing list (walakaboats@yahoo.fr and menu@pakstefan.com)

Here I share my favourite local products.

For baby food

I’ve ordered many times from Munch2organic (an online store specializing in baby food and toiletries) and have always been happy with their service (they can deliver with Gojek within the same day).


Perhaps because of supply chain challenges, and/or last minute regulatory changes, you will soon find out that random items sometimes go out of stock. For particular imported items that you cant live without, it is safe to keep a few extras at home (ex: dishwashing tablets, your favorite imported cereals…).

Also, if you see something you like, buy it on the spot because it might not be available on your next visit.

Western style baby and toddler clothes are not easy to find. Foreign brands have a limited selection here and are expensive so make sure you stock up ahead (shoes and underwear in particular).

For anything very specific or hard to find, there are three ecommerce platforms worth checking:

Lazada and Tokopedia  (local versions of Amazon) and… Instagram!

I have bought all sorts of things from Instagram : kids clothing (independent designers all use Instagram as an ecommerce platform), flowers, home ware, kids toys (more on that later)…

If I am looking for something specific, I will type #jual followed by the name of the item (“jual” means “to buy”). For example: #jualoctonauts (I found myself desperate to find an Octonaut toy for Elliott last Xmas and ended ordering from an Instagram seller)

The problem with any of those websites is that they don’t have a built-in payment platform. Once the order is completed, you will have to transfer the related amount to a bank account (very often, a personal bank account). So far, I haven’t had any problems (touching wood).


Transportation: hiring a driver vs using taxis

We are very lucky to have a driver but he is not always available so we also rely on Bluebird taxis (the App works well), and occasionally the Grab App and Uber App.

We’ve found Bluebird to be the most reliable taxis and have had issues with other companies. Taxis are very affordable and our usual fares are between Rp15,000-30,000 for 10-20min rides.

Having a driver is an immense luxury that makes our daily life considerably easier. In Jakarta, knowing the small back roads can save a lot of time and taxi drivers often don’t know their way around the city.

Note that in order to ease traffic congestion, an odd-even car license plate traffic regulation has recently been introduced on the city’s main axes (weekdays, rush hours). These rules only apply to private vehicles and exempts taxis.

Whether you are driving yourself or using taxis, the Waze App is an absolute must-have as it calculates the quickest itinerary from point A to B taking into account congested areas in real-time (but it doesn’t account for the odd-even license plate rule).

On traffic

Yes traffic sucks, and the only thing that makes it better are podcasts. There is an infinite number of podcasts nowadays, on every topic imaginable. Take the time to find the ones you like, some of my favorites are: TED radio hour, Fresh Air, This American Life (more on this later).


The essential App – Gojek

GoJek will become a big part of your life in Jakarta: it isn’t just the Uber for motorcycles (GoRide), but you can also use the same App to order food (GoFood), a masseuse (GoMassage), a hairdresser (GoGlam), order movie tickets (GoTix) and much more.


Internet provider

All Internet providers are not equal and choosing the right one depends on your location. Try to find out what provider your neighbors are using or ask your management office if you live in an apartment building. We spent 6 disastrous months with First Media and finally changed to DTP. Also, ask for a trial period before you commit to any provider.


Learning Bahasa Indonesia

Few months after I arrived, I signed up for a group course with the IALF (http://www.ialf.edu/) and highly recommend it. Not only did that give me the basic language skills for everyday life, it was a great way to meet people and make friends.

For private courses, I have heard good feedback on Wisma Bahasa (http://www.wisma-bahasa.com/) .

If you decide to learn Bahasa Indonesia, I highly recommend using the Quizlet App.

Medical care

Foreign doctors are banned from practicing in Indonesia and there are only few Indonesian doctors with foreign degrees.

SOS Medika Klinic is the main “international” clinic in Central and South Jakarta, with English speaking staff and what looks like western standard facilities. However, it does not offer direct billing services (with any insurance companies). A consultation with a general practitioner costs about Rp400,000.

I will cover medical emergencies in a separate post.

For pregnancy

Dr. Gozali was trained in the UK and worked there for 20 years. He comes highly recommended (contact details here).



For a haircut

I’m not very specific about hair and just go anywhere close to my home but a lot of expats with coloring needs go to:

Roberto Lorini at Alfons salon
Jl. Panglima Polim Raya,
Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12160, Indonesia
+62 21 7220416

My mother in law tried GoGlam (under the GoJek App) for a blow dry at home and was very happy (Rp85,000).

Waxing and brows

The only place I trust my eyebrows with is Browhaus (both in Shanghai and Jakarta).

For waxing, I go with Strip (they share the same location with Browhaus).


I highly recommend Spalosophy for massage and mani/pedis at home (Rp. 170.000 for a 90min massage in the comfort of your home).

Go Massage (under the Gojek App) works the same way, although I haven’t tried.


Expat Classified- Upper Crust

The caterer Upper Crust often send out a newsletter for expats with classified (house staff for hire, second hand furniture/appliances…). You can send them an email to be added to the list



Receiving anything through mail is tricky because custom duties will apply to any package valued over USD50 and the calculation method is unpredictable.

If you plan to receive a package, make sure the content is itemized carefully so customs can calculate duties accordingly and try keeping the value to under USD50.


Men’s suits

For shirts, my husband goes to Laxmi Tailor (few shops around the city), it’s not great but good enough for everyday wear and reasonably priced for custom made shirts. Best to bring a sample shirt for them to copy. They also do suits.


Curtains and reupholstery

I’ve used the service of Pak Suratman on several occasions: to make cushion covers (see details here) and a sofa cover (in Elliott’s room here, I’ll admit this is not a great picture of his work!). He (or his staff) can come to your place with fabric samples, take measurements and delivers everything back less than a week after. He speaks reasonable English but his staff do not and he doesn’t have a lot of fabric to choose from so best to buy your own fabric if you need something very specific.

Pak Suratman – 0818 0877 1020



To keep updated of what goes on in Jakarta, I read the following websites:

And in order to better understand Indonesia, I couldn’t recommend this book more highly: Indonesia Etc by Elizabeth Pisani, an easy and entertaining read full of bright insight.


Making friends

Making friends is a slow process, especially for those living outside the usual expat neighborhoods. If you have the time, I highly recommend looking into this:

A very active non-profit organization that aims to promote Indonesia’s culture.

It is run by volunteers, most of them foreigners living in Jakarta and organizes all sorts of interesting activities (walks and visit in the city, conferences, guiding courses for Museum Nacional…)

It is a very friendly international community of people, and an excellent way to discover Jakarta and learn more about Indonesia.

There are also several subsections (French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean) that organize activities in their own language.

  • Joining playgroups

This Facebook group is a good place to ask if one already exist in your neighborhood, or to start one (just send an email to the admin to be added).

  • Registering at your local Embassy and getting in touch with your community

Some Embassies are very good at bringing their local community together

  • Joining clubs (mostly in South Jakarta) – Full listing here

American Club

Australia and New Zealand Association

Jakarta acceuil and Union des Francais de l’Etranger


Know your new home

There’s plenty to explore and discover in Jakarta and I will prove it to you here!


Getting away

This city is overwhelming and getting away once in a while helps recharging batteries. It’s not as hard as you may think: a hike in green Sentul is only 90min away, Bogor is nice and very easy for a weekend, and Pulau Macan is another option.

Have I forgotten anything? Click here to read my previous post on what you need to know to plan your move.

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