Expat housing in Jakarta: all you need to know

Where do expats live? Stand alone house, compound or apartment? How much does it cost? As a new expat in Jakarta, here’s what I wish I knew about housing before moving to Jakarta.

What are the expat areas?

Central Jakarta

For families working in the center and small kids who do not require attending international schools, central neighborhoods such as Menteng, and Kuningan are good options.

This was our initial set up, our kids attended Discovery Center then, an English-speaking day care in Menteng. We never had to sit in the car for more than 15 minutes (school, office, mall, park). but had fewer opportunities to socialize with others expat families who mostly live in the southern part of the city.

In the center, here are some of the apartments that are most popular with expats:

  • USD 1000 – 2500 range (mid-range 2-3 bedrooms): Thamrin Residence, Denpasar Residence, Puri Casablanca, Puri Imperium, Pavillion.
  • USD2500 to 5000 (upscale 3-4 bedrooms): Shangrila, Four Seasons Residence, Sudirman Residence, Verde, Menteng Executive, The Peak, Anandamaya

There are also beautiful standalone houses in Menteng area, with prices ranging from USD 2000-5000.

South Jakarta

Most international schools are located in the southern part of Jakarta so nearby areas such as Kemang, Pondok Indah, Senopati, SCBD, Cipete, and Cilandak are most popular with expat families who have school-aged children.

Those who work in Central Jakarta would be looking at a daily car commute of at least 1 – 1h30 but luckily, the MRT now connects South to Central Jakarta in less than 30min.

We now live in South Jakarta and use a combination of MRT + Gojek everyday to commute to work (30min door to door). The increase in quality of life is worth the extra time we spend in transportation: we go home everyday to a much greener and peaceful area where we no longer feel we live in a big city and our kids get to play with their classmates every afternoon.

In the south, most people live in houses (standalone or inside compounds, we’ll talk about the difference in more detail below). Fewer people live in apartments but here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Apartments (USD2,500 – 6,000): Kemang Village, Pakubowono, Senayan, Dharmawangsa Residence.
  • Housing compounds (USD 4000 – 6000): Executive Paradise (which is walking distance to Nord Anglia School of Jakarta), Kemang Club Villas, Veranda.

Those are the prices of popular compound/apartments. If you are on a tight budget, look for a standalone house or one inside a small compound. They may be harder to find for new expats but there are great deals to be found (I recently visited a nice 3 bedroom house with a private pool with monthly rent of USD1200 in Cipete area).

Pay 1 year upfront

Landlords require tenants to pay a minimum of 1 year rental upfront, and many even require 2 years. It is important to take that into consideration when negotiating your relocation package.

That also means that landlords don’t really have an incentive to help tenants sort out issues once the annual rent is paid.

If paying 1 year upfront is impossible, serviced apartments may offer an alternative solution.

What you’ll need to check

If possible, try to talk to people who live in your preferred area/compound to find out:

  • morning prayers volume
  • potential flooding during rainy season
  • road access during rush hour
  • if your kids school can organize pick up from that location
  • how is the community? Are there lots of other families with similar aged children?…
  • what internet provider they use (choosing the right one depends on your location)

This Jakarta Mum Support Group on Facebook is a great place to ask questions.

Also check Airbnb to see if there might be units for short term rent in the apartment/compound/area you are interested in. That’s what we did and were able to cross options out that way.

Julien, a French expat, has reviewed apartments all over Jakarta on his website and may be able to give you more insight into specific buildings.

House or apartment?

Traffic and lack of public infrastructure means people spend an unusual amount of time at home. We have always preferred living in apartments but think we may be ready for a house.

Both have plus and minuses, here are a few things to consider:

Convenience and facilities vs space and privacy

Apartments usually offer many facilities on-site in addition to great maintenance service: garden with outdoor/indoor playgrounds, gym, pool, tennis court, function rooms… Some developments also have their own daycare, supermarket and direct access to malls. All of that means not having to face traffic, which means more quality time and flexibility.

Apartments are more expensive when looking at floor space and utilities are usually very expensive but don’t forget the price includes a gym, a pool, maintenance and security.

People who live in standalone houses tend to hire security, gardener/pool boy, pay gym membership, have a full time domestic worker.

For those who prefer living in a house and miss having access to facilities and being part of a community, choosing a townhouse inside a compound might be the best compromise. Compounds can be very small with 3-4 houses, or much large and share facilities, security, maintenance…

Some families who miss facilities also join hotel memberships (ex: ShangriLa, Dharmawangsa…) or the American Club is another option.

Bugs, rodents and air pollution

People who live in houses are more likely to experience issues with mosquitoes and rats (dengue is very common during rainy season).

If pollution is a concern, note that keeping the air clean with purifiers will be more difficult in a house than in a smaller apartment (read more on Jakarta’s air pollution here).

Household staff

Houses are usually bigger, have a pool and garden and therefore require more work. It’s not unusual for expat families to have a team of 4-5 household staff (security guard, gardener, nanny, housekeeper, driver). It’s an incredible luxury and privilege but it also takes some adjustment to have people hang around the house.

Some families also prefer to have live-in staff, which might also determine their choice (staff quarters in apartments are usually ridiculously small).

Check out my post on hiring household staff here.

Social life

Living in a standalone house can be very isolating, especially if you are not living in South Jakarta.

For small children, school is only mornings, and afternoons alone at home can feel very long. Afternoon activities and play dates will require a bit of logistics (having to take a car, facing traffic on the way back…).

Weekend getaways

With low cost airlines operating from Jakarta and many nice destinations within 1h30 flights, we thought we’d be able to get away from the city regularly.

In practice, that never happens: Jakarta’s traffic jams and systematic flight delays always turn an 1h30 flight into a 6-7 hour journey door-to-door, so taking the plane for a weekend isn’t really an option.

You will spend a lot of time in your home, so better find one you really love.

Talk to experts

Relocation professionals can also help you find out what are the best housing options for your family. Although I did not use one myself, I consistently hear great reviews about EMC Indonesia on expat groups.

More tips for expat families moving to Jakarta here.

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