Everyday life guide for Jakarta expats

expat jakarta guide everyday

(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’m very picky and buy food from many different places:

  • Vegetables

We buy from the local wet market because that’s where they are the freshest, cheapest and is also how we keep plastic packaging minimal. I sometimes go, but mostly ask our nanny to shop for us once a week.

  • Fruits

We get them from All Fresh or Total Buah (stores all over the city), where they have a large selection of local and imported fruits and also have organic options.

  • Meat and fish

Ideally we go to Papaya supermarkets, which I think are Japanese owned? They seem cleanest and freshest and have the right cuts.

  • For fry goods

We order nuts, seeds, flours, beans, from ClubSehat.com.The website is considerably cheaper than most supermarkets.

  • For everything else

Grand Lucky SCBD is a very large supermarket in South Jakarta. It is more reasonably priced than other “expat” supermarkets (Ranch Market…) and carries a large selection of imported goods.

Perhaps because of supply chain challenges, and/or last minute regulatory changes,  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.

If I dont have time to go, I’ll simply order through the HappyFresh App and delivers grocery from many supermarkets including Grand Lucky SCBD (delivery fee is usually Rp20,000).

  • 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) or from Luxofood.

Here I share my favorite local products.

Shopping online

For anything very specific or hard to find, try the main e-commerce platforms: Lazada, Tokopedia, Bukalapak 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…

To find products on Instagram, just type #jual followed by the name of the item (“jual” means “to buy”). For example: #jualoctonauts (I found myself desperate to find an Octonaut toys once and ended ordering from an Instagram seller). You’ll have to be comfortable transferring money to a personal bank account but so far, I haven’t had any problems.


If I need to take a taxi, I will always choose Bluebird over any other options (the Bluebird App works well). The service is always great, drivers know the roads well and are not constrained by the odd-even rule.

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). It is usually more accurate that Google Maps.

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), movie tickets (GoTix), pay for your household staff healthcare…

Learning Bahasa Indonesia

Few months after I arrived, I signed up for a group course with the IALF 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 .

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

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. 180.000 for a 90min massage in the comfort of your home).

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 USD3 (!!!) 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 as low as possible.

Men’s suits

For shirts, my husband goes to Laxmi Tailor (few shops around the city), they are considerably more expensive than what we used to pay in China, but we haven’t been able to find anything else so far.

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

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 expats 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

Some Embassies are very good at bringing their local community together

  • Joining international clubs/associations (mostly in South Jakarta) – Full listing here.

The most popular ones are the American Club, the Australia and New Zealand Association and the British Women Association.

For French people: Jakarta acceuil and Union des Francais de l’Etranger

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

3 thoughts

  1. Hello, good morning, my name is Silvana. I’m from Argentina. Now we are living in Singapore but in December we moved to Jakarta !!! I am writing you just to thank you for all the information, hours ago I have been reading thank you very much for your clarity and time. We are an Argentine family and I do not handle English or Bahasa very well so I am complicated hahaha that’s why all your experience and what you wrote are very important to me. thankssss

    1. Hi Silvana, sorry for my late reply! I havent updated the blog in a really long time and only saw this now. Thank you so much for your comment, it means a lot to me that my blog can help others settle into this city. I hope you are enjoying Jakarta!

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