With its archipelago of over 17,000 islands and a coastal scenery that’s nothing short of riveting, it’s no wonder Indonesia has become the home to so many foreigners. The cost of living in Indonesia is also one of the lowest in southeast Asia, but it does boast some of the most expensive hotels worldwide. Hence, living there can definitely take a toll on your pocket if you don’t watch your spending.
The cheap cost of living in Indonesia prompted me..
to visit after I left the U.S. following an armed robbery at my house. I happened to also arrive halfway through the Ramadan month, which gave me a good immersion into local religious beliefs. It’s interesting to note that nearly 90% of the country’s population is Muslim and that it is the country with the most Muslims worldwide. Most believe that crown belongs to a kingdom in the Middle East.
If you have money saved up from living and working back home, you will be pleasantly surprised at how much your savings can get you in Indonesia. So, whether you’re planning to move there for permanent residence, or just visit the country for a while, here’s the cost of living in Indonesia breakdown and what you can expect to spend during your stay there:
To take advantage of the cost of living in Indonesia you must be willing to split rent with others or go for budget accommodations. You can otherwise easily rack up rents similar to those in large western cities. Also, if you choose to live in an apartment long-term, the full amount of the lease is usually paid up-front. This means a one-year lease would require you to pay all twelve months up-front. There is the possibility of renting on a three-month, renewable lease, although this carries a higher rent per month.
Of course, prices will vary based on the desirability of the area you choose to live in (for instance, rural is typically cheaper than city), but you can find affordable prices no matter where you go. I stayed in the Kemang area, which had plenty of expats and looked quite artsy.
Hostel dorm — $10-12 / night
Hostel private room (ensuite) — $25 / night
Mid-range hotel — $40-$80 / night (many will negotiate price for long stays)
Top hotels — $80-$250 / night
Luxury resorts — $500-$2000 / night
1 bedroom budget apartment – $400 / month
1 bedroom luxury apartment — $800-1200+ / month
You can get 1 bedrooms that are cheaper than $400, but you’ll be in areas that are a little more far out. The places may also be old and in questionable areas. During my month in Jakarta, I stayed at the Grand Kemang (4-star), where I negotiated the price down significantly to a 2-star price, plus it was low season.
You can find plenty of modern 3-bedroom apartments, as well as houses with pools and maids for under $1000. These are great for expats choosing to leverage the cost of living in Indonesia by pooling their money together and renting a larger, more luxurious place. Keep in mind that prices in Bali and other resort areas are a little more expensive, especially near the beaches.
Food & Drink
It’s pretty much the case everywhere that buying groceries and preparing your own meals is cheaper than eating out. But in Indonesia, that means the difference between pennies and dollars. Stick to local street food and the open-air restaurants where locals eat to keep your cost of living in Indonesia down.
Street food — $1
Inexpensive restaurant meal — $2-4
McDonalds meal — $5
Mid-range restaurant three course meal — $7-8
High-end restaurant — $15-$20
Starbucks coffee — $4 (latte)
Chocolate bar — $0.75
Soft drinks — $0.50-0.75
Food always costs more when it has to be imported. Try giving local brands a try instead of sticking to the Western fare. Almost everything you buy has a local alternative. Granted, some of it doesn’t quite taste the same (such as chocolates), but if you aren’t too particular you’ll be fine.
Internet, cellphones, and TVs are just as common in Indonesia as they are in the West, so you won’t have to go without the technology you’re used to. I used Telekomsel for my cell phone service and bought a cheap, used blackberry for $50. You can get these from one of the many ITC shopping centers. Here’s an average idea of your monthly tech bills:
Internet (cable or DSL, unlimited data) — $35 / month
Phone SIM — $2.50
Prepaid cell phone usage — $0.10 / minute
SMS text message — $0.02
Data plan 1.5G — $15
TV subscription — $25-35 / month
Blackberry actually introduced a smartphone exclusively for Indonesia this year, which you can pick up for about $190 unlocked—a fraction of the cost of a smartphone in America or Europe.
Another pro which keeps the cost of living in Indonesia in check is the cheap price of transportation. Most expats there opt for scooters since you can get these for a few dollars a day. If you want the best hook-up, get to know the locals and let one take you to a rental shop outside of the main tourist areas.
Bus one-way ticket — $0.30
Bus monthly pass — $13
Taxi (per km) — $0.30 (I recommend Blue Bird)
Scooter rental — $5-10 / day
Car rental (depending on car) – $25-$60 / day
Cost of gasoline — $0.70 / liter
Watch out for any drivers with a blue or silver bird badge that meet you within the airport terminals. They’re usually frauds (I fell for it). Just go outside to where the Blue Bird taxi line is.
If you do rent a scooter, I recommend keeping your tank full at all times, especially if you’re traveling cross-country. In some of the more remote parts, I didn’t find a gas station for what seemed like hours. For longer bus or train tickets, check out seat61.
Indonesia’s entertainment includes everything from concerts and movies to traditional dances and puppet shows. As far as nightlife goes, there are plenty of bars and clubs to try out for heart-pounding music and drinks. If you go to the movies, you will find some malls have movie rooms that have King-sized beds instead of theater chairs. These upscale theaters are also catered to by waiters, which was something I’d never heard of (or seen) in the U.S.
Nightclub entrance fee – $2.50 (often waived for foreigners)
Drinks at a club or bar – $5-$15
Movie ticket – $4
Premium theater (king bed) movie ticket — $12
Domestic beer (0.5 liter from the draught) – $2
Imported beer (bottle; 0.33 liter) – $3.50
Bottle of mid-range wine – $25
Concerts and DJ events – $10-$25
Drinks are definitely not cheap and will significantly drive up your cost of living in Indonesia. One drink in a Jakarta nightclub will buy you two or three in Vietnam.
It is, however, a great way of meeting locals. Just watch out for ladies that may be too friendly; prostitution runs rampant in some clubs.
Remember to also time your visit well, since the holy month of Ramadan is strictly observed and most clubs in Jakarta shut down for the entire month. Bali seems to be exempt from this. Currently, the month falls in mid-summer, and escalates earlier every year. In some parts of Indonesia, it may be considered rude drinking alcohol in front of Indonesians during the month of Ramadan.
Here are some other basic costs you might encounter that didn’t fit into other categories. You’ll probably run into some more along the way, so take it as you go:
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro) – $1.25-1.50
A pair of jeans (Levis or other top brand) – $50-60
A T-shirt – $3.50
Jewelry – $5-$10
Athletic shoes (Nike or Adidas) – $60
A gallon of water – $0.90
Aside from the cheap cost of living in Indonesia, another reason I chose it as my first destination in southeast Asia was because of the gorgeous sceneries. Granted, many places have equally beautiful beaches, but Indonesia is vast and possesses numerous nooks and alcoves.
If you meet locals or join some of the Indonesia backpacking rooms on Facebook, which is also a great way to meet locals, you can get more information about these remote gems.
Let’s put it all together and see how much you’d be spending on everything in an average month:
Accommodations – $400
Food/drink – $150
Technology – $30
Entertainment – $100
Transportation – $100
Other – $150
Grand total — $930
Bear in mind, I’ve kept the budget high-end with some eating out and beers. A total of $930 gives you not only a comfortable lifestyle, but the ability to catch a very cheap flight and great time in Bali. And your cost of living in Indonesia will further go down if you choose to travel with someone else and split the rent/room and other costs. So, if you’re looking for a cheap vacation or a place to live and work, I highly recommend Indonesia.
Not only will you come face to face with rolling green hills and beaches hugging the brightest of blue waters,
You’ll live sun-kissed days in a land many consider a paradise beyond reach, a paradise too far away.
A few additional resources you may be interested in:
- Anton Method: Starting a successful drop-shipping business from Indonesia today!
- How To Start A Business In Bali
- Getting A Fresh Start Abroad: Tips & Advice
- Asian Dating — the premier dating site for all of Asia
Have you ever lived in Indonesia or would you ever consider moving there? What do you feel distinguishes Indonesia from its southeast Asian neighbors?