Best Neighorhoods in Jakarta for Expats

By Thibaud (Jakarta100bars)
I previously wrote about the best areas to in Jakarta for tourists. You may want to read this article as well to get a first introduction to the city's neighborhoods.

I wouldn't say that there isn't one best place to live in Jakarta, as the criteria for each person will be different.

The most important factor when deciding where to stay should be the distance between your home and your work or, if you have children, between your home and their school.

This means your choice will probably be limited to a few options, knowing that each kilometer will cost you 10 more minutes sitting in traffic every day.

With that in mind, here are three of Jakarta's best neighborhoods for expats, in no particular order:

Kemang
It is not an actual district of Jakarta, but the name given to the area near the streets Jalan Kemang Raya and Jalan Kemang.

Various factors have made this neighborhood one of the most popular among expatriates in Jakarta: Its proximity to famous international schools (NZ, Australia), its village vibe (it is called the Seminyak of Jakarta), a tight and active expat community, a large choice of Western restaurants, a good nightlife, and a great offer of luxury villas and condominiums. It is also relatively easy to buy imported food there (for instance in Kem's Chicks) and to find house staff that speaks English.

The construction of Kemang Village in 2013 has made the neighborhood even more attractive (increase in the number of apartments available, more shops and restaurant). Some long-term expats will argue that Kemang has lost its soul but that's another debate...

Not everything in Kemang is ideal, though. The first problem of this area is that there are often traffic jams, and especially after work (5 PM to 8 PM). If you work in the Central Business District, it is not rare to need more than 1 hour to go back home. The situation is even worse on Friday nights.

Also, Kemang has frequently been hit by floods (the latest on May 2018) and this is likely to happen again. If you rent a house there, it can be a smart thing to ask your neighbors if it has ever been flooded.

Pros:
- Great social life with plenty of bars, restaurants, expat clubs, etc.
- A high density of expats, especially in villas and in apartments like The Mansion.
- Mostly a low-rise neighborhood
- Rich area but with some Indonesian features (street food, village life, etc).
- Moderate prices compared with Menteng, Senopati, Kebayoran Baru, SCBD, Pondok Indah

Cons:
- Traffic jams are permanent, especially on Friday night
- Poor quality of the sidewalk
- Floods happen almost every year

If you like Kemang, you may also be interested in:

Cipete:
This area, south of Kemang, has a more local feel. It is a favorite among French people, especially around Jalan Cipete Raya, because it is near the Lycée Français (French high school). It is cheaper than Kemang, more laid-back, but you also have fewer attractions and fewer luxury villas.

Cilandak:
This is a large district, south of Cipete, which is popular with the local middle class and some expat families. It is mostly clean and low-rise, with a typical Indonesian atmosphere. The areas near Jalan TB Simatupang, near Pondok Indah and near the Jakarta Intercultural School are expensive, but elsewhere it is relatively affordable. The location is far from the CBD so it is more suitable for those working in South Jakarta.

Mega Kuningan
Close to the Central Business District, Mega Kuningan is a planned neighborhood that consists of just 2 concentric roads, all built with towers (offices, luxury hotels, apartments). It is one of the rare areas in Jakarta where you can walk around, thanks to relatively well-maintained sidewalks (and thanks to the palm trees for the shade). It doesn't look at all like the rest of Jakarta, but rather like a modern metropolis like Singapore.

As I wrote before, Mega Kuningan nightlife is particularly active, and logically this is a great location for single expats or young couples with no kids. You can hop between bars/restaurants easily, for instance between Loewy, Flow, McGettigan's, Cazbar, Master's and Basque. These are always crowded with expats and excellent for meeting people.

The area lacks a proper luxury shopping center, but you can still go rather easily to Lotte Avenue or Pacific Place (less than 10 minutes for both). There is also the Bellagio Boutique Mall for groceries and alcohol.

Living in Mega Kuningan means living in a condominium. The price range varies from midrange (USD800 per month in Bellagio) to luxury (USD4,500 per month in Oakwood or Ritz-Carlton). A website like Jendela360.com can be helpful to find an apartment to rent.

Some houses are available a bit further away, in Kuningan, with usually high prices. Unsurprisingly, most of them are owned by foreign embassies and consulates.

Pros:
- Modern, relatively clean, proper sidewalks, possibility to walk around
- Many bars, cafés and restaurants targeting expats
- Supermarkets with expat products
- Near many embassies and offices
- Good offer of luxury condominiums and serviced apartments

Cons:
- The massive traffic jams outside of Mega Kuningan make it difficult to enter or exit the area.
- No "Indonesian life": It is the same as living in a gated community. In particular, no street food.
- Mostly expensive prices

If you like Mega Kuningan, you may also be interested in:

SCBD:
This area is very similar to Mega Kuningan, only slightly more expensive and with fewer expatriates. It is also great for nightlife. Ideal if your office is in the south of Jalan Sudirman or in Senayan.

Taman Rasuna/Thamrin Residence/Sudirman Park/Taman Sari Semanggi:
These apartment complexes have a good location in the CBD, but rather affordable prices. They are popular with expats who don't have a high salary.

Setiabudi:
This area between Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Rasuna Said is still developing. You have a mix of low-rise, low-income accommodation and high-rise, high-income apartments (Setiabudi Sky Garden, Ambassade Residence). It's one of my favorite locations in Jakarta as it is in the heart of the city center yet it has preserved a certain authenticity.

Pondok Indah
Again, Pondok Indah is not a district, but a name used to designate an area between Pondok Indah Mall and Jalan TB Simatupang. Its main draws are the Pondok Indah Mall, the Pondok Indah Golf Course, and its proximity to the Jakarta Intercultural School campuses.

This is a very wealthy area where residents are a mix of foreigners and Indonesians ("new money" while Menteng is "old money"). It used to be called the Beverly Hills of Jakarta and, in the 1990s, there was even a sitcom called Pondok Indah 1 modeled after Beverly Hills 90210.

The whole Pondok Indah has been planned in the 70s/80s by private investors like Ciputra. For this reason, there is nothing authentic about this neighborhood. Living there is the closest you'll be from living in a gated community in Jakarta.

While some may not like being disconnected from normal Indonesian life, others will enjoy the quietness. Traffic is generally low and the streets well-maintained. This means you can walk around with your kids or even go for a jog.

The Pondok Indah Mall is the best one around. It includes a cinema, several supermarkets, lots of boutiques, and some reputed restaurants. There is a small nightlife targeting expatriates as well, especially in the bar De Hooi.

Houses in Pondok Indah can be ridiculously massive and tacky. Overall, most of them will cost between USD3,000 and USD5,000 per month to rent.

Pros:
- Quiet and safe area
- Fairly good location if you have kids and if you work in South Jakarta
- High-quality neighborhood
- Less pollution
- 50 minutes to the airport
- Many international schools nearby

Cons:
- Boring neighborhood for single guys, far from the CBD
- Expensive prices
- Not authentic

If you like Pondok Indah, you may also be interested in:

Kebayoran Baru:
This large district holds various neighborhoods, from the rich Senopati to the middle-class Blok M. Generally speaking, the areas directly south of Senayan and the ones around Dharmawangsa Square are popular among the upper class. Many expats, especially Japanese and Koreans choose to live there. The location is convenient as it is close to the CBD, from malls, from restaurants, from international schools. It is also less polluted and the traffic is reasonable. You can choose between luxury houses and apartments (Pakubuwono View, Pakubuwono Signature, Botanica, etc).

Menteng:
It is one of the richest and most livable areas in Jakarta, especially near Taman Menteng or Taman Suropati. Many of Indonesia's richest families live there, especially those involved with politics or government affairs. Famously, the Soeharto family has a house on Jalan Cendana (and therefore, they are referred to as the Cendana clan). Most of the accommodation consists of large houses, in relatively quiet streets shaded. Swimming pools are not as common as in the South. Menteng is a good neighborhood for older expats who don't have kids.
Menteng (Cikini) - From Menteng Park Apartments

How about North / West / East Jakarta?
Since there aren't many office buildings in North, West and East Jakarta, the expat communities there are relatively small.

That said, some areas are worth considering if you want to save money on your accommodation. My two favorite are:

Kelapa Gading:
It is an interesting option if you work in the north of the City. This is a planned neighborhood with wide streets and plenty of diverse accommodation, from affordable apartments to high-end housing complexes. There are many large malls, restaurants, hospitals and schools, including a few international ones. Many of its residents are Indonesian Chinese. The main issue is that it is quite far from the CBD, about 45 minutes by car.

Kebon Jeruk:
In this growing residential area, you can find some reasonably-priced apartments, for instance in Royal Garden Mediterania, less than 40 minutes away from both the airport and the Central Business District.
Overview of the All the Neighborhoods Mentioned in this Article

2 comments to '' Best Neighorhoods in Jakarta for Expats "

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  1. Good write up but I'm confused when you say there are no malls in Mega Kuningan. I live at Oakwood Apartments and it's only a 5 min walk to Lotte Shopping Avenue (rear entrance) which has plenty of shops, food outlets, expat supermarket, cinema, gym, kids zone, 2 hotels etc.. Not sure how you could find a closer mall in Jakarta. Even by taxi the trip from anywhere in Mega Kuningan would be less then 5 mins. You also have Ambassador, ITC & Kuningan City Malls just across Jl. Prof DR. Satiro within walking distance.

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    1. I agree, but in all fairness he did say "luxury" but how often do you need to go to Gucci anyway - you can do that one monthly. There's plenty of decent shops in Lotte as you rightly say. I agree MK is the best area at the moment to live, but ssshhh don't tell everyone. As for the traffic, it's the opposite. There are 2 ways in and out, directly onto the toll road, and the traffic is only after Rasuna otw Kokas, Puri etc. That's why you should stay this side of the Rasuna flyover / uturn, going 500m further to KOKAS can take an extra 30mins at least. MK is the best! And only getting better.

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