Living cost is an important factor many first time founders consider before opening a company. Especially in the beginning your own living expenses might be one of the biggest cost for your company.
So I decided to look into data provided by Numbeo.com and compare them with my own experience. Result is this guide that should give a pretty accurate picture of how much money an average expat can expect to spend in Jakarta.
Comparing Jakarta with other cities around the world
Unsurprisingly living in Jakarta is much cheaper than in any of the western countries. You can expect to spend less than half of what you would spend in Europe, USA or Australia.
But a more important question is how Jakarta compares to other cities in the region. Let’s compare Jakarta’s Living Index with some of the other big cities in South-East Asia.
If you’ve been to any of the South-East Asian cities this chart should give you a pretty good understanding of where Jakarta stands. It’s much cheaper than Singapore and has similar living cost to other big cities in the region.
Now let’s start putting together your monthly budget in Jakarta.
Typical monthly living cost in Jakarta
For the sake of clarity I’ve put together a monthly budget of my three imaginary friends:
Penny saver: saves money wherever possible for a (western) expat
Average Joe: saves where possible but is willing to pay more for comfort
Spoiled expat: chooses to live western lifestyle in Jakarta
Renting a 50m2 apartment in a “good” area of Jakarta costs about 500-1000 USD/mo. Most of the time “good” will mean either Central (Jakarta Pusat) or South (Jakarta Selatan).
If you are looking to cut costs, it’s possible to rent a small apartment for 200-400 USD/mo. For example look up Kalibata City which is still in South Jakarta and has low rents.
Average Joe could find a suitable apartment in Kuningan, for example Taman Rasuna has main great offers and is located in a nice area.
Our imaginary friends are budgeting:
Penny saver: 200 USD
Average Joe: 500 USD
Spoiled expat: 1000 USD
Based on my experience you can divide Jakarta restaurants into following categories based on how much a typical dinner will cost:
- Warung (really local place): 1-5 USD
- Local restaurant: 5-10 USD
- Regular western restaurant: 10-30 USD
- Fancy restaurant: 30 USD – sky is the limit
Doing your own groceries will give you a better value for money but won’t be in the end that much cheaper.
Here’s what our imaginary friends need to budget for:
Penny saver: 225 USD (2.5 USD per meal)
Average Joe: 450 USD (5 USD per meal)
Spoiled expat: 900 USD (10 USD per meal)
Bicycle will only be a convenient mean of transportation during the car free day – photo credit
Jakarta has public transportation system but it’s definitely not something you could call expat friendly.
I’m also assuming that at this point you are not ready to buy a car yet. So your options are taxi and ojek (motorbike taxi). Penny saver might consider TransJakarta which costs only about 30 cents per travel.
A typical 30 min taxi ride costs 3-5 dollars and motorbike taxi will be roughly the same if your negotiating skills are about average.
For the calculations I’m assuming ~2 trips per day.
Penny saver: 20 USD (TransJakarta)
Average Joe: 180 USD
Spoiled expat: 300 USD
Leisure and clothes
Choices in this category vary greatly. In order to give you some understanding, here are typical expenses our audience can expect:
- Night out in a bar: 15-50 USD
- Monthly gym membership: 30-50 USD
- Pair of typical jeans or buttoned shirt in a factory outlet: 25 USD
- Pair of typical jeans or buttoned shirt in a mall: 50 USD
- Cinema ticket: 3-5 USD
Our imaginary friends budget:
Penny saver: 65 USD
Average Joe: 200 USD
Spoiled expat: 500 USD
Total monthly budget
In total our imaginary friends would spend 510-2770 USD per month. Of course the expenses will be different if you have kids, if you can share rent with your spouse etc. Additional tax to consider will vary from 0-25% depending on your income level.
Based on my experience those numbers are realistic. Of course there are expats that spend considerably more but this is in most cases already by choice.
You can find a Starbucks almost everywhere in Jakarta and it’s commonly used for meeting clients and friends – photo credit
All the expenses above are personal living expenses. When I showed this article to the Expats Indonesia community in LinkedIn, the members were quick to point out that many costs are missing for people who are starting a business. For example you’ll probably meet clients in Starbucks or hotels or even play golf with them.
Intentionally those expenses were left out because those are really depending on the kind of business you run and can be misleading when added to the total monthly budget. Just for your reference, a cup of tall americano in Starbucks costs $2, latte few cents more.
I realize that those numbers can be controversial to many Indonesians. A typical local person will earn only a fraction of those amounts. While it might be unfair to an extent it should be also understandable – expats are used to a different lifestyle that comes at an additional cost when living abroad.