I've just had the chance to read a comment from a Achuthan Kutty on a previous post of mine. I haven't been able to reply earlier due to my lack of internet access so I'm only doing it today. Since the questions he asked are common expat questions, I thought I'd just do a post related to his queries. Maybe some other expats considering a relocation here will find this post useful. If any more experienced expats or locals would care to add/amend some of my stuff here, I'd like to thank you in advance for that.
1. Cost of housing in a gated community
I suppose the cost is all a matter of location here. When we were searching for a home ourselves, we saw houses in various compounds that ranged from US$2,500 to US$4,000. The cheaper ones we saw tended to be in areas which are reached by a maze of narrow roads. We knew we didn't want that because if I had to travel alone, we didn't want to risk having an evil cab driver take me elsewhere instead. We finally found one that was within our budget and was within walking distance to a major road but was still tucked into a quiet corner. We knew we didn't want to live too close to a major road and have to contend with the traffic jams on a daily basis right on our doorstep.
From what I've been told, Kemang is a popular area for expats and we've seen nice houses here that cost about US$2,500 in gated compounds. That was our lowest end of the budget to the agent, so sorry, I didn't see any houses which cost less. If you have family, it is definitely preferable to live in a gated compound as the wife and kids can make friends quickly and it's safer. There's also the advantage of having a compound superintendent to consult when your pool gets clogged or when you need the lights fixed.
Be sure to check if the amount quoted to you by the agent is inclusive of various other fees such as maintenance, security, pool etc. If you don't check and you agree to the house, you may find yourselves over your budget when the final figure is quoted to you. And remember, house rents in Jakarta are paid for about 2 years in advance, so that's a BIG lump of money.
2. English-speaking maid and cook
Check the Jakarta International Community Center (JICC) for maid listings. They are located near Hero Kemang. Hero is a chain of local supermarkets. Alternatively, Hero Kemang and Hero near Kristal Hotel has a bulletin board where maids often post letters of recommendation from previous employers and their phone numbers, hoping to find potential employers. Pick those who are accustomed to working for expat families as they tend to have experience running the whole household and will manage things such as handling repairs, topping up the groceries etc. They should cost over Rp1 million monthly (approx US$100+) and they get every Sunday off. You should also be aware that you should pay them a month's bonus around Hari Raya and depending on your agreement, they can get up to two weeks off for the holiday period. This seems to be standard practise here and I've read somewhere that Indon law requires them to be paid that bonus, so don't skimp on it.
What I've been told by other expats: Always ask for a reference and check out the reference before you hire the maid. Spell out clearly what you want them to do and ask if they can do it. Do a trial period first, say for a month, before you agree to hire them permanently. ALWAYS send them for a health check prior to employment, the cost of the health check will be borne by you.
This excellent expat site has a table of approximate costs of hired help in Indonesia.
3. English-speaking driver
Okay, ours came with Dear Hubby's job. He speaks basic English. If you have an accent, please speak slower than your normal speed. Sometimes the accent matters. There have been many hilarious moments when Dear Hubby says something to our driver/taxi drivers and they don't understand him because of his English accent but when I say the exact same thing in a Malaysian accent, they all get it.
But if you need to hire your own, I've found that again the Hero bulletin board and JICC has ads for drivers. Our driver costs about Rp1.5 million per month and he gets to claim all the various parking, toll and food charges as well.
4. What car to drive in Jakarta
Haha.... I'm just glad I don't have to drive in Jakarta, the traffic is crazy! Where we live is prone to floods in the rainy season, so Dear Hubby insisted on a 4WD. We were issued with the standard expat vehicle that is the Toyota Kijang (the Innova in other countries) when we arrived but we changed it to a Honda CRV. I would reco a vehicle that's got BIG HIGH wheels so that when it floods, the waters don't get into your car and you can still get past some flooded areas. A no-no car for Jakarta roads will be something sporty and low. That's just plain asking for trouble and it's simply not practical in a city where I've never gone faster than 60km/h and there are more craters in the roads than there are on the Moon.
5. Shopping for food
Okay, Achuthan didn't ask this but I thought I would just put this in anyway. My favourite supermarket is Ranch Market. They have various branches but the two I know of are in Dharmawangsa and Pejaten. This is where I can get my supply of roasts and bacon to feed Dear Hubby. They also carry all our favourite curry pastes and various stir-fry sauces (guess how else I manage to serve up Nasi Goreng Belacan for Dear Hubby without stinking up the whole house!).
Kemchicks is pretty good too for expat-y stuff and they have one in Kemang. A bigger outlet is located downtown in Pacific Place Mall (hope I got the name right, I keep getting that one wrong!)
Hero Kemang is also quite good for your everyday needs. I've also tried Giant and Carrefour in Lebak Bulus but I found the quality of the meats there to be a bit dodgy. And the broccoli I bought from Carrefour had a family of worms in the center! *sigh* Well, at least that shows they didn't use that much pesticide...
Another supermarket I frequent is the one in Cilandak Town Square (Citos). I pop in there if I'm in Citos for lunch.
6. Trawling for furniture
We've spent the past two weeks doing nothing but this. We found that Jln Kemang Raya has a lot of furniture shops - some hideous, some nice. My reco would be Koi Gallery, just next to the McD in Kemang. It's in the same building as Celebrity Fitness. It's a furniture gallery-cum restaurant and I think it's run by a Frenchman. We met him but I don't know if he's French or Belgian-French. They do some nice pieces in recycled teakwood and we've bought some. For price comparison: a dining table made of recycled teakwood that can seat 6 costs about RM2,500. I've seen pieces in IKEA catalogues from pinewood that cost the same.
Another shop I liked was Eight Rooms, also along Jln Kemang Raya. It's got very nice pieces and they can customise the furniture to your measurements.
Jln Benda nearby also has a lot of furniture places and a lot of local places where they can make what you want. If you're looking for rattan furniture, a friend of mine bought some lovely pieces from The Rattan House. You can't miss it on Jln Benda, the shop signage is visible from the moon.
Achthan, I hope this helps if you do decide to relocate to Jakarta and do come by and say hi!