Cost of Living in Indonesia

by Matt | 1 Year Sabbatical on February 18, 2011

One of the most common questions we get asked is how can you afford to take a 1 year sabbatical?  Isn’t it really expensive?  Up to this point I’ve had a particular number in my head of what our monthly expenses would be but I really didn’t have a definitive answer.  So I thought it was time to do some serious research and get some numbers to crunch.

Cost of Living in IndonesiaWe really want to estimate as closely as possible what our monthly expenses will be in Indonesia so that we don’t have any unexpected surprises once we arrive there.  These would include not only our expenses in Indonesia (utilities, food, entertainment, transportation etc.) but our expenses back home (insurance, storage fees etc.) as well.

Thankfully we have family living in Indonesia so the information on cost of living there was just a phone call away.  I wanted to get a good feel for how much things cost there so I had my in-laws get the cost of what I considered to be some basic necessity items and core expenses for our family.  This isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing list of expenses a traveler might face while in Indonesia but I think they cover the basics pretty well. 

Step one in my process was to Google ‘cost of living in Indonesia’ which led me to a site called Numbeo.com which allows you to compare cost of living information worldwide.  The data on the site comes from user input and is free to use.  I used this as a starting point for the items that I would have my in-laws research.

Here are the categories I used to determine cost of living:

  1. Restaurants/Entertainment –  I wanted to get an idea of what the cost of eating out would be as well as entertainment like going to see a movie.  Obviously everyone’s idea of entertainment varies but I thought that ‘dinner and a movie’ would be something everyone could relate too.  There is also lots of variation in terms of restaurants from ‘street food’ to high end establishments.  My pricing is based on a local middle of the road restaurant.
  2. Food/Markets – Groceries are a huge part of our monthly budget here in the US.  It seems that prices keep going up and up.  I wanted to get the cost of some of the staple items we use on a daily basis.  We also want to start eating healthier while in Indonesia so I included the cost of lots of fresh fruit. YUM!!
  3. Transportation – You’re going to have to get around some way so transportation costs will come into play.  There are lots of ways to travel in Indonesia from flying, train, bus, taxi or becak.  For this list I only included the cost of a taxi and gasoline.  We’ve rented a car and a driver before but according to my in-laws this is not a common practice any longer (except Bali) so I didn’t include it as I wasn’t confident in getting an accurate cost.  By the way, the cost of gasoline in Indonesia is subsidized by the government and served up by the liter.
  4. Utilities – We are fortunate that we are able to stay with family during our 1 year sabbatical so we don’t have to worry about finding a place to rent so I didn’t include any rental prices in my table (see the Numbeotable in the spreadsheet for rental pricing).  But we will be chipping in to pay for utilities so I included the basics: electricity, gas (mainly for cooking stove) and garbage.  I also included mobile phone with text and Internet.  There are several options in Indonesia for Internet including wireless, 3G, cable and/or DSL.  I haven’t really explored what is available where we will be staying but I know from past experience it was pretty slow.  I’ll definitely need to find new options.
  5. Clothing & Shoes – We don’t go clothes shopping a lot but one can only assume that with growing boys we’ll need to buy new clothes on occasion.  I included things like pants and shoes (I should probably price out shirts as well).
  6. Wellness – These include personal items like toothpaste, shampoo, soap and getting a haircut.  I have heard that supplements and vitamins can be very expensive in Indonesia and I’ll need to research cost on those items.  They are not included in this cost analysis.

So those are the categories I used for this initial round of cost of living analysis.  If you would like details on specific items you think I should include please let me know and I will give the in-laws a call and research it for you.  Obviously there can be much variation in many of these categories and items depending on what an individual’s lifestyle is as well as ones connection with locals for getting better deals.

The Cost of Living in Indonesia Spreadsheet

I took all the categories and prices and put them into a spreadsheet (see below).  You can also download the full cost of living in Indonesia spreadsheet here.  I’ve set it up with formulas to convert from local currency (rupiah) to dollars so if you want to update it with current exchange rates just update the number in the field next to ‘exchange rate’ (H3).

Tab 1 contains the 6 categories I created and the cost of items in that category that I got from my in-laws. I also included the cost that the website Numbeo.com had for the same items (when comparable).  I was happy to see that the cost differences between the two were not really that significant for most items, although clothing was a big exception (see side notes in the spreadsheet).

In tab 2 I included a copy of the numbeo.com categories and items taken directly from their website for your reference. They had more items and categories than I decided to work with.

  Rupiah Dollar

Restaurants/Entertainment

   
Meal – per person 20000 2.25
Coke/Pepsi/Soda 6000 0.67
Teh Botel (bottled sweet tea) 2500 0.28
Water (0.33 liter bottle) 2000 0.22
Movie  20000 2.25

Food/Markets

   
coffee (per kg) 15000 1.69
fruit – mango (1 kg) 8000 0.90
fruit – papaya (1kg) 8000 0.90
fruit – orange (1kg) 8000 0.90
fruit – rambutan (1kg) 6000 0.67
fruit – banana (1 kg) 15000 1.69
rice (1 kg) 10000 1.12
Water (1.5 liter) 7000 0.79
Milk (1 liter) 12000 1.35
1 Loaf of Bread 12000 1.35
Eggs – Free Range (1 dozen) 10000 1.12
Cheese (1 box)* 16000 1.80
Chicken – Free Range (1 whole)** 40000 4.50
Beef (per kg) 60000 6.74
Pork (per kg) 40000 4.50
Fish (per kg) 35000 3.93

Transportation

   
Taxi (5 km within city) 50000 5.62
Gasoline (1 liter)*** 6000 0.67

Utilities

   
Electric 500000 56.19
Gas 180000 20.23
Garbage 10000 1.12
Mobile Phone (text+Internet)**** 40000 4.50

Clothing & Shoes

   
1 Pair Pants (adult)***** 50000 5.62
1 Pair pants (kids) 20000 2.25
1 Dress***** 100000 11.24
1 Pair Shoes (adults)***** 150000 16.86
1 Pair Shoes (kids) 75000 8.43

Wellness

   
toothpaste 3000 0.34
shampoo 16000 1.80
soap 3000 0.34
haircut (men) 20000 2.25
haircut (women) 30000 3.37

What’s Next?

My initial thought before we started researching the cost of living in Indonesia was that we would need somewhere between $1000-1200 per month so around $15K minimum for our 1 year sabbatical.  We asked my in-laws what they thought we would need per month and they thought $400 per month so there was a huge discrepancy there that needed to be looked at.

Based on this initial research I feel pretty good that we won’t need as much for our 1 year sabbatical in Indonesia as we had originally anticipated.  In future posts I’ll be detailing exactly what I expect a month will cost us based on our personal family situation.  Needless to say having a place to stay rent free affords us the ability to live pretty inexpensively even for a family of four.

For anyone that has traveled and lived in Indonesia I’d be very interested in hearing your experiences with what your typical monthly expenses were.  Feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly.

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