How to find a place to live in Indonesia

It’s my recommendations how to find a place to live in Indonesia. Mostly this information useful for Darmasiswa scholarship students but as well some parts for those who are planning to come to Indonesia longer than for 1 month and want to stay not in the hotels.

Each island, each city has their own nuance for searching a place to live. My recommendations are based on the experience living in south of Yogyakarta city (Bantul area).

Before I choose the place to live I saw many houses, visited other students places. “Big tent” is my 2nd place where I live in Yogyakarta.

What you need to know about places to live in Indonesia

  • Hot water: very rare house has it (I haven’t seen any house that would have hot water, only in hotels). Cold water mostly is taken from borehole by automatic pump. In some village houses you can need to use well if you will need water for daily use. The water is the low quality of tap water. It is treated with chemicals (absolutely not drink it)
  • Toilet style: mostly of the places has “Turkish style” (squat) toilet, you can find sitting style as well but don’t expect that it will be everywhere :).
    Furniture: mostly rented places will be fully empty – without any furniture, kitchen equipment (stove, fridge), washing machine and etc. Places with some furniture, air conditioning, and other additional benefits will cost more. If you will live in previous Darmasiswa scholarship students’ houses, probably they will leave some items after they will go back home.
  • Internet: rare house has internet access – so you will need to take care about it by yourself (for example buy local Wi-Fi USB modem). If near your place to live will be any free Wi-Fi hot spot – maybe you don’t need to have internet at home?
  • Price: don’t be surprised that the price for renting place can be different for foreigners (higher) and local people. In this case you can’t change anything just try to negotiate as much as possible, make some deals – for example if you moved to empty house, try to agree that you will leave in the house everything that you will buy (after you will go home), so they could give less rental price and etc.
  • Location: where you want to live – in the city center, village, near university, far away from civilization and etc. From location sometimes depends and place rental price – in village will be cheaper, near university mostly cheapest places already will be booked by local students, city center – can be quite expensive.
  • Living place: in what kind of place you want to live – dormitory (“kos putri” – girl’s dormitory, “kos putra” – boy’s dormitory, not so often you can find mixed dormitory), boarding house, separate house and etc.
  • Sharing the place: with whom you want to live – alone, with other students, local people or family, how many people maximum you would like to live with and etc.
  • Equipment: what minimum equipment you need to be in a house – if you have enough time to search the place to live, don’t want to buy some things by yourself, some of the stuff you really need and can’t live without it – you can try to find your “dream place”. It will take much more time, also can be difficult to find other housemates (like everyone will be in a hurry to find a place to live) and can cost more. My advice – try to find suitable place for yourself and then try to find the way to get things that is really necessary for you (for example instead of air conditioning you can buy more powerful fan :)).
  • Price: how much maximum money you can afford to pay for the place to live – if one house will rent more people, one room price for you will be cheaper, the dormitory can be cheaper as well.

And any other things that for you are important – for example, do you want to have a garden? Should the house be far for neighbors and etc. Each additional requirement means longer time to find your “dream place”, can cost more money.

How to find a place to live

  • Current students place: in the end of Darmasiswa scholarship period, before coming new students, usually the current program students put some ads about free rooms, houses and etc. to Darmasiswa program “Facebook” pages, informs their university program coordinator, writes to their countries new students e-mails and etc. So you can get some information about free places already before coming to Indonesia. If nobody put any information – you can always ask previous students in the same “Facebook” pages and etc. My advice – agree to meet and look this places when you will be in your study city, like sometimes the pictures looks a bit different from reality, also you will see by your eyes the surrounding, meet the people with whom you will live and etc. There is no reason to take the first seen place from the pictures :).
  • if you are a member of “couchsurfing” before you will come you can write the post in the exact Indonesian city forum about searching place to live, your requirements and etc. Can be that some Indonesian members will have free place or will know who is renting a place. You can agree to see that place when you will be in Indonesia, can compare between some places that you will visit.
  • University “buddies”: each university should help you to find a place to live when you will arrive. Depends on the each university how they will manage that help but usually they have appoint some Indonesian students from their university to assist you in searching the place during of your first days of living. If you already have some places to see you can ask their help to drive you there or explain how to get there. Also if they know that there are some empty houses that before lived students, they will show you as well. But mostly of the times the place searching looks like this – you with local student just pass the streets near university or other area and asking people living there if they know who is renting the places. Usually they show the direction, gives the contact and you go to see. And you will go from one place to another, till you find what is satisfies you. Also the “buddies” can search some free places in local website renting places and suggest you to go there. The main thing that you won’t have too much time for searching – like many Indonesian students will come to search the places at the same time like Darmasiswa students. You won’t be the only one searching for the place – other foreigner students will search it as well. If you won’t find “perfect place” where to live so quickly and will be lucky enough – you can rent other place for couple of months and during it search for the place that really suits you and move there. In worst case maybe you could live in student’s places who already found the place and during couple of days search still for a house.
    My advice – even if “buddies” can get some benefits from university to helping you, you always can thank them inviting for a dinner and paying for them or etc. like “buddies” will help you in a future as well and its nice polite sign :).
    Dormitory: some of universities have their own dormitories and can suggest living there (mostly NOT for free). But there will be some rules; you will need to share bathroom, kitchen and etc. with many students, mostly Indonesian ones. The good thing that dormitories usually is near universities and can be cheaper that rent a room in a house.

Important notes that you need to be attention before choosing the place

Notice: all the prices written according 05 2015 information.
  • Place visiting time: If it’s possible check the house in early morning (till ~12:00 pm) then you will see if every day in the morning will be noisy. Like Indonesians morning persons and usually after the first praying (~4:00 am) they start to make their daily works around their houses. During lunch – people usually have some rest, so will be very quiet around and can give you wrong impression about surrounding.
  • Neighbors: ask the owner of the place who is the neighbors, what they do in life, maybe the owner have some comments about them. It’s important because you will know what to expect – if they don’t work daily, most probably they will usually be interested in your house, walking around it, coming to speak and etc. If you want to have some privacy such neighbors not the best ones. Check if neighbors don’t have cocks – otherwise every morning you will be waked up if not because of praying then because of cocks – but you can use to it after some time.
  • Surrounding:
  • Trash hole: ask the owner where they put trash (in the villages is very common that they just have a big hole for trashes which is burning every week, so evaluate if such hole is not around your place, like the smell of burning trashes is very awful).
  • Water pond: check if around your place there is no water pond – like in rainy season you will have a lot of mosquitoes, frogs “orchestra” and other flies. Also during rainy season can be more humid than in other places without water pond around. My recommendations what to do during the rainy season in Indonesia.
  • Mosque: look around if there are any mosques near place. Probably you won’t find a place without mosques somewhere near but sometimes the mosques can be in front of the place and during all praying it will be very noisy as well many people will pass your street. Usually people used to praying sound after some time, but better if the mosques is a bit further from the place.
  • Owners living place: ask where the owner lives. If owner lives near your place, first months it can be you will have “visitors” quite often, just checking how you are doing, what you did inside and etc. I know example when the owner was coming to take a shower in the rented house without any warning, like lived very near. But in this case also sometimes you can get breakfast, some sweets for free, invitations to participate in family celebrations.
  • Kids: check if in neighborhood lives kids. In one hand it’s very nice to spend time with them, play, teach English and etc. but in other hand they can be very curious and not polite – coming inside, playing and damaging your stuff, steering all the time, making noises and etc.
  • Street: see if around there is any main street where many people are passing. In this case from early morning will be a lot of noise.
      • Inside/outside the place:
      • Roof: try to evaluate the condition of tilling – if it’s look like old, maybe during the rainy season it can be licking in some parts. Ask the owner about this. Also if it’s bamboo roof, ask to cover it from inside, like during rainy season it can be liking a lot.
      • Ceiling: during dry season place without ceiling will be quite dusty. Also during rainy season ceiling can absorb some drops from the roof. If there is no ceiling – ask owner to make it. In worst case – you can buy stronger textile and cover the space between roof and rooms (I did like this).
      • Fence: if the place has any fence or territory marking – only better. It means that people won’t come inside place territory without invitation, otherwise – you will get many local visitors. It’s not bad – they are just curious, because not all the time they have foreigners living around, just sometime it can be annoying when they are sitting in your place terrace, speaking, gossiping, sometimes cooking and etc.
              • Local community: groups of houses belong to different “RT” – the smallest unit of governmental system to manage the living area. Each “RT” has their own community leader that makes decisions, solves the problems. Usually when new people moves to the place in “RT”, the owner goes to community leader to inform about new residents, gives their passport copy. It’s very important to know what are the rules of “RT” that you want to move in, for example till what time can be guests in your place, can anybody live during the night and etc. Before decide to move ask all the rules. In each “RT” can be different rules.
                If you are a couple: in Indonesia if you are not marriage couple can be a bit difficult to find a place to live. Like locals doesn’t accept living together female and male without marriage. Some of the “RT” is more open to foreigner’s couples but some of them can ask proves (documents) that you are married. My advice, tell owner and you are married but don’t have paper with you, don’t forget to wear a rings. But in public, in community don’t behave too much intimate. I understand that lying is not the best way, but otherwise it can take much more time for you to find a place where community will accept you like a living couple without marriage.
              • Period of renting: most of the people want to rent their place for 1 year, try to negation at least renting first for 6 months, if everything will be ok, you will live other 6 months (better to agree about rest 3 months, like during the summer you will be probably mostly traveling, so your place will be empty). If not, you will move out. Some of the places you can rent for 6 months, even find monthly renting (but this is quite rear).
              • Fixing the place: if before moving to the place you asked owner to fix some parts or make it, they can ask additional money for this things.
              • Trash: can be that around your place won’t be any trash can. Possible that there will be trash taking service. Or you can put it to the public trash canes, but usually it’s only several spot in town (in Yogyakarta) and not near.
                Can be as well other exceptions, for what the owner can ask you to pay.
              • Contract: after you will agree that you are renting the place ask the contract written in bahasa Indonesian and English language. Don’t forget to put the information how much you gave money, for which period you will rent a place, if you will decide to move they will return all the money for months that you won’t live there. Maybe you will agree that some parts of the pace they will fix – put this information to the contract as well and other information what you agreed. All contracts counted legal if you putting the stamp on it – stamp you can buy in shops, even in eating places – just ask the owner where you can find it.
              • Price: the prices for renting in different cities, the same city districts can be very different. For example in Yogyakarta in north more expensive than in south, as well the price depends for how long you are renting, is it furnished place or not and etc. For example prices from Yogyakarta south area:
    • Dormitory for 1 year (very small room with only bed, shared kitchen, bathroom with 6 or more people) – ~1 200 000 Rp/per year.
    • A room in the house for monthly rent (without internet, shared kitchen, bathroom with 2 and more people) – ~ 300 000 Rp/per month.
    • A room in the 5 room house for monthly rent (with internet, laundry, cleaning the place, shared kitchen, bathroom) – ~ 700 000 Rp/per month.
    • A brick house without furniture for 1 year can start from ~7 000 000 Rp/per year , with furniture ~21 000 000 Rp/per year and more.
    • A traditional house (with bamboo cover, water from well, without furniture) for 1 year can cost ~ 2 500 000 Rp/per year.

Truly to say, the prices can be different according how lucky you are to find the cheap place, how many people will live with you and etc.

What is usually not included to the place renting price:

  • Drinking water: you should buy water gallons for drinking water, like drink from sink forbidden.
  • Gas: if you will use stove with gas, you should buy gas gallons and then refill it after it finished.
  • Electricity: sometimes the houses have old electricity counters, in this case the owner each month will say how much you need to pay. Other places have new counters, where you need to put prepaid (“pulsa”) cards. Every time the electricity will finish you will need to buy new prepaid card and put the code.

Good luck to find the place that you really like!


Recommendations after you will move in

                  • Present yourself: go to nearest neighbors, say who you are, where you are from and what are you studying. This will help for neighbors think that you are not arrogant foreigner, neighbors will be more helpful for you in a future. If there are some old neighbors, kids – bring them some sweats, vitamins, maybe some souvenirs from your country.
                  • Be polite with all people: smile to everyone that you will meet on the way, say “hello”, if they speaking with you, try to explain that you don’t understand. Don’t be rude if they will ask very personal questions.
                    Participate in community activities: if neighbors invited you to a celebration – join it. It will help to find more about Indonesian culture also you will be polite sign from your side.
                  • Suggest your help: if you have time – suggest teach neighbors kids English language or make some activities with them and etc.
                  • Accept gifts: if neighbors, owner will suggest you some food or something else – accept it. If you don’t like the food that they gave – next time just say in polite way that you already eat, you are full. Accept if they will invite you for a tea – find couple of minutes for it.
                  • Rules: keep following the community rules if they presented them to you.
                  • Keep your stuff inside
      • Shoes: don’t leave your shoes outside during the night – even if owner will say that surrounding is safe. Some of the people think that foreigner’s shoes can be much better than locals and can take it, later sell in second hand markets.
      • Transport: keep your transport (motorbike, bicycle) inside the house during the night.
                  • Turn on the light outside: if your place has outside lamp, keep it on when becomes dark outside till morning. If during the day you are leaving and know that will come back late or during the travels – turn it on before you leave. Those lights are like “street” lightning, helps to see the way for drivers.
                  • Cleaning: keep your place surrounding clean.
                  • Close the windows and doors: when you are leaving (even during the daytime) close all windows and doors. If windows have curtains – close them.
                  • Home wear: if you are going outside with home wear don’t use too short shorts, skirts or too open T-shirts. Probably nobody will say you anything if they see you in such clothes but you can get more attention and staring from locals.
                  • Follow good manners in Indonesia.

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Indonesian people lifestyle

If you haven’t been before in any Asian country, maybe after you will come to Indonesia, you will have slighter (or bigger) cultural shock. The main thing – come to Indonesia with open eyes and heart, without any attitudes or negative wonder. Don’t judge Indonesian people, culture and country – just accept it how it is.

Some things that you should know before coming to Indonesia about Indonesian people lifestyle and maybe it will help you not have cultural shock.

People behavior

  • Curiosity: Indonesians are very curious people. In the first meeting they can ask very personal questions. They do not mean to be impolite or disrespect your privacy with asking these questions, this is the way how they try to be friendly with strangers.
  • Staring: in Indonesia, it is not considered impolite to stare. Sometimes when you are out in public, you will feel yourself the object of staring. Adults will point you out to their children; people will stop what they are doing to watch you, etc.! The fewer foreigners in the area, the more stares you are apt to receive.
    Most expats deal with the staring by just ignoring it. There is really nothing you can do about it; no matter how uncomfortable you are, it will always happen!
  • Meeting agreements: when you plan something with Indonesian you should know that “tomorrow” (“besok”) doesn’t have exactly the same meaning than ours. If Indonesian says “Besok kita makan bersama” – it can mean “We eat together tomorrow” or “We eat together in 2 or 3 days” and etc. depends on the context. The same with “yesterday” (“kemarin”) it can mean “yesterday”, “the day before yesterday”,”one week ago” and etc.
  • “Elastic Hour” (“Jam karet””): if you agreed to meet at one time and your friend comes one hour later, smiling as nothing wrong – it’s nothing wrong in Indonesia. Punctuality is not so important in Indonesia. Don’t think that your friend doesn’t respect you because he is late. Don’t be offended, rather adopt. Indonesian time, which is really relaxing.
  • Respect showing: to show respect to parents, elder people, teachers and etc. younger people take their hand and touch their forehead (“salim”).
    Politeness: smiling is very prevalent and is often used even when people don’t like something or they don’t agree.
  • Laughing: if you ask someone to do something, but he cannot do it, laughing could be a way to express his embarrassment. The Javanese society is based on the concept of “rukun”, that is to say the willing to make peace and harmony the main priority in social relationships. The main point on Javanese culture is the willing to avoid all kind of clashes, or conflicts. Then, the difficulty for Javanese people to say no could be due to the willing to avoid conflicts.
  • Answers: if people don’t understand something or doesn’t know something, they still will show that they understand and know, like they don’t want to embarrass the other person by making them repeat the question.
  • Showing the way: most of the time, as often in Asia, Indonesian people are not used to read map and usually it’s hard understand when they explain how to get to any place. Better to ask several different people how to get to the place, like Indonesians even if they don’t know they want to help and say things that they think they know.
  • Explaining directions: only in Yogyakarta if you want to go somewhere and asking Indonesians how to get there, they will explain everything not in “ turn left”, “turn right” way but saying the main direction: North (direction to Merapi),  South (direction to Parangtritis), West (direction to Kulon Progo or sunset), East (direction to Prambanan/Solo or sunrise). So try to go from Kasongan (South) to UGM university (North) by Indonesian explanation: “From the gate of Kasongan, go to the North. You will pass 5 traffic lights. On the 6th traffic light go a little bit North and turn to East then turn to North side again. On 7th traffic light – turn East. You will pass 2 traffic lights, on 3rd traffic light – turn to North and will see UGM gate”. Do you think you will manage to reach the place? :).
    Beeping all the time: in the roads you will hear many beeps. Don’t worry Indonesians do that often not because you did something wrong, but because they want to inform you that they are coming
  • Shaman: Indonesian goes to shaman instead of doctor (when they get sick) or police (when they got robbed). It’s happening especially in villages.
  • Fever cure: if Indonesians have fever they do “kerok” – scratch the back and front body with metal money. To wind get out from the body, they believe that wind makes them get fever.
  • Indonesians wakes up very early: like most of them are Muslim, first they go to pray ~ 4:00 am (morning praying) and after that – start their daily works. Not all of them like this, but in villages it’s most common.
  • Walking habits: usually Indonesians don’t walk; use the vehicles even if they need to go to shop that is 5min. walk by foot.
  • Coughing and sneezing: it is not common for traditional and less educated people in Indonesia to carry handkerchiefs or tissues, and often they do not understand how diseases are spread. Therefore it is not unusual to see people coughing or sneezing openly without attempting to cover their mouth or nose.
  • Spitting: this habit is particularly common during the fasting month. Some strict Muslims refuse to swallow their own saliva while fasting, and spit saliva onto the ground or in the street. Gargling and spitting is part of the ritual cleansing before Muslim prayers.
  • Smoking: the vast majority of Indonesian men smoke, excessively! There are many public spaces where you will inevitably have to breathe in cigarette smoke. A law that banned smoking in transportation terminals, malls, offices, hospitals, schools, and universities, places of worship, buses, trains and playgrounds has been in effect in Jakarta since 2006, but it is not entirely enforced.  Most office buildings and public areas of malls are complying; however, there will still be a smoking section in most restaurants.
  • Long thumbnails: sometimes you will see an Indonesian man with one or two very long nails, usually the thumbnail. This is intended as an indication of his status as a non-manual laborer or worker.
  • Wetness: a traditional Indonesian bathroom contains a trough of clean water, from which water is scooped up in a plastic dipper (“gayung”) and poured over the body while standing on the floor of the bathroom. After soaping up all over, more dippers full of water are splashed over oneself to rinse off. This same practice is utilized when going to the toilet, resulting in very wet toilet seats!

Eating habits

  • Using hands: mostly Indonesians use hand (“muluk”) to eat food.
  • Tools: you can see that people as well eating with spoon and fork, but very rare with knife. Like they believe that knife is a weapon as well, they can do everything with the hand – so why use the knife?  The spoon they use in the right hand and fork in the left (or vice versa for lefthanders). The fork holds food steady while breaking off portions with the spoon, and is used to assist in loading up the spoon by pushing food into it. Most food is cut up into relatively small pieces before it is cooked, although chicken and duck are usually served on the bone, and fish is often served whole.
  • Indonesian use to eat fast and silently.
  • Place: sometimes Indonesian food is served and eaten not at a table, but on woven mats covering a low platform or the ground. This style of eating is called “lesehan” and is common in Yogyakarta and Central Java as well as West Java.
  • Rice: Indonesians eat rice 3 times per day (with fish, vegetables, egg and etc.). “Kalau belum makan nasi, belum makan” (if you haven’t eaten rice, you haven’t eaten), which implies that no matter what snacks you have consumed, you have not had a proper meal until you have filled your tummy with rice in some form or another. They should eat rice once per day at least to feel good.
  • Cold food: most often in “warungs” and “angrigans” you can get a bit warm or cold food, like food prepared earlier and nobody warm it, you just select  from food what is ready and you see in front of you. It’s nothing surprised to eat cold rice, chiken, boiled vegetables or other dishes.
  • Burping: it is not considered impolite to burp, and can even be regarded as a sign of appreciation of a good meal, therefore Indonesians generally do not excuse themselves after burping.


  • Working hours: mostly small shops or eating places doesn’t have working hours. One day they can be open at one time, next day – at another. The activities (school, work and etc.) usually start at 7:00-7:30 am.
  • Evening time: at 6:00 pm usually is totally dark outside and after 10:00 pm (especially in the villages)  is very quiet (like people goes to sleep after early waking up).
  • Couples living: it’s taboo and immoral if in the same place lives a couple, who is not married (especially in the villages). Even if the couple is foreigners, most of communities don’t accept them and don’t let rent a place there. The owner will ask for a wedding certificate before renting his place to a couple. There can be exceptions depending on the community leader liberality.
  • Hair cutting: there are special barber places only for cutting man’s hair.
  • Pharmacy: in some pharmacy (especially in smaller towns, villages) they can ask you to show marriage paper before selling contraception pills. Officially it’s not allowed to have sex before marriage and if you are not married it means you don’t need such pills.
  • Toilets: mostly in toilets there is no flushing system, so you need to use water from container. Also most places has “Turkish style” (squat) toilet, you can find sitting style as well but don’t expect that it will be everywhere :) Indonesian people do not use toilet paper, but they wash them self with water, always available in WC. Indonesian people use the left hand to wash themselves, while they keep the right hand to shake hands and to eat. If you cannot do without toilet paper, always keep with you a package of tissues.
  • Hot water: there is no hot water (only you can find it in hotels, rich people houses or sometimes in villages near mountains). It can be a bracing and refreshing experience to bathe from a traditional “bak mandi”, as only room temperature water is used. Warm water is only for babies, the elderly or the sick.
  • Animals at home: roaches, geckos, small lizards, ants, mice and etc. are usual animals at home that you can see on your walls, hear sounds on the roof.
  • Language: Indonesia are bilingual – use national language “bahasa Indonesian” and local language for example “bahasa Java”.
  • Refilling: you hardly will find services for which you need the contract. You need drinking water or gas – you buy water or gas gallons and refill it; you need electricity – you buy “pulsa” put the code in your counter and have it; you need to use internet or mobile-you pay for “pulsa” and seller will put needed information to his mobile and you have it. For Indonesians everything should be easy – agreements for services makes everything too complicated.
  • Trashes: don’t surprise to see everywhere the trashes. Like Indonesian people throw it anywhere – to the river, just straight on the street or even in front of their houses.
Information used from Javanese people sharing and internet sources, as well some pictures.
Lifestyle of Indonesian people
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  • Does any of these Indonesian people lifestyle examples reminds you any from your country?
  • You know more Indonesian people common behavior? What kind of?
  • To which of these things would be hard for you to adapt?


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