Moving to a foreign country can be daunting to say the least. Now imagine it’s a country in which the official language isn’t English. Lastly, on top of that add not having any accommodation organised until you arrive in said country.

This is the case for most exchange students moving to Indonesia – you stay in a hotel for the first few days and use this time to locate your ideal accommodation.

But don’t fear! Finding a place in Jogjakarta is nothing like in Canberra. For one, rental prices will never make you cry, and the process of choosing accommodation is much more fun than it is anxiety-inducing. So, while it can be terrifying not knowing where you will live before you arrive in the country, don’t worry – this can be your first taste of living the relaxed Indonesian way. 

When you arrive, you’re paired with an Indonesian buddy (pendamping) organised by ACICIS or your university and they will help you navigate the world of housing in Indonesia. Do a little research before you go, but after that the best way to find a place is to get on a motorbike and drive around. There are lots of very cool and safe areas just near the university campuses. If you find a place you like, just knock on the door and see if they have room!

The first decision to make is whether you want to live in a share-house, home-stay or kos-style accommodation.

  1. Share-house (kontrakan): a shared self-contained house.

You’ll be sharing a house with other people (presumably also students) so it will take a little more compromise, and, as this is a less common housing option than in Australia, these can be harder to find, but it does allow you to have a private place, usually with a shared kitchen and study spaces. You might also be locked in for longer time periods (e.g. 6 months or 1 year) rather than paying per month. Average price is around $250 per month.

2. Home-stay: an immersive experience with an Indonesian family.

These accommodations are very popular for students on shorter stays as you get a very in-depth experience into Indonesian family life (and often includes being cooked, cleaned and cared for). A home-stay can also increase the amount of Bahasa you speak at home, so can boost your language learning. However, this can be a more expensive option than the other styles and can sometimes come with stricter rules and an early curfew depending on the family you choose. Average price is around $350 per month (but can be much more expensive depending on facilities).

3. Kos: boarding houses, the most popular accommodation for Indonesians and foreigners alike.

Jogjakarta has literally thousands of kos – in every area you could hope for, with a wide range of facilities and styles. Kos can be mixed gender (campur), male-only (putra) or female-only (putri). These are not like the colleges of Australia, nor are they apartment complexes, but more so a little community of independent rooms with some shared places. These have some rules – e.g. in some kos putri, men are not allowed after a certain time, or sometimes not at all.

You can also choose which facilities are important to you. Most kos will have some shared spaces like shared bathrooms, a common room and kitchen, but others can be very independent if that suits you more. If you like cooking for yourself, just know that it can be hard to find many kos with kitchens as most students in Indonesia don’t cook for themselves due to the amazingly cheap prices ($1 a meal).

When searching, some things to keep in mind are:

  • Do you want a western toilet or squat toilet?
  • Do you prefer air conditioner or fan?
  • Do you want a shared bathroom or private?
  • Do you need a Western shower or a mandi?
  • Do you need a kitchen?
  • Is WiFi and electricity included in the price?

Kos prices start around $100 per month (will generally not have AC or en-suite) and around $150 (with en-suite and AC) but can go up to $300 if you require more facilities.

Remember: The more expensive the accommodation, the less Indonesians typically live there – so if you want a more social experience with locals, try and choose a more affordable option!

Depending on which accommodation you’ve chosen to begin with, it can be quite easy to move after a month or two if it isn’t to your liking or you just want a change. For this reason, it’s recommended that you only agree on staying for a month or two at your accommodation when you first arrive, and can pay for longer once you settle in.

My accommodation:

I chose a kos in the ‘Karangs’ area which is about a 20-minute walk to campus (or a 5-minute, 40c gojek). It’s a kos putri with two shared kitchens and common room space, included WiFi and electricity, and my own (squat toilet) en-suite.

This luxurious lodging is costing me $130 per month and has a wonderful little community of women around and an incredibly friendly Ibu (mum/landlord).

It’s also a minute walk from many laundries, shops and warungs (local restaurants). I have never felt lonely or unsafe there and know that there are always people around if I need any help.

So, if you find yourself looking for accommodation in Indonesia: relax, take your time, and happy house-hunting!