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Ana Gaby on life as an expat in the Indonesia capital of Jakarta

Ana GabyThis week we spoke to Ana Gaby, a Mexican by birth and now settled in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta. In an exclusive interview to us, she tells us about her love for traveling, life as an expat in South-east Asia, and what foreign nationals can expect and watch out for when they travel to or decide to settle in this part of the globe.

The interview…

Please tell us something about your background – personal and professional.
I was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico but by the time I was 23 I had traveled to over 25 countries and lived, studied and worked in 5 of them. I worked at an International Organization in the USA before I joined my husband overseas where we began the adventure of a lifetime country-hopping every few years and raising a family overseas. We currently reside in the Indonesia with our two young sons. When we are not traveling in South East Asia I volunteer at several expat associations and dedicate my spare time to exploring Jakarta and finding the sweetness beneath the prickliness of the Big Durian.

Tell us something about your blog, Stumble Abroad Dot net. What is it all about?
Stumble Abroad began as a diary of our adventures and misadventures in Jakarta. It then evolved to a site devoted to establishing acumen of information for expats with kids in Jakarta and a travel guide for those traveling with kids in South East Asia and beyond. Stumble Abroad documents our experiences as an expat family and encourages wanderers to travel with their little ones and gives expats tips and advice on settling down with children and thriving abroad. In Stumble Abroad, Home is where the Empty Suitcase is.

When did you decide to settle in Indonesia? What went through your mind while taking this decision?
We decided to apply for a job there soon after my husband visited Jakarta for work purposes. We lived in Jakarta for about a month and then started considering it as a good option for our family. We mainly considered the pros and cons of moving there with young kids. We had been living in Bangkok and thought Jakarta would not be too different from what we already knew considering we would still live in South East Asia.

How would you rate Jakarta as a tourist destination? How would you compare it with other tourist destination in Indonesia like Bali, etc?
Jakarta has an old-world charm that can capture the hearts of anyone who visits it. It is not a big tourist destination but it still has a lot to offer to those interested in visiting museums and old ports and neighborhoods. The swanky upscale malls would impress anyone with their diverse entertainment and shopping options and traditional, antique and specialty markets are a big-hit among those who want to go on a scavenger hunt for unique treasures

For a visitor coming to Jakarta what are the places he can visit and the activities he can participate here?
Jakarta is as diverse as the people who live there. There is something for everyone and the options and opportunities are endless. A great place to visit is the Ancol Bay area. There you can find amusement parks, an aquarium and a very nice water park. For the outdoorsy types, there are many hiking opportunities in the nearby mountains and Taman Safari is a very fun zoo where interacting with the animals excites those wild at heart. 

How is the nightlife of Jakarta? Where do you ideally hangout during the weekends?
Nightlife is thriving. From sports bars and pubs to upscale nightclubs there is fun to be had in every neighborhood in Jakarta. A very popular area for Expats is in the Kuningan area. The Kemang area is also very fun.

What about restaurants? Are there any good restaurants/ pubs you can recommend?
Where can I start? The options are so diverse and numerous! There are a great variety of international restaurants that will cater to any craving. Fun places to check out could be the Birdcage, Otel Lobby, Potato Head, Dragon Fly, Social House, among others. The malls have all kinds of restaurants and will surely provide a satisfying meal any time of the day.

Do you see a lot of expats settling in Jakarta? What is their average age group?
Absolutely! I meet new people every day and the expat community keeps expanding. There are a lot of young expats igniting their careers and many young families. There are also a few empty nesters working for a few years before they go back home and retire. I would say the average is 25 to 45 with a few exceptions.

Is Jakarta more of a retirement destination or you get to see young working expats settling here?
Jakarta is only a retirement destination for those who grew up locally of those with Indonesian families. There are very few expats retiring in Jakarta. Many young working expats are trying their luck in Jakarta and succeeding.

What is the current real estate activity in Jakarta? Are there good developments/ developers in the area?
The city center is already overcrowded but renovations are always happening. There are great new developments in the North and the South of Jakarta and although purchasing property is complicated renting a beautiful home or apartment is never a hassle as there are gorgeous properties catering to every lifestyle.

Can you name some of the good vacation home/ residential projects in Jakarta?
The Kemang neighborhood offers an enclave where expats can live very comfortably and enjoy some of the best entertainment options in Jakarta. The Pakubuwono Residence and the Essence Apartments in Kebayoran Baru are very popular among expats. Luxury hotels such as the Shangri-La, Four Seasons and Kempinski offer serviced apartments that are a great option for worry-free luxury living.

For an expat wanting to retire in Jakarta, what are the basic things he should look out for?
Make sure your visa is valid and always keep your paperwork up to date. Find a neighborhood that offers all that you are looking for, whether a lively night scene, or peace and quiet.

Can you briefly tell our readers the rules of expats wanting settle in Indonesia?
Residence visas are obtainable but they have to be kept up to date. There are no specific rules pertaining solely to expats but expats should be sure to follow the law as some punishments can be very severe.

Also can you please tell us about the rules of expat property ownership in Indonesia?
Foreigners have a hard time buying property in Indonesia. The rules are complicated and ever changing so the best option is to find a good realtor to jump thru the hoops and take care of the paperwork. Make sure all the repairs required are stated in a contract and that the agreement is thoroughly discussed.

Any tips for expats wanting to settle in Indonesia in general and Jakarta in particular?
Shop around for everything. Prices can greatly differ from one place to the next and expats can sometimes get a “special” price. Consider that traffic will become a factor in your movements so make sure you take it into account when finding a place to live. Expat associations provide a home away from home and are a great place to meet people and get involved in the community.