Considering a Move to Surabaya? Here’s what to Expect

Located in beautiful East Java overlooking the Madura Straight, Surabaya is one of the fastest growing cities in Indonesia, second only to Jakarta. Home to Tanjung Perak, one of the busiest ports in all of Southeast Asia and the base of the Indonesian Navy’s East Fleet, Surabaya attracts thousands of new residents each year, looking for education and work opportunities.

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Considering a move to Surabaya, for university, work or to start a family? There’s a lot to take into account as you prepare for your move, from budgeting to transport simply finding a place to live. If you think Surabaya is the next stop on your journey, here’s where to start planning.

Cost of Living

Living in a city center will always be a bit more expensive than the outer limits or rural areas, but it brings you closer to work, school, and the cultural centers of Indonesia. As you would expect of a popular destination and a fast-growing city, cost of living in Surabaya can be high – slightly higher even than Jakarta.

A small lunchtime meal from a street vendor or a business district restaurant costs, on average, Rp38,000, and a fast food combo will run around Rp43,000. Despite the high average costs, however, Surabaya’s business and port districts have a huge variety of clubs, restaurants and food vendors. While you should be prepared for some higher grocery bills and more expensive menus, you can find food options to suit any taste and any budget with some exploration. 

Finding a New Home

House hunting can be a challenge in Indonesian cities, but there are many affordable options in Surabaya. There are several new government-supported housing units in the city, as well as a variety of options for rental and purchase. However, not all landlords are trustworthy, especially if you are looking for low cost housing in Surabaya, or any big city. The easiest way to avoid an unsafe or damaged apartment is to search through a reputable catalogue like Rumah. Their website makes it easy to search for exactly what you want, and avoid getting caught by scams or predatory landlords.

In central Surabaya, rent for a one bedroom apartment will average around Rp4.9 million per month, with another 1.1 million in utilities (for two people). Wireless internet will generally cost around Rp500,000 per month.

If you would prefer to buy rather than rent, you’ll be looking at a much larger short term investment. Low cost housing, such as the new government projects, is available for under Rp100 million, but these homes are usually less than 36 square meters, although they are very high quality homes.

Before you move in, it’s highly recommended that you get an independent audit done of the property, especially rental properties, which aren’t required to meet building codes and standards. An electrical audit should be your first priority, because faulty wiring is a common problem in Indonesian rental properties. Bad wiring is a fire hazard, and can also cost you millions in bills. Just having inefficient wiring corrected can cut down your electric bill by as much as 60 percent!

Getting Around

If you’re coming from a quieter rural area, big-city traffic can be a nasty shock, especially in Surabaya and Jakarta. The rent outside the city may be cheaper, but most city dwellers find that the rent is well worth it to avoid long hours of driving in Surabaya. Traffic jams are common, especially in the city center and on the major highways. Shopping and dining areas like the Loop and G-walk see more foot traffic, but they still get congested, especially on evenings and weekends.

Fortunately, public transport in Surabaya is very affordable. A monthly subway pass will cost you less than Rp300,000, and take you most anywhere you need to go for work or entertainment. Taxis are slightly more expensive (and much more vulnerable to traffic jams, but they still fall well within most people’s means, with a going rate of Rp50,000 per eight kilometers. Most city dwellers rely mainly on public transportation to get around the city.

Before You Go

Surabaya is a great place to live: it’s no wonder it draws so many new residents every year. It’s a very welcoming city, with many job options and plenty of housing, whether you’re planning to rent or buy. With a vibrant, thriving culture and night life, you’ll soon be settled in to a new routine and a new way of life in your new city. All it takes is a little planning and you can have the job, home, and life you always dreamed of.

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