After I found out I was moving to Jakarta, I only had three weeks to fly “home” to California, pack my life into two suitcases, and get to Indonesia’s capital city. I didn’t have time to prepare or do the proper research about what to bring. I didn’t do much shopping back in the US because I figured most everything I needed would be way cheaper in Indonesia. Well, after living in Jakarta for the past six weeks, I’ve learned that the most random things are either super hard to find or ridiculously overpriced. So, for anyone who’s planning on moving to Jakarta, here are a few things you should consider packing:
1) Butter knives – Utensils were one of the first things Aaron and I set out to buy when we moved into our apartment. So we went to our local department store and grabbed a pack of forks and spoons. But as we looked around and didn’t see any butter knives. Figuring they were just sold out, we stopped by another store in the mall. Once again there were plenty of forks and spoons, but no knives. I’ve been here for six weeks and butter knives are still eluding me. To be fair, I did find knives at one store. But for $6 a pop, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy them.
2) Shower curtain rod – While I really like our apartment, the bathroom is the one thing I don’t particularly love. It feels like a sad, damp, windowless cell. The shower is tiny and whenever I bathe the entire bathroom floor gets flooded. Why, you ask? Well, because I still cannot find a shower curtain rod. It took me two weeks to finally locate a shower curtain (at Ace Hardware of all places). But I have still had no luck finding an actual rod to hang the curtain on!
3) Dishware – This is not something I even considered bringing when I moved to Jakarta. But after browsing through expat forums I found a lot of people who regretted not bringing their own dishes. Unlike the US, Indonesia doesn’t have any regulations when it comes to what they put in these types of products. Everything from plates to cups can have lead in them which makes me slightly uncomfortable. Not to mention, dishware is surprisingly expensive here – think $8-$12 for a really tacky porcelain plate. I could buy super cute stuff at Cost Plus back in the US for less money.
4) Top sheet & duvet cover – When we moved into our apartment, the bedding was provided. But when I climbed into bed that first night I realized the landlord hadn’t included a top sheet. I went to the store a few days later and rummaged through the bedding section and found no sign of a sheet. I’ve been to so many stores over the past month and nothing. I guess they don’t do the whole top sheet thing here. In Indonesia, a fitted sheet and a comforter is the norm. So if you’re moving to Jakarta make sure to pack a couple sets of sheets. Bringing along a duvet to cover your comforter is also a good idea, as they are really expensive here.
5) Bottle of wine – I spent two months backpacking around Indonesia earlier this year, so I was aware that alcohol is not only hard to come by in this predominantly-Muslim country, but it’s insanely expensive. After reading this blogger’s list of things to bring to Jakarta I decided to bring a bottle of tequila and a bottle of bourbon to Jakarta, as these are pretty tough to find here. However, I’m now kicking myself for not smuggling a nice bottle of wine into the country. My boyfriend’s brother is a winemaker and I’m always spoiled with super nice wines when I’m back home in California. It’s kind of a bummer that even the most horrid of wines cost over 400,000 rupiah ($40 USD) in Jakarta.
6) Clothes – When I decided to take off and travel the world last year I gave away almost all of my clothing. And, yes, this is something I deeply regretted as I was packing to move to Jakarta. I pretty much only had my backpacking clothes. Regardless, I decided not to do my shopping back in the US because I figured clothes would be ten times cheaper in Jakarta. This is not the case. It’s totally possible to find decent deals on clothes in Indonesia, but a lot of times items are actually more expensive than in the US. Another factor I didn’t take into consideration is that Indonesian women are tiny. I’m not a big person, at all. But I’m also not a size zero. And it’s actually a little tough to find cute things in my size. (For a more detailed account on the struggle of finding clothes in Jakarta, read this post.)
7) Pots & pans – Again, it didn’t even cross my mind to pack my own pots and pans (they are currently living a lonely existence in mom’s garage in San Diego). In hindsight, I should have just brought them. When I first got here, I purchased two pans for about $15-$20 each. It doesn’t seem like a bad deal but, as I’m quickly learning, quality is hard to come by in Indonesia. Even if you do pay top dollar for a product there’s no guarantee that it won’t break immediately. The handles on both pans are so loose that they’re becoming dangerous to use. They’re only six weeks old and need to be replaced. And I have a feeling that’s going to be a recurring issue.
8) Kraft Mac & Cheese – Okay, I did actually bring one box with me. But, like any true-blooded American, I ate it a long time ago. And, sadly, I have yet to find a box of my beautiful Kraft Mac & Cheese! I almost wept with joy when I stumbled across two types of mac and cheese at the grocery store last weekend. While I haven’t sampled them yet, I have to be realistic about my expectations. And with a name like MagicTime, it probably won’t hold a candle to Kraft. No offense.
9) Towels – I feel like I’m going on and on about how overpriced household items are here. But it’s true. If you’re moving to Indonesia, you’ll find that a lot of things are overpriced and of poor value. And towels are no exception. The best deal I found on a bath towel was $9 – but these were discounted. They typically cost around $12-$18 for a single towel and the quality is awful. If possible, I highly suggest packing your own.
10) Toiletries – If you’re particular about face wash, lotions, makeup, or any other toiletry, make sure to bring extra of everything. It’s pretty tough to find all the western products that I’m used to. I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across of few of my go-to’s but I’ve found that these items are really expensive and not worth the cost. For example, I love Cetaphil facewash. While it is available in a lot of drugstores in Jakarta, it costs three times what I pay back home. Luckily I brought three huge bottles along with me but I’m already ruing the day I run out!
UPDATE: The Diplomatic Wife wrote an amazing post dedicated to shopping for all of these hard-to-find items in Jakarta. For anyone who’s planning on moving to Jakarta – or is new to the city, like me – be sure to check it out here.
What would be the top 3 things you would pack if you were moving to Jakarta (or anywhere for that matter)?