Retiring abroad is something that a lot of people think about. Getting away from the known and embarking on an adventure can be very enticing.
If moving out of the country excites you and if you're thinking of South East Asian countries, then this is one of the best cities for you: Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
A Bit About Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta (or Jogjakarta) is the capital of the Province of the Special Region of Yogyakarta and is also known by Jogja for short. The province became the special one because the whole region is a kingdom within the Republic of Indonesia where The Sultan acts as the governor.
Another reason for the special status was due to the overwhelming support The Sultan gave during Indonesian independence war against the invasion of the Netherlands in the Allies troops at the end of WWII by sheltering the president and the vice president who were under threat. From January 1946-December 1948, Yogyakarta was the capital of Indonesia before the capital status went back to Jakarta when the conflict subsided. As the sign of gratitude from the republic government, Yogyakarta was then granted a status of Special Region.
To learn more about Yogyakarta history, you can simply visit many museums there. The Sultan Palace itself serves as another museum/tourist attraction that if you visit on the Eid Ul Fitr Day (Islamic holiday) you can even shake hands with His Majesty himself.
The People of Yogyakarta
Known as The City of Culture and The City of Students, many people from various regions of Indonesia come to study in Jogja. They grow within the exceptional culture, kindhearted people, good and affordable food, and beautiful nature.
It's only normal that most of them always come back to Jogja for vacation even after getting a career in different cities or countries. When it's time for them to retire, most of them choose Jogja.
Jogja is also the home of expatriates from various countries like Belgium, Japan, Australia, and many more countries. Most are international students, artists (painters, sculptors, etc), but some people are also entrepreneurs or aid workers who work for many kinds of NGOs.
People in Jogja are one of the friendliest. When you meet locals and introduce yourself as a foreigner, they will welcome you with a warm smile and try to help you as much as they can.
What is the Weather Like in Yogyakarta?
Located near the equator line and just about 27 km (16.7 miles) from the sea, the city weather and climate is within the nice tropical breeze. The temperature ranges from 20 °C (69 °F) to 31 °C (88 °F) with the coldest one usually happening in August and the hottest one in April.
However, if you live in the north of the city, you will get cooler temperatures thanks to the high land of Mount Merapi. Mount Merapi itself is an active volcano that erupts every four years, resulting in fertile soil across the land and scenic view of nature.
Natural Attractions in Yogyakarta
Natural attractions of Jogja don't stop at Merapi, as the city is also close to beautiful beaches like Parangtritis, Parangkusumo, Baron, and Ngobaran. There is a beautiful lake in Jogja called Umbul Ponggok where you can take funny underwater pictures with fishes around you, guided by a professional photographer who even provides you the breathing equipment, if you need it. Other beautiful natural attractions are Pindul Cave, Bukit Bintang (Star Hill), Mangunan Fruit Garden, Sermo Dam, and many more.For your grocery needs, Jogja supplies you with shopping centers and malls, as well as traditional markets if you want the fresher ingredients and more interactions with the locals.
Yogyakarta is the only city in Indonesia that still uses the monarchy system.
What Do Locals Like to Do in Yogyakarta?
If you are a big fan of art, Jogja is a heaven for you. Supported by a strong community of artists, Jogja helds art festivals frequently at the museums, public halls, or in some universities. The performances are operas, puppet shows, musical ensembles, and even some stand-up comedy.
Batik is Indonesian clothing coloring art that uses liquid wax to reverse-colorize a piece of cloth. This coloring is done through a stamp or by the delicate hands of batik makers (usually ladies) that make a unique pattern to represent the culture.
If you are looking for new retirement activities to explore, many clubs and communities are available for you: archery club, horse riding, yoga, martial arts, many kinds of sports. Swimming pools and water parks in Jogja can be enjoyed alone or with your loved ones.
Meeting your friends could easily be special moments as Jogja is full of good cafes and some bars. Good restaurants are plenty, some of them are within a mall or a reputable hotel.
What Kind of Food is in Yogyakarta?
Food in Jogja consists of 2 main tastes: savory and sweet, although the variety could be hundreds. Home to Indonesian traditional food, you can easily find American fast food brands like KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, and many more.
Owing to the open-minded nature of Indonesian people, foreign food like Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, Arabian, Italian and Indian food are widely accepted here. Nevertheless, many foreigners who come to Indonesia fall in love easily to Indonesian traditional food.
Local Indonesian Foods You Must Try When in Yogyakarta
If you have a sweet tooth, you can also find many sweets and desserts in Jogja, whether it's a traditional one like Es Cendol (sweet cold dessert with palm sugar and coconut milk) or an international one like gelato. Many bakeries with delicious cakes and breads are also available in almost every corner of the city.
The price of the food ranges from as low as $1 to $10, depending on where you get the food. Surprisingly, the price of the American food fast chains seem to follow Indonesian standards. A half dozen of Dunkin Donuts in the US is $5.79 while in Indonesia is only $2.54.
The price of a Big Mac in the US is around $3.57 while in Indonesia is only $2.37. Generally, all the daily needs in Indonesia (e.g. clothing) cost less than in the US or in many other countries.
Getting to Yogyakarta
To reach Jogja from outside of Indonesia, generally you will be offered three options of airplane transits:
- Via Jakarta: Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK)
- Via Singapore: Changi International Airport (SIN)
- Via Bali: I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS)
By flying for 1-2 hours from those airports, you will be directed to New Yogyakarta International Airport (YIA) in the uptown. To get into the city, you will have three options: bus, taxi or uber service and railway train.
Speaking of trains, Yogyakarta is connected with the railway to several cities in Java island, including to the capital city, Jakarta. The trains have three classes: economy, business, and executive. The price of the train tickets are pretty much similar to airplanes, however some people would still choose trains because of the convenience reason.
Yogyakarta was once the capital of Indonesia.
How is the Healthcare in Yogyakarta
Healthcare is important for retirees. Yogyakarta has several good hospitals such as Jogja International Hospital (JIH), Sardjito Hospital (National standard), Panti Rapih Hospital, etc. Some hospitals provide home visit service and private nurses.
JIH has 35 sub specialists and 111 specialists along with 24 General Practitioner Doctors. Sardjito is a national referral hospital owned by the government that has 24 specialist departments with tenth doctors in each one. Panti Rapih is one of the leading hospitals that has been serving since 1929.
In short, if you need any kind of medical treatment, you will have a lot of options in Jogja. Should you need further treatment that happens to be unavailable in Jogja, the doctor can refer you to a medical service in the city of Jakarta, Surabaya, or Singapore.
Is There a Retirement Visa for Indonesia?
Talking about visas, Indonesian government is pretty open to many countries to allow 30 days visit without a visa for 169 countries. However, if you want to find a place for retirement in South East Asia, Indonesian retirement visa is obviously the best choice to pursue. It allows you to have the rights like locals such as to leave and enter the country at any time, open a bank account, and hire people to work for you.
Some of the main requirements to get this retirement visa are:
- You must be 55 years old or older
- You must fully retired as this visa doesn't allow you to work to a company
- You must show a proof of your income from your pension or investment as much as $ 18,000 per year
The Downside of Yogyakarta
What is less likable about Jogja is the transportation problem. The city bus is available for most of the destinations, and taxi or uber-like cars are also in service, yet many people choose to ride scooters because of the low maintenance and fuel cost.
It’s not gonna be a big deal if the rider is careful in driving, but unfortunately this is still a concern for so many other road users. If you walk or drive across the road, you must be extra careful with scooter riders as they may run into you. Another transportation problem might be the traffic jam that happens during the rush hours.
What is the Cost of Living in Yogyakarta?
Living cost in Jogja totally depends on one's lifestyle, but generally you can live pretty comfortably with around $ 300 a month. For housing, you can choose an apartment or a house, that you can easily browse yourself or through an agent.
The cost of renting a studio apartment with one bed, one shower room/toilet, one pantry is around $ 400 per month. The rental price of a house depends on the location and the size, but normally the cost is around $ 2,000 per year.
If you can get a permanent residence permit (Indonesian KITAS or KITAP), you can hire domestic helpers to help you clean up the house and the garden or even cook for you. If you need to move around a lot and taxi or uber service (provided by Grab or Gojek/Gocar) is not enough for you, you can also hire a diver that works on a daily basis for you. Their daily wage varies from one to another, but you can also pay them in the monthly-based salary for around $ 138, based on the regional minimum wage determined by the government.
Yogyakarta, Indonesia Cost of Living Chart
Data from Numbeo
Cost of Living Rank
434th out of 549
1 Bdr Apartment in City
$230 per month
1 Bdr Apartment Outside City
$161 per month
Meal for Two, Mid-Range, 3 Course
Jogja is a wonderful retirement option that will entertain you and calm you down at any given time. If you aren't sure, try a weeklong holiday in Jogja and check out all of the wonderful attractions. People are nice and even nicer once they know you’re a foreigner.
The food has a great taste and price. Housing also comes in several options in the beautiful natural ambience of Jogja. Suffice it to say, Jogja is a great choice for your retirement plan in South East Asia, especially in Indonesia.
If Indonesia is interesting but a bit too far for you, why not try Mérida? It's on the Yucatán Peninsula and is a lovely colonial city that is very affordable.
Quick Facts about Retiring in Yogyakarta
Hot, humid and overcast year round. Average temps are from 73°F and 88°F
Flight time to U.S.
24 hours by plane to New York
A retirement visa is available for a total of a 5 year stay.
Extensive bus system trains and pedicabs