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While there is plenty to enjoy about living in Indonesia, finding and funding adequate healthcare can be a challenge. Public hospitals are generally not up to the standards which expats from Western countries would expect. Private hospitals are generally a better option, but although they offer an improved quality of care, this is usually reflected in their cost. As such, having comprehensive health insurance coverage is a necessity for any expat relocating to Indonesia.
Although the Indonesian government has introduced reforms to improve healthcare access for the poor, the country remains short on resources in the form of hospitals and medical professionals. As a result, public hospitals are often overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed. Even once a consultation is secured, there’s no guarantee that the doctor will speak English, making public healthcare inaccessible for most expats in Indonesia.
Furthermore, expats are not entitled to government-funded cover under the country’s public health insurance scheme. Those moving to Indonesia for work or retirement will usually need to secure comprehensive health insurance in order to obtain a visa. Expats who are moving to Indonesia on international assignment should check with their employer if international health insurance is included as part of an expat employment package.
As a result of the low standards and inaccessibility of public healthcare in Indonesia, most expats prefer to make use of private healthcare facilities in the country. Medics at these institutions are more likely to speak English and the care will generally be of a better standard. However, the capabilities of private hospitals in Indonesia may still be somewhat limited. For medical emergencies and complex surgical procedures, medical evacuation to a neighbouring country with more specialised staff and equipment may be required.
It is crucial that any expat health insurance policy has provisions for these issues. In particular, expats should ensure their policy covers medical evacuation. Those who have health insurance provided by their employer should also check the extent of the coverage.
Pharmacies and medication
Pharmacies are easy to find in Indonesia’s main urban hubs, and some stay open 24 hours a day. In remote rural areas, pharmacies are much less common but can sometimes be found at the local health centre.
Indonesian pharmacies may dispense medication differently than the way expats are used to. Medication that is strictly prescription-only back home might be readily available over the counter in Indonesia, and vice versa. Expats should always take note of the generic name for any prescription medication, as brand names tend to vary from country to country.
There are several potential hazards which expats should look out for in order to stay healthy. One of the most significant of these is the fact that tap water in Indonesia is not generally safe to drink. Though it’s relatively safe to bathe in unfiltered water, it is best to use purified or bottle water for cooking, brushing teeth, and drinking.
Indonesia’s large cities are also prone to pollution, and this can exacerbate existing respiratory conditions like asthma. In this case, expats should visit a doctor before moving to Indonesia to determine the best way to mitigate the effects of poor air quality.
The climate in Indonesia can take some getting used to. New arrivals unaccustomed to the hot, humid conditions could find themselves suffering from sunburn, heatstroke and dehydration. The tropical climate puts expats in some rural regions at risk of contracting malaria. If staying in one of these areas, antimalarial medication should be taken along with other practical measures such as covering up bare skin, making use of insect repellents, and sleeping under a mosquito net.
There aren’t any specific vaccines required to be granted entry into Indonesia, but it is recommended that expats ensure they are up to date on all routine vaccinations.
Emergency services and important numbers
There is no national ambulance service in Indonesia. To cover this gap, many hospitals and clinics operate their own ambulances. Ambulances from public hospitals are not recommended for expats as they are often poorly equipped and unreliable. In some rural areas there are no ambulances at all. Expats who decide to make use of a public hospital’s ambulance service can call 118 in a medical emergency.
Expats should make sure they have contact details for private ambulance services on hand in case of an emergency. These details can usually be obtained from health insurance providers or hospitals themselves.