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While there’s 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 that expats from Western countries would expect. Private hospitals are a much better option, but although they offer an improved quality of care, they’re generally expensive – so having comprehensive health insurance coverage is a necessity for those relocating to Indonesia.
Though 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 overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed. Even once a consultation is secured, there’s no guarantee that the doctor will speak English.
To avoid these complications, most expats prefer to make use of private healthcare facilities instead. Medics at these institutions are more likely to speak English and the standard of care will generally be better. However, their capabilities 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.
Expats aren’t entitled to cover under the country’s public health insurance scheme, and those moving to Indonesia for work or retirement will need health insurance in order to obtain a visa. If you’re relocating for work, the chances are your employer will provide health insurance as part of an expat employment package.
Regardless, it’s important to ensure that health insurance is comprehensive. In particular, make sure the policy covers you for medical evacuation. Those who have health insurance provided by their employer should also check the extent of the coverage.
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.
There are several potential hazards to look out for in Indonesia in order to stay healthy.
Firstly, tap water in Indonesia isn’t safe to drink. Though it’s fine to bathe in unfiltered water, it’s best to use purified or bottle water for cooking, brushing teeth, and drinking.
Indonesia’s large cities are 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.
The climate in Indonesia can take some getting used to. New arrivals who don’t pay heed to the hot, humid conditions could find themselves suffering from sunburn, heatstroke and dehydration. The tropical climate also puts some regions (usually the more remote areas) at risk of 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’s recommended that expats ensure they’re up to date on all routine vaccinations.
Lastly, note that, because of possible difficulties in accessing medical resources and specialty care, illnesses that wouldn’t be concerning back home should be taken more seriously in Indonesia. Any dip in health should be monitored carefully so that help can be sought immediately if the condition worsens.
There isn’t a national ambulance service in Indonesia – instead, hospitals and clinics operate their own ambulances. Ambulances from public hospitals aren’t recommended as they are often poorly equipped. In some rural areas, there are no ambulances at all. Expats who decide to make use of a public 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 be obtained from health insurance providers or hospitals themselves.