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Balikpapan Expatriate Living Guide

General topics about life in Balikpapan for expatriates (Tips, Housing, Relocation, domestic help, general discussion...). Communicate together about everything in this discussion forum.

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Balikpapan Expatriate Living Guide

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Postby Balikpapan Guide » Fri Sep 16, 2005 9:20 am

Balikpapan is the business center for many national and international companies, including those in mining, oil and gas. The city's population is about 400,000.

As a "hub" there are facilities, such as schools and hospitals, that are not found in all other Indonesian cities. There are also restaurants and hotels that cater to Western tastes and preferences.

Balikpapan offers a range of images and experiences. You will see multi-story shopping centers and local markets (pasars). You will see large homes and wooden shanties jutting out over the many water inlets.

The climate is hot and humid year round. Rainy season is generally between September and January.

Education / Schools

Balikpapan offers several education options for families with children, including Australian, French and American curriculums.

For individuals wanting a "local" experience, there are also local schools, such as Muslim and Christian schools.

For individuals interested in higher education options: the internet connections in Balikpapan are fair, which enables individuals to pursue distance learning.

There is also a local university: Balikpapan University, which offers mostly night courses in Bahasa Indonesian language.

Hotels / Accommodation

Balikpapan offers a range of hotels from large, multi-star hotels to small, local hotels.

The entertainment, meals and services provided at the hotels can vary largely, depending on the particular hotel.

Some hotels may have available a restaurant(s), bakery and coffee shop, hairdresser, fitness center, swimming pool and other amenities, while other hotels may offer little other than a basic room. When booking verify whether your room has air conditioning.

Locations for hotels will also vary. Verify the location of a hotel before confirming your booking. There are taxis and local minibuses that can transport you among venues.


There are numerous housing options available in the Balikpapan metropolitan area. Some houses are "standalone" while other houses are located within housing compounds / complexes. If renting a house, you may be asked to pay rent for a year (or more) up front.

Housing security may depend on your housing choice. For example, if you are living in a complex, the complex may have its own security. In a standalone house, security may be provided by your company or self selected and funded.

Water and electricity 'regularity' vary among housing choices. Generally speaking, for drinking water it is wise to use bottled water. Regarding electricity it is not uncommon to experience brief outages and/or power surges.

Internet / Phones

Several internet providers are available in Balikpapan and in Indonesia. Instead of, or in addition to, internet access can also be obtained through the local phone company (Telkom) by dialing their internet access number. Wireless connections are coming into the area, but are still not widely available.

Phone connections, like other infrastructure, may vary in standards. Most days the connections are good but on occasion there may be phone surges and outages. Housing location and line maintenance may impact the quality of your connection.

Language: Bahasa Indonesian

The number of languages spoken in Indonesia is upwards of 300, reflecting the numerous diverse groups living in the islands.

Bahasa Indonesian is spoken by individuals in many business centers, such as those in Balikpapan.

There are individuals (locals and expats) living in Balikpapan who offer Bahasa Indonesian language courses, from beginning to more advanced classes. There are also intensive languages courses offered in various cities, such as Yogyakarta and Jakarta.

Medicine / Health

Balikpapan has local hospitals and clinics, both public and private. Additionally, some of the larger companies, such as Unocal and Total, have their own medical doctors.

Some individuals prefer to travel to Singapore for medical and dental appointments. This is made possible by the numerous daily flights coming and going from the Balikpapan airport

For a listing of the recommended injections to receive before coming to Balikpapan, refer to your country's travel / health website.


There are numerous types of restaurants to choose from in Balikpapan, which vary greatly by:

Specialty (Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, Western, Japanese, etc)
Price (from $1 per main on up!)

Availability of alcohol (not all restaurants serve alcohol)

Many of the local dishes include rice in some form. Additionally, because of its ocean-side location, good seafood is also available in Balikpapan.

Shopping / Money

There are shopping malls, shopping strips and standalone shops in Balikpapan at which you can buy a variety of merchandise.

Additionally, there are tailors, furniture, and jewelry shops that can create virtually anything to your specifications.

The local currency is the Indonesian rupiah. Some individuals open accounts and use these accounts for local purchases, such as buying groceries. ATMs are available at numerous locations throughout Balikpapan.


Many expatriates living in Balikpapan have drivers, who do most of the driving in and around the area. Other expatriates prefer to drive themselves.

Inside the city, most roads are paved and
maintained. Outside the city, the roads may be paved or they may be dirt. Heavy rains can make driving 'interesting', especially if you are on a dirt road.

There are small minibuses that travel routes in and around the city. There are also taxis for hire.

Source : BEWC
Balikpapan Guide

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