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Expat Living in Jayapura, Papua

Papua (formerly called Irian Jaya, but now undergoing further administrative partitioning) is a melting pot of many ethnic groups in Indonesia. It's hot. It's incredibly beautiful. It's dirty. Litter, especially plastic bottles and bags, is pervasive, choking storm gutters and the otherwise clear running streams pouring into Lake Sentani or the ocean. The people are friendly, and it's quite safe. However travel late at night between Jayapura and Sentani is not recommended. A conservative dress code should be adopted, as is wise all over Indonesia. It's important to treat everyone with respect. Shorts and sandals shouldn't be worn when visiting government offices.

Our thanks to At Ipenburg for sharing his experiences and knowledge gained through 7 years living in Jayapura with the community - Guide to Jayapura, Papua!


Hillcrest School HIS is open to all expatriate children whose parents have valid visas to work in Indonesia. The current enrollment is 200. Kindergarten through the 12th grades are taught. Tuition costs are based on a sliding scale, see the website for current tuition costs. The language of instruction is English.

Expatriate community organizations

This is not Jakarta, and there is nothing like the American Club in Jayapura. Most of the permanent expatriate residents are Christian missionaries or community development workers (working for UNDP, UNICEF, ILO, Medecins sans Frontieres, Medecines du Monde, Family Health International, AusAid, and other international NGOs) living in or around the Sentani area. There is a Papua New Guinea consulate in Jayapura in Jayapura, and a few expatriates (Australians, Dutch, German) working with church schools in Abepura.

Recreation opportunities

There is a golf club on the side of one of the hills just outside Jayapura. The beach on the far side of Jayapura, Base G, is very nice. There are beaches at Hamadi and Haltecamp (also called Black Sands). To get to the Black Sands beach, which is a good boogie boarding beach, you have to go through Abepura, past Abe Pantai, and a long way down the coast toward the PNG border. The Hamadi beach is very close to a crowded population center and has no privacy. Although picturesque, it is not advisable to swim below the governor’s office, even though locals do, because of broken glass and poor sanitation. Base G is the best of the easily accessible beaches, but beware of a strong current beyond the reef edge. Most tourists head inland to Wamena to see the highland Danis, or down to Agatz to see the Asmat people of the south coast. There's good hiking around Wamena. If you like hiking, you could try climbing to the waterfalls not far up Mount Cyclops which towers over Sentani. However a torrential rainstorm, exacerbated by garden encroachment, caused numerous simultaneous avalanches one night in 2007. Several bridges were washed away (--they have now been repaired). Formerly the face of the mountain was a beautiful unbroken forest of emerald green, save for the scenic waterfall. Now it is visibly scarred from rockslides in several places. The trail to the waterfall was probably also affected. Therefore if you do want to visit the waterfall, you should check current regulations and take a guide with you as it's not difficult to get lost. Roads go quite a distance out of Sentani now, so you can drive to quite a few places, including the entire circumference of Sentani Lake which is very picturesque. There are some snorkeling beaches out from Depapre, some 30 miles from Sentani, but they're all very isolated.

For recreation, people can join the gym at Swisbelhotel which also has a good swimming pool or go to Hotel Aston which has a good gym and is frequented by businessmen and expats living in Jayapura. There is also a watersports place in a Hotel Tirta Mandala, just next to the stadium in Jayapura, which has a diving club, a fishing club and you can rent boats there to go to nearby islands.

Utilities and Internet access

There are a few small spartan internet cafes in Jayapura and Abepura. Just ask around. Wasantara Net operates in Jayapura. The nationwide “Telkomnet INSTAN” is a fairly reliable dial-up modem service that you can access over a good telephone line (see www.telkon.net) if you bring a laptop. However, phones and especially electricity experience difficulties from time to time, depending on the weather and the state of the equipment. LPG and kerosene for cooking are often in short supply.

Availability of western food and products

Shopping is fairly limited but is expanding and new malls are being opened. Basic needs are available, but not always exactly what you want. Try the Saga Supermarket and Agro Supermarket (Abepura) or Gelael (Jayapura) for some imported foodstuffs. The Multi Grocier in Abepura (Costco-style supermarket) is also recommended. The PTC mall in Jayapura has a number of good stores: sporting goods, shoes, a coffee/smoothie shop. Sentani has a brand new Hyper-Market and a mall (Sentani Square). There is a Gramedia bookstore for office supplies and other sundries in Jayapura.

Most people exist on what can be purchased locally and hard to find items can be ordered from Vanimo in PNG or Cairns in Australia when mission planes are going over there. These flights are irregular. There are no international commercial flights into Sentani. Freeport in Timika has recently begun flying weekly between Timika and Darwin, but Timika is a long way from Jayapura.

Expat Lifestyle

As most expatriates live in Sentani, and most have children attending Hillcrest School, the school's athletic and musical functions tend to provide most of the community's entertainment. Most attend the English church on Sunday morning. There's not much in the way of organized night life. People eat out at the local restaurants (Mickey and Jessica's in Sentani) or go to the Yougwa on Lake Sentani. The Yougwa is an open air restaurant which gives a nice view of the sunset, if you're there at the right time. The food at these restaurants generally is Chinese style, although there are some western items on the menus. Manna House (Sentani) is a restaurant that makes pizza and chicken burgers (that are quite good) in addition to Chinese and Indonesian food. The main “foreign” cuisine (i.e. fast food) is “KFC” as in Kentucky Fried Chicken (located in Jayapura above Galael, and in Abepura up the stairs from Saga). There are plenty of Indonesian-style restaurants throughout the Jayapura-Abepura-Sentani area. Several food stalls/restaurants have opened in the Sentani Square mall. At PTC there is a new pizza place called Sarpino's and pretty much everything is made with ingredients that are brought in from off the island. Very yummy!

For Buddhists there is a Bihara in a place called Skylie which has services from 10-12 noon on Sunday mornings. For Hindus, there are three temples called Pura in Jayapura. one of them is in Skyline between Jayapura and Abypura. For Saibaba devotees, there is a Sai Bhajan centre in Entrope in the house of Dr Tirta; he can be contacted through the Hindu temple in Jayapura.


The road between Sentani and Jayapura is windy with sharp curves in several places. Beware of motorcyclists, many of whom take breathtaking chances when passing your vehicle on either side! Severe traffic accidents are not uncommon on this road.


There is no international style (Jakarta oil company standard) housing available. While it's possible to rent reasonable housing, available houses with good-sized rooms and moderate yard space (to provide some privacy) are extremely rare at present (April 2008). And it's almost always necessary to completely redo the kitchens and bathrooms. Some of the mission organizations and the school have (and are) building their own housing along U.S. lines, but these are not available to anyone outside their own organizations. The best hotel is the Swiss-Belhotel International (4 star) in Jayapura with a restaurant, lobby bar, ballroom and meeting space. Other good hotels include the Sentani Indah in Sentani, and the Yasmin Hotel in Jayapura.

Size of the expatriate population

Probably around 100 expatriate adults live in Sentani. We have 136 students K-12 at the school. Maybe 2 or 3 in Abepura, and half a dozen in Jayapura, including the consulate staff.

Medical care

If something serious happens, people usually go to Kediri in Java, Singapore, or Australia. There are basic public hospitals in Jayapura and Abepura and the Dian Harapan hospital in Waena. There are lots of Indonesian doctors who are generally competent within the range of their equipment and facilities.

Primary employers of expats

The mission organizations, the school. At Timika, it's Freeport.

Nearby Sights to See

You can go to the nearby islands in the Lake to see traditional bark pantings or to some beautiful islands like Bukisi or to Tablanusu for weekend outings. If you are a tennis player, there are a number of tennis courts around town and you can just go and join the group in these pictureque courts. They normally don't charge but i'ts good if you contribute to help cover the costs of the lights and cleaning.

Books about Papua

Peace Child and Lords of the Earth, both by Don Richardson, are probably the best books about the local people and their beliefs.

There are no materials about living in Jayapura, except for the Guide Book to Irian Jaya which is pretty good, but now out of print. The book is published by Indonesia Periplus Editions, Travel Guides, text and photographs by Kal Muller, edited by David Pickell, 1442A Walnut Street #206, Berkeley, CA 94709, ISBN 0-945971-06-0. It is published in Indonesia by C.V. Java Books, PO Box 55 JKCP, Jakarta 10510, and in Singapore by Periplus (Singapore Pty. Ltd., 78 Queens Road, Singapore 1026. The pictures are beautiful, and the text pretty good too. You can buy it at the airports.

Our thanks to Sudhir Khanal for sending us updates for this article in April 2013!

If you have additional information to contribute on living in Jayapura or Sentani, please contact us and we'll be happy to incorporate it!