Expat Living in Semarang, Central Java
Semarang, the capital of Central Java, is the sixth largest city in Indonesia with about about two million inhabitants. Semarang is a beautiful city and has a lot of historic old buildings due to its historic role as a port city going all the way back before colonial times.
When I first came to live here - almost six years ago - I was stared at, children started giggling or even pointed their fingers saying 'BULE'. It made me feel like being the only white person in a wide range. And the only foreigners I met were tourists. Where were the other 1999 expats hiding? The internet didn't give an answer. Luckily, I met a kind English lady at the hairdresser, who introduced me to Semarang Multinational Community. Apparently by then things were in a new startup. Today they can offer you a lot of good information online.
Below we provide some general information. Need to know your way around or some specific information? Just pop a question on the SMC-FB-page and there's always someone to help you out. At the Semarang 'Buy-Swap-Sell' English spoken Facbook page followers can ask for a range of goods, sell their car, furniture or - as lately seen - give away their cat.
Semarang Multinational Community has a Facebook page with over 470 members. There's a committee who organizes coffee mornings, mingles, Speedway Nations Cup, family pick nicks, theme parties and interesting events like for instance factory visits,
and workshops. Every year a charity project is sponsored by donating clothes and also a percentage of the activity entrance fees from the above-mentioned activities.
Many of the SMC members also join the Semarang Hash House Harriers. They're calling out for you: Feel free to join the Hash run! It´s a cross-country running group, consisting of 50 % expats. Every Saturday at 16:00 around Semarang in beautiful surroundings. There's a medium and a long run – medium normally 6 km, long run around 10 km. Many bring their families and some stay at the parking waiting until runners returns - or they even make their own small walk around the spot. After the run and “the circle” many choose to hang out at the On-On Pub at Candi Baru Hotel.
Every Monday and Thursday there is also a Sunset Hash run at different locations. Announcements for upcoming runs and directions you can find on Facebook “Semarang Hash House Harries” or “Semarang Multinational Community” or contact Hash Master Peder Hp: 0811278057.
At JKI Injil Kerajaan (Holy Stadium, Jl Arteri Utara, kompleks Marina) they offer English translation to visitors, available at the information desk. On a regular base, foreign Pastors are invited to preach. In the youth service, Saturdays at 5 pm their American Youth Pastor will lead.
At Gereja Bethel Tabernacle Kristus Alfa Omega Jl. Gajah Mada 114-118 most services are held in English or Indonesian. Learn more about Gereja Bethel Semarang.
Permata Bangsa School
Jl. Gombel Lama – Golf Road
Semarang 50261 Java Tengah
Tel. +62 024-746.4482
Semarang Multinational School
Jl. Jangli 37, Candisari
Tel. (62-024) 831-1424
Jl.Bukit Golf No. 20
Golf Residence, Graha Candi Golf
Tel. (62-024) 850-9108
Mountain View International Christian School
(boarding school in Salatiga - approx. 1 hour drive from Semarang )
Jl. Nakula Sadewa Raya No. 55
Salatiga 50722 Jawa Tengah
Semarang is a developing city. All over town there is constructions and renovations going on and at the borders of the city new housing areas, like for instance BSB-city or Citra Sun.
Most expats who live in Semarang live in rented houses or apartments; recommended neighborhoods include the Candi area (known as Semarang Atas) such as Jl. Sultan Agung, Jl. Kawi, Jl. Sumbing, Jl. Papandayan, Jl. Raung. Other quieter housing estates includes: Bukit Sari, Griya Bukit Mas, Srondol Bumi Indah and Candi Golf.
In Bukit Indah (Bukit Sari) you will find fully furnished townhouses. It has full facilities and a great view of the city.
There is some good housing areas near the seaside, like Puri Anjasmoro, Grand Marina, and Graha Padma, but beware, temperatures are some degrees higher over there. It is best to find an agent that understands expat expectations.
Semarang Speedway', Indoor Go-kart Center in the Marina area. There´s several cinema's in the city - XXI in Ciputra Mall and Paragon or the brand new Cinemaxx in Java Mall. Good place to bring your kids for some hours of fun could be PlaPlay in Jl. Gajah Mada (SETOS), Happy Time in Paragon or Lollipops in Living Plaza (ACE Hardware) or the 3D Trick Museum in Kota Lama. (The old city).
Jl. KH. Achmad Dahlan
Tel. 024-844 6000
Colombia Asia Hospital
Jl. Siliwangi No.143
Semarang, 50145, Central Java
Tel. +6224 762 9999
24 Hour Emergency Call: +6224 762 7676
Facsimile: +6224 7667 4228
Appoinments & Scheduling: +6224 8646 2088
St Elizabeth Hospital
Jl. Kawi 1
For most minor medical issues foreigners use either of these hospitals. However sometimes the doctors have limited English and it is generally felt that they tend to over-prescribe antibiotics. For any serious medical conditions or concerns, most expats would opt to go to Jakarta or Singapore for treatment.
In case of an emergency call these numbers:
National Alert 122
Ambulance 118 or 119
Fire brigade 113
Natural Disaster 129
Eating western food is trending in Semarang. That's why it looks like every month a new restaurant is opening its doors. Together with Indian, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Malay, other Asian and of course Indonesian kitchen there's a lot to explore.
To name a few popular restaurants: S2, Hugo, Kopi-O, The Savory Ribs and Coffee on Jl. Sisingamangaraja. Eden International Daily Food and Fish & Co, both with a great view over the city just around the corner at Jl. Dr. Wahidin no 41, Candisari, Semarang A place to have a drink with a stunning view is The Hills. Or dine after dark at Koeno Koeni, Jl. Tabanan no 4, Tegalsari area, so you can see the thousands of lights in the city.
After dark, you can get a fairy tale experience and nice seafood at Kampung Laut, Komplek Puri Maerokoco, Tawangsari area.
Dok Mai, Jl. Gardenia (Thai Food) Giggle Box, Jl. Diponegoro 45 - reasonably priced mixed menu
Great eatery called Massimo, Jl. Sultan Agung and Basillia, Jl. Supeno Menteri with
good pizzas, Italian, Indonesian and Western menu.
Bowery and Eastman, Jl. Ahmad Yani no 140, coffee shop and restaurant.
Nest.Co.Lo.Gy, Jalan Tambora no 5, Tegalsari area.
Trattoria Cucina Italiana, Jl.Gajah Mada, Brumbungan area.
Sakapatat Food and Bar – many expats hang out at Sakapatat and enjoy the chill
garden atmosphere, live bands and nice drinks.
Seven Resto and Coffee – also very nice garden!
Harvest, specialist in bakery, also good food on the menu.
The Salt, Indian
Waring Lowo Café, small café with good warung food, cakes and wraps. Upstairs you find rooms for rent for short term periods.
For amusement and shopping go to the center of the city to Simpang Lima area. There you will find hotels, shopping centers, bookstores and government offices near Simpang Lima. Shopping Malls and major stores include Paragon Mall, Java Mall, Ciputra Mall and DP Mall.
If you are looking for oleh-oleh (traditional food snacks) such as Lumpia, Wingko Babat, Bandeng Presto (press processed milk fish), Otak-otak tengiri (tengiri fish fillet), these food items can be found mainly in Jl. Pandanaran.
Toko Oen on Jl. Pemuda, which was established in 1936, sells a wonderful selection of traditional Dutch cookies and homemade ice cream. Many people not only go there to experience a traditional Dutch lunch but will also purchase the cookies for oleh oleh.
Grocery stores that sell western food:
- Gelael Swalayan located on the first floor of Ciputra Mall
- Gelael Swalayan Candi located on Jl. Sultan Agung beside the Police Academy, in front of Jl. Sisingamangaraja
- Ichiban, Jl. Dr. Cipto in front of Gereja Isa Almasih Dr. Cipto
- Franz Deli, Jl. MH Thamrin no 61. Hypermart, in the basement of Java Mall, Paragon City Mall Semarang
- Hypermart, in the basement of Java Mall, Paragon City Mall Semarang
- Carrefour, Jl.Pemuda - Foursquare
- There is a good bread selection at the Ciptra Hotel bakery.
- At Massimo Pizzeria (Hotel Grand Edge Mall, first floor) they offer delicious pumpernickel-, farmhouse- and other sorts of bread for take away and you can order to be delivered.
For clothing and sports equipment:
- Sport Station (second floor of Ciputra Mall), also sells golf equipment
- Athletes Foot (first floor of Ciputra Mall)
- Reebok (first floor of Ciputra Mall)
- Jack Niclaus (first floor of Ciputra Mall)
- Polo (first floor of Ciputra Mall)
The Gramedia bookstore is on Pandanaran Street as well as the 3rd floor of Java Mall.
Broadband services are available through Gmedia, Speedy, IM2Broom (Indosat), Telkomsel Flash or Matrix which works with 3G/4G.
Electrical service can be interrupted, so many expatriates buy a generator to use during outages.
On Java, solar systems are available for hot water, but for electricity the system is not yet in use.
Spa, Hairdressers and Skin Clinics
There's plenty of places to spoil yourself. We just name a few:
Susan Spa, close to Simpang Lima or in Bandungan
Lie Kuang Salon
The Hive (specialized in waxing)
Natasha Skin Clinic Center
Expats enjoy swimming and do other sports facilities and classes at hotel facilities. Check with the better hotels to see what is open to the public and what it costs. Some examples:
Celebrity Fitness, Paragon Mall, 5th floor.
Grand Sport Fitness, Pool & Spa, Grand Candi Hotel, Jl. Sisingamangaraja No. 16.
Refit Club Simpang Lima, Ciputra Mall.
Kids will probably enjoy the waterpark Waterblaster. Jl. Bukit Candi Golf no 1, Jangli, Tembalang area.
BSB (Bukit Semarang Baru) - the newest area in Semarang - has a nice pool and fitness center, called Lakers, with a restaurant and even organic animal farm.
The only covered swimming pool in Semarang is Metro, near Java Mall. Dave's Tennis Academy DTA is also situated there. Many expat kids play tennis here.
Close to Semarang there's a swimming pool in Balemong Resort (Ungaran). A nice and quiet pool and a stunning view. You can even rent a bungalow and stay for the night.
In and around Semarang there are three horse riding schools, Arrowhead, Santosa Stable and Havanna Horses.
Another outdoor activity, Golf, can be practiced at the beautiful scenery of Gombel Golf International or Graha.
A lot of sports activities for kids are school related, but there's a nice soccer school for youth from 6-18 years of age, SSB Terang Bangsa, with a European head coach. For info contact Yosep Hariono Hp: 081931975753.
There's an Expat Futsal Team. Every Thursday from 8-10 pm. Please contact Daniel Saunders for info and before turning up; +62811273702.
Movies: Movie Theaters (cinema) play English language movies on occasion - try the E-Plaza and Ciputra Mall. The Dutch Cultural Center also plays Dutch-language movies periodically, check with them to see what their current schedule is.
Fishing: To fish off the shore, go to Tanjung Mas, or rent a boat there., you can rent a boat if you prefer to fish from the boat. Try also, Rawa Peningin in Salatiga. Alternately you can try the Risana fish farm in Banyumanik or the Ngermbel Fish Farm in Gunung Pati or in Bandungan.
A great weekend getaway is to take a ferry to Karimun Jawa island group. It's a really nice quiet spot for a weekend trip and still relatively natural. If you want to enjoy the beach, be sure your hotel is on the beach, as access is limited in many places by private ownership. You can fish by rod or harpoon from the shore/boat, or enjoy the view of underwater nature by renting a glass-bottomed boat.
Water Sports: Check out the offerings along the Semarang River.
Travel: Nearby cities of Merak and Ketapang can be easily reached via National Route 1. Train stations at Semarang Poncol and Semarang Tawang connect to other cities in Java. And the Achmad Yani International Airport connects you to the world!
In Semarang, you can still find many representatives of the colonial history. For long there has been no maintenance to the old buildings, but lately it seems the government realized the uniqueness and there have been many restorations. Lawang Sewu or pintu seribu (thousand doors), the former administration office of the DutchIndonesians Railway Company, can be visited and many expositions are held there.
Also, the 'Old City', with its colonial houses, beautiful white church, restaurant 'De Spiegel' and antique markets has come to live again. A 20-minutes tour in the twin seat of a Vespa motorbike is a fun experience.
Visiting the Dutch War Cemeteries Candi, or even more Kalibenteng, is impressive.
The city has a large Chinese community. The oldest temple in Semarang, Sam Poo Kong, gives an insight to their culture.
Movies: The Dutch Cultural Center (Widya Mitra or Erasmushuis) plays Dutchlanguage movies periodically. Occasionally they organize concerts and invite Dutch writers or host expositions. Check with them to see what their current schedule is (Widya Mitra FB-page a.o) or visit their library with Dutch -but also English- books at Jl. MT Haryono no 360.
Fishing: To fish off the shore, go to Tanjung Mas, or you can rent a boat if you prefer to fish from the boat. Try also, Rawa Peningin near Salatiga. Alternately you can try the Risana fish farm in Banyumanik or the Ngermbel Fish Farm in Gunung Pati or in Bandungan.
A great weekend getaway is to take a ferry or airplane to Karimunjawa island group. It's a really nice quiet spot for a weekend trip and still relatively natural. If you want to enjoy the beach, be sure your hotel is on the beach, as access is limited in many places by private ownership. You can fish by rod or harpoon from the shore/boat, or enjoy the view of underwater nature by renting a glass-bottomed boat.
Another tip: In Jepara and Yogyakarta you find two great waterparks.
Curug Lawe and Benowo in Gunung Ungaran (half an hour drive from Semarang) are two beautiful waterfalls in stunning nature. Be sure to bring your towels.
Susan Spa in Bandungan is a great place to relax, have a massage or a swim. Being invited there for a wedding is a once in a lifetime experience.
On your way down please don't forget to check on the flower market in Bandungan.
There's so many fun places to go to around Semarang. Like Kopeng Tree Top Climbing. Or try the Flying Fox at Umbul Sidomukti. Or meet some monkeys in real life in Goa Kreo. Take a ride in the Ambarawa train.
A greet getaway for the day or an overnight stay in one of the beautiful villas can be experienced in Mesa Stila Hotel and Resorts, Magelang. They offer a coffee plantation tour and the view is great.
You might enjoy the weekend at 'Oceanview Residence' and 'Palmbeach Hotel' in Jepara.
With the new toll roads being built all around Semarang traveling to nearby cities is getting easier and more comfortable. Train stations at Semarang Poncol and Semarang Tawang connect to other cities in Java. And the Achmad Yani International Airport, momentarily undergoing a big expansion, connects you to the world!
All in all, I can't but come to the conclusion Semarang is a pleasant city to live in. Broad streets, friendly people, good food, enough friends to get to know and plenty of things to see or do.
See you in Semarang!
A site with some interesting information on Semarang:
Semarang in Photos (Dutch)
Our thanks to Stine Andersen and Victorio Sukamto for their wonderful contributions to update this page!
Last updated May 15, 2017