Leaving Indonesia: Make Your Move Smooth

Leaving Indonesia

When it’s time for leaving Indonesia, moving companies will be glad to help with your move. But they won’t tell you everything you need to know. Here are some tips to make your move easier, especially if you own too many things.

I’ll never forget the first time I visited the gracious home of an expat friend of mine. She had lived in Indonesia for decades. For years she had devoted herself to studying the archipelago’s varied and gorgeous textiles, wayang puppets, paintings, wood carvings and furniture. Her dazzling array of tasteful artwork attested to her keen eye and willingness to bargain for the best. Everywhere throughout her delightful home, I saw fabulous stone sculptures, unusual antique cupboards, and wonderful displays of ikat.

I appreciated the beauty. But that was not what made the biggest impression on me. What I really thought was, “If she ever needs to move, she is in huge trouble.”

That was years ago. By coincidence, she and I recently found ourselves starting the process of leaving Indonesia at almost precisely the same time. We face similar challenges. My collection of art and antiques pales next to hers, but I am shipping an entire Javanese gamelan. So I too have quite a large volume of precious Indonesian belongings. Both of us lived in spacious Jakarta houses that had plenty of space for our possessions, but we will move into much smaller homes in the US. We have commiserated and shared tips about how to best survive leaving Indonesia. Sadly, we both have to leave some things behind. But we will both take many wonderful Indonesian memories – tangible and intangible – with us. Here are a few bits of advice on planning a move out that we gleaned from our experiences.

Consider special requirements

If you are paying for the move on your own, you probably don’t care much about anything except getting a good price from a mover you trust. But if an employer is paying for the move, they may have restrictions you need to be aware of. Do they require that you obtain multiple quotes, and if so how many? Is there a limit to how much they will allow you to ship? If yes, how do they calculate the limit (price, weight, or volume)? Will they cover insurance costs or do you have to bear that expense yourself?

Shopping and special orders

It’s a stereotype that as soon as expats learn they are leaving Indonesia, they buy everything in sight. And why not? Chances are, you can order custom-made items here at a better price than wherever you are going next.

What you can’t do is speed the process. Have you been putting off ordering curtains for your house back home? Are the cushions on your dining chairs starting to look a little worn? Do you have some clothes you always meant to ask a tailor to copy in batik? Don’t wait any longer – start ordering everything you want the minute you know you’re leaving Indonesia.

If the carpenter says it will take four weeks to make the furniture you’ve ordered, tell him you want it finished in three.  Then plan on it taking six. If you place any last-minute orders, have a “plan B” for what you will do if the goods are not finished in time to include in your shipment.

Appointments to conduct surveys

A moving company can make leaving Indonesia a touch easier.

You will probably want to obtain several quotes to make sure you are getting the best deal on your move. Among the favorite companies that the Jakarta expat community uses are Santa Fe Relocation Services, Allied Pickfords Indonesia, and Crown Relocations. You can also check sites like this one to identify companies that can help with leaving Indonesia.

Advising companies in writing

Before company representatives arrive at your home to do a survey, send them an email that specifies any special requirements you have. These might include such factors as delivering items to more than one address, or the need to ship your goods via a particular carrier. Providing everyone with this information up front ensures that the quotations you receive are accurate and comparable.

Making a shipping list

If you are shipping only some of the goods in your house, make a room-by-room list of what you intend to send. Then check items off of the list as you do your walk-throughs with moving company representatives. This way you can be sure you have given identical information to each of the companies that are giving you quotations.

Completing your insurance valuation list

Although making this list is a pain, it is a good idea to prepare it as soon as you have decided what you plan to send. You will find it a useful reference throughout the moving process. And you may be required to provide it before certain steps in the moving process can proceed. You don’t have to wait until you select a mover and obtain their form. Simply make your own list of items and their estimated replacement value. You will probably be able to attach your list to any insurance forms you are later given.

If you have to fill out any special customs declarations forms for the country you are moving to, your insurance list will be an invaluable reference. To avoid later headaches, it’s a good idea not to list “miscellaneous items” with a value over $500.  This is because there may be limits on how high a value you are allowed to declare for grouped items. For example, instead of saying “miscellaneous women’s clothing and accessories” for $3000, you could break this down into dresses, pants, shoes, purses, etc., with values for each that don’t exceed $500. Any item with a replacement value above $500 should be separately listed.

Pricing by CBM

Most companies will automatically tell you the price per cubic meter (CBM) you will have to pay based on the volume of goods you are shipping. Since companies may have different estimates of your volume, this the best number to use to compare costs. (If they don’t provide it or give you enough information to calculate it yourself, ask for it.) A company that tells you they think you have about 35 CBM to ship, then quotes you a lower total price than a company that thinks you have 43 CBM, may not end up being cheaper if they have miscalculated your volume.

If you like a low total price a mover gives you, but are afraid it is based on an artificially low estimated volume, ask for a guarantee that the company won’t charge you for more than 10 percent above the quoted volume, assuming you do not add goods to the ones they surveyed.

Checking the fine print

Most moving companies will charge extra for complications. These include delivering goods via a road too narrow for a large moving van or delivering above a second story. Be sure you are aware of any potential extra costs before you sign a contract.

Discussing the options with movers

Moving companies understand the value of relationships. If you are uncertain about anything, they will be happy to answer your questions. You may feel most comfortable with one mover, but have gotten an overall better deal from a different mover. If that happens, don’t be afraid to contact the mover you liked best and discuss options with them. They may or may not be able to match another firm’s offer. But they will certainly be willing to do whatever they can to address your concerns and win your business.

Scheduling your EPO

Foreigners cannot export goods from Indonesia without surrendering their stay visa and executing an Exit Only Permit (EPO). This does not mean that you have to leave Indonesia permanently the moment your goods begin the customs clearance process. But it does mean you may need to arrange your schedule with care.

Immediately after you choose a shipping company, ask them how long it will take from packing to delivering your goods. When the employed family member’s last day of work will be? Will other family members need to leave Indonesia earlier in order to enroll in school or start a job elsewhere?

Dependents can obtain an EPO and use it to ship goods while another member of the family maintains stay/work permits. But once you leave Indonesia on an EPO, you’ll be limited to a 30-day stay upon your return.  (Alternatively, you can obtain an extendable tourist visa and go through the extension process. But this is not recommended as it is time-consuming and bureaucratically intensive.) Then you must exit again, although you can return on a new 30-day visa.

Selling your goods

As of 2018, the demand for goods that expatriates leaving Indonesia are selling is not especially strong. Gone are the days when items were sold immediately upon being advertised. So you will need to leave plenty of time and use every avenue available to you to find buyers. Good places to start are the Expat Indo Forum and the Upper Crust (send your advertisement to [email protected]). The Upper Crust does not permit attachments such as photos, so you may want to upload pictures to a photo-hosting website such as flickr and give a link to your pictures.

Another possibility is to utilize Facebook groups that sell items, though levels of satisfaction with this option vary and you will need to communicate in Indonesian. To find Facebook options, enter the Facebook website and search on “jual beli barang di Jakarta.” A variety of choices will appear.

Giving things away

There are plenty of orphanages, programs for the disabled, and others who could benefit from almost anything you have to share. If you are located in Jakarta, an excellent conduit for donations is Paisley Things, located at Jl. Bumi No. 31A in Kebayoran Baru (near Pasar Majestic just around the corner from Pakubuwono). If you have questions about how to donate, you can email them (in English or Indonesian) to [email protected].  If you have large items, they can arrange to pick them up.

Getting ready for the movers to arrive

Do not assume that, if you’ve been told it will take a week to pack your belongings, you can take your time with any advance labeling or organizing you plan to do. Since business is slow at the moment, moving companies have large crews available and they may be able to pack more quickly than you expect. Your best bet is to finish all preparations you want to make before the movers begin.

Special notes for moving to the United States

If you are moving to the US, you will need to fill out the Department of Homeland Security Form “Declaration for Free Entry of Unaccompanied Articles.” The form and instructions are here. The form may seem confusing, but if you have already done an insurance valuation, you should be able to complete it without too much additional work.

Also make sure that the moving company you engage provides you with a “Confidentiality Request Form.” As of spring 2018, Department of Homeland Security rules create a risk that third parties will obtain your personal information, but completing this form can help protect your data.

Enjoying your last days before leaving Indonesia

Moving is stressful, even when you are excited about the new life you are going to. Don’t forget to relax, and savor everything you enjoy about Indonesia. If you will be parting with beloved artwork or curios, take photos of them so that you can still appreciate their beauty in future years. If time and finances permit, sneak off for one last trip to a favorite vacation spot (or visit somewhere new you always meant to see). And make time to socialize with and say goodbye to friends. You may not be able to take all of your possessions along when leaving Indonesia, but you can take an endless supply of memories.

Moving within Indonesia

Are you moving within Indonesia? Then also check out this article: DIY Moving With GoBox


Got any questions? Did we miss anything? Feel free to get in touch on Expat Indo Forum!


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About Puspawarna 3 Articles
Puspawarna is an American who has lived in the Federated States of Micronesia, Mozambique, Egypt – and of course, in Indonesia, where she lived for nearly 18 years before retiring to Hawaii in 2018. She still maintains close ties to Indonesia and visits often, and remains active in the Expat Indo community. She loves playing Javanese gamelan, cooking, and gardening, and spends her time trying to improve her skills at all of them.