Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia 7.2653° S, 112.7425° E
Surabaya is Indonesia’s second biggest city and the capital of East Java. Despite its large size and population of four million people, it is easy to get around and does not suffer from the chronic traffic problems of Jakarta. Surabaya is a business city and due to this has excellent transport connections to all of Indonesia and South East Asia. There are 6 EF Indonesia schools within in Surabaya city.
For the shopaholics
Surabaya is definitely a mall city, there are 21 and counting as of 2015! Of special note is the huge Tunjungan Plaza 1, 2, 3 & 4 malls, with 5 & 6 coming in 2015, Galaxy Mall for its excellent supermarket selling a wide variety of imported items and Surabaya Town Square for its selection of restaurants, cafes and bars. For something a little different try Pasar Atom which sells everything from high fashion to fire crackers. Surabaya also has specialist malls such as Hi-Tech Mall selling computers, laptops, gadgets and other electronics and Jembatan Merah Plaza famous for its fabrics. For daily shopping needs you need go no further than one of the 1000s of mini-marts located on every street corner in the city. Most are open 24 hours a day and carry all the essentials: snacks, beer, noodles, toiletries and an ATM. For a more comprehensive weekly shop there are several supermarket chains operating in the city. For imported goods and the best quality meat Papaya, Hero and Ranch have a 7 branches in the city. If you want a true local experience, then visit the local market where you can find fresh fruit, vegetables and meat.
For the food lovers
There is a universe of eating options available in Surabaya, far too many to cover in one article! Food options can roughly be categorised into these options.
Street Food (warung) the best place to try authentic local food at very cheap prices. Usually nothing more than a tent on the side of a street with some plastic stools or a mobile food vendor (Kaki Lima – 5 legs/feet) that will sell take away food. You can find all the Indonesian favourites: fried rice, fried noodles, tempe, tofu, Padang food, soup, fish, fried chicken, satay, nasi pecel the list goes on and on.
Small Restaurants / Canteen (depot) very similar to street food, however these are located in a building, sometimes the front room of someone’s house. Good value for money and some are air conditioned. They will often do delivery, handy for those days when you can’t move from the sofa.
Cafes are everywhere in Surabaya and it is not just the international chains like Starbucks of Black Canyon Coffee. They are a great place to pass the afternoon away and most have free wifi and serve food.
Food Courts are found in all the malls serving the usual suspects of Indonesian, Kebabs, Korean, Chinese and Japanese food. There are also outdoor food court areas in West and East Surabaya.
Restaurants The restaurant scene continues to get better and better in Surabaya with new places opening every month. You can find a wide selection of restaurants from Indonesian to Western in all parts of the city and they are still very affordable. Lots of restaurants are located in malls but there are also restaurant areas in Surabaya where you can find a lot of restaurants clustered on one street as well as stand alone restaurants. A meal with a bottle of beer costs around Rp 100.000
Hotel Buffets are another great option especially for those with a large appetite! Most four and five star hotels in Surabaya, such as the Sheraton, Shangri La, Marriot and Bumi hotels, offer an evening international buffet and some have special weekend buffets. You won’t be eating here every night but at around Rp 200-300.000 they definitely within budget for treating yourself a couple of times a month.
For the ones that never sleep
Surabaya is not known for its nightlife but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out and have fun here. Most of the action is found in cafe/bars, some also within the malls like Surabaya Town Square and Ciputra World. You can find beer in almost all cafe/bar places and some will have wine and spirits. A lot of places show sports, including the Premier League. If you like a game of pool/billiards, then you are in luck as there are many pool places around the city and most have a bar attached to the premises. Another option for all the shower singers out there is a night out at karaoke. They can be found all around the city with a wide range of Western, Indonesian and Mandarin songs. Finally, there are several nightclubs and live music venues found all around the city sometimes in the malls, in hotels or stand alone. The occasional international DJ passes by one of the dance floors, but they are more about having a fun night out with a group of friends.
For those that like the outdoors
There is not a lot of green space in the city but you can still find a quiet piece of outdoors if you look for it. Most hotels have swimming pools which are nice place to unwind and enjoy the sunshine. You can join as a member or pay for a day pass. There are plenty of golf courses, gyms, 5 a side football pitches and climbing school spread around the city and a few parks. There is a large waterpark in West Surabaya with slides, wave pool and other attractions.
If you really want to experience the outdoors, then jump on bus, train, motorbike or hire a car and explore East Java. The mountains around Tretes are about an hour or so away and make for a nice weekend. Further a field you have the mountains and waterfalls around Batu and the must visit Bromo volcano.
Surabaya has excellent transport connections to East Java and beyond. The city is connected by motorway to East Java and the mountain area around Tretes is a 30 minute drive away. There is a mainline train station with trains going Bali, Jogjakarta and other cities in East Java. Surabaya international airport has excellent connections to Bali (35 minutes), Jakarta (90 minutes), Lombok (50 minutes) and all parts of the Indonesia, as well as South East Asia.
More articles about living in Indonesia
- Sidoarjo city guide
- Cost of living in Indonesia
- Money, banks and saving
- Is travelling expensive?
- Are weekend breaks possible?
- What can I do outside of work?
- What about the food? Being vegetarian?
- Western women in Indonesia
- What’s the culture like?
- EF housing