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Travel Tips and Information

Visitor Information

Sumatra the island of mountains, rivers and beaches

Before you jet off on your travels, it's handy to know beforehand what to expect.

Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world and the second largest in Indonesia. It offers a all-in-one package of mountains, volcanoes, beautiful beaches, huge flowers, crystal clear rivers and one of the last remaining tropical rainforests in the world. 

Below is a list of things you need to know and how to prepare for your trip.

Things you need to Know

Flights

To get to North Sumatra and Bukit Lawang, you need to fly into Kualanamu airport (KNO international airprot), Medan. To enter Indonesia make sure there is at least 6 months vality on your passport or you will not be allowed entry. Try to look for flights which arrive to Medan airport in the morning or around midday. It takes 4 hours from the airport to Bukit Lawang

Health & Safety

We suggest having full health/travel insurance for your entire trip, to cover you for any illnesses, accidents or losses. Hospital bill in Medan are expensive. There are many pharmacies in the local village and a clinic for non emergencies. We ask our guest to notify us of any illnesses or medical conditions. 

Food and Dietary Requirements

Sumatra is the land of rice. For most Indonesians not eating rice at every meal is unheard of! They say that if they don't eat rice their stomachs are not full. There are plenty of dishes to suit everyones taste that pair perfectly with the simple white rice.

 

During your trip with us, you will get to experience an array of traditional Indonesian food. Please let us know of any dietry requirements or allegies and we can provide for you. We are also happy to suggest places to eat. 

 

Indonesian Food

Indonesian food can be spicy, especially as Indonesians eat Sambal (chilli sauce) with most things. On your travels you will come across these types of places to eat:

  • Nasi Padang

A typical Padang restaurant displays their cooked dishes in the front window, often consisting of curries of fish, beef, chicken, and for vegetable jackfruit or daun ubi (boiled cassava leaf). Have a look in the wondow then take a seat. Instead of handing you a menu, the server will place small plates of food on your table. Take the ones that you want to try and out them on your plate. When you’re finshed the server will come back, take a look at what dishes you've taken and total up how much food you've eaten. The dishes with remaining food on them will be moved back to the front window.

  • Warung

A warung is a small family owned food cafe or restaurant. Like the nasi padang the food is displayed in trays in the window. These tend to serve different type of dishes or curries, vegetable dishes, eggs, tempeh, tofu. So there tends to be something for everyone.

 

Vegetarian and Vegans

Strict vegetarians and vegans should be aware that many Indonesian dishes and snacks have shrimp paste in. Eggs is also a common ingredient. However, milk/cream is rarely used, so most curries or sauces use coconut milk. There are many vegetable dishes especially in the warungs, but if you are in a restaurant please ensure that when you are ordering you specify that your dietary needs.

You can read our blog about being vegetarian or vegan in Sumatra.

Visas & Regulations

  • Visa Exemption -  Since the C-19 pandemic, Indonesia does not offer a free visa. Traveller must either have a visa or obtain a Visa on Arrival.

  • Visa On Entry - This visa is for anyone wanting to stay 30 days or longer, as it can be extended without leaving Indonesia, hence visitors can stay for 60 days. Citizens from 62 countries can apply for VOA at most Indonesian airports, costing $35. If visitors are wanting to extend, this needs to be done a week before the visa expires at the local immigration office. Here, that is Medan. Visa extention now costs IDR 500,000 for another 30 days.

  • Visa Prior to Arrival - A 60 day visa can be obtained prior to travel to Indonesia. Visitors can apply at the local Indonesia Embassy/Consulate in their country, or within Asia, the only place is the Indonesian Consulate in Penang, Malaysia. However, they require that you have a sponsor letter.

The passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of arrival and have a valid return ticket.

Currency and Money

  • The currency in Indonesia is Rupiah. Banknotes: 1000 rp, 2000 rp, 5000 rp, 10,000 rp, 20,000 rp, 50,000 rp and 100,000 rp     

  • There is no ATM in Bukit Lawang or in the next village, so take money out at the airport.

  • There are several currency exchange offices in Bukit Lawang, but they do not give the best rate.

  • The maximum amount visitors can withdraw at one time is 2,500,000 rp if the note denomination is 100,000 rp. There are two ATMs in Bahorok (about 30 minutes from Bukit Lawang). They do accept Visa cards, but there are regular issues with them.

  • In an emergency, money can be taken for a card machine in one of the offices, but they charge 7% on foreign cards                  

bank-notes-rupiah

Preparing to travel

Vaccinations

We recommend that you consult your doctor about any vaccinations you might need to travel in Sumatra. Some websites may suggest getting a Rabies vaccination, as many dogs and other animals have rabies. This decision is up to you, but it's common sense, DO NOT FEED monkeys or any other animals, avoid apporaching stray dog and stroking them. 

Visas

If you are obtaining a visa on arrival, check that you have the necessary requirements and documents. Make sure that your passport is not expiring within 6 months.

What to bring

Please look at the what to bring documentIf you have any questions about what you should bring for a trek or tour, please email us. Sumatra is a predominately Muslim country so your packing list will be different from what you'd bring to Bali! It is much more conservative here. We ask our guests to be respectful and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means that when travelling around, it's best that clothing covers your shoulders and knees for all genders. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool. Within Bukit Lawang, it is less conservative so singlets, shorts, knee length skirts are acceptable. When swimming, local women will even wear modest clothing. Again in Bukit Lawang, it is respectful for tourists to wear a swimsuit. We suggest women not to wear Bikinis unless you want the local men to stare.

Packed Luggage

What to Bring

School Supply
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We are proud members of Pack for a Purposean initiative that allows travelers like you to make a lasting impact in the community at your travel destination.

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Leave a liitle space in your suitcase or backpack and bring needed supplies for the projects we support in need

Weather in Sumatra

Sumatra is placed right next to the Equator, so it is tropical. It is hot and humid, so one minute it can be dry and the next it's raining.

 

There are two seasons in Sumatra, the dry and the rainy season. Typically the dry season is from April to October and the rainy season from October to March. The wettest months are usually December and Janaury.

 

However, more recently the weather in Bukit Lawang is very unpredictable with no distinct seasons. Even when it is the dry season, as Bukit Lawang is next to the rainforest, there can be heavy showers in the afternoon or evening. Temperature throughout the year are generally between 26 - 33 degrees celsius. 

 Sumatra Facts

  • Sumatra is largest island in Indonesia and the 6th largest island in the world

  • Sumatra is c.1,110 mi (1,790 km) long and c.270 mi (435 km) wide and is fringed with smaller islands off its western and eastern coasts. 

  • The Bukit Barisan, a volcanic mountain range with more than 30 active volcanoes, traverses its length, reaching 12,467 ft (3,800 m) at Mt. Kerinci.

  • North Sumatra is a province and its capital city is Medan

  • Lake Toba, located in North Sumatra is a large natural lake formed by the caldera of a super volcano. It is largest volcanic lake in the world, some 500m deep. The island within it, Samosir, is the size of Singapore

  • There are many different ethnic groups on the island, speaking over 52 different languages. The common language is Bahasa (language) Indonesian. However, within ethinic groups and locations, they speak their own ethnic language (Malay, Javan, Karonese etc.) and dialect

  • The majority of people in Sumatra are Muslims (87,1%), while 10,7% are Christians, less than 2% are Buddhist and Hindus

  • Sumatra the last place on earth where 5 large mammals still co-exist; Sumatra Orangutan, Elephant, Tiger and Rhino and Sunbears.

  • Sumatra holds some of the richest and diverse forests in the world

  

  • Sumatra is home to 201 mammal species and 580 bird species

  • Sumatra has the highest loss of natural forest in Indonesia, due to the expansion of paper and pulp agriculture and oil palm agriculture

Why Travel with Us?

Responsible Travel

Don't just come, travel and see, help make a positive changes

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How we Help

By working with the local community we can make small changes

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