Sumatra: Overall Review and Tips


  • flying for three hours and still being in the same country
  • seeing orangutans in the forest at Bukit Lawang
  • everyday life at Dokan Batak village
  • the size of Lake Toba
  • visiting Bp Doro’s shop in Pangururan, Samosir
  • general helpfulness of people when looking for the right bus
  • sightseeing in Bukittinggi
  • city with a beach at Padang
  • seeing so many forested hills
  • huge landscapes



  • food was much more expensive than I expected (average Rp.15000 per meal)
  • bus journeys that made my stomach churn
  • people shouting at me in the street because I’m white
  • young men latching on to me


Friendliest place for meeting other travellers: Bukit Lawang

Easiest place for talking to local people (in Indonesian): Dokan

Best accommodation for quality and value: Lekjon at Tuktuk, Samosir

Worst place for solo female traveller: Padang. Bukittinggi comes a close second.

Most beautiful scenery: Lake Toba


Useful Contacts and Information

The following may be helpful if you are planning a similar trip.


Blue Angel Hostel, Rp.50000 a night for fan and bathroom, no hot water. Pondok Wisata Blue Angel, Jl S.M.Raja no 70, Medan, North Sumatra. Tel: 061 732 0702. If Blue Angel is full there are other hostels just up the road.

Transport from airport: airports taxis very expensive at Rp.45000+. Walk outside and you will be accosted by unofficial taxi drivers who will take you for as little as Rp.20000 if you haggle. Or take a motorbike taxi (ojek) for around Rp.10000.


Bukit Lawang

Guide and generally helpful person: Muhaidir tel: 0813 7585 8817 or 0813 7610 0337. Email:

Rain Forest / Nora’s Homestay, from Rp.30000 a night, shared bathroom, no hot water.



Losmen Sibayak, from Rp.55000 a night, shared bathroom, no hot water. Jl Veteran no 119.



To get there from Berastagi, get a minibus to Kabanjahe (Rp.3000) then change to a Dokan bus (Rp.3000). Ask to be let off at “simpang Dokan” (Dokan crossroads), then, walking, turn left off the main road and follow the small road a couple of kilometres to Dokan.


Lake Toba

To get there from Dokan, take a bus to Pematang Siantar, commonly called Siantar (Rp.15000, two hours plus), then change to a Parapat bus (Rp.10000, one hour max). From Parapat you can get a ferry to Tuktuk on Samosir Island (Rp.7000). Choose which hotel to look at first before you get there because the ferry will let passengers disembark at each hotel jetty.

Lekjon Cottages is right on the lake, from Rp.40000 a night, private bathroom. Rp.50000 gets you hot water. Nice clean rooms with lake views. Decent restaurant too. Address: Tuk-tuk Siadong, Samosir Island, North Sumatra 22395. Tel: 0625 451259. Email:

Bp. Handoro Gurning (Bp. Doro) in Pangururan, Samosir, has a shop where he makes handicrafts from the water jacinth plant that grows in Lake Toba. You can learn to make something, buy his products or just hang out there. His wife runs a cafe there too. Good place to learn about the lake and its environment. Some people there speak some English. Bp. Doro has experience teaching foreigners including groups, but there is no pressure to buy anything. To find his shop in Pangururan ask for: Bp. Handoro Gurning, Jl. Danau Toba, Depan Rumah Dinas Bupati.

To get to Pangururan from Tuktuk walk or hitch a ride to either Ambarita or simpang Tuktuk, on the main part of Samosir. Then get a minibus (angkot) to Pangururan (Rp.10000, one hour).

The bus from Parapat to Bukittinggi takes about 14 hours overnight, and costs around Rp.200000 if you buy a ticket from one of the agents on Samosir.



Hotel D’Enam from Rp.60000 per night. Jl Yos Sudarso no.4. Tel: 0752 21333


Lake Maninjau

Cafe and Homestay 44, Jl Penurunan Maninjau, 26471. Tel: 0752 61238. Rp.40000 per night. Excellent restaurant with a long menu of Indonesian and Western options. Peaceful atmosphere with simple wooden bungalows right by the lake. Friendly family-owned and run.



Brigitte’s House, Jl Kampung Sebelah 1 no. 14D, Padang. From Rp.75000 per night for bed in dormitory. Lovely large clean house with home-like atmosphere. They also arrange airport transfers, offer surfing trips and motorbike hire. See website for prices, map and directions: Tel: 081 374 257162.

Transport to airport: Damri buses go from Imam Bonjol every hour from 6.15am to 5.15pm, cost Rp.18000 and take up to an hour. They also do the reverse journey from the airport into the city.

Airport departure tax from Padang: Rp.100000 per passenger for international departures and Rp.35000 for domestic departures. Pay in cash after check-in.


2 thoughts on “Sumatra: Overall Review and Tips

  1. update, Sep12: Losmen Sibayak in Berastagi is Rp.100.000 for room w/ attached bathroom in 2nd fl and Rp. 120.000 for 1st fl. Choose the 1st fl because it’s a way better than the 2nd fl

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