A view of the city of Banda Aceh from a helicopter, showing the results of the Tsunami and the rebuilding effort.
Banda Aceh is the capital of the Indonesian province of Aceh on the island of Sumatra.
Around 150,000 people were killed in Banda Aceh in the Tsunami of 26 December 2004. Some parts of the city became permanently submerged. Many aid agencies have been present since then to help rebuild.
The long conflict between the Acehnese independence movement (GAM) and the Indonesian army (TNI) has been solved for the time being by the peace agreement on 15 August 2005. The peace process has been quite smooth since. On 11 December 2006 the province held its first direct and democratic local elections. On 8 February 2007 the first democratically elected Governor, Irwandi Yusuf, was inaugurated.
Foreigners no longer require a travel permit (surat jalan) to enter Aceh, but an Indonesian visa is required. Since 6 June 2010, it is possible to get a 30 day Visa-on-Arrival at Banda Aceh Airport. The Embassy in KL can also process the visa in the same day if you complete all the paperwork before noon.
There are non-stop night buses, with travel times ranging from 9 to 13 hours - from Medan to Banda Aceh. Major bus companies such as PMTOH, Pelangi, Kurnia and Pusaka have offices on Jl. Gajah Mada, Medan. Price ranges from 110,000 in a regular-sized-seat bus to 200,000 in a wide-seat bus.
Mini-buses can also take you to Banda Aceh from the Medan area, but journeys are generally longer. Prices are a bit cheaper than the coaches. It is also possible to travel over from Medan to Banda Aceh via Kutacane and Takengon. This will be 20 hours in total.
Two airlines fly daily between Banda Aceh and either Medan (a one-hour trip) or Jakarta (a 2 hour 40 minute trip). Garuda has three daily flights from Jakarta and two daily flights from Medan. Lion Air has two daily flights from Jakarta and one from Medan. The Jakarta-Banda Aceh direct flight on Garuda takes 2 hrs 40 mins on a Boeing 737, although it is often changed to stopover at Medan without warning. SMAC Airlines flies daily from Medan to Nias Island and Simeulue Island. Budget carrier, AirAsia, provides daily flights from Kuala Lumpur. Firefly airlines [] , Malaysia's community airline now flies from Penang to Banda Aceh every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The Indonesian Embassy in Singapore has confirmed that Visa On Arrival (VOA) service at Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport officially started on 26JAN2010. The arrival fees, countries allowable and all other regulations remain the same as other VOA locations.
The closest big (international) ferry terminal is Belawan Port, close to Medan. It receives vessels originating from Batam, Indonesia (a common route when coming from Singapore), Penang, Malaysia (Langkawi Ferry []). From Ulhee-lhee, the port of Banda Aceh you can go to Pulau Weh and to Pulau Aceh.
The main methods of getting around are becak (motorbike taxis) and labi-labi (public minibus). Due to the sudden influx of money post-tsunami, locals have gotten used to overcharging, but now stabilization has returned. Example becak fares are: Airport - Grand Mosque: 40,000; Bus Terminal - Grand Mosque: 8,000; Grand Mosque - Penayong: 5,000. Inside the city, generally 10,000 should do it.
- Masjid Raya Baiturrahman/Grand Mosque. Baiturrahman is a great mosque located at the heart of Banda Aceh, The mosque with a very fascinating architecture “ five dome in black color and four minarets in white color ‘ now standing on a green landscape elegantly as a landmark of the Province. Sitting in a vast expanse of green fields, the white washed walls and minerals, and charcoal blacks domes of the Grand Mosque are the most famous landmark in Aceh. The Great of Baiturrahman Mosque is the main feature of Banda Aceh today. Lying at the heart of the city completed with excellent architectural style, this mosque is really one of Indonesia prime tourism sides. The Mosque was built in 12 Century and had caught fire several time include when the Dutch attacked Kutaraja (Banda Aceh) in 1873. Another mosque to replace the former one was later built by Dutch Military Government that was completed in 1883. The Mosque is extra ordinary in architecture and ornamentation. It has five onion shaped domes, two tall mine rates, wide white walls, and around is pillars various kinds of beautiful ornament. Muslim dresscode.
- Cut Nya Dien House. Cut Nya Dien is an Indonesian's woman revolutionist from Aceh - The house is a replica of the heroine Cut Nyak Dhien House, from the Aceh War. The colonial forces burned down the house but a replica was built later. This house in Lam Pisang, about 6 kilometers from Banda Aceh, now is a museum. The house is located in Lampisang Village, Lhok Nga subdistrict, Greater Aceh district. Although Lhok Nga was the area worst hit by tsunami, the Tjut Nyak Dhien House survived. The daughter of a chieftain, Tjut Nyak Dhien joined the fight against the Dutch invaders in 1875. Her first husband fell in battle, and she remarried. When her second husband also died fighting, she continued the struggle with her children. After six years in the jungle, she was captured by the Dutch and exiled to West Java where she passed away in 1906. Tjut Nyak Dhien is recognized as one of the National Warriors of Indonesia.
- Gunongan and Taman Putroe Phang. Gunongan had erected by Sultan Iskandar Muda (1607 - 1636) as a private playground and bathing place for this wife Putro Phang (From Malaysia). This whimsical architectural fantasy had access to the sultan's palace through the traditional 'Pintu Aceh', used by royalty only. This building likely functioned as an important recreational peace located in the Taman Sari Park for the Queen and other royal family members to climb. It is quite enjoyable to visit this place during the late afternoon or sunset.
- Graveyard in Bitay Village. In Bitay the grave of a saint, Teungku di Bitay, may still be seen - The tomb of Tuan di Bitay, who taught the Achehnese among other things the art of casting cannon, and the mosque which stands beside the grave are revered as sacred up to the present day. * At the time of Aceh and Turkey has a close relationship, so many experts and weapons from the Turkish fleet came and settled in Aceh. Historical evidence remaining is a mosque, monument and headstone Turkish people in the village Bitai (~ 3 km from Banda Aceh).
- The Museum Aceh. Aceh Museum is situated in Sultan Alaidin Mahmud Syah street, it is a best place to knows much about Aceh cultural history. Inside the museum exhibits antique things as ceramics, weapons, and many cultural equipment like custom clothes, jewelry, khaligraphy (Islamic ornament), kitchen equips, etc. The most interesting collection is a big bell called “Lonceng Cakra Donya”, a gift from China Grand-Duke (Ming Emperor, in the 15th century) for Sultan Aceh that was delivered by a Chinese Moslem, Admiral Cheng Ho in 1414, we could read an inscription on the bell : “Sing Fang Niat Toeng Juut Kat”. In this complex there is also ‘Rumoh Aceh’ House that was built by Dutch Governor Van Swart in 1941 in a typical aceh’s house architecture. In the western of Museum or northern of Aceh House of Custom there is grave yard complex of Aceh Sultans.
- Indonesian Airline Monument. Seulawah - Indonesian First Airplane - The Monument was erected to commemorate the heroic donation of the Acehnese to the central Government of the Republic of Indonesia. When Indonesia became independent in 1945, the Dutch intended to reoccupy the country. In the ensuing struggle in 1949, the Republic of Indonesia was badly in need of an airplane to avoid the blockade of the enemy as much area had already fallen to the Dutch. Soekarno, Indonesian president at that time, urgently asked the Acehnese to donate money for an airplane. A Douglas DC-3 was bought shortly afterwards, and paid for with the donation. This very early plane was the precursor of Garuda Indonesia fleet, which nowadays is the biggest airline in Indonesia.
- Kerkhof. Dutch soldiers graveyards Banda Aceh - Kerkhoff or War Memorial Cmetary or known by local peoples as Peucut Kerkhoff, a place where more than 2,000 Dutch soldiers who died in an Aceh War were been buried in this graveyards, located just at a reverse side of Gunongan in Teuku Umar Street but the entrance gate was in front of south eastern corner of Blang Padang. At the walls of the Kerkhoff entrance gate you could see the names list of the persons whose been buried which also written where and when they died.
- Ulee Lheue-Banda Aceh. Tsunami Ground Zero - Ulee Lheue is a shore line facing the Malacca straits; when the tsunami hit Banda Aceh on December 26, 2004, the beach line and the village nearby were severely damaged and submerged by a 10 meter high tidal wave. Now the local government has built a new seaport at Ulee Lheue, and if you have plans to visit Sabang and Weh island, you can take a Ro-Ro Ferry or speed boat from Ulee Lheue. Ulee Lheue beach has still kept its enchanting beauty, and almost every day people come to this place to enjoy the blue horizon of sky and sea, to see a beautiful sunset in the evening, or to enjoy the beach at night on the weekend.
It's very possible to go on a "Tsunami Tour", as there are many boats still inland and other monuments devoted to that devastating day in 2004.
- Fisherman boat on an inhabitant house, Desa Lampulo, Kota Alam. 59 people were reportedly saved by boarding this small boat and riding it to safety. Very dramatic image indeed. free.
- Floating Electric Generator Ship, Kampung Bunge Blangcut, Jayabaru. A ship was carried 5 km inland during the tsunami. You can get a nice overview of the city from the top of the ship.
- Tsunami Monument & Garden. Located beside the electric generator ship.
- Mountain Biking Cycling Hiking, Jln Al Huda Blok B, No 2 (close to food court), . Cycle around the mountains, rice fields and beaches near Banda Aceh. Hike and Bike tours and mountain bikes available from 50 000.
- Banda Aceh city highlights tour on a Bicycle., Jln Al Huda Blok B, No 2 (close to food court), . A bike is a great way to explore both the long history of Banda Aceh as well as the impact of the 2004 Tsunami. Bicycles, maps and route descriptions are available at Aceh Adventure.
- Tour around on a Motorbike (A motorbike is an easy and adventourous way of exploring Aceh), Jalan Mesjid Al Huda Blok B No 2 (close to food court), ☎ +62-(0)81-399578873, . 24 hours. After the tsunami international donors and the Indonesian Government build plenty of excellent roads. Especially the road along the west coast is of great beauty. Expect green hills and mountains and behind every corner an even more beautiful beach. 100 000.
- Island dropping, Jalan Mesjid Al Huda Blok B no 2, ☎ +62-(0)81-399578873, . open 9 to 5. Ready for some fun on the beach? Then go to the uninhabited island of Pulau Kreusik which has a splendid, mosquito free white beach and is located about 1 hour from Banda Aceh. The island has safe swimming and no mozzies! You can either make a day trip to the island or stay overnight. around 800 000 IDR pp.
- Discover Aceh Divers Club, Jalan Utama No. 1 Lamjamee, ☎ +62 812 6970 1430, . There are some nice diving spots around Banda Aceh such as Pulau Tuan, Pulau Bunta and Lhok Mata Ie with various underwater fish and corals. If you are lucky you will see Manta rays. The price includes the boat from Banda Aceh to the spot. Our certified Dive Masters will accompany you. Email: [email protected] 25 Euros per pax per dive, minimum 4 pax.
There are approximately 65 NGOs currently operating in Banda Aceh, however generally they do not recruit non-Indonesians locally. These NGos include various UN and EU agencies, USNS, Care, Americare, Islamic Relief, International Federation Of Red Cross and Red Crescent, Australian Red Cross, Turkish Red Crescent, Kuwaiti Red Crescent, French Red Cross, IMC, IOM, WHO, Japan International Cooperation System, Habitat, Medecins sans frontières, Japan Platform, USAID. AT the peak of the post-Tsunami aid effort there were 850 NGOs, however many of these were religious organisations with religious agendas and their permits were not extended by the Indonesian government.
There are interesting fish, meat and vegetable markets in the centre of town. There are also some small souvenir shops selling various local items.
The recently opened Hermes Palace mall located at the city centre of Banda Aceh. The mall held over 100+ stores with foodcourt,daily need supermarket,and clothing stores.
The Acehnese breakfast staple is nasi gurih, rice cooked in coconut milk, sold in coffee shops everywhere. Food stalls and Padang restaurants are open across the undamaged part of town, and fruit carts are ubiquitous.
- Canai Mamak KL Restaurant, (Jl Teuku Umar No 51, Seutui). Malay Food - Halal Toyibah.
- SHIDQI Cafe, (Jl. Malikul Saleh, Lamlagang, on the left side of the Red Crescent Hospital). Naturalis Cafe.
- PaceBene (Bene Restaurant), (Jl Bhakti no 33A-B, Kampung Laksana. Tel: 0651-31035). Best restaurant in town, not just for its fresh seafood, pasta and pizza, but also its great roof top garden. Dishes work from an Italian template, but with the best ingredients Banda Aceh has to offer. And watch out for when the salsa comes on, or the wait staff burst into spontaneous song. Also open Monday-Fridays for lunch.
- Tropicana Seafood Restaurant, (Jl A Yani No 90-92, Peunayong). High quality Chinese restaurant.
- Imperial Kitchen, (Jl Teuku Umar). High quality Chinese restaurant.
- Country Steakhouse, (Jl Sri Ratu Safiatuddin 46D). Steaks, hamburgers, salads etc. western style food.
- Banda Seafood Restaurant, (Jl Panglima Polem 125). Also offers fine chicken, meat and vegetable dishes. Near the Kartika Hotel.
- Warung Ibu Pocut, (Jl Nyak Adam Kamil IV 41-VII, near Kartika Hotel). In a traditional stilted wooden house with open sides, offers great local fare and a fresh breeze.Closed Jan 2009
- Big Top (across the road from Warung Ibu Pocut). Chinese and Indonesian dishes.
- Putra Jaya (Jl Tgk Haji Abdullah Ujung Rimba No 14, off Jl Muhammad near Masjid Baiturrahman). Panang style dining in nice air-con atmosphere with some English-speaking waiters. CLOSED, change to Tower Coffee
- Niagara Cafe, (Jl Hasandek 8-9). Has every fruit juice imaginable and a satay stand outside.
- Istana, Jl. T. Panglima Polem, No. 66-68, ☎ 065131287. Two locations. Offers your typical Aceh fare in a tidy, AC-ed setting. Careful ordering - they may serve and charge you two dishes!
The restaurant of the Hermes Palace (formerly Swiss-Belhotel) is presumably the best hotel food in town and offers nice dinner buffets as well as ala carte.
The Sultan Hotel has a popular cafe, while the chef at the hotel’s Koetaradja Restaurant boldly tries his hand at a Sultan Burger. There are some nice coffee houses with soothing rice paddie views around Ulee Kareng, along Jl Tengku Iskander on the town’s western outskirts. There are three fast food chain restaurants in the centre, A&W, KFC and Pizza Hut.
Drinking alcohol is not allowed. Coffee-drinking is the main activity.
- My Juice, Jl. Twk M. Daud Syan, No. 9-11, ☎ 065121613. On what you might call "Auto Blvd", this clean, friendly restaurant features some of the best juice combos around. Try the terung belanda fruit juice, which is only indigenous to Sumatra.
- Friends caffee, Jalan Kartini (From Hotel Medan, turn left, the first right, then first left, and walk into the jalan Kartini untul you see Friends caffee on your left hand site). from noon. Excellent expressos, latte,iced-lattes and great juices.
- Glee Cafe & Resto, Mataie Hillside Adventure & Water Park (Mataie - keude bieng).
- Black and White rumoh kuphi, Jl. T. Umar No. 19 Banda Aceh, . A cozy place to hang out with friends. You can find friendly faces although if you come solo. We have the best quality coffee, delicious local tasted food, mie Aceh and various of fresh juices. Free wireless internet connection is available.
- Hotel Lading, Jalan Cut Meutia 19, Banda Aceh (next to Bank BRI), ☎ +62-651-635123, . checkin: 14.00; checkout: 13.00. Only 5 minutes walk to the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque and Pasar Aceh market. With a nice view of the Aceh River. Close to several banks, restaurants, supermarket and internet cafe. Airport Shuttle services also available. USD15-30.
- Hermes Palace Hotel, the first international hotel and landmark hotel of Banda Aceh.  Formerly known as the Swiss Bel-Hotel.
- Hotel Medan (in the centre) - one star hotel
- Hotel Sultan (in the centre) - two star hotel, around $30-40
- Pavilliun Seulawah (in the centre, Jl. Prof. A. Majid. Ibrahim II No. 3) - a good hotel, around $50. Wireless internet access (included), restaurant. Next to a park with sports possibilities.
- Oasis Hotel (just outside the centre) - more cozy than the Swiss Bell and the rooms are just as nice, with wireless internet in the lobby at around USD75 per night.
- Uncle's Homestay A homestay- room with fan for about R75,000- air con more. Family who run it tend to be noisy through the night so sleep can be difficult. Jalan Mujahidin No. 2B, Lambaro Skep, Banda Aceh Mobile no: +62852 6028 4432 (mobile phone) or homestay no: 0651-26219. Both Uncle (Abdul) and his wife Yulia speak English.
- The Pade Hotel, Jl Soekarno Hatta 1, ☎ 499999, . checkin: 12.00; checkout: 12.00. The best Boutique Hotel in Town, Spacious and modern Guestrooms, individual terrace, Wifi zone US $ 50- 120. , Every Saturday Barbeque Night, Every Wednesday Pasta Party. www.thepade.com
As with all travelling, common sense and a good attitude is all you need to get along in this small city, however there are some points to keep in mind. Although Banda Aceh is nowadays safer than most European cities. It's best to not go out alone after 10pm. Because Sharia law is enforced, drinking alcohol and relationships between Muslim locals and foreigners are not permitted. Although both are possible, they may result in arrest by the Sharia police and physical punishment for the Muslim party involved. Muslim women should wear headscarves in public areas. As a matter of taste, Western-style swimsuits aren't advisable except in Sabang. Pick-pocket is rare but be aware in crowded places.
- Lhoknga and Lampuuk, beautiful beaches 17 km west of the city, great for surfing or just relaxing on the beach.
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