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Medan is located on the northern part of Sumatra Island, and is the capital of North Sumatra.


Medan is the third biggest city in Indonesia after Jakarta and Surabaya. It is also the biggest city outside Java Island. The population of Medan city is about 2 million people (accourding to census in year 2000).

Get in

By plane

Medan has an International airport which is about 15 minutes from the city. There are direct flights from Penang (for only around $70 return), Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Pekanbaru, Batam and Taiwan. Medan is served by the port of Belawan, where Pelni ferries from Batam and Jakarta, as well as boats from Penang and Dumai dock.

Several discount airlines service Medan, though the only one with reliable internet booking (in July and August 2005) is Air Asia (, with fares often below US$50 r/t if purchased in advance. Domestic departure taxes from Medan increased on 15 August 2005 from Rp.15,000 to Rp.25,000, while international departure taxes remained constant at Rp.75,000. The domestic terminal is nicer than the International terminal at Medan Polonia Airport (a new terminal is scheduled to open in late 2006), and there is no moneychanger for currency other than USD. Fees for visas-on-arrival in August 2005 were US$10 for stays less than 7 days (note: this is what was posted in the airport, while the Indonesian Embassy states that short-term visas are only good for 3 days) and US$25 for single-entry stays up to 30 days. Bags are checked by customs upon departure, unless you have friends at the airport. Domestic flights out of Medan do not check IDs (sporadically, they check passports at check-in) at security checks (only tickets).

A Taxi into town sets you back around Rp35,000, unless you walk past the taxis in front of the terminal and proceed towards the exit of Polonia airport. There are more taxis towards the exit, and if you bargain well, you can get a taxi for only Rp.20,000. If you know the public bus number for your destination, it is Rp.6000 per person, but those unfamiliar with Bahasa Indonesian are encouraged to get taxis for their first transportation.

By bus

Larger, non air-conditioned buses and large luxury buses (often Mercedes) that are air-conditioned (some have toilets on board, though they are squatting toilets that are difficult to use when the buses are moving, given driving habits and road conditions throughout Sumatera). The central station for all larger buses in Medan is Amplas Station Central (not located in the center of the city though). This is where a lot of the smaller minivans go as well, and where travellers need to go to make connecting buses to further cities. Many of the large air-conditioned buses perform overnight routes, with prices varying by location served. As an example of prices from August 2005, expect to pay around Rp.50,000-80,000 for an 8-10 hour overnight luxury bus (without toilet saves about Rp.10,000+) trip, as in to Duri, Bukit Lawang, or Lake Toba (Danau Toba). Such buses provide a small snack and sometimes have televisions on board. While seats are very comfortable by Sumateran standards, all rides are swervy/bumpy and drivers often play stereos quite loud during the entire trip (unless a movie is available). Also, many buses have smoking sections in the back, and sometimes, smoking occurs in the front of the non-smoking section by the driver if the driver is so inclined. Earplugs are good accessories. Furthermore, while the large luxury buses have ample stowage above seats, keep valuables safe while you sleep.

By boat

Medan is not located by the sea but nearby Belawan is a major port with domestic and international boat and ferry services.

  • To/from other parts of Indonesia

Pelni boats link Belawan with various ports in Sumatra and other Indonesian islands.

  • To/from Malaysia

From Indonesia Daily ferries run to/from Penang, Malaysia. Operated by Langkawi Ferry Services, Tel: +62-61-4521666/4527555 in Medan; +60-4-2642088 in Penang.

Get around

Medan city are swamped by Becak and Taxi (the preferable choice to get around)

By railways

Medan is connected by rail to other conurbations on the eastern coast of Sumatra, such as Tanjungbalai, Rantauprapat, Siantar and Binjai. Executive, business and economy class trains are available, but if your budget allows, take the better class trains, which are faster and more comfortable. Tickets cost between Rp.9,000 (economy) to Rp.70,000 (executive).

By becak

Also known as trishaws or pedicabs. You have to be good negotiator if you want to ride on becaks, with price ranging between Rp.5,000 to Rp.10,000 depending on the destination (near or far).

By taxi

Cost Rp.20,000 (2005) to go anywhere around the city (close or far). Be careful of picking up a taxi. Try to pick taxi from a reliable place such in front of malls, shopping centres or airport.

By bus

Public transport is not reliable and not suggested for travellers, though they have fixed price from one destination to other destinations.

Small minivans have painted numbers (1 to 267 in Medan) that signify their routes, which even locals don't have memorized. If you speak Bahasa Indonesian, just ask where people are standing by the roadsides which "bus" number corresponds to your location and what the price is in advance. When a van with the appropriate number approaches, flag them down as they don't make scheduled stops (just drive along a given route and drop off passengers when told or pick up new passengers when flagged). If you are a westerner, be sure to confirm the price before getting in. This type of transportation should only be braved by those with a point-to-point knowledge of Medan and a working knowledge of Bahasa Indonesian so they know where to tell the driver to stop, unless you have a local friend whom can take you around.

One easy route is Minibus #3 from the great mosque (at the side of yuki mall) to the Medan Mall, which is Rp 2,000


Many tourists choose to use Medan as a quick thru-point to travel elsewhere in Sumatera, but the city offers a glimpse of a large Indonesian city still unfrequented by western tourists, and shouldn't be quickly dismissed. However, Medan is more chaotic and has a bit more litter than Jakarta or Denpasar and open sewers abound. Furthermore, not as many people speak English in Medan as in other large Indonesian cities, but even a short list of useful expressions goes a long way, and Sumaterans are still unjaded by westerners.

  • Beautiful Palace of Sultan Deli.



  • Carrefour stores stock food as well as electronics and clothing. The clothing section includes many namebrands at very low prices (ex: Diesel t-shirts for Rp.15,000, or about $1.50 USD). Many western food items can be found as well, at fairly competitive prices. These supermarkets cater to the middle/upper classes and are one of the few stores in Medan that accept credit cards.
  • Sun Plaza, located in central city. Big plaza and lots of happening in Saturday and Sunday. Plenty of food choices from western to eastern. Has a big supermarket, named Hypermart which offer the equal style of shopping like Carrefoour.
  • Medan Fair Plaza, city center. Has a big Carrefour supermarket, so if you need something you will be able to find them in Carrefour. Lots of eating options also.
  • hels, provide issues about anything to make concept design in fashion, the local clothing store with price range Rp.10,000 - Rp.120,000 (USD1 - USD12), the place call hels at Jl. KH. Wahid Hasyim No.48 Medan 20154, +62614520749, [email protected]
  • TauKo Medan, provide the memorable things from Medan, t-shirt (Rp.50,000), at Merdeka Walk.
  • Toko Ben, sells imported western food and drink of all sorts at reasonable prices.E.g frozen New Zealand beef and lamb.It is a small chinese owned shop, all expatriates know it.
  • Bolu Meranti located Jl. Kruing, near Jl. Meranti, on Petisah area. The home-made roll cakes with varies taste, cheese, blueberry, mocca.
  • Bika Ambon & Marquisa located at Jl. Majapahit, on Petisah area. With numbers of shops along the street there, you can do the selection.
  • Dried fruits with sugar on Pasar Rame, a famous morning till afternoon market, beside Thamrin Plaza.


  • Merdeka Walk the hottest hangout place in town, cafe, resto, exhibition, entertainment at Lapangan Merdeka.
  • Kesawan Square is located along Ahmad Yani street, before Merdeka Walk. It offers unique atmosphere for pleasure. Open only @ 6pm til' 1am everyday. Numerous vendors provide various kinds of cuisine, the majority of which are Chinese. Each vendor has "halal" or "non halal" label on their stand. However, the toilet facilities provided in the area are abysmal.
  • Tip Top Restaurant is an old restaurant located in Ahmad Yani street. Has colonial atmosphere.

"The Traders" serves great food at reasonable prices (for westerners). Classy atmosphere and tasty wine.

Durian is one of the most famous fruit in Medan and North Sumatra. Get the best price and taste when the season comes, which on July and December. North Sumatra has a lot of durian fields like; Sibolangit, Brastagi, Langkat, Sidikalang, Sibolga, Nias, Padang Sidempuan, Lima Puluh, Perbaungan, etc.

Get Medan Durian at Jalan Sumatera, Jalan Semarang and Jalan Adam Malik. Price start Rp.5000,- to Rp.15.000,- per each


  • Grand Angkasa Hotel, the only 5-star hotel in the city has rates around $70USD for from online or Medan travel agents. Close to the airport but not convenient for city-centre shopping.
  • Novotel Soechi, 4-star hotel in the city centre, attached to a mall, available for around $50USD/night via travel agents.
  • Danau Toba Cheaper 4* hotel, in need of room refurbishment, with large swimming pool. Prices $30/night. Popular music venue.
  • Wisma Wahana Daya Pertiwi. Owned by the railway company, clean, decent, cheap, located a short walk from the railway station on M. Yamin Street. Superior rooms Rp. 135,000 per night, suites Rp. 250,000. Restaurant (Permata DSM) is acceptable.
  • Hotel Zakia is a budget option right next to the grand mosque (so don't go there if you are bothered by the Iman calling for prayer at 5am, but if that is the case, you're in the wrong country anyway...). Rooms range from Rp. 35,000 - 50,000 including a breakfast. It is reasonably clean and central. Tel.: +61/7322413

Get out

--- Pantai Cermin Theme Park is the only and the first water theme park in North Sumatra, which located in Cermin Beach, Serdang Bedagai. The theme park is organized by Malaysia Investor and Local Government. Open on Mon, Wed, Thur and Fri (11.00 - 18.00) Sat, Sun and public holiday (09.00 - 18.00). Close on Tuesday, except public holiday. With admission fee: Mon, Wed, Thur and Fri ->Adult Rp. 40000,-Child Rp. 20000,- (below 1,1 meter)and Sat, Sun and public holiday Adult Rp. 60000,- Child Rp. 40000,- (below 1,1 meter). We can do Swimming, Sun Bathing, Kayaking, etc at there also. To go there, we can choose by: Rental Car, Private Car. Or take Mini Bus (sudako) at Jl. MT. Haryono (in front of Medan Mall) and stop at Perbaungan city. Then take Machine Trishaw to the beach.