Kuala Namu International Airport is Sumatra's most important international hub and is located 40km away from Medan. The airport was only completed in 2013 and is very modern. It is the second largest airport in Indonesia, next to Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta.
The airport and Medan are connected by rail. In Medan, the train stops at the staion Kereta Besar, in Jl. Stasiun, next to Merdeka Square. The trip costs Rp 80,000 and there are 10 connections a day. The journey takes about 45 minutes.
The alternative is a taxi. Here the cost is about Rp 130,000. Currently (in September 2013) the road between Medan and Kuala Namu International Airport is not quite completed, so that a huge traffic jam might appear. This can be a problem when heading for a flight.
Minangkabau International Airport is the airport serving the city of Padang, and is located in Ketaping about 23km from Padang. Unfortunately, their website offers information only in Bahasa Indonesia language.
Travelers can reach town by an airport taxi for about Rp. 75.000, or by a Damri bus, which makes a loop from the airport through Padang and costs Rp. 15.000.
The airport was opened in 2005. The terminal buildings show the famous architectual style, where the Minangkabau are famous for. Check our Minangkabaou travel site for more information.
Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport in Palembang is named after Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin, the last Sultan of Palembang.
Beside several domestic flight connections, the airport has also an international flight connection to Singapore via Silk Air. Check their website for flight information.
Garuda Indonesia is the national airline of Indonesia. After having a ban for flights in the EU because of safety concerns, improvements were introduced by the company in 2009, and Garuda was again removed from the ban list. The average age of the fleet currently stands at 10.3 years (as of 2010, German Lufthansa 12.2 years).
Garuda Indonesia has naturally the densest network of flight services of all airlines in Indonesia. You can take a flight virtually from any airport in Indonesia to any other airport in the country. At Garudas website travelers find their desired travel information.
The Garuda Indonesia flight magazin is well worth reading, not only during flights, and offers many interesting articles and information about Indonesia.
Air Asia is a low-cost airlines based in Malaysia. The company was labelled the World's Best Low Cost Airline by Skytrax. A subsidiary of Air Asia is Air Asia Indonesia, which operates out of Jakarta in Indonesia.
While Air Asia is certainly on of the better low-cost airlines, Indonesia Air Asia lost its rights for flights in the EU because of safety concerns.
Silk Air is a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines.
Via their hub in Singapore, the airlines connects Medan and Palembang international airport to many flight destinations all over the world.
Silk Air also provides package tours to destinations flown by the airline, by their wholly owned subsidiary Tradewinds Tours and Travel Private Limited.
The airline was voted in the Top 10 List of Best Airlines Worldwide for Cabin Service by Hong Kong based online travel magazine, Smart Travel Asia.
An island nation such as Indonesia is of course equipped with a strong network of cruise lines. Pelni is the national shipping company and operates 28 cruise ships which travel to 80 ports. There is practically no alternative to travel on sea.
On the cruise ships of Pelni different comfort classes are offered to travelers. In the lower classes heat, smoke and animals must be expected. And quite a lot people sleeping in one cabin. The First Class offers a four-bed cabin with a bathroom and everything is clean.
The First Class tickets of the Pelni cruise ships sometimes cost more than a plane ticket and the trip takes much longer. But if you want to come in contact with the local population, you should travel with these vessles, as this offers unsuspected opportunities. You can set that you are the only tourist on board and are considered a small attraction.
The cruise ships stop at any port for a few hours so that you can also go short on land.
Like many areas in Indonesia, the Pelni cruise ships are heavily air-conditioned. It is recommended to bring warmer clothes with you.
To travel from Surabaya to Jakarta, for example, costs €55 and lasts 24 hours (as of 2010). On the website you find all routes (English language available) and other information. A cruise should be booked about 1 week in advance. This can be done directly on the website, but we recommend to visit one of the Pelni offices, whose current addresses also can be found on the Pelni website.
Bakauheuni sea port is a strategic harbor, connecting Sumatra and Java.
Bakauheuni harbour offers a frequent ferry service to Merak on Java. There is a fast and a slow ferry service available. The crossing with the fast option should take no more than one hour and costs about Rp. 25.000. The slower ferry service might take more than two hours, but costs less than Rp. 10.000.
From Merak harbour you can travel by bus or by train to Jakarta. Each tour takes about 2 hours.
Arriving in Bakauheuni harbour, visitors can travel by bus to the city of Bandarlampung, with it's Way Kambas National Park.
Sungai Batang harbour serves Siberut island from the Mentawai island chain, which is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Another port at Padang is called Teluk Bayar, which mainly is a cargo port, serving the import and export of goods to West Sumatra. But infrequently Pelni cruise ships also travel to Teluk Bayar.
Belawan in Sumatra is Indonesia′s busiest port outside of Java, located 26km from Medan, the gateway to the beautiful Lake Toba region and a tourist center. Check their website for more cruise information, and our Lake Toba site for travel information to the Toba region.
A daily ferry service connects Belawan in Sumatra across the Strait of Malacca to Penang in Malaysia. This tour lasts 5 hours. And Pelni cruise ships sail to Batam and Jakarta.
From Belawan harbour it is a 30km travel distance to Medan Polonia Airport, and about 26km to Medan city centre. A taxi service is available at the pier.
To travel by bus in Sumatra is extremely uncomfortable, but however, it is the only alternative for intercity travel for those who don′t want to go by plane.
If you plan to take this alternative, try to get a ALS bus, as these tend to be more comfortable and better maintained then most of the other bus services.
Usually bus tickets can be bought at all hotel receptions, as they mostly have a commission for booking your ticket. Your hotel will also have additional travel information about bus stations and so on.
The train network is very small in Sumatra due to its mountainous nature.
The most usefull train service runs from Bandarlampung via Palembang to Lubuklinggau.
Bemo, Minibus, etc.:
Due to the absence of comfortable overland bus services, and the very view taxis available, the usual modes of transport on Sumatra comprise small minibuses (angkot / bemo / opelet) as well as bicycle rickshaws (becak).
They all have together, that altough ticket prices are extremely low, foreign travelers should ask for the price beforehand, in order to avoid getting overcharged.
A bemo has a fixed route plan and picks up and drops off passengers everywhere along the road. No bus stations do exist.
Others also provide a door to door service. Due to the lack of transportations services it might be a good idea to rent a car with chauffeur. Having your own driver is not as expensive as you might first think and offers complete freedom, without the hassle of trying to navigate the roads and signposts. Simply ask at your hotel reception for the necessary travel information.