I never thought I would get to visit Sumatra. And yet here we were, after flying from Bali, in Medan. This my three day itinerary from Medan to Lake Toba and all the useful information that you don’t find online.
Day 1 From Bali to Medan
Getting to Medan from Bali is rather easy, we got there by flying with a stopover in Singapore. Medan airport also has a lounge, accessible with the prioritypass, but unfortunately, it doesn’t open till 7AM ( on the app it says 5AM). From Medan airport, the easiest way to get around is to get a Grab to your accomodation.
Where to Stay in Medan
We stayed at an Airbnb in the city center, located here. It was pretty useful because we could walk to Merdaka Walk and to a couple of malls. The accomodation in Medan is not great, so don’t expect luxury hotels, everything is quite basic, but our place was ok, and it had AC for only 10£/night. However, there are many other great Airbnbs to stay in. And you can get 30£ for free if you sign up with my code here.
Where to Eat in Medan
Medan is a big, crowded city, and you will see stalls with Indonesian street food almost everywhere. There isn’t a big scene for restaurants, especially not Western ones. The ones that we saw recommended online we actually went to, but there might be some hidden gems we didn’t know about. We started out our day with a coffee, walked to Merdeka Walk and got a kopi panas at Srikandi cafe (it only cost about 20.ooo IDR), so pretty much the same prices as all over Indonesia. They also served some breakfast, with options starting at 20k.
This is one of the recommended ones for trying Nasi Padang. Nasi Padang is a very popular Indonesian dish of steamed rice and a variety of pre-cooked dishes. The difference is that they bring it all to you on different plates, and you choose which ones to eat from. At the end, you will be charged by bowl, or in the case of the more expensive items such as meat (chicken, beef rendang), you will get charged for the portion of the bowl. We tried about 5 or 6 dishes and paid 200.000 IDR. A bit pricey, definitely not the warung prices we got used to but worth a try. You can see the whole video below.
Tip Top Restaurant
The second recommended one, and apparently the oldest restaurant in Medan, this places promised a lot. However, the food is not the best, but you can go there for rice and veggies, as that’s pretty standard. However, we did notice the restaurant was pretty big on cakes, as there were a lot of Indonesian families having a spread of them. Probably should have gone for them!
We went there for breakfast and coffee. It seems one of the best places for it, and at nightime, it gets very busy, there’s a lot of choice, but it consists mostly of deep fried food or Indonesian food.
Coffee price: 10 – 40K
Breakfast: 20 – 40K (pancake,toast,muffin)
Day 2: What to Visit in Medan
The Maimun Palace
Perhaps it’s a touristy place, but we went for it. Maimun Palace is a beautiful building, and quite a fun place to be in a hot afternoon. We decided to have some fun and finally rent the traditional royalty costumes. It cost 80.000/person and it can go even higher depending on how you want your tiara or your clothes. I recommend it as it was a fun experience and it’s only once you’re in Medan!
Check out the video of the experience here:
Entrance fee: 10.000 IDR/person
Visiting hours: 8 AM – 6 PM
Cost Dress-up: from 80.000 IDR/person
The Great Mosque of Medan
This is a beautiful place to visit in Medan and a quiet and peaceful one. To go in you don’t have to pay an entrance fee but donations are encouraged. You will be requested to wear a head scarf (for women) and men a sarong. We walked around and it was prayer time, but we decided not to go in and disturb. Once we got out, it started pouring so we had to under a shelter for the rain to slow down.
The Great Mosque of Medan
Entrance fee: free (but donations are encouraged)
We ended our first day of exploring Medan by going to try durian, the worlds’ smelliest fruit! We went to a place called Sibolang Durian, but there were so many more places actually in the area, so lots of choice! We decided to grab 2 kg of durian, and we paid 90.000 IDR. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget !
Day 3: From Medan to Lake Toba How to Get There
We thought it would be more difficult to get from Medan to Lake Toba and we didn’t know how to get there. We first asked at our accomodation how much is the transfer by car and it was 120.000 IDR/person. However, the starting times are only 11 AM, and we wanted to be there earlier. So we decided to go to the bus station. The station is called Bus Terminal Anugerah & Pusaka, we got there by taking a Grab, as it’s quite far away.
Bus station: Bus Terminal Anugerah & Pusaka
Address: Jl. Gajah Mada No.51, Babura, Medan Baru, Kota Medan, Sumatera Utara 20112
Ticket price: 40.000 IDR/person
When we got there, at 8 AM, it was pretty empty, there was a bus waiting and someone asked us where we’re headed. The bus was going to Lake Toba, so we hopped on. The journey lasted for about 7 hours, no AC, but it was pretty confortable, though towards the end it was packed.
From Parapat to Samosir Island How to Get There
The bus from Medan leaves you in Parapat, near the ferry. Here you can wait for the boat to Samosir. They come pretty quick, each half an hour or an hour, and it costs 15.000 IDR/person. You can ask them to drop you off at your accomodation, any guesthouse around the lake, we didn’t know that it’s possible and had to take a tuk tuk.
Samosir Island is where most of the accomodation is, and you will find cheap but yet reasonably options for at least as 5£/night, and also more luxury places, like the place we stayed at, for up to 60£/night.
Arriving in Lake Toba
Where to Stay
There are a lot of types of accomodation in Lake Toba, we were lucky to stay in probaly the most luxurious one, Tabo Cottages. The pool was great, the view of the lake at sunrise and sunset was stunning, and the food was good. The place is owned by a Dutch woman, and they also have the only bakery on the island. Their cookies and bread are delicious! Aaaand you can get 30£ for free if you sign up with my code!
Address: Jl. Lkr. Tuktuk, Tuktuk Siadong, Simanindo, Kabupaten Samosir, Sumatera Utara 22395
Price per night: 60£
This was actually one of the places with the best views around Lake Toba! It also great breakfast options like a huge smoothie bowl with just 20k!
Address:Tuk Tuk Pinda Raya, Tuk Tuk, 22395
Price per night: 10£
Price per night: 5 – 10 £
What to Do in Lake Toba
You can hire a private car and have a driver take you around the Lake and its sights. However, we rented a bike (for about 100.000IDR/day) and went to explore on our own. The first stop we did the first day was Parhallow Viewpoint Samosir, where we also stopped for a coffe with just 10.000 idr.
Then we kept on biking till the next most amazing viewpoint, viewpoint Bukit Holbung.
Viewpoing Bukit Holbung
If you want to see the video from this place ( the scenery was insanely beautiful), you can find it below:
In these three days, we got to explore so much of Samosir and Lake Toba and the nature here is spectacular, definitely worth a visit! Let me know if you’ve been or if you’re planning to go and hope you enjoyed my three day from Medan to Lake Toba itinerary. You can find more about my travels here.