Cities & Towns
Notable cities & towns:
- 1 Medan - the chaotic capital famous for its varieties of local cuisine
- 2 Pematangsiantar - second largest city
- 3 Binjai - small city just 22 km east to Medan and together with Medan form part of Greater Medan, also transit point to Bukit Lawang & Tangkahan
- 4 Tanjungbalai - the only international passenger port to Malaysia peninsular
- 5 Padang Sidempuan - The 'Salak' city and transit point to West Sumatra
- 6 Berastagi - the fruits town
- 7 Parapat - gateway to Lake Toba
- 8 Sibolga - major port city in the southwestern part
- 9 Sidikalang - famous for its coffee
- 1 Lake Toba - the largest lake in South East Asia, placed within exceptional volcanic scenery and surrounded by inspiring mountains.
- 2 Bukit Lawang - gateway to the orangutans and the Gunung Leuser National Park
- 3 Tangkahan - elephant conservation and another gateway to Gunung Leuser National Park
- Gunung Sinabung (4 Sinabung Volcano) and Gunung Sibayak (5 Sibayak Volcano)
- 6 Taman Iman Dairi (Garden of Faith) - in Sidikalang
- 7 Salib Kasih - located in Tarutung, a centre of christian missionary by I.L. Nommensen
- 8 Nias island & 9 Batu islands - famous surfing destination
- 10 Bahal temple - ancient Buddhist temple dated around 11th - 13th century.
- 11 Batang Gadis National Park and its highest volcano Sorikmarapi
Indonesian is mostly spoken in the North Sumatra area. People commonly speak their local languages as well. Batak Toba spoken in Tapanuli and Samosir, while Simalungun spoken in Simalungun area (southern Medan), Karo spoken in Tanah Karo (Kabanjahe, Berastagi), and Pakpak spoken in Dairi.
Kualanamu International Airport (KNO IATA) near the provincial capital Medan has direct connections from regional international destinations in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, as well as frequent flights from all major cities in Western Indonesia. For more information see the Medan#By plane section.
In addition, there are a few smaller airports in the province. Flights from the national capital Jakarta serve 2 Ferdinand Lumbang Tobing Airport (FLZ IATA) near Sibolga on the western coast. The south of the province is served by 3 Aek Godang Airport (AEG IATA) with flights from Padang and Medan. The islands on the west of North Sumatra see scheduled flights from Padang to 4 Binaka Airport (GNS IATA) on the island of Nias and 5 Lasondre Airport on the Batu Islands.
Major port is Belawan (Medan) and Tanjungbalai (formerly Tanjungbalai-Asahan). As per April 2019, Belawan only serves domestic voyages while Tanjungbalai serves domestic voyages and international voyages from/to Port Klang and Hutan Melintang, Perak.
North Sumatra is connected by Trans-Sumatran Highway. Many buses serve Medan to many cities in Sumatra such as Pekanbaru, Padang and Banda Aceh.
North Sumatra road condition has improved in the recent years, especially around major cities. But 2/3 of the road condition is still bad, with many potholes. Traffic is chaos, with most drivers won't pay attention to traffic signs/lights. Be extra careful especially if driving into rural areas.
There are tollways connecting Belawan - Medan - Tanjung Morawa (Belmera tollway), Medan - Binjai and Lubuk Pakam - Tebing Tinggi.
The easy way to get around without hassle is by bus. Most cities are served by buses. Be aware though that some bus drivers may drive recklessly. Road conditions also is so-so only for main road, while in rural, road may sometimes unpaved.
Railway services covers only about 1/3 of the provinces, but are very reliable, cheap and fast. They cover Binjai, Medan, Pematang Siantar, Tanjung Balai and Rantau Prapat.
Several airports scatter around North Sumatra. See above.
Berastagi is a small town in mountainous region south of Medan is a popular weekend getaway for local, with 2 nearby volcanoes Sibayak and the active Sinabung.
Danau Toba, or Lake Toba, is about 4 hours from Medan by car, and is the world's largest crater lake. Pulau Samosir, in turn, is the largest island-within-an-island. The village of Tuktuk on the island is popular with European tourists, and magic mushrooms are freely available (look for the magic mushroom and laundry service).
Batak Toba Traditional House is a-must-see attraction while visiting North Sumatra. For tourism, it centered in Samosir island, while there are more in Balige, Porsea, and Tarutung.
Gunung Leuser National Park is a very large national park span across 2 province, home to several faunas like elephant, orangutan, tiger, and many more.
The most notable foods in the area are those of the Batak people. Batak people use either pork or even dog to make saksang. Another Batak pork specialty is babi panggang in which the meat is boiled in vinegar and pig blood before being roasted. Ayam namargota is chicken cooked in spices and blood. A notable fish dish is ikan arsik, carp cooked with spices and herbs. Andaliman is strong pepper used by Bataks, similar to Sichuan pepper in taste.
Sumatra is famous in Indonesia for being "rough", and locals are proud of their roots.
As in any city, be vigilant about your personal property and always be aware of your surroundings. Especially if you´re taking the public bus/minivan, those are always filled with pickpocket.
Be careful when crossing the street. Keep an eye on the locals and cross with them if possible.
Emergency telephone numbers: 112.
There are few expats here, but the Hash House Harriers has a few local chapters in Medan and surrounding areas.