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North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara) is a province in the north Indonesia's Sumatra Island.


Map of North Sumatra
  • 1 Medan — the chaotic capital famous for its varieties of local cuisine
  • 2 Pematangsiantar — second largest city
  • 3 Binjai Binjai on Wikipedia — small city 22 km east to Medan city and part of Greater Medan, also transit point to Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan
  • 4 Tanjungbalai — the only international passenger port to peninsular Malaysia
  • 5 Padang Sidempuan — the 'Salak' city and transit point to West Sumatra
  • 6 Kisaran
  • 7 Berastagi — the fruit city and gateway to Karo highland
  • 8 Sibolga — major port city in the southwestern part
  • 9 Sidikalang — famous for its coffee

Other destinations[edit]


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.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

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.

Another international airport is 1 Sisingamangaraja XII International Airport (DTB IATA - formerly Silangit International Airport) that serves Lake Toba.

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.

By boat[edit]

Major port is Belawan (Medan) and Tanjungbalai (formerly Tanjungbalai-Asahan). As of April 2019, Belawan only serves domestic voyages while Tanjungbalai serves domestic voyages and international voyages from/to Port Klang and Hutan Melintang, Perak.

By road[edit]

North Sumatra is connected by Trans-Sumatran Highway. Many buses serve Medan to many cities in Sumatra such as Pekanbaru, Padang and Banda Aceh.

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

North Sumatra road condition has improved in the mid 2010s, 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 and lights. Be extra careful especially if driving into rural areas.

There are tollways connecting Belawan - Medan - Tanjung Morawa (Belmera tollway), Medan - Binjai - Stabat in Langkat and Lubuk Pakam - Tebing Tinggi. As of April 2023, 2 additional sections are almost finished, Tebing Tinggi - Pematangsiantar and Tebing Tinggi - Indrapura. The government intends to connect the tollways with Aceh province and Riau province.

By bus[edit]

The easy way to get around without hassle is by bus. Most cities are served by buses. Some bus drivers may drive recklessly. Road conditions are so-so only for main road, while in rural areas, roads may sometimes unpaved.

By train[edit]

Railway service covers only about 1/3 of the province, but are very reliable, cheap and fast. They cover Binjai, Medan, Pematang Siantar, Tanjung Balai and Rantau Prapat.

By plane[edit]

There are several airports scattered 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). The village of Balige is booming as tourist destination after Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship (F1H20) 2023 opening stage took place at Lake Toba at Balige bay. Balige has more modern looks and amenities compare to Parapat.

Batak Toba Traditional House is a-must-see attraction while visiting North Sumatra. For tourism, it centered in mostly in Karo highland & Lake Toba.

Gunung Leuser National Park is a very large national park span across 2 province, home to several faunas like elephant, orangutan, and tiger.

Surfing lover worldwide will definitely ever heard the famous wave of Nias Island and the nearby Batu islands. Both also has excellent view.

Some interesting religious building including 1 Al-Mashun Mosque Grand Mosque of Medan on Wikipedia at Medan, 2 Salib Kasih at Tarutung, and 3 Bahal temple Bahal temple on Wikipedia at Portibi. Or visit 4 Taman Iman Dairi (Garden of Faith) in Sidikalang, a spiritual tourism area with mosque, vihara, temple, and church.


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.


Stay safe[edit]

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 or minivan, those are always filled with pickpockets.

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.

Go next[edit]

This region travel guide to North Sumatra is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!