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Sumatra - The Internet Travel Guide (FAQ) (part 1/2)

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Archive-name: travel/sumatra-guide/part1
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                          The Internet Travel Guide

                              Peter M. Geiser


Last change 25 December 1997


 Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997

 1. General Overview
 1.1 Geographical Information
 1.2 Climate
 1.3 People
 1.4 Visa
 1.5 Embassies
 1.6 Border Crossing
 1.7 Customs
 1.8 Money
 1.9 Telephone
 1.10 Accommodation
 1.11 Food
 1.12 Health

 2. Transportation
 2.1 Flying
 2.2 Train
 2.3 Bus
 2.4 Car
 2.5 Becak and Taxi
 2.6 Trekking

 3. Places
     Banda Aceh
     Lake Toba
     Samosir Island
     Nias Island
      - Gunungsitoli
      - Telukdalam
     Jungle Train

 4. Literature
 4.1 Guidebooks
 4.2 Historical/Political
 4.3 Internet

 A. Contributors


The Internet Travel Guide
Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997 Peter M. Geiser

Currently available in the series of the Internet Travel Guides:
Myanmar (Burma)



The main objective of this FAQ is to provide the reader with the newest
travel information available, like what is the current situation on visa,
where to stay and what prices are reasonable, etc. It is not a guide to
the Sumatras culture or history (although I started to include some
information about those subjects as well), for these non-changing facts
are much more pleasantly presented in many good books (see the list in
section 4 in this FAQ). It is also not intended to be a political pamphlet
since politics is often a very opinionated subject. However, I started to
include some political facts where I felt it was appropriate.

Remember: Things change very fast, so by the time you get to Sumatra the
information in this FAQ may be outdated. If you encounter this, please
bear with me. Instead of being upset, rather share your experiences with
other people on the net. The next tourist will thank you if he or she can
rely on your new information. Also, if you find time during your travels
to write a postcard or a letter to me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Some paragraphs are led by the name of the author in brackets. This
doesn't mean that these are their only contributions, but rather that in
that case I chose to leave the words as the author wrote them, adding a
more personal note to the FAQ.

Answering questions

There are many people who send mail to ask me some questions. As much as
I like to answer as many questions as possible, my time is limited. I do
this work in my spare time, so I frequently answer the questions only
after a couple of days (or even weeks if I'm away for a while.) It also
happens that I cannot return an e-mail due to an invalid e-mail address.
Please be careful to include a valid e-mail address, or then ask me to
post the answer in

This guide lives by being up-to-date. Since I cannot travel all the time,
I am glad to receive suggestions, contributions and comments. Any addition
is useful, regardless of the size.



In accordance with the Bern convention, this document is copyrighted
worldwide. The information provided within this document is the property
of the original authors. The author especially reserves the right to the
exclusive use of the term "The Internet Travel Guide".

This document or parts thereof may NOT be sold for profit or included in
any commercial documents (e. g. books, esp. guide books, magazines,
CD-ROMs, WWW-pages, the Microsoft Network or any other form) without the
prior written permission of the copyright holder. However, following the
common practice of the Internet, this document may be freely
redistributed without any modification whatsoever, including this
copyright notice.

If you as the reader has paid to get this document, please let me know. As
much as I would like I cannot give you back your money, but I can try to
put an end to the illegal stealing of other people's work.


The Internet Travel Guide
Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997

Peter M. Geiser
Seeblickstr. 10
9010 St.Gallen



In this change log I list all the changes to the Internet Travel Guide to
Sumatra since 1st November 1996.

1.8 MONEY: Updated exchange rate

1.14 HEALTH: Updated malaria section

Changed Rp. to IDR (ISO code)
JUNGLE TRAIN: Added this report by Marc.
A. CONTRIBUTORS: Added Marc, of course.

Corrected the currency from INR to Rp. (Anyone knows the ISO-Code?)
1.2 CLIMATE: Added some details.
1.6 BORDER CROSSING: Added air entry point.
1.10 ACCOMMODATION: Added info on top range.
1.11 FOOD: Added info on top range.

1.5 EMBASSIES: Corrected address of embassy in Poland.

Deleted empty parts in chapter 4.




Sumatra is a part of the Republic of Indonesia. It is located to the west
of Malysia, streching over 

Area          473'481 km2
Highest point Mt. Kerinci, 3805 m

Time          GMT plus 7 hours

Measures      Metric
Electricity   220 V, 50 Hz, in some areas 110 V

In the Web-version of the Internet Travel Guide at there would be a map right here.


Temperature is nearly the same all year round, averaging between 25 to 30

It is quite humid. The rainiy season lasts from October to March.

On the west coast it rains quite a lot, less so on the east.


Population      36.6 mio
Language        Bahasa Indonesia
Religion        mostly Muslim, some Christian, Hindu and Buddhists

1.4 VISA

Tourists may stay for up to 2 months. There is no extension available.

A visa is not necessary for people from other ASEAN countries, Australia,
Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, the
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
Turkey, United Kingdom and the USA.
For people from other countries, a visa valid one month may be obtained
from an Indonesian embassy or consulate.



6 Rue Muhammed Chemlal, B.P. 6216070, El-Mauradia Algier,
Tel (213-1) 602011, 602051, Fax 591245

Mariskal Ramon Castila 2901, 1425 Buenos Aires, Tel 8016622, 8016655,
8017142, Fax 8024448

Embassy:    8 Darwin Ave, Yarralumla, Canberra, ACT-2600,
            Tel 2733222 (?), 2508600, Fax 2508666
Consulates: Adelaide, Tel 2236535
            18 Harry Chan Avenue, Darwin, NT-0800, Tel 819352 (?), 410048,
            Fax 412709
            236-238 Maroubra Road, Maroubra, NSW-2035, Tel 3449933
            72 Queen's Road, Melbourne, VIC-3004, Tel 6907811 (?),
            5252755, Fax 5251588
            134 Adelaide Tce., East Perth, WA-6004, Tel 2198212 (?),
            2215858, Fax 2215688
            Sydney, Tel 3449933

Gustav Tschenmakgasse 5-7, 1180 Wien, Tel 0222342533

Gulshan Ave 75, Gulshan Model Town, Dhaka, Tel 600131

Avenue de Turvueren 294, 1150 Brussels, Tel 7712014

Setor Embaixada Sul Avenida, Das Nacoes Yuadra, 805, Lote 20 Caixa Postal
08934, Tel (06)2430102, 2430233, 2444904, Fax (061)2431713

EDR 4303 Lot 4498 KG, Sungai Hanching Baru, Simpang 528, Jl Muara,
PO Box 3013, Bandar Seri Begawan, Tel 330180

32, Veliko Turnovo Street, Sofia 1504, Tel (00359)(2)442349, 441787,
Fax (00359)(1)446544

Embassy:    287 MacLaren Street, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 0L9,
            Tel (613)2367403
Consulates: 129 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5C 2H6,
            Tel (416)5916462, 3604020, Fax (416)3604295
            1455 West Georgia Street, 2nd Floor, Vancouver, B.C., V6G 2T3,
            Tel (604)6828855, Fax (604)6628396

PO Box 20 D, Santiago, Tel (02)20811541.

Sanlitun Diplomatic Office Building B, Beijing, 100600, Tel 5325484,
Fax 5325366

Carrera 9 No. 76-27, Santa Fe De Bogota D.C., Tel (021)2176738,
Fax (571)2103507

Orehoj Alle 1, 2900 Hellerup, Copenhagen, Tel (01)624539

Mekanisa Road Higher 23, Kebele 13, Hous No. 1816, PO Box 1004, Addis
Ababa, Tel (00251) 712104

37 Berikinkatu, 00810 Helsinki 18, Tel (694)7744

Embassy:    47-49 Rue Contambert, 75116 Paris, Tel 45030760
Consulate:  Marseille, Tel 91713435

Embassy:    Bernkastelerstr. 2, 5300 Bonn 2, Tel (0228)328990
Consulates: Berlin, Tel 4722002, Bremen, Tel (0421)3322224,
            Tel (0211)353081, Frankfurt am Main, Tel (06105)76003,
            Hamburg, Tel (040)512071, Hannover, Tel (511)1032150, Kiel,
            Tel (0431)603425, Muenchen, Tel (089)294609, Stuttgart,
            Tel (711)223729

Consulate: 11-13 Shyrou St, Athens 811, Tel 9914082

Hong Kong
Consulates: 127-129 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong,
            Tel 8904421

Gorkij Fasor No. 26, 1068 Budapest, Tel (361)1428508, Fax (361)1228669

Embassy:    50A Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021, Tel 602353
Consulates: Bombay, Tel 368678, Calcutta, Tel 460297

Hay Al Wahda 906/02/77, PO Box 420, Baghdad, Tel (964-1) 7198677

Embassy:    53 Via Campania, 00187 Rome, Tel 4825951
Consulates: Genoa, Tel 268322, Napoli, Tel 400143, Trieste, Tel 765601

Embassy:    2-9 Higashi Gotanda 5 Chome, Shinagawa-Ku, Tokyo,
            Tel 4414201, 34414201, 34414209, Fax 34471697
Consulates: Fukuoka, Tel (092)7613031
            Kato Building 3rd floor, Kyomachi 76-1, Chuo-ku, Kobe 605,
            Tel (078)3211656, Fax (078)3920792
            883-3 Chome 4-Jo, Miyayanomori, Sapporo, Tel (011)2516002

Utalli Hous 3rd Floor, Uhuru Highway/Loita Street, PO Box 48868, Nairobi,
Tel 215874/5, 215848, Fax (2542)340721

Korea, Democratic People's Republic
5 Foreigner's Building Moon So Dong, PO Box 178 Taedongkang, District
Pyong Yang, Tel 81-7425

Phon Kheng Road, PO Box 277, Vientiane, Tel 413907, 413909, 413910,

Consulate: Gote d'Eich 15, Luxembourg, Tel 0352 471591

Embassy:    Jalan Tun Razak No 233, PO Box 10889, 50400 Kuala Lumpur,
            Tel 9842011
Consulates: Kota Kinabalu, Tel 54100, Penang Island, Tel 25162

Calle Julio Verme No. 27, Colonia Polanco, Mexico 11560 D.F,
Tel 280 5748, 280 6363, 280 6237, 280 6863, Fax 280 7062

100 Pyidaungsu Yeiktha Road, PO Box 1401, Rangoon, Tel 81174, 81358

8 Tobias Asserlaan, 5517 s'Gravenhage, Tel (070)3108100

New Zealand
70 Glen Road, Kelburn, Wellington, Tel 758695, Fax 759374

5, Anifowoshe Street, Victory Island, PO Box 3473, Lagos,
Tel (01)610508, 614601, Fax 234 1 613.301

Gt 8 Inkognito, 0258 Oslo 2, Tel 441121

Embassy:    Diplomatic Enclave Ramna 5/4, PO Box 1019, Islamabad,
            Tel 811291
Consulates: Karachi, Tel 531938

185 Salcedo Street, Lagaspi Village, PO Box 372 MCC, Makati, Metro Manila,
Tel 855061

UL Wachocka No. 9 Saska Kepa, PO Box 33, 03-934 Warsawa, Tel (22) 6173917

Starda Orlando 10, PO Box 1109, Bucharest, Tel 120212, Fax 120214

12 Novokuznetskaya Ulitsa, Moskwa, Tel 2319549

126, Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop-X, Avenue Bourguiba, B.P.5859, Dakkar,
Tel (221) 257316, Fax (221) 255896

7 Chatsworth Road, Singapore 1024, Tel 7377422

Embassy:    65 Calle de Agestia, Madrid 28043, Tel 4130294
Consulates: Barcelona, Tel 3171900

Sri Lanka
1 Police Park, Colombo 5, Tel 580113

47/V Strandvagen, 11456 Stockholm, Tel 6635470

Elfenauweg 51, Postfach 270, 3006 Bern, Tel (031)440983

299, Upanga Road, PO Box 572, Dar Es Salaam, Tel 46347, Fax 46350

600-602 Phetburi Road, Bangkok, Tel 2523135

117, Avenue Jugurtha, Mutullevile B.P. 63,  El-Menzah, 1004, Tunis, 
Tel 797188, Fax: 791303

Abdullah Cevdet Sok No. 10, PK.C 42 Cankaya-06680, Ankara, Tel 4382190,
Fax 4382193

United Kingdom
38 Grosvenor Square, London, Tel (0171)4997661

Embassy:    2020 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20036,
            Tel 202 7755200
Consulates: 2 Illinois Center, 233 North Michigan Avenue, Suite
            1422, Chicago, Il 60601, Tel (312)9380101, Fax (312)9383148
            Honolulu, Tel 808 5244300
            10900 Richmond Avenue, Houston, TX 77042, Tel (713)7851691,
            Fax (713)7809644
            Los Angeles, Tel 213 3835126
            5 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10017, Tel (212)8790600
            1111 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133,
            Tel (415)4749571, Fax (415)4414320

Piazzale Roberto Ardigo 42, 00142 Rome, Tel 594 0441, Fax 541 7934

Apartado De Correos 67061, Caracas 1061-A, Tel (58.2)9780793, Fax 9760550

50 Pho Ngo Quyen, Hanoi, Tel 256316, Fax 259274



Entry to and exit of Indonesia is only allowed at certain 'gateway'
cities. For other cities, a special permit is needed.


Ambon, Bali, Balikpapan, Batam, Biak, Jakarta, Kupang, Manado, Medan,
Pekanbaru, Pontianak, Surabaya, and Ujung Pandang.


Ambon, Bali, Balikpapan, Batam, Jakarta, Manadao, Medan, Riau, Semarang,
Surabaya, and Tanjung Pinang.


There is no limitation on importing and exporting foreign currency.
Indonesian rupees are limited to IDR 50000.

A maximum of two litres alcoholic beverages, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars
or 100 g of tobacco, and a reasonable amount of perfume per adult are
allowed on entry. Cars, photographic equipment, typewriters and tape
recorders must be declared when entering and must be taken out again.
Narcotics, arms and ammunition, TV sets and radios are prohibited.


The currency is the Indonesian Rupee (IDR). It is divided into 100 Sen,
but the Sen is no longer used.
Denominations: 50000, 20000, 10000, 5000, 1000, 500, 100. There are coins
of 500, 100, 50 and 25 IDR.

The exchange rate is about USD 1 = 4860 (15 Dec 1997)
(Historical development: 2330 in Oct 1996, 2200 in Aug 1995,
2200 in 1995, 2160 in 1994, 2087 in 1993, 2030 in 1992, 1950 in 1991,
1843 in 1990)

There are several banks with slightly different exchange rates. Although
they don't vary much, it still may be worth your while to look around for
the best rate on offer. Some banks: Bank Negara Indonesia, Lippo Bank.

Travellers' Cheques can be changed in larger cities and tourist

If you want to leave the beaten path for a longer time, you should
consider postal cheques.


Indonesia's international dial code is 62.

Some area codes (to dial you need the prefix 0):

Jakarta                     21
Medan                       61
Padang                     751
Palembang                  711
Pekanbaru                  761


Acommodation is reletively cheap, starting at less than USD 3, and
ranging to over USD 250. It is usually no problem to get a room.

1.11 FOOD

Food is generally very cheap, to give an example, a glass of tea can be
obtained for as little as IDR 100. Depending on the location, many
different styles of Asian food is available; apart from Indonesian, you
will often see Malay, Chinese and Indian restaurants.

As with accommodation, it is possible to spend a lot of money on food.
A meal in an upper-class restaurant can easily cost USD 50.


The normal health considerations apply to Sumatra. While malaria (see
below) used to be a serious risk some years back, it is nearly extinct
in the cities. However, one should take emergency treatment, just in

Threats for sunbathers are sunburn and heat exhaustion. Drink a lot (not
alcohol) make sure you get enough salt, and cover your skin with sun


Malaria (from Italian 'mala aira', bad air) is an infection of the
blood caused by the bite of mosquitoes (Anopheles). The decay of the
red blood cells causes fever and eventually a lack of oxygen which
can, in case of a malaria cerebral, cause brain damage. Depending on
the type of malaria these fever shocks appear every three (malaria
tertiana) or four (malaria quartana) days. Death rate of malaria is
less than 1%.

There have been many discussions on how to best deal with it and even
the doctors have not yet agreed on a single opinion.

There are two possibilities for prohylaxis. For a short stay (less
than one month) in a malaria endangered region, prophylaxis with
Lariam, as described by doctors, is recommended. This gives nearly
100% protection.

For longer trips, Lariam should not be used, since there are too many
side effects (such as liver problems). If you want to use a
prophylactic at all, use one on Chloroquin (several different brands)
basis. Although protection is only about 50 - 70%, it still reduces
the effects of an actual infection.

The most important thing about malaria is to recognize it as such.
Every little health center with a microscope can make a reliable
diagnose. If you feel sick, have a check done. In case of a negative
result, and you keep feeling sick, then have the check re-done every
three days. Use your own, clean blood-sampling needles.

A special danger causes a malaria that develops at the same time as a
flue or a pneumonia, since it is often recognized too late.

Carry a treatment package with you (e.g. Lariam or Halfon) and use it
according to the instructions on the package slip once malaria has
been diagnosed. Do visit a doctor! Local treatments (mainly
Cloroquine) are made for the local population which is semi-immunized.
These treatments are often too weak for Western people. Somebody
taking Lariam treatment should always be watched by another person,
because of the side-effects (especially mental problems, depressions,
nightmares, and higher photo-sensitivity of the skin. There is even a
small danger of suicide!)

However, the most effective way to prevent malaria are mosquito
repellent (possibly with at least 20% DEET, or citronella.) Since
mosquitoes are only active after sundown and before sunset, make sure
you wear clothes that cover the skin and use a good mosquito net.

Malaria can break quite some time after leaving the endangered region.
Typically, an outbreak occures within the first three months, but I
know of a case where the malaria broke out two years after infection!
Take this into account if you become sick within this time and have a
malaria test made.

The homepage of the Internet Travel Guides is at

Please send your comments, suggestions and contributions to the address
below. For questions, please see my note in the introduction.

Peter M. Geiser
Seeblickstr. 10
9010 St. Gallen


User Contributions:

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