Location

Bukit Lawang is located 86km from the centre of Medan, the largest city in Indonesia's Northern island of Sumatra, at the entrance to Gunung Leuser National Park, the last sanctuary of the Sumatran orangutan.

As it is so close to Medan, and as Medan dominates North Sumatra, it's almost impossible to visit Bukit Lawang without passing through it, although the city of Binjai, 18km from Medan on the road to Bukit Lawang is a bus stop for buses from Banda Aceh.

Reaching Bukit Lawang from within North Sumatra

Private transport

 

To reach Bukit Lawang from Medan city or Medan airport, we offer a private, air-con car from this website at £40, one-way, taking around 3.5 hours from the airport, and 3 hours from the city. Please see our trekking page for more information about our services. We can also arrange pickup from other locations.

Public transport 

Bukit Lawang Bus Station (Gotong Royong)

The Bukit Lawang bus station and weekly market (Fridays) is located in the village of Gotong Royong, about 1.5km from Bukit Lawang itself. Although private cars (including the air con tourist buses) and motorbikes can enter Bukit Lawang (although cars cannot get past the entrance area), public buses from Medan/Binjai run only as far as the bus station. 

You may be approached by a guide, either at the bus station in Gotong Royong, or on arrival in Bukit Lawang. Their goal is to sell jungle treks. If you don't intend to book a trek with them, then it's best to advise them that you have already booked a trek, and don't require assistance finding accommodation, transport, etc., so they will not waste their time.

To reach Bukit Lawang from the bus station, you can take a becak (rickshaw). Drivers ask tourist a fare of 10,000idr, or 15,000idr if you can squeeze two people in a single becak. It's not necessarily to haggle with becak drivers as these fares are standard. Everyone is going the same place, except visitors to Rindu Alam, Batu Mandi and Ecolodge, who can be dropped off a little closer to their hotel if they tell the becak driver where they are going. When the becak drops you off in Bukit Lawang itself you will have a walk of 2 to 30 minutes to reach your guesthouse, depending on where you are staying.

If you prefer to walk instead of taking a becak, the best walking route is not to go along the main road, but instead to head out the back of the bus station, and then turn right, head across the field, and then along the irrigation canal towards Bukit Lawang. 

From Medan Kuala Namu airport via Binjai

The airport for Medan, Kuala Namu, opened on July 24 2013. Unlike the now closed Polonia airport, which was in central Medan, the new airport is located around 30km beyond Medan (so further from Bukit Lawang).

The simplest public transport option from the airport is the ALS (Antar Lintas Sumatera) bus to Binjai, a city just beyond Medan on the road to Bukit Lawang. The fare from the airport is 40,000rp by ALS  bus. This bus takes 2 hours and runs every 45 minutes between around 3am and 10pm. 

From Binjai Supermall to Bukit Lawang

Buses to Binjai terminate on the east (Medan) side of the city, across the road from the Binjai Supermall. 

To continue your journey from Binjai to Bukit Lawang, you should catch a 'P.S' (Pembangunan Semesta) minibus, hailing the bus from directly outside the Supermall, as they pass by on the journey between Medan and Bukit Lawang. The fare is 15,000IDR payable on arrival in Bukit Lawang, not before!

From Binjai Tanah Lapang to Bukit Lawang

On arrival at Binjai's main bus station, you might be told to take a becak (rickshaw) to Tanah Lapang, which is 2km further west, and is just a junction where buses from Medan to Bukit Lawang stop to pickup passengers

In general this is to be avoided, as there are 'preman' (local smalltime mafia), who hang around at Tanah Lapang. These preman try to control the flow of tourists from Tanah Lapang to Bukit Lawang by demanding excessive fares, often in excess of 100,000IDR per person. They also have connections with drivers returning from Medan airport and if you have missed the last bus (sometime after 6pm, typically), they will arrange for them to pick you up - at inflated cost.

You may wish to head to Tanah Lapang if you are a little late arriving in Binjai (after around 5:30pm) as there may be no more buses from Medan, but there might still be some from Binjai Tanah Lapang. Note that the rickshaw fare to Tanah Lapang from the Supermall/train station/bus station should be around 10,000rp, but they may ask much more.

From Kuala Namu airport via Medan city

If you wish to spend a  night in Medan (this isn't necessary if you use our private transport as we can pickup any time, and note there are also hotels near the airport, which is more convenient if you just want to stay overnight), DAMRI buses run about every fifteen minutes. These run to Medan Fair Mall on Jalan Gatot Subroto, about 6km short of the bus station for Bukit Lawang, and also to Amplas bus station (for Lake Toba). Fares are 20,000rp to Medan Fair Mall, and 15,000rp to Amplas.

A train service runs from the airport to Medan city. The official 'Raillink' site is not very informative, so it is better to use a third-party site for information, such as Traveloka. Here you can buy a flexible (for a specific date) ticket for 75,000 IDR. The full price is 100,000IDR. This is rather expensive, and for two people a taxi will cost a similar amount. From Medan city train station you can potentially continue to Binjai on a separate train.

The Binjai train station is located close to the terminus for the airport bus, so see above for onward transport.

From Medan city to Bukit Lawang

Bus

Reaching the bus station

Buses for Bukit Lawang leave from 'Kampung Lalang' a district on the outskirts of Medan, about 8km from the centre. They are supposed to leave from Pinang Baris, the bus station close by, and transportation drivers may try to take you there, but anyone in the area should be able to direct you to the right place to catch a bus, which is directly outside the 'Toko Roti Mawar' (Mawar Bakery), around 600m north of Pinang Baris, as marked on the map above, just around 50 metres from the junction of the main Medan - Binjai road (turn left if coming from Medan), i.e. the junction of Jalan Gatot Subroto (main road) and Jalan Pinang Baris (to the left). 

To reach this area from Medan, either take a taxi (around 30,000rp-40,000rp - Bluebird and Express taxis are metered and are better, non-metered taxis are more expensive), or a yellow local bus (5,000rp) labelled as going to Pinang Baris, 'Kp. Lalang' (Kampung Lalang) or 'Binjai'. 

Motorised rickshaws, known as becaks, are more readily available in Medan than taxis. We do not recommend the rickshaws, as they are not metered (hence very expensive for a tourist) and they are very cramped for two people with luggage, however whereas taxis are sometimes scarce, the becaks are pretty much everywhere.

Buses from the bus stop outside the Mawar bakery

Mitsubishi L300 (known as el-tiga ratus) minibuses are privately owned and cramped. The PS (pronounced Pay-Es, and short for Pembangunan Semesta, the name of the bus company operating them) buses are orange coloured, and a slightly larger mini-us, around 20 seats. The cost is 18,000rp to Bukit Lawang, payable on arrival. If you don't like to be crowded, you can pay extra to buy more than one seat so you have more space to yourself.

Smoking, with the windows closed, is common on the minibuses, Indonesians don't like the wind! The L300 minibus engine is mounted under the front seat, so it can be quite hot here (but also anywhere else in the bus). The buses break down quite often, and if this happens you will be expected to pay the cost of your journey to where the bus has broken down, from where you just have to wait for the next bus to go by.

Last bus is around 5:30pm from Medan, and the journey time is 3 hours.

WARNING: overcharging on the bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang is almost universal. Touts at the bus stop will try to tell you to pay before boarding, and that the cost is 50,000rp, 150,000rp or even more. The fact is that the fare is no more than 20,000rp and you pay ONLY when you reach Bukit Lawang, not before. However the bus station touts are aggressive drug addicts and the driver may refuse to take you if you don't accept being overcharged. You could potentially avoid this overcharging by flagging down the bus 1km down the road, on the main road between Medan and Binjai. Or just accept that you will probably be overcharged!

Bus or train via Binjai

If you are running a little late, you can head to Binjai by taxi or yellow bus. If you take a yellow bus you will need to continue on to Tanah Lapang by becak (rickshaw), or by taxi continue as far as Tanah Lapang. See further info above.

A train service runs about every 2 hours from Medan to Binjai, but it's less practical than the bus, although if you are near the train station at the time it's leaving, you could try it. The train takes you to near the Binjai Supermall, the same area as the terminus for the airport bus - so see further above. You can check tickets at <a href="https://www.traveloka.com/en/kereta-api">Traveloka</a>.

Rental car (self-drive)

Not really a recommended option, as it's not really any cheaper than renting a car with a driver, and the local driving standards are very poor, so you need to be quite brave to do this. 

To/From Berastagi and Lake Toba

Foot

It is not possible to trek directly from Berasatagi to Bukit Lawang, however treks 'from Bukit Lawang' go from Marike, 30km south of Bukit Lawang (reached by car) and take 4 days to Berastagi.

Private car

Allow seven hours from Lake Toba, five hours from Berastagi, travelling in both cases by road via Medan. We can arrange this for you, please see our trekking page for more details.

Tourist bus

If there's only one or two travelling, it will be cheaper to get a tourist bus than a private car. The cost is 150,000rp to/from Berastagi, 200,000rp from Lake Toba.

Public bus

From Berastagi buses run to Padang Bulan bus station in Medan, and to Pinang Baris bus station, Medan. Pinang Baris is much more convenient for Bukit Lawang, whereas from Padang Bulan you'll have to take a local bus (or taxi) to Pinang Baris (Kampung Lalang).

From Lake Toba the bus runs to Amplas bus station. From here you will need to travel to Kampung Lalang/Pinang Baris by private taxi, or take local buses to Pinang Baris.

Train

There is no train towards Berastagi, in the mountains. A daily economy class train runs from Medan to Pematangsiantar, which is less than an hour from Lake Toba by bus. Alternatively many more trains, including some executive class trains, run from Binjai to Medan to Tebing Tinggi, roughly half-way between Medan and Lake Toba, and back again (in the reverse direction most terminate at Medan rather than Binjai).

See train map and timetable.

To/From Tangkahan

To/from Tangkahan there are essentially two choices - the shorter but more broken road, or the longer, but still poorly surfaced road.

If you choose the shorter route you will need a proper off-road vehicle, or a motorbike. We can arrange either, please contact us. This should take 2.5 - 3 hours.

Another option is an elephant trek, although few recommend this unless you are sure you want to spend a very long time (rather than, say, just one hour) sitting on the back of an uncomfortable elephant.

The longer route goes via Binjai, and it is NOT recommended, because it takes much longer than the off road route. However, if you must go by public bus, then from Bukit Lawang to Binjai (70km/2hours), travelling from there by bus to Stabat, Batang Serangan and finally Simpang Robert on the way to Tangkahan. P.S. (large, slow) From Medan, however, buses bound for Tangkahan go several times daily from Medan.