Since the completion of the Kuala Namu - Medan - Binjai toll road in 2022, by far and away the best way to reach Bukit Lawang is by private transport, as there is a toll between the airport and Binjai, meaning traffic delays essentially eliminated between Medan and Bukit Lawang IF you use private transport - noting that public transport does not use the toll roads between Medan airport and Bukit Lawang. The journey time will therefore be 3 hours from the airport to Bukit Lawang. This compares to around five hours or more by public transport
We offer a private, air-con car from this website at £45, one-way, taking around 3 hours from the airport or city. Please see our trekking page for more information about our services. We can also arrange pickup from other locations.
Public transport from Medan airport
There are several transport options from Medan airport:
- The airport train, which takes 35 minutes to central Medan, stopping only once at Batangkuis (which is of no use for tourists). It costs 70,000rp, or 50,000rp each for 3 or more passengers, and is air conditioned and comfortable, though the schedule is not frequent enough, and the last train is at 8:30pm. If you are planning to sleep in Medan, you might prefer to take a Damri bus, because they will stop anywhere along their route, whereas the airport train typically requires additional transportation.
- Damri buses which run into central Medan past Amplas bus station along Jalan Sisingamaraja, past Masjid Raya as far as Carrefour Medan Fair, in west central Medan. They run until the last plane has landed. The journey time will be around 75 minutes. The fare is 40,000rp. Since these are government owned/operated, they are more comfortable than any of the other buses, and are a good alternative to the train.
- Almasar buses, which also run past Amplas bus station, as far as the junction of Simpang Pos, at Jalan Jamin Ginting (Padang Bulan), where they will head south via Pancur Batu to Kabanjahe via Berastagi. The fare is 40,000 rupiah to Simpang Pos, where you can change for Bukit Lawang, and 60,000rp to Berastagi or Kabanjahe. After 9pm the fare to Berastagi/Kabanjahe increases to 100,000rp. A through ticket to Bukit Lawang costs 80,000rp, which is more expensive than buying separate tickets for the two separate buses.
- ALS buses, which also run past Amplas bus station all the way along the ring road to the junction of Jalan Gato Subroto, as far as Binjai bus station. They charge 40,000rp to points up to Simpang Pos, or 50,000rp for all points up to Binjai.
- Paradep buses to Siantar, where you can change for a bus for Parapat, for Lake Toba
- Nicetrans shared cars ('taxis') to Siantar, where you can change for a bus for Parapat, for Lake Toba
Transport within Medan
Although there are public buses in Medan, the best way to get around is using private transport via the ride-hailing apps Grab and/or Gojek. They fully cover the area between Medan airport and Binjai. They don't operate in Bukit Lawang.
Public transport options to and from Bukit Lawang
There are two competing buses from Medan to Bukit Lawang.
The first is Almasar, which runs from opposite Carrefour Citra Garden 1km south to SPBU Simpang Pos (which is just north of Padang Bulan, the bus station for Berasatagi), on the ring road. From there it heads west to Pasar Melati, past Graha Bunda Maria Annai Velangkanni, to Mawar Bakery Pinang Baris, where it will wait for up to 30 minutes for passengers, before heading to Binjai, via Binjai train station/Binjai Supermall, to Tanah Lapang Merdeka Binjai where it waits for up to 30 minutes for passengers, before heading to Bukit Lawang via the small towns of Kuala (where the road is in poor condition) and Tanjung Langkat.
The second is Pembanungan Semesta (referred to as P.S., pronounced Pay-Ess), which has the same route, but starting only from Mawar Bakery Pinang Baris.
In the reverse direction there is only one extended stop for either bus, for about 20 minutes at Bohorok, 10km from Bukit Lawang.
Both charge the same fare, 25,000rp (if you have more than 'hand luggage' you should expect to pay more), payable on arrival, not departure, and will fit in as many passengers as possible and more. However Almasar has air conditioning, but people still smoke and the windows are open, so it is barely noticeable. It is still slightly better, but not worth waiting for - take whichever bus is leaving soonest. The journey time between Bukit Lawang and Mawar Bakery is three hours.
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.
Routes between Medan airport and Bukit Lawang by public transport
After you have collected your bags, if you want to travel to Bukit Lawang in a cost-effective manner by public transport, you must take a bus or train. However, if you start after about 4pm, it won't be possible to reach Bukit Lawang the same day. In this case you can either book direct private transport with us, or sleep in Medan city. Do not sleep in Binjai, where the accommodation options are bad. (Accommodation at/near Medan airport is only recommended if you have a flight there the next day, it's not a good option for travel to Bukit Lawang).
The options for travel FROM Medan airport to Bukit Lawang by public transport:
- Train to Medan city, spend some time in Medan, train to Binjai station, then bus from Binjai Supermall to Bukit Lawang. Advantage: comfortable as far as Binjai. Disadvantages: the bus will have some passengers already at Binjai, so you can't choose where you sit. Train schedules are infrequent, waiting required. Cost 70,000rp (Airport-Medan) + 5,000rp (Medan-Binjai) + 20,000rp (Binjai - Bukit Lawang)
- Almasar bus to Simpang Pos, change there for Almasar bus to Bukit Lawang. Advantages: not many. Disadvantages: waits at Simpang Pos, Mawar Bakery and Binjai. Buses aren't very comfortable. Cost: 80,000rp (single ticket)
- ALS bus to Binjai/Mawar Bakery, then P.S. OR Almasar bus to Bukit Lawang. Advantages: choice of buses to Bukit Lawang. More frequent than the train. Disadavantages: buses aren't very comfortable.
If choosing between Almasar and ALS at the airport, you should take whichever one is fuller, it will leave sooner. Don't ask when the bus is leaving, they will tell you 'soon' or 'five minutes'. Use your own judgement.
For travel FROM Bukit Lawang to the airport, then you have the following options:
- Either an Almasar or PS bus as far as Binjai bus/train station, then an ALS bus to the airport. Cost 20,000rp + 60,000rp. Advantages: straightforward. Disadvantage: the ALS schedule is every 30 minutes to 1pm only. After 1pm there might not be any bus.
- Either an Almasar or PS bus as far as Binjai bus/train station, a train to Medan, then a train to the airport. Cost: 20,000rp + 5,000rp + 70,000rp. Advantages: typically the fastest option IF there is a train from Binjai within 30 minutes of your arrival. Comfortable trains. Can eat in Medan. Disadvantage: train schedule is infrequent, although reliable.
- Either an Almasar or PS bus as far as Mawar bakery, then a Grab/Gocar to Medan train station (around 30 minutes), then a train to the airport. Cost 25,000rp + around 50,000rp (per car!) + 70,000rp. Advantage: comfortable. Disadvantage: you must allow enough time to reach Medan station, because if you miss the train you will have a long wait till the next one, best if you have some reason to visit Medan.
- An Almasar bus directly to Simpang Pos, then either an Almasar or ALS bus to Kuala Namu. Cost: 25,000rp + 40,000rp (if you buy a through ticket costing 80,000rp then they are more likely to help you with the transfer, however since ALS buses also pass by - you should hail them to stop - it's not clear why you would buy this ticket. Advantages:
Using the train
The train station at Medan airport is directly in front of the terminal, it's the closest option and you can buy a ticket up to five minutes before departure. It's quite easy to use. Do not buy tickets in advance, because your flight might be delayed.
At Medan station the airport line and Binjai line are on separate levels, you will need to allow 10 minutes to change, longer if you have to buy a tiket as well. There is no luggage storage facility at Medan train station. The airport train is close to the bridge which links Medan train station with the Center Point mall, the best mall in Medan, which has many food and shopping options, and is fully air conditioned. If you prefer to go out into the heat of the city, it's around 700 metres walk from the train station to Garuda restaurant on Jalan Palang Merah, which is a good choice for Padang food, or a similar distance is Tiptop restaurant, and Tjong A Fie mansion, one of Medan's leading tourist attractions.
From Binjai station it's simple to purchase a ticket to Medan for 5,000rp cash. The ticket office is directly adjacent to the platform. To check the schedule you MUST use the KAI Access app, and then choose 'KA Lokal'. It is not possible to buy a ticket online unless you have a local 'OVO' ewallet.
For tickets Medan station - Kuala Namu, it's best to buy tickets using the app KA Bandara, which accepts debit/credit cards, at least one hour before departure. Otherwise you can buy them in person at the station. Schedules are available on the website, and as of April 2023 were for Kuala Namu airport - Medan city:
And for Medan city - Binjai
- 09:30 (connects with 38 minutes FROM 08:20 train from airport)
- 11:00 (connects with 58 minutes FROM 09:30 train from airport)
- 14:00 (connects with 18 minutes FROM 13:10 train from airport)
- 15:30 (connects with 38 minutes FROM 14:20 train from airport)
- 17:15 (connects with 63 minutes FROM 15:40 train from airport)
- 19:35 (too late to connect to Bukit Lawang)
Meanwhile the trains for Binjai - Medan city
And Medan city - Kuala Namu airport, taking 32-35 minutes.
- 08:10 (07:10 connection from Binjai)
- 10:15 (08:45 connection from Binjai; long wait)
- 11:30 (10:15 connection from Binjai; long wait)
- 12:40 (11:45 connection from Binjai)
- 15:20 (14:45 connection from Binjai - short connection, buy your ticket for this leg online!)
- 18:00 (16:30 connection from Binjai; long wait)
The train from Siantar (one hour before Lake Toba) is basically useless for tourism, as it departs Siantar at 07:30, and then leaves Medan to go back to Lake Toba at 14:15, arriving 17:08, which is too late to get to Lake Toba