TOP 10 BEST TRAVEL TIPS ACROSS SUMATRA

Indonesia lays in the archipelago with over than 17000+ islands. One of the biggest islands is Sumatra. Quiet place to feel the real adventure on hiking up the highest mountain Mount Leuser, rafting wild river of Alas River, spotting fancy and critically extinct animals in Leuseur National Park, riding the best world wave on surfing, visiting culture village, visiting beautiful lake Toba, and lots of other destinations. Meet nice and friendly locals nearby and enjoy delicious food around the villages. You may not find other places as good on such a small budget, the most affordable spending in Asia with many great places to discover. Here are 10 tips to help you on your travel across Sumatra.

1. Bring Cash and Stash Extra Cash

Most destinations are adventure or semi-adventure in remote places such as mountains, lakes or the ocean. Cash is king. All transactions are in cash (rupiah) including paying for the hotel, food, transportation and other stuff you need to buy locally. As you arrive or pass through a big city go find an ATM or money changer and prepare enough cash with your budget for the amount of days you will spend in Sumatra. Stash extra cash to prepare for any emergencies, make sure to stash some in a few different places and various amount. If your card stops working, or the ATM has run out of money, which happens often, you will be glad you did. Note: Local taxis and motorbike taxis will increase the prices for westerners so it is always good to negotiate the prices. 

2. Pack Efficiently

Sumatra has a tropical climate hot and humid. Every six months the rainy season and dry season interchange. Generally the rainy season begins in November and runs through until April. Pack your clothes fit for the season.  Although, both seasons are generally hot so pack for the heat and one or two warm items for hiking adventures. In fact, most travellers, especially beginners do not need a half the gear they pack. Make sure that everything you own fits on your back. Some items can be bought at your destination city. An expert traveler will always bring multifunction stuff that is always handy when traveling. Such as Shemagh scarf which has multifunction purpose, as protecting from dust, sun, to be blanket, pillow, and towel and also fashionable.

3. Manage Communication

In Sumatra, especially in western the link mountains of Bukit Barisan may cause phone signal sometimes difficult to find. To keep in touch with family is very important. Not all phone providers received good signal. A local SIM card from SIMPATI Telkomsel is recommended and you may get one month valid for only USD15. Telkomsel has the best available signal and also provides internet packages with some sim cards so be sure to add credit for phones calls as well as internet. Being able to send emails or update Facebook can be easily done with a Telkomsel sim.

4. Taking Care Your Body

Overjoyed with excitement on traveling often can make you forget about taking care of your body. Moving from city to city, mountain to mountain takes lots of your energy without you noticing it. As Indonesia, especially Sumatra is in the area where equator line passes through makes for hot and humid travel.  There are not a lot of locations selling sun cream so be sure to bring some with you. As for a long journey it is very difficult to maintain a routine. So, do not forget to eat healthy food where possible, get enough sleep and stay hydrated by always keeping a bottle of water on you. Take an early morning walk to get the blood flowing and you will find some very interesting locals’ participating in their daily activity in the early morning hours, which can be very interesting.

5. Meet the People

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Visiting new places in Sumatra will allow you to meet new people. Sumatra is a huge island; there you may find many tribes all with very different ways of life and different dialects. Batak, Mentawaian, Minangkabau, Aceh, Lampung, Kubu are among tribes living in Sumatra. However, the same issue is for everyone that visits the local tribes – if we meet strangers coming to your environment – be cautious and learn and respect the culture. Make eye contact and smile as you walk by. This is a fast way to make new friends. They will open up wider as soon as you initiate to open up first. A bonus is to make friends with locals as they would be glad to point you towards some places or people, like dangerous places that you might want to avoid. Listen to them as their advice may be of great help.

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6. Learn the Language

Before start your travel, it is recommended to learn local language for daily conversation like to say ‘Halo, apa kabar?’ means ‘Hello, how are you?” to locals. Learn Bahasa Indonesia basic daily conversation is enough as basic English is spoken widely as well, especially when you combine with body language and hand gestures, it is easier than you may think.  Always get a pocket dictionary English-Indonesian along your journey. Generally, local guides are fluent in Bahasa Indonesia and many of them also mastered good English. Note that in most remote area the villagers do not understand national language Bahasa Indonesia. They have their local or tribe language and very different for each tribe across Sumatra.

7. Try Local Food

Rendang is a traditional dish from Padang city, West Sumatra. It made from cow or buffalo meat cooked with coconut milk and lots of spices for hours. Other local food from fish such as Empek-Empek, made from grilled fish fillet with sour sauce is the signature food of Palembang city, South Sumatra. Most food in Sumatra is very affordable and ultimately delicious. For Rendang and Empek-Empek you can get both for less than USD2. Amazing? Yes! There are more dishes available to try. New experiences in trying food always add spice to your travels and turn into fun stories later.

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8. Respect the Culture

Different cultures and tribes often have different rules for guests. In Sumatra you may visit Mentawai village, a traditional village and tribe in Sumatra. Usually they have cultural law which is unwritten and less spoken. Make sure to find this out by asking locals or make sure your guide explains about the rules as each locations culture can be very different.

9. Take Tons of Photos and Take Notes

Experience is the teacher of life. Some people have the bad memory on details. Pictures will describe almost all, including a smile from the local children, colors of orangutan fur in the wild and the beautiful scenery of Sumatra. No one can guarantee that you will meet the same people twice or come to the same spot again. Photos don’t cost anything however it is a treasure forever. Bring a good camera; take lots of photos of the beauty you catch on your journey and share to people to inspire them about Sumatra and even share on the mySumatra facebook page. In fact, it will not need any extra space in your backpack or luggage too.

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Writing journal is also very important to express your feelings about someplace or some moment interesting to you while it still fresh in your mind. Writing will complete the photos for the story behind. You can even submit your travel articles to us and we will pay you for it.

10. Enjoy Sumatra – slow down and don’t plan too much

With a huge numbers of places to go it sometimes can be difficult to choose. Pick a starting point, chose one or two must-visit or activities you most want to visit, and then decide an ending point or not, it depends on situation you find or excitement you enjoy. Most travellers enjoy not having a specific time at one place as sometimes the true experiences happen when you really take the time exploring the area. 

Interesting spots are spread among Sumatra, between one place to another sometimes you will spend hours in the bus, taxi or small aircraft. Entertain yourself by listening to music, interviews, podcast or perhaps traditional music. Don’t forget to download all of that stuff before starting your journey. Bring extended battery for your gadget.

Sumatra is one very unique island and your experiences there you will never find anywhere in the world, enjoy life in difference.