Sumatran Highlights Trip Notes

Sumatran Highlights

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2013
Sumatran Highlights
Trip code: TIST
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2013
Rich with ancient tradition and jaw-dropping natural wonders, Sumatra exudes a captivating mystique. From the panoramic delights of the Sibayak Volcano summit, to the stunning Gayo Highlands, to the thriving marine ecosystems off Palau Weh, this remarkable journey walks you through steaming jungles, over rocky outcrops and across pristine shores. Along the way meet welcoming villagers on a homestay near Lake Toba and see how the people of Banda Aceh rebuilt after the devastating 2004 tsunami. The spirit of beautiful Sumatra will completely captivate and leave you wanting more.
Table of Contents
StyleGroup sizeEmergency funds
ThemesYour fellow travellersVisas
MapSingle travellersIssues on your trip
ItineraryAccommodationWhat to take
We also recommendMeals introductionHealth
Itinerary disclaimerMealsSafety
Culture shock rating TransportTravel insurance
Physical ratingGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Included activitiesJoining point A couple of rules
Optional activitiesJoining point descriptionThe Intrepid Foundation
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsResponsible Travel projects
Spending moneyArrival complicationsCarbon offset
TippingFinish point Feedback
Departure taxFinish point description
Important notesEmergency contact
  • Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Sumatran Highlights
Day 1 Medan
Selamat datang! Welcome to Indonesia.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Sprawling Medan is the capital of north Sumatra, boasting a impressive graveyard of colonial buildings worth exploring.
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Lake Toba
From the local bus station we journey to Parapat (approx 4.5 hrs), our jumping off point to Samosir Island in Lake Toba. The views along the way are dotted with jungle, rubber and palm oil plantations, and the occasional village.
Embark on a ferry to the relaxed small town of Tuk Tuk (approx 45 mins).
Lake Toba is the world's largest volcanic lake, formed thousands of years ago by a 'supervolcano' that according to some theories is said to have started an ice age. Fortunately for us, temperatures are a bit warmer these days and the island is now home to the warm and friendly Batak Toba people.
After settling into our guesthouse we'll have the opportunity to try some of the delicious local cuisine from one of the many small restaurants around the lake - fresh lake fish being the speciality, of course.
Discover the interesting Batak culture with a full day tour of Samosir. The Toba Bataks have a unique religion, architecture and culture, although they are predominantly Christian, with a healthy dose of animism. The island is punctuated with many ancient and modern grave sites, several of which we'll see on our tour. The most distinctive element of their culture is the traditional architecture - extraordinary boat-like houses with roofs resembling buffalo horns. Hopefully you'll also have the opportunity to view some traditional Batak dance and perhaps climb a nearby hill for some impressive views of the lake.
Return to our guesthouse with time to seek out some traditional weaving or woodcarving from the nearby souvenir shops, or maybe a dip in the refreshing cool waters of Lake Toba. Music was traditionally played as part of religious ceremonies and today still plays a very important role, most evenings you'll find groups sitting around strumming guitars and belting out the most sublime ballads, usually accompanied by a few glasses of jungle juice (tuak).
Optional Activities
  • Bike Hire - IDR50000
Guesthouse (2 nts)
Days 4-5 Berastagi
Return by ferry to Parapat.
Meet our local guide, who will accompany us by minivan to the Batak Karo village of Dokan, near the agricultural centre of Berastagi.
Make several stops along the way - the first Simalungun Palace was home to the last Batak king. Then continue to the impressive Sipiso Piso waterfall, cascading 120 metres down to Lake Toba. Nearby we stop for lunch in Tongging village on the lake's edge. BBQ fish anyone?
On arrival at Dokan, we'll store our small daypacks - packed with essentials for our homestay and tomorrow's trek - and our larger bags will remain in our van.
Our guide will introduce us to our village hosts and explain a little of Batak Karo culture. Here you'll have the opportunity to observe and experience the lifestyle of these friendly people who still live a very traditional life.
Expect to rough it - the accommodation is basic. We sleep traditionally on woven mats with several families inside the longhouse. Please bring your own sleeping mat and sleeping bag for a more comfortable night's sleep. It can be quite smoky inside, but warm and cosy in this cooler high-altitude climate. Basic outdoor washing facilities are shared with the village.
Make an early start (about 6am) and transfer by minivan to the start of our climb up Sibayak Volcano.
It's a 4 hour hike along a shady jungle path to the top of Sibayak Volcano (2094 m). It may be slippery and muddy, but it's possible to see lots of wildlife along the trek - gibbons, Thomas Leaf monkeys, birds and even, if we're lucky, a slow loris. At the top you can see the steaming vapours escaping from the fumaroles of this active volcano, and be rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding Karo Highlands.
Descend via the Curam Valley Steps, ending at Semangat Gunung hot springs, a great way to melt away the tiredness from our expedition.
Continue on to our hotel in Berastagi.
An agricultural town centred around colourful produce and fruit markets, Berastagi is a charming place to explore.
Included Activities
  • Guided tour of Simualungun Palace
  • Sipiso Piso waterfall
  • Mt Sibayak climb
  • Semangat Hot Springs
Homestay (1 nt), Hotel (1 nt)
Days 6-7 Ketambe
Head off the beaten track to the tropical jungle of Aceh province via minivan (approx 8 hrs).
Arrive in the tiny village of Ketambe where we'll again store our large bags and head out with small overnight packs for our jungle camp in Gunung Leuser National Park, home of the Sumatran orangutan. Be prepared for an adventure!
It's a 2 hour walk at a relaxed pace to the campsite. Along the way our guides can point out orangutan nests, edible plants for us to try, monkeys, birds, and hopefully a wild orangutan. Our campsite is in an absolutely magical location - a pristine river gently bubbles along beside us, surrounded by magnificent virgin rainforest. Upon arrival, we put up our tents, sort out our bedding for the night, then there's time for a coffee break or a reviving swim in the nearby river. Bedding is not provided, so bring your own sleeping mat and sleeping bag.
Set off on a wildlife-spotting trek, in search of our red-headed cousins. The World Heritage-listed Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the world's most diverse ecosystems, home to many endangered species including tigers, elephants, rhinoceros and, of course, the orangutan. There are more than 300 species of birds here and many rare plants and flowers, including the giant, stinky Rafflesia.
Return to camp for a short rest before dinner, then maybe some 'tall tales' from our guides before retiring for the evening, to the sounds of the surrounding jungle.
Before breakfast the next morning, take a short guided walk around the area, a chance to see the local inhabitants of this tropical rainforest as they start their day, foraging for food in the trees above. After our meal, cross the river and arrive, after about an hour and a half, at some natural hot springs. Time for a relaxing soak, before returning to pack up camp. Walk back through the jungle and return to our guesthouse at Ketambe. There's an option for a longer walk here if desired with more chance of seeing our furry friends.
Included Activities
  • Wildlife spotting jungle trek
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt)
Days 8-9 Gayo Highlands
Drive through the magnificent Gayo Highlands to Takengon. Although our drive today is long (approx 10 hrs), the views are breathtaking as we wind through the cool mountainous landscape. Some of the best coffee in the world is grown in these hills - in fact, Starbucks buys coffee from here.
Takengon is the largest town in central Aceh. It sits at an elevation of 1120 m and can get decidedly cool with average temperatures of 20C. Built on the shores of picturesque Laut Tawar Lake, it's a relaxing and charming spot.
Islamic sharia law is practised in the Aceh province so all women are required to cover up and Muslim women must wear a headscarf. Long baggy pants and modest loose-fitting long sleeve tops are a must for both men and women. Unmarried couples are not permitted to share a room. The sale of alcohol is prohibited. Despite these laws, Aceh will challenge any negative stereotypes you have about Islam, people here are friendly and easygoing. Women are well educated and have a prominent place in society.
Visit the nearby Loyang Koro Cave - 'Buffalo Cave' in the local language.
You have some free time to admire the views, sample the world famous Gayo coffee or perhaps wander the markets of this interesting little town.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Banda Aceh
Travel to the coastal capital of the region, Banda Aceh (approx 8 hrs).
Banda Aceh was completely devastated in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. 61,000 people lost their lives and the city was reduced to rubble in a matter of hours. Today it's hard to tell anything had happened, the rebuilt city has a village-like atmosphere, filled with welcoming locals.
Please note that this is a very culturally sensitive area, governed by sharia law. Please take the time to read the 'Important Notes' and 'Local Dress' sections of these Trip Notes where you can find more extensive information.
We'll have the opportunity to try some delicious Acehnese cuisine and meet some Network for Tsunami Aceh volunteers who will be showing us around the area during our stay.
Begin our day with visits to some tsunami landmarks and historical and cultural sites around the city. You can begin to understand the scale of the disaster with our stop at Lampulo, where we can see a large fishing boat sitting surreally on top of a house in the middle of a suburban street, a truly shocking image. Our next stop at Punge is another boat, but this even larger 2500-tonne power-generator vessel was swept 4 km inland. At this site there's a small memorial park with a wall of shocking photographs from the time, very sobering. Then visit the Tsunami Museum and The Museum Aceh with displays of traditional Acehnese architecture.
We continue to Layeun where we get to sample some tasty Acehnese food prepared for us by NTA. As is the norm in Sumatra, all the available dishes are bought to the table, and you select what you think looks the tastiest, which is better than getting food envy when you see others eating something more delicious than you. We are entertained by a traditional dance performance presented by some of the NTA kids. After lunch we may visit the NTA's learning centre (depending on the school term time). Here we have a chance to discuss the project and ask questions, or perhaps practice some English with the kids there.
Included Activities
  • NTA Tsunami Tour
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 12-13 Pulau Weh
Transfer to Uleh-leh port and catch a ferry to the nearby tropical island of Pulau Weh. The ferry takes about 45 mins, then it's a half hour drive to our hotel at Sumur Tiga Beach.
From our simple cliffside bamboo huts you're rewarded with amazing views of the pristine white sand beach below, palm trees swaying in the breeze, gentle waves lapping the flowery coral reefs - absolutely postcard perfect! Our hotel is entirely built from locally sourced materials, even tables built from wood salvaged after the tsunami and tissue boxes made by a women's group in Banda Aceh. Snorkelling is possible directly off the beach and there's also a shaded seating area with hammocks and deck chairs.
Indulge in a mouth-watering buffet. Our host is a passionate chef and the selection is always different. They also serve alcohol to non-Muslim guests. Once we've eaten our fill, fall asleep to the sound of the sea.
Explore Pulua Weh's dazzling snorkelling sites. The island is somewhat mountainous, covered in lush dense jungle for the most part, and essentially horseshoe-shaped with many small bays and stretches of sandy beaches surrounded by coral reef. We take a minivan and may encounter some wildlife along the route. There's also the opportunity to stop at a waterfall and some interesting bubbling springs along the way.
Please note, due to local religious laws no swimming, snorkelling or diving is permitted on the island from 6pm Thursday until 2pm Friday.
Included Activities
  • Snorkelling
Optional Activities
  • Scuba Diving - IDR500000
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Medan
From Banda Aceh board a flight back to Medan.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Hotel (1 nt)
    We also recommend
    If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
    • Jakarta to Ubud (TISE)
    Itinerary disclaimer
    Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website:
    Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
    Culture shock rating

    Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
    Physical rating

    This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
    Included activities
    Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
    Optional activities
    A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
    Money Exchange
    The official currency of Malaysia is the Ringgit (MYR).
    The most convenient and cheapest way to obtain local currency in is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATM's are now readily available and visa cash advances are available in major banks. Foreign currency notes that are old, torn or faded can be very difficult to exchange, clean bills in small denominations are most useful. Traveller's cheques can be difficult to change.
    The official currency of Indonesia is the Rupiah (IDR).
    There are money exchanges and ATM machines available at the airport and all major towns. ATMs are the easiest and safest way to access cash, although we also recommend that you bring and carry some cash in a major currency for when ATMs can not be accessed.
    USD notes older than 2000 series, as well as foreign currency notes that are old, torn, worn or damaged notes can't be changed in Indonesia.
    Spending money
    Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
    If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
    The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
    Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest US$1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
    Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$3 per day for local guides.
    Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest US$1-US$2 per day for drivers.
    Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
    In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
    At your group meeting on Day 1, your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your group leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.
    Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
    Departure tax
    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
    Important notes
    National Independence Day for Indonesia takes place on 17 August. Around this time you may experience some delays to transport, or alternative accommodation may be need to be sourced.
    The month-long Ramadan Festival will be in progress from the 9th July 2013. This is a festival of sacrifice where the devout refrain from eating or drinking during daylight hours. During Ramadan business hours are shortened, including opening hours at all popular tourist attractions. Alcohol is not permitted during daylight hours and many restaurants will be closed. While you definitely need to expect some delays and inconveniences during this period, the month of Ramadan is a fantastic month to travel in Muslim countries as it offers a chance to witness this fascinating Islamic event and the nightly celebrations when the sun sets and the fast is broken.
    An important 15-day festival for the Malaysian Chinese, based on the lunar calendar in January or February. In 2012, the Year of the Dragon is scheduled to be held from 23 January. This can be a busy time and some transport delays, shop closures and reduced opening hours at some sites may be expected, but there are also many fabulous festivals and rituals to observe during this time, so it's a great time to travel. Although we make all reasonable efforts to avoid disruption a flexible approach from the traveller is appreciated.
    Please note that internal flights have a maximum baggage allowance of 15kgs (any excess luggage costs payable by passenger)
    On this trip we travel to the province of Banda Aceh. We have researched the area extensively and developed close relationships with a number of locals in the area that we visit. We believe that this is a culturally rich diverse and interesting destination of this itinerary. While we feel that it is also a safe and friendly place to travel please note that it is a a very conservative region with strict Islamic Sharia law and dress code. It is very important that before you sign up for this tour you are committed to adhering to the cultural sensitivities and following a strict dress code (particularly for women) in what will be quite warm weather. Your group leader will provide detailed cultural advise and guidelines.
    Travellers should seek to inform themselves of relevant provisions. Visit the Indonesian Embassy website for further information.
    The Australian Foreign Affairs website DFAT safety page contains further important information:
    Group size
    Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
    Your fellow travellers
    As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
    Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
    Single travellers
    Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
    Hotel (9 nts), Guesthouse (3 nts), Homestay (1 nt), Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
    The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
    Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
    Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
    If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
    Some of the accommodation along the way is very basic, staying in local guesthouses, homestays and camping with limited facilities. Some facilities are shared and some accommodation has cold water only.
    Meals introduction
    While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
    9 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
    Budget for meals not included:
    USD 250.00
    Strict vegetarians should be aware that a lot of Indonesian cooking contains fermented shrimp paste (terasi) as a basic ingredient. Although there are many vegetarian options available, please be specific when ordering food, as often a little chicken is included with most dishes.
    Ferry, Plane
    There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
    Group leader
    All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
    Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
    Joining point
    Swiss-Belinn Medan
    Jalan Surabaya 88
    Phone: +62 6141077777
    Fax: +62 614520505
    Joining point description
    Formerly known as the 'My Dream Hotel'
    Centrally located with 183 rooms equipped with private en suite, TV, phone & AC, the hotel also offers 24 hour reception, reception, internet access, gym and spa. Please note that not all rooms have windows and although we will endeavour to book our travellers into rooms with windows we can not guarantee this.
    Joining point instructions
    The journey from airport to hotel is approx. 15 minutes by taxi. Taxis are readily available and tickets can be purchased inside the airport after clearing customs.
    We currently do not offer a pre booked airport transfer service
    Arrival complications
    We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
    If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
    No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
    Finish point
    Swiss-Belinn Medan
    Jalan Surabaya 88
    Phone: +62 6141077777
    Fax: +62 614520505
    Finish point description
    Formerly known as the 'My Dream Hotel'
    Centrally located with 183 rooms equipped with private en suite, TV, phone & AC, the hotel also offers 24 hour reception, reception, internet access, gym and spa. Please note that not all rooms have windows and although we will endeavour to book our travellers into rooms with windows we can not guarantee this.
    Emergency contact
    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Thailand Office can be reached on Tel: +66 898 103 722 (Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Borneo, Indonesia, Burma & Phillipines) and Tel: +855 92 555 969 (Cambodia). For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week (excluding Sunday). For further contact details please refer to:
    Emergency funds
    Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
    We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
    Australia: No - not required
    Belgium: No - not required
    Canada: No - not required
    Germany No - not required
    Ireland: No - not required
    Netherlands: No - not required
    New Zealand: No - not required
    South Africa: No - not required
    Switzerland: No - not required
    United Kingdom: No - not required
    USA: No - not required
    The above nationalities do not need visas to visit Malaysia as a tourist for up to three months. Other nationalities should check with their Malaysian embassy or consulate.
    Australia:Yes - on arrival
    Belgium: Yes - on arrival
    Canada: Yes - on arrival
    Germany Yes - on arrival
    Ireland: Yes - on arrival
    Netherlands: Yes - on arrival
    New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
    South Africa: Yes - on arrival
    Switzerland: Yes - on arrival
    United Kingdom: Yes - on arrival
    USA: Yes - on arrival
    Visas on arrival are valid for 30 days, cost US$25 and are available upon arrival by air in Bali, Jakarta, Medan and a few other international airports, or by ship at a limited number of Indonesian sea ports.
    No extension of these visas can be made, they will be issued to arriving passengers at a counter set up prior to immigration processing. Payment for the visa can be made in all major currencies or by VISA/Mastercard.
    Entering Indonesia without any visa is now possible for nationals of the following countries and territories: Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Citizens of these countries will be issued a stay permit on arrival for 30 days free of charge, upon presentation of a passport which is valid for at least 6 months. This stay permit cannot be extended or converted into another type of visa.
    Citizens of all other countries should check with the relevant consulates as to whether a visa is required. Citizens of countries who aren't on the visa on arrival or visa free lists are required to apply for a visa overseas before travelling to Indonesia.
    Nationals of all countries planning to stay for more than 30 days in Indonesia have to apply for the appropriate visa at an overseas Indonesian consulate or embassy before their departure.
    Issues on your trip
    While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
    We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
    You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
    What to take
    What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
    Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
    You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
    Good walking shoes are required as we'll be trekking in a number of places during the trip. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat essential. Although generally hot, you will need warm clothes for the cooler high altitude nights whilst at Berastagi and Takengon.
    Please bring your own sleeping mat and/or sleeping bag for a more comfortable night's sleep on Days 4 and 6, as bedding is not provided.
    During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
    Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
    All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
    You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
    Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
    We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
    Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
    For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
    While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
    Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
    Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
    Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
    Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
    If you choose to ride a motorbike, please be aware of your skills and your travel insurance cover. Please note that helmets are not provided for the sightseeing on bicycles. If riding without a helmet is a concern, then you should bring our own.
    While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
    You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.
    Your leader will conduct a brief safety discussion before our trekking and snorkelling activities.
    Travel insurance
    Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
    When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
    If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
    Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
    Responsible Travel
    We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
    When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in the predominantly hot Asian climate. In many rural areas in Asia women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
    Aceh Province (from Ketambe to Pulah Weh on our trip) is a traditional Islamic area and a strict dress code is enforced by law throughout the area. The code of dress must be adhered to at all times. Long baggy pants and long, modest loose fitting long sleeve tops are a must for both men and women. Tight fitting clothing is inappropriate. Muslim women must wear a headscarf at all times, and all women must wear headscarfs at religious sites. Open shoes or sandals are fine. When swimming, directly in front of our hotel area at Pulau Weh rules are more relaxed and bikinis may be worn by women. All other areas (including elsewhere on Pulau Weh) shorts and a T-shirt or rash top are appropriate for swimming. Your tour leader will advise you of what attire is appropriate during the welcome meeting.
    Aceh is a safes and friendly place to travel but it is conservative. It is very important that before you sign up for this tour you are committed to following a strict dress code (particularly for women) in what will be quite warm weather. Things don't get much more different to home than this!
    A couple of rules
    Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
    The Intrepid Foundation
    Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
    The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
    Responsible Travel projects
    Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Indonesia include:
    * Bumi Sehat's mission is to reduce maternal and child morbidity and mortality, as well as to support the health and development of communities. In addition to providing education and training for midwives and community health nurses, their Bali clinic assists approximately 1,000 people each month and their Aceh clinic around 1,500 people each month.
    Carbon offset
    Carbon Offset C02-e 616.00 kgs per pax.
    After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
    Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.