Sumatra Travel Tips

Trekking Equipment, Visa, Money, Weather, Health & Safety

Trekking in the Sumatran jungle is absolutely amazing and a bucket list experience. But trekking in a tropical environment is a hot, humid and wet endeavour that presents a number of challenges to the traveller. So we have put together essential jungle trekking tips exclusively for our EcoTravel guests, along with information regarding your health– and the perfect packing list for jungle trekking as a guide to ensure you set off with everything you need for a pleasant, safe and healthy Sumatra trip! And on top, you will find further Sumatra traveltips covering visa, money and weather.

1. Jungle Trekking Tips And Packing List

  • Clothes – bright, light, quick drying and breathable: The high temperatures and the oppressive humidity of tropical climates make you feel like walking around in swimming costumes. But the rainforest is home to poisonous plants and numerous insects. So it is advisable to wear light but long trousers in bright colours. Please consider wearing long socks to avoid bare skin between shoes and trousers. Once your clothes are wet, it is hard to dry them because of the constant humidity. That’s why a quick-drying T-shirt (light-weight fabric controlling perspiration) will be your best friend while trekking.
  • Colours – light tones: Bright colours are beneficial against sun and bugs. Dark clothes attract mosquitoes. The best colours to wear on a jungle trek are light tones, like brown, beige and green, which don’t highlight you in the landscape and don’t scare the animals. Avoid strong colours like yellow, blue and red on your jungle trek!
  • Shoes – comfortable with a rough profile: Light, comfortable hiking boots or sneakers are basically sufficient for hiking on flat and steep terrain. The massive amount of tropical rain often causes the ground to be muddy, so a rough- profiled sole is recommended. Sports shoes that dry quickly are advisable (additional sandals for crossing rivers – recommended only for Explorer & Observation treks). Our advice for safe jungle trekking is to choose shoes that are supportive and slightly above the ankle joint.
  • Backpack – only for your personal belongings: You only need to prepare 1 small backpack (25-35 liters) for your personal belongings. All equipment (tent, mattress, sleeping bags, river tubes, safety jackets, helmets for children) as well as all food and drinking water while trekking will be provided by our EcoTravel team. You will have to carry your own small backpack, 1 water bottle and your sleeping bag while trekking. Your water bottle can be refilled any time at the campsite by our EcoTravel team.
  • Protection – strong sun & insects: Insect bites are not only annoying but they are also a source of tropical diseases. Insect repellents are therefore an essential item for a pleasant jungle trekking experience. On top of that the sun is much stronger in the tropics than in moderate climates. Even when trekking through dense jungle with little exposure to direct sunlight there is the risk of sunburn. Sun lotion and a hat are necessary on each jungle trek. Additionally a cloth should cover the neck.
  • Campsite – tips for the afternoon and night: We recommend light T-shirts and shorts in bright colours for the afternoon at the campsite and warm long trousers, long sleeved shirts & warm socks for the evening/night. Please always keep at least one set of dry clothes for the campsite! Additional travel tip for an overnight stay in the jungle: swimming suit, sunglasses, flipflop/sandals, raincoat, toilet paper, flashlight, quick-dry towel, personal belongings (environmentally-safe soap & shampoo, toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant, hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene products, contact lenses …).
  • Electronic gear – double protection: You may have gathered by now that the rain forest is a pretty humid and wet environment, so if you are planning to bring any electronic gear (camera, lenses, mobile phone, USB power bank, charging cables, batteries, cards…) please make sure to protect it from the elements. All electronic gear should be kept in an extra plastic or waterproof bag. Also make sure your daypack has a rain cover and keep it on at all times during your jungle trek.
  • Medication: Due to poor medical care we urgently advise not to travel to Sumatra without bringing your personal medical kit. Recommended medication for jungle treks includes e.g. anti-diarrhea medicine, dehydration salt, antihistamine, aspirin and antibiotics.
  • Safety: In order to keep you as safe as possible in the jungle of Sumatra you have to abide by the rules and instructions given to you by the EcoTravel team at all times. By following these simple guidelines for the jungle, visitors are able to see the Sumatran orangutans at Bukit Lawang in a way which is both safe for themselves and for the orangutans.

2. Sumatra Travel Tips: Health & Safety

  • Our main Sumatra travel tip is that you should take out comprehensive insurance with good medical cover in advance. Please note that travel insurance is within the personal responsibility of each traveler and should cover accidents, injury or loss of personal property!
  • Please consult your doctor in advance and discuss your individual medication (Tetanus and Hepatitis vaccination, anti-rabies inoculation…) and get his advice on malaria prophylaxis. Basically you should use an insect repellent all day whilst in the jungle (Deet > 40%) and wear long sleeves/trousers during sunset when the mosquitoes are at their most active. There are mosquitoes around Bukit Lawang but we have had no reports on malaria infection in recent years – but you never know…mosquitos can be dangerous in all Southeast Asia!
  • You need to be fit enough for strong exercise if you plan to do treks over a few days. A general health check with your doctor is an absolute necessity before travelling to the Sumatran jungle and lies within the responsibility of each guest!
  • Please note that in and around Gunung Leuser National Park you will mostly be out in the wild and that the tours arranged by EcoTravel Bukit Lawang involve certain risks and dangers. These include: traveling in mountain terrain, trekking in dense rainforest and crossing rivers; unpredictable behavior of wildlife; accidents caused by the forces of nature; accidents or illness in remote regions with little or no medical facilities and without any means of rapid or free evacuation; accidents caused by Indonesian traffic.
  • You should inform the EcoTravel team about your personal health conditions like high blood pressure, allergies, operations, pregnancy and fear of special insects, heights or darkness in advance! Please note: To secure our guests some won’t be allowed by our team to do a jungle trek! We hope for your understanding!
  • In order to keep you as safe as possible you have to abide by the rules and instructions given to you by the EcoTravel team at all times. Please note that the tour operator is not liable for any damages or injuries suffered in consequence of anything, however caused, in connection with services carried out by third parties and for death or personal injury.

3. Medan – Emergency Contacts

Medan Taxi:
Bluebirds, phone: (061)8461234

Medan Hospital:
Rumah Sakit St. Elisabeth
Jln. Haji Misnah No. 7
phone: (061)4144737

Columbia Asia Hospital (International)
Jln. Listrik 2A
+62614566368

4. Sumatra Travel Tips: Visa

Tourists can get a 30-day “Visa on arrival” at Medan airport and at any other Indonesian international airports. From July 2015 “Visa on arrival” is officially available for free at Kuala Namu Airport in Medan for tourists from more than 169 countries. Nevertheless, immigration authorities often find reasons to charge a fee of 35 US dollars from travellers. Therefore we recommend our guests to always carry the exact sum of 35 US dollars with them while proceeding through immigrations. Other airports, like Banda Aceh, still charge for issuing visas. If you want to stay longer you can get a 60-day tourist visa at the Indonesian Embassy. The exact process and documents required will vary depending on your nationality, the country you apply in and the kind of your stay in Indonesia. The validity of your passport should be 6 months from the date of arrival in Indonesia. Please observe the current Indonesian regulations for your nationality, especially any rules on COVID-19! Entry restrictions may be subject to change at short notice. The latest entry information can be found through “IATA Travel Center” (https://www.iatatravelcentre.com / No responsibility is taken for third party information).

5. Sumatra Travel Tips: Money

Make sure in advance to arrive with enough cash in the area of Gunung Leuser National Park! In Bukit Lawang there are no ATM machines! But as an exclusive service to our guests we also change Euros and US Dollars and offer credit card payment (3% charge) in our EcoTravel office in Bukit Lawang, if required. There are also plenty of cash points in Medan where you can get money with credit cards or exchange foreign currencies into Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). More Sumatra travel tips: The maximum amount you get from ATM machines is 2 Mio IDR, so you will have to make several transactions to get a higher amount! Due to frequent problems with ATM machines we recommend to take 2 -3 different credit cards with you! In Gunung-Leuser-Area around Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan you can pay with IDR only.

6. Sumatra Travel Tips: Weather

In Sumatra there are only two seasons, a dry and rainy season. The rainy season lasts from November up to February and the dry season from March to October, with the transition periods characterized by capricious weather occurring in the months of March and Oktober. Even in the middle of the wet season temperature could range from 23 degrees to 33 degrees Celsius, except at higher altitudes, which can be much cooler. The heaviest rainfall is usually recorded in December and January each year. But usually it is hot and humid around Bukit Lawang. It tends to rain every few days, but normally not for a very long time also in the rainy season.

7. Sumatra Facts

  • Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia. It is the largest island in entire Indonesia and the sixth largest island in the world.
  • North Sumatra is a province on the Sumatra island. Its capital is Medan. The province stretches across the island of Sumatra between the Indian Ocean and the Strait Malacca. It borders Aceh province on the northwest and Riau and West Sumatra provinces in the southeast.
  • The island includes more than 10 National Parks, including 3 which are listed as the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra World Heritage Site—Gunung Leuser National Park, Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park.
  • The island is home to 201 mammal species and 580 bird species.
  • Sumatra has a huge range of plant and animal species but has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years and many species are Critically Endangered such as Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhino and Sumatran Orangutan.
  • The people represent many different ethnic groups, speaking 52 different languages. Most of these groups, however, share many similar traditions and the different tongues are closely related.
  • 87% of Sumatrans are thought to be Muslim with 10% Christian, 2% Buddhist and 1% Hindu.
  • Malay-speaking people dominate the eastern coast, while people in the southern and central interior speak languages related to Malay, such as the Lampung and Minangkabau people. The highland of northern Sumatra is inhabited by the Bataks, while the northernmost coast is dominated by Acehs. Ethnic Chinese minorities are also present in urban centers.
EcoTravel’s Sumatra Tours