Flights to Medan, Indonesia

Map of north Sumatra

Satellite map of Medan

Pulau Weh and north Sumatra

Berastagi, near Medan

Medan from Penang

A flight is the best way to travel between Penang (Bayan Lapas airport) and Medan (Polonia airport). The following airlines fly this route:

The first two airlines, MAS and AirAsia, are Malaysian, the others are budget Indonesian airlines. The flight time is about 45 minutes and they each fly daily. At Medan, you will have to pay a departure tax of Rp 75,000 (about US$ 8). A taxi from Georgetown (Penang city centre) to Bayan Lapas costs about RM 25 (US$ 7). Polonia airport is right inside the centre of Medan, non-airport taxis wait just outside the airport gates and will take you to nearby hotels for about Rp 30,000 (U$ 3).

Buying a ticket for MAS is usually easy as they are never full. A return ticket with MAS is valid for 30 days and costs about US$ 70. There are many travel agents that sell tickets for MAS on Chulia street, Penang. Silver-Econ has a good reputation. If you shop around, you can usually find other agents who will sell tickets a little cheaper. In Medan, the MAS travel agent is located at the Danu Toba hotel.

AirAsia is a budget Malaysian airline. You can buy tickets online and they often do special deals such as RM9.99 (US$ 2.50) for a one-way ticket. However, once taxes and fees are included, expect to pay about RM 100 (US$ 25) for a one-way ticket. With AirAsia, you can't have an open ticket, you have to specify the departure and return date when you buy the ticket. Although, there is no time limit on the return date. For example, the return date can be two months (or longer) after the departure date. AirAsia doesn't issue paper tickets, if you buy online you get an e-ticket which you can print out.

Lake Toba, near Medan

For the Indonesian budget airlines, a return ticket from Medan to Penang costs about Rp 500,000 (US$ 50). Tickets bought in Medan are a little cheaper than tickets bought in Penang. The tickets are usually valid for 14 days only (you have to return within 14 days of departure), although an open return date is usually allowed. These tickets can be useful if you want to leave Indonesia because your visa is about to expire and you want to to return to Indonesia with a new visa. For these airlines, tickets with a longer validity time usually cost significantly more. Travel agents for Indonesian airlines can be found in Medan at the Garuda Plaza International hotel and the Hotel Garuda Citra. Both hotels are on Jalan Sisingamangaraja, near the Great Mosque (Masjid Raya). It is worth shopping around as ticket prices do vary considerably. In Penang, travel agents for the Indonesian airlines are located in KOMTAR mall (for Adam Air) and Prangin mall (for Lion Air).

A return ferry ticket from Penang to Medan is only slighter cheaper than flights. These days a lot of places are selling ferry tickets for about RM 180 which is about US$ 45. The one real advantage of the ferry is that the ticket is valid for 3 months.

Once you are in Medan, you can take a tourist bus to lake Toba. The cost is about US$ 5 (Rp 45,000). The bus takes 4-5 hours. The tourist buses leave from the Great Mosque (Masjid Raya) area. This is also the main area for tourist accommodation.

Bukit Lawang, near Medan

Medan from Kuala Lumpur

AirAsia also flies from Kuala Lumpur to Medan (see the Penang section for more info about AirAsia).

Medan from Bangkok

Getting from Bangkok to Penang, Malaysia is easy and comfortable. I normally take an overnight train to Hat Yai. This costs 550 Baht (US$ 15) for sleeper class, if that is booked out you can try the Air-Con sleeper for about 750 Baht. The journey is very scenic and well worth doing. Then it is a four hour bus ride to Penang (200 Baht, US$ 5). You can also take a train straight from Bangkok to Butterworth (near Penang). But it can be difficult to make a booking on short notice and it's more expensive. See the Penang section for details of travel to Medan from Penang.

Medan from Singapore

There are direct flights to Medan from Singapore. However, it might be cheaper to first take a bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (5 hours) or Penang (10 hours). The bus to Penang costs about US$ 10, the buses are actually very comfortable, you get lots of leg room and they recline all the way back so you can get a good nights sleep. You can then fly from Penang to Medan.