Lake Toba travel guide

How to get to Lake Toba, Indonesia

Parapat is connected to Tomok and Tuk Tuk on the Samosir Island by a ferry that runs every hour for Rp 15,000 (motorbikes Rp10,000 extra, as of March 2015), running on the half-hour except the last one at 19:00. The place to catch the ferry to Tuk Tuk is called "Tiga Raja" harbour/jetty. The ferry man will drop you at the place you're staying at in Tuk Tuk. Try to use the ferry with a wooden bench inside and that's coloured light green. Those are the ferries that charge Rp 10,000 and that the locals take to cross over. Tuk Tuk is the main town to stay on Samosir. Use the boat service not the large ferry, they will drop you directly at your Tuk Tuk resort.

There is no point to go to Tomok as there is no accommodation there. There are tens of guesthouses in Tuk-Tuk.

Return trips leave from various places in Tuk Tuk on the hour, but sometimes 15 minutes earlier/later. Wave down the ferry to ensure it comes to your dock.

There is also a car/passenger ferry at Ajibata, a very short distance south from Tiga Raja.

The ferry ride over is fantastic, just truly peaceful, apart from the car radios playing, the ladies selling peanuts, bottled water, noodles or pretty much anything else. Normally some of the passengers and vendors will be able to speak English. Landing at the other end of the 1 hour ferry journey is daunting, but again, behave like everyone else in Indonesia and just push, ever so politely, but firmly and eventually you will get off the ferry and onto the main road. Alternatively use the boat service but watch out for the guys that ask for the fee before you embark — they do not work for the operators, you pay on the boat.

From Medan airport To get to Lake Toba is entirely possible by public transport, if you wish. First, you must go from the airport to Amplas bus terminal. Walk through the car park and go out of the main car exit of the airport. Cross the road and turn left after the petrol station, and then turn right (about a 10-15 min walk altogether). There, you can catch a yellow public bus, number 64, or number 63, to Amplas Terminal for Rp 6,000.

From Amplas terminal You can get a public bus to Parapat for Rp 32,000 (or 70.000 air con, July 2014). Unfortunately in Indonesia people smoke on the bus, even if it is not allowed; that can make a very unpleasant journey on a public pus. So you can get from Medan airport to Parapat for a total of Rp 38,000 (July 2014), and then get a ferry out to Samosir island for Rp 10,000/person. The boat drops you at your hotel.

From Berastagi: please see the Berastagi wikitravel article; this involves 3 transfers to reach Parapat

To Padang / Bukittinggi: see the Parapat article. Book the bus a day ahead to get a seat.

From Medan Polonia airport you can fly directly to Silangit with Susi Air daily. Flights take approximately 30 min and are a safer way than the road trip. In Feb 2013, the flight cost Rp 425,000, (c. US$42) one way. Transportation options from Silangit airport are limited; it is a good idea to pre-arrange a driver to be waiting; From Silangit Airport to Parapat is 2 hr drive. To Silangit airport from Parapat there are many transport providers available around the ferry terminal area. Costs to/from Silangit and Parapat should cost around Rp 300,000 each way per vehicle. However, the airport is very close to guesthouses at Balige and Muara, towns that hug the southern rim of the lake and would save considerable travel time for those destinations.

Another great way to get to Lake Toba is by train. Two trains leave each day in that direction and you want to get off either at Pematang Siantar or Tebing Tinggi. If you want to get to the train directly from Medan airport, get a taxi or becak, and tell them or write Lapangan Merdeka and Setasiun Kereta Api Medan. By taxi, it's about an hour and a half ride to the train station (approx. 150,000Rp.). From the station there's only one train leaving Medan to Permatang Siantar (or Siantar) at 13:30. The fare is Rp 40,000 per person (as per 16 March 14) and the journey takes approximately 4 hr. Trains stop at almost each station. Then take a Becak or walk to the bus/taxi hub to travel to Perapat. The train is a wonderful way to travel if you like to learn more culture on their daily living and lifestyle. Once you are in your seat and have a stream of buskers, food vendors and friendly local passing by you will know why this is often the best way to travel overland. From Siantar (1 hr by taxi) or Tebing Tinggi (2 hr taxi) you will need to hire a taxi or a bus for road transport to Parapat. Train back to Medan from Siantar departs at 11:54.

Most visitors fly to Medan Kuala Namu International Airport and then travel onwards by land to Parapat, the town by Lake Toba. Parapat is about 4 hr by car from Medan or 4-6 hr by public bus. A lot of the information on this page relates to getting to Toba from Kuala Namu International Airport.

As of Sep 2012 here is only one Cirrus/MasterCard ATM on the island (at the white beach entrance) so you should get enough cash at Parapat before crossing the lake to the island. This ATM DOES NOT ACCEPT VISA Cards. So please ensure you take sufficient cash from the many ATMs in Parapat before you come to Samosir.

The road signs are pretty much useless, as is asking the locals for directions. Anyway, if you are going to Tuk Tuk keep going, even though it may seem to be taking forever and you have been in the Kijang for 8 hr with 10 other people, but you will get there and the hosts will be wonderful.

Do not try to drive out of Samosir Island by going up and over the top to the land bridge. The road is very bad.

It is also possible to go to Parapat from Dumai by mini-van, leaving in the afternoon. The trip takes around 11 hr and costs Rp 150,000.

By Private Car

There is service named Tobatransporter that will take you into and out of Lake Toba from the Medan airport as well as around Lake Toba.