Lake Toba travel guide

How to get to Lake Toba, Indonesia

Most visitors fly to Medan and then travel by land to Parapat, the town by Lake Toba. Parapat is about 4 hours by car from Medan (4-6 hours by public bus). You can get from Medan airport to Lake Toba entirely 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 the main car exit of the airport, cross the road and turn left after the petrol station, and then turn right (about a ten-fifteen min walk altogether). There, you can catch a yellow public bus, number 64, to Amplas Terminal for Rp 3,000. From Amplas terminal, you can get a public bus to Parapat for Rp 22,000. So you can get from Medan airport to Parapat for a total of Rp 25,000 (September 2012), and then get a ferry out to Samosir island for Rp 7,000/person. The boat drops you at your hotel.

From Medan Polonia airport you can fly directly to Silangit with Susi Air daily (http://www.susiair.com). Flights take approximately 30 minutes and is a much better and safer way than the road trip. 2012 September the flight costs 380,000 IDR $38 USD 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 take 2 hours 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 300,000 IDR each way per vehicle.

You can go there by taxi at Medan Airport to tiga raja harbour.There are RAJA TAXI +62 617 366 555;PARADEP TAXI +62 617 712 3029; and TOBATRANSPORTER, ☎ +6285261492668 (tobatransporter@hotmail.com), .  edit SAM TRANSPORTER +6282163766720 / samosir.transporter@yahoo.com

You can schedule a shared 7 passenger minivan to Parapat, which costs Rp 80,000 IDR/person (7 seaters) and for 5 seaters is 100,000 IDR/person and for private (5 seaters or 7 seaters) car service leaving from Medan airport at scheduled times as well as appointment its take and that costs Rp 600,000 with Toyota Innova 7 seaters car and big trunk.With good driver and many experience on the way to toba lake,it makes you comfortable in the car. Alternatively, Toyota Avanza which 5 seaters, for Rp 550,000; but this vehicle is too small for 5 seaters; no more space for trunks. Same guy organizes tours around the island and flight e-tickets and pick-ups from Silangit airport. Parapat is a nice little town with reasonable hotels/guest houses, good food options and so on. However its on the island itself that you get the real feeling of Toba Lake.

Parapat is connected to Tomok and Tuk Tuk on the Samosir Island by boat/ferry that run every 1-2 hr, the last one at 6PM (Rp 7,000). The place to catch the ferry to Tuk Tuk is called "Tiga Raja" harbour/jetty. Some ferry's owner are tourist hunter and will overcharge you for Rp 20-30,000 for the same trip to Samosir Island. In my opinion try to observe the ferry with wooden bench inside and light green colored ferry. Those are the ferries that charge Rp 7,000 and the locals take to cross over. Self proclaimed 'Tourist Hunters' may befriend you on the boat but are harmless and often helpful. 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 are also two other harbour in Samosir, they are: Nainggolan (1 hour drive from Tomok) connected Muara, the ferry runs every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the other located in Simanindo (30 min drive) connected to Tigaras which runs daily until 6PM.

Please note: As of Sep 2012 here is only one cirrus/mastercard ATM on the island (at the white beach entrance), better to get enough cash at Parapat before crossing the lake to the island.

Another great way to get to Lake Toba is by train. Two or three trains leave each day in that direction and you want to get off either at Pematang Siantar or Tebing Tinggi (note: the train stops at one or the other). 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. From the station there's only 2 train leaves Medan to Permatang Siantar (or Siantar) which is 11AM and 7:25PM. The fare is Rp 12,000 per person and the journey takes approximately 3-4 hr. Train stop at almost each station. Once you reach the Siantar station double check the schedule for the train for going back to Medan. 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 hour taxi) or Tebing Tinggi (2 hr taxi) you will need to hire a taxi or a bus for road transport to Parapat.

The ferry ride over is fantastic, just truly peaceful, apart from the car radios playing, the ladies selling peanuts, bottled water, mie 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.

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 stuck in the Kijang for 8 hrs= 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.

You can also go by TOBATRANSPORTER, ☎ +6285261492668 (tobatransporter@hotmail.com), .  edit who operates a private car with (5 seaters or 7 seaters) from Berastagi to Parapat cost Rp 500.000/car and from Bukit Lawang to Parapat Rp 800.000/car and for leaving service from both way with some places that you can visit on the way go to Berastagi and Bukit Lawang. Just call +6285261492668