Getting In & Out of Sumatra


Sumatra has six international airports at Medan, Batam, Palembang, Pekanbaru, Padang and Banda Aceh. Between them they connect with direct flights from a range of international transport hubs including Singapore, Bangkok, Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Kuala Terengganu (Malaysia) and Colombo (Sri Lanka).

Each of the Sumatran cities listed above is also well connected to other Indonesian cities, with regular scheduled flights operating every day of the week. Currently, the regional airports at Bengkulu, Bandar Lampung, Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Pandan, Pangkalpinang and Jambi airports have regular scheduled flights from Jakarta only.

Flights with major carriers such as Garuda and Air Asia can easily be booked directly on line. For smaller Indonesian carriers such as Lion Air, Wings Air, Kalstar, Sriwijaya, and Citilink we recommend finding and booking flights online with or a reputable travel agent once you’re on the ground in Indonesia.


Various operators provide international ferry services between Malaysia and Sumatra. Indomal Express operates most days between Sumatra’s main port of Dumai and Port Klang, Port Dickson, Malacca and Muar in Malaysia. Use the link provided to check schedules, prices and booking information. Aero Speed Ferry (Tel: +60-3-3165 2545) connects Tanjung Balai, Sumatra with Port Klang Monday to Saturday.

Pelni (Indonesia’s national shipping company) operates the ferry service between Pulau Batam and Belawan (Medan port). At the time of writing the ferry was running once weekly but schedules change regularly so check the Pelni website for the latest information (use Google Translate). The ferry takes around 23 hours in good weather not including transfers to/from Pulau Batam and cost about the same as a cheap flight from Singapore or Malaysia so unless you have a penchant for sea travel or an aversion to flying it’s hard to imagine why this would be anyone’s preferred option.

Pelni also operate numerous passenger services between Medan, Padang and Sibolga – Teluk Bayar in Sumatra and other Indonesian islands. Tickets can be purchased through any authorised Pelni agent. Again check their website for routes, schedules and authorised agents.

Car and passenger ferries between Merak (west Java) and Bakauheni (Sumatra) operate around the clock with several departures an hour during peak periods. No need to book in advance; just turn up at the ferry terminal and purchase your ticket prior to departure.