Medan Travel Guide: Everything You Must Know
Medan is the biggest city in Sumatra with the crowded and noisy capital of North Sumatra province. And also the first port of call for most vacationers bent on exploring the region.
Why should you go to Medan?
Medan, in the reasonably compact downtown area around and to the west of the train station, we discovered that an at times stunning, and very walkable city. The Indonesian food is exceptionally great, and we found the locals (with only a couple of exceptions) to be universally welcoming, friendly, helpful and hospitable. Really!
Medan doesn’t boast much in the way of top-line attractions. Still, there is an excellent museum that serves as an excellent primer before entering Karo country, a beautiful and historic villa and an impressive mosque all of which may be used to fill in a full day in Medan. However, for us, the real attraction is the food, and we’d say the prime reason for lingering is just so that you may eat more.
The transport hub of northern Sumatra, Medan is also the jumping-off point for ground transport to Aceh, Berastagi, Bukit Lawang, Ketambe and Lake Toba. So even if you aren’t planning on overnighting here, you’ll most likely need to pass–give it at least a night we say!
When to visit Medan
As with much of North Sumatra, at least as much as foreign tourists go, peak season in Medan is late June through August, coinciding with European summer. Even at this time, however, it’s unlikely that you will need reservations as town brings a bare trickle of tourists, and there are over one hundred resorts to choose from.
Weather-wise, Medan is boiling hot and humid year-round. Still, peak season coincides with the area’s dry season, so expect hot and often dry weather at that time. While Medan can see wild and beastly thunderstorms year-round, it’s subject to North Sumatra’s general rainy season that runs roughly November to March, so expect much more rain then.
While Medan is a large town, the downtown area, using Merdeka Park and the train station as a centre, is relatively simple to navigate. We walked much of downtown, but Gojek, Becaks and taxis are familiar and easy to use, bringing the more significant city quickly within reach.
The city’s aforementioned primary attractions are all located to the south of Merdeka Park, Tjong A Fie Mansion is as simple to walk away. However, Istana Maimoon, the State Museum of North Sumatra and Raya Al-Mashun Mosque, while the walking distance from one another, are best reached by taxi or Go-Jek from the train station.
The city boasts more than one hundred hotels, but a lot of them are chain hotels scattered throughout the city. The two key hubs which put the primary sights within reach, are within walking distance of the train station and, to the south, along with SM Raja (near Raya Al-Mashun Mosque). If you stay further afield, be prepared to walk a lot or use transport to get around.
Foreign access ATMs are everywhere, and all hotels should offer WiFi. There’s a small tourist kiosk on the north side of Merdeka Park, but every time we visited it, it was locked up, so your mileage may vary. On the same north side of the identical park is a police station should you end up needing assistance. Siloam Hospital is one of the most central hospitals if you require medical care.
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