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The booming city of Medan, capital of North Sumatra, is an economic hub and commercial centre for the region. This is the largest city in Sumatra attracting residents from all over Indonesia who come here to do business.
For visitors, Medan is best known as the gateway to North Sumatra with many travellers flying into the city and setting off from here for adventures in the cool highlands of Lake Toba or the wild Sumatran jungle.
This is a busy and sprawling metropolis so you’ll need to be patient as noisy minibuses and becak compete with taxis and motorbikes for space through the crowds and heat.
The population of Medan is diverse. Citizens here represent virtually every ethnicity in Indonesia including Batak, Malay, Javanese, Minang, Acehnese, Indians and Chinese.
In it’s earliest days, the area which is now Medan was home to a community of traders and seafarers, under the rule of Islamic Malay leaders. This was until the Acehnese finally conquered the area after years of battling in the early 17th century. During the period of conflict, the plains were used as a battlefield between the two kingdoms which is why Medan translates literally as field or battlefield.
The modern history of the area begins in the 1860’s when entrepreneurs recognized the potential of the rich volcanic soil here and began plantation agriculture. In 1865 an adventurous Dutch entrepreneur introduced tobacco to the area ushering in a new era of prosperity. This led to an influx of foreign investment and a steady stream of European capitalists. Crops of tobacco, rubber, oil palms, sisal and tea were all planted here. Thus from a small village, Medan grew into a prosperous colonial city.
In 1886 the Dutch made Medan capital of North Sumatra and by the end of Dutch rule the population had swelled to about 80,000.
After independence in 1948, the population of Medan exploded and it is now the third largest city in the country. Today the influence of Medan’s colonial plantation past is reflected in the European architecture of many of the cities biggest buildings. Medan has become a blend of the modern and the ancient.
Watch the video about North Sumatera:
Further information about visiting Medan is available at the Medanku website.
It’s wide to keep a close eye on your belongings. Medan is known for it’s experienced pickpockets.
In Medan you can choose from public bus, taxi or becak to get around.
The local minibuses or sudako are basic and cheap. Only use these if you have a bit of bahasa Indonesian up your sleeve as they can be difficult to navigate otherwise.
The noisy becak is a tiny two stroke engine vehicle which is a cheap, though often nerve racking way to get around. Decide on a price with the driver before you get in.
Taxi’s are a cheap and convenient way to get around. Make sure you use a metered cab or if not, agree on your destination and price before getting in.
Taxi companies operating in Medan include:
Jl. Bandung 49-50
Tel: (061) 456 5527
Jl. Semarang 44
Tel: (061) 414 4632
Jl. Bahagia By Pass 6
Tel: (061) 787 8444
Jl. Eka Prasetyo 5
Tel: (061) 844 6666; 846 8900
Jl. Brigjen katamso 60 B
Tel: (061) 451 8815; 451 6615
Jl. Alfalah 7
Tel: (061) 787 4848
Jl. Graha Niaga Blok A/3
Tel: (061) 451 4603; 455 2211
The city of Medan is connected by air through the Kualanamu International Airport.. Located in the Deli Serdang Regency, about 2 hours' drive from Medan, the Kualanamu Airport was opened in 2013 to replace the 85 years old Polonia Airport, that was getting too close to the city.
Airlines flying to Medan include: Garuda Indonesia , Lion Air , Air Asia , Sriwijaya Air , Citilink, Wings Air, and SusiAir. Among major cities in Indonesia connected to Medan via flights are: Jakarta, Makassar, Batam, Banda Aceh, Bandung, Surabaya, Pekanbaru, Sibolga, and more.
Kualanamu Airport also serves international flights by various airlines like: Malaysia Airlines, Mihin Lanka Air, Firefly and Valuair. While Some international cities connected are Kuala Lumpur, Penang in Malaysia, Singapore and Colombo in Srilanka.
You can get to Medan by sea from Penang (Malaysia). Passenger ships also operate between Medan and Jakarta.
For those with time on their hands and don’t mind adventurous travel, there is a bus which travels overland from Jakarta to Medan. Here are some of the overland buses that serve the Jakarta-Medan Route:
PO Medan Jaya
Phone: +62 61 8213241
Air Conditioned: IDR485,000 ; Non Air Conditioned IDR390,000
Phone: +62 21 23867650
Air Conditioned IDR 480,00