Medan Travel Information
FNE Travel || About Us || Contact Us || Medan Hotels || 棉兰旅游信息 || Travel Info for Indonesia More Destination
Introduction || History || Transportation || How to Get in || Sightseeing || Shopping || Map of Medan

medan city viewmedan city view

Medan, Indonesia’s third largest city, is in North Sumatra, near the country’s northern tip. Possessing many landmarks of Dutch architecture from its period as a Dutch colony, Medan possesses a harmonious, multi-cultural society made up of many Southeast Asian ethnicities, including a large Chinese contingent. The city is over 2 million in population and offers great shopping, fine dining and a lively nightlife. 

The capital of North Sumatra, Indonesia, Medan attracts tourists with its lovely Dutch architecture, as seen in its  Water Tower—which serves as the town’s icon—plus City Hall and Titi Gantung bridge. Located in the northern part of the province along the coast, Medan is the third largest city in Indonesia. The city is bordered by Deli Serdang Regency to the east, south, and west, and the Strait of Malacca to the north.

Medan is the third largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta and Surabaya. With a population of about 2 million people it is the largest city outside of Java. There is no single ethnic group forming a majority; the largest ethnic groups are the Chinese, Javanese, Toba-Batak, Minangkabau, Mandailing Batak, Karo Batak, Southern Indians , Northern Indians, and many more ethnic minorities.

Each ethnic group contributes to thousands of tasty, mouth-watering dishes found in every corner of Medan. They offer to locals and tourists alike dozens of food streets and hawker centres to suit their appetite at any time of the day. From the sweet Javanese cuisine, to delicious Batak grilled pork, to hot Padang dishes, from savoury Chinese noodles, to spicy Indian curry, this varied cuisine is available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. It is obvious why the locals are so into food. The city itself is quite well known for "food-tourism", especially amongst other Indonesians.

It's interesting to contrast the old, Dutch style green areas, with parks, lawns, and huge old Dutch houses (now turned into government offices or commercial business) and the hundreds and hundreds of newer, shoddy shophouses sprawled together by the hundreds in the commercial areas along with a few modern style malls. Look out for the motor becaks! A sort of motorized rickshaw, they are a common site throughout Medan, spewing black smoke everywhere. Overall, Medan isn't really a tourist destination, but it's a convenient stepping stone to other places like the 'weekend getaway' Brastagi, the island of Penang, Malaysia and, of course the ever popular, beautiful crater lake Lake Toba.

#top Back to Top



Kesawan Kesawan tirtanadi tower
medan mosque

Medan started as a village called Kampung Medan (Medan Village). Kampung Medan was founded by Guru Patimpus around the 1590s. Because Kampung Medan sits on Tanah Deli (Land of Deli), Kampung Medan is also referred as Medan-Deli. The original location of Kampung Medan is an area where the Deli River meets Babura River.

Based on the diary of the Portuguese merchant in early 16th century, it stated that the name of Medan was actually derived from Medina which is actually a holy city in the western of Saudi Arabia. However, other source indicated that the name of Medan actually came from Indian language "Meiden". One of the Karo-Indonesia dictionary written by Darwin Prinst SH published in 2002 wrote that Medan could also be defined as "recover" or "be better".

The first inhabitants of Medan came from the Batak Karo community. It was not until the Sultan of Aceh, Sultan Iskandar Muda, sent his warlord, Gocah Pahlawan Laksamana Khoja Bintan, to be the Sultanate of Aceh's representative in Tanah Deli, that the Sultanate of Deli started to grow. This growth stimulated growth in both the population and culture of Medan. In the second year reign of Sultan Deli (between 1669-1698), there was a cavalry battle in Medan.

Medan did not experience significant development until the 1860s, when the Dutch colonialists began clearing the land for tobacco plantations. Medan quickly became a center of government and commercial activity, dominating development of Indonesia's western region.

The Dutch governed Tanah Deli from 1658, after Sultan Ismail, ruler of the Kingdom of Siak Sri Indrapura, yielded some of his once-ruled land, Deli, Langkat, and Serdang. In 1915 Medan officially became the capital of North Sumatra Province, and officially a city in 1918. Medan is governed by a mayor, Drs. H. Abdillah Ak, MBA (period 2005-2010). Medan is divided into 21 districts (kecamatan) and 151 subdistricts (kelurahan).

#top Back to Top


The unique shaped tricycleOne of the unique features of Medan are the motorized becaks that are found almost everywhere. Unlike traditional becaks, a motorized becak can take its passenger anywhere in the city. The fare of riding a 'becak' is relatively cheap and is usually negotiated beforehand.

There are also more common transport like taxis and minibuses, known as sudako. Railroad tracks connect Medan to Binjai and Tanjungpura to the northwest, to port of Belawan to the north, and to Tebing Tinggi and Pematang Siantar to the southeast.

The seaport of Belawan is about 20 km to the north. Polonia International Airport is located in the heart of the city. Kuala Namu International Airport is a new airport under construction and is due to replace Polonia in 2009.

A toll highway connects Medan to Belawan and Tanjungmorawa. A plan for the extension of this highway to Tebing Tinggi and to Binjai has been completed, and the central government is currently seeking investors to build the extension.

#top Back to Top

How to Get in


Medan New Airport

By plane

Medan's international airport is known as Polonia International Airport (MES) and is located about 15 minutes from the city. Domestic departure taxes from Medan increased on 15 August 2005 from Rp15,000 to Rp25,000, while international departure taxes remained constant at Rp100,000. The domestic terminal is nicer than the international terminal because in 2006 a fire in the baggage handling system damaged the international terminal and there is no moneychanger for currency other than USD.

ATM machines are located only at the domestic airport. Bags are checked by customs upon departure, unless you have friends at the airport. Domestic flights out of Medan do not check IDs (sporadically, they check passports at check-in) at security checks (only tickets). Medan currently is in progress to finalise the new Bandara Udara Kuala Namu Internasional Airport due to open sometime in 2009.

Getting there

A Taxi into town sets you back around Rp40,000, unless you walk past the taxis in front of the terminal and proceed towards the exit. There are more taxis towards the exit, and if you bargain well, you can get a taxi for only Rp.20,000. If you know the public bus number for your destination, it is Rp.3500 per person, but those unfamiliar with the Indonesian language are encouraged to get taxis for their first transportation.

There are direct international flights to/from Penang (for only around $70 return), Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Ipoh in Malaysia; Singapore. Several discount airlines service Medan, though the only one with reliable Internet booking (in July and August 2005) is AirAsia, with fares sometime below US$50 return if purchased in advance. Another option, Firefly airlines will start flies to Medan daily from Penang.

By bus

Larger, non air-conditioned buses and large luxury buses (often Mercedes) that are air-conditioned (some have toilets on board, though they are squatting toilets that are difficult to use when the buses are moving, given driving habits and road conditions throughout Sumatra). The central station for all larger buses in Medan is Amplas Station Central (not located in the center of the city though). This is where a lot of the smaller minivans go as well, and where travellers need to go to make connecting buses to further cities. Many of the large air-conditioned buses perform overnight routes, with prices varying by location served.

As an example of prices from August 2005, expect to pay around Rp.50,000-80,000 for an 8-10 hour overnight luxury bus (without toilet saves about Rp.10,000+) trip, as in to Duri, Bukit Lawang, or Lake Toba (Danau Toba). Such buses provide a small snack and sometimes have televisions on board. While seats are very comfortable by Sumatran standards, all rides are swervy/bumpy and drivers often play stereos quite loud during the entire trip (unless a movie is available). Also, many buses have smoking sections in the back, and sometimes, smoking occurs in the front of the non-smoking section by the driver if the driver is so inclined. Earplugs are good accessories. Furthermore, while the large luxury buses have ample stowage above seats, keep valuables safe while you sleep.

By boat

Medan is not located by the sea but nearby Belawan is a major port with domestic and international boat and ferry services. Belawan is listed as a visa-free and visa-on-arrival entry point (see the Get in section of the Indonesia page).

To/from other parts of Indonesia: Pelni boats link Belawan with various ports in Sumatra and other Indonesian islands. The comfortable MV Kelud departs from Belawan every Tuesday.

To/from Malaysia: Ferries run to/from Penang, Malaysia. Operated by Langkawi Ferry Services, Check the schedule ahead of time as they are NOT daily.

#top Back to Top



merdeka walkMaimoon Palace

Shri MariammanVihara Gunung Timur

Many tourists choose to use Medan as a quick thru-point to travel elsewhere in Sumatra, but the city offers a glimpse of a large Indonesian city still unfrequented by western tourists, and shouldn't be quickly dismissed. However, Medan is more chaotic and has a bit more litter than Jakarta or Denpasar and open sewers abound. Furthermore, not as many people speak English in Medan as in other large Indonesian cities, but even a short list of useful expressions goes a long way, and Sumaterans are still unjaded by westerners.

  • Maimoon Palace
  • Vihara Borobudur (Buddhist Temple)
  • Vihara Gunung Timur (Chinese Temple)
  • Mesjid Raya Mosque
  • Merdeka Walk (5 mins from Kesawan Square)
  • Tondi Gallery (Contemporary Arts Exhibitions by local artists)
  • Annai Velangkani (Catholic Shrine with Hindu-style architecture)
  • Shri Mariaman (Hindu Temple)

#top Back to Top



Medan Mall. A must go place for tourists where you can find almost everything from fine jewelery, clothing, food, and groceries. The mall attached to Central Pasar that sells everything in bulk. This is the place where the big retailers are. There is also wet market extended located just behind the Central Pasar that operating in the morning time only, and a dry market that operates only in the evening.

Carrefour stores stock food as well as electronics and clothing. The clothing section includes many namebrands at very low prices (ex: Diesel t-shirts for Rp.15,000, or about $1.50 USD). Many western food items can be found as well, at fairly competitive prices. These supermarkets cater to the middle/upper classes and are one of the few stores in Medan that accept credit cards.

Sun Plaza, located in central city. Big plaza and lots of happening in Saturday and Sunday. Plenty of food choices from western to eastern. Has a big supermarket, named Hypermart which offer the equal style of shopping like Carrefour. Medan Fair Plaza, city center. Has a big Carrefour supermarket, so if you need something you will be able to find them in Carrefour. Lots of eating options also.

Masindo Jewellery which was established since 1927, located in the central of the city at Gwangju street No.30. This jewelry shop sells various jewelry forms (necklace, bangle, bracelet, earrings, men and women rings, pendant) in 24K gold which are structured by pearl and diversity of gemstones. These jewelries are designed by an expert jewelries designer. Masindo Jewellery is the well-known jewelry shop in the town and it has launched a branch known as D'On Jewellery which specialize in diamonds.

hels, complete design services in graphics and fashion, complete with a clothing store with prices from Rp.10,000 - Rp.120,000 (USD1 - USD12), hels shop location: Jl. sei batang serangan 39/54 medan20154. Macan Yaohan Supermarkets, there are 8 branches located around Medan for your grocery shopping. TauKo Medan, Cutting-edge Medan merchandise: t-shirts (Rp.60,000), at Merdeka Walk, balai kota,lap.merdeka medan.

Toko Mr. Ben, sells imported western food all sorts at reasonable prices, e.g frozen New Zealand beef and lamb. It is a small, Chinese-owned shop, all expatriates know it. Tondi Gallery Contemporary arts by local, national and international artists. Open Monday - Saturday 10a.m - 5p.m., Sundays 12p.m. - 5p.m. Jalan Keladi Buntu No. 6. Close to Jalan Sriwijaya and Dharma Agung University.

Bolu Meranti located Jl. Kruing, near Jl. Meranti, on Petisah area. The home-made roll cakes with variety of tastes, such as cheese, blueberry, mocca etc. Bika Ambon & Marquisa located at Jl. Majapahit, on Petisah area. With numbers of shops along the street there, you can do the selection. Dried fruits with sugar on Pasar Rame, a famous morning till afternoon market, beside Thamrin Plaza. Karaoke Keluarga( K2), Kompleks Multatuli, 11:00-02:00.

#top Back to Top

Map of Medan


Medan City Map

Medan Map

#top Back to Top

FNE Travel || About Us || Contact Us || Medan Hotels || 棉兰旅游信息 || Travel Info for Indonesia More Destination