Bukit Lawang is a popular tourist destination for its laidback riverside lifestyle, jungle treks in the Gunung Leuser National Park, and its world-famous orangutan rehabilitation centre. This website aims to provide information on all aspects of Bukit Lawang including trekking, accommodation, food and neighbouring attractions.
Please visit our forum if you have any questions not answered by the site.
What to do
The prime tourist draws in Bukit Lawang are orangutan trekking in the Gunung Leuser national park and visiting the orangutan feeding, which takes place twice daily in Bukit Lawang. However some visitors stay for many weeks without visiting the orangutans, instead preferring to soak up the relaxed atmosphere – nightly jungle parties at various guesthouses featuring guitar-playing guides drinking bir Bintang and singing late into the night.
By day, activities include tubing on the river (hire a tube for around $1, walk up stream, then float down to wear you started – best done as a small group, speak to one of the guides, get them to arrange a barbecue upstream, bring some beer and then come back together), swimming in the river, fishing in the Bohorok (main) or Landak (30 minutes walk) river or fishing in one of the local fishing ponds.
Several outfits in Bukit Lawang offer rafting and kayaking, this is done locally but not in Bukit Lawang itself. Again, just contact one of the many guides if you have any questions.
When to go
There is no real ‘season’ to visit Bukit Lawang. The rainy season means torrrential rains – but generally only in the evening/night, and rains moderate temperatures.
Note that on Indonesian public holidays and Sundays (except during Ramadan), hundreds of local visitors crowd the village, which Western tourists may find less than appealing – if visiting on a Sunday it is wise to arrange a visit somewhere quieter, such as trekking or going to the Landak river.
Accommodation prices may very slightly by season, but not hugely so, and with accommodation prices generally ranging from $5-$30, this is not a major concern.
Although Bukit Lawang is by no means a city it has many modern facilities available, although some others are still lacking.
You can find:
Electricity – although powercuts occur several times a week and a small torch is highly recommended for power cuts and for poorly lit areas, visiting caves, etc.
Internet access – in three internet cafes located in the new-built village set on the hill bordering the right bank of the Bohorok river. Prices and speeds vary, Leuser Netwave, on the left is fastest, but at 15,000 rp/hour with your own laptop (wifi) or 20,000rp/hour with their laptop, is expensive. The CDC internet cafe, on the right, provides free internet for local people but requests a donation from tourists. There is another internet cafe charging 5,000 rp/hour in between the two. A fourth internet cafe, charging 4,000rp/hour has fast access, and is in the adjacent village of Gotong Royong, about 2km from Bukit Lawang, however a becak will cost you 5,000rp/each way, negating most of the savings. The orphanage past Batu Mandi hotel on the way to the bat cave also offers wifi internet in return for a donation to their cause.
ATM – 11km away in the village of Bohorok, a guide will take you by motorbike for around 50,000rp round-trip, or you can try to take a local bus known as an ‘opelet’ for about 3,000rp/each way, plus potentially a becak to take you to the bus station about 1.5km from Bukit Lawang. The ATM is owned by Bank Rakyat Indonesia and is on the Mastercard/Cirrus network. Visa/PLUS cards will NOT work. If you have a Visa-family card, do not try to use it here. In this case you will need to take a longer journey possibly to Binjai, about 2 hours away. Note that the ATM in Bohorok is sometimes empty of money and there may be a day or two’s delay while it is reloaded. Generally it’s safer to bring plenty of money to Bukit Lawang rather than try to get more.
Money changer – there are a number of money changers who will change a variety of Western and regional currencies to rupiah. Rates are slightly lower than in Medan.
Mobile phone coverage – now very reliable, you can buy a SIM card for your (unlocked) mobile phone on the Telkomsel network and enjoy cheap local calls as well as 3G mobile internet. Coverage locally is very good.
Market – on Friday from morning till around 3pm, located 2km in Gotong Royong. Popular with tourists, a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, fish and clothes are sold. Another, similar, market on Sundays in Bohorok (11km away).
Clothing – mostly tourist-oriented t-shirts, for buying jeans etc. try the malls in Medan.
Mosquito repellent, condoms, sanitary towels, toilet paper. Tampons are not available.
Medicines – several local pharmacies, but do not stock a complete selection. Medical care is basic, for emergencies visit ‘Rumah Sakit Elizabeth’ in Medan, the best local hospital.
What you cannot find in Bukit Lawang – formal restaurants, large supermarkets, alcohol beyond beer. If you fancy something stronger/different from beer please bring your DUTY FREE! Otherwise you can find a limited selection of wine, imported spirits in Medan, on Jalan Gatot Subroto (the road to Bukit Lawang) just before Berastagi supermarket, at around km2.5, at ‘Simpang Barat’, the shop is known as ‘Kedai Opong’. Indonesian-bottled, UK-produced whisky is 150,000rp for 70cl. Imported Smirnoff vodka (from the Phillipinnes) is 175,000rp for 75cl. Wine costs around 200,000rp per bottle.
Local ‘gin’, ‘whisky’, ‘vodka’ and ‘arak’ are all available in/around Bukit Lawang, brands such as ‘Mansion House’, however extreme caution is advised as cheap, adulterated local alcohol has been known to cause serious medical problems and death.
Accommodation in Bukit Lawang is in three main areas:
Before the village:
Rindu Alam, just before the village, has its own road entrance – so ask your becak/car to take you directly there. The only real ‘hotel’ in Bukit Lawang, some rooms have air-con. 300 metres walk along the canal to the village proper.
Bukit Lawang Cottages Eco-Lodge, operated by Paneco, directly across the river from Rindu Alam, situated above the river.
Batu Mandi- past the Ecolodge towards the bat cave (away from the village), about 200 metres
In the village itself.
On the left bank, accommodation starts at the village entrance:
Wisma Leuser Sibayak, located immediately across the riverover a rickety bridge. Rooms around 100,000rp depending on type
Yusman, adjacent upstream to Wisma Leuser Sibayak
Bukit Lawang Indah, adjacent upstream to Yusman
Back In Touch, past Bukit Lawang Indah located high above the rocks
On the right bank, accommodation options begin 10 minutes walk along the river, past numerous small cafes/restaurants and shops
Rain Forest. Operated by Nora, formerly of Rain Forest Cafe
Jungle Inn. Telephone: +62 813 7073 0151
Sam’s Bungalows. Three rooms, Telephone +62 81370093597
Bukit Lawang is located 86km from the centre of Medan, the largest city in Indonesia’s Northern island of Sumatra, at the entrance to Gunung Leuser National Park, the last sanctuary of the Sumatran orangutan.
Getting there from Medan
In order to reach Bukit Lawang, tourists can either:
– take a taxi direct from Medan city centre or airport to Bukit Lawang (cost about $30)
– hail a becak (motorised rickshaw) or taxi (about $5), or a local yellow bus (about $0.30) to Kampung Lalang, the district on the outskirts of Medan where Bukit Lawang-bound buses depart from, in preference to the official (nearby) Pinang Baris bus station. Large orange buses travel to Bukit Lawang for approx $1, or faster minibuses for $1.50. Buses run until roughly 5:30pm.
– take a bus or taxi to Binjai, another 10km from Medan past Kampung Lalang on the road to Bukit Lawang where minibuses to Bukit Lawang continue until around 6:30pm
The main tourist destinations near Medan aside from Bukit Lawang are Berastagi, a hill-station, and Danau Toba, the world’s largest voclanic lake. Both Berastagi and Bukit Lawang are generally visited as a return trip from Medan, although it is possible to arrange to take a tourist bus or charter a bus between the two towns to cut out the stay in Medan. Danau Toba is a little further afield: a tourist bus/charter can be arranged from Bukit Lawang, or from Medan itself, about a five-hour journey. A slightly cheaper option is to take the local bus from Amplas bus station, Medan.
All will drop off in Tuk Tuk on the shores of Lake Toba, for a ferry across. From Lake Toba, travellers will either double back to Medan for an onward or homeward flight, take a six-hour bus journey to Sibolga, the port for Pulau Nias (which is then an 8 hour ferry journey), or continue on by bus to Bukittinggi (which offers cool air, and Danau Maninjau, another lake), a 12-hour journey (longer in slower, cheaper buses). Travelling by bus back to Medan and flying onto Padang, near to Bukittinggi, or to Gunung Sitoli (on Nias itself) would be a slightly shorter and more comfortable journey, albeit more expensive. From Bukittinggi, most people will take the long bus journey to Java, or fly onto Jakarta.
A quicker, more costly alternative is the daily forty minute flight from Medan to Silangit, just a few minutes from Lake Toba. This is operated by Susi Air on 12-seat Cessna aircraft.