NOTE: The PDF guide to Pulau Weh (at the end of this document) is the most recent one we could find on the island, from 2008. Times and prices will have likely changed.
Indonesian Travel Visa – Canadians, as well as many other nationalities, do require a visa to enter Indonesia.
A 30-day visa may be purchased upon arrival in most airports and ports, and Banda Aceh (nearest Pulau Weh) is one of them. If Banda Aceh is your first destination in Indonesia you will need to apply for one in your country of residence or at the Indonesian Consulate (if applicable) in the country you are entering from.
If you know you want to stay for at least 60 days, as we did, then you’ll need to apply before entering Indonesia. We were told at the Indonesian Consulate in Toronto that we can apply for 30-day extensions, in the applicable airports or ports, for a total of 4 extensions and a total visit time of six (6) months. Upon arrival in Banda Aceh an immigration officer told us that we could extend it three (3) more times. I am not yet sure if it is three or four but we’ll find out when we go for our first extension.
When applying for a visa you’ll want to ensure you follow the exact steps to get your visa in time for your departure. It helps to write a list of the requirements in point form so you don’t make mistakes; sometimes there can be five or six things you need in order to have the application processed correctly, (money order addressed appropriately, # of photos etc).
Visas are typically only good for 90 days from the date of issue so this may not be a good option.
Be sure to carry extra passport photos with you when you travel but also keep in mind that you may need to take some when there due to different visa photo regulations in the country you’re travelling to.
PASSPORT PHOTOS – First, I always carry extra passport photos with me when I travel and have often needed them. When I went hang-gliding in Rio de Janeiro I needed one for my hang-gliding card (even for one ride). In Ethiopia I needed two photos for my SIM card. It’s always good to carry extra photos.
In Toronto I recommend Chinatown, on Spadina Ave where you can get two passport photos for $6.99
VACCINATIONS – Not required for Indonesia, however, there may be areas where you’d need or want malaria medication.
There is no one better in Toronto than Dr. Hii. He doesn’t give you anything that is not necessary. He sits you down and goes over each country your travelling to in detail and gives you tips you may not get elsewhere.
An added bonus is that he has a special way of doing Hep B so that he can create immunity to it and will send you in for blood tests as well to ensure you are not wasting money if you already have the antibodies. A class act and I have been going to him for years.
Dr. Hii – 372 Bay Street (Sterling Tower), Suite #401.
416.350.3555 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the costs we’ve incurred for previous trips were:
Yellow Fever – Good for 10 years – $130
Typhoid – $40
Hep A – $60
Hep B – $40/dose. Typically only two are needed to create immunity.
Admin fees range but are typically about $80 for filing and consultation
DukOral – For traveller’s diarrhea and it lasts two weeks. Definitely get it. $40/dose, 2 doses.
Malarone – Malaria pills. I had a friend from NYC with me when I was in Kenya in 1994 that almost died from malaria after not taking her pills properly. Definitely bring them if needed.
Dr. Hii goes over your itinerary and tells you how many you need. For example, you’re going to the required area for 5 days. You will take pills two days prior to arriving in it, one each day you’re there and a pill/day for the following seven days. A total of 14 pills. Most benefit plans cover them. If not they are expensive, 12 tabs are $75 without a plan.
Levaquin or Cipro – If you get traveller’s diarrhea, even after taking DukOral you’ll want these pills to stop it.
Two pills a day for three days and we’ve used it several times in Egypt, Kenya and Indonesia. Food poisoning is everywhere and in many third world countries safe food handling is not often learned. Without a drug plan it cost us $22 for 3 pills.
** Altitude sickness can happen to anyone even the most fit. Also, or example, I have no issues equalizing down to depths of 150’ in the ocean but often get altitude sickness as I did in Macchu Pichu, Peru and in Argentina. For me, each occurrence happened when I took a vehicle to the height of where I was visiting which perhaps didn’t give my body sufficient time to acclimatize.
CASH VS. CREDIT CARDS VS. TRAVELLER’S CHEQUES
Credit Cards – I imagine that many places in large cities accept Visa, MasterCard and AMEX but we are avoiding big cities so I can’t be 100% sure. However, in the rest of the country you’ll find much less acceptance and in many remote cities and towns, highly unlikely. Remember that often you are charged to use your cc, 2.5% of the purchase price. Same goes for cash withdrawals.
Traveller’s Cheques – Typically I use these when I travel to countries where I’m unsure about credit cards but sometimes you’ll run into issues. If you’re going outside of a big city you may want to take a few for emergencies, however, in some cities few banks changed them and outside of the city, impossible.
Cash is king. In many countries, you’ll require a lot of cash if you’re doing remote travel. However, in many cities you’ll be able to find banks and ATMs.
Changing Money – Shop around currency exchanges/banks for the best rate.
If you’re changing USD then make sure you’re bringing crisp, new bills and you’ll get a better rate for $50 and $100 bills.
Note: I’m not sure if there is an ATM at the Banda Aceh airport but I wouldn’t count on it.
PHONE/INTERNET – You can purchase Telkomsel SIM cards.
Many hostels and hotels offer free wireless Internet in my room but some luxury hotels do not and the cost is exorbitant. You might want to purchase a SIM at little cost, top up and tether to your iPad or laptop.
SIMs are very cheap here. We paid Rp 22,000 each ($2.25 CAD) for a Telkomsel SIM card, included Rp 10,000 “top up,” which didn’t last us very long, a few days.
SKYPE – Free, download it, use it for calls (normal or video), texts and in fact, use it when at home, it’s cheaper than cell phones once you’re over your minutes.
If you download it on your Blackberry/iPhone/Android and put a credit into your account you can make any call on your phone via Skype. If you’re connected to wireless you’re making a free call home.
To get your phone unlocked in Toronto go to:
Ming Wireless – mingwireless.com
250 Dundas St. West
It’s $20 to unlock a Blackberry or Android versus $50 at the Eaton Centre. If you’re contract has ended with Rogers, for example, it will only cost you $50 to unlock your iPhone. If not, there are places around Toronto that will do it for you, (it takes a few days) at a cost of $120-$150.
BANDA ACEH TRANSPORTATION
Taxi – Fixed airport cost of Rp 70,000 ($7 CAD) to central Banda Aceh. Rp 90,000 ($9 CAD) Ulee Lhe port where you’ll catch the ferry to Pulau Weh.
Bus – There is a bus you can catch at the end of airport (to the left) when you exit the airport. It is not well advertised and the information booth wasn’t very helpful. We stopped each bus that passed through and asked. Make sure confirm when they’re leaving. Now doesn’t sometimes actually mean “now.” Rp 15,000 ($1.50 CAD) and the bus ride took about 20 minutes.
CENTRAL BANDA ACEH – ULEE LHE PORT:
You can hopefully ask the bus driver (we had one with good English) to drop you where the labi labis leave from for the port. A labi labi is an open van/truck type of thing where people get on and off form, paying upon arrival at their destination. The labi labi to Ulee Lhe port cost Rp 6,000 ($0.60) each.
Becak – You can also take a becak (motorcycle and sidecar), which can snugly carry two large backpacks, two smaller backpacks and two people. I’m not sure of how much it should be to go from central Banda Aceh to the port, however, upon our return we were asked to pay Rp 40,000 to the centre (exorbitant).
At that time we were going from the port, not to central Banda Aceh, but past it towards to the airport to the minibus station where the minibuses for Takengon depart from.
We were told if we wanted to go via Labi Labi and tuk tuk it would cost us the Rp 6,000 each to go to the centre and then Rp 10,000 each to take a tuk tuk to the minibus station. Total Rp 16,000 per person.
We got the becak driver talked down to Rp 15,000 per person from Ulee Lhe port to the minibus station. It was an interesting and much more pleasant ride than the labi labi/tuk tuk combination would have been.
FERRY FROM BANDA ACHE (ULEE LHE) TO PULAU WEH (BALOHAN)
The slow ferry departs at 8am and 2pm and costs Rp 21,000 ($2 CAD) for economy. I recommend going up to the top deck and sitting outside if it’s nice. There is also limited seating indoors. Economy tickets can run out and if they do, business class is Rp 37,000 ($3.70 CAD) and you may sit in an air-conditioned room. Not worth it in my opinion if it’s nice out. The ride takes about 2 hours.
The fast ferry leaves at 9:30am and 4pm.
TRANSPORTATION TO/FROM PULAH WEH PORT (BALOHAN)
We were travelling from the port to Steffen’s Sea Sports on Ibioh Long Beach, the furthest destination from the port. We were charged Rp 50,000 ($5 CAD) per person. I think that is more likely the charge to Ibioh Beach, however, our driver didn’t know exactly where he was going even though I had help from someone who spoke English at the port and also told him it was near Kilometre Zero.
I am unsure about costs to the other destinations, however, they are not as far as ours was.
On the way back I was told it would likely be Rp 100,000 per person unless there were other passengers in our taxi (pre-arranged by our hotel). We shared it with two others and were again charged Rp 50,000 per person.
We met a Chilean named Nico who had taken a becak from the port to Ibioh Beach for Rp 30,000 but they were in an accident on the way and he required some medical attention. The roads are winding and the drivers drive fast. I’d advise against this method.
MAIN ATTRACTION – The main attraction of Pulau Weh is the general ambiance, the snorkeling, scuba diving and beaches.
- Sumur Tiga – It’s said that the sand is finest here although I didn’t find a big difference from Ibioh Long Beach’s sand. The nicest beach is at Casa Nemo, one of the nicest hotels. Freddie’s is also a very popular place for divers and it seemed very nice as well. Sumur Tiga is closest to the capital of Sabang.
- Ibioh Beach – Ibioh Beach and Gapang Beach are very similar. They both are a stretch with tourist shops and restaurants. They are also the beaches where many locals go with their children on the weekends and during summer holidays to play and swim. Locals litter everywhere and personally I wouldn’t want to spend a ton of time on those beaches but further out they provide some great snorkeling. The prices for food and accommodations are also more than at Ibioh Long Beach.
What I did like about Ibioh Beach is that at the end of the street where cars can no longer drive, you’ll climb a stairway and begin to pass rows of more isolated bungalows (accommodation options) and it gives you more seclusion than the main stretch. Here you’ll find Julia’s Bungalows and Dee Dee’s Restaurant (fantastic!).
If I were travelling with a child over the age of 4 I would likely spend time and/or stay at Ibioh Beach or Gapang Beach so they’d have other children to play with. Plus, the snorkeling is best is these two locations.
- Ibioh Long Beach - Ibioh Long Beach is where we stayed and it offers more seclusion and is closest to Kilometre Zero. It is about a 5-minute drive from the busier Ibioh Beach and has one of the nicer beaches on Pulau Weh, often where locals come on the weekends to picnic. It is also a great place to swim and exploring the sea pools at low tide is great for children and adult alike. The costs of food and accommodation are cheaper than other beaches on Pulau Weh.
- Gapang Beach – Gapang Beach and Ibioh Beach are very similar. They both are a stretch with tourist shops and restaurants. They are also the beaches where many locals go with their children on the weekends and during summer holidays to play and swim. Locals litter everywhere and personally I wouldn’t want to spend a ton of time on those beaches but further out they provide some great snorkeling. The prices for food and accommodations are also more than at Ibioh Long Beach.
You’ll find Lumba Lumba Dive Centre here.
If I were travelling with a child over the age of 4 I would likely spend time and/or stay at Gapang Beach or Ibioh Beach so they’d have other children to play with. Plus, the snorkeling is best is these two locations.
Japanese Bunkers – The bunkers are remote along the cost down from Sumur Tiga. We didn’t choose to visit them, however, they remain an attraction on Pulau Weh.
Kilometre Zero – Indonesia’s official most northernmost point offers a beautiful view towards the mainland. It’s a very nice drive through the island and protected park just watch out for the monkeys.
Hot Springs – I’m told the hot springs are overrated so we skipped them, however, they remain an attraction on Pulau Weh.
Seulako View located on Ibioh Long Beach offers Indonesian cuisine at very reasonable prices.
Dee Dee’s located on Ibioh Beach is fantastic with wraps, sandwiches and Indonesian food. It was a welcome break from the other restaurants on the island.
Bixio Café located on Ibioh Long Beach has excellent homemade Italian pastas, fish and tiramisu.
CouchSurfing – At the time of writing there weren’t any CouchSurfing hosts in Pulau Weh.
Budget (couples & groups) – Steffen Sea Sports
Budget - Seulako View Cottages re ideally situated at Ibioh Long Beach. Bungalows are spacious with a queen size bed and a terrace with a hammock. Without a washroom (located outside) is Rp 100,000 ($10 CAD), with a washroom, Rp 150,000 ($15 CAD). There are also large rooms above the restaurant with windows and a fan. Rp 50,000 ($5 CAD)
Casa Nemo – see post
Pulau Dive Resort – see post
Padé Dive Resort – see post
PDF Pulau Weh Tourist Guide (Great source of information)