EcoTravel's frequently asked questions
Q.: How much money would you recommend for extras?
A.: Although it is always difficult to recommend a fixed sum of money we can give you a few guidelines:
After your arrival in Bukit Lawang you have to pay entrance permits for the national park and a tax for using cameras before starting your trek (150.000 IDR / pax). For keeping surplus luggage in a locker room during your trek (Overnight Treks, Jungle Explorer Tours & Jungle Observations) there is a fee of 25.000 IDR per item, payable to your guesthouse. Local porter fee for carry your luggage from taxi/bus stop to your guesthouse if required (20.000 - 50.000 IDR). Meals in Bukit Lawang are available at approximately 40.000 IDR per person, including soft drinks or water. One bottle of beer is around 30.000 IDR. Unfortunately Bukit Lawang is a bit more expensive than other places in Sumatra.
Q.: What would you recommend to take on our trip to Bukit Lawang?
A.: The most important items are cash money, good walking shoes/hiking boots, a flashlight/torch and mosquito repellent! There is no chance to change money, electricity often breaks down and to keep you safe from mosquito bites you should buy a mosquito repellent with a minimum content of 40% deet in advance. More information can be found on our website under "Travel tips & information".
Q.: Is there really no opportunity to change money in Bukit Lawang?
A.: There is no ATM machine in Bukit Lawang and its surroundings. As an exclusive service to our guests we also change Euros and US Dollars and offer credit card payment (Visa & Mastercard / 3% charge) in our EcoTravel office in Bukit Lawang, if required. Unfortunately, if you fail to pay your final cash payment to the tour operator team after arrival, it is not possible to start your tour. Note: The maximum amount you get from ATM machines in Sumatra is 2.5 Mio IDR so you have to make several transactions to get a higher amount! Due to frequent problems with ATM machines we recommend to take 2 -3 different credit cards with you.
Q.: Which are the risks awaiting us in Bukit Lawang? And how to avoid them?
A.: There are a couple of things to be aware of: a good mosquito/insect repellent should be applied at least twice a day (in the morning and in the evening) to your clothes and your body (ears, wrists, ankles). Sensitive western stomachs may be rather upset by Indonesian „street food“: it is prepared in the morning and stays on display for hours so it is often contaminated with bacteria. Instead, restaurant food is usually prepared freshly and comes at a reasonable price. Switch off your mobile phone or tablet pc during thunder storms as there are no lightning conductors in the jungle. To avoid being bitten or to even catch rabies, we recommend strongly not to touch any animals around the village, especially pets. Furthermore, don’t drink local alcohol. Apart from local 'gin', 'whisky', 'vodka' and 'arak' which are all available in and around Bukit Lawang. Extreme caution is advised because cheap, adulterated local alcohol has already caused serious health problems and even some deaths. You are also quite likely to be offered marijuana in Bukit Lawang. It is illegal and can get you in big trouble with the police if you are caught.
Q.: What about the standard of accommodation in Bukit Lawang? Do they have air condition and hot shower?
A.: In Bukit Lawang air con rooms are not common. In this jungle village you shouldn't expect a Bali standard! But our choice of guest houses is the best option to stay there with clean rooms, good standard and reliable service. Apart from EcoTravel Cottages, which offer a “western” bathroom and hot shower, most other guesthouses have cold running water. If you wish to have your room cleaned please tell reception because it's not common to clean rooms every day – except in our EcoTravel Cottages with daily room cleaning service. Basic standard is offered at Mega Inn in Tangkahan. Quite good standard can be expected from Hotel Deli River in Medan and Tabo Cottages (Lake Toba).
Q.: Can you recommend places offering decent food for lunch and dinner in Bukit Lawang?
A.: The food in restaurants varies widely. However it's always free of pork, because most people in Bukit Lawang are Muslim. But there’s a big choice of western and Asian food around your guesthouse. Our favourite (and clean) spots for delicious food around our EcoTravel Cottages are (walking distance 1 min to 5 min): Lawang Inn: Professionally run restaurant with moderate prices offering a fusion of Indonesian and European cuisine. We can recommend any Curry, but there is also a big breakfast menu as well s freshly baked bread. How to get there? From EcoTravel Cottages walk down river for about 5 minutes, the restaurant is on your left from the Walkingway. Eriono Artshop & Restaurant: Indonesian, Balinese and Italian cuisine, run by a young local couple. Recommendations: Vegetable Curry, Sambal Terong, Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce. How to get there? From EcoTravel Cottages walk down river for about 5 minutes, restaurant is on your right from the Walkingway, opposite Lawang Inn. Garden Inn: Cosy and clean backpacker restaurant offering traveller’s cuisine. Recommendation: Chicken Barbeque. How to get there? Walk up river from the EcoTravel Cottages for about 1 minute, along the Walkingway to your right (after Riverside Guesthouse)
Q.: What time do the tours start and finish in Medan?
A.: We can pick you up from your Medan hotel and take you back to your hotel any time from 07:00 am to 07:00 pm. If you would like to book a pickup service with our EcoTravel team from Medan airport to the jungle, please note that your flight should arrive before 02:30 pm. For your transfer from Bukit Lawang back to Medan airport your flight departure should be after 02:30 pm. EcoTravel-tours are group tours, so there will be other EcoTravel guests joining you if their arrival/departure is at the same time. Currently our maximum group size for tours and transfers is up to 8 people but especially in low season you may sometimes be on your own. Please remember it’s a 4.5 hour drive from the new Medan airport to Bukit Lawang so the later you arrive the later you will get to Bukit Lawang. And if your jungle trek starts the next day you will have to get up early.
Q.: How many people will be taking part in the package we are booking?
A.: Currently our maximum group size for jungle treks and transports is up to 8 persons. Especially in low season you may sometimes be on your own.
Q.: Are we expected to tip staff on our tours, e.g. after trekking or after a transfer?
A.: Tips are neither expected by EcoTravel team members nor by drivers or staff at our accommodation partners. Everybody who works with EcoTravel is well paid. But of course if you feel that you have received a very good service, you are welcome to give a small tip from 50.000 up to 100.000 IDR. Each of our team members will be happy about this! Please give the tip directly to the staff member you want to reward for his/her service.
Q.: Are your trekking rates higher than the official prices in Bukit Lawang?
A.: The trekking prices are set by the Bukit Lawang Guide Association based on a group size of 3 people minimum. Our specially priced packages for 2 persons minimize your costs, because EcoTravel treks and tours are based on a minimum number of only 2 persons. For our overnight treks we have a surcharge of 4 Euros because in contrast to all other guides in the Gunung Leuser National park our team offers special services covering safety, information and free equipment along with daily investments in our „Keep The Jungle Green“-project. Along with our exceptionally delicious food we provide a big tent, sleeping bags, pillows, mattresses, mosquito nets, safety jackets and helmets for children. These features make your trek safer and more convenient for EcoTravel guests. Our team has to use official camp sites and the usual "jungle toilets" in the National park. Please note that the national park office requires an additional entrance permit/camera tax of 150.000 IDR/pax to enter the national park. But some tour operators or guides do not follow the rules of the national park, do not pay permits for their guests and do not support any vision of ecotourism. Please make sure before trekking start that you are registered (permit / person, format DIN6, 4C-color, registration number!). Our EcoTravel team follows the official rules of the national park office and pays the required entrance permit to the national park for each guest.
Q.: Do we have to carry all our kit while jungle trekking or will there be a porter? Do we need to bring sleeping bag or a mosquito net? And what about toilets?
A.: There will be a porter for the equipment (tent, camping mats, mosquito nets) and all the food. Just bring your personal belongings in a small backpack (1- or 2-day-treks: 20-25 litres / 3- to 5 days-treks: 30-40 litres). Our team will provide sleeping bags as well as safety jackets for tube rafting. It is not necessary to bring a mosquito net for trekking but if you like you can fix your own net in our tent to be on the double safe side. Concerning toilet arrangements: this is real jungle trekking! You will find many "jungle toilets" behind big trees!
Q.: Will we see orangutans and tigers on the jungle trek?
A.: At most times you will see orangutans on jungle treks but there is no guarantee! These animals live out in the wild and it's hard to determine where they will be at any point of the day. But our jungle treks leave Bukit Lawang at 8:30 am and go past the old orangutan feeding area where you will have the best chance to see semi-wild orangutans up close. Probably you will not see tigers because they live in remote parts of Gunung Leuser National Park which would mean many days of trekking from Bukit Lawang.
Q. Which language do your guides speak?
A.: Our guides speak English.
Q.: I have 2 quite young children who are not very experienced walkers (although they are sporty). Do you think the overnight trek would be appropriate? Regarding tube rafting: Is it safe for children?
A.: Yes, many of our young guests did it already – and they loved it very much! For your safety we will send an extra guide and we will do a shorter and easier trek so the children can relax at the camp earlier. The next day after swimming, relaxing and having lunch the highlight of the day will be traditional tube-rafting down the Bohorok River back to Bukit Lawang. Our team is used to do the tube-rafting since many years in a safe way. At the moment we are the only ones in Bukit Lawang offering life jackets as well as helmets for children.
Q.: Is the 4 or 5-day-trek really hard to do?
A.: Yes, especially our jungle observation treks are hard to do because there are many hills to go up and down and the climate is extremely humid. You should be a very active person and in very good physical shape. It is within your own responsibility to have a thorough check up with your doctor before you set off!
Q.: We’re only 2 people but some treks have a minimum group size of 3 or 4. How much do we have to pay to start this tour?
A.: In case we still don’t have bookings for your requested date we have to increase the price based on the minimum group size. If there will be other guests joining you then our team in Bukit Lawang will give you a part refund on arrival.
Q.: I am travelling on my own but most of your packages have a minimum group size of 2. How much do i have to pay to take part in your tours?
A.: All our tours are based on a group size of up to 8. Single travellers will be charged for at least two persons. If there are other guests joining you while trekking or for a day tour, you will already get a discount based on the separate tour prices on your booking confirmation or a refund on arrival in Bukit Lawang. Please note: Prices for transport and rooms are per item which means that the basic rate also applies for single travellers - as written on our website! So when travelling on your own, booking a budget range hotel can save you money.
Q.: Could you recommend the best month to travel to Bukit Lawang?
A.: There is no real 'season' to visit Bukit Lawang. The rain season from October to February means torrential rain - but generally only in the afternoon/at night and it rains at moderate temperatures. Unfortunately the climate in Southeast Asia has been changing in recent years so accurate predictions are not possible! But we do not recommend travelling during Indonesian public holidays because hundreds of local visitors will crowd all Indonesia. This is something that western tourists may find annoying because it can be a lot more noisy and hectic everywhere. If visiting Bukit Lawang on a Sunday it is wise to head for something quieter, such as jungle trekking, going to Landak river or to Tangkahan.
Q.: What about the risk of jungle trekking? What about insurance for trekking and transport?
A.: Our team in Bukit Lawang has been into guiding for many years and never witnessed an accident. We have an excellent reputation to keep our guests safe, but to be honest you will be out in the wild and you will be involved in Indonesian traffic. You should understand that tours arranged by Sumatra EcoTravel Bukit Lawang also involve certain risks and dangers. These include: traveling in mountain terrain, trekking in dense rainforest and crossing rivers; unpredictable behavior of wildlife; accidents caused by the forces of nature; accidents or illness in remote regions with little or no medical facilities and without any means of rapid or free evacuation; accidents caused by Indonesian traffic. So please note: insurance lies within the responsibility of each traveller or group to cover for accidents, injury or loss of property. You should especially make sure with your health insurance to cover for foreign travel, jungle-trekking, transport and the like!
Q.: How can I make sure to travel eco-friendly?
A.: Try to leave as little behind as possible. Anything you bring into the jungle should be taken with you as you leave. In addition we are currently the only tour operator in Bukit Lawang who pays staff to clean and maintain our campsites on a regular basis for your comfort. Our team has committed itself, environmentally and socially, to ecological and responsible outdoor adventures. So EcoTravel Bukit Lawang is a member of "The International Ecotourism Society" (TIES) since January 2012. More information can be found on our website under "Our eco tourism policy".
Q.: What about the final payment? How will it have to be made?
A.: The remaining payment is due after your arrival in Bukit Lawang. Your driver will pick you up at the airport in Medan. He will wait outside the exit bearing a sign with your name on it and bring you to Bukit Lawang. Kembar, the owner of Sumatra EcoTravel Bukit Lawang, or one of our team members will meet you at your guest house. After check in there will be an informal meeting at the restaurant to discuss details of your tour and to do the final payment. Please pay in Indonesian Rupiah and please be kindly informed that it is not possible to start your tours without advance payment in cash. As an exclusive service to our guests we also change Euros and US Dollars and offer credit card payment (3% charge) in our EcoTravel office in Bukit Lawang, if required. Your remaining payment is based on the exchange rate of your day of booking. Any changes to the rate between booking and arrival are not taken into consideration.
Q.: Is it possible to pay the total in advance?
A.: Please pay the deposit stated in your booking confirmation because this payment method will restrict your and our costs to a minimum. Unfortunately it is not possible to make an advance payment for the full package price in Euros through Paypal. Your total package price would also have to be increased because of additional fees and exchange rates. But if required we can offer you to pay the total package price in IDR to our Indonesian bank account (BCA, Jasanta Sitepu).
Q.: Why do our package prices differ from prices for individual tours on your website? Can tours, transfers or rooms also be booked individually with EcoTravel?
A: Our specially priced packages for 2 persons are the basis for any booking with our EcoTravel Team. These packages include all additional fees for your deposit as well as taxes (excluding fee for credit card payment!). Our offer for individual tours includes additional or special tours which can be added to our pre-booked packages. Any package can be adjusted to your needs - subject to availability. Individual tours described on our website can only be booked in combination with existing packages. All accommodation in our EcoTravel Cottages in Bukit Lawang is reserved exclusively for our touring guests.
Q.: You've sent me two documents with terms and conditions, one for Sumatra EcoTravel Bukit Lawang and another for Sumatra EcoTravel. What's the relation between the two and what relations do I have with both regarding my trip?
A.: We are one EcoTravel family working together in a partnership as follows: Sumatra EcoTravel (Christina) handles all bookings and email correspondence BEFORE you travel. The team of Sumatra EcoTravel Bukit Lawang, owned by Jasanta Sipepu ("Kembar"), is your tour operator DURING your stay. Sumatra EcoTravel acts as disclosed agent for the tour operator Sumatra EcoTravel Bukit Lawang. When you make a booking the contract it will be only between you and your tour operator Sumatra EcoTravel Bukit Lawang.
Q.: How much deposit do we need to pay and what is your cancellation policy?
A.: The deposit depends on the total amount, the type of tour and the rooms required but starts at a minimum of 30 % of the total price. If you cancel your tour within 90 days prior to arrival there will be a cancellation fee of 20% of the total price. If you cancel later we will keep the total deposit ranging from 30 - 50%, depending on your individual booking.
Q.: Could you also book our flights?
A.: No, we’re sorry but we don’t book flights but on our website we recommend airlines and flight search engines (cheap tickets, skyscanner). Actually Lion Air cannot be booked online. But there is a new website https://ticketindonesia.info/en/index.php, a few EcoTravel guests recommend this to book flights, just try it!
Q.: We are travelling as a family of 4. Does any of the accommodation offer rooms for 4 or will we have to book separate rooms?
A.: In our EcoTravel Cottages in Bukit Lawang we offer a Family Suite for up to 4 persons. For up to 5 or 6 we can open a door to a connecting room. Our partner Ecolodge has rooms with up to 2 extra beds charged at an extra fee per bed/night. Tabo Cottages at the Lake Toba offers a Batak Villa for 4 and Freddie’s on Pulau Weh as well as Deli River Hotel Medan offer family rooms for up to 4. Only in Tangkahan and Berastagi you will have to split up into two separate rooms. (All room arrangements are subject to availability).
Q.: Is it possible to have vegetarian food included in the package? Is it hard to find vegetarian food in Bukit Lawang, Tangkahan, Pulau Weh or Lake Toba whenever the food is not included?
A.: Vegetarian food is possible. Just let our team know on arrival. They will prepare vegetarian food during your trek. In Bukit Lawang there is also a range of good restaurants (Sam, Tony’s, Garden Inn or Ecolodge). In Tangkahan the Mega Inn offers good food - just tell the waiters about your dietary needs when placing your order. Tabo Cottages on Samosir Island offer a delicious vegetarian menu. Freddie on Pulau Weh and Hotel Deli River in Medan will create meals catering especially for vegetarians as well as guests with allergies.
Q.: We have booked the package „Sumatra Highlights“. Is it possible to extend our stay for 1 or 2 nights at certain spots on a spontaneous basis?
A.: No, unfortunately this is not possible because all your room and transport arrangements have to be booked in advance.
Q.: Is it possible to start our tour at Tangkahan or Lake Toba? Or is it possible to go from Tangkahan to the Lake Toba in one day?
A.: Unfortunately not. All EcoTravel tours start in Bukit Lawang. If your tour ends with a transport Tangkahan - Medan airport or Lake Toba Medan airport please make sure that your flight departure is NOT before 05:00 pm! Transport from Tangkahan to Lake Toba is also not possible because of too long distance, you can't get the boat to Samosir in time.