So, you have decided to visit beautiful and peaceful Lake Toba, the world’s largest crater lake. Now you are in need of some basic information and know-how on how to get to Samosir Island and where to stay when you arrive. We are here to help with our Lake Toba travel guide.
We’ve already covered things to do in Lake Toba in another article. It covers some of the highlights including the waterfalls on Samosir Island, kayaking and a host of other things. Our Lake Toba travel cover the more practical things you need to know for your trip. Let’s get started!
How to Get to Lake Toba From Medan
There are several options to get to Lake Toba from the city of Medan. The most convenient option is to fly direct to Medan. From there you can travel overland to Prapat, before hopping on the ferry for the final leg to Samosir Island. The cheapest option to get from Medan to Prapat is by public bus.
The public bus to Parapat, bus 64, leaves from the Amplas Bus Terminal in the center of Medan. The bus is usually crowded, but it’s a good way to adjust to the local culture. Make sure you buy your ticket in the bus and not from people who approach you at the bus terminal. A bus ticket from Medan to Parapat should cost between Rp. 20,000 to Rp. 40,000, no more. The ride takes 4 to 6 hours.
If you’re travelling as part of a small group I’d recommend arranging a shared taxi. You can arrange a shared taxi in Medan. A minivan taxi seats 7 people. If you have less than 7 people in your group then you can pay for the additional free seats to leave early (otherwise you will have to wait). The price of a seat is Rp. 80,000.
Medan to Pematang by Train
Taking the train is a great way to travel comfortably and take in the surroundings. I’d definitely recommend it. You can catch a train from Medan to Pematang Siantar. It leaves once a day and costs Rp. 40,000 for a one-way ticket. The train ride takes around 4 hours and from Pematang Siantar. From Pematang Sinatar you can take a becak (local transport) to Parapat where you can catch the ferry.
Arrange a Private Car Rental
The most convenient way to get from Medan to Parapat is with a private car rental. You can arrange a private car rental from Medan to Parapat for around Rp. 400,000. You won’t have to worry about unnecessary stops along the way with a car rental, but you’ll still get to see the views. The rise from Medan to Parapat takes around 4 hours.
Ferry from Parapat to Samosir Island
To get from Parapat to Samosir Island you need to take the ferry. The ferry runs every half hour. It costs Rp. 7,000 per person. On Samosir Island you can get off at either Tuk Tuk or Tomok, depending on where you want to stay. Tuk Tuk has the most guesthouses and hotels. The last ferry leaves at 7:30 pm during peak season and 6 pm in low season. Buy your ticket on the boat to get the right price.
Where to stay in Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk is a charming little town by the lake. It’s home to lots of guesthouses, restaurants and bars. The most popular hotels are along the shoreline and many are built in the traditional Batak style. You can find choices for all budgets. Below are a few recommendations for nice places to stay.
If you are on a budget I’d recommend Laster Jony’s. The rooms are basic, but who cares when you are treated to such wonderful lake views every morning. Laster Jony’s offers traditional Batak-style bungalows with little balconies overlooking the lake. The hotel has its charms.
Best Mid-Range Hotels in Tuk Tuk
A nice mid-range option is Gokhon Guest House. The rooms are comfortable with en-suite bathrooms, hot showers and free Wi-Fi. Like Laster Jony’s you get mesmerizing lake views. Another nice option in the same price range is Horas Family Home. The hotel has private bungalows, which is super convenient for families.
Best Luxury Hotel in Tuk Tuk
The closest thing to a luxury hotel on Samosir Island is the 3-star Lake Toba Village Inn. The rooms are comfortably furnished with balconies offering views over the lake and Pusuk Buhit Mountain. Guests get a complimentary western breakfast and there’s a swimming pool overlooking the lake where you can relax after your travels.
Getting around Samosir Island
Samosir Island is quite large. The best way to explore the area is by motorbike. You can rent a motorbike at most hotels and/ or guesthouses. A day rental costs between Rp. 50,000 to Rp. 100,000, depending on the season, fuel and your bargaining skills. Road conditions aren’t the best though, so drive carefully, wear a helmet and take is easy. It is also a wise decision to be back before dark.
If you don’t want to drive, but still want to explore Samosir you can take a public boats between towns. It is cheap (around Rp. 10,000 one way) and a relaxing way to explore. Alternatively, you can rent a bicycle to see some more of the surroundings orrent a kayak and paddle away on the lake.
Best Restaurants on Samosir
Food is always very important! The Batak people have their own cuisine and their kitchen is ruled by fresh fish, pork and delicious Andaliman spices. Of course there’s also lots of fish. The best place to go for freshly caught fish is Jenny’s Restaurant. They serve seasoned, steamed or grilled fish. There is also live music every night for you to enjoy after dinner.
If you want to try pork I’d recommend Horas Shugary. The food is delicious and the views are amazing. Make sure you try the traditional Batak Dish Pork Sak Sang. Another popular place to eat on the island is Today’s Cafe. The service is friendly, the food is affordable and do some great vegetarian dishes as well.
Now you are all set: you know how to get to Lake Toba, where to stay on Samosir Island, what to eat and how to get around. I think this should be enough to get you going. I hope you enjoy your time at Lake Toba and come away from your holiday with great memories and some beautiful photos.
Have you ever visited Lake Toba? What did you think of Samosir Island? Share your thoughts in the comments below.