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How to Get to Bukit Lawang in 2024

How to Get to Bukit Lawang in 2024

Before you can think about trekking with orangutans or tubing down the Bahorok River, you need to know exactly how to get to Bukit Lawang.

There are several travel options to Bukit Lawang in north Sumatra, including the public bus, tourist bus and private transfers.

I will also explain how to get to Bukit Lawang from destinations across Sumatra, including Medan Airport, Medan, Berastagi, Lake Toba and Bukittinggi in west Sumatra.

Once you have safely arrived, you can get stuck into the best things to do in Bukit Lawang, whether it’s trekking with orangutans in the Gunung Leuser National Park or visiting local villages by becak (tuk-tuk).

For a complete itinerary for north and west Sumatra, consider checking out my Sumatra backpacking guide.

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. If you decide to click through and make a qualifying purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you – thanks for your support.


Best time to visit: May to September

Time recommended in Bukit Lawang: 1 – 5 days

Cheapest flights: AirAsia

Best Hotels in Bukit Lawang

Top Pick: Ecolodge Bukit Lawang


Mid-range: Jungle Inn £££

Budget: Sam’s Bungalows £££

Where is Bukit Lawang?

Located in north Sumatra, Bukit Lawang is one of the most popular places to visit in Sumatra. It is 86 kilometres northwest of the city of Medan, which has the biggest airport in Sumatra.

A Sumatran orangutan in the jungle, one of the best things to do in Bukit Lawang.

Why is Bukit Lawang so popular? It’s directly alongside the Gunung Leuser National Park, a large area of rainforest which is home to tigers, rhinos, elephants and various other monkey species.

The town has an orangutan sanctuary which supports the rehabilitation of orangutans which have been displaced or captured by the logging and rubber industry in north Sumatra. This makes it easy to spot semi-wild orangutans on a day or multi-night trek from the town.

How to get to Bukit Lawang from Medan Airport

As the island’s largest city, Medan has the best public transport connections to Bukit Lawang. It’s only 86 kilometres away by road.

Medan’s Kualanamu International Airport (KNO) is the main airport in Sumatra. 

There are direct flights from Medan to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore and Bangkok.

AirAsia offers great low-cost flights to or from these cities.

School children go river tubing on the Bohorok River, one of the best things to do in Bukit Lawang.

If you want to reach Bukit Lawang directly from the airport, you can arrange a private car transfer from Medan airport to Bukit Lawang online. It costs under 20,000 IDR (£62). 

You can check the availability for private transfers on Viator.

The journey takes approximately three hours.

Bus or Train from Medan Airport to Bukit Lawang

You can also take a public bus from the airport to Bukit Lawang. The journey takes an additional two hours (five hours in total) because the bus avoids the toll roads, unlike private taxis or tourist buses.


  • The first option is to take the 40,000 IDR Damri bus from the airport to central Medan’s Amplas bus station. The buses stop after the final planes land for the day. The journey lasts over an hour. 
  • The ALS bus also travels to Amplas bus station from the airport, costing 40,000 IDR. 
  • Follow the instructions in the section below to reach Bukit Lawang from central Medan.


  • Take the air-conditioned airport train (35 minutes) to Medan for 50,000 – 70,000 IDR. The last train leaves around 8:00 pm. You can order a taxi or Grab to your accommodation or to the bus stop to Bukit Lawang.
  • Follow the instructions in the section below to reach Bukit Lawang from central Medan.

How to get to Bukit Lawang from Medan

The Grand Mosque of Medan, a popular backpacking Sumatra attraction.

1. Public bus

You can take the public bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang.

Cost: 30,000 IDR

Duration: 4 – 5 hours

  • Take a Grab or taxi to the Pinang Baris bus station in Medan.
  • Arrive early in the day because the bus will stop running in the late afternoon (between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm).
  • Depart the bus in the village of Gotong Royong.
  • Take a five-minute tuk-tuk (becak) to Bukit Lawang for around 10,000 IDR.

2. Tourist bus

Hostels and hotels can organise a tourist bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang upon request. A tourist bus carries a group of up to six tourists travelling the same route, but it is dependent upon other travellers taking the same journey on the same day.

Tourist buses typically depart from Medan around 8:00 am. They pick you up and drop you from hotel to hotel.

Cost: 150,000 IDR per person

Duration: 3 – 4 hours

3. Private taxi or transfer

A private taxi or transfer is the most expensive but most comfortable way to visit Bukit Lawang. A private taxi typically fits four people, plus luggage. 

Cost: 700,000 IDR

Duration: 3 – 4 hours

4. Tour

Taking an orangutan trekkign day tour to Bukit Lawang from Medan is also possible. I took this option due to time constraints.

A day tour to Bukit Lawang typically involves an early pick-up from your hotel in Medan, followed by a 2 – 3 hour drive to Bukit Lawang.

You can expect to trek for up to five hours before having some free time to relax or explore Bukit Lawang before being dropped back at your accommodation in Medan. Lunch and water is included on the trek.

Orangutan trekking tours from Medan:

How to get to Bukit Lawang from Berastagi

A farm field and colourful rooves are framed by clouds and a volcano in Berastagi.

The easiest (but not cheapest) way to reach Bukit Lawang from Berastagi is by tourist bus. This is because the tourist bus bypasses Medan and travels directly to Bukit Lawang.

Meanwhile, traveling by public bus means you need to take a 2 or 3-hour bus to Medan followed by a separate 4 or 5-hour bus to Bukit Lawang

1. Tourist bus

A tourist bus from Berastagi to Bukit Lawang is the most efficient way to reach Bukit Lawang. The tourist buses usually depart from Berastagi around 8am. You can arrange a tourist bus directly through your hostel or hotel.

Cost: 250,000 IDR per person

Duration: 3 – 4 hours

2. Public bus

If you want to save money, you can take public bus from Berastagi to Medan and from Medan to Bukit Lawang.

From Terminal Berastagi, the MURNI Express, Sinabung Jaya and Sutra buses can all take you to Medan for the same price: 20,000 IDR.

Then, follow the instructions in the section above to take a public bus from Pinang Baris bus station in Medan to Bukit Lawang. You may need to stay overnight in Medan if you arrive any later than 4pm because the bus departures also finish in the late afternoon.

Cost: 50,000 IDR (20,000 IDR for Berastagi – Medan; 30,000 IDR for Medan – Bukit Lawang)

Duration: 6 – 8 hours (an overnight stay may be required in Medan).

3. Private taxi or transfer

For the ultimate comfort and efficiency, you can take a private car from Berastagi to Bukit Lawang. Private cars can fit four to six people.

Cost: 800,000 – 900, 000 IDR

Duration: 5 – 6 hours

How to get from Lake Toba to Bukit Lawang

Blue water in the morning at Lake Toba, a backpacking Sumatra destination.

The only viable way to reach Bukit Lawang from Lake Toba is by tourist bus

Tourist buses can be arranged from Parapat harbour. Several companies arrange this service, departing around 8am and again later in the morning for any latecomers (provided there is enough demand). Arrive early to negotiate the best fare and ensure you get a seat on a tourist bus.

Remember, if you’re staying on Samosir Island, you will first need to take the earliest 7am ferry from Tuk Tuk to Parapat. This costs 70,000 IDR and arrives by approximately 7:30pm.

Ferries wait next to Samosir Island, a top Lake Toba travel destination.

The Parapat/Tuk Tuk ferry

Backpacks and tarp on top of a car in Sumatra, the typical transport when backpacking Sumatra.

My tourist ‘bus’ from Lake Toba

Cost: 280,000 IDR

Duration: 8 – 9 hours

Your other alternative is to take a private car, which will cost around 1,500,000 IDR per car (for 4 – 6 people). This also takes 8 to 9 hours.

How to get to Bukit Lawang from Bukittinggi (West Sumatra)

Instead of going directly from Bukittinggi to Medan, I recommend stopping in Lake Toba or Berastagi for several days en route. If you don’t have time, you can follow these instructions.

To reach Bukit Lawang from Bukittinggi in west Sumatra, you will need to split your journey into two sections:

  • Take the ALS overnight bus to Medan (21 – 22 hours).
  • Take a bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang.

Cost: 250,000 IDR +

Duration: 25 hours +

1. Take the ALS bus to Medan

You will need to visit the ALS bus station in Bukittinggi twice. The first visit is to buy a ticket (at least one day in advance). The second time is to take the bus.

A local long-distance bus in Sumatra, featuring blankets and air conditioning.

There a three types of ALS bus to Medan:

  • Economy (air-conditioned): 225,000 IDR
  • Patas (air-conditioning and a toilet): 260,000 IDR
  • Super executive (air conditioning, a toilet and extra space/comfort): 365,000 IDR

The duration of the bus from Bukittinggi to Medan is 22 – 23 hours. It may last longer depending upon traffic.

Bus prices for the ALS bus from Bukittinggi to Lake Toba.
ALS bus types in Sumatra, including the bus layout and amenities.

When you arrive in Medan, you can then take either a public bus, tourist bus or taxi to Bukit Lawang as detailed in the second section of this post.

Can I Fly from West Sumatra to Bukit Lawang?

There are non-stop flights from Padang in west Sumatra to Medan in north Sumatra. They are operated by the airline Super Air Jet and take only one hour.

From Medan, you can then take a public bus, tourist bus or private taxi to Bukit Lawang. This journey takes 3 – 5 hours.


What is the closest airport to Bukit Lawang?

The closest international airport to Bukit Lawang is the Medan Kualanamu International Airport (KNO). It is 3 to 4 hours away by road.

How to visit Bukit lawang?

You can visit Bukit Lawang from Medan by public bus, tourist bus, private taxi or by taking a day tour. There are international flights to Medan airport.

Best Resources for Sumatra:

Suggested reading:


Katie Treharne

Escape Artist Katie owner riding a yellow quad bike over former lava fields on Mount Mayon in the Philippines.

I’m Katie, the owner of Escape Artist Katie. I have been travel writing since 2018, including writing for luxury travel magazines and publications such as Wanderlust.

As well as being a digital nomad who works and lives abroad permanently, I’m a big advocate for offbeat travel and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

I hope you found my article useful – find out more about me here or keep up with my travels on Instagram.