Our tips to visit Banda Aceh & Pulau Weh on a budget (Sumatra, Indonesia)
Pulau Weh Island, in the far north of the island of Sumatra, has everything that defines an island paradise: turquoise and transparent water, bungalows with amazing views of the sea for about 100,000 Rs (7 euros !), a rich underwater life that it is already possible to admire just by snorkelling, white sandy beaches and beautiful waterfalls… Well, it is a MUST during a trip in Sumatra. Only negative: the price of the beer, which is rare in North Sumatra, as this part of the island is very conservative. Banda Aceh, the city from which you will take the ferry to Pulau Weh in, is interesting only for its beautiful mosque.
HOW TO GET TO PULAU WEH?
We took a flight from Medan to Banda Aceh with Garuda Indonesia. There is at least one flight per day. From the airport of Banda Aceh, take a taxi to the city center or harbor (we negotiated at Rs 70,000).
To go to Pulau Weh, there are two slow ferry daily (Rs 25,000 / person) and a fast ferry, a little more expensive. Once on the island, we still have 1h by taxi to reach the village (we paid Rs 30,000 / person).
WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO STAY IN BANDA ACEH?
We planned to spend one night in Banda Aceh to visit the mosque. We stayed at the Hotel Prapat, crappy hotel without hot water but with Airco for Rs 175,000 (which seems extremely expensive when paying Rs 100,000 at Pulau Weh for a bungalow with a magnificent sea view!). Rs 100,000 rooms were no longer available. The hotel is conveniently located to see the Mosque, 15 minutes by foot.
Banda Aceh is the most conservative area of Indonesia. We have not found beer despite our research, and we must be fully covered to visit the mosque (only the outside, we could see but not go inside). However, the locals are very welcoming. The mosque is the only interest of the city. Admission is free and you are provided with a loose robe to hide your body shapes. Think to bring a scarf to cover your head.
WHERE TO STAY in PULAU WEH?
We chose the Julia Guesthouse : only Rs 100,000 for a bungalow with sea view and shared bathroom (you can even negotiate to Rs 70,000) or Rs 150,000 with private bathroom. The bungalows are perched in trees and facing the sea with breathtaking views. Each bungalow has its own hammock. The Guesthouse also offers a very nice common terrace to eat and drink and from which you can directly go swimming. The Guesthouse made good curries for Rs 35,000 Here is the view from the terrace of the guesthouse, similar to that from the Bungalows.:
This is not an island where to party. The beer is expensive there (Rs 40,000 per 33 cl, or 2.70 euros) and everyone went to bed early.
WHAT TO do in PULAU WEH?
- The essential activity is of course the snorkeling (Rs 30,000 to for a mask, same price for the palms for a day) or diving (25-35 euros per day). We saw beautiful fish only by snorkelling.
- A ride on a scooter. The island is big enough so you can not go around the island, especially if you want to stop regularly. So choose where you want to go. We went to see a beautiful waterfall, then a beautiful beach (there are several) and we saw the sunset at KM 0 (in the most northern point of Indonesia). It was far and we arrived late. We do not recommend the sunset at KM 0, better to stay on a beach. In addition, the return is done in the dark and there were aggressive monkeys on the road.
WHERE TO EAT PULAU WEH?
We were advised to go to Dede’s for burgers. The restaurant offers local food and also Mexican and US: wraps, salads, veggie burgers …
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