Medan, Indonesia: Getting Around/Transport
The public transport in Medan is relatively inexpensive. Traffic jams still remains to be a feature in certain central business areas, especially during the rush hours. The local bus service is not reliable. The main forms of public transport are the taxis, becak, ojek, and angkot. For a more convenient way of getting around the province, one can rent a car with a driver or a motorcycle, which is perfect for solo backpackers.
The most reputable nationwide taxi company is Blue Bird, unofficial ones are black and don't have a sign but do have a taxi light. Blue Bird usually has a tad higher rate compared to its competitors that starts at 0.38 USD depending on the distance. Other safe taxis to choose from are Express taxis, white, or Silver Bird taxis. Silver Bird is operated by Blue Bird usually found at most luxury hotels and at the airport. These are considered as limo cabs that ranges from black and stylish Mercedes Benz C200s to Camrys.
In Indonesia, it is the passengers who are paying for the toll fees. Regardless, taxis are still the best option in getting around the city. Also, taxis are a fast and efficient way to get from point A to point B, which is what you will be wanting to do. Always remember to avoid unmetered taxis and to stay away from fake Blue Bird taxis. Drivers intend to imitate these taxis by painting their taxis blue and placing logos similar with Blue Bird's logo.
A "becak" is a motorcycle with a seating arrangement at the back. It seats two people and their luggage if it is not very bulky. Becak is basically a rickshaw pedaled by the driver. Becaks can accommodate up to three adult passengers. Passengers need to bargain for the fare to avoid a big surprise upon arriving at the destination. Fares are usually less than a dollar.
Travelers without much luggage can try Ojek or motorcycle taxis. These are really a good option to cut through the heavy traffic that are widely available in various posts around street corners. Ojeks are economical, widely available and quicker than a taxi over short distances.
As technology and modernization took place, an app for mobile phones was developed, Go-jek. Both available for IOS and Android users, it is easier to pick an ojek as an instant courier, transport, food delivery, and shopping with a large fleet of trusted motorcycle drivers.
Sudako is a minivan which is ubiquitous in Medan. These are minivans or minibuses that are found all over towns and cities in Indonesia, which goes by a lot of names as either ‘mikrolet’ and ‘angkutan kota’, ‘angkot’ for short. Without meters, it is really not recommended for foreigners. In Medan, these are painted yellow with numbers representing their routes (1 to 267).
These minibuses have standard routes but do take a long time in waiting around until they have a complete cargo of passengers and then set off driving around to let people and their packages off. Usually jam packed; lots of luggage could be a problem for passengers. However, these are economical with fares ranging between 2,000 IDR to 5,000 IDR, which is less than a dollar. Further away destinations may cost 40,000 IDR.
If you plan on extensive traveling around the area of the city of Medan, then it might be a good idea to rent a car and driver. A car with a driver can be hired 8 to 10 hours a day (any extra time is an extra fee) if the car is hired for a day. If renting for 3 or 4 days, then it is necessary to haggle a bit and negotiate a fee to keep expenses as low as possible. To get a general idea, renting a car for a day usually costs 30 USD to 50 60 USD per day. One option is to rent a MPV for 30 USD. This type of vehicle is a Mitsubishi Grandis/Toyota Kijang that can accommodate up to 7 passengers and comes with air-conditioning. For tourists who wish to rent a car, one must have a national or international driver's’ license. There are car rental counters available upon arrival at the airport. Another option is to book in advance online to reserve for a car.
One needs an international driver's license to drive around Indonesia. If it's not available, there is a “1-day licensing" for foreign visitors. There is a fee of around 100,000 IDR to 150,000 IDR or 7.50 USD to 11 USD and they'll take a photo and issue a temporary 1-day license that can be used all over Indonesia. There are also licenses that can have longer validity with higher cost.
There are many tour operated services with guides that take people to visit different places in the area. These day tours can be a full day or half day rental. Lunch and entrance fees to the different venues are inclusive together with a driver and guide. These guided tours cost around 600,000 IDR or 45 USD. There are cheaper rentals, but the group will have to pay for the different entrance fees to places, meals including the driver, and whatever other extra costs arise from buying souvenirs or tickets to see shows.
For solo backpackers, motorcycle rentals are the best option. The rental rates are between 5 USD to 35 USD per day, which depends on the motorcycle model. There are also rental companies that offer weekly rates ranging from 60 USD to 150 USD. The usual models for 5 USD are the Yamaha's Miho and Nuvo and Honda Scoopy, Vario, and Supra. There are high quality motorcycles including a Honda Tiger for 10 USD and a Kawasaki KLX for 20 USD.
You need to have a license, though you'll rarely need to show it except if you're driving without a helmet and caught by the police.