Travel Tips

Like the untamed nature of the wild rainforest, a visit to Sumatra can be unpredictable. Let us help you prepare for the possibilities in a way that only a company on the ground can. We want you to have the adventure of a lifetime, and with some proper planning and an open mind to whatever surprises nature has in store, you will.

What to bring & what to wear
On Sumatra, there really isn’t a defined, predictable wet and dry season. This is a tropicalrain forest after all, so always expect and be prepared for rain. Thankfully, things usually clear up quickly, and very rarely are there days where the rains never cease.
  • Thanks to their high elevation, forests in the Kerinci area are generally cool at night, so you’ll want to bring a rain jacket (which will also be handy to have when it rains), and even a warm beanie.
  • Waterproof hiking shoes are definitely needed. Even if it doesn’t rain, there are often muddy parts and most treks require the crossing of shallow streams. You can buy green, knee high rubber boots in town, but only if your foot size is less than a European size 43 (about size 10 US). However, these are not the most comfortable of footwear.
  • We also recommend merino wool socks, or their artificial equivalent. These, possibly more than anything, go a long way to keep your feet dry and comfortable, and help prevent blisters and sores.
  • Cotton gets really heavy when wet and takes forever to dry, so in the rainforest, it’s better to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from lightweight, quick dry materials (like nylon) that keep you cool when they dry.
  • Maybe a little too much info, but boxer briefs help to keep down chaffing when taking long multi-day treks!
  • For multi-day hikes, it’s usually best to wear the clothes during the day that get all dirty and mucked up, but then when you make camp, switch into your dry clothes. In the morning, switch back into your dirty day clothes. It can be uncomfortable putting them on at first (hopefully they’ve dried a bit), but it definitely helps to conserve the amount of clothing you pack (and thereby weight you have to carry).
  • Remember that insects/animals can’t see red spectrum, so a headlamp with a red light setting can be nice for keeping the bugs from being attracted around your eyes when you’re walking through the forest or sitting around the camp at night.
  • Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment are included in the cost of the trip.

Where to land & where to stay
The fastest way to reach Kerinci if you’re coming by air is from the town of Padang, which has direct flights from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Medan. It is typically an 8 hour trip from the airport to Sungaipenuh, but it can vary by an hour or two depending on the road conditions and driver. You can also reach Kerinci in the same amount of time directly from the city of Bukittinggi, if you happen to be travelling through there. You don’t have to pass through Padang first, and you shouldn’t, as that would add a few hours to your trip.
If you’re exploring the northern part of Kerinci, the best place to base yourself is in the town of Kersik Tuo. It’s at the foot of Mt. Kerinci and is nestled amongst the tea fields.
For the central and southern regions of Kerinci, you’ll want to base yourself in Sungaipenuh where all of the formal lodging is, or arrange for a very basic homestay in Lempur, an hour south of Sungaipenuh.


How to prep & how to repel
  • Malaria. Supposedly, there is no malaria in most of Kerinci due to the altitude, however further east towards Merangin there is, as well as in Bengkulu. It is still advisable to take Malaria medicine just to be on the safe side. Check out a chart of some of the different options for malaria medication here.

  • Bugs. You can buy bug repellant (Autan brand) in mini markets in Sungai Penuh. It only has about 15-25% DEET, so if you want better protection you’ll have to bring it with you from abroad.
  • See a more comprehensive list of ways to help reduce your risk of illness while traveling here, and a list of recommended immunizations here. Though this info is correct to the best of our knowledge at the current time, it does not replace or refute the advice of a health professional, should not be considered complete or conclusive, and should not be used by clinicians in medical decision making.

What to expect & how to react
Traveling in rural Sumatra can be a challenge, and will stretch you outside of your normal comfort zone. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re on the road.
  • Expect the unexpected. Things will likely not go exactly as planned. Transportation could be late, people could get sick, or attractions could be closed for one reason or another (landslides, volcanic eruptions, flooding, etc.) Roll with it and redeem the time! As I like to say, it’s not really an adventure unless something goes off course! Guaranteed something else exciting will turn up instead.
  • People will be thrilled to see you. Many of the destinations in the region are very rarely visited by travelers. For some, especially children, seeing a foreigner walking through their village is a HUGE event, and they will likely want to talk to you or just follow you around. Be prepared to have your picture taken with people’s mobile phones a lot. You will definitely have more pictures taken of you than you will have taken of others, particularly if you spend time exploring populated areas and eating in local food stalls. Also, don’t be offended by people yelling “Hello, Mister!” or “bule!” They’re just being friendly. The question “Where are you going?” is not a rude invasion of privacy, but just a simple Indonesian greeting (“Mau ke mana?”) that doesn’t translate well to English or western culture, and doesn’t really require an answer more detailed than “just walking.” If you’re not prepared to be friendly and give up a little of your time to smile and play along, perhaps traveling in the region is not right for you.

How to blend & not offend
Although local people are very understanding and forgiving of foreign visitors, here are a few things you should know so you don’t inadvertently offend them.
  • The right hand is clean, the left, not so much. So it is customary to eat, give and receive, and greet with your right hand. It’s also okay to use both hands, but if you must use your left hand alone, you can say “Maaf, kiri” which means “Pardon my left” to excuse yourself.
  • The dress code here is rather conservative. Most men and women here wear long pants, and the women usually wear tops with a high neckline and sleeves that cover their elbows. While not 100% necessary that you do likewise, you’ll probably feel more comfortable and local folks will feel more respected if you try to copy their style. When in Rome…
  • When swimming, proper swimwear is important. Men can wear regular swimshorts without a problem but the rules are a little stricter for women. Tankinis or even bikinis will work, but ALL swimwear must be covered with board shorts and a shirt/rash guard.
  • Being a fairly conservative, rural majority-Muslim society, drinking alcohol in public is taboo. If you must, better to partake in your hotel room.
  • Women are required to wear a head covering if planning on entering a mosque, however. So bring along a scarf or buy a cheap one from the market if this is on your agenda.
  • Like in much of Asia, footwear is always removed before entering a home.
  • Also similar to most of Asia, public displays of affection between opposite sexes, even holding hands, is considered pretty impolite.

Where to exchange & how to withdraw
If you need cash there are ATM’s available in Sungai Penuh, Bengkulu, and Curup and a few scattered on the way to and from Kayu Aro. If you already have foreign currency, there are a few BNI and BRI bank branches plus a few other places in town where you can exchange for rupiah, along with one gold seller that does it. Remember, foreign currency should be in large denominations, and as new, crisp and clean as possible to get the best exchange rates. Further south, there is little to no availability. Also, for many North American card holders, BRI bank ATMs don’t work. If you have this problem, don’t panic and just try to find a BNI bank ATM instead, preferably at the Bank itself.
 

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