Banda Aceh

The Grand Mosque

Banda Aceh is the capital of the Indonesian province of Aceh on the island of Sumatra.


Around 150,000 people were killed in Banda Aceh in the Tsunami of 26 December 2004. Some parts of the city became permanently submerged. Many aid agencies have been present since then to help rebuild.

The long conflict between the Acehnese independence movement (GAM) and the Indonesian army (TNI) has been solved for the time being by the peace agreement on 15 August 2005. The peace process has been quite smooth since. On 11 December 2006 the province held its first direct and democratic local elections. On 8 February 2007 the first democratically elected Governor, Irwandi Yusuf, was inaugurated.

Get in

The main terminal building of Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport, Banda Aceh

Foreigners no longer require a travel permit (Surat Jalan) to enter Aceh, but an Indonesian visa is required. Since 6 June 2010, it is possible to get a 30 day Visa-on-Arrival at Banda Aceh Airport. The Embassy in KL can sometimes process the visa in the same day if you complete all the paperwork before noon, though officially this only applies to Malaysian residents.

By bus

There are non-stop night buses, with travel times ranging from 9–13 hours - from Medan to Banda Aceh. Major bus companies such as PMTOH, Pelangi, Kurnia and Pusaka have offices on Jl. Gajah Mada, Medan. Price ranges from Rp 110,000 in a regular-sized-seat bus to Rp 200,000 in a wide-seat bus.

Mini-buses can also take you to Banda Aceh from the Medan area, but journeys are generally longer. Prices are a bit cheaper than the coaches. It is also possible to travel over from Medan to Banda Aceh via Kutacane and Takengon. This will be 20 hr in total.

By plane

Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport, (IATA: BTJ) is named after the twelfth sultan of Aceh, Iskandar Muda.

Airlines fly daily between Banda Aceh and either Medan, a 1 hr trip, or Jakarta, a 2 hr 40 minute trip.


Visa formalities at this airport are similar to those of other Indonesian immigration gateways.

Airport bus

A bus provides a service from Banda Aсeh to the airport, and from the airport to Banda Aceh. Operating hours are 10/11AM-2:30PM, price to the city is Rp 15,000/person.

The bus departing from the airport to Banda Aсeh leaves a few minutes after airplanes land. So departure time depends on landing time, more or less. Thus, it's advised to hurry to catch the bus. It is on your left when you leave the airport building (taxi drivers will tell you there is no airport bus, just keep on walking because the bus is there).

Please note that this bus goes to Banda Aceh City Centre; it does not go to the Bus Station or Ulee-Lhue Harbour. If you want to go to the Bus Station or Ulee-Lhue Harbour, take a becak after being dropped off in the City Centre by the airport bus.

By boat

The closest big (international) ferry terminal is Belawan Port, close to Medan. It receives vessels originating from Batam, Indonesia (a common route when coming from Singapore). The ferry from Penang is no longer operating. From Ulhee-lhee, the port of Banda Aceh you can go to Pulau Weh and to Pulau Aceh.

Get around

The main methods of getting around are becak (motorbike taxis) and labi-labi (public minibus). Due to the sudden influx of money post-tsunami, locals have gotten used to overcharging, but now stabilisation has returned. Example becak fares are: Airport - Grand Mosque: Rp 40,000; Bus Terminal - Grand Mosque: Rp 8,000; Grand Mosque - Penayong: Rp 5,000. Inside the city, generally Rp 10,000 should do it.


"Cakra Donya" Bell
Museum Aceh

Tsunami tour

It is possible to go on a "Tsunami Tour" as there are many boats still inland and other monuments devoted to the devastating day in 2004.



There are approximately 65 NGOs currently operating in Banda Aceh; however, they generally do not recruit non-Indonesians locally. These NGOs include various UN and EU agencies, USNS, Care, Americare, Islamic Relief, International Federation Of Red Cross and Red Crescent, Australian Red Cross, Turkish Red Crescent, Kuwaiti Red Crescent, French Red Cross, IMC, IOM, WHO, Japan International Cooperation System, Habitat, Medecins sans frontières, Japan Platform, USAID. AT the peak of the post-Tsunami aid effort there were 850 NGOs, but many of these were non-Muslim religious organisations and their permits were not extended by the Indonesian government.



There are interesting fish, meat and vegetable markets in the centre of town. There are also some small souvenir shops selling various local items.


The recently opened Hermes Palace mall is located at the city centre of Banda Aceh. The mall has over 100+ stores with foodcourt, supermarket and clothing stores.


The Acehnese breakfast staple is nasi gurih, rice cooked in coconut milk, sold in coffee shops everywhere. Food stalls and Padang restaurants are open across the undamaged part of town, and fruit carts are ubiquitous.

There are some nice coffee houses with soothing rice paddie views around Ulee Kareng, along Jl Tengku Iskander on the town’s western outskirts.

Three fast food chain restaurants may be found in the centre, A&W, KFC and Pizza Hut.


Drinking alcohol is not allowed. Coffee-drinking is the main activity.


Stay safe

As with all travelling common sense and a good attitude is all you need to get along in this small city. However there are some points to keep in mind. Although Banda Aceh is nowadays safer than most European cities it is still best to not go out alone after 10PM. Because Sharia law is enforced, drinking alcohol is not permitted, although it is still possible. Infractions upon the locally perceived interpretations of Sharia law may result in arrest by the Sharia police with physical punishment and public ridicule imposed upon an offending Muslim. Muslim women should normally wear headscarves in public areas. Western-style swimsuits are not advisable except in Sabang. Pick-pocket activity is rare but do be aware and observant in crowded places.

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