Like the untamed nature of the wild rainforest, a visit to Kerinci can be unpredictable. The regions where we work are especially far off the beaten path, where few other travelers dare to venture. Check out the Sumatra travel tips below, then let us help you overcome the challenges inherent in visiting the region, in a way that only people 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.
There are now daily flights to Kerinci from the city of Jambi! You can read more about them here.
Many travelers to Kerinci come overland, via the city of Padang in West Sumatra. Expect the drive to take around eight hours, although it can vary by an hour or two depending on the road conditions and the driver, and if you are taking public or private transport. Padang has direct flights to/from the hubs of Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Medan, and Batam. Padang is also about a two hour drive from the town of Bukittinggi. Although if you are in Bukittinggi, it’s possible to drive directly to Kerinci, roughly a nine hour drive.
The city of Jambi is also a possible launching point. Overland, the drive takes about 9 hours (plus one or two), and the road is less winding than the road from Padang, so a bit more comfortable. Wings Air now has daily flights directly to Kerinci from Jambi.
If you’re exploring the northern part of Kerinci, it’s best to travel to the town of Kersik Tuo, nestled among the tea fields at the foot of Mt. Kerinci.
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 further south of Sungaipenuh.
We’re happy to help you arrange transport to Kerinci, in either a private car for just you and your travel mates, or a shared public vehicle. Keep in mind that public transport generally has twice-daily departure times of around 9am and around 7pm, although actual times are generally up to an hour or more later as the vehicles drive around the city picking other passengers up. Private transport can be arranged to depart whenever you like.
You can read more about transport to/from Kerinci, and what travel looks like within the valley here.
On Sumatra, there really isn’t a defined, predictable wet and dry season. This is a tropical rain 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 (15°C or below, depending on how high you are), 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 essential. 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.
- Always wear trousers and long-sleeved shirts in the jungle. Also, 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 made for hiking (like nylon).
- Maybe a little too much info, but boxer briefs help to keep down chaffing when taking long multi-day treks!
- Sunscreen. Being so close to the equator, it’s easy to burn quickly-especially when the air is so deceptively cool.
- 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.
- For multi-day hikes, it’s usually best to wear one set of clothes during the day for getting mucked up, then switching into a second set of clean clothes inside the tent. 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 weight you have to carry).
- Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment are included in the cost of the trip.
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 or embarrass yourself.
- In Indonesia, the left hand is for one unmentionable purpose only. So eating, giving and receiving money, shaking hands, and even waving at someone are all done with the right hand. It’s also generally okay to use both hands, but if for some reason it’s unavoidable to, say, pass something to someone with your left, humbly say maaf kiri or “Pardon my left”.
- The dress code here is quite conservative. Most men and women here wear long pants, and women wear tops with high necklines 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 for women anything less than a t-shirt and shorts would be very culturally inappropriate.
- 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 would only be required to wear a head covering entering a mosque. So bring along a scarf or buy a cheap one from the market if this is on your agenda, otherwise no worries.
- 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.
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! Open your eyes to what other experiences 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.
- 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” and a big smile. 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.
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.
And please, don’t play with centipedes.
You may also be able to change currencies at bank BNI and a few of the other banks, as well as a few jewelry stores in the main market area, although the rates are not too favorable. Remember, foreign currency should be in large denominations, and as new, crisp and clean as possible in order to get the best exchange rates.