What do you think of Medan?


I am working on a project about expat life in Medan - what it's like to live there, what the best food/attractions/bars are, that sort of thing - and would love to get in touch with some current expats who would be willing to take part in a short survey or interview.


Got to say that I've been there, but really don't like Medan much at all. However, it's nice to travel around Lake Toba.

Is there anything specific about Medan you disliked?  Were you there for a holiday or for business/education?

Yes actually I think the city is unattractive and the people not too friendly. I was there to visit and to shoot photos, and only found it interesting once I was out of the city. Other parts of Sumatra are far more interesting such as Padang and Bukittinggi in West Sumatra because they have more culture and more traditional. That's just my opinion.

Hi Mike and "asiahouse", Medan is my home town but I just moved to Batam / close to Singapore. You said that the people in Medan are not too friendly. I think you were dropped in downtown. People here are (mostly) not too friendly, yes you are right. But you can see a different thing in the suburb.
If you want food, I recommend you to go to "Merdeka Walk" (not cheap for me). For special cake from Medan, go to jalan Mojopahit. You can find bika ambon and other "medan cake" there.
You can go to Parapat or Brastagi for a nice view. Bukit Lawang for rafting or Nias for surfing.

I am ready to assist you forever, drop me email at rafandi2007[at]

Thank you rafandi! But what is Medan cake? Is it a type of food unique to Medan?  What does it taste like?

Medan cake is Bika Ambon. You can not find it in Ambon city (eastern Indonesia) or other cities in this country... lol. It's delicious, soft and sweet.
Soto Medan and lontong medan are also special food found in Medan only. You can see the pictures by using google.

That sounds very good! I will look it up and include it in my guide!

Its important to try the local cuisine (especially the desserts) when you go somewhere new.

Go to expats in North Sumatra Facebook page, we are all located there. About 200 expats in the group all living in medan

It's a dirty city with no cultural activities like museums or nice parks. Power outages are a way of life - the electric company is incompetent. Most of the people have no regard for their city or environment - throw garbage anywhere and everywhere. The government is corrupt and the officials incompetent from top to bottom.

Unfortunately, similar to many parts of Indonesia. Hopefully ASEAN 2015 will bring some change.

I have lived in Medan for almost 20 years and even though first impressions may turn people off actually it is a very vibrant city. A big Chinese population  means it has lots of business going.

Bukit Lawang is only 2 hours away where you can do rafting, tubing, trekking and of course visit the Orang Hutan.

Lake toba is about 3 hours away and is probably one of the most relaxing and naturally beautiful places in Indonesia, being 1000 meters above sea level it has a great climate and the Batak tribe are always ready for a laugh, song or a drink.

In the town itself there a few haunts where you are likely to bump into expats. O'Flahertys Irish Pub was I believe started / owned by three irish men many years ago and is still a great place to relax. The Ribs are great.
Traders cafe is also another good place to meet up with expats, excellent (though a bit pricey) food and very pleasant clean surroundings.

There is great selection of seafood at the various night markets and the Padang Food is considered better than what you get in Padang city iteslf.

There is an international school and also good local Chinese schools.

Hospitals are OK just as elsewhere in Indonesia but the advantage in living in Medan is that you are only 1 hr away from excellent healthcare in Malaysia.

Don't believe what the guide books say about Medan, there is lots going on and it is probably one of the most tolerant religiously cities in Indonesia.

pollsallagh: Do you think you could send me the link to this group?  I cannot find it on facebook!

Crohogue: thank you for these positive thoughts about Medan!

It seems that many people have such negative views on the city! Has there been any improvement since the new airport opened? I would have thought that such a big project would bring lots of attention and investment to Medan?

Re: International Airport Medan

It brought attention on the development to the expressway linking the airport to Medan city...

a few questions. Im going to Medan for 2 weeks at end of January.

Is nasi padang and rendang daging generally found or does anyone know of any especially good places?

On another trip to Jakarta a few years ago someone posted about fake Bluebird taxi, same letters but illegal. Is that the case in Medan too?

Also, i couldnt find the North Sumatra expat group on Facebook either. Is it there?

Also, can i rent a motorbike to go from Medan to Lake Tobo? SOrry, i dont know the rules about foreigners driving in Indonesia, I have a international licence for car and bike that I use in Malaysia with no problems.

love the food and the people are nice, huge indian and chinese community there

are you serious?

Hi, I've been living in Medan for 3 years and find it nice. every city has negatives and positives and the place you like more will depend on your priorities of living.
If anyone still have questions about Medan or the expats group on facebook please send me and I will be happy to reply :)

I have been living in Medan since I was a kid. I can't agree more if you said they are not friendly. But if you love spicy food, you absolutely have to go there. Don't forget to visit jalan semarang at night, it is a street chinese food.

For relaxing you can go to Brastagi or Lake Toba. But to go to Lake Toba, you will have a 3-hours road trip, instead Brastagi is nearer, about 2 hours road trip to get there.

KoffieBagus is another cozy place if you want to drink a good beer while accompanied by live acoustic band performing.
no worry about the price, it was very cheap for its location at Jl Hang Lekiu #7 around Jl Sudirman in the center of Medan

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