Stunning view from Pulau Weh on a small neighbor island
Indonesia Southeast Asia

Pulau Weh island guide. Indonesia off the beaten track

If you like island life, tropical water, diving/snorkeling but don’t want to spend too much money and want to see more of Indonesian then just Bali, Pulau Weh is a good option. The island is not very touristy but has some infrastructure and things to do. Here is our Pulau Weh island guide.

Likes

    • Beautiful nature, most of the island covered by jungle;
    • Warm crystal clear water, with healthy coral reef and diverse marine life;
    • People, very nice and friendly;
  • Prices, cheap accommodation, and food.

Dislikes

    • On Fridays till 2 pm you are not allowed to do any leisure activities, religious thing
  • Get quite very early, most shops and restaurants are closed by 8 pm.

17 Awesome places to go in Indonesia

Suggested Indonesia tours and activities

If you would like to explore more of Sumatra island and Indonesia in general without having to plan and book everything by yourself you can join one of the tours offered by G-Adventures or Intrepid Travel.

Cost of travel in Pulau Weh

You can stay on the island for as little as 70 000 IDR/5,5$ per person including food (eating rice or noodles in local food places) and accommodation. If you add some activities like snorkeling or renting a scooter your budget will increase to about 100 000 IDR/7,5$.

No bikini in public areas!
No bikini in public areas!

Best beach to stay on the island

There are two main touristy beaches Gapang and Iboih, 10 min. drive from each other. We stayed at Iboih beach, the main reason we found prices for diving in dive centers at Iboih beach were cheaper. We really liked it, a small village, with two dive centers, many accommodation options and food places, motorbike rental, snorkeling trips, shops everything is available here.

Iboih beach bay. Pulau Weh island guide
Iboih beach bay. Pulau Weh island guide

Where to stay on Iboih beach, Pulau Weh?

There are plenty of places for different budget, from US$ to US$ for a double, you can find a really nice place for US$20-30 for two people. Before booking accommodation choose where on the island you’d like to stay. If you want to be closer to the main town and the airport than stay around Sabang, the main town on the island. If you don’t want to stay in a busy place then rather find accommodation on Iboih or Gapang. If you want something even more remote and isolated there are several resorts around the island away from towns and villages. We stayed at Iboih beach and found its location quite good not very busy but with something going on around, a couple of dive shops, local food places and several accommodation options for different budget. 

Accommodation in Sabang

Freddies Santai Sumurtiga, Sabang – a great and budget place right at the beach, bungalows and family rooms with sea view, beautiful restaurant terrace. Bungalows are quite spacious, with double bed, fan, wi-fi, hot water shower, safety box, balcony facing the sea, private beach, helpful staff etc.

Casa Nemo Beach Resort & Spa, Sabang – a bit more expensive and luxury place with bigger bungalows, extra large beds, AC, mosquito nets, wi-fi, hot water shower, included breakfast. Restaurant with sea view, close to the beach and good snorkeling spot.

More accommodation options in Sabang

| Dedy’s Backpackers | Pondok Simpang Tiga | The Point Sabang Resort |

Accommodation at Iboih beach

Bixio Cafe, Iboih beach – another great and budget option at the beach. Spacious bungalows with private bathroom, double bed, hot water shower, wi-fi, balcony, fan, mosquito net, safety deposit safe etc. Continental breakfast for US$3 extra.

Pele’s Palace, Iboih beach – they have budget private rooms and more expensive bungalows with sea view. Both have AC, hot water shower, double bed with mosquito net, wi-fi, balcony, continental breakfast for US$2 extra pp.

More accommodation options on Iboih beach

| Iboih Inn | Yulia Bungalow |

Bungalows at Iboih beach, Pulau Weh island
Bungalows at Iboih beach, Pulau Weh island

Things to do on the island

Diving

Most tourists come here for diving. We did four dive with Iboih Dive Center for more info on diving, prices, dive sites and photos click HERE.

Snorkeling

You can do a snorkeling trip with several stops at different spots or just snorkel from the beach, watch for boats, traffic can be quite intensive. Good spots for snorkeling from the beach: Yulia guest house pier, shallow, some corrals along the shore. The most impressive thing we saw there was an octopus, some lionfish, trumpet fish, clown fish, etc. Not good in low tide, too shallow.

The other spot is right in front of Erick’s Green House, you can swim there along the shore from Rubiah beach. We saw there two big scorpion fish, some big batfish, some clownfish, needlefish, trumpet fish, lionfish and thousands of small reef fish. The coral reef itself is very nice and colorful. Watch for scorpion fish and sea urchins there are many around.

Scorpion fish, snorkeling from Rubiah beach
Scorpionfish, snorkeling from Rubiah beach
Clown fish, snorkeling from Rubiah beach, Pulau Weh
Clownfish, snorkeling from Rubiah beach, Pulau Weh

Relaxing

Chilling in a hammock, reading, enjoying beautiful surroundings.

Renting a motorbike

Driving around the island on a motorbike. To rent a bike costs 100 000 for a full day or 50 000 IDR/4$ for half day + 2$ for petrol. It took us 4-5 hours to drive around the island with two stops at Japanese bunker Anoi Itam and Jaboi volcano.

Things not to miss on Pulau Weh island

    • Japanese bunker Anoi Itam, WWII ruins;
    • Hot springs;
    • Volcano Jaboi;
    • Secret beaches of the west side of the island. Non developed part with few locals living there, empty beaches, nice but often the sea is quite choppy on this side;
  • Km 0, strange tower at the North point of the island, a good place to watch the sunset.
Jaboi volcano, Pulau Weh
Jaboi volcano, Pulau Weh

Need to know about Pulau Weh

Best time to visit 

Is from May to September, dry season, comfortable temperature, rare rainfalls, cleaner water and better visibility for diving and snorkeling.

Food on Pulau Weh

Usually, when we go to an island we bring food from the mainland, it helps to save some money. For Pulau Weh, it isn’t necessary unless you want to eat something different than fried rice and noodles.

To eat in local places costs from 10 000-15 000/1$ (nasi/mie goreng) to 20 000 IDR/2$ (chicken/meat) , juice 14 000, tea/coffee, omelet with rice for breakfast 10 000. If you are a bit tired of rice and noodles there are restaurants with western cuisine, e.g. Green Restaurant where we sometimes ate breakfast; banana oats or banana pancakes 14 000/1$ or a veggie omelet with cheese 18 000/1,5$. For a proper meal expect to pay 30 000-40 000/3-4$ per dish.

Pulau Weh, near Iboih beach. Absolute beauty! Pulau Weh island guide
Pulau Weh, near Iboih beach. Absolute beauty! Pulau Weh island guide

ATMs on the island

There are many, you don’t need to bring a lot of cash with you. On Iboih beach there are two BRI and BSI banks, the limit for both 1 200 000 IDR/90$ per withdrawal. On the way from the ferry, we saw at least five or so more.

Shops and markets on Pulau Weh

Many small shops selling noodles, snacks, cookies, cool drinks, eggs etc. For fresh fruit and veggies go to one of the towns or you can buy cut fruit for 2 000 per piece at Iboih beach. Alcohol is kind of illegal in the area. You can find beer for 35 000-40 000/3$ per can. There are some souvenir and clothes shops at Iboih beach as well.

How to get to Pulau Weh?

How to get from the airport to Banda Aceh

There is no bus, we checked, it used to be a couple of years ago but not anymore. There are many taxis, standard price 100 000 IDR/7,5$ for a car. We tried to low it down and in the end, got a ride for 50 000 IDR/4$ anyway. Another option is tuk-tuk, easier to find one for 50 000/4$. If you don’t find any at the airport exit walk through the parking area towards the main road someone will stop for you.

How to get from Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh

You have two options; to pay more and get faster or to pay less and get slower. Both fast and slow ferries leave from the same ferry terminal in Banda Aceh. Fast boats leave on a regular base, takes 30 min. to get to Pulau Weh, price 85 000/6,5$. Slow ferry (carries cargo and passengers) leaves twice a day at 8.30 am and 10.00 am, takes about 2 hours, price 25 000/2$$. Both arrive at Balohan, from there to get to your final destination you can take a taxi – 150 000/11,5$, minibus – 50 000/4$ person or tuk-tuk – 70 000 – 80 000/6$ for two passengers. All prices for rides from Balohan to Iboih/Gapang beach.

Animals of Pulau Weh
Animals of Pulau Weh

Where to stay in Banda Aceh

If you arrive too late to catch a ferry (last fast ferry leaves at 4 pm) you will have no option than to stay in the town. The cheapest we could find was Crystal Guest House. For double with fan and shared bathroom – 9$, AC – 11$. The place is quite dilapidated, no wi-fi, no hot water (which is quite normal for Sumatra) but you can get free breakfast, ask for it on arrival. The owner does transfer to the airport for 100 000/7,5$, you can low it down to 80 000/6$.

Free breakfast at Crystal guest house, Banda Aceh
Free breakfast at Crystal guest house, Banda Aceh

Getting back from Pulau Weh

The same two options: fast boat or slow ferry. We took slow ferry both ways but on the way back had to wait for 2 hours at Balohan due to some changes, the slow ferry left at 3.30 pm instead of 2 pm but fast ferries are always available and leave almost every hour.

Tuk tuk ride, Pulau Weh
Tuk-tuk ride, Pulau Weh

Slow ferry timetable (Pulau Weh – Banda Aceh), August 2018

  • Mon – Thirth 8.00 am; 2 pm
  • Fri 7.30 am; 4 pm
  • Sat, Sun 8.00 am; 11 am; 4 pm.

It changes all the time, it’s better to ask around.  Our ferry left at 3.30 pm instead of 4 pm.

If you have a flight from Banda Aceh it’s better to get back from the island the day before, sometimes the sea can be quite rough which may provoke delays or cancellations of ferries.

We really enjoyed Pulau Weh and think it’s definitely worth to come here, especially if you’re a diver.

Handy items to bring with to the island

Travel insurance for Indonesia

It’s always recommended to have travel insurance when you go abroad especially if you’re planning to move around a lot and to do some outdoor activities like diving, snorkeling, surfing or just driving around on a scooter. Make sure you will be able to get medical assistance any time you need. It’s quite handy to have insurance in case of a luggage loss, flight delay, and other emergencies. Insurance makes traveling less stressful when you know you’re covered in case of any unpredictable emergencies. 

Recommended books and guidebooks

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15 Comments

  1. Sandra Charlot

    Hi, thank you for many great info.
    As Sumatra is very muslim area, I want to know if I can swim just wearing bikini on Pulau Weh island or women have to be covered even on the beach.

    Thank you

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello, Sandra! Thank you for the comment! Beach and water are the only places you can wear a bikini, it wasn’t a problem for me but once out of the beach you have to put on clothes or cover yourself with a pareo. I wore shorts and a T-shirts on the island and never had any problem, it’s pretty chilled there compared to the mainland.
      Cheers!

  2. Hi, I’m inspired to come and snorkel in October, everything looks great, was just wondering, as I like a beer or a rum in the evening, how available is alcohol in the restaurants/guesthouses?

    cheers
    Mark

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi, Mark! You can get it but you’ll have to ask around I believe people from hotels/hostels know where to get alcohol on the island.
      Cheers!

  3. Great write up! Thanks for writing it. We are considering flying into Medan and spending some time there with the orangutans and then flying up to Bada Aceh and Weh Island. The alternative option is Borneo, which also has good diving and orangutans. Any thoughts on picking between the two?

    • Stingy Nomads

      I went to see the orangutans in Sumatra in Bukit Lawang (I flew to Medan and then took two buses to get there), it was great, we did a 2-day jungle trekking. Diving in Pulau Weh was ok but I believe in Borneo if you go to Sipadan it’s more impressive. As for orangutans in Borneo, I don’t know but I guess it’s pretty similar to Sumatra.
      Cheers!

  4. Hi Guys, was wondering what the Telkomsel coverage is like on Palau Weh? I plan to do some work while I’m there and am going to buy a big data package when I get to the airport in Banda Aceh. Did you have any problems with 4G on the island (major dead zones). Will I be able to set up a mobile hotspot pretty much anywhere on the island?

    Cheers

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi, Alex! We didn’t have a local SIM card on the island, we always used wi-fi in our hostel or bar so we don’t know about the Telkmosel coverage is, sorry.
      Cheers!

  5. Hey y’all, what do you think about coming to Pulau Weh for diving in January? Will monsoon make for really poor conditions or is it more a mix of sun and rain? Maybe you don’t know as it looks like you were there in August. Furthermore, is the island even “open” during monsoon? Some other islands I’ve been to in Malaysia totally shut down for monsoon season. I’m curious, this island looks fantastic. cheers.

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hello Chris, thanks for reading. From what I know December is good for diving in Pulau Weh. Dry season is April to November, the best time to visit, but in Pulau Weh there isn’t “monsoon” season, raining season has random raining days alternated with beautiful sunny days. In diving threads I saw people had some amazing diving in December and January. Safe travels!

  6. Annebel Reijnierse

    Hi is was wondering can you surf at paula weh and can you rent a surfboard there ?

    • Stingy Nomads

      Hi, Annebel! We didn’t see any surf board rental place or anybody surfing at Pulau Weh, I don’t think it’s a good place for that. There is everything more about snorkeling and diving.
      Cheers!

  7. Great post, thanks for all the info! I am going there later this month and hope to do some great diving. Ti

  8. Pingback: Diving Pulau Weh, Sumatra Indonesia - Travel blogTravel blog

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