Frequently Asked Questions

Is it called Sabang or Pulau Weh?

The city of Sabang encompasses 5 islands, the biggest of which is Pulau Weh (Weh Island). In day to day conversations local residents and citizens all over Indonesia refer to this entire area as ‘Sabang’ and rarely say ‘Pulau Weh’. This is also true for many Sabang tourism websites authored by Indonesians.

However numerous foreign resources seem to prefer using ‘Pulau Weh’ for the entire main island and ‘Sabang’ only for its city centre. Keep this difference in mind when researching your trip to Sabang in order to avoid confusion.

Sabang is Indonesia's western most city
(see the red pin in the top left corner)

What is the best time to visit?

The wind and waves around Sabang are calmest:
  • from end of March to early May, and
  • in October
The calm periods are better for snorkelling as there’s less sand getting stirred up in the water.

Can I survive with just English language?

Yes. Beachfront hotels and resorts employ at least one English-speaking staff member. Arrange your accommodation with them and have them help you organise things you want to do and see.

You’ll be able to find someone who can speak English at Balohan Port, Maimun Saleh Airport and popular beaches such as Iboih, Gapang and Sumur Tiga.

People who understand English are less common on Jalan Perdagangan, where shops are located, but not impossible to find.

How many days should I stay in Sabang?

Keeping in mind that everyone’s travel pace is different, below is a rough guideline:
  • 1-2 days if you just want to go to Sabang’s most popular destination – Iboih Beach and the nearby Rubiah Island – for swimming, snorkelling or diving
  • 3-5 days if you want to do recommended activities at a reasonable pace without rushing too much or being too slow
  • 7-10 days if you want to do recommended activities and still have time to just chill, or wish to do a lot of diving
It takes 3-4 days to complete a diving course. If you intend to do so please adjust your length of stay accordingly.

What should I bring with me?

If you have poor eyesight bring single-use disposable contact lenses for when you snorkel or dive.

Locals usually don’t swim topless in order to avoid jelly fish stings (rare) so we suggest that you wear a swimming top or a normal t-shirt when swimming.

If you’re prone to sunburn bring sunscreen.

Depending on where you stay mosquitoes may be an issue – bring mosquito repellent if you’re sensitive to mosquito bites.

What is Sabang’s climate?

Sabang’s climate is hot and humid so bring clothes accordingly. You can get Sabang’s weather forecast from Indonesia’s bureau of meteorology.

What payment methods are accepted in Sabang?

Overwhelmingly only cash is accepted, unless you are in a somewhat upmarket hotel. One convenient strategy is to regularly withdraw cash from an ATM using your credit card or a bank card that works with the VISA/MasterCard interbank network.

You can find BRI, BNI and Mandiri banks and ATMs in the city centre on Jalan Perdagangan.
ATMs in the city centre
There is a BRI ATM in Iboih Beach and few other ATMs around Sabang.

Which prices are fixed and which are negotiable?

There’s no hard and fast rule for when you should and shouldn’t haggle. You can use your gut feel for this one. If you’re buying something and haggling wouldn’t feel out of place, you can ask politely if the vendor is willing to reduce the price. You can say “Harganya boleh kurang?” (‘can the price be lowered?’)

Generally fixed prices:
  • Airline and ferry tickets to get in and out of Sabang
  • Hotels and resorts
  • Cooked food
  • General stores
Generally negotiable prices:
  • Transportation within Sabang
  • Small bungalows run by locals. You can negotiate cheaper rate for a bungalow further away than one right next to the beach. Likewise the daily rate can be lowered for longer stay.
  • Fruit and raw food in the market or from street vendors
  • Tourist services such as tour guide, underwater photography, equipment hire, etc

Where is the “CBD”? What are the opening hours?

Sabang’s “CBD” is a strip of shops on Jalan Perdagangan (literally means Trade Road). Shops open from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon, and then from 5:00 to 9:00 pm.

History trivia:

Sabang’s status as a free port from the 60s-80s has something to do with these odd hours. In those days store owners would shut up shop in the afternoon in order to collect their goods arriving from Singapore on a ship. They also used this time to arrange their newly arrived goods on the shelves out of public’s view. In the evening they would open their shop again and some of their customers would be resellers who took some goods to be sold elsewhere, even as far as Banda Aceh. This habit of opening the shop twice has been stuck with store owners ever since.
The "CBD" on Jalan Perdagangan

Which mobile carrier should I use in Sabang? Where can I get a SIM card?

Most local residents use the Telkomsel network as it provides the best coverage in Sabang. Our recommendation would be to get a SIM card while you’re transiting in Jakarta/Medan/Banda Aceh before you reach Sabang.

In Sabang you can get a Telkomsel simPATI card from general stores on Jalan Perdagangan.

Does Sabang have a supermarket?

No. But there are general stores in the city centre on Jalan Perdagangan. There’s also a traditional market just off Jalan Perdagangan.

Does Sabang have post office?

Yes. You can find a post office in the city centre on Jalan Perdagangan.

What is Sabang’s time zone?

The same as the nation’s capital, Jakarta, which is UTC + 07:00.

What is Indonesia’s power plug type?

Two round pins similar to Europe. See this discussion on Stack Exchange for more complete information.