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Singkil is a remote port at the mouth of Sungai Alas. It’s a sleepy town with welcoming locals, although it merits a mention only as the departure point for boats to the Banyak Islands and Pulau Simeulue. Unusually for Indonesia, Singkil is very spread out and has no real centre. Facilities are extremely limited; there is a BRI Bank with an ATM but it only accepts Mastercard – come prepared!

Catching a boat will probably mean spending a night in Singkil, with Hotel Dina Amalia the best option. The manager speaks a little English. You can also find basic losmen. Your first point of contact in Singkil should be Mr Darmawan of Louser Group, who can organise any and all forms of onward transport, including speed boats to the Banyaks and minibuses and private cars to almost anywhere. In fact we give him the Stranded Traveller Guardian Angel award for saving our skin!

NBA has two flights a week from Medan.

There are daily minibuses from Medan to Singkil (1100,000Rp, nine hours), from Sibolga (100,000Rp, six hours) and from Banda Aceh (225,000Rp, 15 hours). If you’re travelling from Berastagi or Danau Toba take the Medan bus, and for Tapaktuan jump on the Banda Aceh bus.

There’s one overnight ferry per week (Wednesday) to Gunung Sitoli on Pulau Nias (tickets from 50,000Rp, five hours) at 10pm. Ferries also head to Sinabang on Pulau Simeulue (28,000Rp to 68,000Rp, 11 hours) at 8pm on Fridays and Sundays, returning on Satursdays and Mondays.

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