Internet, Phone, Electricity on Lake Toba
Lake Toba connects well to the Internet despite its mountainous terrain and the rural area. International roaming also works in most areas and is reliable. Hotels, guest houses, schools and most residential areas are fully online. But, not all hotels provide WiFi connections to their guests.
Below is some guide to help you maximize your Internet and phone experience there.
Local SIM Cards with Internet Connection
Unless you cannot turn off the home number and have no problem with roaming at all times, getting a prepaid local SIM Card will be your best option. SIM cards on Lake Toba are very affordable. No need anymore to pay a crazy amount of money for roaming. You can be online for 30 days and download up to 4 GB of data for US$8. Local SIM cards work as long as you have an unlocked phone.
Where to Buy Prepaid SIM Cards on Lake Toba
You will find a booth usually at the airport, just after exiting the terminal building. Unless you need internet connection quickly, you might want to wait as rates can be significantly higher here. Mobile phone shops that sell SIM cards are available in the main tourist streets. But if you are willing to step into a less touristy street, you will find the best prices at small shops easily recognized by the logo and big banner of the provider.
If you are on your way to more remote areas around Lake Toba, then we advise you to get your SIM card sorted before going there.
Prepaid Cards – How it works
Unlike in many other Asian countries, you do not need to register with your ID or passport when purchasing a prepaid SIM Card. The process is straightforward. Many Lake Toba communities also use prepaid cards, so the entire infrastructure around prepaid SIM cards, i.e., availability, affordability, top-up services, and price, is already excellent.
- How it works:
You buy a SIM Card at a dealer or SIM card booth (see below), which comes with your new local phone number. He/she will help you cut the SIM card into the fitting size for your phone and also activate the card. Let them do it. They know how it works. The dealer will offer you a package or ask you how much money you want to deposit. The deposit is called PULSA.
- What package to get:
There are a number internet packages and special offers that you can buy. Since people use Whatsapp, Facetime, and Skype for communication instead of standard phone calls, these applications consume much more internet quota than email and text messages. It might, therefore, make more sense to buy a 1-month internet access package called “Flash” for around Rp 100,000 ($8.) The package gives you enough quota to do all that you need.
You buy a card for Rp 5,000 (no balance)
You add Rp 130,000 of top-up balance
You spend on a 30-day 4GB package for Rp 100,000
You pay Rp 135,000 ($10) to get the balance of Rp 130,000
- The remaining Rp 30,000 is for calling or sending SMS, which comes in handy when you travel with friends, who also take prepaid cards. Calling or sending SMS abroad will quickly deplete the balance – it’s expensive.
Once your 4GB package is used up, but you keep on surfing, then your remaining balance that you could use for calling and sending SMS will deplete rapidly.
Primary SIM Card Providers
Indonesia has many providers to choose from; each offers a prepaid package with different pricing and features (which can be confusing even for the Indonesians themselves). As in your home country, the price for the package is often changing and unstable.
Below we have listed the two most popular provider :
- Telkomsel (simPATI): Telkomsel’s most popular SIM card is called simPATI, and although slightly more expensive than SIM cards from other providers, it offers the best coverage and highest Internet speed. Other SIM cards from Telkomsel are Kartu As and Kartu Halo, and Loop. SimPati Flash is the name for the prepaid internet packages. A 4 GB quota package starts at US$ 7, an 8 GB package is US$ 12. Telkomsel can provide 4G LTE and 3G connections, but of course not everywhere.
- XL Axiata: XL most popular SIM card is called ‘XL Baru.’ It provides cheap domestic calls combined with internet access. The prepaid internet package called Kartu Perdana Super Hot Rod 4G is the latest and most popular package and starts at US$ 8 for a quota at 4 GB. XL also offers an 8 GB package for around US$ 16.
Telkomsel is the most-stable and widest signal coverage provider. XL is a bit limited in areas as Samosir Island but is stronger in the Parapat and Tomok area. Internet coverage is not the same as your traditional phone calls coverage. 3G internet is available in the more populated areas but can drop to the slower GPRS or even Edge in remote locations.
How to top up the balance
Once you run out of your balance or you have used up all your quota from your internet package, you will have to buy more balance. Usually, you will get an SMS before you run out so that you won’t be too surprised. Most of the 24h convenience stores that line the streets of Lake Toba (Indomaret, Alfamart, Alfamidi, etc.) offer that service. Some of them don’t even charge a fee for it. You can buy the balance also at the same shops, and kiosks, where you get the SIM Cards. The convenience stores do not sell the SIM Cards.
Just give the seller your number and the amount you wish to load. Keep in mind that they will charge a small fee of Rp 1, 000 to Rp 3,000 for that service. After the salesperson has topped up the balance, you should receive an SMS right away on your phone, that confirms the purchase. Make sure the amount shown is what you have paid. Don’t leave the place before you have received the confirmation SMS.
You may not feel the need to buy a prepaid SIM card as most hotels, restaurants, and cafés offer free WiFi access. Do not expect superfast internet as you will be sharing the bandwidth with many other customers, but it will be good enough to keep family and friends updated. Some mini markets offer free WiFi to their visitors. They are easy to recognize by the table and chairs placed outside and filled with people glued to their mobile phones.
When booking your accommodations, you might want to make sure your hotel provides free WiFi in your room as some only allow access in common areas such as the lobby or the restaurant. Don’t expect that to handle large files or use the streaming services. Even Youtube can be at times very slow. The quality of WiFi in hotels and restaurants is not standardized. Some 5-star hotels may provide worse connection than a 3-star property next door.
Electricity and Plugs
The current across Indonesia is at 230 Volts. Two-pin sockets and plugs are the most common, whether at airports, restaurants, and hotels. Make sure you bring or order proper converters for your devices. Hotels may not have spare converters ready at all times, so you had better bring your own.
The pins are round, not flat or rectangular.
Need an Adapter: If you come from Australia, Japan, USA, Malaysia, UK, Canada, Singapore, and some countries in Africa you will most likely simply need a plug adapter otherwise the plugs for your electrical appliances will not fit into the sockets, although the voltage should be alright.
The standard used on Lake Toba is a two-pin plug (round):
- Voltage: 230 V
- Frequency: 50 Hz
- Power sockets: type C / F
Voltage and Appliances
If the standard voltage in your country is between 220V and 240V you can use your electric appliances in Indonesia and of course Lake Toba. If you are not sure if this is o.k. for you, check a label on your appliances. It will state the voltage and frequency. If it says ‘INPUT: 100-240V, 50/60 Hz’, then it can be used in all countries of the world. That is mostly in the case of chargers for tablets/laptops, photo cameras, cell phones, shaving machines and electric toothbrushes. If the frequency of your country differs from that in Indonesia (50 Hz), it is not advised to use your appliance. Be especially careful with moving, rotating and time-related appliances like clocks and electric fan heaters.
Power Cuts and Fluctuations
The voltage can fluctuate quite a bit. Not often but regularly you can expect some power cuts that last a few minutes. The more remote you are, the more you should expect that. During high season, when a lot of electricity goes to air conditioners (ACs), and so on, the power might shut down a few times per week. But that’s no problem at all. Large hotels have backup generators that switch on automatically. Smaller hotels will advise you to shut down ACs while they run on backup generators. Otherwise, rest assured there will be candles or torches around somewhere kept by the hosts. Courtesy Bali.com.
See also Spa & Beauty Centers on Lake Toba.