Getting around in North Nias
Most visitors want to explore North Nias, and for this you need a vehicle. A car can easily be arranged in Gunung Sitoli. Rental cars often come with a driver, and there are several advantages to this. First of all they know the area, speak the language and can safely navigate the local back country roads. If there is a problem, they will deal with it; you are not responsible for the vehicle in the same way as if you drive by yourself. It is not a problem to rent a car with a driver for several days, the additional cost of food and accommodation for the driver will be factored into the price.
It is also possible to rent a car and drive by yourself. The main coastal roads can easily be navigated by anyone with a driving licence. But if you plan to explore the more remote areas, you should have experience in driving in rural Indonesia and speak a bit of the language. Many smaller roads are only suitable for four wheel drive vehicles.
Most Hotels in Gunung Sitoli can arrange cars with drivers. Look at our Accommodation page for details.
Motorbike is by far the best way to explore North Nias. With a motorbike you have much better access and the freedom to drive almost anywhere you want. Due to limited funds, many roads to remote areas on Nias were built specifically for motorbikes and are very narrow. For this reason, some areas can only be accessed by motorbike. If you are not travelling with a four wheel drive vehicle, a motorbike is the best way to get around on Nias.
Guest houses in Lahewa and Afulu can sometimes help you to rent a motorbike locally, but most travelers who tour the island on motorbike get their bikes from Lagundri in the south. There are several guest houses around Sorake Beach offering motorbikes for rent.
The only petrol station in North Nias is in Lahewa, but petrol is widely available in smaller villages as well, often sold in bottles from stalls along the road.
Flat tires is not a problem as there are usually small repair shops every few kilometers. Look for houses with a Tempel sign (patch in Indonesian) or simply a tire on a stick.
The main roads in North Nias are surprisingly good, considering that they are on a island in a relatively remote part of Indonesia. Much of this is due to the post 2005 earthquake rebuilding program that was supported by both Indonesian and International organisations. In fact roads on Nias have never been as good as they are now. The main coastal roads are wide and well maintained in most sub-districts. Roads between the main towns are also good. The local districts are constantly upgrading smaller roads and the infrastructure is improving.
Many areas of the interior still have bad access. The interior is very hilly and there are many rivers here, making road building difficult and costly. There are frequent landslides during the rainy season that further complicates road improvement. Travel in the interior is possible, but can be adventurous. Add a lot of time to your planning as the roads are narrow, steep and windy. The main interior roads can safely be traveled by normal vehicles, but smaller ones require a four wheel drive car. Some areas can only be accessed by motorbikes as the roads and bridges are not suitable for cars. There are even villages in remote areas of North Nias that can only be reached on foot.
Some maps found on the internet can be misleading, showing roads that does not actually exist. The most important information regarding road maps in North Nias is that the west-coast road ends near the border of Afulu and Alasa sub-districts (just after Salonako). It is currently not possible to continue driving southwards along the west-coast to Sirombu in West Nias. This means you can not circumnavigate all of Nias Island along the coast by car. This is due to the 20 kilometer gap in the road between North Nias and West Nias. Visitors to the west-coast have to return to Gunung Sitoli the same way they came. When the road across the island from Gunung Sitoli to Afulu is completed it will be possible to circumnavigate North Nias by car. This is currently only possible by motorbike.
Accessible areas include most of the coast, particularly the east coast which can be reached in just over an hour from the airport. Not all beaches have good road access and there are still patches of the coast which are very inaccessible. The interior can be difficult, there is a surfaced road from Gunung Sitoli to Ombolata (Alasa sub-district). Ombolata is a good base to explore the interior south of North Nias. Many other areas of Namohalu, Alasa, Alasa Talumuzoi and Tugala Oyo sub-districts can only be reached by four wheel drive vehicle or motorbike.