Banda Aceh made headlines in 2004 when more than 60,000 people were killed in a tsunami. Now, more than 15 years later, the northern Sumatera city has been rebuilt and it’s well maintained with broad streets, green parks and plenty of points of interest where you can learn about the tsunami after-effects.
Many tourists would make Banda Aceh as a pit stop on their way to the magnificent Pulau Weh. But, we think you should spend a day or two here to immerse yourself in the local culture and since there are many things to see and eat in Banda Aceh, it’ll make your trip even more memorable. Before you pack your bags and hop on the flight, there are a few things you need to know. Banda Aceh is a religious city and its ornate mosques are the center of their daily life. Read on to find out things to do and not to do to respect the local culture.
Aceh is governed by Sharia Law
Before that stops you from booking that flight, do note that the law is not imposed on tourists. But, save the short pants and bikinis for Bali as you’re expected to be modestly dressed here. That means long, loose pants and sleeved shirts.
Under Sharia Law, unmarried couples are not allowed to share a room together. However, an exception may be made if you’re a tourist. Just check with your hotel before booking! If you think the Islamic law will make your trip complicated, don’t worry as most travelers find the Acehnese to be friendly and extremely hospitable. If anything, the law makes it a safer place to visit. Just be sure to follow the rules and keep an open mind!
Visiting Baiturrahman mosque
A visit to this historical and religious landmark is a must when you’re in Banda Aceh. Not just for its beautiful colonial-style architecture, but to marvel at the mosque that became the only building that survived the tsunami that struck the city in 2004. Just as visiting other religious sites, wear appropriate clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Don’t wear fitted pants or jeans. But don’t worry if you don’t have any, the mosque officials will provide you with a tunic to cover up.
Wearing a hijab
Since Aceh residents are about 98 percent Muslim, Muslim women are required to cover their heads with a hijab. But, don’t worry, if you’re a tourist, the Aceh Sharia Police will give you an exception. This also applies to Aceh’s non-Muslim residents. Female Muslim tourists are also not required to wear a hijab, as long as you’re wearing modest clothing.
No alcohol and PDA
Alcohol is a no-no in this Islamic city under the Sharia Law. You’ll never encounter alcohol being sold openly in shops or bars. However, you might find beer or wine in hotels and restaurants that cater to international guests.
Public display of affection is also not common here. So, try to refrain from showing some PDA even when you’re married!
Don’t let the province’s strict laws stop you from visiting Banda Aceh as a tourist! It boasts so many things to do and attractions that are mostly still underrated. If you’re ever in Sumatera, add this interesting city to your list!