Off the Northeast coast of Malaysia the Perhentians are made of two islands: the Small Island – Pulau Perhentian Kecil, and the Big Island – Pulau Perhentian Besar. Perhentians are a great destination if you are looking for nice beaches, clear water and snorkeling or diving.
How accessible is it from Singapore?
Because it takes quite some time to reach from Singapore, we recommend that you plan for at least 3 days. It is technically feasible in 2 days but by plane or bus (not by train) your ratio time in transport/ time on the beach will be quite bad…
The total door to door journey from (your home/office in) Singapore to your hotel on the Perhentians will take you anywhere from 6 hours and 55 minutes (if you fly there) to more than 15 hours (by bus or train).
How much is this going to cost us?
Transportation wise, this trip will cost you about SGD 930 return for 2 if you fly. This estimate also includes the taxi from the airport to the harbor and the boat transfer. It will be much cheaper if you take the bus or the train.
Accommodation wise, you can find anything from very cheap and basic accommodation (less than SGD 10 a night) to nicer resorts but nothing luxurious. If you stay in the lower end resorts, it’s probably a good idea to bring a mosquito net with you (or check if the resort can provide one).
What about the kids?
The destination is relatively kid friendly. Kids can have fun on the beach. Older kids can do snorkeling or even diving.
How remote and risky is it?
Overall, the islands are quiet and relatively safe. There are no cars on the island. There is a basic clinic in the fishing village on Perhentian Kecil. Some resorts and dive centers have basic first aid kits. Not the best place to get really sick though but safe enough if you don’t have a specific health condition. Crime wise, the situation is overall ok although some thefts and fights have been reported. There is limited police presence on the islands (and usually none at night or on weekends).
When should we go?
Which island should I stay on?
The 2 islands have a different character. Basically, prefer the Small island if you want to party. Long beach on the Small Island is home to a couple of beach clubs and lively bars. Head to the Big island if you plan a quiet family trip. The 2 islands are not far from each other (10-15 min ride by small boat), but it’s better to pick the one that best suits your mood.
Connections from Perhentians
Perhentias are usually a stand alone destination. However, you can combine this trip with a trip to Kuala Lumpur if you transit through there. If you have not seen enough corals or turtles, head to Pulau Tioman or give a try to the small islands off Mersing.
Getting from Singapore to Perhentians
You will need to reach Kuala Besut to take a boat to the Perhentians for the last leg of your trip.
To get to Kuala Besut, there are a few options available to you, from the fastest and most expensive to the longest and cheapest:
Fly from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) to Kota Bahru Sultan Ismail Petra Airport (KBR)
Bad news #1… there used to be a direct flight with Firefly but it is not available anymore.
Bad news #2: AirAsia used to operate a direct flight from Singapore to Kota Bahru 4 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) from 21 April 2014 and the best part was… the timing was compatible with the boat schedule! However, we looked for this flight everywhere and can’t find it anymore 🙁
This means you are going to have to transfer in Kuala Lumpur
Getting there: Malaysia Airlines: SIN to KUL 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM (1h) and then KUL to KBR 10:30 AM – 11:25 AM (55 min)
Coming back: Malaysia Airlines KBR to KUL 8 PM – 9 PM and then KUL to SIN 11:05 PM – 00 AM
Return ticket from SGD 350.
You can get a bus at Johor Bahru Larkin bus terminal. To get there, you can take the SMRT Bus 170 from the city center and cross the border. It will take you approximately 45 minutes to reach Bahru Larkin Bus Terminal. From there you can take a night bus.
Getting there: Transnasional bus 8PM – 9AM (13 hour journey)
Coming back: 9PM – 10AM
Return ticket from SGD 56.
Note: You don’t necessarily have to wait to be in Kota Bahru to alight from the bus. Ask the bus driver to drop you when the bus is close to Kuala Besut. It will save you both time and money!
If you are very patient or a big fan of palm trees, there is a train running all the way from Singapore Woodlands to Wakaf Baharu. You can check the schedule and book your tickets on the KTM website
Getting there: 7PM – 8.44 AM (13h+ journey)
Coming back: 7.16 AM – 9.20 PM
Return ticket from SGD 30
Get your ticket NOW to enjoy the best fares.
Getting from Kota Bahru to Perhentians
You will need to get a taxi to Kuala Besut
- From Kota Bahru bus terminal – 1h30, 55 MY by taxi (one way)
- From Kota Bahru airport – 1h15, RM 60 by taxi (one way)
- From Whakaf Baharu train station – 1h, RM 60 by taxi (one way)
Finally, you will need to take a boat to the Perhentians (big or small island): 45 minutes – 70 MYR return ticket.
Speed boats run from February to October:
- From Kuala Besut Jetty to Perhentian: 08.30 AM– 10.30 AM 1.30 PM 4.30 PM (the 4.30 is only from March to September, this means that you will not be able to catch the last one a 1:30 PM the other months)
- From Perhentians to Kuala Besut Jetty: 8 AM, 12PM, 4PM (the 4PM is only from March to September)
If you are a large group, you can also pre arrange a charter boat for RM 600 per way.
You can arrange your transfers with Tuna Bay if you stay there or contact your hotel for information on the boat transfers.
Where to stay in Perhentians
Hotels and resorts are available on both the Small and Big islands. They range from very basic and cheap to nicer resorts. Overall prices are expensive for the quality and service you get so the value is not great compared to other destinations in Malaysia or Asia. This hotel is pretty OK
Find your hotel or resort on
or, if you prefer, book with
To see & to do in Perhentians
A few ideas of things to do and see.
Arrange a snorkeling expedition. Most of the boats will bring you around to a couple of predefined spots. You will be able to witness one of the clearest water in East Asia, as well as a blooming wildlife (we have even been signaled the presence of small rare but inoffensive sharks!)
The simpler the better: relax and get lazy on the beach, enjoy the clear water and the nice view.
You will find dive centers on both islands. Diving packages are usually not very expensive (about SGD 30 per dive depending on the number of dives)
You can kayak around each island or both within one day. Many resorts rent kayaks.
Have a good time
Go to Long beach (Small island) by night and enjoy a dinner at one of the fish restaurants on the beach. You can then go party in the bars around or simply enjoy a narguile on the beach.
More info to prepare your trip
Wifi is barely available on the islands.
Money and change
If you are short in Ringgits, you can make payments in Singapore Dollars (but the rate will kill you, so see this as a last resort measure only). Some resorts accept credit cards but most don’t.
What to pack for Perhentians
Your main bag
That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.
- Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
- Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
- Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
- Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
- Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
- Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
- Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
- Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
- Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
- Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
- Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
- Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
- Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
- Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.
Your small bag
That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.
- Your passport, cash, credit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
- Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
- Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
- Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
- Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
- Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
- Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
- Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
- Camera and its protection.
Remember that this one comes on top of the Regular pack (above)
- Beach towel or equivalent (pareos / sarongs are lighter)
- Snorkeling equipment: mask, scuba, (fins?)
- Shoes you can wear on the beach or in the water (to protect your feet from being cut by corals)
- Dry bag if you plan to go on a boat and want to keep your stuff dry.
Well, you will probably adjust your bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips!
Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!
- Language: Bahasa Malaysia
- Time zone: Kuala Lumpur GMT +8 hours, no time difference between Malaysia and Singapore
- Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
- Phone: + 60
- Electricity: 220V 50 Hz
Immigration and airport taxes on arrival
A lot of nationalities are exempt of visa to enter Malaysia. You can check on the Malaysia Immigration website. If you are arriving by:
- By air: On busy weekends, expect to wait for quite a while at the immigration counter
- By land: If you are driving from Singapore remember to have your fuel tank full to 3/4 when crossing the border. Buy a Touch & Go card (to pay for taxes, tolls and fees) and remember to take it with you when going to Malaysia. More details on the card on the Touch and Go website.
National Public Holidays in Malaysia
|Wednesday||January 01||New Years Day||All regions except Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis, Terengganu|
|Tuesday||January 14||Mawlid||Birthday of Prophet Muhammad|
|Tuesday||January 14||Birthday of The Sultan of Negeri Sembilan||Negeri Sembilan only. Always celebrated on 14 January|
|Friday||January 17||Thaipusam||Hindu festival. Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Penang, Selangor only|
|Sunday||January 19||Sultan of Kedahs Birthday||Kedah only. Always celebrated on 19 January|
|Friday||January 31||Chinese New Year||1st day of 1st lunar month|
|Saturday||February 01||Chinese New Year||2nd day of 1st lunar month|
|Monday||February 03||Federal Territory Day (observed)||Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, Putrajaya only. Anniversary of the formation of the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory in 1974|
|Tuesday||March 04||Anniversary of Installation of the Sultan of Terengganu||Terengganu only. Always celebrated on 4 March|
|Tuesday||April 15||Declaration of Malacca as a Historical City||Malacca only. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7 July 2008|
|Friday||April 18||Good Friday||Friday before Easter Sunday. Sabah, Sarawak only|
|Saturday||April 26||Birthday of the Sultan of Terengganu||Terengganu only. Always celebrated on 26 April|
|Thursday||May 01||Labour Day||International Workers Day|
|Wednesday||May 07||The Sultan of Pahang Hol||Pahang only. Marks the death of a state Sultan|
|Sunday||May 11||Mothers Day||2nd Sunday in May. Not a public holiday.|
|Tuesday||May 13||Wesak Day||Birth of Buddha. Observed on the day of the full moon in May|
|Saturday||May 17||Birthday of the Raja of Perlis||Perlis only. Always celebrated on 17 May|
|Tuesday||May 27||Isra and Miraj||Kedah, Perlis and Negeri Sembilan only|
|Thursday||May 29||Public Holiday||Perak only. Mark the passing of the Sultan of Perak|
|Friday||May 30||Harvest Festival||Sabah and Labuan only|
|Saturday||May 31||Harvest Festival||Sabah and Labuan only|
|Sunday||June 01||Harvest Festival||Sarawak only|
|Monday||June 02||Harvest Festival||Sarawak only|
|Saturday||June 07||Birthday of SPB Yang di Pertuan Agong||Kings Birthday. 1st Saturday in June|
|Sunday||June 29||Beginning of Ramadan||Johor, Kedah and Johor, Kedah, Malacca only|
|Monday||July 07||Georgetown Heritage Day||Penang only. Georgetown was given Unesco World Heritage Site status in 2009|
|Saturday||July 12||Birthday of the Governor of Penang||Penang only. 2nd Saturday in July|
|Tuesday||July 15||Nuzul Quran||All regions except Johor, Kedah, Malacca, Sabah, Sarawak|
|Monday||July 28||Hari Raya Aidilfitri||Eid Al-Fitr|
|Tuesday||July 29||Hari Raya Puasa Holiday||Second day of holiday for Eid Al-Fitr|
|Sunday||August 31||National Day||Independence Day|
|Saturday||September 13||Birthday of the Governor of Sarawak||Sarawak only|
|Tuesday||September 16||Malaysia Day||Became a Federal Holiday in 2010|
|Thursday||September 25||State Holiday||Kelantan only. Allow voting in by-election|
|Saturday||October 04||Birthday of the Governor of Sabah||Sabah only. 1st Saturday in October|
|Sunday||October 05||Hari Raya Haji||Festival of Sacrifice|
|Monday||October 06||Hari Raya Haji Holiday||Holiday in lieu. Second day of Festival of Sacrifice|
|Friday||October 10||Malacca Governors Birthday||Malacca only.|
|Wednesday||October 22||Diwali||The festival of lights. Except Labuan, Sarawak|
|Friday||October 24||Birthday of The Sultan of Pahang||Pahang only. Always celebrated on 24 October|
|Saturday||October 25||Awal Muharram||Islamic New Year|
|Sunday||October 26||Awal Muharram (in lieu)||Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu only.|
|Monday||November 03||Public Holiday||Pahang only. Marks football team winning the Malaysia Cup final|
|Tuesday||November 11||Birthday of the Sultan of Kelantan||Kelantan only. Always celebrated on 11 November|
|Wednesday||November 12||Birthday of the Sultan of Kelantan||Kelantan only. Always celebrated on 11 November|
|Saturday||November 22||Birthday of the Sultan of Johor||Johor only. Always celebrated on 22 November|
|Thursday||November 27||Birthday of the Sultan of Perak||Perak only. Always celebrated on 27 November|
|Saturday||November 29||The Sultan of Johor Hol||Johor only. Marks the death of a state Sultan|
|Thursday||December 11||Birthday of The Sultan of Selangor||Selangor only. Always celebrated on 11 December|
|Thursday||December 25||Christmas Holiday||Internationally observed Christian holiday|
* check the exact date as it varies from one year to another. When a public holidays falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday. There might be some special public holidays in some states. Please refer to this website.