Our first stop after Singapore was the island paradise of the Perhentians. Particularly, Perhentian Kecil – the “cheaper” of the two Perhentian Islands, more popular with backpackers, and a staging point for diving and snorkeling trips, where you can feed the fish, see sharks, and possibly swim with turtles. This fabulous set of tropical islands is a fabulous place to head to on the east coast of Malaysia. There are two islands here, and the transport routes are the same to get to both of them. Boats to the Perhentian Islands leave from the port of Kuala Besut, so we’ve included that in our guide on how to go from Singapore to the Perhentian Islands.
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How to Get To the Perhentian Islands from Singapore
In this guide on how to go to the Perhentians from Singapore, we’ll cover the specific elements of this route – you’ll have to travel on the boats from Kuala Besut, no matter where you come from, and there are several options on how to get to Kuala Besut. I’ve detailed the quickest way to get there and the easiest overland route.
There have been heaps of changes to this route since we did it. And this is all updated for 2023.
The Quickest Way to Go from Singapore to the Perhentian Islands
It is more than 660 kilometers (410 miles) from Singapore to Kuala Besut, where you get a boat to the Perhentian Islands. And even if there were a direct bus (there’s currently NOT), then it will take ages. It took us two days when we went via Kuala Terengganu, and that’s a LONG time to sit on a bus.
Even now, the shortest single bus journey will be 12 hours. And there are several buses involved in making this trip. I’ll include them, but I’ll start with the quickest way to get to the Perhentians from Singapore.
The quickest way to go from Singapore to the Perhentians is to fly.
Flying from Singapore to the Perhentians
The step-by-step route when flying is as follows.
- Go from Singapore to Johor Bharu Airport (book a transfer here)
- Fly from Johor Bahru to Kota Bharu airport (book flights here – only 3 times a week)
- Take a shuttle from Kota Bharu Airport to Kuala Besut (book transfers here)
- Take the boat from Kuala Besut to Perhentians (book fast boats here)
Here’s the detail of how to go to the Perhentians from Singapore the quickest way,
The closest airport to the Perhentian Islands is Kota Bharu, so it’s best to fly there. If you’re planning on a stop over in Kota Bharu, then our guide on the best things to do in Kota Bharu is here. From Singapore City, you’ll want to get across the border into Malaysia, to Johor Bahru (Senai), and take an internal flight from Johor Bahru to Kota Bharu. However, there are only 3 flights a week at the moment.
(Remember there are only 3 flights a week, so you’ll need to change the dates to find one that fits)
To get to Johor Bahru (aka Senai) airport from Singapore, either take a couple of local buses, detailed below or arrange a private transfer.
Kota Bharu Airport (KBR) is about a 75-minute flight from Johor Bahru Airport. Getting to Johor Bahru Airport from Singapore is easy by private transfer, which you can book here. It’s only about 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Singapore to Johor Bahru, but remember you have to cross the border too.
Take a bus from the Queen Street Terminal in Singapore to the Woodlands Checkpoint. Then you’ll need to walk across the border to JB Sentral. Pick up the Causeway link bus to Senai (Johor Bharu) airport. The schedules for this bus are here.
When you arrive in Kota Bharu Airport you’ll need to either take a shuttle bus to Kuala Besut, where the boats leave from for the Perhentians or you can take a taxi. The transfer from Kota Bharu Airport to Kuala Besut takes about an hour.
When you arrive at Kuala Besut you’ll need to take a fast boat (it’s a bit of a misnomer, there are no slow boats. They’re all the same) to the Perhentians. You can buy tickets at the dock, or you can prebook and prepay for your ticket here.
And then you’re there. Congratulations.
Taking the bus from Singapore to the Perhentian Islands
Taking the bus from Singapore to the Perhentians involves crossing the border to Malaysia, then taking a bus from Johor Bharu to Jerteh. You can then take a transfer from there to Kuala Besut and take the boat to the Perhentians. Here are the steps you need to take and then I’ll add the detail afterward.
- Go from Singapore to Johor Larkin Bus Terminal
- Take a bus from Johor Larkin Bus Terminal to Jerteh (book buses here)
- Take a taxi from the Bus station to Kuala Besut Boat Terminal
- Take the boat from Kuala Besut to Perhentians (book fast boats here)
To take the bus from Singapore to the Perhentians you’re looking at spending a lot of time traveling. First of all, take a bus from the Queen Street Terminal in Singapore to the Johor Larkin terminal. This goes via the border crossing at the Woodlands Checkpoint. The schedules for this bus are here.
Then you’ll need the overnight bus from Johor Larkin to Jerteh. These buses leave at about 20:00 and there are up to 6 a day. You can prebook them here.
When you arrive in Jerteh (any time after about 06:30) you’ll need to get a taxi to Kuala Besut, it’s about 15 minutes.
And then when you arrive at Kuala Besut, you’ll need to take the fast boat to the Perhentians.
You can buy tickets at the dock, or you can prebook and prepay for your ticket here.
Our journey from Singapore to the Perhentian Islands
We left Singapore on a bus. Well, it was the first of two buses, that we took on this route. First of all, there was the Singapore public transit bus (covered on this Singapore travel pass) to the bus transit stop and then on our long-distance bus.
Singapore to Kuala Terengganu
The long-distance bus would take us across the border from Singapore to Malaysia, and then up to Kuala Terengganu, where we spent the night before continuing our journey from Singapore to the Perhentian Islands. We’d bought our tickets for the Singapore-KT online, arrived at the back of the Park Royal Hotel on Beach Road skirted through a little luxury, and sat waiting for the bus after raiding the local 7-11 for food during the journey.
There’s one thing you can always guarantee in Asia. There will be something to eat wherever you stop. Even if you don’t stop, someone will get on a bus and try and sell you something. Of course, you might not want to eat it. And so we bought some sandwiches.
Our Trans Nasional bus took us from central Singapore to the border at Johor Bharu, waited for us as we exited Singapore and were stamped into Malaysia, and then took us to the bus station in Kuala Terengganu, where we spent the night.
Kuala Terrengau to Kuala Besut
The next morning we needed one of the three daily buses that go there. We’d opted for 07:30, so arrived at 07:00 “just in case”. This was the local bus of local buses. Despite being on a relatively well-traveled route, there was little information in English, and ours, gleaned from the information booth of the bus company running the route the night before, was wrong. However, it was just out by 30 minutes, and in our favor (i.e. we didn’t miss the bus!) We left at 08:00, but the tickets did indeed cost 10.80 RM each.
Kuala Besut to the Perhentians
Just under two hours later we pulled up outside a travel agency near the bus station in Kuala Besut, and our driver pointed us inside to get our tickets for the boats to the Perhentians. There were 8 of us. Two needed money (there are STILL no ATMs on the Perhentians in 2023) and were whipped off on motorbikes to the ATM, the rest of us bought “fast boat” tickets.
It’s a bit of a misnomer, as this is the only way to get there now, but it’s 70 RM for the return ticket. You can pre-book your tickets and pay with a card online here.
Next, we had a bit of a yomp around the harbor where we each paid our National Park Entrance fee. It’s 30 RM for foreign visitors and 5 RM for Malaysian. There’s also a local fee of 5 RM per person.
And then we spent the next 30 minutes bouncing across the waves, just the 8 of us, heading to the Perhentian Islands. Of which there are two. The big island and the little island. Besar and Kecil. You can read our guide to the Perhentian Islands here.
Arriving on the Perhentians by Fastboat
PerhentianKecil is the backpacker hangout.. The big island is more refined and highbrow. For that we read expensive, so decided to go to the small island. The boat will either take us to Coral Bay (Teluk Aur) or Pasir Panjang (Long Beach). We opt for Long Beach, the main backpacker hangout. It might be noisier, but this is the off-season, so we’re hopeful it’s just open. Our boat stops some 40 meters out, whereupon a few guys with smaller boats head on over.
Back when we traveled there was a 2 RM transfer fee, (its included now) for these other boats, and as we didn’t want to swim (with our bags) from there, we paid up and he get us there, almost without my feet getting wet – it’s a door to door-ish service, he basically asks where we’re staying and he drops you on the beach opposite where that accommodation is.
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Final Words on Going from Singapore to the Perhentian Islands
The route to the Perhentian Islands from Singapore is a long old way overland and its going to take a long time. There’s no direct bus anymore, but you can take a couple of buses. Or the easier (and quicker) way is to fly, but it’s best to cross the border into Malaysia and take an internal flight. Either way, you’ll definitely feel as though you’ve earned your chill out time on the Perhentians when you get there!
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