Travelling to the Perhentian Islands – Tips and Tricks!
If you are looking for a real escape, without the hustle and bustle of busy mainland beaches in Thailand, the Perhentian Islands are ideal for the longest summer’s, great beaches, very remote, and no excuses for relaxing! Bare in mind, Malaysia is very heavily Muslim influenced (limited alcohol), but do not let that sway you from enjoying this Gem. I’ll guide you through the American way to get down.
Getting there may be the toughest part. Malaysia is very poverty stricken and heavily dependent on Western and Asian trade. It is taught that learning English is the way to move up in the world, so many people do speak English.
The recommended end goal is to get to Besut to hop on a Jet boat to the islands. If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, or Thailand, you basically have two options. 1) Fly to Kota Bharu or 2) Take a bus. If you are not nearby, find a plane that flies direct to Kota Bharu.
Taking a Plane
Use the Local airlines! Do not use Travelocity, Priceline, Expedia, etc… Unless you are not even close to Malaysia in the first place. Asian Air is like the JetBlue or Spirit of the United States. Except the planes are more comfortable, albeit very old. You can get flights for often times less than $50 USD, and Direct! Otherwise you can easily find Malaysia Airlines as those are the two largest competitors in the space. Also, don’t worry about that missing plane a few years ago. A lot of Malaysia Air is operated by Cathay these days. I highly recommend getting right into Kota Bharu as the easiest first step.
Taking a Bus
Coming from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur? It’s a bit of a ride. The overnight ride sucks. A daytime ride from Kuala Lumpur will take a solid 8 hours. Coming from Kuala Lumpur, take the light rail to Hentian Putra. The locals will not help you. Find a map! At the bus station, you can buy a ticket. Finding tickets can be a pain, but use this website: Malaysia Bus and you should be good to go. That will help with scheduling too. While on the bus, you have an option if you are up for it: Instead of going all the way to Kota Bharu, at the Manchang Malaysia stop (coming from the south), hop off. There will be taxi drivers that will take you the rest of the way to Besut. They will know where you are heading too. This will save you nearly an hour and a half, and 30 Ringgit.
Heading to Kota Bharu Locally
You can take the local bus in, but it involves waiting, question marks, and in my opinion, a lack of adventure. I suggest just forking the money over for a taxi ride to Besut. It is not expensive, maybe $20 USD (or 70 Ringgit) for an hour taxi ride. By the way, yes… that is a Cow in the middle of the road to the left.
Finally got to Besut!
There is a reason it is hard to get to these islands… you are almost there. Now to find your Jet Boat. The Jet Boat is going to be another $20 USD round-trip (or 70 Ringgit). They depart every couple of hours, so just as long as you show up before 5 PM, you are good to go. If you get there afterwards, there brings up the next question. You can negotiate with the guy up to 6:30 PM, try and get a group together for somewhere between 300 and 400 Ringgit (1 way) to do a private charter over, or you can call it a night and wait for the early morning boat. I say, stay the night. Why? When the rooms book up quickly, being the first ones on the island give you the best shot to get a solid room. Being the last, put you in the place you may not want to be in, whether it be because of cost or terrible conditions.
Booz and Important Items in Besut
Now on to Besut. Be sure to have Cash, most places on the island only accept Cash. #2 on the map is a 24 hour bank, which is right next to the Police Station. Note, that most places with Bar’s will accept Credit, if you spend a certain amount, somewhere around 80 to 100 Ringgit #3 on the map is where the docks are to the Jet Boats. And #1 on the map is an all-important location of Booz! Besut is for the most place DRY. No restaurants sell or most even do not allow booz to be drank. This shop is a place that I found, noticing a local buying a bottle of Jack Daniels. So I asked, Do you have Tiger? “Tiger Beer” – Sure enough, they came out of the back room with 4 Tiger Beer’s, one for each of us sitting across the street. You can try and grab a bottle of liquor too, it’s all very hush hush. Here’s a Google Streets Pic of the place. You can probably ask for “Tiger” at other shops too, this was just the one I scored at.
Try not to stay out after dark. The locals love to chat you up, almost annoyingly to border-line “are you going to rob me?” style.
Taking the Jet Boat to the Islands!
Enjoy the 30 minute jet boat ride to the islands. They will ask you whether you want to go to the Big (Besar) or Small (Kecil) island. If you are reading this post, you want to go to the small island Kecil. Trust me. Either way, it doesn’t matter once you get there. You can water taxi all over the place, or even walk from one side to the other of the islands. You will also have to specify which beach you want to go to. My personal suggestion is Coral Bay. It’s calm, very wooded with palm tree’s, nice sized beach, easy access to Long Beach, and has nice places to stay.
Difference between the islands
Here’s my quick take on the difference between the islands.
So, here you are… Enjoy the islands. Go explore, enjoy the water, the water activities and at night, venture out to Coral Bay for the BBQ’s. There will be liquor and beer coolers on the beach. After dinner, head to Long Beach for the fire show and late night music. If you feel like having a lighter night, head to Ombak and watch a movie on a projection screen with a limited to full bar. This was by far my favorite go-to place. Enjoy the Islands!