Travelling from Kuala Lumpur to the Perhentian Islands takes about the same effort as getting to Koh Lipe in Thailand. With some top tips, travelling there isn’t hard, but it takes about 5 hours and requires a few changes. Which is just enough time to escape the main tourist trail and enter the pristine beauty of Malaysia’s East peninsula. This article will give you the easiest and quickest to the Perhentian Islands from Kuala Lumpur and further afield.
Leg 1: Fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu
Cost: from around RM190 return p/p
For the lowest fares, you can fly to Kota Bharu’s Sultan Ismail Petra Airport with Air Asia. They’re cheap, efficient and have the most amount of flights per day.
Malaysia Airlines fly there too but will work out at least RM100 more expensive per person and for such a short flight, you won’t really notice any difference in value.
As another flight option, you could also fly from KL to Kota Terengganu’s Sultan Mahmud Airport. Although the taxi ride takes about an extra 45 minutes from the airport to the jetty.
For the best search results, I always use Skyscanner to check available flights.
Tip: Take out some cash at the airport as there’s no ATM’s on the islands! There’s a few located near the exit.
Coming from Bangkok or Singapore? Unfortunately there are no direct flights to Kota Bharu airport, so you’ll need to take a connecting flight in Kuala Lumpur.
Leg 2: Take a taxi from Kota Bharu to Kuala Besut Jetty
Time: around one hour
Cost: a Grab taxi costs around RM70
The only way to get to the Perhentian Islands is via a speedboat from Kuala Besut jetty. If you download the Grab app (Asia’s Uber equivalent), it’s easy to book a taxi to the jetty upon arrival at the airport.
Tip: As wine and spirits are expensive on the islands (because there’s no shops to buy them in, leaving only the resorts) we normally add an extra stop via the Grab app and head to a bottle shop in Kuala Besut town. There aren’t heaps, so plan ahead and don’t wander aimlessly!
We always visit the (cryptically named) SoonLee Agency bottle shop. They sell a range of wines (expect a markup compared to KL) beers and some spirits, (although the spirit selection is quite costly and not all brands are well known.)
Taking this stop will add about another 20-30 minutes to your journey.
Leg 3: Take a speedboat from Kuala Besut Jetty to the Perhentian Islands
Time: 30-45 minutes + waiting time
Cost: RM70 return p/p + RM30 Conservation Fee
Speedboats leave the Kuala Besut jetty between 9am and 4pm, so you should factor this in when organising your flight.
Many operators leave every hour, but may wait until there’s more passengers before departing. Some hotels can organise the boat for you, but we’ve always done it upon arrival at the jetty and stopped at Perhentian SeaWorld Holidays. There are enough sales operators around wanting to sell you a boat ticket so you won’t find it hard. The cost should always be the same, RM35 one way/Rm70 return.
Once paying for a ticket, there will normally be someone to take you to the boat who will ask you which hotel you’re heading to. If there seas are calm, then getting to any hotel is easy. But when its choppy, they may not be able to stop at some hotels and will drop you off at the nearest jetty they can get to.
On our second visit to the Perhentians when staying on Kecil’s Long Beach, the seas were a bit rough so we were dropped of at Coral Bay on the west coast. We didn’t realise that many small boats can still get around on the water so we ended up hauling our luggage 20 minutes through the steamy jungle. Live it, learn it!
Sometimes the boats can be crowded and the ride can be a little rough, but overall it’s not too bad. Just be prepared for some potential splashing as the boat shoots through the water (you may want to already be wearing your tropical island clothing at this point and avoid jeans or heels!)
Note: Before entering the jetty itself, Non-Malaysians will need to pay an additional RM30 conservation fee (Rm5 for Malaysians.)
Note: Speedboats only leave 3 times a day from the Perhentians to Kuala Besut: at 8am, 12 midday and 4pm. In the low season during February and October, this may reduce to just the 8am and 12pm crossing. Check with your hotel before booking. If, like me, you’re not a fan of early mornings on holiday for anything less than an amazing excursion, avoid booking a return flight before 3pm to avoid the 8am departure!
Looking for a hotel? Check out my article on which island to stay on and the best value for money hotels. Accommodation can get pricey and the quality isn’t always on par, so make sure you don’t overpay for what you get!