How to Get from Kota Bharu Airport (Sultan Ismail Petra Airport) to Perhentian Islands

The beautiful Perhentian Islands are one of the prized destinations on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Unlike Thai island counterparts, the islands are less developed and less densely populated.  The Perhentian Islands offer absolutely gorgeous stretches of white sand and clear turquoise water, which are actually part of a protected marine park. There are also more and more well-managed hotels and resorts popping up on the Perhentian Islands.

The nearest city to ‘Perhentian’ that has a fully operating domestic airport is Kota Bharu. That is why it is the most popular gateway to the islands.  If you have booked a flight to Kota Bharu (try Momondo and/or BookingBuddy) with Perhentian as your final destination; here is a step-by-step guide on how to get from Kota Bharu Airport (Sultan Ismail Petra Airport) to Perhentian:

1. First book a flight to Kota Bharu Airportalso known as Sultan Ismail Petra Airport. Once you have landed, then purchase a ticket from the taxi counter at the arrival section of the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport – the official name of the Kota Bharu Airport.   You will need to travel by land from Kota Bharu airport to Kuala Besut. Kuala Besut is the access point to Perhentian.  All boats to the islands leave from the pier of this town. Hiring a taxi from the airport is the fastest and most convenient way to reach Kuala Besut port. There are no local buses or trains that service this route directly from the airport. We recently completed this journey. The fare is 78 Ringgit, and the journey takes about an hour. If you’re arriving late you can book a room here in Kuala Besut. Ferries don’t run late at night, therefore Kuala Besut has become a convenient ‘one night stop’ before catching a ferry to the Perhentian islands the next morning.

The taxi stand at Kota Bharu Airport

The taxi stand at Kota Bharu Airport

It costed us 78 RM from the KB airport to Kuala Besut

It costed us 78 RM from the KB airport to Kuala Besut

2. Proceed to the Kuala Besut Pier.  All airport taxi drivers know that most tourists coming from Kota Bharu Airport want to go to Perhentian, so they will know where to drop you off. But if your flight arrives late at night, then you won’t make it in time for the last boat, which only runs until 5 pm (March-September).

The taxis at Kota Bharu Airport are grey and located directly outside the exit

The taxis at Kota Bharu Airport are grey and located directly outside the exit

If this is the case, be proactive and book a room at a hotel or guesthouse near the port Because of the steady flow of tourists, there is a collection of hotels and other accommodation types near the pier.  It is important that you book your accommodation near the port if you want to walk to catch the earliest boat to Perhentian the next day.

3. Purchase your speed boat/ferry ticket to Perhentian Islands.   There are a couple of ticket stands and tour offices in the vicinity of the pier that sell speed boat tickets. Since Perhentian is first and foremost a diving site, some diving companies offer packages that include boat transfer arrangements from Kuala Besut port.

If you did not arrange for a diving package, you may purchase your ticket at one of the ticket stands before your intended departure time. You can also buy a ticket from tour offices the day before.  It is usually not busy enough that tickets will run out, but it’s never a bad idea to be proactive especially during peak season.

The boat tickets sold by companies are often return tickets, and the normal price is 70 Ringgit. Some tour offices offer special discounts of up to 25%, so it might be good plan to shop around before purchasing. During our trip we got our tickets for 50 RM per passenger with a special promo from Kuala Besut to Perhentian and back.

Be-sure-to-shop-around-before-you-book-a-ticket-to-Perhentian-from-Kuala-Besut

Be-sure-to-shop-around-before-you-book-a-ticket-to-Perhentian-from-Kuala-Besut

4. Show up at least 30 minutes early and find the right boat. The boats to Perhentian Island are not slow ferries, but rather speed boats that can accommodate about 15 people.  The most important thing to remember is that they are run by different companies. So when you reach the pier departure area, don’t hesitate to ask the boat operators where you should go.  Unfortunately these operators are not wearing proper uniforms and the whole boarding setup is quite disorganized and confusing. The best thing you can do is show up at least 30 minutes early before your departure time; show your ticket and open your mouth. It pays to ask the people at the pier as to which boat you should take. Upon seeing your ticket, they will assign you to a boat. The first boats to Perhentian from Kuala Besut depart at 8 am in the morning. Therefore, check departure times before you check out of your room.

The 30 minute speedboat ride-to Perhentian is usually 70 RM return. We paid 50 RM with a promo

The 30 minute speedboat ride-to Perhentian is usually 70 RM return. We paid 50 RM with a promo

Travel Checklist: Do you have everything you need?

5. Pay the environmental fee. There is a separate government stall on the left hand side of the pier’s departure area. Find it and pay the environmental fee of 5 Ringgit per person. Operators will not let you onto the boat without checking the environmental fee ticket. The trip from Kuala Besut to Perhentian will take 25-35 minutes depending on the weather.

You will have to pay the 5 RM environmental fee at this office before getting on a speedboat

You will have to pay the 5 RM environmental fee at this office before getting on a speedboat

The 5 RM conservation ticket

The 5 RM conservation ticket

6. Inform the boat operator of your specific destination on Perhentian. There are two major islands in this archipelago that have a couple of beaches where tourists usually go to. Long Beach and the Perhentian Island Resort are just some of the common destinations for tourists.  Most major beaches have their own small dock (except Long Beach) and the boat will take you directly to your respective beach. Depending on the tide, sometimes small boats will meet speedboats going to Long Beach.  They charge an additional 2-3 RM per passenger for this small transfer.

Most speedboats drop off passengers at island piers

Most speedboats drop off passengers at island piers

Getting back to Kota Bharu Airport from Perhentian Islands

1. Inform your hotel/guesthouse about your intended departure date and time. If your return boat ticket has the number of the operator, ask your hotel to contact them. It is important that you don’t wait till the last minute to arrange your boat transfer back to Kuala Besut. Do it a day before to secure a seat at the time you prefer.

2. Proceed to the dock for pickup. Show up at least 15 minutes early and keep your ticket as the boat operator will collect it. If your speedboat isn’t full, expect to stop at other resorts before heading back to Kuala Besut.

Heading back to Kuala-Besut from the pier at Perhentian Island Resort

Heading back to Kuala-Besut from the pier at Perhentian Island Resort

3. Take a taxi or minibus from the Kuala Besut pier.  When the speed boat brings you back to Kuala Besut, you just need to walk outside the pier to get a taxi or minibus back to the airport. The minibus will be cheaper because they take in more people. The minibus fee is 25 RM per passenger.  If you prefer a taxi, the fare should be around 70 Ringgit. Therefore, if you are travelling in a group try to hire a taxi to get from Kuala Besut to Kota Bharu. You can compare flight prices from Kota Bharu to your next destination using this link.

Accommodation Information: Kuala Besut and Pulau Perhentian

Where did we stay during this trip?

In Kuala Besut

When we arrived in Kuala Besut the night before we took the speedboat to Pulau Perhentian our main priority was staying within walking distance of the pier. The last thing we wanted to do was to wake up and arrange another transport connection. Eventually, we decided to book at T’Lodge. We don’t have a direct affiliation with this property or any of the properties in Kuala Besut or on Perhentian.  Therefore, we have an unbiased opinion of the properties we stayed at. Overall T’Lodge turned out to be a satisfactory budget place to stay.  The room we had was large, but slightly outdated with basic amenities.  The staff was friendly.  It’s literally about 2 minutes away from the pier and that was our priority. At the time of writing it had a score of 6.8 based on 85 verified guest reviews.  We feel that this is a pretty accurate representation of what we thought of the place.

On Pulau Perhentian

The main priority we had when finding a room on Perhentian was staying near a beautiful beach.  We didn’t want to make all the effort of going to the east coast only to stay on an average stretch of sand. We eventually booked at Perhentian Island Resort. True to the reviews that we had read before visiting, it boasts one of the nicest beaches we have seen in all of Malaysia.  As an added bonus it also had snorkeling right off shore and great visibility. And now the downside – the resort itself needs a renovation. It’s a bit old and could use a face-lift. At the time of writing it had a score of 6.9/10 based on 645 verified guest reviews. Based on our experience there, this is quite accurate. Despite the slight disappointment we had with the resort upkeep, we would still go back due to the spectacular location and water.

How to find the cheapest rooms in Kuala Besut and on Pulau Perhentian?

Whether you are staying in Kuala Besut the night before you take a speedboat to Perhentian or staying on one of the Islands, it’s strongly recommended to book well in advance. The Perhentians are in high demand during peak season (March to September) especially with Europeans.  The three sites that we continue to rely on for booking our rooms along Malaysia’s east coast are: www.agoda.com, www.booking.com and www.hotelscombined.com. Both www.agoda.com and www.booking.com are very popular with our readers to due their excellent room selections and prices. We also use www.hotelscombined.com all the time to compare room prices before booking. To save you some time, I have created links to their respective property lists for both Kuala Besut and Pulau Perhentian:

Rooms in Kuala Besut – www.agoda.com

Rooms in Kuala Besut – www.booking.com

Compare Room Prices in Kuala Besut – www.hotelscombined.com

Rooms on Perhentian – www.agoda.com

Rooms on Perhentian – www.booking.com

Compare Room Prices on Perhentian – www.hotelscombined.com

Be sure to double-check the location of your hotel with the map tool on these sites prior to booking to make sure that you’re near the pier (in Kuala Besut) and close to the beach (on Perhentian).

Flight Information: Getting to the Perhentian Islands

What is the best airport to fly into when you are trying to reach the Perhentian Islands?

The best airport to book your flight into is Kota Bharu Airport (Sultan Ismail Petra Airport).

How long does it take from Kota Bharu Airport to the pier?

During our recent experience, it took about 1 hour in a taxi to the Kuala Besut pier from the airport.

What is the best way to find the cheapest flights to Kota Bharu Airport?

I would suggest using a price comparison site to get a feel for the prices first from your point of origin. In our particular case, we used two different sites: Momondo and BookingBuddy. We were pleased with the fact that you can compare prices from up to 8 websites all at the same time with BookingBuddy.  Momondo simply finds the cheapest available price by searching the sites at one time.. Here is a link to their price comparison pages if you have to purchase some flight tickets:

COMPARE FLIGHT PRICES TO KOTA BHARU – Momondo

COMPARE FLIGHT PRICES TO KOTA BHARU- BookingBuddy

Which airlines fly to/from Kota Bharu Airport?

At the time of writing, Air Asia, Malaysian Airlines, Malindo Air and Firefly were servicing flights to Kota Bharu.

Does Perhentian Island have an airport?

The answer is no.  Therefore, plan to fly into Kota Bharu Airport and then take a taxi from there to the Kuala Besut pier.

Enjoy safe and worry-free travels!

Read Other Posts on Malaysia

By | 2017-09-25T15:03:09+00:00 September 22nd, 2015|10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Will July 23, 2017 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Hello again, please if you can help
    we will arrive with no Malaysian ringgit.
    I understand there is a currency exchange at the airport
    we will need to change quite a bit of money for accomm diving food etc.
    should I just change enough at the airport to pay for the taxi to kuala besut, if so is there a better exchang rate elsewhere on the way or at kuala besut
    thank you ..

    • P.A. Cybulskie August 7, 2017 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Hi Will! Where are you coming from? Are you landing at KL International Airport (KLIA) before arriving at Kota Bharu Airport? If the answer is yes, please exchange your money at KLIA, or you can withdraw money from the ATM at the airport. Kuala Besut is a very small town. And I did not see any big currency exchange center there. If there’s one, you won’t get a good rate. I recommend that you exchange your money at KLIA airport so you don’t have to scramble when you reach Kuala Besut.

  2. Will July 23, 2017 at 9:23 am - Reply

    Great info, thanks
    im hoping the “obvious ” safe boat operators that take you to perhentian are easy to spot on arrival Kuala Besut
    as we are coming direct from the airport do we just arrive there , find a reputable booking place, and then wait.
    how often do the speed boats leave

    • P.A. Cybulskie August 7, 2017 at 10:39 am - Reply

      From our experiences, the boats are in condition and they give life jackets. They are fairly organized. Once you get to the pier, you can purchase the tickets and the boats are lined up to take in passengers. They leave frequently and as soon as they have enough passengers. We did not encounter any problem. From what I know, they do not run all day and night. The last boat would probably leave around 5 pm. In our case, we arrived at night in Kuala Besut, so we stayed for the night at a hotel near the pier. And then, we just took the first boat the next morning. So if you are arriving in the evening, then you may have to do the same.

  3. Adi May 1, 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    thanks for such detailed info !

    • P.A. Cybulskie May 16, 2017 at 11:15 pm - Reply

      You are welcomed Adi! I hope you continue to support our site. Please don’t forget to like us on Facebook and tell your friends and family about us. I wish you more fun and meaningful travels!

    • P.A. Cybulskie June 14, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome Adi!

  4. Joe January 28, 2017 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    Beware of the unlicense n illigal boat operators whom they operate and operate cheap fares and tend to overloading with passengers in their boats during the transfer and they tend not to pickup you up on your return journey.

  5. P.A. Cybulskie August 20, 2016 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    Thanks for reading!

  6. John November 14, 2015 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Excellent information…best guide to the islands..!

Leave A Comment