After flying out of Irkutsk, Russia on a 2AM flight, we were on a mission of sorts to go to Kuala Lumpur to Perhentian Islands of Malaysia just as soon as we could. On this go around, I’d only have about 10 days to travel while in Malaysia and I was really hoping to make the best of it. With our 2am flight from Irkutsk (keep in mind we were leaving Siberia that already had snow on the ground), we’d have one quick stopover in Beijing while on our way to Kuala Lumpur which would be getting in the following afternoon and in addition, would be a balmy 90 F. That was definitely a welcome change in weather although I was still dressed for Siberia with my coat and boots in tow!
After getting into Kuala Lumpur, as much as I wanted to stop in and spend some time in the city, I decided to spare the excursion since I’d really want at least a full day to travel around. So instead, we decided to head straight from Kuala Lumpur to Perhentian Islands that evening.
Getting From Kuala Lumpur to Perhentian Islands
Since this was in October, the weather in Malaysia, especially on its East Coast, is considered the start of its rainy season. So I figured the sooner we could make it out to the Perhentian islands, the better. And luckily for us, the weather had cooperated so far upon arriving in to Kuala Lumpur. Since we were traveling as 3 people, we figured it would be easiest and just about the same price just to take a taxi straight to the Putra Bus station which has multiple bus companies which have overnight buses that leave out for Kuala Besut (the coastal town you have to grab a ferry from to get to the Perhentian islands). In theory, all you need to do is take one of these buses, arrive into Kuala Besut and hop on the boat to get you to one of the islands. However, our journey (as is often the case with me) was far from easy. Of course, this is what makes travel so interesting right?
As soon we arrived to the Putra Bus Station, we were told “Come back tomorrow, bus full”. Awesome. Every company had said the same. Since I was still on my mission to get to these beautiful famed beaches as soon as I could, it was onto ‘Plan B’. We were told we could instead catch an overnight bus to Jerteh, a town just south of Kuala Besut. Once there, we’d have to take a taxi to get to Kuala Besut but should only take 45 minutes or so.
So Plan B it was and we were in route, leaving out at 9:30 pm from Kuala Lumpur to Perhentian Islands. We were supposed to arrive to our destination about 5:30 in the morning however around 3:30AM, the bus came to a stop and as luck would have it, some random guy got on the bus, approached us in the back and ordered us off the bus and onto another one. And as strange as this may seem, this is not the first time this has happened to me! It happened on two other occasions in India, once in Russia and again in Thailand. It seems there must be some network of folks that is watching over my travel route, rearranging things at will but getting me to my final destinations nonetheless! Are you thinking you want to travel with me…?
So, apparently the bus we were on wasn’t even going to the intended destination of which we had originally bought tickets for… All the same, our second bus got us there (to Jerteh) and luckily, there was a taxi waiting there which we quickly grabbed. Since it was around 3:30AM, it was either catch this taxi or sit and wait in the middle of some random town until daylight broke. Unfortunately in these situations, you can’t haggle too much on the price but this driver didn’t try to take advantage of us either. I think he realized we were the only customers here at this time and likewise, he was also our only option…
So off in the taxi we rode and rode we did. This guy was speeding down the city streets, flying by cars driving alongside as if they were stopped. I was even sure we would be running stop lights.
Not sure why the crazy rush at 3:30AM but we made it to Kuala Besut in no time at all. We had then found an office to buy boat tickets from and were soon off, by speed boat, with all our belongings for the 30 minute ride out to the islands. The ride out actually wasn’t nearly as choppy as I’d thought it would be. The Gulf of Thailand was more like a calm lake with little swells rocking this small boat. Once arrived, it was amazing how clear the water was and we immediately saw hundreds off fish swarming around the boat as we docked to get off. Now, the next obstacle… to find a place to stay!
How to get from Kuala Lumpur to Perhentian Islands:
Aside from our crazy travel route above, the simplest way from Kuala Lumpur to Perhentian Islands is to catch a bus from the Putra Bus station in Kuala Lumpur. Regardless of what you read on the internet, there are more than one or two buses that can get you there from that station. You’ll realize this quickly as soon as you walk into the station as you get bombarded by those trying to sell you tickets.
That is the good part. The bad part is, most of them will be full by mid-afternoon (if you’re looking to take the overnight bus that same day). If they are, re-read my route above as this is your alternative route you can take at a good price should they be sold out. The other alternatives would be to take a taxi (more expensive) or just wait until the following day. The most popular companies which travel this route are the Mutiara Bus Express and the Mahligai Bus Express though as mentioned, we did find others there at the Putra Bus Station.
What to Expect, Costs & Travel Time –
Kuala Lumpur to Perhentian Islands:
The buses you take will be similar to the ones available in Thailand… comfortable and that offer reclining seats. Bring along your jacket though as the AC will be kicking… The one we took however was not a double-decker as those types usually have a bathroom on board. Ours did stop once though while in route so everyone could snack and use the bathroom. At the time of this writing, the cost was around 30 Ringgit each way ($10 USD) and travel time is around 7-8 hours. If going my ‘alternative’ route, the bus will still cost about the same, to take you to Jerteh and the taxi will cost about 20 Ringgit and takes about 45 minutes (unless you get my crazy cabbie who took 30 minutes) to get you to Kuala Besut. Buses usually leave from Putra Bus Station around 9pm and arrive to Kuala Besut around 5AM.
Feel free to ask any questions in planning for your travels and leave your comments below!
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