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Tioman Island (Pulau Tioman) lies on the southeastern coast of Malaysia in the South China Sea. It seemed like an island paradise that necessitated a visit. White sand beaches, turquoise water, great snorkelling and tranquillity.
How To Get To Tioman Island from Kuala Lumpur
Getting to Tioman Island By Bus and Ferry
- The TBS bus station in Kuala Lumpur is a good 20 minutes out of the city centre. It took 20 minutes on an early Saturday morning. At other times of the day, count on it taking much longer. Make sure your cab driver uses the meter. We forgot to strike that deal and were way overcharged.
- DO NOT take the Transnasional bus line from Kuala Lumpur. It was easy to book our tickets online with them. We had our confirmation code. We felt so prepared.
- We were bright and early for the bus at TBS bus station in Kuala Lumpur. It was a 9 am bus which gave us plenty of time to catch the 5 pm ferry to get to Tioman Island. When the bus didn’t show up until 11:20, we were beginning to think we might need a backup plan.
Getting To Tioman Island: The Bus Disaster
All the buses and shuttles in SE Asia, that I have experienced go at an incredible speed, kind of like a rocket. This old bus bumped and rattled along and eventually started smelling like burning rubber. We called out to the driver that the bus was filling with smoke and he pulled over. Quickly all the passengers exited the bus.
We stood around in the scorching heat as the driver doused the overheated engine with a little water. Shortly after, we got back on the bus. Should we have? A few minutes earlier there had been smoke inside. As the bus jerked into action, it was evident the bus was struggling to get out of first gear and second.
We trundled along and took a snack break around 4 pm. Definitely we would not get to Tioman Island today as planned.
This was becoming an endless journey. At about the 8-hour mark, we pulled over to let a local person off and the bus decided not to start again. The locals all started trickling off. Motorbikes started appearing to whisk them away. The bus driver looked at us and said, “Finished. That’s all.” and called for taxis.
Four of us decided to share a cab into Mersing (the ferry town). Our driver was so kind and for no extra charge took us to the ferry ticket office at the Bluewater Hotel, which luckily was still open. We were so relieved to get tickets as there were rumours flying around that the boats would be full. It was the start of school holidays in Malaysia and Singapore, and therefore a busy time to be travelling. Our friends had pre-purchased their tickets online for the 5 pm ferry and lost their money.
What should have been a 6-hour journey was an 11-hour marathon, including the wait at the bus station.
As I said, don’t take Transnational. The cab drivers and others all shook their heads, “Problems every day with those buses.”
Other Bus Lines To Get To Tioman Island
Leaving Tioman Island, we took Sepakat Liner from Mersing. It was a smooth six-hour trip back to Kuala Lumpur.
Taking The Ferry From Mersing To Tioman Island
Arrive good and early at the ferry terminal which is an easy walk from Mersing. We were told to arrive at least 90 minutes prior to our departure time which seemed ridiculous. Do it. Go early. There are literally a million lineups. Well, almost a million.
Although we had already purchased our tickets, we were told to go to Gate 8 where the lady ripped off the edge of the ticket and told us to line up for registration. The counter was not yet open but the lineup was long. We lined up immediately. When the counter opened, they scanned our passports, ripped our tickets and wrote something on them.
Next, you have to line up to pay the conservation fees. There are two separate lineups. One to pay the National Park fee and one to pay the Marine Park fee.
When you have done all that, line up again to get on the boat. Show your ticket and that you have paid the conservation fees and in return, you get a boarding pass (a laminated piece of paper).
It is not difficult to do any of this but it would be stressful if you were in a rush or didn’t know about all the different lineups. There were some very angry customers who clearly didn’t know that there was more to the process than purchasing a ticket.
Bluewater Express is the sole ferry company that will get you to Tioman Island. It is about an hour and a half to two hours trip to get to Tioman Island. Our ferry to Pulau Tioman was on time.
On the return trip, the 12:30 ferry was delayed by about 4 hours and our 4:30 ferry was delayed by an hour. Often the ferries are delayed depending on the tides and waves.
On our return trip when we got close to the pier at Mersing, many of the passengers had to stand in the bow of the boat to shift the weight (presumably) as we inched over the sandbar. This was a first for me on a ferry.
Getting To Tioman Island: Know Your Ferry Stop
Know which stop you are getting off at. The ferry has a number of stops and does not always land at them in the same order. In other words, the first stop is not always the first stop. Pay attention when they call out the landing.
We got off at Tekek which was a busy little place with a Duty-Free shop, street food and lots of people milling about. We had chosen to stay at Juara Beach on the far side of the island so hopped in a 4X4, and headed off away from the crowds.
Planning Your Stay
Plan an open-ended stay, if possible. Or at least add in a day for flexibility. We did not realize, that with the ferry and bus schedules the trip to get there and back took much longer than anticipated. We had to leave a day earlier than we wanted as we needed to allow enough travel time to catch our flights to Borneo. And with the bus disaster, we got to Tioman Island a day later than planned!
Accommodation On Tioman Island:
Juara Beach Resort, Tioman Island: Bushman – individual bungalows on the beach
There is a 25 MYR ($8.00 Canadian) charge per person to get from the ferry landing to Jaura beach. It is more expensive if you are solo. Bushman picks you up.
Tioman Island is beautiful and relaxing. It is like stepping into another world. An unhurried one where time just melts away. We met people who had planned to go for a few days and were still there a few weeks later.
Route from Kuala Lumpur:
Bus to Mersing: 35 MYR ($11.00 Canadian)
Ferry to Tioman: 35 MYR ($11.00 Canadian)
Conservation Fees: 25 MYR ($8.00 Canadian)
Enjoy your trip to Tioman Island. I hope you get to Tioman Island more smoothly than I did!
Until next time,
Pam Gilbert says
This makes me want to hop on the next plane/bus/ferry/whatever and, as you say….. GO!!! Thanks for this wonderful description and important details about what you need to know!
Alison Browne says
O.K. Pam – let’s go! See you there.
Thank you! I was in KL when the pandemic hit and was planning on heading here the following week. Alas, I never made it. I need to save this for the future!
Alison Browne says
Tioman Island is a wonderful destination. Remote, relaxing and unforgettable. Keep it on your list!