Bintan, an island in the Riau archipelago of Indonesia, makes a convenient getaway for those in need of an escape from the shackles of busy life. Just an hour away from Singapore by ferry, Bintan is significantly geared towards tourism and the very purpose of recharging and entertaining weary souls from Singapore.
What’s in this guide:
- Basic travel information for Bintan
- Planning your Bintan holiday
Which is better – Bintan or Batam?
When picking a spot for some rest and relaxation, many Singaporeans pitch Bintan with another Indonesian destination that’s also accessible by ferry: Batam. While Bintan is just 10 kilometres east of Batam, it can’t be more different! If you’re wondering which to opt for – Bintan or Batam – the answer depends on what type of holiday you prefer.
Bintan: For a resort getaway with relaxation and adventure
Brimming with top-notch beach resorts, Bintan’s the place where many Singaporeans book themselves a weekend of luxurious living, largely within the confines of a resort. (Even so, there are lots of things to do in Bintan outside the resorts, which we’ll be sharing later in this guide.) With prices geared towards tourists, at least in the resort areas, a holiday in Bintan tends to be more expensive than one in Batam.
Batam: For foodies and bargain hunters
Batam has an abundance of food and shopping, so you can picture a weekend of feasting on cheap seafood and stocking up on groceries. It’s not short of options for pampering too, in the form of spas and massage parlours, but resort-wise, Bintan certainly has an edge.
Reasons to visit Bintan
Bintan has no shortage of offerings for couples, families and friends. Lovebirds can reignite their spark with intimate moments aided by couple spas, cocktails by the sunset and private excursions. Families are at ease with kid-friendly rooms and tons of activities catered for the little ones. Friends can take their pick of action with adrenaline-fuelled watersports, farm tours, shopping, food hunting, or seeking out lesser-known spots around the island.
If you’re planning to travel in a big group of more than ten, you’ll find that there are resort villas that can accommodate your whole clan. This makes Bintan a great spot to arrange a much-needed meetup session with your extended family or a big group of friends.
Here’s a one-minute sneak peek of what you can expect in Bintan:
With all the makings of a good holiday and minus the hassle of flights, it’s no wonder that Bintan’s such a well-loved getaway among those living in Singapore!
Best time to visit Bintan
|Best time to visit Bintan||April to October|
|Monsoon season in Bintan||Early November to late March|
Like Singapore, Bintan has a tropical climate throughout the year. The best time to visit Bintan is during the dry season from April to October. However, this is also the period that Bintan welcomes the most visitors, particularly so during the public and school holidays in Singapore.
It’s still possible to catch sunny days during the Bintan monsoon season from early November to late March, but do keep in mind that the rains and winds will translate to rougher seas during the ferry ride. Bad weather could also dampen your plans for the beach and watersports activities.
Getting from Singapore to Bintan
|Departure from Singapore||Arrival in Bintan||Location||Journey time|
|Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal||Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal (or Bintan Ferry Terminal)||North of Bintan||Approx. 1 hour|
|Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal||Tanjung Pinang Ferry Terminal||Southwest of Bintan||Approx 1.5 to 2 hours|
There are multiple ferry sailings from Singapore to Bintan each day. They are operated by companies such as Sindo Ferry, Majestic Fast Ferry and Bintan Resorts Ferries. Visit the specific ferry operator’s website to find the Bintan ferry timings and prices. It’s advisable to secure your return ticket prior to your departure from Singapore as these ferries are often fully-booked by the last minute.
Getting around Bintan
The best way to get around Bintan is with taxis. From the ferry terminal and various resorts, you’ll find taxis ready to shuttle you to anywhere on the island, be it the beach in Trikora or the small town of Tanjung Uban. From Bintan Ferry Terminal, a short five-minute ride to the Treasure Bay area costs roughly IDR 70,000 (SGD 6.80), while a ten-minute ride to Angsana Bintan or Lagoi Bay costs around IDR 130,000 (SGD 12.60). Going as far as Club Med or Bintan Lagoon, which takes 20 minutes, costs about IDR 190,000 (SGD 18.40). Take note that it’s often necessary to bargain with taxi touts, particularly those at the ferry terminal, for a fair price.
Some resorts also have shuttle services to and from the ferry terminal and specific attractions. For more independence in exploring Bintan, you can consider renting a car or scooter.
Public transportation in the form of buses is neither extensive nor reliable in Bintan. There are minivans (locally-termed as mikrolet or angkot) plying standard routes, but potential long waiting times make it unrecommended for tourists.
Currency in Bintan
Bintan uses the Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) as its currency. As of July 2019, IDR 100,000 equals to SGD 9.65.
For your convenience, it’s advisable to obtain Indonesian currency in Singapore prior to your departure. Should you need Rupiah at the last minute, there are money changers at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and one at Bintan Ferry Terminal. Most resorts offer money-changing services too. ATMs are available in Plaza Lagoi, Tanjung Pinang, and some resorts like Nirwana Garden Resorts.
If you’d like to swipe your Visa, Mastercard or American Express cards in Bintan, remember to activate it for overseas use in advance.
Things to do in Bintan
Conventionally, Bintan is known as a destination for watersports, golfing, and simply relaxing on beaches, in spas or within resorts. Just these activities alone can fill up a weekend in Bintan. But if it’s your return visit, or if you’re the kind of traveller who’s up for more culture, adventure and off-the-beaten-track explorations, you won’t be coming home disappointed.
Below, you’ll find a mixture of some typical and not-so-typical things to do in Bintan:
1. Try out the activities in Treasure Bay
Spanning 338 hectares, Treasure Bay is a waterfront resort city that integrates wellness, leisure, entertainment and nightlife experiences in one location. Its highlight is Crystal Lagoon, a man-made seawater lagoon that has a surface area equivalent to 50 Olympic swimming pools. It plays host to numerous water activities, including kayaking, cable wakeboarding and the Jetovator ride where you can propel yourself into the air with the help of a cool accessory.
2. Score some holes at world-class golf courses
Golfing is not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you know how to appreciate it, chances are, you’d know that Bintan’s home to world-class golf resorts. Bintan Lagoon Golf Club has two championship courses – the Sea View course and Woodlands course – and both promise interesting terrains that will kick-up the challenge. Laguna Golf Bintan and Ria Bintan Golf Club also offer spectacular views while golfing.
3. Snap Insta-worthy photos at Gurun Pasir Busung
Sand dunes probably aren’t the first things that come to mind when you think of Bintan, but this picturesque gem is exactly what you can find if you seek for it. By the side of Jalan Raya Busung, Gurun Pasir Busung was once a quarry but it has since transformed into the gorgeous sight of a blue-coloured pond surrounded by a white desert. Its beauty is fast becoming discovered by avid Instagrammers, so join the hype! After the photo-taking session under the afternoon sun, freshen up with a coconut drink from the nearby stalls.
4. Sample the simple life at a sea gypsy village
Culture vultures would surely love a trip to the sea gypsy village (officially known as Panglong Village) at Berakit, near the northern tip of Bintan. Don’t expect to find exotic-looking sea nomads living in boats, though. The villagers here were once nomadic, with a heritage that stretches back to the Malay Kingdom, and have since settled down in Panglong Village. These days, the community mostly work as traditional fishermen, living simple lives while holding on to their age-old skills of hunting fish and making boats and nets.
5. Check out the old stilt houses at Senggarang
A Chinese community resides in Senggarang, a scenic fishing hamlet with stilt houses along the coast. It’s believed that ethnic Chinese immigrants first settled here in the 1800s. Stroll around this humble village and pop into its temples, including the century-old Banyan Tree Temple, which, as its name hints, sits under a huge banyan tree. During your self-guided tour, you’ll be glimpsing into the Chinese heritage of the Riau Archipelago.
6. Walk through history at Penyengat Island
Combine your trip to Senggarang with a stop at Penyengat Island, another location with historical significance off the coast of Bintan. Penyengat Island was once the base of the Johor-Riau Sultanate. Remnants of its past glory remain in the form of the royal mausoleum of a 19th-century Islamic scholar and historian, Raja Ali Haji, as well as the beautiful Masjid Raya Sultan Riau which was built in 1844.
Restaurants in Bintan
There are all sorts of food establishments in Bintan, from high-end restaurants within resorts to small warungs (stalls) within food markets.
If you’re looking for the best that the island has to offer, you can’t go wrong with the most popular Bintan restaurants. Despite its prime location in Lagoi Bay, Warung Yeah! allows you to Indulge in classic Indonesian fare like nasi goreng and indomie at very reasonable prices. RM Bakar Bakar in Tanjung Pinang has earned itself rave reviews with its tender grilled fish served alongside sambal, while the nearby RM. Mie Tarempa specialises in the tasty mie terempa, which are stir-fried chewy noodles in gravy and slices of fish as toppings.
Don’t just limit yourself to Indonesian food! You can find Japanese fare and exquisite sushi in TOMO, and homemade thin crust pizza prepared by Italians themselves at Pizza Casa Italia.
When in Bintan, many Singaporeans also take the opportunity to treat themselves to seafood. Some of the best restaurants for feasting on lobsters, prawns, crabs, fish, squid, clams and the like would be Aneka Seafood Kelong Restaurant and Kelong Restaurant Nirwana, both of which boast a waterfront location. In Tanjung Pinang, don’t miss Nelayan Restaurant and Sei Enam Restaurant. If you’re up for hunting down food in Bintan instead of zooming straight to a restaurant, make a trip to the open-air Akau Bazaar along Potong Lembu Street in Tanjung Pinang. During the daytime, this area is a parking lot but come nighttime, you’ll find locals tucking into traditional Chinese and Indonesian hawker fare. Another area that foodies will love is Rimba Jaya, which has a food centre and night market with a variety of treats such as bak kut teh, oyster omelette, satay, wanton noodles, and gong gong.
Shopping in Bintan
Unlike Batam and Singapore, Bintan’s not brimming with malls where you can shop (and drop) under one roof. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Shopping in Bintan can be viewed as a side activity while sightseeing. You can start at the urban sprawl and shophouses at Tanjung Pinang, and then scour through the shops built over the sea in Tanjung Uban, Bintan’s second largest town. Look out for locally-made goods, handicrafts, Javanese batik, and foodstuffs like dried fish and anchovies, local snacks and traditional cakes.
Your best bet for malls would be the two-storey Plaza Lagoi within Bintan Resorts or Tanjungpinang City Center and Bintan Indah Mall in Tanjung Pinang. Before concluding your vacation, you could also have some last-minute shopping at Bintan Ferry Terminal.
Nightlife in Bintan
If you’re not the type to call it an early night, hit up these after-dark spots in Bintan.
Belt out your dance moves to the beat of a live band in Silk Nightclub & KTV at Bintan Lagoon Resort. Or perhaps belt out your favourite tunes during a late-night karaoke session at Clasix KTV & Pub or Ozon Pub & Karaoke.
Also in Tanjung Pinang, FABRICA has DJs or acoustic sets during the weekends to accompany your beer, while Second Home Bar & Bistro and The Loft Bistro & Bar are great places to hang out with friends. Within Nirwana Gardens, you can take your pick of spirits and wines at La Luna Beach Bar or hear the crashing waves while sipping cocktails at Calypso Floating Bars.
Sports fans, take note that the Terrace Sports Bar is where you can catch live games on big-screen TVs.
Where to stay in Bintan
There are three main areas to stay in Bintan: Lagoi, Tanjung Pinang and Trikora.
Photo credit: Banyan Tree
Tucked in the northern tip, Lagoi is densely dotted with a collection of the best resorts in Bintan. It is home to the enclave of Bintan Resorts, which comprises multiple accommodations such as Banyan Tree Bintan, Angsana Bintan, and Cassia Bintan, as well as areas dedicated to entertainment and recreational activities. From the deliciously luxurious The Sanchaya to the newly opened all-villa property Holiday Villa Pantai Indah, you can surely find a place to stay in Lagoi that suits your budget and preferences.
Photo credit: Nite & Day Laguna Bintan
The seaside town of Tanjung Pinang is Bintan’s capital. It’s a cultural hub where you can have a taste of both local life and authentic local food. In Tanjung Pinang, you’ll find a good selection of highly-rated hotels such as Nite & Day Laguna Bintan and CK Tanjungpinang Hotel. The resorts in this area, such as Bintan Beach Resort, are more modest than those in Lagoi.
Photo credit: Trikora Beach Club
Trikora, on the east of Bintan along the beautiful stretch of Trikora Beach, is the kind of place to get away from the crowds. Here, you can have a value-for-money beach holiday that’s stripped off the glam and swank. Embrace the ocean views from the villa at Trikora Beach Club or from your traditional beach hut in Mutiara Beach Resort.
Outside of Lagoi, Tanjung Pinang and Trikora, you can still find hotels and resorts scattered throughout the island. One of the trendiest developments is The Canopi, a resort that offers safari-themed glamping (luxurious camping), with stylish large tents and a private beach area to boot. The Canopi is set within Treasure Bay Bintan.