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Author: Anto

Round the World Ticket (RTW) Our Experience

Round the World Ticket (RTW) Our Experience

What is the Round the World Ticket? If you search online for information about the Round the World Ticket, you will find  a number of articles that were written years ago. Not much has changed since, but we try to give you our perspective on […]

Tioman Island Weekend Getaway Experience

Tioman Island Weekend Getaway Experience

Escaping Singapore for an island Weekend Getaway I am a big fan of impromptu…and when it comes for a weekend getaway, or an escape from city-life, Tioman Island is usually the perfect choice for an impromptu departure out of Singapore (or Kuala Lumpur for that […]

How to get from Singapore to Tioman Island

How to get from Singapore to Tioman Island

The many ways to get from Singapore to Tioman Island (Malaysia)

All the various options of how to get from Singapore to Tioman Island are quite easy! It all depends how adventurous you are and how much time and money you want to spend.

Below I listed options such as buses from Singapore, buses from Johor Bahru, taxi from Singapore and then from Johor Bahru, self drive, car hire, cycle and hitchhike!

To reach Tioman Island you must pass by or stop by Mersing. This is the main ferry point, hence most of the below will refer to the journey from Singapore to Mersing.

BUS – Easy and relaxed

Right now quite a number of the buses that leave Singapore for Mersing depart near the Golden Mile Complex on Beach Road. With the recent news that the complex will be demolished it is unclear where the new launch point will be. We will update this page once known.

You can sit back and relax from the beginning in the comfy bus seats. It will set you back some SGD40. This option has a good combination of relax and cost, but it can be time consuming depending at what time you leave Singapore.

Quite often I have taken a this bus or other mini buses on a Friday night after work. Customs can get very busy on a Friday night, which could add at least one to two hours to your journey’s time. I have experienced arriving at Tioman Island at 2am in the morning!

Taking the bus also has the disadvantage of having to get off the bus to clear customs twice, firstly in Singapore and then once in Malaysia.

BUS – Adventurous but cheaper

Another option for your weekend getaway is to catch the bus in Johor Bahru (JB for short) directly, but it can be a bit complicated. Below I will explain what you need to do.

Get to Woodlands by MRT (probably the most convenient if you do not have your own vehicle) or catch the famous SBS 170, which will also take you around JB. You will need to clear immigration on foot and once cleared Singapore immigration you will have few buses’s options to cross the strait unless you decide to walk (weather allowing; it is almost one kilometer walk).

Each of the various buses available will have a different price tag. If you take bus SBS 170 you will be able to hold to your ticket and use it all the way to JB’s bus terminal (Larkin). One good option would also be to catch the SBS 170 bus from the Kranji MRT station.

Once the Malaysia immigration is also cleared, the easiest option would be to catch the famous public bus SBS 170 as above. This bus will lead you all the way to the JB bus terminal.

Another option however is to walk to City Square Mall right next to the Malaysia checkpoint. Here the options are to either catch a taxi to the bus terminal or board a local bus. This option may be more suitable for those that are not in super rush. One can make use of the mall’s aircon and do some shopping or eat prior to continue with the journey Tioman Island. Larkin is not really centrally located and the food options there may be a limited.

The cost of this option is much cheaper than the above. The same level of comfy bus (depending on the bus company) leaving from JB to Mersing would cost around RM30 to RM40. The money saved here can allow you to catch the taxi from City Square Mall to Larkin.

TAXI services or private cars

If you have a larger budget for your weekend getaway to Tioman Island, you can catch a taxi. From Singapore all the way till you clear both immigration points you can do it with a Singapore Taxi. But be warned that only specific and licensed taxis can do this route. They operate on a fixed fee of SGD12 per person or SGD48 if you want the car all for yourself. This service can take you all the way to Larkin only. More detailed info can be found here.

Once in Larkin you would then be able to catch another taxi which could set you back between RM80 to RM180. The price would change depending from the time of the day and your negotiation skills. I caught once a taxi from Larkin in the middle of the night with a friend and it costed RM180. This was not too bad considering it is a 160Km ride and we shared the cost!

Another option is obviously the rental of a private car and driver, which would be the most expensive option. This option is more suited for families with children or elderly. This is because you will hardly have to leave the car, also during immigration. And once off the border, sit back and enjoy the ride all the way to Mersing. If you want to travel in style and as a group of friends too, this could be a viable option.

Self drive and car hire

I have done both…self drive is the most convenient as it would be just you and your friends (or other half), no external party drivers. You play your own music on the radio, be silly and no-one is there to judge. Obviously you will need to own a car or know someone who does and is willing to go to Tioman. Island. There would be the inconvenience of finding a safe and guarded car park in Mersing to leave the car whilst you are gone for your weekend getaway island retreat.

The other option is to rent a car in Johor Bahru. There are plenty of options and it would be easy enough to navigate in the Johor State. Once away from JB the amount of traffic decreases immensely and you would have the road all for yourself on motorway no. 3.

I have done the journey once on my Vespa. Read my article here.

Self Drive Vespa to Tioman Island
Self Drive Vespa to Tioman Island

Other useful info

Did you know that you were able to fly to the Tioman Island? This service is not operating anymore but it used to be served by Berjaya Air. I was told that there is a new airport being planned near the Berjaya resort, hence watch this space for direct flights from Singapore. Flying costed around SGD250 per person (return), and it was by far the most convenient way for a true time-limited weekend getaway.

Another thing that not many know is that there is still a train system operating between Singapore and Malaysia! Yes, the old train station is not operating any more and the tracks removed. But the checkpoint train station is still there and very well operative. Forget about changing buses, walking up and down the stairs at immigration. You can take the train and clear customs at the offices located near the railroad. Obviously you would need to board on and off the train, but there will be less queues to join. Plenty of seats on the train and the possibility to have a very different experience. Once in JB you would need to go back to the bus or car options above to get to Mersing and Tioman Island. Train fare should be around SGD6.

Hitchhiking

Actually I have personally not explored this option yet 🙂

I am sure there is a way to hitch a ride in Malaysia. The major problem I foresee is that you must be lucky and persistent enough to look for a ride that will go all the way to Mersing. The road leading there at some point is cutting through palm oil forests and you do not want to get stranded there hoping that someone else will pick you up. Even though sometimes, the more isolated you are the more likely locals will give you a ride.

Cycle

This too is something I have done before! Not may people know, but there is a Singapore immigration point at Changi village. Yes, you read correctly. At the same spot where you catch the bum boats taking you to Pulau Ubin, you can clear immigration and catch a bum boat all the way to Malaysia. You would arrive at the port of Pengerang. From here to Mersing it is around 160Km joining motorway no. 3 at some point in the middle. When I cycled from Singapore to Mersing I took the coastal road all the way, which was amazing and super quiet. Motorway no. 3 is not the best option for a cyclist, but is obviously a direct route.

Finally the ferry

Once in Mersing, go to the new Harbor building, register yourself and buy the ferry ticket which is only operated by Blue Water Express. This should set you back some RM70 and on top of that you would have the Marine Park fees to pay, which for non Malaysian is RM30.

The Ferry journey will vary on sea conditions and departure times from Mersing will also be dependent on tide levels. The Mersing harbor is very shallow, hence on low tide the ferry would not operate. The Journey then can take between 2 to 3 hours depending where on the island you will alight.

Belize into Guatemala – a “crossing the border” experience

Belize into Guatemala – a “crossing the border” experience

A “crossing the border” experience from San Ignacio to El Remate Crossing the border between Belize and Guatemala was easy. Staying in San Ignacio for 2 days helped. We were well rested and very close to the border which was only 10Km away. We left […]

PapaKolea – Green sand beach hike

PapaKolea – Green sand beach hike

The day we decided to go to PapaKolea (AKA the green beach) the weather was obviously against us…when we woke up there was some sunshine to warm us from the cool ocean breeze, but by the time we reached a cafe, clouds took over the […]

Hawaii – Kona @ Big Island

Hawaii – Kona @ Big Island

And so…after a long flight on Japan Airlines (which was awesome by the way! If you never flew with JAL, book one right now, just to enjoy the service 😻) we finally arrived at Kona in the Big Island. We were super excited as the Hawaii have always been a dream for us to visit sooner or later.

Before arriving we explored some options such as renting a Harley Davidson 🙂 as we were in the US, what better way to get around? Anto managed to contact a shop that rents them and they would arranged our pick up at the airport so that we could have gone straight to their shop and got on our bike! (Harley rental) But the cost was a bit too steep for us, and instead we decided to hitch a ride to town and see if we could find a motorcycle later on in town. We walk away from the airport and the road leads straight onto a highway…it was magical how the very moment I stick my thumb out a super chilled dude pulls over and takes us into his pick up van! Our adventure in Hawaii had started perfectly!

The guy was going just short of Kona’s main area, which was however only a 10 minutes walk from where he told us he would drop us. We were super happy and a 10 minutes walk was nothing.

This was the first time for Olla in the US and the places Anto visited before were different, more city-like, but he knew that usually things are bigger in the states. Olla realized that straight away when we passed near this pickups dealership! OMG, the bonnet of this car is as tall as Olla! Crazy stuff!

A car as tall as Olla…

The pancakes are also not a joke in terms of size! Look below a “short” stack of pancakes at a local typical eatery in Hawaii.

American size
American size

After arriving at our hostel, we head straight into town to explore a bit and we quickly settle for this awesome poke local style restaurant which served us some amazing food. If you are into raw fish and typical Hawaiian poke bowls, make sure to get your fix here (this is the google maps link: (maps) when in Kona and if you are vegetarian like Anto, don’t worry as you will get your vege poke here too!

The town is not very big and during our first day we walked around a fair bit, but missed to find a decent ice-cream parkour! We decided that one day we would need to open one here and retire whilst making authentic Italian gelato. It seems that around here shaved ice is more popular and the gelato we found was just mediocre (don’t recall the name, but if you do know of some good gelato parlor in Kona, feel free to point it out in the comment section below!).

We were also very lucky to bump into this festival and managed to get a sneak peak into this Tahitian dancing competition, which was awesome! FYI, this was a dancing competition organized by Heiva I Hawaii.

We were super happy here in Kona, the town is small enough for us to get around on foot almost everywhere, people are friendly and the weather was glorious. We were excited about the days to come for some hiking in the volcano national park, the unique green beach, snorkeling and seeing tropical fish in the warm waters, perhaps scuba diving, surfing or just chilling at the beach.

Our original and usual thought of renting a motorcycle did not fade away and we went ahead. We found this super friendly store owner here (motorcycle rental). We wanted to settle with something relatively cheap and easy, but instead we went ahead and rented a CBR250! Boy the bike was awesome! Well maintained, sounded aggressive, fast and relatively comfortable. We would have been happy with a 150cc large scooter, but they did not have any available at the time we visited them. Also other shops had the same issue, which is obviously the most popular pick around here for bikers. Our recommendation though is for folks to be very careful when deciding to rent a motorbike in the Hawaii. With the hindsight we would probably rent a car next time considering we wanted to visit places that were far away from our base and that to reach we had to go via routes near the snow-peaked volcanos…the chances of experiencing 4 seasons in Hawaii are REAL and we went through them on a motorbike 🙂

Another word of advise is regarding public transport. This practically does not exist at Big Island for tourists. The only bus that goes around the island has limited timings and it is mainly a commuter bus for the locals. Best to stick to renting a vehicle to achieve freedom in this really huge island. To help you plan make sure you also check out the following two websites:

Love Big Island

Go Hawaii

Hawaii – which island to pick?

Hawaii – which island to pick?

We had to pick an island… It wasn’t very hard, but surely there was a lot to read about and there was some picking to be done. At first the idea was hiking and nothing but hiking! Perhaps this was a bit limiting, but somehow […]

Colombia – Cartagena

Colombia – Cartagena

When you look at the map of Cartagena from your phone, you quickly realize how getting around town is not going to be that easy. The city is quite large and somewhat takes a shape of an L with the airport located at the top […]

Panama to Colombia – to fly or not to fly?

Panama to Colombia – to fly or not to fly?

There are no roads that connect Panama and Colombia! That is astonishing, but the thick vegetation of Darien rainforest and the Colombian guerrilla controlling narcotics trafficking makes the cross best avoided. This is a nice article regarding the Darien straight.

There are many many threads online that talk about a ferry service between the countries but they all lead to nothing. Some say that it is possible to take cargo ships, but schedules and time at sea are unknown and you could be stuck waiting for a boat that departs for days.

Other crazy posts detail a dangerous land crossing with a mixed use of buses, walking and boats right on the Atlantic coast junction between Central and South America.

Some opt for parties’ sail boats that take 5 days to reach Colombia. 3 of the 5 days are spent cruising the San Blas Archipelago in Panama and then 48 straight hours of hard core waves that will ensure very little sleep and a fair amount of bruises. All of this for USD550 per person, all included, but excluding showers. A #coupletravel we met in Belize told us all the details of how bad it was not to be able to shower for 5 days even for rinsing the sea salt that remains on your skin after bathing in the ocean. But they went through 20 something bottle of Rum among 15 travelers!?

Not for us…

Obviously there are upsides such as the fact you are practically taking part to a cruise on a large sailboat and you get to enjoy the San Blas islands! You stop at various spots, visiting some of the islands, sunbathing and swimming in the crystal clear waters.

Wingo was our choice. Wingo is a new brand name that has replaced most flights that used to be operated by COPA airlines.
Wingo operates as local low cost airline within Colombia and it has a few international destination, such as the Panama-Cartagena route, which we benefit for only SGD220 for two people including a 20KG bag allowance in the aircraft and 16KG between two pieces of hand carries.
This carry-on allowance is perfect for a backpacker, but the restrictions on size may push you to purchase additional baggage.

Our flight was scheduled to depart from the Pacifico airport out of town towards the east. This used to be a military airport and it is in operation only few hours prior to any flight departure (if any). It is a very basic airport offering free internet only since a few months.
Reaching the airport via public transport required us to take a train to the main transport terminal, look for the correct bus that goes to a junction a few KMs from the airport and then a taxi to cover the last pierce of road (or a long slog with luggage and all in the heat). Probable cost USD5, depending on the taxi part.
Normal taxi services would ask between USD20 to USD30 to do the drop, however Uber is easily available in town and can take you to the airport for approx. US 9 bucks (Uber prices always change also depending on traffic etc.)

As we were going to catch a flight from a low cost carrier that operates from a small airport in the middle of nowhere, there was to expect some catch in terms of charges, i.e what type of luggage they would allow on board, very strict on Kilos in your luggage or, as expected, but not prevented, charging you for not having printed your boarding pass or done the check in.

We had so little time in Panama we were just enjoying the places we didn’t think of spending time checking in for our flight online. We had the feeling we should have printed the boarding passes as in Europe this is a classic method to charge the travelers top dollars for not printing itineraries. Yet, we went to sleep without realizing the check in online closes 5 hours prior to departure and that we needed to print our boarding passes.

Luckily we arrived 2.5 hours prior to departure when we were told that we would need to pay USD34 for having them printing our boarding passes. You may say, why luckily? Luckily because this was not the only problem that we were phasing…
We were also asked for proof on onward travel in order to board the aircraft! The flight attendant gave us just over one hour to provide her a proof of onward travel away from Colombia. We were freaking out! How to get that done if we were planning to land cross over to Ecuador from Colombia?

We frantically start reading online about how to get around this problem. In many talk about how this inconvenience resulted in them missing the flight or like us incur unrequired charges only if we had read the fine prints.

One easy get around is to book a flight with any American carrier. Usually American carriers allow one day “grace” period and the booking can be cancelled within 24hours of purchase. The flight confirmations you will receive is the official proof of onward travel, which in the meanwhile is being processed by the airline. If you want to deal with the refund procedure and manage the process, this is non costing anything to get your proof of onward travel.

Or use a service, which books you on flights and send you flight confirmations in minutes with itinerary and all printed PDF for USD15.
Plenty to read online about this topic…

Airplane view from Panama City to Cartagena
Costa Rica/Panama – Border crossing from Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro

Costa Rica/Panama – Border crossing from Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro

We read a few posts online on things to watch out during the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama, but it could have not been any easier. Here is how we did it. The bus service that runs from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola leaves […]