Approximately 1,140sqkm in size, Bintan Island is located 50km southeast of Singapore. The largest island within the stunning Riau Archipelago, the island is well known for its rich historical past as much as its legendary beaches and natural beauty. Situated at the centre of the crucial Indo-China trading route, it has been in the midst of several power struggles throughout history.
Bintan Island has a population of roughly 200,000 people, the majority consisting of the Malay, the Bugis, the Chinese and the Orang Laut (Sea People). Bintan Island is one hour behind Singapore time and shares the same time zone as Jakarta, which is +7 hours GMT.
Visitors to Bintan Island are allowed a maximum of two litres of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 100gm tobacco, and a reasonable amount of perfume. Photographic equipment, typewriters, recorders and computers should be declared at customs upon entry. Television and radio sets, drugs, firearms and ammunition, printed matter in Chinese characters, Chinese medicines, transreceivers without prior approval, uncensored films, fresh fruits, plants and animals without quarantine permits are strictly prohibited.
There is no discernible public transportation system on Bintan Island. The best way to get around the island is via taxis or car rental. Taxis are available at resorts as well as at the ferry terminal, ready to take you to other parts of Bintan such as Tanjung Uban, Lobam, Trikora and Tanjung Pinang. Car rentals cost between SGD 50 – 100 per day for a sedan. In order to avoid 'misunderstandings' or any unpleasantness, it’s best to go for hotel-recommended taxis or car rentals rather than touts, especially at the jetty.
Most of the resorts in the north are located within close proximity of each other, with shuttle bus services connecting them. The few local bus services that exist are infrequent and erratic, with bus stops mainly unmarked. The main bus terminal is located at Batu Tujuh, on the outskirts of Tanjung Pinang, taking you to Kijang, Trikora and Tanjung Uban. Shuttle services to Tanjung Pinang are normally provided by major hotels and resorts at a charge. There are also minibuses called ‘mikrolet’ that operate on fixed routes.
Bintan Island has a small airport which has a limited amount of domestic flights. Visitors from other parts of the world usually fly to Singapore or Batam first, before taking a boat or ferry to Bintan Island. Riau Airlines provides regular flights to and from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, as well as from various points in Indonesia, to Bintan’s Kijang Airport.
There are frequent ferry services from Singapore to Bintan Island, as well as from its neighbouring island, Batam. Bintan Resorts Ferries operates a regular service between Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal in Singapore and Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal in Bintan. The journey to the island takes approximately one hour. Tickets may be purchased online or at the ferry terminal. There are also frequent ferry services that link Johor Bahru in Malaysia to Batam and Bintan, as well as from Jakarta’s Tanjong Priok to Bintan’s Kijang, via scheduled stops at various ports.
Bintan Resort Ferries (Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal)
Address: 50 Tanah Merah Ferry Road, #01-21 Singapore 498833
Tel: (65) 6542 4369
Fax: (65) 6542 4372
Bintan Resort Ferries (Batam)
Address: Domestic Port Telaga Punggur, Batam
Tel: (62) 778 479163
Although malaria is not rampant on Bintan Island, it is still good to take precautions against mosquito bites, so be sure to carry a mosquito repellent with you at all times. Be sure to apply it often, especially at dawn and dusk or whenever you are in the woods or at the water’s edge. Infections in humid, tropical weather can get nasty easily, so make sure all cuts and burns are attended to immediately.
Take note of the hygiene standards of the stalls you visit, and try to avoid extra spicy foods or food that looks too weird and unfamiliar to avoid stomach upset. In any case, equip yourself with proper medication before coming to this island, such as charcoal pills for diarrhea and anti-nausea pills for sea sickness. Try to eat only hot, freshly-cooked dishes and peeled fruits, and avoid consuming raw vegetables as much as possible.
Being an Indonesian region, Bahasa Indonesia is widely spoken here and is the island’s main language. The language spoken here is the Riau Malay version, which is regarded as the purest form of the Malay language, so visitors from Malaysia would feel quite at home here as they will find that the language spoken is easily understood, almost similar to the version spoken back home.
Tanjung Pinang has a sizeable Chinese population that speaks the Fujian and Chaozhou dialects, as well as Mandarin. English is also widely spoken in major towns and in resort areas.
Most public toilets – except at major resorts and hotels – are of the squatting kind. Instead of a bowl for you to sit on, the ‘bowl’ looks like a hole in the floor. You’re supposed to squat over this hole with your legs placed on both sides to do your business. It is also common practice to wash yourself with soap and water afterwards instead of using toilet paper, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see any toilet paper around.
It is considered improper to eat or give/receive things using your left hand. Always use the right hand for such purposes.
When passing a lit cigarette to somebody, don’t do it with the lit end pointing towards the receiver. It is considered rude to do so. Likewise when passing a sharp object to another person, like knives or scissors – keep the sharp point away from the receiver.
Whenever possible, try to memorise some basic Malay words such as ‘Terima Kasih’ or ‘Selamat Pagi’. It will not only gain you respect from the locals but you are also less likely to be fleeced off by unscrupulous people.
Handshakes are usually in the form of a ‘salam’, where you lightly touch the hands of the person you are greeting with both hands, before bringing your hands to your chest - a gesture that symbolically means ‘I greet you with my heart and I accept your greeting with all my heart’. It is not necessary to ‘salam’ a lady – just a smile and a nod of acknowledgment would suffice – unless the lady offers her hands first.
Make sure to let the host know first before coming over for a visit. Unannounced visits are not very welcome, as it is customary for the locals to prepare something for their guests beforehand. Don’t forget to remove your shoes first before entering a local’s home.
It is considered rude to point at someone or something with your forefinger. Instead, use the thumb of your right hand with the other four fingers folded underneath.
The majority of Bintan population is Muslim, so drinking is not a common practice here and alcohol is not publicly sold, except in bars and pubs. Refrain from drinking in front of a Muslim as it is considered impolite and disrespectful to do so.
Bintan Island’s main currency is the same as the rest of Indonesia – the Rupiah. However, Singapore Dollars are widely-accepted here, particularly in touristy areas. In some places, the US Dollar is also accepted. Most hotels and resorts here accept major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express. However, it is advisable that you obtain some local currency before heading off anywhere, especially if you’re planning on visiting local markets. It is worth to note that all transactions in Tanjung Pinang are conducted in Rupiah, so be sure to bring enough when visiting this town.
There are ATM machines in major towns, and most large resorts offer money-changing facilities. Banks provide currency exchange services during weekdays between 09:00 to 15:00. Be sure to count your money after exchanging it, particularly from independent money changers, as cheating has been reported in the past. Credit card frauds also occur, so whenever possible, do not allow your credit card out of your sight when making purchases.
Most resorts can arrange for your mail to be delivered. Stamps can be purchased at the resort, some of which also sell Singapore stamps and arrange for mail to be posted from Singapore.
Bintan Island’s national holidays include New Year’s Day (January 1), Chinese New Year, Islamic New Year (first day of the Islamic month of Muharram), The Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday (12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi-al Awwal), The Prophet Muhammad’s Ascension Day (27th day of the Islamic month of Rajab), Good Friday (the Friday preceding Easter Sunday), Wesak Day (the first full moon day in May), Independence Day (August 17), Eid-ul Fitri (first and second day of the Islamic month of Syawal), Eid-ul Adha (10th day of the Islamic month of Zulhijjah) and Christmas Day (December 25). During these days, most businesses are closed and things can get pretty quiet.
Tipping is not compulsory on Bintan Island, as an additional 20% is almost always added on to your bill for goods and services – 10% for Government Tax and 10% for Service Charge - but a small tip is always welcome if the service rendered has been exceptionally good.
Visitors wishing to visit Bintan Island must produce a current international passport with at least six months’ validity from the date of arrival. Proof of onward passage and sufficient funds are required at the point of entry. Visitors are required to apply for a visa to gain entry, except for visitors from the SAR (Special Administrative Region): Brunei, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Morocco, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Philippines, Thailand, Peru and Vietnam. However, visitors from the countries listed below are eligible for Visa On Arrival (VOA) application at Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal:
|Netherlands||New Zealand||Algeria||Czech Republic|
|Russia||Saudi Arabia||South Africa||South Korea|
|Taiwan||United Arab Emirates||United Kingdom||USA|
The charges applicable for VOA are as below:
1. USD 10 per person for a maximum period of 7 days/6 nights.
2. USD 25 per person for more than 7 days, up to a maximum period of 30 days.
The VOA granted is non-extendable and cannot be used for employment purposes. A penalty charge of USD 20 per day will be imposed on those who overstay.
The documents below are required for VOA application:
1. Valid passport with a minimum of 6 (six) months’ validity
2. Arrival/departure Card
3. Return or onwards journey ticket
It is advisable for visitors to bring the correct amount of funds required when applying for a VOA to ensure a smooth process.
It is generally safe to drink water straight from the tap in major resorts, but to stay on the safe side it is advisable that you only consume bottled mineral water. The water at Bintan Resorts is certified safe by World Health Organization standards. Any water obtained outside the resort’s grounds – even for brushing teeth – should be boiled or sterilised first.
Bintan Island enjoys a sunny, tropical climate all year round, with temperatures ranging between 21°C to 32°C. The monsoon period starts from late November and ends in early March, with strong winds, frequent rain and volatile waves, so for those who plan to indulge in some water sports, it is advisable to plan a trip here during the dry season, which is between late March to early November, as the seas are calmer and the days are sunnier. Humidity levels are also high on this island, so visitors should bring light clothing for maximum comfort. Plenty of sunscreen is also essential, as it’s fairly easy to get burnt.