Perhentian Islands – How I spent USD110 (RM440) on a 3D2N paradise trip

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Thanks to a close friend of mine, I finally had the opportunity to visit the Perhentian Islands, one of the top holiday destinations in Asia, if not the world. The Perhentian Islands are rich in lush tropical vegetation and are surrounded by pristine white sandy beaches and turquoise crystal clear waters, making the islands a great getaway destination for local and foreign tourists alike. But then a few days on these tropical islands are usually quite heavy on the wallet and here is how I managed to spend slightly over USD100 on a 3D2N getaway (including accommodation, food, activities, and transportation).

Accommodation

My friend and I found a great discount on Expedia just 2 weeks before the trip and we managed to book a superior room at Ecomarine Resort (Teluk Dalam) for only RM 382 for 2 nights, exclusive of breakfast. The room was quite spacious with 2 queen sized beds, air conditioning, fan, hot water, western toilet and free Wifi. We were quite satisfied with the room because from what we heard from the other tourists, the hotel they were staying at had no hot water shower facility and no electricity during noon time, at the same price point. So, do keep a lookout for such hotel deals on websites like Expedia, Trip.com, Agoda, Booking.com, etc, you could land yourself an awesome deal saving a couple hundred bucks on your dream vacation.

Not bad for RM 170 per night for 2

Getting there

The Perhentian Islands are located offshore Terengganu on the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia. The only way to get to the Perhentian Islands is via speedboats or slow ferries departing from the Kuala Besut jetty. It takes about 3.5-4 hours from Kuantan and about 9 hours from Kuala Lumpur by overland travel to get to the jetty. Alternatively, if you are tight on time, you could take a domestic flight from KL to the nearest airports either in Kuala Terengganu or Kota Bharu in Kelantan.

There is no need to pre-book your transportation to the islands as you could just simply walk into any of the travel agencies around the town area or just ask around the jetty. There are about 3-4 departures per day at 8am, 10am, 12pm and 4pm. However, these departure times are not accurate as in practice the boat companies would often delay the departure until they rustle up enough passengers. The trip takes about 35-45 mins depending on sea and weather conditions and the location of your accommodation; return journey costs RM70.

Food

Teluk Dalam, which was where we stayed at has relatively limited food options. However, we chanced upon this amazing restaurant which is actually owned by the “Fauna Beach Chalet”, and since then we chose to dine there everyday. Hands down, the restaurant has the most variety of dishes at very affordable prices. Ranging from western food to local Malaysian fare, the prices vary from RM 8 (ala carte dishes) to RM20+ (set meals). The restaurant also serves breakfast as well, and I highly recommend their breakfast set meals as they are wholesome, come in big portions and are very generous with the amount of seafood at very affordable prices (RM14; pictured below) given that the usual food prices on this island are RM20 upwards.

We also explored other food options around Teluk Dalam. In particular, we came across a pretty good lunch deal at Arwana Resort’s restaurant: chicken rice and iced lemon tea for RM9.90 (pictured below), not bad for a 4-star resort restaurant!

Dinner set – Squid tom yum, fried omelette and fried veges for RM12

RM9.90 chicken rice lunch set at Arwana Resort

Cantonese stir fried rice vermicelli at RM 12 (tonnes of seafood!)

Breakfast set – Toasts, tuna salad, fruits, a fruit juice and a hot drink for RM 14!

Things to do 

Since we arrived the islands late in the evening on the first day and we had to leave the island around noon on the last day, technically speaking we only had one whole free day for activities.

We had previously booked a snorkelling package for RM 40 when we bought our boat tickets from one of the travel agencies (Aina Holidays) at Kuala Besut. The package includes boat pick-up from your accommodation, snorkelling gear rental, island hopping to 5 various points across Perhentian Besar (big island) and a boatman who also acts as snorkelling guide.

It was my first time snorkelling plus the fact that I don’t really swim didn’t help to rid of my fear. The glistening turquoise seawater under the strong tropical sunshine seemed very inviting for a swim or a quick dip. I mustered up all my courage and hit the water in my life jacket and snorkelling goggles and mouthpiece.Thankfully, the guide was very patient with me and encouraged me to relax as I held tightly to his arm while he pulled me further away from the shore to have a better glimpse at the beautiful corals and marine life in the waters.

That was pretty much what me and my friend did on the island, we ate, slept and chilled a lot. Also, for those non-party goers and who are just looking to have a quiet and peaceful time, I highly recommend staying at Teluk Dalam for its pristine beaches, non-party crowds, calm seas and relaxing vibes. There was a good and balanced mix of local and foreign tourists and you could see strangers and friends alike mingle and play beach volleyball together. Or you could just lie in a hammock with a good book and drift away in the soft sea breeze…

Total calculation (per person):
Accommodation (2 nights) – RM 191
Boat (return) – RM 70
Car fuel (from Kuantan) – RM 27
Toll (from Kuantan) – RM 22
Snorkelling – RM 40
Food + souvenir – RM 90
Total: ~RM440 (USD110)

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