Written by: Jaii Fredregill
Destination: Bintan Island, Indonesia
Visited: April 2018
Bintan Island is a popular resort destination for vacationers, especially many from Singapore looking for a weekend getaway. I have heard the island promoted as the new Bali, which is a bit of a stretch. However, the convenience of Bintan has created a steady flow of tourism to the island, and the Bintan International Airport is expected to be fully operational by 2020, making Bintan easily accessible to those coming from farther away. Hotels and resorts advertise the golf courses, spas, and white sand beaches with most offering packages and overseeing bookings for most guests, including lodging, transportation, and excursions.
Boat at rest.
Tourism on the island does not lend itself to spontaneous types. Last minute reservations limits affordable hotel options, and those who just turn up here on the ferry will not find many services nearby. Car rentals are USD 70-100 per day and scooters are around USD 50, though some resorts offer lower prices for guests. Still, rates are much higher than most of Southeast Asia, and without any arrangements, you may find the taxi ride to wherever you decide to go is quite high.
The roads around town might get busy during the day, but Bintan is still a quiet place.
If you are satisfied with basic accommodations and willing to see where a day can take you, Bintan can be a great place to wander. My husband and I found ourselves with a free weekend when plans to visit New Delhi fell through. We were up for a little adventure, so off we went to Tanah Merah terminal to catch our ferry to the Tanjung Pinang terminal. Tickets were USD 43 roundtrip each booked through Easy Book.
Once we arrived in Bintan, we were swarmed by taxi drivers, which is typical for most high tourism areas, but when we heard the price for a taxi the sticker shock hit. A 60-minute ride was USD 60 compared to about USD 25 in Bali. This one ride may have been manageable, but we wanted to roam around the island and not at the mercy of expensive taxis, so we asked about scooter and car rental.
Ferry to Bintan.
We got nowhere with scooter rental at the pier and paying a ridiculously high price for transportation by car, scooter or taxi began to seem unavoidable. Of course, we had our doubts about the information we were being provided at the pier so we asked a taxi driver if he could take us to a scooter rental shop.
Once he understood that we were determined to find our own transportation he offered to rent us his car for a day for USD 40. Bintan is a relatively safe place to drive a scooter by Southeast Asian standards but renting his vehicle would be cheaper and more comfortable in the rain. Unfortunately, he started trying to hustle us, raising his price to USD 60 when we showed interest. Naturally, we told him to get lost and walked away not even wanting to give him a taxi fare, but our luck was about to improve.
“I have a car,” said a voice from behind us. Cautiously we looked back over our shoulders into the friendly face of our new friend Yus. He had overheard our conversation with the other taxi driver and followed us to offer us his car. It was full of dings and scratches, and the power window on the driver’s side stuck, but it ran OK so after a short conversation with Yus as to where and when to return the car we were off.
A peaceful sea and a good morning.
The beauty of Bintan is easily found by just quietly staring out at the ocean. After a 1-hour scenic drive across the quiet island to Trikora Beach, we found a room at the New Marjoly Beach Resort, the perfect place for true beach bums. Located right on the beach with a beautiful sea view and grounds scattered with quirky seating and selfie set-ups.
The New Marjoly Resort is a quirky beach front hotel with basic accomodations and a great view.
We immediately claimed a spot on the not-so-crowded beach where we enjoyed a few Bintang beers and some satay from the restaurant before wandering about the shore at low-tide and watching one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever witnessed.
Accommodations are just a few meters from the ocean but rustic. Our bungalow was noticeably leaning to one side with sunlight shining through the cracks between the wall boards. The aircon did nothing to cool the room but being in such proximity to the ocean; we had no intention of closing the windows and door anyway.
During the night, we listened from our bed as a storm began to brew and the tide grew stronger. Waking now and then to the sound of crashing waves and booming thunder as the salty sea air breezed through to cool the room.
The road to Pizza Casa Italia.
In the morning our attempts to arrange some scuba diving were a bust with high cost and low visibility, so we sat watching the sea for a while then got back on the road to see what would come our way. The restaurant at the hotel had a very limited menu, so we headed out without breakfast. Our empty bellies could not have been happier when we came upon a sign after just a short stretch that pointed toward the ocean with the promise of pizza.
Every delicious thin crust pizza at Pizza Casa Italia's comes from their woodfired oven.
Pizza Casa Italia is owned by a charming Italian family who had a woodfired oven shipped to the island and has become a well-loved part of Trikora Beach along with their delicious pizza that sells for just USD 6.
The staff is warm and friendly, and you cannot beat the restaurant’s beachside location, which is open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm. This stretch of beach is ideal for lounging and swimming when conditions are right, and public showers are available for just USD 0.25.
Be sure to stop and chat with Pizza Casa Italia's friendly owner and staff.
Trikora Beach was fun, but when we heard conditions were calmer at Lagoi Beach, we decided to check it out. This area was more crowded with families and travelers from nearby resorts looking for some fun in the sun.
Lagoi Beach Village - They like to keep the beaches funky and fun in Bintan.
A day of beach hopping is an excellent way to work up an appetite, and most of the restaurants in Lagoi Beach Village will be happy to charge you obnoxiously high prices for simple dishes. To avoid all that check out Warung Yeah! We found this place on another blog, and when we put it in a search engine, we quickly saw that it is on nearly every local blog and has rave reviews. The food is tasty, the prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is comfortable inside and out. Warung Yeah! is open 9:00 am-9:00 pm, 7-Days a week.
After this stop, we were tired, stuffed, and ready to get the car back to Yus and head home. Our 30-hours in Bintan were fun and relaxing, but when all is said and done I still prefer Bali.