Fear of flying, stressful airports and protecting the environment are just a few reasons why people are looking for alternative modes of transport to the cylinder in the sky. But which holiday destinations can you reach on four wheels or in a boat from Singapore? Helen McClure, founder and editor of expatexplorers.org decided to investigate.
Travelling from Singapore by car, taxi or bus:
Sentosa and Resorts World
This little island is connected to Singapore’s mainland by cable car, monorail and bridge, so you can choose your mode of transport. It’s a playground for all ages. Looking for beaches? Check. You can canoe, swim or play in the sand. Looking for good restaurants? Check. Sentosa Cove is home to the marina, a boardwalk lined with cuisines from all corners, and some of the most expensive addresses in the world. Looking for entertainment? Check. Get an adrenaline rush at Universal Studios or the Adventure Cove Waterpark run by Resorts World.
The Asian home of the little bricks is just 15 minutes over the border. With train rides, playgrounds, and kingdoms to build, as well as a water park, there is something for everyone. If you don’t fancy driving, you can take a taxi to Johor Bahru, take a bus or book a coach trip. For more information, tickets and attractions see EL’s handy guide to Legoland.
Malaysia: Kuala Lumpar (KL)
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, and a five-hour drive from Singapore. The Petronas Twin Towers sit proudly on the skyline, and the Menara Tower is also great if you’re looking for a view. Whether you’re interested in museums, shops or gardens, the city is a popular destination for families. An hour’s bus ride from KL is Resorts World Genting, a city of entertainment, with hotels, rides and shop, as well as the only legal gambling spot in Malaysia.
Malaysia: Johor Bahru (JB)
Johor Bahru is an easy day trip or weekend destination. Tourism is one of the most important factors to the city’s economic growth. Several theme parks have sprung up in the area to attract wealthy Singaporeans. As well as Legoland, there is Danga World and Bay Waterfront City; the Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park, a chic harbour front development and home to Hello Kitty Town; and the indoor Angry Birds Activity Park, the first in the region.
This is a great budget getaway destination in a pretty historical town, with streets and alleyways lined with small shops and stalls. If you’re looking for culture, and an insight into the 15th-17 century Chinese immigrants who settled here, visit the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, converted from a beautiful home. Colonial landmarks, including forts and churches, also give a nod to the British, Dutch and Portuguese population. A must-do activity is to visit one of the many teahouses.
Malaysia: Port Dickson
Port Dickson is just over 300km from Singapore in the state of Negeri Sembilan. It’s an ideal spot for a weekend away with the beach playing a pinnacle role in the attraction of the area. If you need some exercise, take a hike to the Cape Rachado Lighthouse, in Tanjung Tuan. It is thought that it history dates back to the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese in 1511, who build the lighthouse to guide ships through the Straits of Malacca.
Kukup is a fishing community comprising of three small fishing villages; Kukup Laut, Air Mason and Kampung Melayu. It is located 40km southwest of Johor Bahru on the Strait of Malacca. If you’re looking for seafood this is the place to be, with open-air restaurants and stilted shacks built over the water. There are more than 50 fish farms, with some farmers welcoming tourists. You can reach the Johor National Park via a short boat ride.
Pulau Ubin in Johor Strait
The island of Pulau Ubin is often called the last Kampung, or village, of Singapore. Except for service vehicles there are no cars on the island, but you will find plenty of bikes. A short bumboat ride from Changi will take you into the heart of the main village, where you can rent bikes of all sizes, or for a small fee bring your own. There is an easy boardwalk through the wetlands, mangroves and sea, with a lookout post to climb. Beware of the wild boars who will steal your lunch should you leave anything unattended on your bike.
Desaru is on the east coast of Malaysia, in the Johor region. It is a popular weekend escape, attracting local tourists to the 25km of beaches and shallow waters. It’s not a ritzy destination, but it’s great for snorkeling and surfing. An expedition to see fireflies, in the Sungei Lebam river, is popular. Other attractions include the Desaru Fruit Farm, which offers overnight stays, and Ostrich Wonderland, where as well as selling ostrich meat and leather products, children are able to ride the birds. Desaru can be reached by ferry from Changi, Singapore.
If you’re looking for a trip that combines golf and relaxing by the pool, besides a marina, you might want to take a look at the The Sebana Cove Resort in Pengerang. Pengerang is a small customs post southeast of Johor, to the south of Desaru, surrounded by tropical greenery and edged by the Sebana and Santi rivers. It can be reached by a 30 minutes ferry trip from the Changi terminal. The nearest town is Sungai Rengit.
Just 45 minutes away, Batam is one of the largest Indonesian islands in the Riau archipelago. This is a place to go and just relax, although that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. If you like watersports, such as wakeboarding, there’s a cable ski park and you might also wish to pack your golf clubs. If sports not your thing, take a taxi to Nagoya Hill for a spot of shopping and a bite to eat.
Bintan is another beach destination a short ferry ride away. There is a full range of accommodation from beachside cabanas to five-star resorts. If you like to combine travel and sport, sign up for the Bintan Triathlon, which celebrated its 10 anniversary this year. It takes place in May, and is billed as a family festival of fun, with family races, elephant rides, a foam pool and face painting, as well as the more serious events.
Indonesia: Pulau Karimun Besar, Tanjung Balai
Tanjung Balai is the main town on the island of Karimun. It’s compact and bustling with every inch of space used, including stilt houses in the water. This is where real life happens. This isn’t a pristine and manicured, quaint little town, but it will give you a great insight into a laid back way of life, where cultures mix and live side by side. A ferry from Singapore takes 1.5 hours.
Indonesia: Sugi Island
Sugi island offers a romantic island retreat away from technology and the stresses of city life. The main attraction is the Telunas resort, which comprises of a beach resort and a private island, built over the water. It offers family-friendly facilities, although you won’t find Wi-Fi here. It can be reached within three hours from Singapore, via ferry from the Sekupang ferry terminal, in Batam.
Helen McClure is the journalist behind Expat Explorers, a travel and expat website offering free independent insights, ideas and inspiration. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
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