Under an hour from Singapore, yet part of Indonesia, Bintan Island is the best known of the Riau Islands, a tropical archipelago that splays out across the waters from Sumatra almost to Borneo. Its high-end resorts and white-sand beaches are a playground for well-heeled Singaporeans and Indonesians, while there is also culture to be had.
Bintan Island is most often visited from Singapore, yet you might also swing by while exploring Sumatra and the Riau archipelago. While it’s just about possible to see the sights on a day trip, most will want to appreciate those glorious beaches by staying at least one night.
You don’t need a tour to visit Bintan Island, although limited English is spoken outside the main resorts. Star attractions include stilt houses, wet (produce) markets, mangrove forests, and Penyengat Island, once home to the rajahs of Riau, not to mention the shopping, water sports, golf courses, restaurants, and adventure on offer at the Bintan Resorts area.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bintan Island makes a great Singapore escape for families with kids.
- Lines at Indonesian immigration can be long, taking precious time out of a day trip. It’s best to plan on an overnight stay.
- Bring bug spray for the evenings, as mosquitoes can be an issue.
- Bintan Island is one of Indonesia’s most wheelchair-friendly destinations, with many accessible resorts.
How to Get There
Bintan Island is located roughly 12 miles (19 kilometers) across the strait from Singapore, and there are regular ferries from Singapore, Johor Bahru (in Malaysia), and neighboring Batam Island (also in Indonesia). A handful of Indonesian routes fly into its airport, Tanjung Pinang, but the majority of international travelers will arrive by way of Singapore.
When to Get There
Like Singapore, Bintan is hot and steamy all year round, and there’s more rain during the monsoon season, roughly November until March. The island is at its busiest on weekends and Singaporean public holidays, particularly Chinese New Year, while travel within Indonesia is difficult around the Islamic holiday of Idul Fitri. The Dragon Boat Festival, which falls in October or November depending on the lunar calendar, is a popular attraction.
Bintan and the Riau Islands
Despite its closeness to Singapore and Malaysia, Bintan Island is the largest of the Riau Islands, which belong to Indonesia, and Tanjung Pinang, its capital, is the capital of over 2,000 islands. After Bintan Island, Batam Island is the best known, but you’ll find everything from luxe private island resorts accessible only by seaplane to unspoiled fishing islets scattered across the archipelago.