Sentosa Island, Singapore
Sentosa is Singapore’s best-known island and the easiest day trip from the main island. Don’t let Sentosa’s reputation as a busy place put you off; there are some lovely hidden gems and ways to escape its commercialisation. First of all, abandon transport. Instead, enjoy a walk along the newly renovated Sentosa Boardwalk. It’s free, you’ll avoid the queues and you can choose whether to walk under the sheltered path or in the sunshine.
Pulau Ubin, Singapore
Singapore’s second most well-known island is Pulau Ubin and it couldn’t be more different from Sentosa. Home to Singapore’s last surviving traditional village, Pulau Ubin is best known for its picturesque bike paths, the Chek Jawa wetlands and abandoned quarries. Spend a day here and you’ll feel like you’ve spent a day in Singapore’s past. Boat tickets to Pulau Ubin cost $3 per person and you can catch the bumboats from the Changi Point Ferry Terminal (NOT the Changi Ferry Terminal).
Bintan offers two very different getaways from Singapore. A 45-minute ferry will bring you to Bintan Resorts where you’ll find expensive hotels, soft sandy beaches and immaculate golf courses. The other option is a 90-minute ferry to Tanjung Pinang, the town on Bintan. There are beaches here as well and, although the sand is not quite as soft, they feel a lot more authentic.
Batam, an hour-long ferry ride away from Singapore, has a limited collection of coastal resorts and golf courses. This smaller island is much more popular for entertainment. Expats working in the shipping and oil industries live on the island and there are many bars, restaurants and other services there to meet their needs. For Singaporean tourists, the main attractions of Batam are cheaper shopping, casinos and lively nightlife.
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Johor Bahru, or JB, is the place to go when you want to go on a shopping spree on a budget. JB was only designated a city in 1994. Now, after rapid expansion, it is Malaysia‘s third largest city. You can travel Singapore to Johor using a variety of transport methods but plan carefully as going through immigration can be a nightmare during busy periods. There are many beautiful mosques and temples in JB but it is certainly a long way from being a tourist destination.
The coach journey from Singapore to Malacca takes approximately four hours, but the extra distance is worthwhile if you’re planning to do more than shop. Think of Malacca as the undiscovered version of Penang’s Georgetown or Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh city. Like those two cities, it was previously under colonial rule as can be seen in the mix of architectural styles across the city. Besides architecture, the other thing to discover in Malacca is the food – the city serves up its own distinct style of Peranakan and Malay dishes with Portuguese influences. In 2008, the Malacca was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.