Tioman Island is a popular diving and surfing spot located some 60km off Malaysia’s east coast. The island is duty-free so you’ll find very cheap beer (cheaper than water!) and cigarettes.
Although it’s one of Malaysia’s more commercialised islands, Tioman boasts an array of beautiful beaches and marine life. Just try not to go on a weekend if you want to skip the crowd. In between these beaches are lush jungles, so trekking from one beach to another is a common activity. One very important tip: stay away from the monkeys!
There are 2 ways to travel the 305km distance from Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island: both options are a combination of bus and ferry. You can take the Mersing route or the Gemok route. Travel time is 7 to 7.5 hours and fares start from 76 MYR ($18.50).
We don’t think there is a “best” route to take when travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island. Some tourists prefer Mersing, while others prefer Gemok, but we think it mostly boils down to the schedule of ferries operating on the date of your trip.
Which beach are you going to on Tioman Island?
When taking the ferry from the mainland to Tioman Island, you will be asked where you wish to be dropped off. It’s very important to know which beach you’re headed to as land transport is scarce in the island. If no passenger is getting off at a certain beach, the ferry will not make a stop there.
When transferring from one beach to another, you can either walk, ask someone to drive you (for a fee) or take a boat (water taxi).
Tekek Village: This one’s not exactly a beach, but the island’s main village. It’s geographical location is quite central so you can access most beaches from here. Also, Tekek is where you want to be for duty-free shopping.
Air Batang: Also known as ABC Village, Air Batang is the top choice for budget travellers. It doesn’t have the best beach, but you can find beautiful corals just a few meters from the shore. From here, you can reach Tekek Village in just around 10 minutes on foot.
Juara Beach: This one’s located on the island’s east coast and is the place to be for surfers. If you can, try to bring your own board as rental rates here can be quite expensive. During peak surfing season (October to November), they might not even have enough boards. Ferries don’t make a stop here. You’ll have to get off at Tekek and rent a ride from there.
Salang: Salang is a secluded bay on the west coast. It boasts fine sand and clear waters, making it a great spot for swimming, snorkeling or just lounging by the beach. It is also the village closest to many of the reef sites and wrecks around the island, so expect to meet a lot of divers here.
Genting: As one of Tioman Island’s bigger villages, Genting is the perfect place to get to know the locals. You can watch them go about their daily lives while enjoying the 1.5-km beach dotted with boulders.
Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island by Bus + Ferry via Mersing
Duration: 7.5 hours Cost: 76 MYR ($18.50)
Travelling by bus and ferry from Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island via Mersing takes around 7.5 hours. That’s 30 minutes more than the alternative option via Gemok, but you’ll find more ferry options in Mersing.
Step 1: Kuala Lumpur to Mersing by Bus
Duration: 5 hours 50 minutes Cost: from 37 MYR ($9)
Travel time from Kuala Lumpur to Mersing is around 6 hours, so you’ll have to take the early morning bus with Sanwa Express guarantee making the connecting ferry to Tioman Island.
Alternatively, you can take the Transnasional bus that departs late night from Kuala Lumpur. The journey with this bus takes around 8 hours, but we like it as you can save money on accommodation and get some sleep at the same time.
Ticket prices start from 37 MYR ($9) when you book with BookAway. Below are the bus schedules when travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island via Mersing:
Sanwa Express has various departure points in Kuala Lumpur: Plaza Magnum, KL Sentral, and Kuala Lumpur Bus Terminal (TBS). These places are far apart so make sure you double-check where your bus departs from.
Transnasional departs from Kuala Lumpur Bus Terminal (TBS), located some 12km south of the city centre.
All buses arrive at Mersing Bus Terminal. From here, you can either walk around 15 minutes to the port or take a short taxi ride.
Step 2: Mersing to Tioman Island by Ferry
Duration: 1.5 hours Cost: 39 MYR ($9.50)
One important thing you need to know about ferries operating from Mersing to Tioman Island is that nothing is guaranteed. Ferry schedules change all the time so you can’t really book a ticket more than a month before your trip. And even after you’re booked, you’ll have to re-check the schedule the day before.
Bluewater Express and CataFerry are 2 of the companies operating this route. Rates start from 39 MYR ($9.50). Below are their current schedules as posted on Klook and the CataFerry website:
Again, it’s best to check the latest schedules through the booking links provided above.
Note that although the advertised travel time is 1.5 hours, it can easily take 2 hours because of strong waves.
Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island by Bus + Ferry via Gemok
Duration: 7 hours Cost: 78 MYR ($19)
The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island via Gemok takes around 7 hours. Note that there are limited ferries operating from Gemok, so you have to time your bus accordingly.
Step 1: Kuala Lumpur to Gemok Jetty by Bus
Duration: 5 hours 20 minutes Cost: 39 MYR ($9.50)
When travelling by bus from Kuala Lumpur to Tioman Island via Gemok Jetty, only Sanwa Express offers trips that will allow you to take a connecting ferry within the same day. You can get a ticket from 39 MYR ($9.50) when you book online beforehand via BusOnlineTicket.
Also for this route, Sanwa Express has 3 different departure points from Kuala Lumpur: KL Sentral, Bukit Bintang, and Kuala Lumpur Bus Terminal (TBS). All buses drop off passengers at Gemok Jetty.
Step 2: Gemok Jetty to Tioman Island by Ferry
Duration: 1.5 hours Cost: 39 MYR ($9.50)
Currently, Bluewater Express operates the only 2 ferry trips from Gemok Jetty to Tioman Island. On some days, only 1 of these ferries operate. It’s best to plan your schedules beforehand but still be ready for any changes.
A ticket costs 39 MYR ($9.50) for the 1.5 to 2-hour journey.