Kuala Besut is a small town in Terengganu, on the east coast of Malaysia. It's mainly known for being the gateway to the Perhentian Islands, though it's actually fairly cute town in itself, with many murals, colorful hotels, and old-looking wooden buildings.
Kelantanese is the local dialect of the Besut District, but like everywhere else in Malaysia, you will be understood if you speak standard Malay.
- From Jerteh, 17km south-west and the closest city to Kuala Besut, take a local bus or a shared taxi (RM20).
- From Pasir Puteh, another nearby city that you might end up at if working your way to the coast from inland, local bus 96 goes to Kuala Besut a few times a day from the Pasir Puteh bus station ("Stesen Bas Pasir Puteh" on Google Maps, not "Terminal Bas Pasir Puteh Sentral").
- From Kota Bharu, there is a local bus service that leaves roughly every hour on the hour (City Liner #639) (RM6, 1h40m) and an SKMK express bus (RM7.50) that leaves three or four times a day. Both stop at the Kuala Besut bus terminal. It's also easy to arrange a share taxi ride RM80 - virtually any guesthouse or hotel in Kota Bharu will organise this. You can also book the mini van (Doremi Travel and Tour, telephone no +60 97479663) from Kota Bharu to Kuala Besut. You are required to make a reservation in advance, especially during the May-September high season. The fare is RM35 per person.
- From Kuala Terengganu, take any northbound bus and get off at Jerteh (110km).
- From Penang east-bound Mutiara Ekspress depart from Sungai Nibong ekspres bas (express bus) terminal (public bus 401 from Penang Jetty RM2) to Jerteh via Kota Bharu twice daily (09:00 and 21:00, RM46), sometimes to Kuala Besut depending on the number of passengers going there. The journey requires around 6 hours. There is no direct bus from Butterworth to Kuala Besut! From Butterworth you can take two direct buses (Mutiara at 22:00 and S.P.Bumi 09:00 and 21:00) to Jerteh (RM42.70 vs RM42.00) and from there take a local bus, taxi (10-20RM/car), walk or hitchhike for another 17km to Kuala Besut Jetty. You will arrive at Jerteh at 03:00-05:00 at the petrol station next to T junction of roads to Kuala Besut and Kuala Terengganu in middle of nowhere, so you will have plenty of time to bargain with taxi drivers who are waiting there for you or to walk to the bus station in Jerteh (1 km on main road). The easiest way to go from Penang to Perhentian is take the GSM (Persada) direct bus which departs from Komtar Building in George Town (in walking distance from tourist area of Lebuh Chulia) directly to Kuala Besut Jetty, where you will walk a few minutes to the boat (first you have to wait couple hours in travel agency because the first boat departs at 08:00 and you will arrive there around 04:30, so you can buy a speedboat ticket at any of the agencies for the fixed price of RM70/return if you don't have one already). The bus from Butterworth to Kota Bharu costs RM35, and from there it's only 50 km (90 min) to Kuala Besut by direct local bus (RM6).
Alternatively, you can go to Prangin Mall and ask any bus counter for a ticket to Kota Bharu (RM37 or RM38). From KB Bus terminal, follow directions under "from Kota Bharu" above.
- From Kuala Lumpur there are a few buses services going direct to Kuala Besut, namely Mutiara, Perdana, Sani and Mahligai. All buses depart from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. The cost is usually RM40, and they drop you off within walking distance of the jetty. The buses leave twice daily, 09:00 and 21:00 and arrive in Kuala Besut around 05:00. The first boat is at 08:00 (until then the pier gate is closed!). Mutiara and Mahligai buses usually stop near the jetty. The trip is about 9 hours with only one stop at around 01:00 and 13:00.
- From Johor Bahru buses leave from Larkin Terminal, and take 9-10 hours. Best is to take the 9PM Transnasional night bus to Kota Bharu (RM64.10), and ask to be dropped at Jerteh.
- From Singapore you can take the 9:45PM night bus from Kitchener Complex (Lavender MRT) to Kuala Terengganu (RM183).
Taxi drivers may try to take you to a travel agent of their choosing, who will pay them commission (which gets charged to you). If you are going to the Perhentian Islands and already have accommodation booked, just go directly to the jetty, or pick an agent of your own choice, but in the end you will pay RM70 for a return ticket everywhere, so it really doesn't matter which travel agency you choose.
Tour operators in town can arrange transfers to Taman Negara (RM90), Cameron Highlands (RM75) and Kuala Lumpur (RM70). If you are returning from the Perhentian Islands you'll need to catch an early boat to make it in time, so advance reservations are recommended.
The nearest railway station is Tanah Merah, although most travelers opt for Kota Bharu's better-serviced Wakaf Bahru station instead.
The downtown area of Kuala Besut, around the jetty, is small and easily walkable. You can also walk to and from the bus terminal, at 0.9km from the jetty or center of downtown, though there is also some kind of taxi active at both sites.
Perhentian Islands. Kuala Besut is the place to go to get the boat to the Perhentians. RM70 return everywhere. (Update August 2016: Price for a return ticket could be bargained down to RM50 to RM55). Also RM30 Park Conservation Fee to be paid. Lots of boats with life jackets, and no overloading, as the KB Harbour Police do daily checkups.
The downtown of Kuala Besut is work taking at least a quick look at, with colorful murals and old-looking wooden buildings. There's also an interesting Islamic cemetery that you'll see if you walk from the bus station to the jetty.
- 1 Pantai Timor. 10AM-10PM, Fri 9AM-12:30PM 2:30PM-10PM. A well sorted 2-floor supermarket near the Kuala Besut bus station and the market square. But they're not selling any alcoholic drinks.
There are many good eating places, including at least one Chinese-run restaurant that stays open for lunch even during Ramadan.
On Tuesdays there are some stalls offerings cheap but delicious street food on the market square near the Kuala Besut bus station.
- 1 Nan Hotel, ☏ . Good and basic with cold showers and fan only. Friendly hosts. From RM55 per room.
- 2 Ain Hotel, ☏ . Has big, clean rooms with TV and WiFi. Good choice to stay overnight. Fan double room RM79.
- 3 Yaudin Guesthouse, ☏ . Cheap but bad quality with holes in the bed sheets and lots of mosquitos or bed bugs. Better off getting into Kuala Besut early enough to go straight to the islands. RM30/night.
The bus terminal is less than 10 minutes' walk from the jetty and offers transport to many locations. Bus tickets can be purchased at the respective bus company ticket counters. There's a cheap supermarket around the corner as well as 2 tiny public(?) bathrooms /shower rooms (RM0.5 for toilet use, RM1 for shower use).
Taxis run everywhere, private mini vans run to Cameron Highlands and Taman Negara, and big buses to KL and Kota Bharu and other places but not Kuala Terengganu
There are express buses at 09:00 in the morning and 20:00-21:00 at night depending on destination and route.
Shared taxi depart at 9am, 1pm and 5pm. Travel time around 1h. Cityliner bus #639 to the city centre of Kota Bharu leaves at 07:30, 09:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:30, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:30 and 18:30 (RM 6 per person). The bus is old, dirty, has no AC and gets really dusty because the driver has to leave the doors open for fresh air. Travel time is 1h45 give or take 15 minutes. The bus rarely enters the station and picks up people from the road across.
Sungai Kolok (Thailand border)
Shared taxi is available 3 times a day, 09:00, 13:00 and 17:00.
From Kuala Besut the timetable is erratic, though approximately 07:00, 08:30, 10.30, 13:00, 14:30 and 16:30. The bus stop in Kuala Besut is located in the village near the market square around 1 km from the jetty. The yellow bus (SP Bumi) can actually be picked up along the main road from the jetty. Turn left at the end of the jetty and walk to the end of the main road; the bus will stop on the corner just before the bridge. Service is limited on Friday with usually one in the morning and one at lunch time. The cost is RM10.80 and it takes 2h20 from/to Kuala Terengganu.
KB is a hard place to get out of if you are going to Kuala Terengganu. The major buses don’t leave from KB to KT. They leave from Jerteh another town. Only an irregular local bus does this journey.
Only the Bumi (pronounced Boo-me) yellow and green bus does this trip - 2 hours and RM10.5. It can be caught from the corner near the river bridge a few hundred metres from the pier. Ask the locals. Times for departure are a bit uncertain, and there are several scheduled departures during the day, including one around 10:30.
Penang (Georgetown or Butterworth)
The new Kuala Besut bus station has buses to Butterworth and Georgetown in the morning (8 AM ?) and evening (8 PM). It's easier and cheaper to take the bus to Butterworth and then the ferry to Georgetown since the bus station on Penang (Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal) is a few km south of Georgetown (and you would have to take another local bus to get to there). RM50 for Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal, little less for Butterworth).