Guide to taking a ferry from Singapore to Pengerang, Johor
We know what you’re thinking: not another guide on how to travel from Singapore to JB., But hear me out. After reading about the positive experience of a woman who took a ferry to Pengerang, we just had to try it out for ourselves.
Since there are no flights to Johor from Singapore, the only way to avoid the risk of being stuck in traffic for hours on land is to cross over by sea. And for anyone who has been on the Desaru ferry service, you know it’s now almost always crowded and the ticket costs over a hundred bucks.
That, my friends, was a pretty big incentive to find out if this cheaper and faster alternate route was a viable one. Well, we ended up having quite the adventure and here’s what went down on that fateful Friday we took a ferry from Singapore to Pengerang, Johor.
Where is Pengerang?
Few people have heard of this town and for good reason. It’s not known as a tourist destination but is rather a major hub for the oil and gas industries in Malaysia.
Pengerang is right next to Tekong Island.Image adapted from: Google Maps
If you were driving to Pengerang from JB, the drive would take you roughly an hour and a half after you’ve crossed the checkpoints.
Image adapted from: Google Maps
In relation to Desaru, you can see that it’s about a 40-minute drive west. So, you can easily clump the 2 places together if you’re planning a trip down. In fact, some of the attractions such as Desaru Mini Zoo and Desaru Ostrich Farm are actually closer to Pengerang.
How to take a boat from Singapore to Johor
First things first. If you search “Singapore to Pengerang”, most Google results will tell you to head to Changi Point Ferry Terminal and take a bumboat. Alas, this info is outdated and that boat service is no longer functioning.
Instead, you’ll have to take the fast ferry from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal. To get here via public transport, just hop aboard Bus 35 from either Bedok or Tanah Merah MRT Station.
At the moment, Batam Fast is the only service provider with ferries going to Pengerang. The schedule is as such: from Fridays to Sundays, there is 1 ferry going towards Johor at 10.40am and 1 return ferry at 4pm. Those are the only timings, so if you’re planning to stay past 4pm, you’ll either need to take an alternate mode of transport back to SG or stay overnight.
A 2-way trip will cost you S$73/pax while a 1-way ticket is S$43/pax. You’re allowed up to 20kg of luggage as well as a hand-carry bag of up to 10kg. Cycling enthusiasts who intend to bring a bicycle along, note that there is an additional charge of S$10 and it has to be wrapped properly before checking in.
Just for the sake of comparison, the Desaru ferry service costs a total of $118/pax to and fro. There is also just 1 ferry a day from Thursdays to Sundays, and it takes about 1.5 hours, while the ferry to Pengerang takes half that time.
There’s a money changer near the lanes that go towards the departure hall.
We bought our tickets online 1 week prior to the date of our trip and they were pretty easy to get. Then, all we had to do was show up at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal an hour before departure time, check in, and get our boarding passes at the Batam fast counter. All done within 5 minutes as there was no queue on a Friday morning.
If you need to make a stop at the money changer or buy snacks from 7-Eleven, get these done before going through the security. It is highly recommended to get a wad of the local currency exchanged in SG before going over as money changers are not easily found in Pengerang. It is also more common for businesses to accept cash in the industrial town.
You can also grab breakfast at Coffee Gao Gao at the departure hall.
Once you’ve crossed immigration, there’s a DFS open from 9.30am-6.15pm where you’re allowed to purchase 1L of duty-free alcohol per passport to bring to Malaysia.
If you need to get more sustenance, you can also do so from Central Thai Cafe which serves steamed paus (from $1.60), kaya toast sets (from $2.60), and drinks (from $2.50).
Gates for the ferry open just 10 minutes prior to the departure time so while waiting we suggest getting your travel eSIM sorted. We activated ours while we still had a connection in Singapore but switched on data roaming only once we reached Pengerang.
Once the display screen informed us that our ferry was ready for boarding, all we had to do was scan our boarding pass at the automated gates and head towards the designated berth.
Pro tip: Do check your berth from the information display beforehand because it is not stated on your boarding pass.
There are no designated seats, it’s free seating.
Now, let’s talk about the journey to Pengerang. The Batam Fast ferry is huge with 2 decks and cushioned chairs. There were maybe 5 passengers on board my ferry so we could have sat anywhere but we chose to go on the upper floor for better views.
Btw, unlike flights, you have to carry all your own luggage onboard yourself unless you have large odd-shaped items that you’ve checked in earlier. Larger suitcases that don’t fit with you on your seat have to be kept in this “cage” that keeps them from rolling around while the ferry is on the move.
The first floor only has seats facing the front of the ferry but the second floor has limited seats that face each other with a table in between. The upper deck also has the option of both indoor and outdoor seats. If you need to get work done or require more space then make a beeline for the top. Btw, you can also charge your devices as there are a few sockets around.
We chose to sit indoors and enjoy the aircon because the heat was unbearable but if the weather was a little nicer, the outdoor seats are a great choice too, offering panoramic views of the ocean. These are only partially sheltered though, so make sure you have lots of sunblock slapped on if you plan to sit outside.
The ferry left on time and the 48-minute ride started out choppy for the first 5 minutes, but was completely smooth sailing thereafter. I took a short nap and before I knew it, the announcement was made that we had reached Tanjung Pengelih Terminal in Pengerang.
Arriving at Tanjung Pengelih Terminal in Pengerang, Johor
Given that we were among just 5 passengers, security clearance took 2 minutes. Then, the immigration process at the terminal hardly took 3 minutes. A stamp on the passport, quick fingerprint scan, and we were sent to the arrival hall. So far, so good.
The first thing we saw was a Hotlink snacks shop that also sells local SIM cards – and that’s about it for amenities at this ferry terminal. There was nothing much else to explore here so we got on the Grab app and started looking for a driver to get to our hotel. For about 5 minutes, the page stayed on “looking for a driver” but then it gave up.
Just as we were about to try again, a lady from the Desaru Link Ferry Services counter walked up to us and asked if we were looking for a driver. She then went on to say the much-dreaded words, “Oh, actually, Grab doesn’t come here at all and right now there are no taxis around.” Apparently, she saw me standing around and had already tried calling for one to no avail.
Now, this made little sense to me. We’ve taken a similar ferry to explore things to do in Desaru; and Desaru and Pengerang are only about 40 minutes apart by car. So, if Grab worked just fine there, how come it didn’t work here? Despite all the research done to plan this trip, we were not prepared for this.
My colleague and I looked at each other and were about to start panicking when the lady very kindly offered to drive us in her own car to our hotel nearby for a small fee of RM20 (~S$5.81) as she was about to go out for lunch anyway. We didn’t have much of a choice so we accepted and thought we’d sort out the transport once we reached the hotel.
Said flare.Image credit: Aditi Kashyap
On the way, we passed by the industrial area that Pengerang is known for. The local lady driving us jokingly said “the flare is our major attraction” and you can see it 24/7.
How to get around Pengerang
Upon checking in, we asked the hotel receptionist if she had some advice on how we could arrange for a driver to bring us around since ride-hailing services weren’t an option anymore.
First, we were told to contact her manager who was off duty that day. When we did so, the manager told us that their usual resort driver isn’t available. She then shared the contact details of 3 other drivers.
The first one quoted an exorbitant price of RM350 (~S$101.72) just to go to 2 places because he was coming from Desaru. That was a no-go. The second one decided that Pengerang was too out of the way for him and refused to come. The third driver just didn’t reply.
In the end, we had to scream SOS to our colleagues in SG. One of our colleagues did a little searching online and hired us a private driver from Teksi Johor. Phew, crisis averted.
The company charged us RM450 (~S$130.75) to bring us around for 2 days and they sent a really friendly driver who could speak a little bit of English. The total time spent with him driving over both days was roughly 11 hours and we had zero issues. He knew all the places we wanted to go to and was always contactable.
That said, without a car, it’s pretty much impossible to get around Pengerang. We noticed that most visitors here arrived by driving over from JB or other parts of Malaysia. However, we didn’t see any car rental services around, so arranging for a private driver is your best bet if you’re coming over by ferry from SG.
Things to do in Pengerang
Challenging transport aside, there are quite a few things to do in Pengerang.
Meet animals at Desaru Mini Zoo and Desaru Ostrich Farm; or take beautiful photos at the Bamboo Walk and at the jetty in Sungei Rengit.
Enjoy brunch or tea at Yard & Co – a seaside cafe with gorgeous sunset views. The town is also known for its fresh seafood; we suggest dropping by the highly-rated Super Lobster Village for its famous lobster dishes.
All these attractions and activities are within a 15-20-minute drive from the ferry terminal.
Going back to Singapore from Pengerang via ferry
The next day, we reached the ferry terminal an hour prior to departure. Again, the check-in was as easy as a quick stamp on our boarding pass – it literally took 30 seconds.
If you’ve booked a 2-way ticket, the return pass is issued in Singapore itself so keep it safe for when you have to go back.
The open-air waiting area is under the shade and offers stunning views of the blue sea. It’s actually a great spot to take photos and simply soak in the sound of the waves.
We’ve never had a smoother departure process. Immigration took a few minutes and then we were back on the ferry, sailing to Singapore.
Even at Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal’s arrival hall, there was no crowd on this Saturday afternoon. And before we knew it, we were on our way home.
Get to Johor from Singapore by boat
As the trip came to a close, we decided that we were glad to have made the trip down. Despite the initial hiccup, the town itself had the potential to be a fun weekend getaway. The fact that there are still hardly any tourists or ferry passengers at the moment is a big plus point.
Families with kids, if you’re planning a trip to Desaru, you may want to consider adding Pengerang to your itinerary if time permits. Of course, just to reiterate – things are more convenient if you have your own car or private transport arranged.
If you don’t like huge crowds or wasting time in long queues, this mode of transport is really convenient and quick. You just have to make sure you have transport arranged once you’re in Pengerang. Book a private driver online beforehand so they can pick you up at the terminal the moment you arrive. Otherwise, maybe bring across your bicycle and get around on 2 wheels?
Plus, you’re guaranteed a chance to skip the crazy traffic jams at the JB checkpoints.
Other ways to get to Malaysia:
Photography by Doreen Fan.